Some of life's most impacting conversations are short...and in the car. One of those happened today while on the way to the orthodontist and to get a meningitis vaccine for the youngest. We'd been talking about personal strengths and weaknesses. It was Rylie's turn to name mine as we intersected Nederland Avenue.
She was silent for seconds (that seemed more like minutes.) Was she able to think of any of my strengths? Was she wondering whether or not she wanted to say out loud what she thinks I'm not too good at? As we rolled up to Avenue H she casually mentioned my ability to know when they were having a bad day or a hard time with something. I'm perceptive. Check. Good.
She, then a bit nervously, explained my second strength, which in her opinion serves also as a weakness:
"You really want us to be happy. "
That's a good thing for us, she commented. But a bad thing for you, she got out before she changed her mind. She proceeded delicately, trying to explain, but I knew exactly what she meant. And she was right.
I do want them to be happy
-So I discipline them, careful, not to raise my voice. If I do raise my voice, or regretfully huff or roll my eyes at them, I profusely apologize.
Not only that, I explain, in detail, my every decision. You can't be out late tonight with an inexperienced driver because it's been storming and drunk people celebrating the fourth will be out on wet roads (add in 600 more words of reason delivered with a smile.)
I didn't get a fourth and fifth gallon of milk this week because...
Here's why it's totally reasonable for me to ask you to clean your bathroom...
When they're disappointed
-I share statistics that make sense
-I might let them skip a chore
-I remind them how much I love them
-I make sure to say yes to something after I've said no to something else.
I don't neglect to correct my children, I just soften discipline to a fault.
Without discomfort or disappointment there's little opportunity to mature.
I know that!
I've watched my kids suffer rejection and be treated unfairly without trying to fix things because I know that struggle grows them.
In a bold moment one time when wisdom wriggled up my tender heart and out my mouth, I told my oldest that I wanted him and to be happy (but that) his happiness wasn't my main responsibility. The idea was based on truth,
but I was lying through my teeth.
I have made their happiness my main responsibility.
I want them to be happy (most importantly)
I want them to be happy with me!
They can be disappointed with the rest of the world, as broken as it is, but be unhappy with me? I can hardly bare it.
I suffer the thought that they might not think I'm a good parent. What if they don't believe I care about what's best for them, but instead they believe I'm an uncaring, controlling dictator. What if they leave home and never want to come back?
Those thoughts interrupt appropriate parenting, the kind that, does in fact, disappoint and bring about temporary unhappiness.
Knowing is only half the battle. The problem for many of us sissy mamas is that we have to put sweat-producing, muscle-aching practice into what we already know. Our kids will continue to be unhappy with us from time to time and in and out of seasons. That might make us a little unhappy too.
But happiness truly isn't the goal...maturing to completion is... (theirs and ours). We better toughen up and get on with it.