I never believed in first love at first, but with all of my kids, it was just that.
So instant, so pure, so real, so strong. The love consumed my heart to the point that the overflow would make me emotional and achy at the same time.
There are so many lessons my children have taught me, and I want to share the key ones because perhaps they can help you explore the things your kids are teaching you.
I went into motherhood with a very closed-minded approach. You know, thinking solely about how to raise my children, what to teach them, how to guide them, thinking they are going to do as I say, giving them that mama look when they get out of place, all of that.
The way I saw it, if I offered a hug here and a kiss there, if I loved them, fed them, provided for them, got them involved in activities, and tried and do some things different that were done in my childhood, I’d do just fine by them.
The truth of the matter is, my three kids are my biggest teachers and clearest mirrors of who I am really am, who I could be—my flaws, my insecurities, and my strengths.
In all honesty, I never wanted to be a mom. Well, not really never. I went through that phase like most girls, writing down your kids’ names, pretending my baby-dolls were my real babies, stuff like that. But it wasn’t huge thing on my to-do list to be a mom or wife. I figured one day I would be a mom because that seemed to be the natural thing to do when you get older.
By the time I was a teenager though, and still in my early adulthood, the concept of being a parent stopped being something I didn’t want, and started being something that scared the hell out of me.
That fear came from two particular things:
First, I had (and still do have) a strained relationship with my mother. My biggest fear was doing to my children what was done to me.
Second was not knowing how to mother correctly. My view of being a parent was twisted. And as for marriage, I had no desire to be married because I figured if my parents could divorce after so many years, more than likely so would I, so why bother? It would never work.
Never say never.
By 22, I was having my first baby, had my second by 25, and my third by 30; what a journey it has been!
But not just a journey into motherhood; but a journey into womanhood and adulthood as well.
It turns out there was more to being a mom than the Do as I say and not as I do part.
There was more to being a mom than just being physically around them.
There was more to being a mom than me just talking and them just doing.
There was more to being a mom than getting them involved in extracurricular activities.
This became a struggle for me because there were things I hadn’t yet addressed that would directly affect the way I mothered, but wanted to keep it that way until I felt ready to deal with them.
Once I found out I was pregnant, I accepted my role and new lifestyle as a mother, I just didn’t expect for the change of lifestyle to be one that required so much deep digging from within. I mean, I stopped going out, kept consistent work, all of that good stuff, what more did they want from me?
They just wanted me; a better me.
My kids have pointed out to me so many things to me, many of them I’ve ignored, overlooked, or decided it was what it was, and that I just wasn’t going to change.
Tell me if this sounds familiar:
You yell at your children about their room being junky, and add (screaming) that you don’t know where they got being messy from. After all the yelling, you turn to go into your room only to walk into what was obviously a storm you must have slept through. Yeah, that’s me.
Or this one:
You yell at them for not tightening the lid on something they opened, mostly because you’re that you’ve got to clean the mess that the container’s spilled contents cause. Five minutes later, their dad is visibly annoyed at you over the same thing as he cleaning up the mess from you not tightening the lid. Yep, that’s me too.
Those are just the small things, but it is funny how kids emulate what we do, good or bad. And how we show them, by example, whether to be accountable for our actions, or just sweep messes under the proverbial rug.
They may not always come out and say it, but our children call us out on our stuff just as much as we call them out on theirs.
That reality taught me that I can’t hide under my authority and title of a mother and just use it the any way I want. I have to hold myself accountable, and that takes work.
My oldest child, my daughter, is my teacher on self-love. They say she is the spitting image of me, and while I don’t see that, I do see that she makes the same mistakes I made as a child, and in some cases as an adult. That irks me. A lot! I’ve realized that a big part of why I get so mad is because she shows me things I need to change. But instead of me changing, I try to get her to change. And she doesn’t. Indirectly I show her one thing, which is opposite from what I tell her.
I know the frustrations I have toward her are really the frustrations I have towards myself for not fixing these issues, and for feeling that I’ve passed these tendencies on to her. I also know that I’m frustrated by feeling like my shortcomings are being thrown in my face (by her actions), which is causing me to have to deal with it.
I often wondered how I will be able to teach her to fix something if I don’t even know how to fix myself. I would really be so upset at myself, and in hindsight, I realize that I expected a child to do something in 13 years that I have yet to do or starting to do in 35 years.
To accept my daughter is to accept myself; to hug her is to hug myself, to talk to her is to talk to myself; to help her change her is to change myself. I can’t expect her to be anything that I am not, and if I do then I need to lay a great foundation on which to inspire her. But she also inspires and teaches me. For example, she is the queen of kindness! She is naturally sweet and considerate, and only she can take the credit for that. Her being in my life gives me a chance to see myself for who I am, and to change what I have the ability to change.
My second child, also my daughter, is my teacher on understanding. I could extend her list to some other characteristics like risk-taking, and keep me staying on my toes, because she is a different kind of child. She has her father’s ways, my moodiness, all mixed with a super dose of curiosity, emotions and sensitivity.
She will do something she has no business doing, knowing that if she’s caught will led her to getting into trouble. She does what she wants, fully aware of the consequences, but she can’t take the consequence of her wrongdoing when she is caught. And she always gets caught.
She was defiant since infancy; every transition was a struggle. My oldest, for example, smoothly transitioned from breastfeeding to bottle feedings, to solid foods. My second daughter, however, didn’t want to drink from the bottle after being breastfeed. I had to take an additional week of maternity leave to get her on the bottle because she refused to eat while I was at work.
And even though she eventually transitioned, for a while with solid food, just as quickly as you put the food in her mouth, it was rejected, and ended up on the floor, clothes, furniture, or walls. She wouldn’t even eat meat for her first year. She had her own mind, and she used it assertively.
I always said to her ‘I don’t understand why you do this if you know what is going to happen!’ I have learned though, to try and understand her and her way of thinking. Not to excuse her actions, but to figure her out, so I can talk to her in a way she understands.
As hard as it can get, she is still so loving. I understand that most times she does what she does for attention, even if the attention is bad. That is her way of crying out for something if her needs aren’t met; I get that now. So sometimes instead of getting upset with her, I have to evaluate whether I’m meeting a particular need as her mother.
I also realized that sometimes the attention was her way of trying to be recognized as her own person, and to show me that what I did for her sister was not the same approach to use on her. She was fighting for her identity within a space where she being pushed to go another way. A natural-born rebel, explorer and leader with a wild imagination and tons of creative energy. I see all of that in her now, instead of just calling her defiant, or labeling her as ‘bad.’
I’m beginning to understand her inner workings without judgment.
In doing so, I also get to notice the good in her. She is a nurturer and seeks touch as affirmation that she is loved. The understanding that I am learning from her is the same understanding I need in my business when working with women with various issues, which invites compassion into the mix. Ironic how everything fits together!
My last child is my son. He is the son I always wanted on the few occasions I considered having kids. I always wanted a big brother, I am the oldest and so I always hoped if I did have kids, I would have a son first. I got my son five years later, and I can (jokingly) say, be careful what you wish for.
My son is my teacher in patience. First off, boys are something different. Then add on being the spoiled baby boy, along with some developmental delays, and you’ve got some stuff I simply was not prepared for. My son is extremely smart but he is behind in his development and gross motor skills. There are some other issues, and I truly believe that something happened at his birth with the delivery at the fault of the doctor, but that is another story in itself.
The good news is that every test has come back normal, and Autism has been ruled out for the moment. He learns and develops at his own rate, and is very advanced at so many things! He has been growing through his delays with great strides and for that we are all happy.
Due to his developmental delays, he has to see a physical therapist, occupational therapist, neurologist, pediatrician, and ophthalmologist. We are at the doctors numerous times a year for evaluations and tests since he was three months old to the present. He had to undergo many procedures that were very painful, and very hard for his mind and body to comprehend.
Those challenges, coupled with him being my baby boy, a bit of a monster has been created. He received special treatment and got his way a lot, and it quickly went from being cute to being disastrous. One minute he’s smiling, wooing you with his dimples. Next minute, he’s doing something off the wall.
I observed him a lot, and eventually, it became clear. When his dad is home he is a different kid, very well-behaved. That is when I knew that my son knows what he is doing in those instances, and despite his development delays, he is not lacking smarts. It was an eye-opener of how his behavioral issues reflected my fears—specifically, my fears around how I was raising him because he had development delays. I couldn’t sweep everything under the ruf of ‘Oh, he didn’t know better!’ or ‘He doesn’t understand.’
That meant I had to patiently see that I was creating his reality based on the labels that came with his development, and not taking the time to see him for who he actually was and is: a super independent, funny little guy who loves cars.
Anybody who knows me knows I am very impatient. Extremely. So having to develop patience when dealing with my son has been an interesting experience, medically, mentally, and emotionally. I can’t approach him the same way I did my girls. It was a new lifestyle and the experience, needs and circumstances was totally different; I needed to come to terms with that.
But even though his development is less and less of an issue, like I said, boys are different. Very rambunctious, very rough, very loud, very boy. With him, I had to learn to take things slow, to not be so reactive.
Actually, patience forces me to be present with myself. It also teaches me to be present in my relationships with others, which also means confronting things instead of running from things and making assumptions.
Through learning about mothering my son, I now see that I have to take in the scene, not get too wrapped up in my emotions, and not let myself get so overwhelmed that I revert to my shell.
Through my son especially, I got to practice shifting from a mindset of the things I have to do (as if they are jobs or a burden) over to what I get to do (as it is a pleasure and an honor) as a mom.
Collectively, my kids have taught me resilience, strength, compassion, and greater self awareness.
They taught me that I am not my mother in the way that I thought, and that I am my mother in ways I didn’t think about (good and bad). And all of that is alright. I am growing. I create my own mommy template to fit their individual needs, and to act in ways that resonate with what works with me.
For my kids to be better, to be taught and act accordingly, it doesn’t all lie in what I say but also in what I do, and how I do it, wrapped up in who I decide to be.
They are my squad, a true reflection of me, making me a better woman, a better mom, all while working my nerves, making me angry, making me smile, making my day, and loving me unconditionally as I get it right. They are teaching me as I teach them. Through my children—my teachers– I am becoming the mother I needed.
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