Once I read something about how our children are our best teachers and it really struck a chord in me. With my son, I had always been thinking about how I am raising him, how I am teaching him — but I’ve developed too — as a mother and as a person. Children have a knack for finding our weak spots and challenging them– challenging us to grow and be better.
Just think of the last time your child tried your patience. Talk about a teachable moment, huh? But really, all of those moments where you are checking yourself, regulating, taking a breath– those are your lessons and your chances to grow. That is not to say we handle those trying situations perfectly (I sure don’t!). But, that we try to reflect on them and try to learn from them. Instead of questioning the way we handle situations (and feeling guilty), what if we looked at those moments as our children showing us where we need to grow, as our children raising us up. What a gift that would be. Here are some ways my son has challenged me:
1. To slow down.
What a joy it is to see the world through a child’s eyes. Finding wonder in the small things. At our house, it’s an exciting event when a new bird comes to the feeder or the cardinals come together. My son has literally stopped me to smell the flowers. I’m excited for the day he sees a rainbow for the first time.
As adults, this our chance to see the world anew for a second time.
Realistically, this doesn’t happen all of the time. But I do try to work in days here and there where we have nowhere to go and nothing specific to do. These “lazy days” are some of my favorite days.
2. To Connect.
I am very introverted and even pretty shy at times. I’ve come a long way in overcoming my shyness, but my son has propelled me to the next level. He is decidedly NOT shy (although I see a little more reserve in him with age). We moved to a new city last year and my son is the reason that I have full conversations with my neighbors instead of just waving, why I know our mail woman, and the check out person at the grocery store. His preschool friendships have led to friendships for me as well. I am constantly in conversations with people everywhere we go because he has greeted people and started talking. Usually, he tells them way more than I would have ever said (like how I had a fender bender in the grocery store parking lot last week). As I stand there in those slightly awkward and uncomfortable social situations (for me, not him and as far as I can tell, not for the other person!) I realize that while I’ve been blessed with beautiful friends in my life, my son has rooted us in our community.
He’s given me a deep sense of place and belonging by forcing me out of my shell. At the bold age of 3, he taught me that, all by himself, and that is amazing.
3. To regulate my emotions.
I am still working on this one, aren’t we all? Kids know us so well, they know exactly which buttons to push and when to push them. I have grown a lot in terms of patience and curbing my temper through this journey of parenting. And I have a lot more growing to do. I have learned to hold back, walk away, let my frustration out in other ways. Most of all I have learned to look at him, really look at him when he’s screaming or throwing a fit.
Because behind all the fuss, I see his hurt and his sadness. Whether he is having an appropriate reaction or not, I’ve found a deep well of empathy inside myself for how he feels in those moments.
I don’t always tap into that empathy when I should, but what an amazing lesson to learn when I do. When I really look at him with empathy, 9 times out of 10 his little body collapses into mine and his anger melts into tears. Once those tears dry, then we can talk about it and work through it. That empathy is something we could all use a little more of in this world. To be able to regulate my emotions in order to be his calm space — that is something that can transform a person. It is like waking up from reacting to the world and instead truly seeing the world. Like I said before, this is still a challenge for me, but the way my son has been a catalyst for my own emotional growth is amazing.
Becoming a parent changes us. Down to the very biochemical level, we are changed. We talk all the time about child development, but parents develop too– in very real and transformative ways. Yet, we don’t really talk about this or reflect on it. A state of change or transition in development is always a state of stress and growth. As a parent, we are in a stage of growth and challenge. Let’s rise to the challenge. Let’s think of ourselves as students in this role of parents and not experts. How could we know how to parent until we got here?
I was on the phone with a good friend the other day, she is a new mom. She was talking about self-doubt the– “I know I shouldn’t feel bad about this, but I do, I feel like I should know what the right thing to do is” kind of things we say to ourselves when baby won’t eat, sleep, fill in the blank here_____. I knew exactly how she felt. But when it is your friend, it’s somehow easier to be supportive than it is with yourself, isn’t it? I said to her something like this…
It isn’t about knowing the right way to parent or doing the right thing, it is about caring for that little person so much that you want to do it “right.”
Whatever that right way may be– I guarantee there are several “right” ways to parent– caring to do “right” will lead to learning from all those teachable moments whatever your and your child’s “right” might be. So, let’s stop beating ourselves up for not getting it right the first time and just start letting our children teach us and help us grow into better humans ourselves.
What have you learned from your children? What would you add to this list — how have you developed as a parent? Comment below!