How to Revive the Child Inside You
What Happened to You?
A long time ago, you imagined what it would be like to grow up and have children. You saw your own parents through a speculative child's eyes, and you imagined either imitating what you saw or starting down a different path altogether. You once thought about how it must feel to be a grown-up , with all the weight and power that word carried; the potential drudgery and stress of adulthood had no bearing on your wondering. The course of your life, untenanted yet with any fear or regret, stretched ahead as a great possibility. A long time ago, you imagined being a great parent.
Are you the parent you thought you'd be? Have you retained the ability to think of your children as you thought of yourself a long time ago? A thoughtful parent understands what her child is going through, because she remembers what it's like to be an innocent onlooker of adult life; a good parent considers herself a bastion for her child's virtue. Clearly, you're an adult now and you live in an adult world. As a parent, however, you need the flexibility to reach down and revive the child within you.
A Child's Assumptions
One of the things you've forgotten how to do is to live simply. This involves living in the moment, and finding joy in little things. It also involves, at a deeper level, assuming the best. Most adults have forgotten how to assume the best, both of themselves and others. Our jaded version of assuming the best involves us grandly pronouncing that we'll "give someone a second chance" at winning us over. We'll allow others the opportunity to convince us that we're wrong about whatever it is that we decided too quickly. Your friend's friend came to your dinner party without a formal invitation, so you'll have to think about whether to include or exclude her from 4th of July; your neighbor's son left bicycle tracks in the mud along your driveway, so you've "got your eye on him" from now on. Since your daughter's teacher didn't remind her to hand in her permission slip, he might not be "looking out for her best interests" as much as he should. The world of adults seems full of watchful, suspicious cynics, looking over their shoulders and assuming the worst.
A child doesn't think this way. The nature of a child prohibits the assumption of anything short of the best. A child would be glad to have a big party, happy to see other kids riding their bikes and playing, and grateful for the joke her teacher made. A child assumes that everyone has equally good intentions, and when something wrong happens, blame isn't the go-to response. Children, when raised properly, always assume that you've done everything you can to ensure their safety and happiness, and that anything short of that will be remedied as soon as possible.
Reflect This Faith
Since healthy children view their lives in such a context of decency, you must, too. You must remember how to assume the best of those around you, if you are to understand the worst that your child might do. This isn't the same as allowing your children to get away with misbehaving; rather, assuming the best of your son rewards and encourages him to do better. Stop responding to stressful situations with blame. Instead, openly find answers to your children's problems through working together, and approach others with the expectation that they'll do the same. They may not, but your expectations as a parent can't be moderated by the worst you see in people. Remember, your children gaze at the world with eyes that you once had: hopeful, accepting, trusting. Learn to reflect their gaze, and you're that much closer to understanding what it means to be the parent you once hoped to be.