"Maggie honey, we need to brush your hair. And wouldn't you like this shirt better?" Her answer, of course, is a resounding no. No pigtails or clips either, lady.
My urge for child-improvement comes out in other ways too. More critical ways.
And she always sees right through it for what it is. Criticism. Judgement. As coming from a place of fear and lack rather than love.
I'm measuring her up as not good enough, rather than accepting her for who she is.
Of course, not every suggestion of a hair clip equals criticism. Often it comes from a benign or loving place.
But there are plenty of times when my suggestions come from a place of lack. I see my daughter as an extension of myself. I measure her up to an internalized standard, and she falls short.
Every single time I go to her from a place of criticism, judgement, and lack it creates some level of disconnection between us.
Happily, kids are really resilient and I can connect with her as quickly as I disconnected.
As soon as I start to see her beautiful, amazing self for exactly who she is. As soon as I'm grounded. When I start acting from a place of love, rather than fear...then we connect easily.
It took me a while to realize the following truth. And oftentimes, parents never realize it:
Parenting is not about making your kids better.
Trying to improve our kids backfires because when we try make our kids "better" we give them a vote of no-confidence. They get the message that they aren't good enough. Their choices aren't good enough. Their interests aren't the "right" interests. We aren't accepting them as the complete human beings that they are.
Kids who are parented with this message turn into adults who never feel like they are good enough. It's a self-perpetuating cycle.
When Maggie was born eight years ago, there was this incredible moment -- a realization for myself and my husband. First there was just me, him, and the midwife and a lot of noise (holy cow).
Then as soon as she came out, we realized... that there was a whole other person in the room! Who wasn't there before!
We forget this incredible realization over time. Our children are already whole and complete human beings. We can respect them as such from the beginning.
But it's not easy.
We are creatures of habit. Upbringing and culture shape our daily life more than we realize. We react and act without awareness.
Many of us are trying to "improve" our children because we don't realize that this comes from judgement and our own feeling of "not good enough."
This is where mindfulness comes in.
Without a mindfulness practice, we can't separate ourselves from our thoughts. There's little self-awareness on a regular basis.
When we have a mindfulness practice, we can start to see the roots of our choices. We have greater self-understanding. That leads to greater self-acceptance.
Only when we can love and accept ourselves, can we love and accept our kids.
This is a hard lesson, but true. This is why our children are the greatest teachers we could ever find. Thank you, kiddos.
What do you think?
Does child-improvement comes from a place of love or fear? Start the conversation in the comments below!