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.