And, as the mother of relatively young children, I’m not talking about college acceptances, marriage partners, or professions, but rather the simple things like:
Treating others with respect,
Sharing your toys and your snacks,
Chewing with your mouth closed,
Not interrupting when others are speaking,
And when you speak, speak, please don’t whine.
Being a good sport and a good loser,
Cleaning your room (at least once in a while),
and many other basic values I try to instill in my children.
And so, day in and day out, from morning until evening, in the home and on the playground, I find myself drilling these concepts into my children:
“Did you say thank you?
Why don’t you give some of your crackers to your friend?
Can you please close your mouth when you eat?
Good job waiting patiently while I was speaking.
Thank you for not whining. It’s much easier to understand you that way.
Puh-LEASE clean your room!!!
And on and on.
It’s like a constant education.
At every opportunity.
And for the most part, it seems to be “working”.
My kids are, in general, nice, friendly, courteous, secure, disciplined and empathic kids that other kids and adults like to be around.
So, on the one hand, I feel like giving myself a pat on the back because it seems that I’ve been doing something right.
On the other hand, because of a recent incident with my oldest child, I question to myself, “Until what age am I supposed to continue parenting my children in this way… With such great expectations? Or, expectations in general? And, at what point, if any, am I supposed to just take the back seat and just observe?
Last night, after finishing our Sabbath dinner and nearing the end of a family-favorite board game, we were getting ready to tally up the points to see who the winner would be.
My daughter, who tends to be quite slick at this game and has been playing this particular game long enough to know many tactics for winning, stated (in my opinion, in a rather haughty kind of way), “I want to add up my points last.”
And, I know why she said that.
Because she tends to win this game quite often.
And she likes the attention received when everyone watches with suspense to see how many points she earned.
What can I say? With this games, she likes to be in the spotlight.
And, I, her mother, can’t stand when she (or any of my other children) act with an attitude of arrogance.
I was stuck on great expectations.
So, I called her on it.
“Ayalah! Why do you need to act like that?”
My words, my intonation, and the rolling of my eyes (I swear, I have so little control of that!) were enough to silence her and then make her cry.
I ruined her fun mood.
Apparently, I even ruined her evening.
And with that, we finished the game. (My daughter actually came in 3rd place, ironically). And, she went into her room.
And, a few minutes later, I came to speak with her.
And, what ensued was basically a conversation that made me realize the recent pull I am feeling between believing my children are completely dependent on me to learn right from wrong vs. realizing they may not be as dependent on me as I believe.
I shared with my daughter that for nearly 12 years, I’ve been parenting her as if one of the only places she was receiving her values from and knowing the “right way” to live was from me.
And, yet as her Bat Mitzvah is approaching, I’m beginning to wonder how much more unsolicited guidance she really needs from me.
Last night, I shamed my daughter.
I shamed her.
In front of others (who, by the way, could have cared less that she wanted to tally her points last.)
But, I could have chosen not to say a thing.
I could have chosen not to roll my eyes (I’m still working on that one… believe me I am.)
I could have just thought to myself, “Interesting… that she’s acting that way. Interesting.”
And, if I felt like I truly had to say something to her, I could have taken her aside, after the game and once all the guests had left.
My behavior was wrong.
And, I apologized for that.
And, slowly I started to realize that as my daughter matures, the amount of control and expectations that I have over her must change.
I question to myself, if the basic values that I tried to instill in her (or my other children by this age) haven’t been absorbed, will they ever?
Will my constant hounding really do any good at this point?
Will constant judging her really have any affect on her ultimate behavior?
I’m beginning to realize that if I don’t alter my parenting with her as she matures, she will continue to feel judged by me for sure, not feel good about herself when she’s around me, and she won’t want to be around me much.
And, I can even bet that she’d eventually start hiding things from me at times when she’s aware that she’s not meeting my expectations.
That’s certainly not a route I’m interested to go down.
Just another balancing act in the world of parenting.
And so, this incident was actually a learning experience for me.
An opportunity for our relationship.
And, as I told her of the efforts I’m going to make to be more aware of all of this, she gave me a great hug and told me how great of a mom I am.
Which, of course, brought me to tears (because I was feeling quite the opposite at that moment).
And, back to great expectations: thinking how wonderful it would be if my other 3 boys could one day turn out as terrific as their older sister.
This blog was written with permission by my daughter.