Do you ever wonder if our children are really listening, and
if the lessons we try to instill in them are actually sinking in? Do our words
make an impression? This week my daughter surprised me, touched me and made me
look closely at my own behavior.
After a massive fight
with her sister and some major disappointment in her consequences (I took their
phones away for one month!) she came to me with a 1,430 word letter. Yes, that’s three typed pages that she spit
out in less than 30 minutes. Oh how I wish
she would apply that same conviction to her schoolwork!
Amazing what a kid can do when they are driven by
passion. The letter began with some
words of wisdom that I shared with her many years ago. I never knew she was listening…
she wrote, “The mind is like
parachute, it works much better when it is open, so please read this with an
open mind and open heart…”
I won’t share the details of the letter but what was so
meaningful was learning that she took my words to heart and later used them to reach
out to me.
I wonder how it really works – will the lessons that my
grandmother taught my mother, that she then taught me and I passed on to my own
children, continue to be an ethical value system that we share in our family? How much of what we share with our children every day do they really take in?
I was so impressed with my daughter’s ability to express her
feelings and do so in a constructive way to help me understand why she does
what she does. I realized how much she is growing up and I am so happy that she
is able to communicate with enough confidence to be vulnerable with me.
We sat together on my closet floor and I listened quietly
and attentively as she read her letter to me.
It was a bit of a role reversal,
almost as if she was teaching me some things – really, she was teaching me about
herself. Midway though her letter, I had
already changed my point of view and she helped me realize what I might do
differently in the future to help both of my daughters through their too-often
conflicts. She shared what she could do
differently too, what she could do to get along better with her sibling and
also what she hoped for in return.
Our discussion segued into a family meeting, and she said
something to me, which was NOT a manipulation to get her phone back. Honestly.
She said, “No matter what you take away from us, it won’t change the way
we feel or what we do. In fact, we will
probably just act better to get back whatever you take away. What we really need to do is try to figure
out why we’re doing what we do and how we can feel differently about each other. Then every day we should try to work a little
at making our relationship better.”
What a concept! I
could have paid my therapist $200 for that 12-year-old lesson
I’m not embarrassed to say that I gave both of my girls’
phones back by night’s end. SUCKER!
Truthfully, I agreed with her point and desperately needed to find more
effective way to stop the sibling war.
What I asked them to do was be accountable for their own
behavior and take a look inside to see what’s triggering it. I asked them to try to work every day to be
kinder and closer. I asked that they be
open to forgiving and changing.
It was a powerful evening and one I will remember. I’ve always said that my children educate me
every day but the lessons my 12-year-old taught me that night were ones she had
once learned from me.
I do not believe that parenting is ever perfect. I often ask my kids to change and I am
equally open to finding better ways to problem solve.
Corky Ballas once told his son Mark, “The mind is like a
parachute, it works much better when it is open.”Mark shared his dad’s words of wisdom with me and I shared
them over the years with my own kids.
Last night, my daughter reminded me of that very important lesson.