Parenting is one of those skills that is never quite as clear-cut in Reality as in Theory.
We all had grandiose ideas about what we would “never do or say when WE became parents”, and all those places where our own parents “didn’t quite get it right” wouldn’t be problems for us. Hah!
I remember back in the “Pre Chaos & Disposable Income” days of yesteryear, I had a friend who imagined her future child as a well-mannered, mini adult. She described how they would spend intellectually stimulating afternoons at the galleries, dressed in light shades of cream and white linen; finger foods and television would be unheard of, bed times never up for discussions, and she would magically be able to continue her successful legal practice AND be the perfect PTA mom.
Yes, I too had my ‘confusions’ … I envisioned ONE little girl to whom I would pass on my knowledge of cooking, knitting, embroidery and globe-trotting. We would live in the city yet always have our backpacks ready for an adventure.
Well, here we are: My friend has an athletic, tomboy who excels in engineering, rock climbing, and dirt bikes, and would rather die than be seen wearing a dainty dress for afternoon tea.
And how did things work out for me? I can’t complain, I have THREE young men (none of whom have any interest in knitting) and I ended up trading the city for a bunch of acres in the country. I get to have exciting “jaunts” to the supermarket and soccer fields.
As I considered the few things over which I still think I have some control. I realize that what matters most is the quality of person I bring into the world. That means instilling core values such as integrity, compassion and mindfulness.
An awareness of how we affect other people, to be respectful of differences, and most importantly to maybe even generate a little happiness when we interact with the world.
Two things I try to inculcate in my sons are the principles of Patience and Non-Stealing.
Patience, as I present it, is an internal practice.
We all fall prey to the need to hit the elevator button a couple of extra measures because it will somehow make it ‘come faster’; and kids have little innate tolerance for long lines at the supermarket (or any other place for that matter).
I take the time to explain that such impatience is not only hard on themselves, gnawing at their insides even when they ‘appear’ to be calm outwardly, but that it is also hard on the people around them.
Bumps in the road will happen, delays are even more frequent, that’s Life – however, we DO have the power to decide how to react to these challenges. They can choose to be miserable, or calm and serene, but either way the delay will run its course.
I read somewhere that a synonym for “Patience” is “Self-Possession”, I like that … to be in charge of yourself.
What opportunities do I use to illustrate my lesson?
- I say ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” and is it worth the hissy fit you are sharing with the world?
- If you feel you are behind on your school project, try to look at what you have accomplished instead of grousing about what is yet to be done.
- In an argument, try to count or take a couple of deep breaths before you let loose your snappy reply – “Engage your brain before your lips”. I still struggle with this one.
- And, remember to thank others when they are patient with you. Try to remember how they make you feel by not grumbling at you, and be a person who can do that for someone else.
Non-Stealing I express as an outward focused practice.
This isn’t the obvious rule about NOT taking physical things or the dangers of relying upon plagiarism to get that school report done on time. This is a much more subtle teaching about the value of the intangible but equally valuable assets of Time, Energy and Praise. It’s about showing consideration for someone’s possessions AND needs.
People who are always late, the chronic complainers … the little drips that wear away at the stone. Who hasn’t experienced these people?
How do I try to inspire some “non-stealing”?
- I express that debts should be repaid promptly – whether it’s money or a favor, it’s not kind to make people wait for having helped you.
- Punctuality is always appreciated because it says that you recognize the value of the other person’s time.
- Be honest when you catch a mistake at the register, give back extra change or the cashier will have to pay for it.
- Pay attention when someone speaks to you, and be generous without thinking about potential rewards. Generosity is more than giving money, it is also about giving some of your time or talents. Generosity is the extreme version of ‘non-stealing’.
I can’t make these teachings lengthy exchanges or their eyes will glaze over, but sprinkled here and there I can only hope that some of these seeds will sprout and then … Victory will be mine!!!
Er, ahem … I meant … they will hopefully carry these lessons forward to their own children. Whew!
Now, if only I could manage to teach them how to knit …