For those of you not in the know, I have seven children.
I call them my Littles. But honestly as time ebbs on, they are becoming not so little. It is a strange rite of passage, becoming the parent of young men. (and ladies, although Lucy is only 9 months old so it will be awhile.) It is new territory for both myself and them. None of us have taken this pathway yet. None of us have done much more than read the map and hope for the best.
But isn’t that how life works? For all of us? Have any of us been this way before? Isn’t every day untrodden territory?
I think as parents we have to keep this fact in mind: that our children are souls separate and unique from our own souls and therefore are on their own separate journey. We cannot use our own map on their journey. It makes no sense. Because they may not be going in the same direction as us.
There is something about parenting toddlers and teenagers that has people going batshit crazy. For some reason they find these two ages to be the most challenging. I think the first problem is they are looking at it as a challenge in the first place. And when you face something expecting a challenge what will you get? Some of the synonyms for the word challenge are:
Well, when looked at THAT way what other choice WOULD a parent have but to strap on their ass-kicking boots and prepare to battle?
But what does one get in a battle? Go ask a vet what happens, what the end result really is. It’s blood, and echoes of shots fired and shrapnel leaving scars and PTSD. It’s innocent lives lost. Battle is never ever a simple nor pretty thing. And battle always results in a winner and a loser. If you are facing off with your children as if in battle with them, who will lose? You or your child?
So many parents I know are hard pressed and determined to not lose. But at what price?
What if we don’t look at parenting that way? What if instead we take a step back and practice EMPATHY?
Websters dictionary defines empathy as follows:
The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.
In other words, try taking a step back and asking yourself what the root cause of your childs behavior may be in the moment. Try to put yourself in their shoes. Maybe they are overtired. Maybe they are feeling frustrated. Being a child can be really hard when no one takes your valid emotions seriously. Maybe they are scared. My son Aidan used to come home from school every day and be really rude to me with his words and tease and hurt his brothers. I finally got to the root of the problem. Some boys on his bus were bullying him. But at the age of 9 he didn’t know how to properly explain his feelings to anyone so he took his fear and frustration out in other ways. His actions were SCREAMING out a message. I just kept missing it. What messages are your children giving you through their attitudes and actions? Learn to approach with empathy and read between the lines. Keep in mind that they are only new humans on an uncertain, sometimes difficult path.
And keep telling yourself, they are NOT YOU Not your past, not your aspirations, not your phobias or challenges. The relationship that you have with them is not the relationship your parents had with you. They are them. Not an echo of you Treat them as such. Respect the differences. Enjoy the differences. Imagine how dull life would be if every mate or friend we had was an echo of ourselves. Be thankful that you have the honor of rising these unique creatures, that you are lucky enough to walk beside and play a part in that.
Be there, as a voice of reason and rationale in the storms. Be there as a comforting presence, a reassuring smile, a hand on their shoulder. But do not force. Do not try to change who they are meant to be. Give them space to grow, to become, to make their own way. Find your empathy for these young souls. Utilize it in the nurturing process of your relationship with them. Treasure these years. Not to be seen as challenging years, but as precious. And sacred.
I am not facing multiple challenges. I am not stressed by the fact I am the mother of seven children. I am simply blessed. And grateful.
It is all a matter of perspective. I trust their innate wisdom, even when they are unaware of their own power. I am not molding nor sculpting anyone. I am simply here, allowing them space to grow and trusting them. Because in trusting them, I am teaching them to trust themselves. Which is really the whole point in parenting, helping them to become self-assured, confident adults. That is all I am wanting for them. That is enough. That is everything.