One of the hardest parts of parenting I’ve experienced lately is to trying to avoid hipocrisy. It’s easy for me to tell the kids to get off the screens and do something productive, but convincing them to actually do it is tough. I’m sure that it’s tough for many reasons, but for me I think the main reason is that I’m not a great model of discipline and balance right now. I’ve been burying myself in my work in order to meet tough deadlines and help start our new cooperative, but also to avoid my own grief over my father’s unexpected death.
So, I’ve been in full-out control-freak mode, barking orders like a crazed dictator. It’s worked about as well as you’d expect, which is to say, not at all. When I take a moment to reflect, I remember what good little mimics my children are, especially my eldest. I wake up and log onto my computer almost immediately. Then when he gets up and ‘needs’ to check his game immediately, I am irritated. I am distracted and uninterested in his discussion of the finer points of dinosaur anatomy or lego starship construction, so later when I want him to listen to me, he doesn’t hear a word I say. Children are adaptable little creatures and this hasn’t happened overnight. It’s happened over several months of busy work schedules and turbulent family life. I can see a pattern developing that I don’t like. The good news is that I have the power to influence it. The bad news is that I have to do the work.
Learning is as natural as breathing to children. In our family, we do much of our learning through play and modeling. In better days, I’ve patiently modeled how to count money, measure flour, use a microscope, and work through tough emotions. Modeling can be active and mindful, but passive and unintentional modeling is equally, if not more important. The reasons for this are biological. All kinds of animals are successful species because they teach their offspring how to survive through modeling. A mother duck leads her ducklings to water. Juveniles see adult chimpanzees use tools to get termites to eat. Throughout the history of humanity, we have shown our children how to survive by modeling the behaviors that have been useful to our own survival. So today’s children need us to model the behaviors that will help them not only survive, but thrive as happy and productive individuals.
We need to model
– logic and reason . . . to encourage critical thinking
– compassion and empathy . . . to promote peace
– curiosity and attentiveness . . . to improve understanding
– laughter and light-hearted fun . . . to spark humor and happiness
– reflective thoughtfulness and vulnerability . . . to nurture emotional and spiritual health
I am slowly getting back to the place where I feel capable of doing this hard work of parenting with better skill. I know that it is worth it for our daily sanity, but also for the lasting memories and connections that we are building with one another and the world around us. I also know that this hard work was something my own father and mother did carefully and consciously for me. For that, I am so grateful.