I’m having to pause and take a look – another long, hard look – at my example as a parent. Not my favorite thing to do. It usually means a brutally honest assessment of my behavior, usually my not-so-stellar highlights, and the decision to make a change based on that assessment. Seriously. There has been nothing like parenting to encourage change in my life. I’ll admit that while it’s generally for the better, I don’t always do it willingly. But I have to. Because as I’m finding out – sometimes the hard way, sometime the easy way – your child becomes a reflection of who you are as you parent them.
Now, no free passes to adult kids who continue to make bad choices. We all get to a certain point where what we do and who we become is all on us. Own it. But when we’re little – when they’re little – the little, bity humans are following our lead; watching our moves; emulating our behavior. Reflecting.
My eight-year old daughter has been having a tough go of it lately. I know some of it is probably related to the struggles we’ve experienced as a family over the past several years. You can only shield so much and then reality starts leaking through. Others are related to the choices she makes – not always the best – but they’re learning experiences. Some of it is related to the phase she’s growing in to. I’m not fond of the new word “tween” (that lovely demographic between middle childhood and the teenage years), but that’s where she’s landing. And so many issues that I thought would hold off until the actual teen years, well, they’re showing up now. Girl drama. Boy drama. Eye rolling. Attitudes that need adjusting. Heaving sighs. Cleaning Room Drama. Oh wait, that one’s been around forever.
How she responds to this; how well she’ll roll with all these changes; surges; and shifts in her landscape are going to be based on many things. One of them is me. I’ve known this – known I have a little mini-me – for a while. She watches her Mama like a hawk and takes her clue from my every move. I wish she wouldn’t.
What I really wish is that she’d let me write a blog just for her – about how to navigate these changes – and use that as her compass and map for the journey. Not the real me. Not the messy me that struggles with a DEFCON 1 level temper; the impatient me that tries hard (and fails all the time) not to yell at bad drivers; the sarcastic me that disagrees with many school rules and struggles not to roll my eyes when Halloween parties are not held in the classroom in order not to offend the witches.
That reflection is a lake just moments after a hard rain falls. It’s not serenity. It’s not smooth.
So I’m back to doing the brutal assessment and making some hard choices about what’s really important. Like why, after all these years, do I still have such a temper? Why is it so important to me to hang on to my anger? What purpose is it serving? It must serve something – I’m still dragging it around. Why am I so impatient? What does it cost me to be more patient? Is there something about that cost I’m not willing to pay? Sarcasm and rolling eyes: they were game – set – match when I was a teenager. Maybe even twenty-two. Are they necessary now?
Are all these things I choose to hang on to worth the image I’m continuing to create for my daughter to reflect? It just looks shattered. Broken.
On the other hand, some of my best lessons in desert living have been in grace, letting go, and learning to find beauty in the emptiness or bareness of the desert. Dare I translate that into “beauty in brokenness?” So maybe I’m not presenting my daughter with an air-brushed, magazine perfect cover of what my life and my response to life is. Yes, she sees my temper, and my impatience, and my sarcasm. But I hope that amidst all that, she also sees my attempts to cultivate an attitude of real thankfulness – even in hard times where you have to work hard to find things to be thankful for. I hope she sees my commitment to rely on my faith and my God – especially in my most difficult moments. I hope she’ll see the times when I’m willing to be gentle, compassionate, and yes, vulnerable, instead of keeping my armor on the outside. And most of all, I hope she sees that I’m constantly working to change who and what I’m reflecting. It is a balancing act, and one I’m sure to be doing for a long while yet, but all the balancing and continual honing of this person that I am, will all be worth it in order to create a better image for her to reflect.