Last night just before bed, my daughter found a baby doll she had “lost” in one of her fake-purse-snack-bags. She was delighted. She cuddled and cooed at the baby, changed its diaper before letting me change her diaper, kissed and cuddled it when it “cried,” read it a book, and then nursed it to sleep. This is almost exactly the way I put her to bed (yes, even at almost three, we bedshare and comfort nurse). I was warmed in my heart.
Earlier in the evening, my son offered very specific advice about a particular mobile phone puzzle game I’ve been addicted to lately. I marveled at his creativity in game design. However, I recoiled with the horrifying shock that I’ve spent so much time distracting myself with this game in his presence, he felt he should talk to me about the game to connect with me. I have made a mental note to stop playing this game for a few weeks to detox from the seductive, numbing distraction I’ve allowed it to become. I was sad he absorbed such a thoughtless message from my bad habit.
Parenting offers the most powerful mirror I have ever experienced.
Not because children are mini-versions of you, but because they are so hungry for a deep, connected relationship with parents that they notice every tick, every quirk, every comment, every interest, and every habit. They use that information, processed through their lens and unformed brains, to shape the reactions they want from their parents in whatever ways they can.
Whenever I find myself irritated with the behavior of one of my children, it is easy to blame them or their stage of development. However, the more awareness I bring to the behavior, the more empathy and deep thought, the more I recognize that the behavior is often a reaction to a poor behavior of my own.
I am constantly working in my parenting practice to bring awareness, presence, and empathy to my interactions with my children and my husband. However, I’ve also started to realize that it’s not just about being a selfless doormat; it’s about self-improvement and modeling the life and values you want your children to live.
The great thing is that if I listen–really listen–to my children, they will show me where I need the most work. But they will also show me where I shine.