Thursday, July 14, 2011

Good stuff happens too

As I read through other posts in July's Carnival of Natural Parenting it occurred to me that while the purpose of my own entry was to reflect on how little control we ultimately have, the "outcomes" I focused on were nearly exclusively negative.  In my mind, one of the benefits of letting go of the control is a realization that the behaviors of children are neither universal nor eternal.

One common theme that was mentioned was the goal of empathy and respect. Sibling relationships being the most obvious place for a parent to focus their energy in teaching these values.  I completely share the desire to have my children exhibit empathy to both their siblings and others.  However what I have observed is that often kids can behave in some truly challenging ways with their siblings (or parents) but be quite empathetic and respectful in the larger world.  Additionally, siblings can struggle through their childhood and come out as adults the best of friends.

My siblings and I argued throughout our childhood both verbally and physically.  My mother tried a variety of tactics from ignoring ("Oh he didn't hit you! that was just a love pat") to "time out" all together until we worked out the issue.  It was bad enough that there were periods of time when she couldn't leave a given set of us alone together because it wasn't safe for one or both parties. However as adults my sister and I have an extremely close relationship and my brother, while not as connected on a regular basis, gets along well with both of us.

A similar thought occurred to me recently regarding my own hopes for my children.  I had wanted my children to be excited for adventure as they entered adulthood.  And while I can't think of anything I did specifically to encourage that I consciously did things to not discourage it.  I was a bit sad and concerned when my oldest expressed that she wanted to stay close for college and her late teen years with no plans or desire to move beyond the city where her parents and friends reside.  I was concerned that she was being "held back" and even went so far as to worry that she was trapping herself *for the rest of her life*.  I know that sounds crazy, but when we look closely at our concerns regarding our children's behavior or choices there is often an element of universalizing the issue which is what I was doing.  Then I remembered others who I knew as young adults who stuck close to home.  Some are still there living in the same neighborhood as their parents and are quite happy, others moved on in their own time, perhaps experiencing multiple state moves for employment or adventures to other countries.  The choice that was made at 17, 18, 19 gave no information about the choice they made at 25 or 30.

Believe it or not (from my last post) I am the type that generally believes the world is good place, that things well be all right, that it is okay to trust.  That the fact that you can't take the 2 year old to the playground because they bite everyone within 3 feet of them does not mean that they will be beating up kids for their lunch money a decade from now.  Nor does it mean that the sweet, gentle 4 yr old  who stays glued to your side won't pass through a bit of a "mean girl" stage during adolescence and then come out as an adult with a job in the peace corp, traveling the world.

So while the train may take an unexpected (and perhaps unpleasant) detour or could even potentially derail all together for the most part it I think it will be a fun (and surprising) ride.

Rachael and Marley are playing in an old mini-car at the Firefighter's Exhibit in 2009

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