Friday, June 11, 2010
This morning I helped serve breakfast at my kids' school to a gathering for the whole middle school to celebrate the graduating eighth graders. I have a seventh grader and I don't know most of the older kids. I wasn't thinking about graduation because I'm just so focused (or not) on the million other things going on in my life right now. One of the other seventh grade moms was talking about how emotional she was feeling even though her daughter wasn't even graduating. I laughed thinking that I'm usually the emotional one and wasn't it funny how I wasn't feeling it.
And then they played a slide show created by two of the eighth graders featuring pictures of themselves and their classmates from the time they were babies until now. I think it was the music that did me in. As soon as the first baby picture came up and they started playing Seasons of Love from Rent, the tears started falling. It wasn't until I started crying that I realized how I was actually feeling. I'm kind of weird that way - the physical reaction comes before I recognize the feeling. Or maybe that's not strange at all. In any case, I was realizing the obvious - it all goes so damn fast. Watching those baby pictures fade into pictures of the young adults they are becoming brought it all home for me. My babies are growing up. And I haven't enjoyed my time with them near as much as I now wish I had. (This would be a whole lot easier to write if the tears didn't keep blurring my vision).
So here's what I wrote on Facebook and Twitter: Cherish the ones you love. Some will be in your life forever and some only for a season. You don't always know whether your time with them will be short or long. So while it lasts enjoy it. Savor it. Make it count.
Then, somehow, following the crumbs of Twitter click-throughs, I ended up at Debbie Ford's site and read this article called "Self-love: The Key to Being an Extraordinary Parent." It made me realize that in order to be the kind of parent I want to be, I need to love myself the way I love my kids. With no reservations or judgment. With a full heart. And if I want them to believe in themselves, I have to believe in myself. If I want them to treat themselves with loving kindness, I have to treat myself that way too. Whether we realize it or not, whether we like it or not, our kids learn far more from what we do than anything we ever say.
In the article, Ford talks about our two internal maps - our Vision Map and our Default Map. Our Vision Map represents the kind of person and parent that we want to be. The Default Map is, well, what we default to when we're tired and stressed. It's what we learned from our parents and the other adults around us but isn't necessarily what we've chosen for ourselves - or what we want to teach our kids. The Default Map is reactionary - it's how we operate when we're not being proactive about our own behavior and habits.
I'm the Queen of reactionary behavior. It's probably because of my well-documented scatterbrain tendency. I am "focusing" on so many things at one time, it's hard to be proactive about things that are not in front of my face (or tabbed on my browser). Being proactive requires time and space for quiet thinking. It requires contemplation and self-knowledge. At the very least, it requires forethought. I am not the Queen of forethought.
I would do anything for my kids. Most parents will tell you the same thing and we all mean it sincerely. We run around like banshees taking them to activities, we scold and cajole them into finishing their homework, we feed and clothe and hug and kiss them goodnight. We do so much for our kids (some of us, too much). But what we often don't do for them, is take care of ourselves. What they tell you on the airplane (during the speech you've heard so many times you don't even listen any more) is true - put your oxygen mask on before you help anyone else with theirs. Take care of yourself and your kids will learn how to care for themselves. Isn't that what we want to accomplish as parents?
I guess I'm trying to make two points here and they're getting kind of muddled in my mushy emotional state:
First of all, cherish your children (and if you don't have your own kids - cherish the people you love young or old). You will not be around forever. They will not be around forever. Make your time together count.
And second, the greatest gift you can give your children is to teach them to love themselves. The only way to do that is to show them by loving yourself. Give yourself time, space and freedom to be proactive about your life. Show them how to live a life of passion and devotion to the people and activities and causes that they love. Be the kind of person you want your children to grow up to be.
"Father and mother, sister and brother if it feels nice, don't think twice. Just shower the people you love with love. Show them the way that you feel. Things are gonna work out fine if you only will." James Taylor - Shower the People