Thursday, July 29, 2010

We Need to Hear It

Recently after a Sunday church service, my husband and I made the spontaneous decision to take our family out to eat rather than heading home for the usual Sunday brunch of pancakes or grilled cheese sandwiches. Like any sensible parents with young children (we have 4) we chose a family-friendly restaurant that is typically noisier at the lunchtime hour. The two oldest went to coloring their menus; our 4 yr. old is artistically inclined and this comes complete with a tongue-stuck-out-due-to-serious-concentration face! He is too cute! My baby was very content throwing crayons, her sippy cup, and various baby toys on the floor for mommy to pick up so she could try again. My 3 yr. old daughter was delightfully telling us stories about her class at church and who she played with, etc. There were some small kinks here and there, but altogether we had a nice time. For the majority of our time at the table, across from us sat two older couples enjoying a lunch together. I noticed them watching our children now and then; I found myself hoping that they weren't thinking our children were too loud, or ill-mannered. Just as they were winding down their visit and preparing to leave they looked at my husband and said "They're such good children; so well-behaved." He proudly smiled and said, "Thank you." I also thanked them for the compliment.

I cannot explain how much a compliment such as that means to a mom like me! It is such a good reminder that I must be doing a few things right. God knows I'm trying! Sometimes I'm looking at my children's behavior through a microscope analyzing every single action and I fail to see the big picture. This brief encounter reminded me (and my husband) that they are good kids. And whenever this occurs, we look at each other not long after and say to one another, "They're good kids." We need to hear it.

I had a similar situation this morning at the Dr.'s office. My oldest child's 7 yr. checkup was scheduled early in the morning. Last night I was telling my husband how I wished I had someone to help me during these times; I wished I didn't have to take all 4 kids. Even when we were finishing breakfast I had the fleeting thought of calling the office to see if they had a late afternoon appointment so I could just take my son alone when my husband returned home from work. Then, I reminded myself that this wasn't the most convenient plan for us and that certainly, I could take my kids to the Dr.'s office by myself. It's not as if I don't do this already. We shop together, go to friends' houses, go to the park, run other errands. I rarely if ever ask for help in these types of situations. But, it doesn't make my mental preparation any easier. I sometimes have to remind myself not to be anxious. "They will behave," I tell myself. And guess what? They behaved. I may have had to shush them once while the Dr. was asking me a question, but they were angels. My Dr., a father of 4, looked at me as we were discussing typical discipline and behaviors of boys, and said "They're good kids." I responded, "Well thank you for saying so." To which he responded, "No, trust me. I see kids all day and yours are good kids." We shook hands as he left the room. Boy, I sure like our doctor! I was beaming with pride! It's so good to hear it!

Now, I know that I'm not alone here. Those of us moms (and dads) who are especially concerned with raising well-rounded, well-mannered children can put so much pressure on ourselves. We can also directly judge ourselves and our own parenting success or failure based on our children's behaviors. It's unfair, but we do it. I recently read a facebook entry that a friend of mine had posted about her parenting. She's an amazingly gentle, positive mother to 7 children. She said that she sometimes feels she is doing "everything wrong." As you can imagine, her remark was met with much encouragement and reminders of the great job that she is doing. People who know her children well reminded her that they didn't get to be such great kids all on their own. We rarely credit ourselves for the good in our children, but often take the not-so-good very personally. We forget that children will be children and we will be just fine too--doing the best we know how to do!

My sister's oldest daughter recently prepared lunch for herself, my sister, and her two younger sisters voluntarily. Tears welled in me when I thought about this. What a wonderful young girl she is and she didn't get there alone. No, we can't take all the credit for our children's strengths, but we sure have something to do with it!

Each of these examples has reminded me that parenting is a lot of hard work and that we need regular affirmation that we're doing a good job. And, if you're taking the time to read a blog about parenting issues, you're doing a good job! Let me be the first to tell you that today! Pat yourself on the back. And (you may feel silly about this), but tell yourself, "You're a really good mom (or dad)." And mean it! We need to hear it! Plain and simple. We need to hear it.

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