Parenting the unique in your child...
Your whole life you wanted to be a parent and the day finally comes. You dream of sharing everything you love with this new little person. Your mini-me. Your shadow in everything you do. It's so incredibly amazing to imagine it all, the joy, the passion, what you love is going to be imprinted onto this other person so easily. The next Broncos fan. The next country music fan. The next sailor. The next reader. The next dog lover. And then...
At a pretty young age children's preferences start to show up. We all have our preferences and they are innate in the way we do everything from how we learn to what our passions are. As parents, we want our children to like everything we like because we think that will bring us so much joy. We love being around people who think like us, like what we like, and enjoy the same things. What happens when our children are totally different than us? What happens when they like things we don't like, and have different interests than we do?
I feel for these kids. The son growing up in a family of football loving athletes who has no desire to compete, but would rather play piano. The daughter growing up in a family where girls are pushed to go after their dreams only to disagree about what those dreams should be. What if she doesn't want to go to college? What if she doesn't want to get married? Why would you want to do that? What if he likes studying insects instead of watching sports on tv?
An even more challenging situation might be when the parent starts pushing the child into an activity that the child doesn't like at all and feels they have no say in the matter. Children pay attention to the pride a parent shows when they're doing what we want them to do. Without a doubt, we think children defy us, but in reality, children always want their parents to be proud of them.
Parenting isn't always about getting what we want... In fact, I think it's about the total opposite. It is possibly the first time in our lives when we need to think beyond what we wish for and look at what our children need.
Most parents would naturally agree - they want their child to flourish with whatever uniqueness they were born with, no matter how different they are than their parent. But is that really true? When was the last time a conversation was had about what kinds of things the child actually enjoys? What would happen if they said, I only like to play video games or I like to look at tik tok... Then what would you do? If that is the answer, what does that say about what kind of parent you have been? Yes, I know that is a hard question to ask ourselves. I ask myself that all the time and my kids are adults now. What kind of a parent have you been? The first response is always "the best one I could be." Am I right? Ask yourself again, what kind of a parent have I been?
The second time around may be a little scarier.... Things start to creep up in your mind, mistakes you remember, things you want to take back that you said. Those times when you were caught up in your own story, completely forgetting that your offspring were watching and absorbing every move you made during those times when you were less than a model citizen. I think that is the tell tale sign of what makes parenting so rewarding. It is during those times that give us the opportunity to take responsibility for our own behavior and change the world for the better. So what if you yelled like a crazy person at the top of your lungs while you were on the phone with a friend, or possibly at the dinner table at your spouse. You're only human! It's ok. The most important thing is that you check in with your child afterwards. You check in with them about what's happening from THEIR perspective. How do they feel after seeing the blow up. Ask yourself one more time.... What kind of a parent have I been?
It's ok to keep the answer to yourself and reflect on it a little.
I have been a peace keeper my entire life. I would imagine it is why so many people have trusted me with their child. The aura that comes off of me says, "I come in peace" just like my horses. I've seen so much yelling, screaming, throwing shit across the room, holes punched in walls, and all manner of peace destruction in family life and working with at-risk students at schools. It's amazing to me how easy it is for the energy to change in a room. All is well, and then, guess what, it's not. What does this have to do with the uniqueness in your child?
Well, your child may not be able to process these interactions the way you do. In fact, children never process family interactions the way the adults do. They may get frightened to the point of internalizing their fear and then never knowing if it's ok to share how they feel later. Showing them that it is ok to talk about how they feel by talking with them about how you feel is imperative to that type of modeling.
The most important thing a parent can do is to spend TIME with your child. Watching TV doesn't count. Playing video games doesn't count. Screen time is literally destroying people's ability to communicate so that would be the last thing we would consider as quality time. Later on that.
Parents also have to know WHO they are - and live their own best life. How could we ever expect our children to know what that is if we do not model it for them. Chasing our dreams, following our passions, and sharing what we love to do with them may not be the way they fall in love with what we love, but one thing is for sure, they will always value the fact that there were no facades. I remember how devastated I was when I learned that my mom gave up her dreams of becoming a marine biologist just because she didn't have parents who supported her. She kept it inside, too afraid to share it with someone. We are all unique and we must hold on to our uniqueness. Even when we are challenged with opposition. I once read that there will never be another YOU in this world, ever again. Why in the world would we ever try to blend in when all the universe wants us to do is to shine brightly in all our unique wonder. As adults, we must practice the art of uniqueness every single day. The same goes for our children.