Wednesday, October 28, 2015

What I'm Learning about Being a Parent #2

In my previous post, I wrote about the #1 thing that I've been learning about being a parent, which was to stop trying to teach them something and just be a good role model.

I think the second most important thing is to accept yourself just as you are.  This actually goes back to being a good role model.  We want to be the "perfect" parent for our children, but we are also human beings.  We all make mistakes sometimes.  That's part of life.  How we choose to deal with those so called failures, however, is up to you.

Do you go over the situation over and over again in your head and berate yourself for the errors you made?  Or do you accept the fact that it happened and that you cannot change what's happened already, so forgive yourself and move on?

I think many of us automatically choose option 1, but stop and think for a minute.  If you ever saw your children berating themselves over "mistakes" they've made, how would you feel?  Is this a behavior that you would like to pass on to your children?

I learned this the hard way.  This past summer, my oldest son was sick for a while, and one day, he fell asleep in the middle of the day.  The second he woke up from his nap though, he was in a complete panic.  After I got him to calm down a little, I asked him what happened.  He told me "I get mad at myself when I take a nap because I feel like I wasted my time."

...Ouch!!  What have I been teaching my son?!  Why can't my son relax and rest, even when he's sick?!

It crushed my heart.  I felt absolutely horrible.  I went down the usual path and got angry with myself.  At the time, I was just beginning to learn to accept myself and to take care of my "inner child".  I didn't feel like I deserved to.  I thought if I had been so demanding of my son that he felt he needed to place so much pressure on himself, then I must demand even more from myself.  How could I possibly forgive and accept myself, which to me seemed like giving myself a "free pass" to get away from my mistakes?

The angrier I got with myself though, my fuse grew shorter also.  Worst of all, my son was mirroring my frustration.  He would boss his little sister around and get angry with her over minor things.  I saw myself in him.  And I knew I had to change.

Your children are heavily influenced by your behavior, good or bad.  If you want your children to be loving, kind people, YOU have to be a loving, kind person.  If you want your children to respect themselves, YOU have to respect YOURSELF.

For me, saying affirmations has helped tremendously.  If I'm driving alone, I constantly talk to myself and send loving thoughts to the drivers and pedestrians passing by.  Writing my thoughts out on paper was also very helpful in sorting them out.  Whatever works for you, do it!  And do it right now!  It may feel weird to you at first, but do it for your children.  And eventually, you'll get to a place where you'll just want to do it for yourself.

You deserve to be happy, and the truth is, you can't make anybody else happy if you are not happy with yourself first.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

What I'm Learning About Being a Parent - #1

For the past several months, I've been really reevaluating my beliefs and have had to completely shift the way I think about certain things.  This, especially, had a huge influence on the way I parent my 3 children.  For a while, I beat myself up relentlessly because I thought I had really messed up and had damaged my children permanently.  So, I started telling my son my new ideas and encouraging him to do the same...  But wait!  My beliefs would change again in a few days, so I had another set of new rules!

This really confused my poor son.  He actually got sick for a whole month, and I just got more frustrated.  This was clearly not the way to go.

After awhile, I came across this poem by Kahlil Gibran:

On Children  

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

The first stanza is quoted most often, but the second stanza was the one I needed to get.  So, I evolved again.  I learned that you can't "teach" your children anything.  As soon as you try to do so, your ego steps in and says "I know more than you.  I'm better than you."  Your children will pick up on this  underlying message instantly and feel that they are not good enough as they are.

Well, what CAN you do as a parent, then?  #1, Be a good role model.  You have to become the type of person you want your children to be.  You have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.  Sure, there's no guarantee that your children will follow in your footsteps, but that's also the case when you pester them to do this and that.  At least, this way, you've improved yourself in the process.  And isn't that what we are here on Earth to do?  To improve ourselves and not anyone else?

P.S.  While this is the number one thing I've learned so far about being a parent, there are few more lessons I had to face.  To keep the posts relatively short, I'll be tackling them one at a time in the coming weeks.   Stay tuned...