One of the saddest things right now in our culture is that mother wisdom has not been passed down, especially about things concerning birthing and feeding our babies. It extends on to parenting. I love learning from other women, especially women who have raised their children into good, loving, adults. Here are my favorite treasures of wisdom.
"Your children still want to do things with you."
My son's Waldorf Kindergarten teacher told me this a few months ago. I mentioned how hard it was to get my son to get ready in the morning. I would tell him to get dressed and eat breakfast, and then jump in the shower and get myself ready. I would invariably come out to a kid still sitting around in his jammies playing with a stick or something. Then there would be requisite frustration as I struggled to get us all out of the door on time.
Then his teacher just said this, "They want to do things with you. Try getting dressed with them, there will be less resistance."
This has changed my life. I am just so grateful to her for telling me this. Instead of fighting and wondering why the kid "Just won't listen!" I just started inviting the children to do with me what I was doing.
Guess what, they were so excited!
It actually made me sad when I realized how much they had just been wanting to be with me (because they are still very young) and I had been pushing them away to do things alone. I recognize when they are babies that they need closeness but as my children get older and more independent I had just assumed that since they could do it alone, they should. But there is so much more joy in my life by following this simple advice.
Now they help me prepare meals, clean, and all sorts of things. I love the change this has created in my home. Not only are they happier, but things get done faster because I am not constantly fielding their bickering, and I get a helping hand. Plus, they are learning to do things and they enjoy their time with me.
"Children do not get good self-esteem by being told how great they are, they get it from working."
This one is from my mom. Maybe I partly like it because I hate verbal compliments, but it has shaped my parenting. I love watching my kids figure things out and do things themselves. I love to see them struggle to accomplish a task, and then see their satisfaction when they do it. They feel a great sense of accomplishment when they do this and it builds their confidence in themselves.
I am not a perfect parent, and sometimes I yell or am short with the kids. It reassures me though that my children's self-esteem will not be damaged beyond repair because of my screw ups like this. I sincerely believe that they will be (and are) confident people because they know that they can do things on their own, because I let them.
This means I let them fall down, get frustrated, and even sometimes some bumps and bruises. I think it is so worth it though to have children that know they are worth something.
I see so often parents doing everything for their kids, not wanting to ever let them get hurt or be uncomfortable. Then they wonder why the child has no faith in themselves and is timid and scared of life in general. That is a tragedy. I have also seen some of these people as adults. Despite the fact that mom always told them how great they were, because she never let them actually BE great, they never believed it. You can't have high self-esteem if you don't know how to get things done.
"Your children turn out despite you, not because of you."
I have a wonderful friend who is a fantastic mother. I have also had the opportunity to meet her mother (who raised six fantastic adults) and is somebody I admire because I know what great people she has mothered.
I was at her home one day and said something about how I was messing up my son with all my mistakes. Her reply was this, "Your children turn out despite you, not because of you."
This is so strangely comforting to me. First, it means that I will make mistakes and they will be fine anyway. Yes, they may have some "issues" but they will turn out. Second, it reminds me that I am not as in charge as I like to think I am. Even when they do turn out to be decent people, it will not be because I was such a great person and perfect mother. It will be because of a lot of factors, many of which I can't possibly "take credit" for.
Well, that's it folks. Just a little note, all of these words of wisdom came from women who were done raising their children. I am glad to have mothers around who are also raising young children to talk with and even commiserate with. But I am doubly glad to have wise older women around who can see the end from the beginning.