I have come to realize what crystal clear mirrors I have been given in my children. They so innocently yet palpably reflect my attitude back to me, underlining both my strengths and deficiencies with precision accuracy. It has been a tough lesson for me to look at them and honestly acknowledge my reflection when I don’t like the manifestation displayed before me. The presence of my children in my life has created parameters in which it has become very difficult to operate under the influence of my own bad attitude without creating an environment of glaring hypocrisy…. and my children are often the undeniable vehicles that bring my own duplicity to my attention. Sometimes it is tempting to blame my children for misbehavior and hold them solely responsible, all the while witnessing my own rebellious image staring right back at me because their behavior has been seeded by my own laziness, emotional upheaval and lack of self control. In the end, my babies are the most precious gift of accountability because they haven’t yet developed the skill of self-moderation and thus cannot help but fully and transparently reflect back to me everything they see and experience and learn… ultimately from me.
During a particularly difficult day, full of meltdowns, tantrums and frustration, I found myself at the end of my rope and completely at a loss for a proper response. Feeling disoriented and off course, I contacted a good friend of mine who always seems to help me find my perspective. Our conversation was very instrumental in helping me learn to keep myself accountable first and foremost before attempting to hypocritically hold my children accountable:
“What is your calling as a parent in the lives of your children?”
“To be a safe place for them to be ALL OF THEMSELVES. To wish them just enough joy and just enough overwhelming obstacles that they see God’s hand in the former and know that only God can steer them through the latter. To be a totally available example of how to be thus amazed and steered.”
“Do you see your calling in the lives of others to be any different?”
“No. Expanded. Unleashed.”
“Within that vision of your calling, how do you create a safe place for your children to freely express their emotion without fear of expressing themselves while at the same time teaching them skills such as discipline and self control?”
“What does that example look like in practice? For example, if your child throws a kicking, screaming fit for not getting the toy or snack that they want, what does your response and example look like?”
“That’s a trap question, so I will be careful. When I’m fully conscious, I remove the plank from my own eye before I attempt to remove the speck in theirs.”
“The trap being that the parent is often as irritated at not getting the well-behaved child they want as much as the child is irritated at not getting the toy they want?”
“Exactly, and when you are consciously aware of that you are a better parent, naturally and supernaturally.”
“So the exercise for the parent is not to search for the ‘right’ response (because there is none within the parameters of a hypocritical attitude or the desire to craft the perfect child) but rather to surrender to the most present awareness in the moment and seek deep and genuine connection with the child… and once that happens, the best response to the child inherently and organically manifests appropriate to the moment without any effort to discover it or manufacture it?”
A wonderful mommy and friend of mine, Krissy, recently wrote a similar post on the struggles of recognizing and evicting a complaining, selfish attitude on her blog “Mommy by Faith.” You can read her transparent, encouraging confession here.