When your child comes to you with their problem, no matter how small you deem it to be, and you realize it is turning their little lives upside down it puts a different perspective on what is big and what is small.
Note: I don’t have kids, so I appreciate Paul sending in his perspective.
Most of us, when we first become a parent, think we are our children’s teachers but many times things get flipped around and we actually learn something from them. All the things we thought we knew about kids before we had our own pretty much flew out the window. Some things we don’t know just kind of kick in from instinct and take us by surprise. Having children is always an experience in maturity and emotional growth regardless of where you are in life. If you are a young parent, most often, it leads to the fast track in selflessness and maturity. If you are an older parent, you may think you are selfless and mature until that sweet little bundle of love comes along and then you find out that you do indeed still have a lot of self left to lose! It’s an eye opening experience that you can’t learn in any classroom or be prepared for in any other way except to become a parent. My children have taught me many things throughout the years. I’ve been thinking about many of the wonderful things they have taught me and will list ten that came to mind today.
- Many of the problems we think are huge are not and many we think are small are huge. After having my two children there would be days when I would be overwhelmed with work issues, housework, finances, and all the very important responsibilities that plague us from day to day, and I’m not saying these are not important issues. But when your child comes to you with their problem, no matter how small you deem it to be, and you realize it is turning their little lives upside down it puts a different perspective on what is big and what is small. It’s a humbling experience. It made me re-think a lot of what I had on my mind and I became much more aware of their small worlds and what was important. If you think back to some of the things that were extremely important to you as a child it is easier to put yourself in their shoes.
- Along this same vein of thinking – relax a little, have fun and don’t take life too seriously. Many times we formulate plans of what we are going to accomplish on a particular day. With children life does not always go according to plan. My children have taught me to be more flexible, roll with the punches, and have fun doing it. I’ve found that you can pretty much make a fun event out of anything with kids and it turns out easier than if you get everything done on your list but everyone is made miserable in the process. Relax, find the fun and your children will have good memories and you will accomplish what really needs to be taken care of.
- I learned that it’s not always my fault. I’ve gone through life pretty much as a people pleaser. Always worried about how other people respond to me. In my earlier years as a parent with one child in middle school and one in grade school I learned a valuable lesson one day at a track meet from my oldest. She was a lot like her mom in that she was no athlete, but she certainly gave it her all. We all know kids can be mean and put others down. There was one girl who needed a severe attitude adjustment in my mind, walked by my girl with quite an attitude and was making the momma bear come out in me. I asked my daughter if she made her feel bad…. What she said then just kinda took my breath away and changed my whole way of thinking. She said, “It’s her problem mom, not mine, she’s always that way.” Wow. That’s all I can say.
- My youngest has taught me something profound also. My youngest is a boy; my daughter and son are seven years apart. I was older; my daughter was clean, quiet, giving, and perfect, and then came a totally new, humbling, learning experience. I had to rethink everything, and I mean everything. One of the biggest things my son taught me is that dirt does not kill you, hurt you or subsequently cause any catastrophic effects on your life. It took a few mud experiences before I learned to accept this truth. The home we were living in was on a cul-de-sac, it was very nicely landscaped with thick lush grass, the only downfall were the large drainage ditches near the street in front of everyone’s house. Apparently there had been flooding at one time, like 30 years ago that made this a necessity. When it rained they would fill up which would give them the appearance of swimming pools to my son and the next door neighbor. This was all fine and good as they went splashing about in the rain, until one of them reached down and grabbed a handful of mud, and I’m not pointing any fingers here (but the neighbor boy was older). To my horror as I looked out a window after a few minutes of taking my eyes off of them, they were both covered in mud from head to toe! I had to calm down and get my wits about me before going out and hosing my son down and then bring him in for a bath. He was absolutely thrilled that he was covered with mud and it made his day. After a few of these episodes, realizing how happy it made him and that it hadn’t killed either one of us, I learned to grin and bear it.
- This progressively leads to an epiphany on my part, something that I learned from both my children. No two children are the same! Go figure. You can not apply every disciplinary, training, or psychology exercise equally on individual children. The word that I just used in the last sentence, “individual”, is precisely the reason why this does not work. They are not the same just because they fit into the category of “children” just as we are not all the same because we fit into the category of “adult”. We know in our adult life with friends and family that we are all different and each situation with each individual is different. Somehow we don’t realize this applies to our children. They think differently about different things, they like different activities, they have different motivators. The sooner we learn that as parents the better parents we become.
- You can put as much pressure on them by bragging as you can by nagging. I learned this in a hard way with my daughter. She was an over-achiever, always wanted to please, very obedient, always did her homework without being asked and was happy making you happy. Thus, everyone and I mean everyone, bragged on her. This motivated her to even try harder. Until….one evening after a shower when she was drying her hair, I walked into her room and to my horror I saw a whole line of balding on her head, I was horrified! My heart hurt as I tried to figure out what this was from. She didn’t really know why either, so off to the doctor we went. She was pulling out her hairs one by one; she had long hair and often played with her hair. We found out she had something called Trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder), sometimes brought on by anxiety! Well, you can imagine how I felt and realizing that I must have been putting more pressure on her to perform because I was bragging on her achievements. She’s in her twenties now, doing great. It stopped soon after we found out what was going on and she and I talked to the doctor. She had to wear a hat most of the time at home because she would subconsciously pull hairs out as she was reading, which was her favorite past time. The hat was a reminder and needless to say I informed her that it didn’t matter what she did I was always proud of her.
- On a lighter note, I learned that things don’t have to be expensive to make their day and be fun. My mother really taught me this when my kids were young. I would go out and buy them these great toys that I thought would thrill them, they would play with them for a while and then the thrill was gone. My mom could come by with a refrigerator box and they’d play for hours in the back yard in the box! Or mom would get out her sewing kit with the jar of buttons and they’d ooh and aww over the different colors and shapes and then string them up for a necklace. Then she’d whip out the Popsicle sticks and Elmer’s and they’d build a house or airplane. Marbles rolling down gift wrap tubes, the dominos lined up and the thunder as they fell, the stacking of canned goods in the kitchen to make a castle, you name it, mom came up with it. The kids loved it. As I pondered over those times I realized that it was not really what they were playing with as much as the time someone was spending with them. Children would much rather have you sitting with them than buying them gifts. Time versus money, I can tell you what they prefer.
- Your children are not just extensions of you. When they are little they emulate you, making you think that they will be just like you all of their lives. Anything that you think, they will think; that you feel, they will feel, etc. Not true as they get older. At times it would even hurt my feelings that they didn’t think like me, that somehow they didn’t love me if they didn’t feel the same way. As your children get older it takes a big adjustment on our part to not get offended when they change, when they become independent, after all, they are your babies! Well, you get the point. This one I’m still learning no matter how old they get. I’m just so thankful that they’ve held onto the values that we’ve tried to instill.
- Things don’t always have to be perfect to be deemed a success by your children. For a long time I tried to make every holiday and birthday the absolutely perfect childhood dream. In the process of doing this I made myself the bad guy. I wanted everything to be so perfect for the kids that I almost ruined the fun. I remember one particular year that I just decided to give up and just let go. It was Christmas Eve; my brothers were both in town with their families. They had some last minute Christmas shopping to do so I told them I would watch the kids. After all, I was just preparing the Christmas Eve meal, how hard could it be? I have two nieces and four nephews, plus my two. My daughter was old enough to give me a hand in the kitchen and help keep an eye on the children so I figured we’d be okay. Well, as you can probably already figure out, it wasn’t okay. The boys got bored, there was fighting, crying and screaming. I was in mid-preparation of appetizers when it all broke loose. I tried some organized games putting the older kids in charge; this only helped for so long. I finally put everyone to work on appetizers and desserts, knowing full well that they would not be a beautiful feast for the eyes that I had planned. They also didn’t all make it to the dinner table since during the process we had some hungry children. Can you believe they really enjoyed themselves! They were proud of their achievements and won bragging rights at dinner. Their parents came home to happy kids and no one questioned me about why things didn’t have their customary elegance. (They knew better) All the kids still remind me of that Christmas with fondness. I decided from that point to keep focused on what was really important.
- Last but not least I have my daughter to thank for giving me some great insight. I was forever getting upset with different members of the family for things that they would say or opinions they would give that I frankly thought were none of their business. My daughter rarely gets upset about anything, even when I think she should. I asked her one day, why do these people affect me and you are always so calm? She said, “Dad, you don’t have agree with them, there’s no need to get upset. Let them say what they want. Just smile and nod and they will say what they want and it will be over.” Now you have it. Just smile and nod!
Those are some of the pearls of insight that I have gleaned from my children. Children are wondrous beings, full of wisdom they don’t even know they possess. I believe what they possess is honesty, purity, and innocence which makes them so priceless. That is, until we adults muck it up with our knowledge and insight.
Author Bio: Paul and his wife Julie both spend quite a bit of time coming up with ideas, blogging, and researching all things related to childcare. They run “babysitting”, a blog that helps you find information on all things related to being a babysitter.