One of my children, lets say child X came home from a friends place the other day and the Mother was sorry, but he didn’t eat any lunch. He refused his lunch. After asking for a ham and cheese toasted sandwich he didn’t eat it. It wasn’t on the right bread. “Not like the one Mum gets”.
Just to clarify here – they go between eating wholemeal to an organic wholemeal sourdough. I insist sometimes that they eat grainy bread but as long as it’s wholemeal I don’t usually press the issue.
This was grainy bread. He didn’t want to eat it and to be honest I was a bit mortified. I had to explain to him that his friends Mum went to a lot of trouble and he should of at least tried to eat a bit.
So his imperfections embarrassed me. We have had discussions before about this kind of behaviour and it doesn’t happen that often but still – cringe. I didn’t have a perfectly behaved child on a playdate.
But why am I embarrassed? Not because of what he had done but because of what that reflected on me. My ego was saying that that meant I was a terrible parent. The terrible Mother with the child that didn’t act perfectly.
They are children. We like to think that they are reflections of us but they are their own people. They do and say their own things – whether we hear them or not. Thinking of them as perfect and trying to mould them into the people WE want them to be can be a form of boxing them in. Of trying to make them a certain way and they will either rebel or become secretive about their behaviour. Or try and please you for your sake and not for themselves.
Are any of these actions what we want? I think of myself as non-judgemental and someone who has got past really caring what people think but…maybe I’m judging my children and caring about what other people think of them.
As we know children are amazingly perceptive so they will pick up on that and that’s where they learn to care what other people think and to judge themselves.
But what do we do? Not care? Let them be truthful but maybe a little rude? Let it go?
In hindsight (we always know better then don’t we?) perhaps I should have just asked him what he thought of the behaviour and what happened. Maybe given him some ideas or suggestions for what he could do next time. Instead I told him essentially – just eat it, it’s better to pretend to like something and be less rude than have someone think you are badly behaved. I also told his Father and and tried to “shame” him a little bit.
We ask them to lie, then tell them not to.
We insist that they fit into society then want them to stand out
We ask them not to be themselves then tell them that the purpose of life is to be themselves
We tell them not to judge and we judge them (remember: when we judge others we are really judging ourselves – our measuring stick for how good a parent we are in this case)
We tell them to go after their dreams then when they get to 18 tell them its not practical, they won’t earn enough money or have enough security
So many expectations on these tiny little beings. These gorgeous kids, brand new to the earth, to our society, culture, to our way of life run out of our acceptance, kindness and lack of judgement by the time they are about two.
That’s when they should start to “know” better. We judge them by our standards and all that we have learned yet they don’t know what we know, do what we do.
There is no point to feeling guilty but there is beauty in reflecting. Only in reflection can we improve. Guilt serves no purpose – leave that behind and move forward with constructive learning.
It’s our mistakes give us the most insight into ourselves, not our perfections.