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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!

24 comments:

  1. I believe in my children and I tell them that frequently. However, I still have said hurtful things to them...sometimes we simply don't realize they are hurtful.

    When I was in therapy a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, she told me something that stuck with me and that I still have to focus on sometimes: Children, when they become adults, must bury and put to rest their ideas of what their parents SHOULD have been.

    Simply put, our parents can never live up to our expectations.

    The other thing is this: No one comes through life unscathed. All of us have hurt and no single hurt is greater than another, in my opinion. Hurt is hurt.

    We have the power...literally the power...to define ourselves and not let anyone else define us. Sometimes, I have to verbally tell other people that and it gets my point across. "You do NOT get to define who I am. You do NOT have the right to speak that into my life."

    Anyway, I've rambled. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with the world. It's comforting to know that other people have the same struggles.

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    1. You share some powerfully good words and ideas here Jayne, you are so very right that our parents were what they were, and we have to come to terms with that, our children will have to do the same. We do all bear some hurt in life and carry some scars. That's why it's so important to be kind to each other... we never know another's burdens, we can't always see the hurts! I totally agree about not letting others define us! I believe in me... and that's the truth! :-)) Thank you for taking time to share your thoughts and experience, Jayne, I truly appreciate it!

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  2. Yes...I do believe in my children...and my grandchildren! I try to encourage them...and root them on, no matter what they are facing!

    Sometimes I could be better at it,...but I always try. I love them so very much.

    I had a good example. My mom always loved me and encouraged me!

    I am sorry that you didn't get much encouragement as you were growing up...that's sad. But I am proud of the things you have accomplished in spite of it. Bravo!

    May God bless you and your husband...and your kids!
    Have a great Saturday!

    Linda @ Truthful Tidbits

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    1. I have no doubt that your children and their children have grown up with love and encouragement Linda, and they will treasure you for that always! I know my parents loved me, they just didn't have the understanding or parenting skills to manifest it in the best ways. But whatever our past was, we are not chained to it, we can always choose to become people who love and encourage openly, and who try to brighten the lives of those around them!

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  3. Hi Josie ~~ I believe in encouraging the kids, even when they are adults. I believe in 'mostly encouraging positive words' and 'very few (if any) negative' ones. Of course Doctor Spock was our athority then, I think his advice is still good.

    Jim's Six Words, come peek in
    ..


    ..

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    1. It is true Jim that positive reinforcement accomplishes so much more than criticsm and condemnation. I agree that Dr. Spock had some good practical advice when it came to child raising! In our generation parents didn't focus much on the well-being of the inner/emotional child, more attention was given to learning, etc. Today we know more about the power of words, and it is never to late to use them well and often on our children!

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  4. Those are very good points you make. I see what a difference a nurturing and encouraging upbringing can make as I see the different ways my husband and I interact with our son. He is 20, and exhibits behaviors and beliefs that neither of us are fully onboard with. But we have different relationships with him, due in large part to how we were raised. Though my mother would speak to me honestly about anything and everything, no words ever left her mouth that did not convey unconditional love and support for me. My husband, sadly, heard very specifically that he was a troublesome burden. I have no doubt there was genuine concern somewhere in the message his mother was trying to convey, but whatever it might've been, it was lost in the hurt. I've seen that replayed in the way my husband and son communicate with each other, and I pray every day that it's not too late to stop the hurt and repair the damage.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

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    1. You make an excellent point Cheri, sometimes the message is well-intended but never gets thru if it is wrapped in words that hurt. I have had to work long and hard and it has taken many years to retrain my way of responding to not lash out in anger, or to say things in retaliation. Words once spoken cannot be retracted, and we all have some that we will regret speaking forever. I hope your husband makes sure your son knows how much he loves him and supports him, before the day comes when he is no longer here to speak those words. Love and encouragement don't have to mean we approve of everything someone does, it means that we care!

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  5. Thank you for posting about this! Yes it did hurt me deeply. My husband is not perfect but he has put up with my family and all of their drama for many,many years. He loves me and our children and he works hard for us. My Mom can be hurtful even if she doesn't realize it sometimes. I wish I would not have confided in my mom when I did because I feel now it is coming back to bite me with her rude comments.

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    1. Well I AM proud of your Kristi!! I know how hard you've worked at your marriage and I think it's an awesome thing to make it this far and still love each other. Papa Bear says he loves me a little more each day, and I think he's right, true love grows! No one is a perfect partner, Lord knows I'm not, and he loves me still! :-) It is so hard when people you trust turn things you share against you. Have had that with my family in the past too. Now I'm just very careful to talk about the weather and the cats only! ;-)

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  6. I have had some shocking things said to me by my parents, Josie. Things that would have crushed me if I'd let them. Thankfully, I have an inner self belief and a strong sense of defiance that allows me to cope with really negative behaviour but I won't lie and say it's been easy.

    I really like what you've said here a lot because it mirrors what I feel about life and in particular, raising children. We must believe in them. It's so important. And I firmly believe that one of the most significant things we can teach our children is that we can always START AGAIN. Always. Love you, Josie. Thank you for this.

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    1. I know from your blog that you have experienced those attacks into adulthood Selma, and I know how much it hurts when parents don't see your true worth... but WE DO! I know you to be amazing, caring, thoughtful, and creative both visually and with the written word. I am glad that you don't allow those negative pronouncments to be your truth. I think that life is all about learning to bounce... to start again and to welcome change, as it will surely come regardless! Your son is blessed, Selma, he will grow up with far more love and caring than you knew, and he will thrive in the knowledge that you are proud of him!

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  7. This is such a powerful post Josie and brings out many emotions in me. My mum comes from a time when people spoke plainly and directly and without really thinking through what they're saying. She has said a lot of hurtful stuff, though she doesn't see it that way, it was just the way she was always spoken too.
    My siblings and I now laugh about the things that she says and still says, she is just a product of her era.

    My guilt is in retaining some of her directness, as all my siblings do. I try not to say things like "you're lazy" but the words come out before I even know they're there and words like that don't go away. Thank you so much for this post, it has given me a lot of food for thought in how I talk to Spawn. xx

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    1. You are right Lily, that is the way our parents and their parents were raised, no thought was given to the damage such labelling could do, and maybe less offense was taken than it is now. I know when my kids were growing up words slipped out of my mouth at times that I was horrified to hear myself say. Funny how we always end up doing what we say we never will! I tried much harder though, and now that my kids are grown I am ever so careful to always keep our relationships on a loving, caring basis, no ending phone calls with a slam or any such nonsense. You and spawn are truly close and he knows how much you love him, I'm certain any thing tossed in his direction bounces back at you with a laugh!

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  8. My heart goes out to you. I was treated like that by my own mother and then my ex mom in law. I always advise my kids not to say anything if they have nothing nice to say.

    I no longer try to please anyone. I am who I am and I am a strong survivor. Not everyone is one and that in itself makes us different as we are not conventional.

    I love my kids too and tell them and show them every single day. Again, sometimes, we tend to shout off our mouths but we will remind each other of our love and commitment, sincere apologies which normally comes in long emails. I am very blessed that my kids have learn to TALK it out instead of playing the blaming game. You are in my prayers.

    Need A Fairy Godmother
    hugs
    shakira

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    1. You made some excellent points here Shakira, one being that a survivor mentality is a bit different from others. We have learned to adapt to the rough seas of life and to stand strong against letting others try to knock us over.

      The art of apology is a wonderful thing, everyone should be taught to use it from an early age on. My beloved Papa Bear advices newly married men to say "I'm sorry" to their wife each morning when they wake up, that way they are covered for mistakes made during the coming day! lol Seriously, he is always the first to apologize, even if he isn't really the one to blame. As he notes, it's not about the blame, it's about repairing the relationship, you do whatever it takes, and an apology is a great start. My kids also know I am far from perfect, if I step on toes or offend them I am quick to apologize. Thank you for sharing good thoughts!

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  9. This is a very powerful post. We don't realize how powerful our words are...the universe was created by words. Then God said, let there be...

    The old saying, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me." This is absolutely NOT true. Words hurt and we must choose them carefully. My husband was told by his dad he would never amount to anything. I wish his dad could see him now. He has been very successful in life. I think part of this success was a determination on his part to just show his dad. I do think parents have a responsibility to speak truth into their children's life, but this trust must be spoken in unconditional love. Parents must encourage their children to find their place in society that compliments their strengths and interest while giving them unconditional love. Words are so powerful, they can built up or tear down. I hope my words are for encouragement, love and building up and not a destructive force.

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    1. Indeed words DO hurt, Tee. I am proud of your husband for proving his Dad wrong. Sometimes even negatives can be a motivational force for the good! I agree, parents must speak the truth to their children, truth spoken in love does not take the form of accusation, derision, or condemnation. It is not wrong to tell your children that you are disappointed by their choices, it is wrong to express that you see them as hopless failures because of it. Consistant belief and encouragement can work miracles!

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  10. I don't remember exactly how old I was when I learned to embrace my flaws. I heard "you're lazy" often because I am lazy. Still. It's part of who I am.

    Not always. I can be quite hardworking. Even back then. And that's why I took mom's words for what they were. Mom really was stating the obvious but in doing so she was only telling half the story. Good job mom, you paid some attention, now how about credit for all I do right?

    Mom wanted me to be better than I cared if I was. And she was from a time when it was still acceptable to point out your children's flaws rather than pretending they don't have any as so many parents these days do.

    I don't know why my mind works the way it does. I really wish I could sell it to people so they can experience the joy of truly embracing their flaws and not giving a damn what mom thought.

    I've missed ya lady!

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    1. Welcome back, Monkey! You had a really good relationship with your Mom, and you've ended up with a pretty healthy outlook on life, not carrying around a lot of baggage. It would no doubt be better if we were more like you in that sense! I agree about today's parents praising their child's perfection. They aren't, and neither are parents, pretense is bad on any level. The reality is that we have the right and the power to redifine ourselves as we see fit.

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  11. I believe that parents have an obligation to raise, educate and care for their children till they're eighteen. Sometimes they are ready to fly the nest at 16. Sometimes they're slow developers, and can't take care of themselves till their early twenties... but after that, if there's going to be a relationship, I think it has to be based on friendship and common interests. If there isn't that, best that each one goes his own way.

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    1. You present an interesting idea here, Shimon. I agree with you that if there is no common ground in adulthood, it is better for both sides to find "family" they can better relate to and not spend their time aggrevating and upsetting each other. I am blessed in that my children are on my wavelength, but I do not meddle in the whole of their lives, nor are they privy to the whole of mine. What we share is love, and the belief that we all know enough to make decent choices.

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  12. Wow. This is a brutally honest post. That takes a lot of courage.

    I never felt that anything I did pleased my father. When he died, lo these many years ago, I was angry at him for a long time. We had so much unfinished business.

    I can remember as a child thinking I would never treat my children this way - and I never did. [This was all emotional stuff - he never abused me physically.]

    I've always tried to be positive with my children - and theirs. I think they know and appreciate that.

    Cheers!
    JzB

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    1. It is difficult to come to terms with unresolved issues with parents. We often mourn not only for what was lost, but also for what never was, or what we wish had been. Then we reach a point where we must leave the past in the past and move on, but wiser with what we learned. Like you, I was determined that my children would always feel loved, encouraged, and supported, and would know they could turn to me. I am grateful for the close relationships we share as adults, far different from what I had with my parents. Thank you for stopping by!

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Your comments are always appreciated... they make me smile! :-)