Being a parent forced me to be responsible. As a first time mom I thought it meant keeping my newborn alive, then keeping him fed and entertained as an infant. When he turned 13 months old and was able to comprehend and respond to conversations, the word ‘responsibility’ changed to a whole new meaning.
Far too often we say things we shouldn’t, make hurtful jokes we didn’t mean to, or judge and compare someone for who they are. Growing up I had family members telling me how I was fat, smelly, lazy, ugly, and not so smart. Between the ages of 6-12 I had very close family members tell me these things to my face. So I believed them. Children will believe what you say about them.
I trusted my family, maybe the way my son trusts me now. I let their immature judgment shape who I was, believing I was fat and ugly lead to growing up with low self-esteem and minimal confidence. If there’s one thing I know for sure right now, it’s that I will not allow my son to be labeled any thing by any one. Of course, I cannot forbid people from saying hurtful things to my son, but at least I can tell him that it’s not true.
Maybe he’s tired and he doesn’t want to do his homework now, that doesn’t mean he’s lazy. Maybe he won’t like sweeping the floor, but he enjoys washing dishes. Maybe he eats a mouthful, not because he’s greedy, but because he loves it so much and only has it occasionally. Maybe he smells bad because he’s been out in the sun all day and it’s bath time soon. Maybe math comes harder to him,but painting and poetry come easy. That’s okay.
So here I am, struggling to keep my emotions in check and to keep words from bursting out of my mouth when my son does something I don’t like. I thought parenting came naturally. I’m petty sure my parents didn’t read Parenting 101! Then I found out about Montessori, RIE Parenting by Magda Gerber and a blog by Janet Lansbury that teaches gentle and respectful parenting.
I’m learning to be a better mother. I thought yelling was normal because I grew up with it. I grew up thinking that violent words, shouting, and giving kids harsh punishment like being locked in a closet, were normal. I was totally, painfully wrong. It took me a while to figure it out. I still use my stern voice when my son does something he’s not supposed to, but I switched how I communicate with him. He is capable of listening and understanding and he does, because I listen to him too.
Now it is up to me to shape who I am and who I want to be. I am no longer fat, smelly, lazy, ugly, or not smart. Those are subjective measures that are not important. We don’t need to be skinny or pretty to be loved. We don’t need to be smart to be successful because it’s more important to be KIND to others than to be wealthy. And it’s okay to have lazy days, like on one weekend day or on a sick day, perhaps.
When he grows up and read this, I want him to know how sorry I am that he had to see my raw immature emotion in his first year of life. I am his mother. I should be responsible for my feelings and emotions. My childish husband handles his feelings far more maturely than I ever have. I rarely tell him, but I love him for that and for putting up with me.
Being a parent means being responsible on raising a kind, decent, gentle, and loving human being. I hope I can be a better parent from now on. My past should not be his future. His behavior now should not determine what kind of person he is. People change. Kids change even more foraciously, so do not label or judge them.
Here are some books I’m reading and planning to read that will hopefully aid my parenting journey:
The Absorbent Mind – Maria Montessori
No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame – Janet Lansbury
How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk – Faber/Mazlish
Simplicity Parenting – Kim J Payne
What’s your must-read parenting book? I feel like there’s so many that I may not be able to read them all!