Is it easier to see your bad qualities in your children or your good?
Does your answer to that question say something about your personality?
Does seeing your bad qualities in them make you a better person?
If it makes you a better person, is it worth it?
These are some of the questions I’ve been pondering lately. And for the record, as I’m sure you’ll see in this post, my answer to the first is that it’s easier for me to see my bad qualities in them than my good. The stuff I admire in them almost always reminds me of their dad. And, yes, I think that says a lot about my personality. I’m without a doubt my harshest critic. So keep that in mind as I talk about all the bad stuff here.
Anyway… onto my observations… My family is kind of explosive and quick to react. The kids immediately assume when something bad happens that someone did it to them on purpose. They yell. And when they disagree with each other, it ratchets up at an alarmingly rapid pace, with each getting more indignant. The are hard on each other when one makes a mistake or is slow to figure something out or says something stupid. They have no patience with each other. They hold grudges. They over-analyze each other.
I’ve become increasingly tired of all the negative energy. Especially as I’ve watched it blossom in the youngest. I’ve been asking myself: Why are they like this? Where did they learn it? Is it me? Am I a terrible mother? Have we failed them?
Children model what they see. So while I’m willing to accept that I am not actually a terrible mother, I do know where they learned it. Yes, they learned it from their parents. From us. They’ve learned plenty of good things from us too, but it’s the bad traits that I’m talking about today.
I’ve been watching them. I’ve been saddened by them. I’ve been learning from them.
I’m reading a book called The Emotionally Healthy Church by Peter L. Scazzero. In one chapter, he talks about the importance of understanding how our family background impacts who we are now and how we interact with others. He encourages his readers to constantly look back at their childhood and family to see what positive and negative reactions they have that are automatic because of their upbringing. He believes this will help inform you about the hidden motivations behind your decisions and thus allow you to make changes.
I’m applying something similar as I watch my kids. When I see them react, I look at how I might have modeled that behavior for them. I think about times I’ve behaved the same way toward them. I face the fact that they can only repeat what they know. I try to find compassion for the poor children who don’t even understand why they are acting the way they are. But I know. It’s how I’ve shown them to act.
I think I’ve passed through the grief stage of this analysis. I’ve tried to deny it. I’ve gone through despair. I’m moving through acceptance and into a place where I can attempt to model different behavior.
And this. This decision to behave differently for the sake of my children. This decision is the silver lining on this dark cloud. It’s the bright spot in my disappointment in self. I’m slowly becoming a better person – a better wife – a better mother. I’m doing it for my children. I don’t want them to be 40 with impatient, volatile children, slowly figuring out what they are doing wrong. Or, worse, not figuring it out. I want to get it right. And I want it to rub off on them. So when they are 40, they can work on the problems on the next tier down.
I hope I’m not too late. But then that gets me to that last question. Even if it’s too late to modify them, if it makes me a better person to have seen it in them, was it worth it? If I’m better than I was and they are no worse than I was… did the world still get better?
I don’t know the answer. All I do know is that I am doing the best I can. And that best is getting just a little bit better every day. And if I’ve modeled a boatload of bad behavior over the years, at least they are seeing me model the ability to change. Or, at least, I hope they are seeing it – because it’s certainly there.