As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

I love my kids, and I like them too

I read an article last week about a celebrity who did an interview on a late night show talking about her kids, and the crazy antics they get involved in.  She said (jokingly of course), that you love your kids, but you don't always like them.  And even though it was only a joke, something about it struck a nerve in me. I've met people in real life who have said the same thing and it wasn't a joke.  And I've been an angst-ridden teenager who really, honestly believed at one point (even though I'm sure it wasn't true) that one of my parents loved me because they had to but probably didn't like me very much - and it was painful.

There are two reasons I will never, ever go there.  The first is that it simply isn't true.  Maybe it is for some parents, which I find really heartbreaking, but for me it isn't.  Obviously there are times when my kids drive me crazy, but I think that has less to do with their particular personalities and more to do with their ages and stages (for example, three years old was notoriously difficult for me no matter which of my children was that age). And even when it does have to do with their personality - numbers 1 and 5 for example, who at five years old were both extremely high strung and impulsive, and therefore very difficult to maintain any sort of control over no matter which discipline methods were used - I still would never say I don't like them.  There is never a case that has yet crossed my path where I felt I did not like my kids, and I hope it never happens.

The second reason I would never go there, even as a joke, is because I think it does irreparable damage to a child.  My parents never said anything to me like that, it was just something I intuited myself when, as a sarcastic teenager I heard my Dad talk about how he hated those qualities in other teenagers in my life, and we subsequently got in fights largely because of my attitude I would think, "see? He doesn't like me either."  Lord help me if he had ever, even in jest, said anything to confirm what was at the time my deepest, darkest fear.  Now as a grown up I can look back and see that much of my insecurity was just a misunderstanding, but if I had verbal cues from him to back up what I was feeling, I just can't imagine how that would be.

But the biggest reason I would never say anything like that about my own children is the child I am most struggling with right now.  This kid is really giving me a run for my money and challenging me in every possible way.  Just the other day a friend said to me, "I don't know how you do it," and even just that small little line was enough for me to say, "look, it's hard, but there's so much goodness in him."  For me I see the ways he challenges me as defects in my own personality as much as a discipline problem in him, and the challenge for me is to figure out how to mold his will so that he learns how to exist in the world with his boisterous personality in a way that is not constantly causing trouble, without losing my cool in the process.  His problems with behavior bring to light a very real problem within me when I can't parent him without becoming overly emotional and irrational, and I can honestly say that even in my most trying moments with this little guy, I have never once felt like I don't like him. I struggle with the age, and the behavior, and look forward to the day when he listens when I ask and behaves the way a normal child his age should.  But I still like him - he's one of my favorite people on the planet!

I was going through a cute post on Facebook this morning that had pictures of toddlers crying and the ridiculous things that made them cry, and one of the comments was from a Mom who said, "man, I hate kids sometimes and I have four!" And again it struck a nerve.  I never want my kids to think for a moment that I don't like them, I want them all to know they are my favorite people in the world.  Even when they push me to the brink and try all of my patience (or, as Steve Bell puts it, walk you to the edge of a cliff and nudge you over!)  Even on the worst days I know that my kids' bad behavior does not have the last word any more than my own bad behavior does for me.  I would never want someone to hold my faults against me, and I certainly don't want to do that to my kids. I know that the hardest part still lays before me since I still have a lot of parenting ground ahead of me (I haven't even entered the teenage years yet) but I hope that as life gets more difficult and personalities become more challenging, I can still maintain this disposition.  One of the greatest witnesses to me has been a mother of a big family in our community, who said so convictingly one time when most of her kids were teenagers (and teenage girls at that!) just how much she loves her kids as teenagers.  What mom says that??? And this was not a "I'm your friend not your Mom," kind of gal, but a woman of faith, who raised her children with rules and disciplined as she needed to, and encountered the same trials along the way as any other Mom.  But through it all she never lost sight of the goodness of each of her children.  I want to be that kind of Mom.

I love my kids, and I like them too.  And I hope it always stays that way.

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