Before our daughter was born, I had all kinds of thoughts about how my child would behave. I would focus on teaching her the importance of saying, "Please" and "Thank you." And she would learn these habits with ease. I would tell her to do things and she would gladly do them because we would have such a great relationship based on trust and mutual respect. She would never talk back to me. I never talked back with my mother. I loved her and she loved me. Sure I pleaded with her on occasion when I really wanted something, but I never pushed it too far. I learned to take "No" for an answer and it made me a stronger person because of it. My daughter would also take "no" in stride.
I was wrong.
Let me be clear. I never thought she would be perfect. My eyes were wide open about the struggles of parenthood. As a counselor for sixteen years, I'd seen parents who brought in their children from ages three to twenty-three to be fixed in therapy. I knew it could be bad. Really bad. I worried if I'd get caught in the same patterns as some of the clients I saw. But I told myself that I'd had a good upbringing and it would be different. I would rarely if ever yell at my child or be impatient or insensitive.
I was wrong.
I've never been one to judge other parents harshly. I've always had a healthy fear of parenthood as I think everyone should. It's so important and so tough.
Parenthood is an opportunity to be humbled enough to learn some life lessons from someone much younger, shorter, and more emotionally unstable. We didn't catch those lessons as kids probably because we were busy being emotionally unstable ourselves. We just don't remember it that way.
And I really am one of the lucky ones. Our daughter is smart, kind, funny, loving, a good friend to others, and beautiful inside and out. But she is teaching me patience, self-control, and learning to love her more than wanting to keep up appearances or worrying about what others might think of me. Priorities. Choosing battles. Wearing something comfortable to church like shorts and a large, loose T-shirt rather than a dress. Other girls look so cute in their dresses, but our daughter prefers to be comfortable and is bothered by various textures. Tough for me. Judgment and fear of judgment from others rears it's ugly head.
I think God gives us children to help us grow up while we help them learn all kinds of things that may or may not require therapy in the future.
I joke, but I actually used to think that if I could raise a child who didn't need therapy then that would be a marker for success. Well, good luck with that one, because I have no control over how she perceives me and what she will remember or focus on whether it be positive or negative.
I guess one thing I have learned is that I need to be happy so that I have more to give her. If I'm running low on energy then I won't have it to give to her. So, sometimes I struggle with guilt for taking time for myself, but I'm getting over it because when we get together after I've done a little something for myself, I know she feels the love and energy flowing toward her. She has to.
I hope this will be a good example to her never to give up on her own needs and dreams so she can give to others freely and with enthusiasm from a cup that is full of whatever energizes her.
By the way, this picture was taken several years ago. I could tell early on, that our daughter was strong-willed and shameless. That was what I'd hoped for. My parents used shame as one of their discipline techniques. I talked with a therapist about this, again before kids. So I decided to forgo shaming. But once when I was desperate, I tried the, "I'm so disappointed in you." Ha. Nothing. It was like I was speaking French. Then I had to try something else.
There are so many lessons to teach, but I have laundry to do, meals to cook, clutter to sort through. I can only deal with one day at a time. Please don't judge me. I promise I won't judge you. All I'll say is good luck and God bless you.