Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Back to Utah, or more aptly titled, Why I Will Give My Children More Credit

This weekend the kids and I drove back to Utah. My brother and sister-in-law (bless them!) watched my kids overnight so I could meet with a client and spend time with my best friend. It was wonderful! I experienced complete thoughts (and wrote them down as proof), slept until 9, and walked in and out of buildings without children hanging from my shirttails. What a dream! Albeit short, and now, over.

But I was completely terrified that my children would “go Belknap” and freak out the extended family. I can even provide imaginary details. Picture this: Zack climbing to the roof of my brother’s rental, pulling cute little Rory behind him, from her hair. Or this: Kaleb orchestrating a coup, secretly springing toddlers from the house to wonder the streets aimlessly. Or maybe this: Leah carrying big baby Jill from room to room without a spotter (okay, so that did happen). But does anyone else worry like this? I’m their mother; I’ve seen them at their worst and I’ve seen them at their best. Why was I expecting them to exhibit unholy behavior when removed from my direct supervision?

I was projecting, once again. At 36 (okay, 37) I’m still uncomfortable in my own skin, perceiving the worst about myself and believing others do the same. Now when it’s just me (in the confines of my therapist’s office) that’s fine, I can project and worry, project and worry, all the day long. But when it involves my children, and how I think others may perceive them, it’s criminal. It’s time I figured this out.

My children are normal, and because they’re mine they’re absolutely phenomenal. They’re not perfect. And they’re not mini-me’s. They’re little people learning how to be the best individuals they can (hopefully, just as their parents continue to do daily). And my duty, as a mother, is to help them accomplish that. Now I’ve decided that equal to that task is my belief in them, my belief that they’re already wonderful, amazing, astounding, and extraordinary little people, set on a path unique to them. Because if they recognize that their mother believes them to be fabulous in the quiet moment of being, apart from report cards, baseball stats, or (heaven forbid) blog readership, they’ll spend more time becoming who they need to be and less time trying to please their imperfect mother, or anyone else, for that matter.

I’ve decided it all boils down to this: I’ve watched too many episodes of “Intervention.” Really, have you watched that show? Every episode I’ve seen details a childhood, at some point or another, riff with uncertainty and criticism. While the addict’s parents may or may not be addicts themselves, most exhibit poor self-esteem. Now I AM NOT SAYING that every addict has dysfunctional parents. NOR AM I SAYING that your children will become drug addicts if you have poor self-esteem. What I AM SAYING (in a highly exaggerated fashion) is that when a parent is preoccupied with their own issues of self-acceptance, it’s difficult to communicate unconditional love and acceptance for their children. Enter, me (it’s all about ME, people).

So I’ve decided that three paragraphs ago when I said it didn’t matter whether or not I projected my unhealthy self-image like a fire hose as long as I wasn’t projecting an unhealthy image of my children, I was wrong. It does matter. Whether or not children can articulate it, they feel connected to their parents, and if I’m projecting an unhealthy image of myself, they’re eating it up like ice cream (and allowing that projection to settle into the center of their self-assessing lobe—if there is such a thing). So it’s time to get healthy and feel fabulous about myself. For my children. And me too, of course.

Expectations? Sm-expectations! That’s all I’ve got to say (that and about 640, now 41, words). Not that I don’t expect my children to make good choices, be good people, and do the best they can. But first (like a commandment) I expect myself to swell with the understanding of just how magnificent we are. No strings attached.


Erin said...

Too many times we see other people's children at their best and compare them to our children at their worst. It's hard to remember that you have the coolest kids when they whack you with the sword for the 70 billionth time or won't stop fighting. BUt we do--our kids are (to quote my husband who is still living in 1999) the bomb!

Anonymous said...

I loved this post. I still remember the time I heard my daughter Jordan (4 years old at the time) saying "maybe I shouldn't go over to Laura's, she might not want to play with me") and I realized that my obsessive thoughts about being a bother and having to earn people's affection, and about not being worth very much had begun to affect how my sweet, perfect little angel perceived herself and her world. What four year old worries about whether or not her friends want to play unless they've been conditioned to think that they are less than desirable companions who might put someone out? ' I tried to change my approach and convey only positive and loving messages from that point forward, but I still at that point didn't think much of myself. And I know they felt it.

I wish I could give a happy ending, but fourteen years later my Jordan is still struggling with issues of self-acceptance. But I can say at last that I now know that I am in a much better place and I can now truly project self-acceptance and acceptance of my daughters completely unconditionally. I am sure she will catch on to this before I did. It took me until I was 44. She's eighteen and beginning to get it it. There is hope for the future generations.


shauna said...

I'm so glad you posted (this is the best friend I was talking about...). You are so amazing it boggles my mind that you wouldn't realize it yourself. What a great mother you are, and I think it just shows that we all, parents, kids, everyone, are here to learn and grow.