If you’re the kind of person, like me, who has pushed yourself to the brink of losing yourself trying to be something you are not, then maybe you can relate to my priorities for my child: That he feel intrinsically good about himself, good enough to have the courage to express himself fully in this world.
That he feel safe being who he is, how he is, and that he will be appreciated for that by me and his father, if not the whole wide world, all the time.
That he feel known by his parents, that we care enough to understand not just the particular demands of the moment but the essence of who he is and what he’s all about.
That he know his parents are curious about him because we love him and want to do right by him, the person he is. Not because we want to mold him into some abstract idea of what a good, successful child or adult might be. He already is good. Our main measure of success is his kindness to himself and to others. And he’s rocking that.
To fulfill these priorities, I’ve had to let go of a lot of my own preferences and ideas about how my child should be, how I’d like him to be, what MY child SHOULD be like: the outfits he wears, the foods he eats, the decor in his room, the bed in which he sleeps. His haircut, his after-school activities, the books he reads, the games he plays, the toys he loves, the pets we keep, the amount of socializing we do, the vacations we take, the things we do when we spend time together.
Sure there’s “compromise”. Sometimes I need to take him to errands and he doesn’t like that. He doesn’t always get his first choice. But we talk about it. We discuss it. And a lot of the time I can let go of that thing too.
“Don’t you feel like you’re always giving in?” My friend asked me when I shared these priorities with her.
“No I feel like I’m constantly learning that my way is not the only way, and that my life gets better the more I practice patience, kindness, and love.” I don’t care if he wears the green neon shorts with the navy shirt. Or rather, I care more about him feeling good about his choices than about his coordinating. And believe me, I care a lot about his coordinating. But not enough to diminish him.
“Ax, you look good!” I say, as he emerges from his room.
“I know!” Striking a karate stance pose, thumbs up, big smile.
My son is my beloved teacher and I get to be his. I’m gonna keep going.