To hear their laughter, to see their smiles. The quiet serenity at the end of a summer day. The joy that my children bring me is more than I could ever have imagined as I carried them and dreamed of who they would be. It isn’t always easy to be a Mom. In fact, quite often I feel like I am failing at this endeavor. The vastness of the responsibility that I have to them occasionally stunning me into crippling fear. How does anyone ever feel prepared to raise a child? There are so many distractions and confusions that the focus often turns to the wrong place.
Children have so much energy. I wholeheartedly agree with the saying “Energy is wasted on the youth.” The energy should belong to the adults who take care of and raise the young. So, what makes a good parent? How do we excel in this field whether we chose to be in it or not? Here are a few things that I’ve learned that help me think that I’m doing alright.
First, remember everything is new to them. They are learning from you as their first teacher. You are their first love, their first deity, their first example. Their first experience in nearly everything comes from you. I watch closely the faces of my children as they come across something new for the first time. Their faces are broadcasting so clearly their emotions and feelings. Whether it be shock, fear, happiness, or excitement, you can see it. It’s my job to help them put a name to that feeling. Help them process that feeling. It is important that you look within yourself to see how you handle your own emotions. If you’re unsure, they won’t be able to learn how to deal aptly with sensations they need to. Be prepared to show them how you deal with and handle stress in your own life. Show them that it’s okay to have bad days, and bad feelings. Life isn’t about perfect rainbows and sunshine everyday. Preparing your children for this reality is the best thing you can do. Even though it isn’t Hollywood happy endings all of the time, it is still good, and the bad helps make up the whole.
Next, teach your children respect. The differences in this world are what make it colorful and extraordinary. We might not agree with everyone, our children included, on how they choose to live their lives. That’s okay. I made a previous post with my views on this (Just Because It’s Different Doesn’t Mean It’s Wrong). I try to teach this to my kids. This will be among the greatest gifts that you give to your children and to others. Respecting life gives it the value that it deserves. Respecting others will create a ripple effect that will turn around the way we treat each other as a whole. Teach them also to respect themselves. To stand up for themselves and not be afraid of being who they are. Fear holds so many people back from their optimum life. You’re not going to get through life without hurting anyone’s feelings. There is no need to be cruel, but if you can’t stand up for yourself, who will?
Most importantly, your children are going to make mistakes. Let them. They are going to cut things that shouldn’t be cut. They are going to spill icky sticky stuff everywhere. They are going to get sick at the most inopportune moments. They are going to do things that embarrass us. It’s frustrating. It will test our patience. There will be times when we question this course that we’ve set out upon. It is all part of growing. This is how they learn. It is a great chance to show them how to handle stressful situations. Are you going to yell when there is milk spilled all over your new rug? Probably, but try not to. Get acquainted with deep breathing and thinking. I like how Neil deGrasse Tyson puts it: “Because you’re just being a kid, and you like to explore things, and your parents don’t like it because it gets the pots and pans dirty, and because it’s noisy—but for you it’s fun, you’re testing. You’re actually doing experiments.” Maybe that isn’t very clear taken out of context, but what he’s saying is that the messes are good. They’re part of learning. Let them make a mess. Encourage them to play in the dirt. What’s inside that plant that they just tore the petals off of? Hell, make a big old mess with them, and in so doing…. learn!!! There is no greater teaching opportunity than when something happens that in our busy adult world would be an unacceptable pile of dirtiness. But with children it creates knowledge. This doesn’t mean that there should be chaos and no limits everywhere you turn. It simply means that a little bit of patience, teaching, understanding, and learning go a long way. Especially in the world of a child.
I love my children. Often times they teach me more than I teach them. It’s a two-way street. They are turning into amazing people. I am only part way through this journey and can’t wait to see where else it will go. Now get out there and make some messes together. Until next time, enjoy the error of your ways!!!