It left me wondering what my children will see as my blunders and my failures. Some of them I know off the top of my head. I should have never read To Train Up a Child. I should have never let myself go down the road of religious and political conservatism. It led me to look at everything from my country to how I parent in a way that was often so far removed from who I was and had always been. I was trying so hard to be perfect that I just pushed myself farther and farther away from it.
Other mistakes I think won't be known until my kids are grown and have had time to think about it and decide. But I know my mistakes exist and I know that I'm powerless to not make any.
These are the days I wish I were an expert blogger. I wish I could just sit down at my keyboard and list off the Top Ten Things You Should Know To Avoid Traumatizing Your Children. Followed by a give away, of course. But I'm not that blogger. I'm just working it out as I go, same as everyone else.
So instead, how about my Top 10 Ideas?
- Talk to your kids. They are human beings, and I think the best way to get insight into how they feel and what they need is by actually talking to them.
- Listen to your kids. Not just when you sit down for those talks. But listen when they have conversations with other people, with siblings, with toys, and even the things they try to mutter under their breath. Everything you hear will help you to understand who your child is, how they think, and what they need.
- Don't be their friend first. Which isn't to say you can't be friends also, but they will have friends throughout their lives, but only one mother or father.
- Read. Books like 1 2 3 Magic and How To Talk So Kids Will Listen are invaluable tools. Dr. Sears is a favorite of mine, too.
- Talk to the parents whose opinions you respect. Knowledge is shared and is powerful.
- Don't compare. Each child is a unique person with their own thoughts, feelings, ideas, hopes, and dreams. They will do things on their own time and in their own way.
- Don't be afraid to apologize. We all make mistakes, but being able to say we're sorry does so much to heal those rifts between us and our kids.
- Don't be afraid to accept an apology. Sometimes more will be needed. But they generally need to know that we forgive them and still love them.
- Laugh with them. Get down on the floor and play, look at their latest video game, or book, or whatever it is that they love. Take an interest in what they spend their time on. It doesn't have to be your favorite thing in the world.
- Don't forget to hug and kiss them every day for as long as they'll let you. Reagan was about 11 when he started pretending he didn't know me in public. But now, at 15, he'll come up behind me in the kitchen and hug me, just laying his head for a moment on my shoulder. Those moments mean so much more to me now.
I can't parent perfectly. But I can keep trying to do my best, put their needs first, and have hope that I'm good enough not to screw them up permanently. Therapy for seven kids is just not in our household budget.