I have been a parent for 20 years, and if nothing else, I have learned how flawed I am as a human being. And I’m ok with that. I love owning that I am flawed – it relieves so much pressure. I have also learned that the best think I can do for my kids is to show them how to live as a flawed person on this planet rather than try to be a perfect parent. I used to think I had to model for my kids how to be perfectly grounded and emotionally balanced, how to always be selfless and generous, how to always be in control, and to always have a great attitude. Well, let’s just say I am not all those things all the time, so all it did was teach my kids that I was good at faking a lot of things. Not really something I want my kids to value – being a fraud. So here are a few things I am teaching my kids instead:
1. There is a lot of processing that goes on in my head before I know what to do. To let my kids in on the way I figure things out, instead of keeping the process in my head I do it out loud. Now, be prepared, when you start talking out loud to no one in particular, you are going to get some funny looks and your kids might slowly back away from you in an attempt to move to safety. But seriously, they can’t read our minds. So how will they know how to mull things around, or how to process different options if we keep it to ourselves? It does our kids no favors for them to think that we always have the right answer instantly. They will always feel like they are not smart enough or not quick enough to figure problems out. Let them in on the secret – there is a lot of thinking that goes on before we have answers. Think out loud in front of them. If nothing else, it will provide some entertainment!
2. Sometimes I am cranky and it has nothing to do with them. I don’t know why, but in the past, I had a hard time owning when I was grumpy. I felt the need to blame it on something or someone, which was usually my kids. If they would just be quieter or if their room wasn’t so messy or if they weren’t so dang picky then I wouldn’t be grumpy! The truth is, sometimes I am just cranky. Usually it’s because I am tired or hungry, and sometimes I have no idea at all why, but now I own it. As soon as I realize I am out of sorts, I own it and tell my kids that it’s not about them, but I am a little cranky so they might want to give me a little space. I am trying to teach them we don’t always have to blame someone else when we are upset (as satisfying as that might be). I am not always happy and content, and that’s ok.
3. It’s ok for my kids to see how I get grounded. I have been meditating for about 12 years now, and in the beginning, I thought I had to do it when no one was watching. I have no idea why, maybe I was just self-conscious, but if I heard someone coming down the hall when I was meditating I would jump up quickly and pretend like I was doing something else. How silly is that? Now I tell my kids – “I need a few minutes to meditate and get centered”, and I go in my room and do just that. If someone comes in, I don’t jump up, I continue meditating. I suppose it’s about being afraid I am going to be made fun of or being insecure, which apparently, we never outgrow! I have decided it’s worth the risk of being laughed at though, in order to model for my kids something that really helps me achieve more balance in my life.
4. Sometimes even moms say unkind things about people. We try to teach our kids to always be kind and not say mean things, and that is an excellent thing to teach. And sometimes even moms fall short and say not nice things about someone. Yes, I may have made the occasional snarky comment about a supermodel looking woman obviously having too much time to spend in front of the mirror, or clearly never having been pregnant, and my kids may have heard said comments. So, I swallow my pride and admit that I only said those things out of envy because I really wish my stomach didn’t look like it had been stretched out 5 times well beyond its capacity. I am not saying that we excuse unkind words or let them be ok. I’m saying that we all do it, and rather than pretending that we don’t, let’s show our kids how to own our words and make repairs when necessary. When I say something less than nice, I almost always say something like “wow that was really mean. I think I will just keep my words to myself until I have something worth saying.” Or I admit that I’m feeling a little unworthy in some way, but that’s no excuse for bringing someone else down. If we don’t show our kids what to do when we make a mistake, it’s not going to prevent them from making mistakes, it’s going to prevent them from making things right.
I love being a mom. I love it even more when I realize that being a mom doesn’t mean I have to be perfect. Being a mom means I get to show my kids how to handle imperfection in the most graceful way I can. I guess when you really thing about it, we have an obligation to make mistakes just so we can teach our kids how to learn from them! How awesome is that?