Ever been disappointed in your son and expressed that curtly to him without thought for even one of his good points? Ever gone days barking out commands to your daughter without thanking her for being in your life? Every wished to be a hermit in the hills, because life without kids would be so much easier?!
Guilty as charged!
As a mother, I’ve often had unrelenting EXPECTATIONS of my children which have gotten in the way of my enjoyment of the beautiful, individual souls that they are and the blessing they are in my life. In fact, my disappointment in their decisions/behavior has lead to downright depression at different times over the years of my mothering! In such moments, I’ve focused exclusively on the external things I value (clean home, productive use of time, meaningful dinner table conversation, fingers out of one’s nose, etc.) rather than these precious people in my life. Self-serving expectations of what family members “should be doing” has caused me to judge them harshly, preventing me from seeing that the differences in our personalities and priorities allow us to learn much from each other. Our differences are meaningful.
Naomi Aldort, a licensed therapist, has written a “Declaration of Complete Confidence in Children.” It states:
1. Adult-like behavior matures by the time we are adults.
2. No expectations means no disappointments for us, and no damaging pressures for our children.
3. Children respond best to modeling and leadership, not control.
4. Trust… and wait.
5. Choose between your momentary convenience and your long-term goal for your child’s sense of self.
6. Enjoy your child for who he is, not for who you would like him to be – he will never be this age again.
7. Distinguish between your emotional needs and what your child feels and needs. Act toward your child in harmony with her needs; take care of your emotional needs elsewhere.
8. Celebrate your child’s uniqueness as well as your own.
I’m intrigued by what she believes—that we should be attempting to get to know our children rather than mold them, that they did not come into our lives to serve us other than to take our breath away as we witness them grow and blossom into the uniquely-beautiful individuals that they are. She reminds us that they are like seeds which we cannot yet identify. All the potential for greatness is there, but it will only come to full fruition if nourished by love, kindness, compassion, and acceptance of who they inherently are. It takes time to encourage and witness the unfolding–the blossoming–of their souls, but well worth the effort! If we have eyes to see, if we’re interested observers, we can enjoy the process rather than being constantly disappointed in them. Quite profound.
Obviously, having a household means there’s work to be done. However, I’m beginning to grasp—slow-learner that I can be at times–that if I focus more on loving and appreciating my family members than on making unending demands of them, they will ultimately be interested in my happiness as well and be willing to step in when they see I genuinely need their help. Not that they will ever love doing chores. Not that they won’t sometimes stall for a while in the hopes that my need will change. But, hopefully, my appreciation of them will help them trust me—trust that my reasons for requesting their help are good (i.e. not just laziness on my part). The key is loving communication. If the first thing we say to family members when they wake up or walk through the door is, “I need you to . . .,” they will withdraw emotionally from us, assuming that all we value about them is their labor. If, instead, we can ask them about their plans for the day, be interested in their ideas and aware of their needs, and only LATER solicit their cooperation in meeting some of our needs, we will have a “home”–not just a “household.”