Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thursday Thinking--Lesson Learned . . . again.

A couple of weeks ago when family was here for my niece’s wedding, one of my sisters and I were talking about parenting. I told her about a realization I’d had a few years ago: Cali and I were out walking and she had a problem on which she wanted advice. Since it was a decision between good and good and she would be the one living with the result, I felt the best counsel to give her was to tell her I believed in her ability to make a good choice, would support her decision and that forever, for always and no matter what, I would love her. Cali got very frustrated with my response and said, “You’re always doing that. I already know you believe in me and love me and think I can make good choices, I want REAL advice.”

It occurred to me then that I was the parent I had warned the kids about becoming. I had seen parents who might have been monetarily deprived in their childhood lavish products on their own kids past the point of wisdom: if they were embarrassed of their shoes as a child, they made sure their kids wore the most expensive shoes; if they had wished for a bigger Christmas as a child, their children were inundated with gifts; if they were embarrassed of their car as a teenager their kids had a new one—that type of parenting. And it wasn’t limited to money issues but also cropped up in discipline. Without looking at the pros and cons of spanking, time-out or grounding, some parents followed a preconception or fad. I told the kids that rather than seeing what their children needed, some parents tried to fulfill their own unfulfilled wants through them and so “we shouldn’t make the same mistakes, now should we?” We had this discussion more than once through their adolescent years because our kids grew up on hand-me-downs, modest Christmases, old cars, as well as spankings and no grounding. I thought it our responsibility to warn the kids to be prepared to meet the needs and teach the truths to their children rather than living up to a preconceived or popular view.

So, that day Cali told me she needed more than what I gave I realized I was doing the exact same thing to her that I had warned the kids about. Not in a physical way, not in a disciplinary way, but in an emotional way. Instead of parenting her like she needed to be parented I was parenting her like I wished I had been parented.

In this same conversation with my sister, I also said that I wished I hadn’t used the distraction technique so much as a parent, for though it created temporary harmony it had the potential to create bigger problems down the road. I said that I now recognized that sometimes you just had to work through the un-comfortableness rather than constantly trying to get the kids to avoid or forget about it.

Then we changed the subject and my sister and I talked about the price of rice in China and other important things.

A couple of days ago Ande was frustrated with a project she is working on. Not being a perfectionist like she is, I often have a hard time empathizing with her and fell back into old parenting. I kept trying to distract her frustration by suggesting alternatives, changing the subject or laughing at the situation (thinking she’d see the humor if only I laughed often enough). It didn’t work. It made the situation worse by adding new elements. Finally I quit “helping” and let her work it out on her own. She left for work madder, more frustrated and with even less of a solution. But, she did come home with this:

Photobucket

It may be an “I’m sorry” bouquet to her, but to me it’s a “remember what you learned in parenting and don’t keep making the same mistakes” bouquet.

If I'd only realized earlier that less distracting might have led to more bouquets.

16 comments:

michelle said...

I love every bit of this, Jane. A classic example of your wisdom mixed with humor!

Ty and Dani said...

I definitely will learn a lot about parenting as time goes by and I am only at the very beginning, but I am grateful for your thoughts. I am also grateful that as parents we get more than one chance to learn a lesson.

Lucy said...

"Then we changed the subject and my sister and I talked about the price of rice in China and other important things."

So perfectly timed, Jane!

I loved this. At first, I was nodding and thinking, "Yes. This is what my mother does. She reminds me how smart I am and how capable I am of making a good choice."

But then, you went even further down the thought ladder and applied it to reactive parenting. Wow. So thoughtful. I'm going to be thinking about this one.

As far as the bouquet goes, Ande does beautiful work.

Heather @ Multiple Hats said...

Fantastic post, Jane. Lots to think about. You are a wise woman - I am so glad to have you as a friend and mentor. Thanks!

Barb said...

Unfortunately, I'm quick to find this problem in others and slow to find it in myself.

Jill said...

I try hard to parent the way I wish I had been parented, but it's probably not always the right thing for my kids. I am impatient, no nonsense and often flustered with them. My only real comfort is a line from my Patriarchal blessing that basically says I will be able to say the right thing to my children when needed. That line gives me no end of comfort!

Cali said...

Mom,

I've enjoyed thinking about WHAT I would indulge my kids with... if I hadn't been made aware of this. The only thing I can think of is a house full of ALL matching towels, and enough towels that you don't have to get mad when someone takes yours and leaves it for you still wet. On most other things, I think I've come full circle. I strongly endorse teenagers driving old cars, modest Christmases, hand-me-down clothes, and that grounding isn't effective punishment.

Last, but not least, I just wanted to say goodmorning and I love you.

Kathy said...

I love this post and Calli'a comments. One positive thing that I wanted to bring from my childhood was that the kids could drinkg all the milk they wanted to, any time they wanted. Well....I was raised on a dairy farm, hello!

Neighbor Jane Payne said...

I appreciate your thoughts on this readers, and Cali I will HELP you make sure you have enough towels that are not ratty . . . that is one of many things that definitely needs to be improved in the next generation :)

Ande Payne said...

Sorry I got mad enough at you (and let my acid tongue slip enough times) that I needed a boquet for an "I'm sorry". Good thing you are a great parent and this doesn't happen too often. We don't have enough vases. Maybe that will be my towel indulgence. Vases.

Neighbor Jane Payne said...

What Ande? You don't think that plastic chemicals container that your dad found rolling around in the back of his pick-up and uses for a vase is enough? I simply don't understand :)

Marie said...

If your rooster can't hold maple syrup, that is certainly a wonderful alternative.

Ben or Cortney said...

Sister Payne,
I would love to hear more from you on your disiplinary practices, especially the no grounding and how you dealt with your children when they were younger. Thanks for the great post!
Cortney Jones

Ben or Cortney said...

I forgot to put my email down, benandcortney@gmail.com, or you can just post on our blog, I would love some tips!

Kim Sue said...

always more to think about after reading your posts...projecting, deflecting, distracting! and that cute little rooster reminds me that I said I was going to take more time to do fun stuff with Carly!

Anonymous said...

You don't see yourself as a perfectionist? Odd.

Lynn