Where are your earrings? No necklace? Here we go again…
I’m on my way to some family function and my mom points out my lack of detailing. For her, a dress means nothing without jewelry to give it life. Standing before her, I am nothing but an empty shell of a woman who tried to dress up. She’s probably right, I know this. But I just can’t seem to get it together. I, in my beautiful heels and striking dress and impeccable makeup, am a disappointment to my mother.
Would it be totally wrong of me to say that having children means learning true disappointment? Will I be receiving hate mail in the coming days?
Look, I love the outdoors. If I had to describe my perfect day, most of it would take place outside. My son, however, is a self-described “indoor person.” It ain’t from my blood. Am I disappointed? Uh, yeah.
When I kept insisting that he do something social and then blatantly turned down his imploring me to play some nerdy game with him (which happens often), do you think he was disappointed in me? Uh, yeah.
My daughter has a big personality. She is funny; an actor at heart; strong-willed with a heart of gold. If you haven’t lived with her or known her for most of her life, you might not know any of that. The reason? Whenever people come around, her shy persona kicks in and she speaks barely above a whisper. We could be charming crowds. I could be nodding proudly behind her as she delves out witty banter. Am I disappointed? Yup.
That same daughter is a ball of energy. She has about 8 solid things on her daily list of want to do’s. I can’t keep up. I do as many as my energy allows, but it’s never enough and sometimes I just say, “Ugh I’m tired. I can’t.” And her face. That face. Total disappointment in me? Absolutely.
My point is this. Love and expectation breed disappointment. It’s okay to feel some disappointment. Don’t be alarmed. This is a safe place. The trick is to drop your standard so low that expectations don’t exist.
It’s important to realize that we have only so much influence on our children as they, too, have on us. What can we do then to gain some sense of control?
Relax. I can’t enjoy the sweet moments and opportunities to bond if I’m pissed or mopping over other things, or if I always need to control everything. Remember how you reacted when your parents tried controlling your every thought and action? Umm Hmm.
Find the things that really connect you and milk it for all its worth. Me and the boy have got some things in common and the girl and I do as well. I try to get them involved in the things that I do and I try to spend some individual time with each one, just doing our connected thing. Also, never give up on introducing new things. I’m constantly presenting options old and new, activities that might engage them (and by extension me, since I will insert myself. Hehe). You wanna paint? Practice sewing? Bike ride? Write a play? Watch a movie for crying out loud? That’s usually a winner… Bet you’re so surprised, right?
Realize ebbs and flows. There are going to be times when you’re connecting with your kids. You’re sharing music, agreeing on movies, bumming out on the beach, and getting to know each other. There are times you’ll both be excited about the same thing at the same time and it feels like the stars align. Then there’s the dry season. You call their name from across the house to make sure they are still alive to the world. You reprimand him and he gives you that dumb blank stare, or worse, the ‘You must be crazy’ face. Your blood rushes to your nostrils and you swear you’ll get a nosebleed from the excess. You get crazy excited about something and the kid just shrugs. Both times will come. High times and low. Here’s something to consider.
Some words from Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet (speaking on joy and sorrow):
Is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?… When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight… But I say unto you, they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Goodness do I love a good work of literature. But I digress.
Don’t dwell in disappointment. Whenever that boy of mine is outdoors playing ball or running with our dog, my heart swells up with far more joy than it would have otherwise. And I appreciate that. When my daughter forget or finally doesn’t care that people are around because she’s talking to me and really excited about something, I try making eye contact with everyone in the room. “Pay attention,” my eyes say. “This is the girl I’ve been telling you about.” She never realizes the multiple reasons why I’m smiling at her.
I’ve heard that staying connected gets tougher as they grow. I’m sure that’s an urban legend, but just to be sure, let’s keep as many bridges down, and doors and windows open as possible. Give them a clear path to come in and hope they’ll like it to go both ways.