I know I’ve said this before, but yesterdays post got me thinking about it again. One of the most difficult things about parenting is acceptance. Acceptance for who they are, what they want to do, how they want their hair, their clothes, their makeup (for girls, anyway). Trying not to change their core being. It’s tough.
Down deep we want them to be a reflection of us–on our terms, not theirs. It’s hard to fight this. And not only is it hard to fight, but it’s a fine line. Where is the line drawn between what they think, and what we think? My mother told me the most amusing story about a conflict between her own mother and herself when she was about 15 regarding hemlines. Hemlines, at that time had been below the knee for a very long time. But as fashion had dictated for so long, when the economy would thrive, hemlines would go up. When it was ailing, they would go down. The economy had been thriving and as a result, the hemlines went up to just barely above the knee. My mother, so excited, had this 360 degree pleated skirt that she adored, and she spent hours hemming it. Then the morning came when she could wear it, so she got dressed for school and came to the table where my grandmother took one look at her and said, “What do you think you’re wearing?”
My mother glanced down at her clothes and said, “My skirt. I’ve hemmed it.”
My grandmother gasped and let out a familiar to all parents diatribe, “No daughter of mine is going to go out looking like that! With your knees showing, it’s a disgrace!!! Go change out of that skirt right now!”
I laughed when she relayed this story to me. “What did you do?” I asked, not able to imagine the outcome.
“I got up and retrieved the wedding picture of her and my dad, where her dress was the same length as my skirt. And I pointed out that they were the same length. I put it back, sat down, finished my breakfast and went to school. In my newly hemmed skirt.”
“What did she say?” I was amused that my mother would do this, having thought up to this point that she always did what she was told.
“Nothing. She just sputtered and huffed a lot.”
This is a fine line because at some point, the skirt could be too short. Whose opinion do we abide by? We want to give guidance to help them be the best that they can be, but who defines that success?
When the twins were little and we were struggling with all the learning issues, behavioral issues, social issues, I would micro-inspect EVERYTHING they did and said, and report to MaryAnn who ran their ABA program. After the umpteenth million time, she finally shook her head and said, “You know, that’s not abnormal.” Big sigh, and quizzical look, “Haven’t you ever been around normally developing children before?”
Except for Bugs, I hadn’t really. Not to any degree that would clue me in to what actually wasn’t spectrum behavior. Early on, I remember Roo started saying “Boo-ya!” when something went his way. I had never heard it, and prompted him to stop using it, because I thought everyone would look at him as though there was something wrong with him. About a month went by, and I started hearing the expression in other places. That was when it finally began to sink in that I was too worried about controlling who they were, and not letting them choose who they wanted to be. I had another reality check with Buzzard who struggled longer than Roo on social issues. I posted a blog last fall about how my behavior was directly related to my fear that he wasn’t “my type of normal.” Once I let that go, things got much better–I think because his perception was that he was never good enough for me.
I think as parents we have a tendency to get trapped in our own definitions of success. Maybe they don’t measure up to what we think they should be doing, or that we wished they did. We have to put aside our feelings and thoughts about what we think the world sees, and accept who they are. Never easy, but that was what was in that fine print on the parent contract. It’s what stretches us, and makes us better. It’s the gift we get from our children that is priceless. And ultimately, I believe it’s the final gift from God for being a parent. I will try with all my might not to let Him down.