Monthly Archives: November 2012
The theme of mistakes and missteps as opportunities to grow and learn as a person and to teach and guide as a parent has come before me several times in recent days. When a common theme pops up on the road of life, I am learning that it is wise to slow down, take it in and listen to the whispers of God.
I am part of Better Together, a group of women that meets once a month for 3 plus hours. Our focus is on listening to God. Truth is I don’t regularly make a lot of room for that, and this sacred time has become an authentic oasis and retreat in the midst of the routine and busyness of life. Much of the morning is spent in silence – meditation, journaling, listening for God’s voice. There is a short devotional time and it was during this time that I was recently reminded that mistakes are opportunities for change, errors are educational and that in the midst of such times we are on holy and fertile ground. When I truly look at my own life, in hindsight, I know this to be true. Yet often mistakes and errors have evoked shame, been something to try and bury or hide, rationalize away or deflect onto someone else. Forgiving myself is sometimes a daunting challenge.
In the arena of parenting, times of misbehavior are also occasions for growth and change. I came into the parent world with a mentality that my role was to do all I could to minimize the missteps and fallings of my children. Too much of my own ego was wrapped up in their behavior and performance. Yesterday, thanks to Becky Bailey and her Conscious Discipline work, I was reminded that errors and mistakes are incredible opportunities to teach and guide our children. Honestly, that’s not typically my initial emotional reaction at such a time, but it is a mindset I desire to cultivate and increase. In response to the blunders of our children, some of us parents reach for the heavy-handed punitive style that teaches a child to feel shame or guilt, and some of us lean toward the permissive style that tries to rescue and save our children from feeling and facing the discomfort of their situation. And some of us do a great punitive/permissive combo. In reality, these times are ripe for growth and teaching if we can respond with empathy and wisdom.
I am learning that if I can be honest about and forgiving of my own errors and shortcomings, then I am in a much healthier space to offer the same to my children. Then times of mess ups and mistakes take on new meaning. One of the very first things I learned at Better Together was a meditation prayer mantra – breathe in and say “grace received”, breathe out and say “grace released”. This prayer has become a constant companion. With grace received I deeply embrace God’s forgiveness and grace and with grace released, I am offering that back to others. It is a profoundly satisfying place to live.
It is a fact that not all little girls are gifted with the love and protection of three larger than life brothers. Though for our daughters, it seems the norm. I recall a pre-school age day when we were discussing a neighbor’s situation – a mom held and protected her baby as she herself was injured when a tree limb fell on top of them. In response, one of our girls said, “where were the brothers?” This wall of 3 big boys means safety and protection for the petite girls who have to look way up to see their faces. It was assumed that every little girl lived in family amidst brothers 11 plus years her senior who could jump in and protect at any moment. In many ways, the brothers are like beloved uncles that come in and out of family life as idolized, cherished and loved members. Spending time with them is always a highlight and greatly anticipated occasion.
As the boys have grown and matured and female love interests have become more common, this has led to another level of growth and maturity for the sisters. Having to more completely share the male Wilson love and attention can be challenging at times. The jealousy emotion is roused. Boxing match challenges – literally – have been issued to determine the fate of relationship status. “If I win, you must break up.” Hopes that they won’t get married before a certain time in life are voiced. The raw honesty of “I don’t want them to be any closer to any girl but me!” has been expressed. And thanks to the movie Ramona and Beezus, the following desire was eloquently stated – “I don’t want her to reel ______ in like a sea bass!”
These confusing, jealous, ambivalent about sharing one we love feelings have also led to deep conversations about love and its’ essence. We have looked more closely and sought to become more intimately acquainted with this incredible gift from God. While it is healthy and wise to admit our uncomfortable feelings about sharing one we love, we have also remembered that love is fundamentally different than other emotions. It is unlike so many of life’s commodities, such as time and attention, that we work hard to divide up. The more we practice love, the more it multiplies. In the midst of one such philosophical discussion, one of the sisters announced, “Mommy, my heart just grew– I made room in my heart for _________”, insert girlfriend name.
As a young girl, I always longed for an older brother (sorry Mike!). In adolescence, it had something to do with the fantasy that this imaginary brother would bring his captivating friends home and they would fall deeply in love with me. Yet I also think there is a felt safety that goes along with having a big brother on your side. During the holidays ahead, I am looking forward to times that involve sharing the ones that we love, making room in our collective family heart, and watching growing-up daughters interact with their heroes. It doesn’t get much better than that.
The recent campaign season often left me shaking my head. Attack ads, billions of dollars spent, robo calls ad nauseum and a polarized country invoke deep and varied emotions within. Approaching such a complex and sometimes mean spirited situation with children is often a challenge. Yet this year I am grateful that it turned into quite a learning experience for both adults and children in our family.
This election season has been a time of engaging dinner conversation and offered a favorable circumstance to teach our daughters about a few of the important things in life. We have spent much time around the table discussing each candidate’s views on multiple issues, the complexity of prioritizing and making decisions in any election and helped them understand that though mom and dad love each other very much and often agree in the political realm, occasionally we vote differently. We have talked about presidents, governors and local officials and how each impacts the various circles in which we live. We have each had our turn in mock debates to be both President Obama and Governor Romney and been forced to carefully answer tough and insightful questions from our own 8 year old debate moderator – watch out Jim Lehrer!
And beyond the focus on this particular election, it has been a chance to talk about the differences between democracy and other forms of government around the world. Why we would ever choose to vote for a candidate even though we were fairly certain that they would lose their race led to great discussion on the value of standing by principles rather than just wanting to win. We have batted around the ideas that though learning about candidates and positions can seem boring, it truly impacts the everyday lives of those who reside in the US and sometimes beyond.
I often consider myself an ambivalent patriot. On the one hand, I acknowledge that the freedoms that I enjoy and take for granted are truly exceptional. Freedom of speech, religion and the list goes on are things that I hold dear. I know that people have given their very lives to protect this democratic government that I live under. There is much to be grateful for as a citizen of this country
On the other hand, we as a country have sometimes abused our power and status on this planet. We have at times been a bully and done things on the national and world scene that oppress and damage individuals and other countries. There are just and reasonable explanations why factions of the world dislike the USA.
But the joy and excitement of our 8 year old as she got to help me vote almost brought me to tears. She was so very proud. She couldn’t wait to get to school this morning to see who had won the election in her classroom. To live in a country that now allows a vote for each citizen no matter race, religion or gender is a gift and hard fought victory.
The concession speech of the defeated is often conciliatory and there are gracious words offered by the one who wins. The peaceful exchange of power during a presidential inauguration is something that touches me deeply. So my hope and prayer on this day is that the desire to mend this country and begin to approach consensus, reach across the aisle and compromise is more than election night rhetoric – for the sake of all of the children in our care.
The myth of the super-mom goes something like this. I and my child need to be involved in a myriad of activities in order to encourage and insure that my child will be a well rounded super child and grow up to be a highly successful adult. The pressure can start with getting a child into the right preschool and ramps up during elementary years and beyond with sports, music, academic and other opportunities ad infinitum, culminating in a hoped for college admission. But it really doesn’t even end there…
In a way, my parenting journey is divided into two parts. I was quite young when our sons came into our lives and they were all born before my 30th birthday. Confession – I wasn’t too terribly thoughtful about how my time was spent as a mom and a person and the resulting impact on our precious boys. Too much of my own identity was wrapped up in how they performed, were viewed by others and a number of other prevailing measures of successful moms raising successful children.
Thankfully, children are great teachers and role models for us adults. A particular conversation stands out when I was schooled in the foolishness of the super mom/super child myth. It went something like this. Our oldest son was doing well in school, but I knew that he was capable of doing better. This was getting to me – academic focus was MY thing at his age. So, we sat around the kitchen table at a “called meeting” to discuss the situation. He very articulately stated the following message: “you know, I have thought about this. It would take me about 10 extra hours a week to perform at a higher level. I want to have a well balanced and well rounded life, so it just isn’t worth it to me”. End of conversation. He knew more about healthy life balance at 14 than I did at almost 40. I learned a lot on that day.
In this season of parenting, I am grateful for one child who has a sense of reasonable activity level limits for herself and another that needs significant unstructured time to keep life in balance. This pushes us to make more focused and careful choices. Yes, parents help to expose, explore and guide our children to different areas of ability and interest. We have dreams and desires for them yet we must be careful. It is dangerous when our own self esteem gets wrapped up in what they are accomplishing or not. Anxiety over performance escalates and relationship suffers. We forget there are many paths to healthy and fulfilling adulthood.
Sometimes the super mom myth creeps back into my soul and whispers its temptations – those studies on the benefits of music lessons, the overheard conversations about what it takes these days to get into college x, y or z, the sometime seductive packed schedules of other seeming super kids. When that happens, it is time to re-focus and remind myself how freeing and satisfying it is to get my own selfish dreams and expectations out of the equation. Each child is a unique and individual soul. Satisfying parenting is a lot more like watching a lovingly tended bud open up to full flower than pressing dough into a cookie cutter mold. Sometimes we just need to get out of the way.