Monday Tuesday again (Okay, I’m a day late!)- time for Coffee and Conversation.
When I was six, my family was driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me.
I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own...
What happened when I stopped treating my children as projects to be completed, but instead as whole people, already?
Too often, in modern American culture, children are seen as projects. Maybe it comes from an illusion, carried over from times past, that babies are blank slates, empty vessels waiting to be filled with what their parents and their society deem important. It’s true that babies aren’t able to do many things – but they aren’t empty. If I look at my children today, at nearly 10 and approaching 13, I can see in them the seeds of who they were as babies.
Maybe it’s because very small children need a lot of care. They need to be changed, fed, carried, cuddled, comforted, helped to know what is safe and how the world works. There are many book, magazines, programs, classes, and products designed to meet these needs…and the insecurities and fears of new parents, maybe far from their own families. Much money is made by preying on parents’ desires to not only do well by their kids, but to give them the advantages that will lead to a “successful life”.
I used to indulge in more of these than I’m comfortable admitting. I bought into the idea that I “owed” my kids all I could afford, and then some.
But over time, I started to notice something. So much of the literature and programming was designed less to help children, and more as a means of manipulating them, steering and pruning them, making them more convenient to live with, and steering them in the directions we want them to go…often, directions that will give their parents something to brag about.
When my children were 7 and 4, my growing unease with this led our family to make a huge shift. We were already homeschooling our oldest, and the lessons I was conducting at the kitchen table were not going as well as I wanted. My son’s spark of curiosity was fading, and household battles were far more common than I wanted.
My kids were my projects, and I was screwing them up.
And so, we stopped.
I gave up the idea that they were projects, and began to learn to see them as….well, as people. Just that. Small, new people with lots to learn – but with the skills and desire to learn it.
It’s been remarkable.
Every day, one or both of my children will do something unexpected, or learn something I never would have thought to teach them. Every day, they become more who they are. And, because my role is as facilitator rather than project manager, I get to see something I might not have, if I were still managing them as projects.
I get to see that they know how to learn, that they’re hard-wired for it. They’re naturals at growing up – they just need support along the way. All that effort and angst and never knowing if I was getting it right, when they were little, was time and energy I could have spent on simply loving and supporting and enjoying them…
Because they are remarkable people. They always have been. There’s no one just like either of them. Each of them is unique, individual. Each of them is learning to become an adult – one moment, one breath, one action at a time.
And, now that I’ve let go of the idea that I need to direct this, I get to do something I like a lot better. I get to just be myself, and enjoy. =)