The challenge with parenting, and being, for me, is that the fear of what I don’t want is louder than the hope for what I do want. Consequently the temptation is to focus a lot on preventing what I don’t want – don’t get injured, don’t eat unhealthy food, don’t be mean, don’t be a good-for-nothing sack of crap.
It’s a lot of negativity floating around, in the purported service of a positive-ish goal of raising/being a healthy, self-actualized, useful human who ideally feels relatively good or even-ish keel more often than not. Who feels entitled to live as he is/as I am.
I witnessed a lot of soul-crushing verbal abuse at the playground yesterday and was almost inspired to do a list poem of the insanely abusive stuff parents said to their kids. Materially privileged kids, getting the emotional stuffing beaten out of them for things like being too slow putting on their socks, wanting to go down the slide one more time before leaving, asking for snack. In other words, being kids, being who they are.
But instead of marinating in that world of sadness I’m going to give myself a go-to cheat sheet for what I really want to say, to myself and my kid, and other people I care about. Here it is:
The Pleasant Person Cheat Sheet
I love being with you just how we are right now.
I love watching you do what you’re doing.
I love seeing how focused you are when you … build that spaceship/write that proposal/stir fry those chanterelles.
I want to do what you want me to do right now (are you willing to help me understand what that is because I need help).
It makes me happy to be with you.
How are you feeling? (… Tell me more about that …)
Tell me about that (… What else? … What else?)
Thank you for telling me that.
I enjoyed hearing about that.
I like listening to your stories.
I like how you did that.
I’m looking forward to spending time with you.
It feels good to hold hands with you.
I find that the more I pepper my interactions with that kind of stuff, the more the challenging socks, the waiting an extra minute or ten, so Ax can pick the perfect toy to bring to school, the needing snack right after dinner, the more all that becomes a bit easier. And when I do need to ask for more or different actions there’s a cushion of goodwill that makes that easier too. Plus I feel better more of the time, which is a major plus. At least for now. We’ll see what happens after he turns six.