(from the Enki Homeschool Guide)
...of human potential,
...of human decency,
...of human striving.
I wrote these words on a small card a few weeks ago, because they really struck me. Of all of the things I am actively trying to teach my children, these are the things that they will or won't learn from me depending on my outlook on life and my actions.
So here is my confession. I can be stubborn, impatient, critical, and yes, judgmental. Not usually at home, but mostly with my extended family. If the plans are made and someone wants to change them I am really stubborn, and am put out rather than going with the flow. I let it create stress instead of accepting things as they are and bending appropriately. With my family plans are often changed, if they are even firmed up at all (another source of stress, usually involving Papa's extended family). The impatience is part of this, as people are often late.
Critical and judgmental? Okay, the criticism is rarely voiced, except to Papa. But I have to wonder how much little ears overhear. More than once we've been discussing family only to find out that a child we thought was asleep really wasn't. The judgment exists in my mind, and in my heart. Part of it is natural, I suppose, in that all parents believe that they are doing the best for their children, which means that other parents must be doing it wrong. Okay, not all parents think this - some are on autopilot and rarely think about it at all.
I know that the criticism and judgment go both ways. You hear it in subtle ways. So if I think that public school and afterschool daycare are not best for children (meaning 10-11 hours away from the family each day), you can bet that other family members think that my children are deprived by being homeschooled (usually deprived of some sort of socialization, the kind that I will pass on, thank you very much). If my boys don't watch PG-13 movies (or much that is even PG) then I am shielding them from real life. Vegetarianism? I don't want to know what they think (but my mom thinks my boys are too skinny, which only means that she has become accustomed to the rising body fat levels of today's children).
But my post isn't about what they think about me and what I think about them. It is about how I can be an example to my children, even in the face of being so different (in many ways). Do I act the martyr when the plans are changed (again!), or do I make the best of it and teach my children about flexibility? Do I offer baby sitting even when I think perhaps it should have been asked for (and I could have been wrong and it wasn't actually needed at all)? And what selfishness is in me that I didn't offer with love right away?
The sad thing is that I know that I often live the example I was taught by watching and listening to my mother. She didn't like a lot of family gatherings and was always stressed out by them. I knew that she hated that my grandmother expected us to eat unfamiliar foods and clean our plates. She hated that they always bought her clothes that were too big. And a million more big and little things. I was the child that rode home quietly in the car, listening to her vent her frustrations to my dad.
By the time I was a teen I had a big attitude toward that part of our family. My aunts would make us (the younger girls) do the dishes and I hated it. I never did it cheerfully and as part of the team, because it hadn't been modeled for me. I never saw my mother help with the dishes at my grandparents' (her in-laws) house even once. (Later I came to realize how limited she was by her rheumatoid arthritis during those years; I do wish it had been explained and talked about.)
These are just a few examples. I don't want to live this way, and the interaction with my family over the past few weeks shows me that I am headed down a path I don't want to follow. This is my Achilles heal, the place where I am most likely to get stressed out and blow up. I don't deal well with stress - I find it hard to be patient with my boys when I am upset and boiling over, even when they are not the cause of the upset.
My home is an oasis, and for the most part stress is not part of my daily life. It creeps in when we are planning activities with family. I realize that part of my stress is also from my still being that little girl who desperately seeks approval. I can obsess over the fact that potato salad will be easier to serve than baked potatoes, because my dad doesn't like potato salad. If I do what is easiest for me I risk disappointing him. I have to have iced tea available for my mother, which isn't even a big deal except when I am stressed out about other things (like how to fit everything in the car!).
I could go on and on - my mind is spinning. But I don't want to get caught up in the negativity. I want to be aware of the example I am setting, and to be a true compass point for my children as they journey on their path.
Today I will be an example...and I will stay aware of it.