"WE ARE GOING TO GET SOME ORDER IN HERE!", shouted my little 3-year-old Noah with grown-up authority, waving a pointer stick some months ago. That was a boomerang of my own shouted words and mannerisms that I could not deny. Wow! My mouth gaped. They ARE like sponges. We hear that phrase all the time and it's apparent why it has endured. If you live with your children, and even to some extent if you don't, your choices, your conduct, your personhood impacts who your little ones become.
If we want our world to be full of people who are responsible, giving, conscientious and content, then we have to raise children who are responsible, giving, conscientious and content. This means WE have to BE responsible, giving, conscientious and content, or at least give it a shot.
Scientists have proven from the moment a baby experiences you, they watch, listen, feel and record your every move in a storehouse of memory that's at the ready to be replayed, sometimes at your peril. Consider a baby, who's not even your own baby, who you play google eyes or patty cake with, ad nauseum. Visit that same baby some days later and you'll find they remember you as their google eyes or patty cake buddy and they'll be ready to play. Evidence the enthusiastic toddler whizzing around your house with a duster, vacuum, spray bottle and cloth, cleaning with delight. Wonder where they've seen that? We aren't born with a cleaning gene, are we? No, they are modeling your behavior. More importantly, where does that memory cog go around the age of 10? They forget!!! Thank goodness some memory does fall away from our immediate recall, because as imperfect humans and parents there are likely some scenes of our lives we would rather our children delete.
The hard work of parenting is undoubtedly rooted in the constant, unyielding demands on your time, which is no longer your own. While you slice up your day into windows of opportunity to fit all the parenting demands in, it's the mental demands of raising children which are arguably equally as demanding and crucial. It could be called a parenting performance, because moms and dads are "on" all the time because our children are tuning into our shows, watching intently to see what will happen in the next episode. The pressure is on, but there are benefits to embracing an "on" parenting style. Realizing that your children are learning "how to be" in their own lives by watching you, can drag you kicking and screaming into becoming your better self, the "you of new". There's the "you of old, before children, and the "you of new", post offspring. And...action!
Gone are the fast food bags, ice cream bowls by the bedside, and pizzas to get you through. You are filling your family's plates with balanced meals that include vegetables regularly. (Well, maybe you treat yourself to a scoop when everyone's asleep.)
Okay, so you weren't a saver before your baby arrived. That's the "you of old". Now, the new you extols the virtues of putting money aside to your fifth-grader, as the two of you head to the bank to establish their savings account.
You may have hurled one or two, justifiable expletives during the dreaded rush hour commute, but no more. The "you of new" knows there are little eyes and ears in the backseat tuned in, with laser beam precision, waiting to see how you will handle the bus driver who cut you off.
Sleeping in on the weekends? That's a thing of the past. The you of new is up and out headed to your place of worship or to other community-based activities. Where you might have missed church more often than you would like to admit ,before you had children, as a parent, you know you are showing your children how important developing a spiritual life is and so you set the alarm and make it happen.
You have thought about and talked about volunteering for some community organization and now the you of new actually does it! Your intentions to give have always been genuine and now you know the importance of acting on it. You find the time and do it. Your children see you involved and they get involved, too.
You and your other half might have fought tooth and nail, to include raised voices and a few slammed doors, over your next big move. Somehow now, you curtail your tone and bring it to the dinner table for a civilized discussion, showing your little ones that mommy and daddy know how to work out issues and that you two are a united front. (Just wait until they are at school or asleep, then you can really make your point!) For now, the parenting show goes on.
And you couldn't give a hoot about Beyblade toys, Easy Bake Ovens, and the latest happenings from the elementary school playground, but somehow now your eyes and ears perk up when your children go on talking about these topics. You draw your eyes into focus, put aside any pressing concern and listen intently feigning interest, as best you can. You know to listen is to show love, despite how exhausting.
Maybe that's why those quiet 15 minutes in the morning before the house is awake, or the half hour at night, when everyone's asleep, and before you fall out from from the day's duties, are so invaluable. The house lights are off, your children's record button is on pause while they sleep and you can let your hair down and just be you. Whew!
Our children come along and they change us. They change us in ways that tax us, drain us and zap our energy to the bone. They also act as mirrors in our lives, illuminating areas where our scripts remain unfinished and showing us how we can rewrite our scenes to live the best ending possible. And in that way, they are energizing. While parenting is pressure in the most practical ways, it is also a chance to play the starring role for some of the most grateful audience members you will ever have. When the show is over you are sure to get a standing O.
That brings me to another thing.......we?ll talk about that next time.
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