What do we want our children to take away from their time with us?
We do so much to make their lives rich. We love, support and care for them. We keep them organized, help them with challenges and introduce them to our world. But, what if our greatest impact is not what we do, but who we are being when we are with them? What if all of the doing that is so well intentioned, is but a drop in the bucket compared to what they observe in us?
If I look at what my children see me do, I can see areas that I am proud of and also areas that need work. For example, I am kind and courteous to the people I come into contact with throughout my day. I don’t snap at waiters who bring the wrong order or hang up the phone on the people who solicit during the dinner hour. This is nothing to brag about, but on the other hand, I model courtesy and this is good for something (she said hopefully). Subsequently, I see those behaviors in my children as they mature and grow into compassionate citizens of our world.
And then there are those areas in which I have some challenges to overcome. For example, I like to get things done quickly and if I am busy and my kids are not moving at my speed, I can get impatient with them. One of my biggest challenges has always been to allow enough time for my kids to go at their own pace. I can park the car and be in the kitchen with five bags of groceries put away before my children have gathered their belongings and meandered down the front walk. I multi-task naturally and enjoy the sport of efficiency. That is how I am wired. And, in fact, our culture applauds that wiring so I can pat myself on the back as I simultaneously put my seatbelt on, start the car, open the garage and back out.
But what are my children learning? They see that at times, unless they go at my speed, they will be met with frustration and impatience. And what is all this about? Primarily, I am trying to get everything done for them, our home and our lives together! And in the process, I am teaching them intolerance and modeling a style of motherhood that is tense and no fun. Does it matter that dinner is on the table if getting it there was a crazed and harried experience for all of us?
So, I’ve started to think about any given day and dividing it into doing and being. The doing is easy to list. I make lunches for my children that I hope they will enjoy. I make sure they have the clothes they need and that they have opportunities to play with friends. I am interested in their school day and help them with their homework. I do things out of my love and commitment for them. It is easy.