Tuesday, November 12, 2019

What Others Think

My sister in law does a mean impersonation of a monkey. It's loud, funny and is incredibly authentic. When my daughter was two or three, she was so entertained by it. Eventually she was imitating her Aunt and making some impressive monkey sounds herself. One night we were leaving a restaurant and our daughter started making her monkey sounds. We had her do it again so we could video to send to her Aunt. She did it once and then we asked her to do one more. She started and mid-monkey — she stopped, looked around and said "I don't want to do it again, because then the people on the street will say 'why is that little girl making monkey sounds.’ That was the first time we recognized her awareness to what others think of her.

When I was little, my mother, a pianist, had me do recitals with her. I had a pretty big voice for a little kid and I loved singing. We performed once for my grandmother's senior center and someone made me a gown to wear. I walked out onto the stage, my mother played the first few notes and I began to sing. As soon as I did, the audience began to laugh. I was only three, but I knew then that I did not like that they were laughing at me. My mother later explained that they laughed because I was so little, and that they were laughing because they were happy. I felt like unless I was making a joke, it didn't feel good to be laughed at.

We all want our children to be those confident kids who don't care what anyone thinks of them, but most kids really do care how others perceive them. I think my two kids care a bit more than they should sometimes. There are times that their concern with how they look or what their will friends say matters too much and can get in the way of them getting out the door in the morning. If something doesn't look or feel just right to my son, he gets really upset. He is more opinionated on fashion than I think a seven year old should be. Both kids are very particular about their clothes and shoes. It can feel impossible at times to find them clothes they will actually like and wear. Suddenly, I have a new found respect for schools with a uniform policy in place. If only I could buy my kids two outfits, and those were their only choices each day.

The seemingly impossible notion of balance keeps popping up. I am honestly not sure that balance is attainable, but I keep trying for it anyway. My goal as a parent is to acknowledge my kid's feelings when insecurities show up, while encouraging them to be who they are and own their choices. This has not yet been fully successful and my kids see through my plans most of the time, but never the less she persisted. I don't give up that easily. If I can get my daughter through her teens years with even a trace amount of self esteem left, we will have accomplished something major. I am hoping for more than just an ounce of confidence, but it's a jungle out there.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Wait For It...

Patience is not a skill that I have mastered. I have improved greatly since living in New York, but I still struggle to let things happen naturally. I hear "be the squeaky wheel" in my head and I can't help but react. It is not easy to know when to sit back, and when to take action. I am learning though where energy is wasted, and where it is helpful. I get irritated when I am standing in a long line at the grocery store, or when food takes a while at a restaurant. I get antsy sitting in traffic, or watching the spinning wheel on a computer screen. I know though that these situations are out of my control. The time is not going to magically reappear so acceptance is my best option.

Being patient is having the ability to remain calm when there is disruption, a disappointment, or distress. When patience is mastered it has a positive side. I've read that the more patient a person is the more sensitive and empathetic they are to those around them. That part makes total sense to me. If I am waiting behind someone who can't find their wallet and needs a few minutes to regroup, I can throw my hands up in irritation, or I can observe the situation and understand that the person in front of me is having a hard time. It could easily be me on a different day, so understanding that helps me take a deep breath and maybe even smile to show that person a little compassion.

Aside from the day-to-day minor irritations, patience is required when in conflict with others. When I am upset or arguing with someone, I still need to hear what they have to say. It can be challenging to resist the temptation to interrupt or to even walk out of the room. At some point or another, lack of patience when upset has occurred for all of us. A few years ago after snapping one too many times at my son, I researched keeping calm in trying times of parenting. I landed on some article that explained that when your child is upset, getting upset with them sends them into a whole other level of upset. To some degree, I agree with that. If my son is sad because someone was a jerk to him, I'll be responding with patience and understanding. If a child was a jerk to my son and then my son is a jerk back, I am going to get upset. This article was saying keep your cool no matter what. I didn't last very long following those instructions. When my buttons get pushed my patience runs thinner.

Of all the times that require patience in life, the most challenging for me is during life's hardships. During major changes, being in the middle of a project that I am struggling with, losing a loved one, are just some examples of when I feel most impatient. Sitting in an uncomfortable moment in time can make me impatient. I am learning, ever so slowly, that it is okay to be uncomfortable sometimes. My tendency is to want to get through the hard parts fast. I like to figure out the quickest way out of discomfort and the reality is sometimes life is sad, frustrating and unclear. My daughter was so unhappy the first few weeks of middle school with not knowing her way around. At some point we all get lost, and that is the way to learn your way back.

I am a little lost these days. Our family has had a few hardships and it is not the easiest time. We are getting through it together, but it may take us all longer than we want it to to feel a sense of normal. I am feeling more patient with myself than I have ever felt before. I see that it is possible to learn skills to be more patient and I am applying them whenever possible. I am also ok losing my patience once in a while. As long as I can find it again.