”Motherhood is about raising and celebrating the child you have, not the child you thought you would have. It’s about understanding that he is exactly the person he is supposed to be. And that, if you’re lucky, he just might be the teacher who turns you into the person you are supposed to be.” ~ Joan Ryan
I think we would be lying if we didn’t all say we had, at least for one moment, daydreams or hopes about who our children would be one day. Even those of us who agree that children already are someone the moment they are born, may still have trouble letting go of our wishes for who they might become. Who wouldn’t hope for their child to have every opportunity in life? But what if our children have traits we feel may make life difficult?
I know I’ve never wished I had different children, but I certainly have had times where their personalities exasperated me. My son’s dreaminess and ability to get lost in 5 different activities on his way to put his dirty dish in the sink makes me nuts sometimes. My daughter’s penchant for trying to re-negotiate every rule, and the fact that she laughs maniacally when overtired, push every one of my buttons. Yet, if I stop for a minute I can see that there is so much for me to learn from my reaction to my children’s behaviors.
As parents I think we spend much of our time thinking about what we are teaching our children. We teach them to sleep through the night, to eat solid food without choking, to get dressed on their own, to say “please’ and “thank you”, to share, to read, to be kind, to be a good friend. We hope we are teaching them our values and morals, we picture ourselves teaching them to ride a bike or drive a car, we dream of teaching them to love art, we wonder if we can teach them to cook.
But I think few of us stop to consider how much our children teach us each day. In our effort to teach our children all that we know so that they might grow up to become everything they have the potential to be, perhaps we are forgetting that if we could just step out of the way, we would see how much we can learn from them. If we look at their “difficult behaviors” as their way of showing us who they are instead of their way of disobeying us, we begin to see our children in a whole new light.
My son getting easily distracted doesn’t have to be so frustrating. I would actually love to be as dreamy as he is. I would love to not always be so focused on potential problems up ahead and to be so easily entertained by the simple things that delight him.
My daughter’s strong opinions will actually serve her well down the line. I would love to be as sure of my own artistic abilities and point of view as she is. I would love to have the same sense of joy she has over finding something as inconsequential as a stray, sparkly sequin. It’s garbage to me, but only she knows how this little, shiny object will enhance the collection of treasures she has at home.
Bedtime struggles can be a time for tears. But if I think about it, I would love to run, as they do, naked through the house completely unashamed and dancing with abandon to my favorite songs. I would love to feel so much pride in my body.
I would love to see the whole world as the magical place they do, each discovery a miracle in itself. I wonder if I would be happier if I believed that toys came to life when I wasn’t there, that wishes made on dandelions did come true, or that fairies drank the dew drops in our garden.
And what we can learn from our children isn’t just about being as free and openminded as they are. I know that every day I am learning from them about how to forgive, how to love wholeheartedly, how to ask for help when I am struggling with something, how to be brave, how to try new things and not give up when they are difficult, and how to find joy in ordinary moments. In studying my reactions to the things they do that trigger my anger I begin to shed light on my own insecurities and weaknesses as well as my strengths (because, I will admit, sometimes I do a great job of understanding and connecting).
Of course my children aren’t perfect, but they are exactly the children I am supposed to have in order to learn the lessons I need to learn. These two, wise little souls are here to guide me, just as much as I am here to guide them (perhaps more so)! So for all my dreams about who my children will one day become, I am very, very grateful for the kind, generous people they are right now.