It was a hard morning, even though it was a Friday.
My 13-year old son had his shirt untucked one too many times, and as a consequence at school, had to wear his dress uniform (tie and dress shirt) for the day and the next week. Keeping track of his belt and tie has always been a challenge and this morning, his two ties were nowhere to be found. His solution was finding another navy tie, but one that would have to be manually tied. Not knowing how to tie it, he assembled it in a way that resembled a bird’s nest. I yelled at him out of frustration and tears welled in his eyes. My heart is hurting. I did this to my precious boy.
Reflecting on this, I wish I would’ve said, “While I’m frustrated you don’t know where your ties are, you did a good job of finding a solution.” I will say this to him, and I will apologize the minute I pick him up from school this afternoon. Yet, what can I learn from my mistake? There are so many pressures on our kids, especially our young teens. I don’t want to add to my son’s pressures or have him feel that he’s not enough. It’s a delicate balance for me to let my kids make mistakes while ensuring they learn from them, yet not unconsciously expect perfection.
“Put yourself in their shoes.” This is what came to me. I don’t think there’s a better way to really try to relate to my kids than to focus on their mind and heart perspective. In addition, a critical piece of not demanding perfection from my kids (which of course is unattainable) is to not demand perfection from myself. We can all use an extra dose of kindness and gentleness. Having the goal of putting ourselves in our kids’ shoes requires us getting to know them as much as we possibly can. What a gift of connection. What a challenge of true understanding. It’s never-ending, but I am joyful over the privilege to truly experience and know my kids.
Having a teen is fun – we watch Arrested Development together, we run together, we have great conversations about the future. It’s also really trying, from setting boundaries on video game time and content, to ensuring I’m raising a true gentleman, and praying daily about his self-worth.
One piece of understanding my kids better came unexpectedly during a morning run. I was listening to a Tony Robbins podcast discussing how we respond to inner and outer expectations. Understanding this allows us to find more effective ways of communicating, connecting and finding happiness. According to the episode, people fall under 1 of 4 behavioral tendencies – the upholder, the obliger, the questioner or the rebel. My son is a questioner; my daughter an upholder. I am an upholder. Knowing this, I see that my son isn’t trying to be challenging when he asks questions, he’s really trying to understand the purpose behind an assignment, a goal, etc. This provides a whole new level of conversation and understanding between us.
When I really think about it, I want my kids to question things. I want them to understand why they are doing something, or why they are deciding not to do something (I’m thinking ahead to unsupervised parties in high school for example). Pleasers are much easier kids, but life isn’t supposed to be easy. As a recovery pleaser myself, it takes a toll on my energy and focus. At the end of the day, we can’t make anyone happy but ourselves.
Being aware of the pressures of perfection, and talking to my kids about my absolute acceptance of who and where they are, and being gentle with myself are the ways I’m seeking imperfection. I pray that our world is more gentle and kind, more accepting and joyful. It starts with me. I breathe in “I am enough” and breathe out “I release perfection and pressure.” Just maybe my kids will do this with me.