Last summer, my senior daughter informed me of her decision to NOT run cross country this year, a sport she’s run since fifth grade. My first reaction (in my head, thank the stars!) was “WHAT? COME ON! THAT IS SO CRAZY! IT’S SENIOR YEAR. WHY??? HOW WILL THIS LOOK ON THE COLLEGE APPLICATIONS?”
My real reaction toward her was “Really? Wow. I’m surprised. What made you decide that?”
She eloquently explained she was tired of the sport, she no longer enjoyed it and wanted to do some volunteer work this fall. She is a bright 17 year old girl making her own choices and handling any consequences as they arise.
Sigh. Not gonna lie here. I was uncertain, disappointed and scared. What would she do with her free time? What would this look like on her college applications? While this was a decision I didn’t agree with, I knew in my heart I had to support her.
Years ago, I would have reacted much differently. I would have badgered her with ‘whys’ and ‘are you sures’ and ‘this isn’t a good decision’ and so on…
After reading the life altering book, The Conscious Parent by Dr. Shefali Tsabary PhD, I realized a few things:
Years ago, I never really thought I was trying to control my kiddos, but in reality, I was. I always considered myself normal, just wanting what’s best for the sweet loves of my life. According to Dr. Shefali, “In our eagerness to ‘produce’ our children, we don’t realize that all we’re doing is fulfilling our own ego. We think we’re doing what’s best for our children, but it’s our ego that gets in the way of truly meeting their needs.”
We do this unconsciously. I never set out to create a mini-me. Ew! What I did do, I realized, after a lot of self reflection, was unconsciously try to “change” my kids to be the best they could be – when they were already the best they could be. The best because they are here, a part of this Universe.
I saw slowly and surely, that perhaps my best intentions of encouraging my more shy child to be more outgoing and my more outgoing kiddo to tamper it down a bit, were actually stifling them. Who knew? Not me.
I’ve learned to accept and enjoy my kids as they are, recognizing their strengths and challenges and enjoying them regardless. It’s easy to love our kids when they are behaving well, when they are achieving what we think they should. While of course we love them no matter what – do we act lovingly toward them when they are throwing a tantrum? Do we actively love them when they bring home bad grades? Can we feel our love for them when they continually break curfew? Yes moms and dads, we love them. But it’s sometimes it’s hard to act lovingly toward anyone when we are angry or disappointed. It doesn’t come naturally. It’s a process.
That’s the key, I think. Acting and feeling the love. And most importantly, recognizing our children as their own people. They need our approval and love, no mater what. We need to allow them to be their truest selves. When we can allow them their individuality we ourselves, will grow. Learning to consciously parent means that while our children learn about themselves, we also learn about ourselves.
I’ve learned over the years, that while I am older and wiser than my children for now, I am here to guide them and help them be their own people. As a result, a true partnership between us has formed, and I too am being guided, learning to be the best version of me.