Monday, September 17, 2012

Tightrope Walking

I was honestly scared to hit publish on this one.  It is difficult to admit when you make mistakes.  However, we are ALL human which means we ALL make mistakes.  Parenting is not easy; not for the faint of heart.  As you read, please keep that in mind and, if you comment, please be kind.

One evening last week, I was in the minivan with all three girls on the way to one of our many extracurricular activities.  As we were driving, we came upon a young man, probably around 13 or 14, riding a skateboard in the street.  As we passed him, one of my girls made a statement that was so incredibly judgmental and prejudiced that I literally gasped.  I, of course, sternly reprimanded her and was then left even more flabbergasted by her rebuttal, "But you and Daddy say it!"  After some super swift self-reflection, I tried earnestly to clarify any previous statements that she had, obviously, misunderstood.  This led to a quite poignant discussion of our freedom to hold beliefs and opinions; our freedom to express those beliefs and opinions; and our responsibility to be non-judgemental regardless of our own opinions.  We discussed that it was unfair and mean to assume things about others based solely on their appearance.  I think (and hope and pray) that I got my point across and that she understood her mistake.  This post is where I try to dissect my mistake that led her to make the statement in the first place.

While I am truly positive that neither my husband nor I have ever made such a narrow-minded, blanket statement, I was reminded that children take in EVERYTHING we say and do.  They take all these bits and pieces and put them together in their minds - like a puzzle - to form their view of the world.  Sometimes, the picture they create is not at all what we, the parents, intended.  Because of that, this parenting gig is a seriously slippery slope.  As parents it is our duty to teach our children what is moral and ethical; what is right and wrong.  Sometimes this is pretty cut and dry - it is wrong to steal; it is wrong to hit your sister.  Sometimes it is not that easy.  Sometimes imparting supposed wisdom involves sharing our opinions and our biases.  For example, my girls have asked our opinions on the current political race for President.  Is it possible to explain our beliefs and our stance without insulting or criticizing the "other side?"  Like all Americans, David I definitely lean in one particular direction politically, although we are closer to the middle that we are to either extreme end.  Is it how we were raised?  Yes - to some extent.  Is it based on our experiences and personal convictions?  Absolutely.  We have, however, been blessed with one daughter in particular who most certainly leans more toward the opposite end of the political spectrum than either of us.  It is very plain to see even at her young age.  Again, how do we impart what we as parents believe to be "right" without squelching her innate beliefs and convictions??  Are we doing it well?  I suppose time will tell.

I guess what it boils down to is this:  I most certainly want my children to be open-minded, accepting of  others, and not quick to judge.  However, David and I have our personal beliefs, our own opinions, and, truthfully, our own biases.  When these two concepts collide, parenting gets pretty sticky.

As I was typing this post, I wondered to myself (and out loud to David) whether it was wise to actually post it, fearing that I might offend someone or that someone would read between the lines coming to a mistaken conclusion or that there would be some other sort of backlash.  Therefore, I have been intentionally ambiguous which proved to be more difficult than I expected.  I took a break from writing it and went for a brisk morning walk which has become my almost daily routine now that the girls are all in school full-time.  As I walked accompanied by our dog, Sophie, the sounds of nature,  and plentiful sunshine, this analogy came to mind.  Regardless of our political beliefs, regardless of our personal experiences, and regardless of the personal opinions we are all entitled to hold, we are all parents performing a tricky balancing act reminiscent of a circus tightrope performance.  We are the tightrope walkers, precariously perched on a thin wire high above the ground struggling to balance a incredibly oversized pole as we walk forward.  Despite the absurdity of it, we repeat this act over and over again every single day.  Our parenting dilemmas are like weights on either end of the pole.  Sometimes they are lightweight and tipping in either direction is not terribly detrimental.  Pizza or tacos for dinner?  Paint the baby's room pink or purple?  Give them an extra five minutes to finish their game before bedtime?  At other times, it seems we are balancing the weight of the world on the ends of that pole and that even the slightest tip in either direction will end in disaster.  Protect them at all costs or let them spread their wings?  Impart our beliefs or let them form their own?  We tread oh so carefully, hoping to keep our balance.  But, we are human and we will make mistakes.  It is inevitable.  Hopefully, when we fall (fail) after letting the pole tip too far in one direction, we will find a safety net below.  That net is made of grace and forgiveness.  It affords us the opportunity to recognize our mistakes, then to get up and try again.

The innocence of children and the honesty of their words can frequently slap us in the face with our own mistakes and shortcomings.  Our children are a reflection of us, so what do we do when we don't like what is staring back at us??  I think our answer to that question may say as much about our parenting as anything else we do.  It is not easy to admit our mistakes, but sometimes they are undeniable.  At those times, we must re-evalutate, re-examine, and, occasionally, retract our previously imparted "wisdom."  We must find the safety net below, be grateful for the second chance, and seize the opportunity to correct what was previously tipped too far to one side or the other.  

    


20 comments:

Martha said...

Great post! Parenting can be hard and humbling, right? Raising children is a huge responsibility and I think that acknowledging this fact makes you a good parent indeed!

Robin @ Pink Dryer Lint said...

I love the tightrope reference! Such an apt metaphor!

Shoes said...

This is indeed a heavy post. I think you did a very good job of describing how crazy difficult this parenting thing can be.

The Shitastrophy said...

Sometimes kids are a mirror into our faults, ones we don't even know we had. Mine have called me out on things I was not aware I was doing. Although it is humbling when it happens, it is awesome to see things through their eyes and allows me a chance to change my ways. You can teach an old dog new tricks.

Lisa @ The Golden Spoons said...

It is most definitely humbling. I hope I am taking advantage of the second chance!

Chronicallysickmanicmother said...

I wish I could say I have never had this happen.....Be gentle on yourself. when you know better you do better..Just keep trucking...or vanning...lol

Linda_Roy_elleroy_was_here said...

Kids really do absorb everything their parents present to them and in their presence and sometimes it's a real wake up call when you see it mirrored back - and at times misinterpreted. Excellent post Lisa.

Lisa @ The Golden Spoons said...

:-) I think we've all been there in one way or another. It's just never fun to get those reminders!

Lisa @ The Golden Spoons said...

Thanks so much Linda!

Skew the Jen Mold said...

Such a great message, I try so hard to be careful. But sometimes I hear "Hey Lady, use your turn signal!" from the backseat and know I'm not trying hard enough!

Lisa @ The Golden Spoons said...

Yep! Sometimes it is a hard pill to swallow!

Robin Reed Grosland said...

A perfect way to say it -- a slap in the face. Too many times in my parenting life my child has said something that I found horrific, only to realize he/she got it from me or my husband. They can be a very clear mirror sometimes. It's wonderful when we can learn from it. Thank you for sharing your lesson with us.

Lisa @ The Golden Spoons said...

Thank you for reading Robin! None of us are perfect and it helps to know that we're not alone in our mistakes~

Sheila Skillingstead said...

Children do misunderstand due to their lack of experience. After a long day trip when we got home it was too late to give our daughter a bath. I told her she'd have a spit bath. She protested long and hard. Finally she came out of the bathroom naked, flung her arms out, and said spit. I still laugh when I remember her face. She didn't know that a spit bath just meant a washcloth. How would she know, she was two. Forgive yourself and move on. Enjoy your SITS Day.

Chris Carter said...

I ABSOLUTELY love this!! Your eloquent words perfectly describe the precarious and powerful journey us parents pursue in trying to teach our children our own values and morals, and yet- there are always slips on that tightrope. It's such a hard road to travel, isn't it? I have had many many moments of realization much like you.

Lisa @ The Golden Spoons said...

Ha! That's so cute! I am certainly trying to forgive myself and not repeat the same mistakes! Thanks so much for visiting!

Lisa @ The Golden Spoons said...

Than you so much Chris! I'm glad you enjoyed this!

Lisa @ The Golden Spoons said...

Yes - very eye-opening!

brokeGIRLrich said...

Good gracious, reading all these parenting blogs makes me truly paranoid to ever procreate. What a tough job all you parents have! I have to imagine a parent who takes the time to think about their impact as thoroughly as you have must be doing an ok job though! Enjoy your SITS day!

Lisa @ The Golden Spoons said...

As they say - the hardest job you'll ever love! :-) Thanks for visiting!

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