Written by Shelley Plett Tuesday, 07 October 2008 14:03
If there is anything that we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves. —C.G. Jung, “Integration of the Personality,” 1939
“Oh, Lord help that child—that is so me!” Have you ever caught yourself saying that? At times when your daughter or son (that child) does something that instinctively and immediately upsets you?
Then just as quickly you realize that whatever they have just said or done could have easily come from you because their reaction is all to familiar. Remind you of anyone?
There’s no more accurate a mirror than a child.
Our kids are our own after all. And all of our crazy issues, habits and tendencies drip all over them. Even (or especially) the ones we think we manage to hide.
There are those moments that bring the ugly truth home. Things like hearing my youngest child yell at our dog. I mean really yell.
The kind of yell that, even though it’s only as booming as a 3-year-old miniature voice can manage, sends a 90-pound lab’s tail and head straight to the ground in shame.
Oh, you can be sure she got in trouble for hurting the dog’s feelings. Then I got myself in trouble when I remembered yelling at the dog not more than an hour earlier when she was barking at the wind in her pen.
At the time I was laying into her for barking, I didn’t think twice about how bad it must have sounded. The dog could tell you. And maybe a few neighbors.
As soon as I heard it coming from someone else, I really heard it. But as far as my daughter’s concerned—it was a perfectly fine thing to do because, well, Mom did it.
And more slightly disturbing moments like recognizing the personality quirks we would most love to change in ourselves, showing up in our kids. Complaining that our nose is too this, our legs are too that, walking away when we should stay put or spouting off when we should back off.
We moms are big girls—we should be able to figure out a way to overcome these personal annoyances and struggles by now. But the little ones shouldn’t have to deal with all of that. Not yet.
Detroit columnist and parenting coach Alyssa Martina explained: “We (parents) have behaviors —whether it’s smoking, drinking or speaking negatively of others—of which we’re not proud. We don’t want our children to pick up on our bad habits, traits and behavior. But children take it all in and, seeing us as their primary role model, regardless of whether you tell them it’s bad or not (the old “do as I say, not as I do” mentality), they’re going to think it’s OK.... Role models work both ways, showing good and bad behavior.”
Then she politely added “It’s hard being a parent.”
It is hard, but I doubt it’s any harder today than it was 30 years ago. But being kid today? That’s got to be harder.
The feelings that moms my age dealt with all those years ago may be similar to the ones our kids feel today. Growing up has always been tough, but I think the thoughts of an average fourth-grader in 2008 are much different than they were in 1978.
Seems to me they have a lot more to think about than we did.
Or maybe, unfortunately, they’re just forced to think about them so much earlier.