the nest

the nest

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I'm sorry.

I'll share with you a Hungarian saying. Babies, before they are born, look down from the clouds and say, "I want these two people to be my parents."  Respect yourself, accept your mistakes, and forgive yourself for not being perfect. This will help you be more forgiving of your child's mistakes. And he may later learn to be more forgiving of his own. When he is old enought to understand, he will appreciate that you accepted him for who he is. After all, "he chose you".

This quote came across my newsfeed on Facebook this morning and was just what I needed to start blogging today!  The idea that my children "chose" us or that God "chose" us to be their parents is humbling.  I have spent way too many years questioning every move I make, parenting and otherwise.  What a waste of energy!  Part of the journey I'm on is to focus on the present and the future and to stop myself from dwelling on the past.  

WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES!  Big ones and small ones.  It is one of the many things that makes us human.  It is how we learn.  We apologize (if necessary and authentic), learn and move on.  At least that's what I would like to do.  It's what I tell my children to do.  I'm not sure I model it very well!  
One of the things I do well is apologize.  Sometimes too much.  This is one of the challenges we face with daughter number 1.  She apologizes endlessly for things she's done, things that have just happened, things she bears no responsibility for.  She's working on it.  

What is it about apologizing???  We start when are children are too small to have any understanding "say you're sorry."  If a baby or toddler takes something away from a peer, they're not sorry, so why would we insist they say they are?  For them it is simply part of exploring their world.  There is no "intent" present.  They see something they want to explore, they take it and chances are the child they take it from moves on immediately to something new.  We impose the "intent".  We create the emotional tension.  It is important that children learn to own their responsibility when they have hurt someone, but insisting they do so when they are too young to understand or when it is a "hurt" that wouldn't exist if we hadn't stepped in, we get in their way of being authentic.  Like everything else in parenting, children learn what they see.  If they see us own our mistakes, apologize genuinely, and move on, that's what they learn and will do.  You can't "make" someone feel contrite.  You can't "make" them feel bad.  When we "force" young children to say they are sorry for something they are not sorry for, we teach them the wrong lesson.  

It is important to apologize when we have truly wronged someone accidentally or intentionally, but if we apologize for everything, we lose any sense of authenticity.  

When I watch young children in my work, they are naturally empathetic.  When they take away a toy or instrument from another child and that child protests, here's what happens - assuming grown ups stay out of the way - They give it back, they give them something else, the protesting child finds something else and recovers quickly.  Here's what happens when we step in.  The "taker" feels bad for what was a natural impulse to explore something cool, and feels distress.  Not because they took the item, but because their loved parent is upset with them for exploring.  The protesting child is reinforced for their "distress" and begins to hold more tightly to items they might otherwise explore and discard.  

More and more I am asking the parents in my classes to resist the urge to jump in.  Sit back and observe.  If a child (your own or someone else's!) is in danger, obviously step in, but only to distract or separate.  Watch how even some of our very little ones are learning to negotiate, share, comfort and engage with their peers.  We must keep them safe, but then our job is to "model" the behaviors we want to see, not demand or "teach" them.

I want my own children and the children I work with to be authentically compassionate and kind and to apologize when it is appropriate.  I want them to know that a mistake is just that.  We apologize, we learn, we move on.  Big or small, mistakes are a part of life.  They can be life changing, or not.  Imposing more "meaning" into any one mistake is useless and makes it more difficult to move forward.

So glad my children "chose me".  I hope they know that.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Do as I say, not as I do...

This raising and launching children is tough work.  They continue to teach me new things every day.  Before they came into my world I imagined that I would teach them so much.  It's been the opposite.

Sure I've taught them many things like how to tie their shoes, make their beds, clean a bathroom, brush their teeth.   I've taught them their prayers and how to apologize when they've done something wrong.

I hope I've taught them some things of value, but I think they have taught me more.  I've taught them skills, but they've taught me how to love and forgive.  I would suggest that these are more important lessons than how to wash your face.

My son turns 20 today and my youngest finishes Middle School.  A big day all around.  I'm feeling a little melancholy.  My middle has had a rough year.  She expects so much of herself and has tormented herself with the thought that we expect perfection.  It makes me so sad that this is the message she has gotten from us.  It doesn't surprise me though.

Over the years I have been reminded in many ways that our children will do what we DO, not what we say.  If I say to my beautiful child, "don't be so hard on yourself, do your best and that's enough," but I am endlessly critical of myself, what message does she hear?  If I say to them "you are perfect just the way you are," but constantly criticize myself, what do they hear?   If we tell them to make good choices, but they SEE us make our own bad ones, what do they learn?

I know that we do the best we can.  I know that we are blessed to have amazing children.  I need to remember that they are amazing not so much because of us, but in spite of us.  I need to remember that the older they get, the more the choices they make are theirs, not mine.  The consequences (good and bad) of those choices are THEIRS, not mine.

I have to hope that we've given them strong, powerful wings to carry them through the storms that life will bring to them.  I want them to know that NO MATTER WHAT, I love them forever and always.