Hello and welcome to 2020!
Christmas is over, New Year’s Eve has followed, and we are in a brand-new year!
Not only a new year but, numerically, a new decade.
Over the last week there have been so many decade-focused thoughts and social media posts.
There are a lot of reviews: photos 10 years ago and now, accomplishments, especially personal landmarks including finding life partners and adding little humans to our lives. These are super-exciting as we think back and say,
“10 years ago, I never would have imagined (fill in the blank).“
Before we have kids, it’s so hard to imagine what its like having kids. Usually, it doesn’t really hit home until the babe is out and in your arms. That’s an astounding moment indeed. A pivotal, life-altering moment!
That internal shift quickly leads to not being able to imagine life without them. Talk about big changes! I used to worry how I would adapt to the unrelenting change of motherhood as I approached the end of my first pregnancy.
Less than two decades later, I couldn’t imagine them moving out, going to university, finding work, life-partners, having babies. But they did, and I adapted. Our lives are constantly in flux, but the experiences as a parent are among those that change us the most.
The emotional roller-coaster of parenting is full of ups and downs, of terrifying climbs followed by screaming descents!
The emotional roller-coaster of parenting is full of ups and downs, of terrifying climbs followed by screaming descents. Other times, we can “hear” the machinery relentlessly clicking and clunking, marking yet another unstoppable pull to the top, soon to be followed by an exhilarating race to the bottom, leaving us breathless, not sure if we’re ready for more, but not having much of a choice.
And the next climb begins.
Some parts of that scary ride are things that we have little to no control over:
- job change or loss
- changes in the economy
- the price of housing and food
- unexpected health changes and
- the impact of how people around us respond to their own journey as well as ours.
But there are things that we can control.
These are the small decisions that cross our paths, thousands of them, every day.
We understand the concept of small changes leading to much bigger outcomes. Financiers tell us this all the time: put away a little bit of money every paycheque and gradually, it will add up to more than you expect. (PS. DO THIS! I missed this boat entirely and regret it!)
We understand, too, that lots of little, secret, no-one-will-know calories tell the truth loud and clear on the scales, or when your favourite sweater or jeans don’t fit like they used to.
But what about the small daily, relational habits that take place in your household?
What are the things that you say or do that you don’t feel 100% confident are best practice?
Little ones watch all the time, even when you think they don’t. And all those moments add up to developing behaviour. Sometimes these things bring a lot of joy and make us very happy. Others outcomes can lead us to think, “Whoops! I didn’t know that they saw or heard that.”
Our responses to these revelations can be extreme, especially if you are someone who is trying so hard. Sometimes you might think, “I totally wrecked my child and their childhood. I’m a complete failure!” or “Oh, it’s just once. It won’t matter.”
Within a context of a healthy relationship with your little one, the truth is somewhere in the middle. You haven’t ruined your child and their whole life, and if it’s just once-off mess-up, it probably won’t matter. Genuine apologies and forgiveness are pretty wonderful, and even that is a positive contribution to your little one’s life experiences.
What does matter and it matters a lot is how we live on a day-to-day basis.
All those little bits add up and are shaping and forming the heart and mind of your kiddo. With that in mind, I have some questions for you. Let’s jump ahead ten years and do some imagining:
As a parent, what do you expect your life to look like 10 years from now?
- What kind of stories would you like to be able to tell?
- What kind of relationship would you like to have with your kid when everyone is 10 years older than they are today?
- What sort of behaviours would you like to see growing in them?
Here’s an even bigger question:
How much control will you have over those answers?
What do you think? On a scale of one to ten? One being not very much, ten meaning that you as a parent will have a great deal of influential input.
Think about what you would like your kiddo to be like in ten years. What qualities would you like to see develop in them? Here are some suggestions: Would you like your 10-years-older-than-now child to be:
- Kind and thoughtful
- Honest and trustworthy
- A good friend – faithful and loyal
- Respectful to you as a parent
- Dothedishestakeoutthegarbageandkeeptheirroomclean. ( Just threw that in! Its possible but not the end of the world if it doesn’t happen without some stress)
Think of the work of parenting like a business plan
Next: Try thinking of the work of parenting like a business plan and just like a business plan, thinking ahead ten years helps you to trace backwards into bite-sized, manageable goals; into actions that you can take today.
You can break the big goals down into what you could reasonably expect with each year as they your child grows. If you’re not sure what to look for, try taking cues from the world around you. Whether you are in a public library, visiting family, on public transit or travelling by air, what you see on Netflix or in the grocery store: you can quietly observe and take note. “I like this,” or “I don’t like that.”
There is no need for judgement, or to feel like you are judging: you are simply gathering data. One of the best things is to find someone you admire whose kids are older than yours. Watch how they do things and try to incorporate their practices into your life. You could even ask them questions about how they have managed specific situations.
One of my cues for what not to do came from seeing two pre-teen sisters be viciously unkind to each other, and the mom just shrugged her shoulders and said, Teens! What can you do?”
I decided then and there that that kind of behaviour would never be acceptable in our home. I wanted home to be a safe place, not a place where we were free to attack and cause harm. I had a toddler and newborn at the time and went on to have two more little ones, all four in just under five years, and this goal became a consistent and top priority.
In addition to a strong negative example, I had a beautiful positive example from a family member who had four kids that were a little older than mine. I remember her telling me that she was determined that her kids “WILL love each other!” I thought, “OK. This can be something that is non-negotiable!” I took that page out of her book and applied it to my own life and my own little ones.
It was really hard work at times, especially when I felt tired and worn out, but eventually, it became less work. My kids and I all learned about acting in love even when the emotion was not there to support it. Better yet, all four have grown into adults who don’t resort demeaning or diminishing the person that they are in conflict with.
Looking back, I’m thankful for these two occasions – the mean sisters and the determined relative – both contributed to make one particular goal very clear to me.
- I saw something that I didn’t like
- Saw an example of what I did like
- I put the two together and thought it through
- I made a decision that this would be a long-term plan
- The long-term plan had a daily impact on my responses to conflict
- The plan evolved as we all grew