I was planning on posting Hawaii part 2 today, but following some of the responses I got from part one, I thought it was important to take a moment to talk about something I have been giving a lot of thought to recently.
In my last post I talked about “wherever you go, there you are.” I wanted to clarify that a little bit, along with making some difficult confessions.
I love my kids. I love my kids beyond what I can put into words. I truly believe that our children are a direct result of our parenting. Do they have their own brains and free will? Of course. But unless there is a mental illness that is affecting a child’s behavior, how they behave is on us.
Is my kid throwing a fit? Chances are: they are overtired. Or hungry. Or they are irritable because I’m stressed and that tension is creating tension within them.
Is it fair of me to yell at my kids for dragging their feet and making us late if I know that I could have woken them up a few minutes earlier, or given them more warning before we needed to leave? One of my most shameful recent parenting moments came when I was mad at Zoe because she wasn’t getting ready for soccer fast enough and she wasn’t listening to me. I was late picking her up from her friend’s house. Did she dawdle? Sure. But if I hadn’t been late, I wouldn’t have had to put so much pressure on her.
It’s funny how magnified a family dynamic is when everyone is forced into a confined space for an extended period of time. I don’t believe our trip caused problems, I believe it revealed issues that were already there.
At home, everyone goes off into their own space. If they can’t get along, they separate. Nathan goes into the movie room to play video games. Zoe goes to find a friend in the neighborhood to play with. Parker zones out on the kitchen computer. Jeff works a lot and Sydney spends an awful lot of time at church. Me? I go in my room and “do laundry” which can also mean catching up on my shows that I have on DVR, reading a book, playing candy crush on my phone.
The point is, we’ve found a way to cope with our issues, but haven’t actually addressed them.
What was disappointing and frustrating about our trip was that in all that togetherness, these issues were staring me straight in the face. And it made me very sad.
Here we were, on an expensive vacation in Hawaii, the kids were skipping school, my husband and I only had a minimal amount of work to do during the week, there were birthday gifts, nonstop activities, and yet still- tantrums, fussing, complaining, bickering. And it broke my heart.
I won’t go into specific details about who was complaining or fighting about what. We all had our moments. My point is that it was a huge wakeup call for me.
I must confess- I have overindulged my kids. I haven’t given them enough opportunities to see the needs of others. It’s not that I don’t know that giving your kid pretty much anything they ever want isn’t a great parenting strategy. I think in the moment, you tell yourself, “It will just get them off my back right now” or “this is it, no more.” And then it never is, because they have a clever way of asking when your resistance is down. Or they use techniques they picked up from watching YouTube videos of cold war-era KGB interrogations and mind control. Either way, it’s always “just one more…” whatever.
Don’t get me wrong- my kids are good kids, they have just developed some pretty bad habits, and I haven’t done enough to curtail them.
Sydney and I were talking and she said, “I’ve noticed that you and dad get over things really quickly. Which is good, because that means you don’t hold grudges. But it also means you never deal with those things.”
She’s right. We aren’t big grudge holders. We usually understand that something said out of hunger or fatigue or stress isn’t worth creating long term conflict. And when you apply that to parenting, I can see how, although I think it’s a positive thing that we aren’t constantly bringing up our kids’ past mistakes, it also can allow bad behaviors to become bad habits over time.
When Zoe is snippy with me because she’s tired, I can forgive her for her snippiness, but also teach her that it doesn’t excuse disrespect and back talk. If Parker is misbehaving because one of his siblings is causing him frustration, I can be understanding about why he is frustrated, yet still train him on better ways to handle his emotions.
I have 3 Libras in my house. I’m not into astrology for Biblical reasons, but I can tell you there’s something to people who are born at certain times of the year and personality traits. I can’t explain it, but I know it’s true. I’m a late May birthday and nearly every significant relationship and/or friendship in my life are people born in May and June, late September and October.
People born in October (Libras) are born under the constellation of the scales. Supposedly they are all about justice and fairness. Which is why I find myself constantly mitigating disputes, being asked to decide who is right and who is wrong, Or, often, who has been wronged, and whether the appropriate punishment is what the “victim” is requiring me to dole out. My husband has actually referred to me as Judge Judy on several occasions, although I believe he’s using it more as a pejorative term . (I tend to be a pretty black and white thinker.)
Because there are 4 children in my house (although I don’t really count Sydney anymore since she’s 19) I spend a lot more time peacemaking for a moment than teaching for a lifetime. I parent in survival mode. As a result, real training gets missed.
The only cure for selfishness, constant dissatisfaction and discontentment, is gratitude. Thankfulness. Thankfulness and gratitude come from perspective. I haven’t given my children enough opportunity to gain perspective by seeing outside of themselves, their comfortable, affluent community, and understand that there are real needs out there- and they have nothing to do with whether you have a WiiU or not.
Yesterday morning, in my near breakdown state, I told Zoe and Parker, “Do you realize that there are people who have real things to complain about? They are hungry, they are homeless, they are ill. And guess what? They complain a whole lot less than you guys do.”
After speaking with my husband yesterday morning, we agreed- this is all on us. And it’s up to us to fix it. Not from the bottom up, but from the top down. We must lead by example. We must change the focus of our priorities, treat each other with respect (we tend to operate in sarcasm) and create opportunities for our kids to look outside themselves.
I asked Zoe and Parker to come up with 5 things they are grateful for and one way we can help others. Zoe had some great ones, Parker could use a little guidance. He told me he’s thankful that he’s so awesome.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, folks.
Hawaii part 2 is coming, I promise. And there’s some great stuff. It is a lot easier to write about the trip now that I know we are creating a plan to improve those things that didn’t go so well. Until then, I will leave you with this thought…