Thursday, June 2, 2011

Defining Moments in Parenting

How would you define a 'Defining Moment'?

For me, a Defining Moment is when something makes a lasting impression that affects who you are, possibly forever.

There have been a few Defining Moments in my life:
  • When I was 7 and my mother copied out a song in PRINTING for me because I couldn't yet read the CURSIVE in the original copy.
  • When my older brother was kicked out of the house when he was 17 and I was 10.
  • When I won 6 academic awards at the end of Grade 7 and no one in my family cared.
And there have been a few Defining Moments so far in my life as a mother:
  • The successful homebirth of my third child.
  • Switching from disposable to cloth diapers.
  • When my 4th child turned out to be a boy.
This week I had another Defining Moment in Parenting.  It went like this:

Anna's 7th birthday was on April 30.  Partner-Guy and I had reviewed her 'list' of presents that she hoped to receive, we had set a budget and we had both done some shopping.

But somehow we got ourselves confused and on the day before her birthday we both bought her some more gifts.  Needless to say, she was delighted by the bounty the next morning!

Holly, who is 5 years and 5 months old, was clearly a little bit perturbed by the amount of presents that Anna had received.  She compared it to what she had received for her birthday and she (rightly) came to the conclusion that she had received far less than Anna.  I talked to her about how her present choices were different:  Holly is more into crafts and Anna is more into toys. 

But for the last 4 weeks Holly has been noticeably discontent when she plays with Anna.  She has been the underdog--Anna's toys are newer, brighter and in much greater quantity than Holly's.  Holly has been handling it, but then yesterday she started crying when she was in the bathtub and when I asked her if she could talk to me about why she was sad, she said, "I can't play with Anna the way SHE plays because I always have less than her."

And there it was laid in my lap:  a Defining Moment in Parenting.  This was a problem that I had created and that I had the power to fix or ignore.  I had to think long and hard about my choice and run it through my values first.  Having a Family Mission Statement is an excellent filter when you are trying to make a hard decision.  My conversation with myself went something like this:

I value people more than things AND  I don't want my children to equate LOVE with GIFTS.  I don't want Holly to think that crying will get her anything she wants BUT I don't want Holly to feel unloved because she got fewer birthday presents than Anna.  I don't want to promote the Culture of More in our home, but I created this problem by giving Anna MORE.  If Holly went to school and she always felt inadequate or left out because she didn't have the same toys as everyone else, what would I do?  What are we all learning and internalizing by continuing this situation?  Am I living my values more by NOT buying Holly more toys or by making their toys equal?

Can you guess what I did?

I sent Holly to the toystore with her dad to buy herself some additional toys.

And this was a Defining Moment for me because I had to really consider how much POWER I held as the mother of these two girls.  It was scary and inspiring at the same time.  The Defining Moment was not that I bought Holly some toys.  It was that I suddenly became aware of how much control I hold in the lives of my children, even thought I SAY that I embrace a life of Freedom and Joy. 

Wow.  This is a lot for me to figure out, and what I am figuring out is that I am, to a large degree, a total hypocrite.  The words I say, and the truths I believe, are not actually the same as the life I am living.  Talk about a slap upside the head!

This journey to authenticity, this life of Freedom and Joy, this choice to live outside of the mainstream way of doing things IS HARD.  But I will not give up. 

I will refocus.  I breathe deeply and think twice.  I will listen more and talk less.  I will look into my children's eyes and ask them to help me to understand their needs better.  I will LET GO.  I will unclench.

I will love with MORE patience and MORE kindness. 

I will work harder to quench this thirst for Freedom and Joy.

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