After having a big conversation with my husband tonight about various little concerns about my eldest daughter’s character, I had an interesting revelation. Many of the things I see in my seven year old, I can also see in myself. For example:
She so social; she has a hard time amusing herself (I go stir crazy without friends).
She doesn’t know how to be alone and enjoy the silence (I’m always on the phone).
She lacks focus; she’s always flitting from thing to thing (I’m the queen of being distracted and leaving things half done).
She’s rebellious and gives attitude; she can be so hard to deal with (ahem! I can be that way myself, just ask my husband).
You get the idea.
You know the saying that we are most critical of the faults in others that we share ourselves? Well, I think it’s true for our attitude to our children as well. It’s a good thing to be aware of, because as their primary examples, our best bet is to work on ourselves. Especially as we are the only ones we can change anyway.
So I tried to think how this applies to me, how things I want for my daughter are also things I want for myself.
I remembered how when she was little she would spend hours pouring over a workbook, whereas now she prefers to run around with friends. I remembered how I used to study for hours, and write papers, and teach classes to other moms. I remembered how much I like learning, and how I haven’t been prioritizing this part of me lately. I remembered that part of me is a scholar.
I thought about how easily the word “bored” comes out of her mouth, and how she so often needs to be amused by others. I thought about how easily I complain about things to friends, and how I need their presence to cheer me up. I thought about the time when I knew better how to be alone, how to draw on interior resources of prayer, so that I could reach out to others with a smile and brighten their day. I thought about the part of me that is spirit.
I recalled how easily she drops things and runs to the next, and how easily I make excuses for doing the same myself: “I forgot,” “I was distracted,” “It’s too hard,” etc. I recalled a time when passion drove me to do things no matter how hard, to brave rain and snow, even windstorms, perhaps or the point of folly, to get where I wanted to go. I recalled the part of me that is brave.
So I guess I want for my daughter what I want for myself: to be wise, spiritual, and strong. To be a caring, cheerful person who boosts others up, instead of dragging them down. To be someone who knows how to work and contribute to the world. To be self-sufficient and secure in being herself. To be humble enough to listen to others without pride rebelling at every suggestion for improvement. To be someone who knows how to enjoy her own company, and to delve into the riches of her interior world.
So I guess tomorrow, instead of escaping working on my own growth by stressing about my seven year old’s imperfections, I’m going to try to remember all that is good and beautiful in her, and encourage it. And I’m going to try to work more on becoming the best me I can be, even though it can be hard.
One thing’s for sure; working towards the beautiful goal of improving myself is certain to be a lot more satisfying and rewarding than criticizing others, even if they are my kids.