Our Children Are Not Our Masterpieces

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I spent the weekend with some of my family, which was, as always, a lot of laughing, a bit of arguing, a lot of eating, and most of all, an abundance of love. That’s how MY family interacts -- quite different from others, similar to some -- but uniquely mine. There is no place better for me to be than with my family if I am in need of an ego boost, confidence building, or just the feeling of being completely accepted for who I am. I know that I’m fortunate in that way -- but, despite the good parts, there have been some drawbacks to feeling so completely adored by them all.

It took me a long time to accept, as my mother has described (and as she felt also) that the rest of the world wasn’t going to applaud when I walked into a room. In fact, most of the world barely noticed -- but I realized that’s ok, as long as the people I care about do.

Interestingly enough, my aunt Susan gave me an article to read about how detrimental it can be to children as they grow up when parents try to rescue them from every pain and disappointment that comes their way. Both of us have had to learn to manage our urge to protect and insulate one of each of our children in a very profound way, for various reasons. Some of what the article talked about was not relevant to me. For example, I was never one of those parents to rush in and pick up my child when he or she fell; I was pretty good about letting them get up and brush themselves off and continue on their way. My Achilles heel was always about hurt feelings by other children -- and later on teens; experiences I can vividly recall from my childhood, though in reality those episodes were few, both for them and for me, and not so awful.

The fact is, it’s the beginning of learning that the applause won’t always be there, that no one in the world will ever find you as fascinating as your family does (for my children, at least), and that, bottom line, self-confidence and self-worth come from inside of us, through achievements, relationships, and most importantly, moments of self-reflection and strength.

Put Them TogetherLeaving our children alone to develop the skills to be their own best fans is very difficult for many parents. Every grade in a class, every game of baseball, is another opportunity for our children to feel successful or to feel like they have failed. But succeeding and failing are important parts of growing up, and allowing them to find their way, as much as we can, without interfering in their internal development, is what makes the best adults. One of the lines in the article that really made me think was this: Your child is not your masterpiece. For parents, that can be the most difficult lesson of all to learn. We invest so much of our emotional, physical and psychic energy into raising our children. This can make it hard to let them go and find their unique persona -- especially for the type of parent who sees their children as an extension of themselves, to the detriment of everyone involved.

I know my children both, to some degree, expect the world to adore them as much as their family does. For them, it’s inevitable because this is how we love each other. But my hope for them is that they are able to find the ability to continue to see themselves in this positive, encouraging light, just by looking inside themselves and having the confidence in their skills, personality, and successes == things that have nothing to do with just walking into a room.

Sharon Greenthal emptyhousefullmind.blogspot.com

Photo Credit: garryknight.

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