Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Acceptance and Parenting: Revisiting An Old Post Cause I Still Haven't Got It Through My Thick Skull

originally posted at Reepicheep's Coracle

This morning I said, "Hey Livy, when I get back from work in an hour and a half, do you want to go out and do something cool? Maybe the zoo or the botanical gardens? Something really fun?" Her answer was, "No, mom. We always go out and do fun stuff. I just want to stay home and play my computer games today."

Well, I was super disappointed. Staying home sucks. Why, oh why, did I get such a stick in the mud child who wants to do boring stuff like computer games when we could be out and about enjoying life? What kind of a weird person likes to stay home? What's wrong with her? What have I done wrong to make her this way?

Now, when I begin to bewail the attributes of my child and question my entire parenting philosophy, it might be time to take a deep breath and practice some acceptance. So, I reframed. I remembered that it is okay for other people (gasp! even my child) to be different from me. I thought of all the cool introverts I know who really do like to stay home and engage in solitary sorts of pursuits, and I remembered that those are the people likely to cure cancer or write the great American novel. I thought about my own selfish needs; perhaps I need to get out more by myself? And then I dug this old post out of the vaults. It was true when I wrote it; it is true now; and reading it again made me feel more relaxed and accepting of who my child is. (It was also a nice plus to see that, though she isn't much more interested, Livy has learned to read since this post.)

Here's the old post, entitled Mustering Up the Serenity to Accept the Things I Cannot (and Should Not) Change:

I've been thinking today about acceptance being a key aspect of good parenting. I think we all have a tendency to want our children to share our favorite personality traits with us, our likes and dislikes, and our talents. It's natural; we want our children to be like us and to be people we have lots in common with. But I think we really must keep this desire in check. We do not get to create people in our own image. Instead, we have to nurture the people we get.

I am a reader, big time. I read all the time - trashy pulp novels, great classics, and everything in between. I find it incredibly hard to relax about Livy's lack of interest in books. She doesn't want to learn to read right now, and she isn't too interested in hearing me read books to her. She enjoys it sometimes, but not like I do. I have to remind myself often that Livy isn't me; she will be her own kind of person. There are good people, happy, rational people, who aren't readers the way that I am.

Another example is how she is a homebody. I love to go out places all the time. In my perfect world, I would only be home long enough to get the basic chores done, and then I would go out again. Livy, on the other hand, would rather stay home most of the day. She likes to play quietly in her room a lot, and that's okay. I have to remind myself that there are lots of happy, rational people who are introverts and enjoy their time at home very much.

I guess what I mean is this: Our children are not ours for molding. They come equipped with talents, likes, and dislikes, and it is not our business as parents to go changing those things. It is only our business to help them learn what they like and dislike and the skills to use THEIR talents to accomplish THEIR goals.

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