It's Six Word Saturday time... this is what is weighing on my heart today...
Do You Believe In Your Children?
In a recent post entitled Cutting Words, I wrote about the hurtful things we sometimes let fly out of our mouths and the damage they can do. Often they are things said carelessly, or in a moment of anger or frustration. Today I read something that triggered a memory and compelled me to write a bit more on the subject of things we say... in this case to our children, and specifically to our children who are grown up or nearing that point.
What I read was a post by a blog friend in which her mother had commented in response to my friend's upcoming eighteenth wedding anniversary, that she was surprised they had made it this far and wondered if they would make it to twenty. WOW! What "wonderful" thing to say to someone you allegedly love! It hurt my friend deeply.
It brought back a memory of when I was 40 and preparing to marry my third husband. My parents lived a thousand miles away and had never met him, they knew little of my life and nothing of his. I was the happiest I had been in a long time... until a letter arrived in the mail from my mother. I opened it to discover that she had taken the time and effort to compile a list of everything I'd ever done wrong in life, every bad choice I'd ever made... the letter went on for pages. She listed things even I had long since forgotten. It broke my heart. I cried for days and then I burned it, never wanting to read those hurtful words again. Our already tenuous relationship never fully recovered.
My mother had a point in writing that letter, she was telling me that I was making yet another bad choice in my life. The underlying message was "You always make bad choices." I didn't realize it then, but ultimately she turned out to be right, it did prove to be yet another bad choice. But in reality that's beside the point, it's not what she was trying to say that was wrong, it was how she said it. It might have been ok if she would have called or written and asked me to consider specific points or concerns she had about him. Concern is one thing, condemnation is another.
What I wanted more than anything was for my parents to be happy for me... and to be proud of me. Something I never managed to fully accomplish in life, and they're gone now, passed over to the spirit world. I doubt if I could have made them proud of me in a hundred years. As I grew older, I learned to stop hoping for their approval and to go on with my life.
What my blog friend's mother said to her is of the same vein... hurtful and with no purpose but to put down, to tell her daughter in so many words that she doesn't believe in her, in her choices, or in her ability to work out her own life successfully. This comes from a mother with a truly dysfunctional life, who should be thanking God her daughter has worked so hard at building a solid relationship. She should be proud of her, and yet her daughter heard those words of doubt instead.
Recently, as I was sorting thru some of the clutter in the house, I looked at a stack of squares for an afghan I started a year or so ago. Unfinished as of yet, set aside as I moved on to something else, as I often do. My mother's words of condemnation rang in my ears... "You never finish anything".
Our house is dusty, and I'm curled up with my laptop or my Kindle reading... I hear in my head "You are lazy." Why did she say that? Because I didn't dust the blinds in my room or didn't put away my folded laundry.
At fiftyeight years old, I found myself thinking, "You are right Mom, I am lazy and I never finish anything." These are just a few examples of the negative feedback I got from my parents, and I have to wonder how those "You always", "You never" and "You are" statements impacted me on subconscious levels. Do we tend to live up to or down to the expectations bestowed on us? Did I long consider myself to be a failure at life because I knew I was a failure in their eyes? I don't see myself as a failure any longer. I am a survivor, that is one things I have amazingly, successfully done, inspite of them.
I learned a powerful lesson from those pronouncements though... NEVER, EVER to do that to my children, even now as they are grown up. No blanket pronouncements, no judgemental statements. If I think they are making a mistake in their lives, or missing an important point, I might bring the topic up, but ultimately the choice is theirs, and I support them all the way... and they KNOW that.
I BELIEVE IN MY CHILDREN! I believe they have the intelligence, the knowledge and the motivation to find their way thru life. It hasn't always been easy for either of them, they've seen their share of hurts, they've had to pick themselves up a time or two. It breaks a mother's heart. We can't always heal their hurts or fix their problems, and we shouldn't. The most important thing in life is something I didn't learn for a very long time... to START AGAIN, that no matter what happens we must dust ourselves off and start again, rather than beginning a downward spiral into darkness and defeat.
I believe that my children are caring and loving. I know they are, they show me that all the time. I believe they can handle their own finances and careers.. their lives are proof of that. I believe they will ultimately choose partners who will compliment them and bring joy and contentment to their lives, just as I have done.
My children KNOW I love them, I believe in them, and I am proud of them. I TELL THEM, and I tell them often! They know that I have confidence in their ability to resolve their problems and find their way. They are both so far ahead of where I was at that age when it comes to life skills and successful living. I am amazed. They didn't learn it from me. Maybe they learned it, in part, because of me. That's ok too. When I die, I will do so knowing that my kids can take care of themselves and that they will treat others with kindness and compassion. To me, that's the most I could ever hope for or dream of!
Those words, those horrible judgemental words parents sometimes say to their children... blanket condemnations, or worse yet things like "I never wanted you". Yes, I have a friend whose mother actually told her that! Or, "I never want to see you or speak to you again", because a friend told her mother she was a lesbian... and the mother stood by it to her dying day. Wow! You created this child, you gave them life! And then you slash their heart in two with your words?
There are ways to share your concerns if you see your child heading in a direction that troubles you, hopefully by the time they reach adulthood you've established a relationship that allows for exchange of thoughts and feelings without resorting to condemnation or emotional control tactics. The bottom line is, while I may not always agree with my children one hundred percent, and they may not always do things the way I might, or see situations the way I would, I believe in their ability and their right to make the best choices for their lives as they see them... and then to live with the consequences and make adjustments as needed.
The greatest gift you can give your child is to believe in them. This is the most powerful confidence you can arm them with for life. Do you believe in your children? Do they know it? Tell them!