Thursday, June 2, 2011

Headlights Required

Parenting certainly has its ebbs and flows, its peaks and valleys.  Its barbed-wire fences, its muddy ditches to slog through.  Its daisy-filled meadows with sweet breezes.

And then there are the foggy days, when no one sees clearly straight ahead, behind, or beside.  When we spend more time bumping into one another than making progress. 

We've had some foggy, naggy, muddled times recently.  It's the end of the school year; it's the cusp of transition.  We are all a little edgy, busy, and sleep deprived.  There are days when I wonder if I've said much of anything positive, to anyone, in my household.  When I screech at a child who's jumped off the curb at a busy intersection; remind the preschooler for the nth time to say please, please; mutter under my breath about tone of voice and HEY!  YOU DON'T YELL AT YOUR PARENTS and SINCE WHEN IS THAT ALLOWED FOR CRYING OUT LOUD.

The thing is, I think I have a point.  A point which can be found somewhere in my own shrill admonitions.  I believe my parenting instincts are founded in some key philosophies, skills, and qualities I want to instill in my children.  But they've been lacking an anchor--a practical, understandable, unemotional mooring to which to attach what I'm trying to convey to my daughters. 

I thought about this the other night as we embarked on a Family Walk, as Big Sis and I recovered from an episode in which I corrected her and she reacted defensively and we failed to fully comprehend each other's positions on the issue. 

"I'm thinking," I told my husband, "that I need to frame what I'm doing when I reprimand or redirect our kids around what my job is as a parent."

And the more I thought about it, I determined that I parent with two fundamental goals in mind: 

1.  Promoting my daughters' health and safety, and
2.  Helping them be the best of themselves they can be. 

I mulled these two intentions over, recognizing that if what I'm doing or advising or how I am reacting to my children--or modeling for them, for that matter--doesn't align with those two missions, then I should question myself, too.  The idea was making more and more sense, especially since I could see both goals relating to my work with teenagers.

During a calm moment with Big Sis, we discussed my job as a parent and how it relates to our interactions.

"I need to do an excellent job as a parent, and there are two parts to that," I let her know (after we established that going to work and making money was not my first job as a parent).  "So, that means when I am warning you or scolding you or giving you a consequence, it's because I am needing to help you stay safe or reminding you to work on being the best you you can be." 

She nodded, and we imagined some scenarios when I would need to do my job as a parent:  when sisters are saying, "No, YOU'RE dumb" to each other, when Big Sis is climbing on the counter to get something out of the cupboard, when Little Sis is yelling from the living room for me to bring her some cereal, stat. 

Last night we had an opportunity to deploy the new anchor, and after we endured the cycle of my admonishment-->her outrage-->my explanation-->her blame-shifting-->my encouragement of accountability-->her pouting, Big Sis came to me with an apology and hug.  She admitted she wasn't being her best self, and I reminded her of my job.  I also pointed out that how parents keep their kids safe and help them be their best sometimes needs improvement, too, and we'd keep working on that. 

It's a foggy, trial-and-error enterprise, this parenting gig.  I'm grateful for each moment of clarity, wondering how long it will last.

1 comment:

Heather PC said...

Would you like to be a guest speaker at my house?