Monday, September 19, 2011

unconditional parenting | 7. be authentic

i've been a bit slow to keep up my little series on unconditional parenting but i haven't forgotten. i think about this stuff all the time. but since this is a self appointed task... you get the drift.

the seventh principal of unconditional parenting is: be authentic.
and like the six that came before it, it's a good one. 

basically it's about being real with your kids – about your faults, foibles, misfires, wants, needs, preferences. not in a burdensome way, though. it's not about full disclosure. it's not about divulging every last detail with your children.
our friend alfie starts this section off talking about finding the middle ground between being pals with one's kids and being too beholden to the title of "mother" or "father" – and just being a real person with them. 

i really like the notion of being a real person in front of bonzo – and, well, in life in general. and i'm thankful that this isn't something that i feel like i have to work at – it comes pretty naturally. i think it's so important that he sees that i'm vulnerable and can have feelings of my own. if i want him to be able to continue to identify his feelings and express them openly, i think it's only fair that i do so in return – obviously in a way that's appropriate for my two year old. there are indeed times where i don't think it's in his best interest to see the magnitude of my feelings or concern. 

but life happens. sometimes he becomes privy to something that, in hindsight, i would have preferred that he didn't but even those moments are teachable.

for instance, there are times when the chooch and i are having a discussion that becomes... well... a discussion. no one's yelling or anything but we're not exactly holding hands, skipping down a grassy hillside either. i love the idea of shelving it and waiting for another moment when bonzo's not underfoot to revisit it. but sometimes it's that rational idea that's shelved while we squabble over whatever-it-is.

we're human. we're parents. it happens. and not often – but it's happened before and it'll happen again. here's how i look at it: bonz sees that we're human. he sees that two humans can disagree or have big feelings that need to be talked out – but he also sees the resolution and result. he sees us talk, wrap it up, apologize, make-up, hug, console each other and move on. this is the life process we're trying to teach after all. and what's nice is that we don't have to stage these moments for teaching – life just doles 'em out!

(quick note: we are absolutely capable of drawing a line with this and would never subject bonzo to anything we felt wasn't healthy – of course. thankfully we're not a very hot-tempered twosome and things have never reached that point. and even the lamest of disputes have been put aside to be dealt with when bonz isn't around. i'm just sayin'.)

expressing my genuine concerns and feelings with bonzo, aside from helping him see me as a real person and not some kind of mother-figure-robot, also helps me with boundaries and limits. it's really important to me that i don't feel no but say yes. i think that it's way confusing for kids to sense one thing but be told another. and i don't want to teach him – however passively or inadvertently – to go against his inner compass. and like i said, it really does help me with setting limits or at the very least initiating a conversation about limits which, i realize, will evolve as he grows up. but, for now, when something is on my mind i will talk to him about it so he knows how i feel – whether i'm feeling frazzled, frustrated, tired or just at a loss for what to do. even though i know some of the conversation will be lost on him i'll have it anyways. i want him to know that i have feelings, too. 

we try to find a way to make it work for everyone: extra time in bed with stories and cuddles when i'm the sleepiest mama... switching activities when the energy is escalating exponentially and not helping an already frazzled mama's nervous system... and, as always, sometimes a line has to be drawn and a limit must be set. and sometimes it won't be met with an agreeable bonzo. and there's a space for those feelings, too. at the end of the day, what matters most is that i'm as honest and real as i can be with him and vice versa.

alfie talks about the importance of apologizing in this section, too. his main point is that it sets a powerful example, which it totally does.
he goes on to talk about how ineffective it is to force a child to say they're sorry (right?!) and how its so much more beneficial to show them how it's done instead. these tiny humans are taking mental notes all the time – these are the things we want them to be noting! not only does it remind kids that you're not perfect but it gives them the opportunity feel what it's like to be apologized to

the other day i was doing too many things at once. bonzo hadn't napped and i kept trying to quickly do the few things that i would have done while he was sleeping – but he wasn't. 
to make a not-very-long story really short, he was trying to get my attention in an unpleasant way (totally my fault) and i snapped at him out of frustration (totally my fault) and he cried.

oh dear. typing that is humbling but that's what happened. not exactly picture-perfect-parenting. once he was calm (my ego needs to state that he was only upset for about 45 seconds) i apologized to him very genuinely. i told him i was sorry that i got frustrated. i told him why i was frustrated and that i shouldn't have responded to him the way i did. we had a little moment, me and bonz. there were kisses and hugs and happy feelings.

then for the next two days he'd randomly say, "i'm sorry i was frustrated in the office." so i know he was processing it and thinking about it. 
in one breath, hearing him say that stung a little because i felt bad about what happened but, in another, i was actually happy that it'd stuck with him and was something he could learn from. i'm glad he got to experience that. the more he does, the more he'll understand about apologizing and being apologized to.

i know this isn't rocket science. most people are probably doing this – being real with their kids – without even thinking about it. but it's just a good perspective check. for me, at least. being real with bonzo comes as naturally as breathing – but sometimes i'll still catch myself doing or saying something that i feel like i should be doing or saying rather than what would just come from my heart. so it's a good reminder, this stuff. 

and as always with the disclaimer: if you're into this stuff, rad. if you're not, that's cool too. i'm totally not trying to push a parenting agenda on anyone or break out the pom-poms for myself either. 

oh, and it's always nice to end things on an adorable note, right?


Bridget said...

right on, sara. this is so good. too often, steve and i fight behind closed doors, i think. kids need to see all of it sometimes, the fight, the resolution... preach it, sista!

Mrs MacKenzie said...

Wow I can't believe he talks like that! Your kid must be crazy smart.

I apologize to Heidi all the time and she in turn has started to apologize to me. I don't think she knows what it means, but she apologizes quite a bit. The other day I was got mad because I tripped on something and hurt my foot and she said "sorry mama". Talk about a pain reliever!

blake said...

Love this stuff! Glad you're continuing with it. I also am a firm believer in apologizing to my boy when I haven't acted in the most awesome way. It's such a great example, AND it shows respect. Win, win! xoxo