Monday, July 29, 2013

Teach Your Children Well

What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.
                                                            - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Anyone who became a teenager in the 80's probably remembers that commercial where the kid gets caught smoking pot by his father.  His father angrily shakes the bag of marijuana at his son and asks him where he picked up this habit.  The kid angrily responds, "I learned it from watching YOU, OK?  I learned it from watching you."

BEFORE the snowball fight.
I parent (as a verb) intentionally for many reasons.  But one of the reasons I am careful with my actions around my children is because that commercial always stuck in my head.  I know that my children will emulate my language, my lifestyles, my habits about money, and my easygoing attitude toward household chores (OK, sloppy attitude).

I do realize that many of my choices will impact them profoundly for the rest of their lives and will spur them to make their own choices based on what they've known in our family of origin.

So, I'm predicting the future.  Call me Swami Kelly.

  1. My kids won't keep secrets.  I am open about my screw-ups.  When I (accidentally) left Thing 2 at Target, I didn't ask them to keep it from their grandmother or their father, both of whom could have easily reamed me up one side and down the other for that little error.  I confessed to both parties and even told their father that if HE had done what I'd done, I would be LIVID.  I make a lot of mistakes as a parent. But I never, ever say to my kids "Don't tell..." because I know family secrets can destroy you.  I would never put that burden on my children.  And they know they can be open and honest.  And they are.  Much to my chagrin, at times.
  2. My kids will choose play over work. (I KNOW this is not always a good thing!) People are extremely important to me.  FUN is extremely important to me.  I emphasize to them that you only get this one life:  choose joy.  This means that my house is never clean enough, my "have to do" list gets longer, and I always look just this shy of homeless.  I care about people.  I care about experiences.  I model this for my children.  We are always up for going out for ice cream as a family or heading out to a movie over weeding the garden.  We choose to read books, each of us spilled over our furniture of choice, over cleaning bathrooms. I want them to know that they are more important to me than a freshly mopped floor (although what I wouldn't give to have BOTH!).
  3. My kids will spend money frivolously.  (Although, HOPEFULLY, they'll get more of their dad in them than me and be savers over spenders.)  I am always up for an slushie.  Or a movie.  Or an ice cream from the ice cream truck that calls to us from the street during the summer. Or whitewater rafting. Or skydiving. Again, I hope they'll pick up my lightheartedness but maybe a lot of their dad's caution as well!
  4. My kids will value people.  They've watched me drop everything to help throw a surprise party for a friend.  They see me in their schools.  They watch me volunteer in different capacities.  They hear me counseling friends over the phone.  I emphasize to them that people are the priority...always.  Everyone has feelings.  Everyone needs someone who will listen, lend a hand, or simply share a meal with laughter. 
  5. My kids will admit their mistakes.  Man, I certainly make a lot of 'em.  My kids see how I handle myself after I've lost my temper (which doesn't happen often...but...).  They have received apologies from me...heartfelt and sincere apologies after I've been in the wrong.  They know that I'm not perfect and that I don't expect them to be.  But I do expect them to accept responsibility for their choices...just as I do. 
It's SO TOUGH to be a parent because the work doesn't stop at the end of a shift.  It's ongoing.  24/7.  They never stop watching.  And I have to be on my guard to model behaviors that I want them to emulate.  Sometimes I fail.  And that's when I admit my mistake and tell them I hope to do better next time.  They watch me fall down and they see me get back up.

I want to be able to say to them:  Do as I do.  That is always, always my goal.

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