I don’t know about you, but in my little family we live by certain rules. Kindness. Compassion. Truth. Empathy. Respect. I decided early on that these were the mainstays of my parenting style, and have attempted to remain fierce in my defence of them, in the choices I make as a mama.
Some people choose differently and that’s ok too; we all have to walk our own path, and be sure we fundamentally believe that what we are teaching our children is right for them, and us as parents. I have always believed that kindness can open more doors than it closes. I don’t feel I have lost more by being open than I have gained; in fact the pendulum swings hugely in the gain direction, when I think of the people, places, and experiences I have had by being unafriad to take risks, whether that be on a conversation with a stranger, or a helping hand to someone Unknown.
Children follow your lead.
That I know for certain.
They watch and learn by looking to how you deal with life’s challenges; pain, hurt, fear, loss. They are always observing your responses to help build their own little toolbox of empathy and emotional responses.
They see you cry when you feel overwhelmed, and they learn there is no shame in sometimes feeling like that.
They watch you hold yourself with dignity when faced with hatred, and they learn not to let negative emotions define them.
They see you broken and hurting but hear only words of love and acceptance, and they understand that life moves on, it’s ok for them to let go and move on too.
I hope they see that even when life is full of pain, you can embrace it, let yourself feel and deal with it, and it can evolve into hope and peace once more.
Living conquers loss.
I read a story recently about the white helmets in Syria, a volunteer army of men and some women, who rush in after the bombs have dropped and rescue and treat those that are injured. They were bakers, teachers, salesmen, scientists, but they all have one thing in common, they value life over religious difference or hatred.
One of the men spoke about a rescue operation involving a newborn baby. Three stories had collapsed on him and he was trapped for hours, his mother frantic. Building parts falling, while explosions continued to rain over their city. But they didn’t stop searching. Why? He said if the life in that tiny soul refuses to go out, then hatred, fear, loss and pain will never win. Life will always win. To live and value life, over all pain and hurt is the most dignified response I could imagine, in circumstances beyond my comprehension.
Love and hope beats hate and anger.
My daughter saw me cry as I watched a short film on the White helmets, and asked me ‘what’s wrong mum, are you ok?’ I didn’t know what to say. The truth was no, I wasn’t ok. The whole world is hurting and in pain and I can’t fix it. I’m scared to have bought four children into such insanely crazy times. I’m so very frightened that I wont be able to keep you all safe.
I said “I’m fine, it’s just a sad story”.
The toughest of my parenting mainstays is truth. It’s such a subjective thing, and as parents we are also obliged to protect our children, so sometimes the truth must be censored.
Are you scared mummy? Sometimes a little, but I’m a brave onion, so I’ll be alright. (I’m terrified)
Is everything going to be ok mummy? Of course it is baby, everything is going to be fine. (I have no idea)
Are you feeling alright mama? Yes I’m doing great baby (I’m crying inside with the pain)
We teach our children to tell the truth, and yet we live by different rules as grown ups. How many times as parents or children ourselves did we hear the words ‘just be honest, you’ll get in much less trouble’? Should I be brutally honest when faced with a question that I don’t think my children can cope with the answer to? Should we always live wholly by these rules we set ourselves, or is it ok to bend them for the greater good?
These things keep me awake at night.
Did I make the right call? Did I censor myself too much? Did I divulge too much? It’s an ever evolving thing, being a parent, particularly when you have a broad spread of ages as I do. What is appropriate for one child, will not always been the same for another.
Of course no matter what you do, or say, there is no accounting for what they discover for themselves, through observation and friends. You can protect them all you like, but sometimes they will find things out anyway. That a city got bombed, that their parent has moved on, or that their friend was in an accident. In someways at least when we tell our children a version of the truth, we control the framing of it; there was an accident but everyone is ok, some bad people did something terrible but we are safe. Does that make a difference? Should we live wholly by this benchmark we set ourselves of truth and honesty?
I always want the truth to define the story, but at what cost?
I figure it makes me a better parent that I am always assessing my choices and interactions with my children. Reflecting on past decisions and their consequences, being open to new ideas and input from other parents and people I respect, that love me and my children. I’m always trying to do better, to be better and make the best decisions I can for my children. I don’t always get it right, who does, but you know what I always fall asleep at night, knowing I’ve done the best I can, with what I have in front on me. I’m not perfect, who is, and quite frankly I don’t want to be.
I would rather be a beautiful freak any day….
If you are interested in finding out more about the white helmets work in Syria, here’s the link. The word ‘brave’ just doesn’t cut it.
Humanity. Solidarity. Impartiality.
A code we could all do with living by.