Friday, March 26, 2010

Things I Am Teaching (or not) My Kids

My job right now is mother.  I do not work outside the home.  I quit my job in the summer of 2007, when my health wouldn't allow me to both work and mother.  I had to choose.  And I decided that someone else could do my job at work (even though I loved it) but no one could take my place at home.

I do not take this job lightly.  My time with my children is limited.  There is so much to do, and I can't do it all.  So I have to choose.

And since my health went down the toilet, some of the choices have been easier.  There are things I just can't do anymore.  And there are things that are just not worth my energy to try.  At least to me they aren't.

My kids are older.  They are ages 11, 13, 15, 16, 19.  This changes things as well.

So as my own boss, I will take this opportunity to do my own annual review.  How am I doing at my job?

My main assignment, as I see it, is teaching.  What am I teaching my kids?

I am teaching (or trying to) my kids the following:
     They can make their own choices.  I have always encouraged them to choose for themselves whenever possible.  I believe this is a skill that takes time to develop.  They must practice before they leave home or how will they hold their own in the outside world?  Sometimes, when they are not sure, they try to get me to make the decisions for them.  It would be easy to do so.  But then, if it goes badly, they can blame me.  I tell them that it is their decision and they are perfectly capable of making it.  I hope they believe me.
     Feelings aren't bad.  They aren't right or wrong.  Listen to them.  I want them to respect their feelings.  I want them to know that it's okay to be angry or sad.  It's okay to be unsure.  It's okay to have a crush.  It's okay to want to do something stupid.  Feelings aren't actions.  They help direct us.  I want them to listen to their feelings and then decide how to act.
     Trust your instincts.  When your gut tells you something isn't quite right -- believe it.  Even if you can't explain it.  Even if it means giving up something you wanted to do.  Even if it might be embarrassing.  Your instincts are strong.  The more you trust them, the happier you'll be.  They will protect you.
     Think for yourselves.  Look for options.  Ask questions.  Commercials are a great way to teach this.  Everything looks so good.  But will it live up to the promises?  People in this world want to tell you how to think.  But most of what you hear is only opinion.  And guess what.  You get to form yours.  If you are presented with three options, and none of them seems right, look for a fourth (unless it's the ACT).  If it seems like there's only one way out of a situation, try seeing another.  It's okay to ask others what they think.  It's okay to let others' opinions influence you.  But the power to think and to choose is so important.  Don't give it away.
     Color outside the lines if you want to.  Sometimes we get stuck in imaginary rules.  Imaginary guidelines.  We think he have to do this and we have to do that.  But most of the time, we really don't.  You can choose to do a passable job on your homework instead of perfect.  You can choose to only give 80%.  Some jobs really don't deserve more effort than that.  And sometimes, with enough thought and experience hopefully, you can break the rules.  Especially the unspoken rules that we let decide our lives.  As soon as you hear yourself saying, "I really should . . ." ask yourself why.  Did you tell someone you would?  Is it for your benefit?  Or is it just an expectation imposed on you by your social circle?  You get to choose how to live.  You get to choose to do stupid things.  You get to choose to eat birthday cake for breakfast.  You get to choose to wear those ugly shoes that you love so much.  Don't feel locked in by the lines; consider them a suggestion.
     Serve others.  Give.  Of your time.  Of your money.  Of your stuff.  I've tried to give them opportunities to do this.  I've encouraged them to look for opportunities in their own lives.  And I've watched with joy as they've chosen to do so on their own.  Few things will lift your own burden and sorrows better than lifting someone else's.
     Take a mental health day.  Give your mind and body the rest they need.  Feed your soul.  I have been blessed with great kids.  They have really been so easy.  They are good people.  And so, sometimes, when they are beyond stressed or so tired that they are near tears, I send them back to bed.  "Mom, is it okay if I just stay home today?  I'm really worn out."  I ask what they'll be missing, to see if they are avoiding something.  I ask how badly it will affect their grades.  We discuss.  We choose.  They go back to bed.  They aren't punished for this.  They aren't shamed for this.  I love that they are listening to themselves.  And we have built a system of trust over many years.  Sometimes, the answer is no.  But they don't usually ask unless they really need it.  And I want to respect that.
     They are responsible to ask for what they want or needKid: "Mom, I'm thirsty."  Mom: "Oh, thanks for the information."  Silence.  Kid: "Mom, will you get me a drink?"  Mom: "Sure.  Thanks for asking for what you need."  This is the basic back and forth that has happened many times.  But I also teach them to use this in larger ways.  When no one is inviting them to hang out with the group or a friend has hurt their feelings, I tell them that they can decide to do without or to speak up.  I do not want my children to go through life blaming other people for not reading their minds.  For not giving them what they need without expressing those needs.  It's great when someone meets our needs spontaneously.  But it's not to be expected and lack of it is not to be punished.  If you want or need something, say so.  (But know that it doesn't guarantee that you will get it.)
     They are in charge of their dreams.  When they were little, we went through a nightmare phase.  It seemed like a couple at a time were afraid to go to bed because of nightmares.  I wanted to empower them.  So I gave them dream assignments.  I looked at my cute little four-year old boy and told him to dream of dragons and castles.  I looked at my beautiful six-year old daughter and told her to dream of butterflies and rainbows.  Their faces lit up.  I saw their minds working, painting these pictures.  In almost every case it alleviated the fears.  They were in charge now.  And sometimes they changed their assignments.  "No, I want to dream about fairies and fireflies."  Great!  And this power to be in charge of their dreams is still in play, although it's taken on a broader shape.  They get to decide what to do, what to be for themselves.  And they are responsible for making it happen.  And when they need help, and ask for it, I will be there.  I will support them all the way as they reach for their dreams.

My kids are not the best cleaners in the world.  They are not the best cooks.  There are many things that I'm not teaching them that I feel bad about.

But I believe that if I teach them to think, serve, and trust themselves then they can do anything!

So I would say my review went well.  I give myself a raise.  And my goal for next year:  teach them all how to scrub the toilet.


Jessica Grosland said...

Phew! I'm glad I left the house before the Toilet Lessons started!

By the way, I think you are an excellent mother. I love you to the moon and back!

- Signed, the Old One

Katy said...

This is a great post, Robin and you do have great kids. Whatever you're doing is working!

Kazzy said...

Half the time I allow myself some of the credit for my kids, and the other half of the time I just watch them and think how lucky I am.

You have fab kids! I love their personalities and their senses of self. You deserve that raise. ;)

K and D Roylance said...

Neat post....I think you deserve the raise and like the goal for next year.

Yvette said...

Robin, I have to admit, I am becoming a loyal follower of your blog--which is to say, I read it sometimes. I just don't normally get into blogs. But I just read this post, and it was really quite profound. I get this feeling when I am reading what I consider to be "truth." And this had simple truth written all over it. Thanks for your insight.