I was so busy teaching my children how to tie their shoes I forgot to teach them how to love themselves. I guess it runs deeper than that. Being a parent has always been important to me. Bedtime routines were set in stone by three months of age. Healthy eating habits instilled, toilet training and manners. All three of my children could read way beyond their grade levels. Before starting school they knew their alphabet, colours, how to print their name and they had the cutest backpacks. I was killing it at this Mom gig.
My own childhood was a difficult one, but my mother was present. We moved a lot and all of the things I did not want repeated from my youth, I tried desperately to not repeat. Life does not always work out the way we plan. As a matter of fact, throw out the plan now! Plans that we conjure up in our twenties have a way of perpetually setting us up for failure, but I digress. 🙂
As my children grew older they watched as their father and I struggled. I compensated with chore charts, Halloween costumes and structure. These were the things that were missing from my childhood after all. My thought process was this. As long as I provide them with routine, love, bedtime stories and a full belly, why wouldn’t they turn out as well-rounded human beings?
What most parents, including myself forget is this. Children are small, yet oh so perceptive. They learn from what they live. Here is a perfect example. I went to great lengths, and an extreme amount of physical and financial stress to pull off a family trip to Florida. After a recent discussion with my adult son, his recollection of this vacation astounded me. He has no memory of (he was thirteen at the time) being in that particular ocean and mostly remembers all the arguing between his father and I. Similar memories from all my children emerge regarding a family trip to Oklahoma, a simple trip to the zoo, a theme park…the list goes on. The point is, for most of their life, I ignored what they were in fact seeing and hearing. We think if we only disagree or argue once they go to bed, or “quietly” it won’t affect them. WRONG. We think that if a real bad argument occurs that we should simply ignore it happened and then plan a super fun day to make up for it. WRONG.
All of these actions had lasting affects on my children, just like they had on me as a child. No I am not blaming all of my short comings in life on my mother. I believe we are responsible for our own actions and happiness as adults. That is not where this is headed. What I am saying is, as parents we need to be more accountable for our behavior.
When you argue and things are said, have a discussion with your children. Explain why voices were raised because trust me they were afraid. At the far end of the spectrum here, I allowed my children to see me disrespected and that was never okay. I allowed them to see someone who was supposed to love me say hurtful things and that is a conflicting message. You can tell your children you love them. You can tell your children to always respect themselves. You can tell your children to never let anyone hurt them or put them down. What happens if they watch you be hurt, disrespected, or worse? What kind of conflicting message is that? I had not yet figured out how to love myself, therefore I didn’t even realize I was missing this huge component as a Mom. Is it our job to give them these tools? Well, where else are they going to learn this? School? Love stories? Friends? Even if you are currently right in that same situation I was years ago, it is still okay to say to your child, “You deserve better than I may be allowing myself right now.” Do not ever think, “Who am I to offer insight or advice?”
You as a parent want nothing more than your children to be strong amazing humans. I can tell you from personal experience that once they become adults, they will tell you they want that exact same thing for you. I will also tell you that the best way to teach them that skill is to show them how to be that person. Let them learn by example. I do wish I would have figured that out much earlier in my life as a mother. I do know I have been able to give my children good examples of strength since then.
To all you parents out there, remember your strength, remember how much you love yourselves and shower that all over those children. The benefits are amazing.
Much Love ❤