Tea Time with Trish: Are We Giving Our Kids Enough Space?
I typically pride myself on trying to let my kids be who they are, but every once in a while they throw a few things my way to remind me that I still have some things to learn. Recently I had two incidents with my son that gave me a little wake up call that I may not always be giving my kids the space that they need.
Even though I truly believe that children need to be given space and time to expand their creativity, as well as time to explore their world and who they are, my motherly instincts of wanting to help them be the best person they can be are kicked into overdrive. Thankfully I am given those gentle reminders (and sometimes not so gentle!) that I need to refrain from my need to jump in and direct them.
One of my earliest memories that was the catalyst in me really paying attention to allowing my children be who they are, was when my son was around 3 or 4 years old (he is now 9). He had a whole bunch of his friends over and they were playing in the backyard. As I looked out to check on them, I noticed that they were all playing soccer…except for my son. He was over in the dirt happily picking rocks. My first instinct was to call out to him and encourage him to join the game with the rest of his friends. As I was about to do that it hit me – “Why do I feel the need for him to be doing what everyone is doing?” Hmmm….he was happy, the other boys were happy; I was the only one who seemed to have an issue with this scene.
This gave me pause and made me really reflect on what was going on here. It didn’t take me long to realize that this was my issue, not his. For whatever reason, as a child I always had the need to feel included…and now I was projecting that onto my children. As an adult, I had already healed that part of myself, but clearly some habits die hard. The great thing is that I did catch myself and recognize that I no longer felt that way. So, I took a step back and didn’t interfere in the play date.
Within about 15 – 20 minutes the rest of the boys quit their game and had joined my son to dig in the dirt as well, which was great, but the point is that even if they didn’t, it really didn’t matter. All of them were content, happy, and just following what they felt to do in that moment.
Since that incident about 5 or 6 years ago, I’ve been very aware about just letting things be. However, as I mentioned before, every once in a while we need a reminder.
Too often, with the best of intentions, we try to turn every moment into a teaching moment, instead of waiting to see how it will unfold. This was the case, in my following example. My son received a call from one of his friends who was so excited about one of the Pokemon cards he just got. As I was half listening to the conversation, I heard my son say to him, “That one’s not that good…” I quickly cut him off with a reprimand, saying that he should be more supportive. Once again my son says to his friend, “That one’s not that good…” And once again, I cut him off saying he should really be kinder to his friend who is clearly so excited.
After my son got off the phone, I thought this is a perfect learning moment (although at the time I didn’t realize it was going to be mine). So, I started into a monologue letting my son know that he is allowed to have his opinions, but there is a time and place to express them, and sometimes you just have to be supportive……(you get the picture).
His reply to me was, “Mom, if you would have let me finish my sentence to him I was going to say “That one’s not that good, but it’s really unique and not easy to find, so good for you.’”
Wow…that stopped me in my tracks! Ouch. Not only did I not give my son the space to express his thoughts and allow him to rise up to the occasion on his own, I also stopped him from being supportive to his friend….the complete opposite of what I was hoping to do!
Now I figured I REALLY learned my lesson…but no, not completely. I still have my moments where I am no longer a contender for the Mother of the Year Award. Shortly after that phone call lesson, I received yet another lesson…once again from my son.
For those of you who know me, you know that I have always let my children choose what they want to wear, since I believe it’s an expression of themselves, as well as giving them some freedom of choice (and if you’d seen some of my daughter’s ensembles in Kindergarten, you’d know this to be true). However, there are special occasions where I believe it is required to dress up out of respect for the occasion.
Knowing that in the past getting my son to dress up was typically was a struggle, I fully expected the same on this particular day that I thought it was a good idea for him to dress up a bit. So, prepared for the battle ahead, I started while he was in the shower by giving him a suggestion on what he could wear that day. His response was “No.” This immediately put me into battle-mode. Before I even gave him a chance to say anything else, I was on a tirade about all the nice clothes I bought him because he wanted them, and that sometimes it’s important to dress up….blah, blah, blah…
So, that morning wasn’t off to the start that I had hoped, but after some arguing he did end up wearing a compromise of what I had wanted him to wear. But I have to admit, that was a weak triumph, since I never what to guilt my kids into doing things, but essentially that is what I just did.
As we were walking out the door, my son said to me, “Mom, when I woke up this morning, I was really excited about getting dressed up today, but you started bugging me about it before I even had a chance to show you what I was going to wear.”
Whoa! That hit me like a ton of bricks. I don’t usually have a lot of guilt over things that happen, because I use them as a learning tool, and make a commitment to do my best next time. BUT this time, I could have cried. I couldn’t believe what I had just done! Thankfully, I have open communication with my kids, so we talked openly about it and came to an understanding, but wow, those words really hit me.
I’m happy to say, that a similar occasion just arose, and this time I handled it much better. I allowed both my kids to choose what they wanted to wear, and even though my son didn’t choose as dressy an outfit I would have liked, I let it be realizing it wasn’t worth the fight. In the end, before we walked out the door, my son quickly ran upstairs and changed into something dressier. I think he may have been testing me! Lol
My reason for sharing these stories is because I think these type of things happen on a regular basis in our homes, where we aren’t letting our children be who they are, we aren’t allowing them to make some of their own choices, and we jump in too quickly trying to direct their actions. I would love for you to learn from my experiences that when left to their own devices kids typically rise to the occasion! And if you do have your own lessons to learn with your kids (which there always are), to be aware of the lessons, take them in, and know that you can adjust, and do better next time!