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Parenting is no picnic!
Zoe paints herself purple!
Why don't they teach this in school?
"Parenting is not for the faint of heart", the old saying goes. No truer statement exists as far as I'm concerned. I have been reflecting of late the parenting woes I've had over the past 17 years with my dearest daughter. Through all the ups and downs, sometimes way more downs, I have learned many things about myself as well as my daughter. I have had no greater teacher in this life time as my daughter Zoe, and yes I have told her so.
I guess part of the reason I am reflecting is that I have had a young lady doing community service with me at my farm lately. She got into a bit of trouble and was sentenced to 100 hours of community service. So we have spent quite a bit of time talking as well as working. I have listened to her complain about her parents for what feels like hours at a time. I have talked to her as a mentor and tried to get her to see not only her side of the story.
This is where I have looked at my own parenting and what I did differently than her mother or father. I at first tried to do a 180 degree difference in parenting than my parents did. Going to the opposite extreme was not always the best option. I found threw trial and error that there is a happy medium to just about everything. I had to find my own parenting style and it continues to evolve and change as I do with the years.
One of the first lessons my daughter taught me as a parent is that sarcasm does not work with children. I was taught by my parents how to have a sharp, sometimes lethal, tongue when it came to sarcasm. But when I used that in the presence of my daughter she told me how it hurt her feelings. I was crushed. I taught this precious child how to identify and name her feelings and when she did it about killed me. From that day on I made sure she was allowed to tell me if I was being sarcastic and that I needed help changing because I did not want to use such a mean tool. Eventually she got to use that against me as she aged but it did keep me on the straight and narrow and I learned how to not use that awful form of expressing anger sideways.
Another lesson she taught me was in the area of judgment. I had taught her that you couldn't look at someone and judge them for the way they looked. Yet when she caught me doing just that I had to be humbled once again and admit I was wrong. I had to look at the fact that what I was teaching wasn't necessarily what I was doing.
The number one things children do is watch us like a hawk. If you aren't walking the walk as well as talking the talk they will point that out. The one thing I did not want to be was a hypocrite. I wanted to be the person my child believed me to be. It took years for me to feel like I actually filled that role but I am proud to say I finally made it.
My dear child held me accountable at almost every chance she got. Part of me thought "why did I teach her this only to have it thrown back at me"? Now I can say I am grateful because now I can look at the person she has become and know that I had a huge part in helping her to become just that, a wonderful soul.
I once had an adult attending a workshop of mine ask "how did your daughter turn out so well"? Without thinking I said "I guess I got lucky". Then I recanted and said "No I worked really hard to parent her, teach her, and allow her to make mistakes. Teach her how to communicate and show her by modeling what a good person looks like". It has not always been easy being her role model.
There have been times I had to humble myself and admit some really dumb mistakes. The benefit from that though is she sees me as human and that I am fallible. That we can do better if we are aware of our mistakes. That we only learn if we make mistakes. I know there were times I did not want to admit to some of them, but then again she too had that same thought.
I am fortunate in that I am the first one she calls when she a) gets a speeding ticket b) is running late c) is worried about a moral issue with a friend d) has any question or problem. The fact that she talks to me, confides in me, trusts me is of great comfort. It took a lot of uncomfortable conversations to get to this point but we have made it thus far.
I can only hope that the child that is doing community service with me will pick up a few pointers that I am trying to pass and they will make her life a bit easier. Her mother called me and thanked me for trying to help out. I tried to teach her a mirroring exercise over the phone but not sure she truly gets the purpose. I so worry about our children's future and how they will develop into adults without these basic needs being met.
I can't save the world but I can help one child at a time.
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