Tuesday, July 8, 2008
I'm really trying
As I navigate the unfamiliar waters of a happy family and home life, I continually assess and second guess myself as a parent and a mother. I wonder what tragic and soul-damaging complaints my kids will come to me with when they're teenagers. I wonder what it is that I could be doing to screw them up. Hopefully not much. Hopefully by trying to right the wrongs of the past I'm on the right track, on middle ground, not overly mothering and smothering, but on an even keel where they feel free to explore the world and themselves, knowing all the time that home is a constant place of warmth, safety and support.
Every few years I pick up my well-worn copy of The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck, M.D. for parenting advice. It's what I've been reading at the breakfast table the past few days and at just the right time too. After 12 hours of wearing her bright pink cast, Lauren woke up this morning quite sure that she was done with it and really didn't want it on any more. Dr. Peck addresses this well. He writes:
"In taking the time to observe and to think about their children's needs, loving parents will frequently agonize over the decisions to be made, and will, in a very real sense, suffer along with their children. The children are not blind to this. They perceive it when their parents are willing to suffer with them, and although they may not respond with immediate gratitude, they will learn also to suffer. 'If my parents are willing to suffer with me,' they will tell themselves, 'then suffering must not be so bad, and I should be willing to suffer with myself.' This is the beginning of self-discipline."
He describes self-discipline as self-caring and that caring for one's self, or the "feeling of being valuable...is essential to mental health..." So I'm remembering to be empathetic while at the same time showing Lauren that she's capable of taking her own heavy dinner plate to the kitchen by balancing it on her cast, and that she really can pull on her shorts and brush her hair/teeth one-handed. And as I try to give our kids time, and open ear, a non-judgemental heart, calm reassurance, freedom to laugh, I imagine that I'm giving myself these things at the same time, slowly filling my heart with what it's been needing for so long.