Kate: Oh man. Where to begin. I have lots of fears. Most of them I talk myself out of, because I know I can’t control the future. But, there is one that I’m really grappling with as my children get older as I guide them through what is right and wrong, what is acceptable and unacceptable, and what is appropriate and inappropriate. I’m afraid the memories my children will have when they look back on their childhood is the moments when I’m less than stellar as a mom. Most specifically, when I get angry. I fear this because this is something I remember from my childhood vividly. My dad battled with a chronic illness (Multiple Sclerosis) and depression/anger since my earliest memories. When I look back on my childhood, the anger and depression that he battled cast a shadow on almost all my memories.
I don’t think of myself as an angry person, I think I tend to be a reasonable mom. But, I still have this fear that the times I’m not will be the prevailing memories my children have. There are lots of steps that I take to help (hopefully prevent) any anger from showing (including taking care of myself, keeping expectations low of myself and my children, letting kids “be kids”, saying no to things that will stress me out, etc.). But, there are still moments that I find myself (after basically pleading with my children to not do something for a specific reason) getting upset and starting to yell or react with anger.
I KNOW that 99% of the time I’m not angry about anything, and that I’m a supportive, loving mom. It’s the 1% of the time that I’m afraid they will remember.
Liz: It’s so difficult to remember that our kids see all the facets that make us who we are but also love us unconditionally. It’s the thought and the effort that makes the difference here. It’s so easy to get lost in our own inner turmoil without recognizing that it’s the 99% (or the 80% or the 60%…whatever you’ve got) that makes the difference.
I think my main fear stems from the fact that feel like I’m a pretty smart, competent and fairly well-rounded person. My husband is very similar in many ways. We want, so much, for our kids to be able to make decisions for themselves and not always adhere to the “norm” but rather what they believe to be right.
Our kids, have a serious stubborn streak which I love (in theory) but it makes for extremely difficult parenting at times. Selfishly, (as an introvert) I don’t want to explain myself 8 million times or launch into detailed explanations about the theories behind my decisions so that everyone can be on the same page…ALL. THE. TIME. My fear is that through my somewhat Type A personality, I’m not giving them enough space to express themselves and grow as people so they can become the self-assured, conscientious people I envision them to be. .
The transition from infant/toddlerhood into preschool/school age kids has been a big one for us as a family. Before, we could demand/cajole/encourage compliance with a few words, a snuggle or a quick distraction. These days, the discussions never end and the amount of negotiation is mind-numbing (help?!).
Kate: Oh, the discussions and negotiations are ALWAYS happening in our house, too. I’m always reminding myself to explain the reasons behind why not, but sometimes I would just like to be listened to without having to negotiate and compromise about why I would prefer you not creating a giant mud pit in the backyard after I just vacuumed and cleaned the tub from yesterday when you did this. Seriously, could my house just stay clean-ish for 2 minutes, please?
But, in all seriousness, I also want to encourage this independence, ability to make their own decisions, and negotiating skills. And, some days it’s difficult, but I’m seeing a light at the end of the tunnel with my oldest. He’s able to read situations and easily understand why or why not we are doing something. I also have SEVERELY lowered my bar on what I expect of them, myself, and the cleanliness of my house.
Another fear that my husband and I talk about a lot is our children not appreciating how “good” we have it. We are worried that in our want to provide for our children, we will be creating adults that expect a certain level of entitlement. We are constantly having talks about how hard Mom and Dad work to provide things, how toys don’t just materialize out of thin air, how food isn’t always a given in every household, and once something is broken we aren’t going to pay for it to be fixed.
We want our children to understand the value of what they are provided with, be grateful for it, and want to pay it forward. How do we not create 25 year old entitled monsters? How do we make them appreciate responsibility and hard work?
Liz: The struggle is real! Adjusting expectations (of ourselves and our kids) can go a long way to finding sanity. It’s also super important to understand what those busy little brains are actually capable of. I definitely struggle with this. When we can remember that the 3-5 year old crowd has crazy language skills, but lack the logic and cognitive skills to actually process cause and effect…things become a little easier to forgive. Six is a magical age where all of the things we’ve been trying to teach them FINALLY seem to begin making sense to them. The struggle is appreciating them for all the joy and magic they bring to our lives today (while driving us bonkers) rather than expecting them to be the people we want them to become.
Appreciation and gratitude is a big one in our house too! I love that you talk about this stuff a lot, we do too but I always worry that they just “yes” me to death. I find that they internalize more when we get out and DO things together. We’re really into growing our own food so in the summer, the kids get to help with that. Now that they’re getting older, it’s really neat to see them taking a more active role even though my husband shoulders a lot of the burden. It’s amazing to see their willingness to try new things, be open to new experiences and put a little elbow grease into creating something they can eat or use. As with all things and with small kids, this requires an immense amount of time and patience which we don’t always have. So how do you make space for them to DO rather than just TAKE?
Our philosophy strives to be “Everyone helps.” Distributing age-appropriate chores, including them in the work we do to sustain the family whenever possible, keep activities out of the home to a minimum (so so difficult!) and work through times of stress and overwhelm together. It’s going to happen, so why hide it? Finding the time and energy to do all of this though is a serious challenge. The lists never end.
For me, this all ties back to the same idea…giving the kids space to grow and learn, but guiding them to be self-aware and successful in chasing their dreams while not being jerks. Not being jerks is big… huge.
Kate: Growing up, my mom worked outside the home from the time I entered grade school. I distinctly remember her frustrated at the amount of work she had to do inside our home when she got home from work each day. To help alleviate this we were given weekly chores at an early age (now that I think about it….it’s time to start that in our house), required to do our own laundry and ironing once we were old enough, and make our lunches in middle school. I remember griping about it at the time, but I was sure glad when I went to college that I knew how to cook, do my laundry, and knew how to be a responsible adult. Thinking about this has made me realize I need to start asking more of my children and stop doing it all myself (even if it is easier to just do it alone).
In writing some of my fears down in the post, it’s made me think a lot. For a couple days while I was thinking about it, I was a little down on myself and feeling guilty that I wasn’t doing enough towards preventing these fears from coming to fruition. But, after some reflection, I’ve decided that acknowledging my fears (not being help captive by them) is a critical part of self-awareness as a mom. How am I to have the outcome I want (happy, healthy, giving, loving, kind, and strong children) if I don’t analyze the path along the way?