What a mischief of our child can tell us about ourselves
This Wednesday, my sister-in-law and myself went to visit a dear friend in the French part of Switzerland.
We were able to leave our kids at home; I only took my sweet three-year old with me.
While we were sitting in the garden having a delicious meal, enjoying each other’s company, my boy played with my friend’s dog; he loved to follow him everywhere, to pet him and to hold him tight
Time for dessert; our wonderful friend went inside and came back with an empty syrup bottle:
“Your boy has just emptied this bottle on my carpet while we were eating!”
I couldn’t believe it!
I followed my friend inside, where indeed… there was syrup all over the carpet!
I was so embarrassed.
It is one thing when our children do something like that at home.
But as Isabelle Filliozat says in her book “Il n’y a pas de parent parfait” (There is no perfect parent):
“In public, everything gets complicated: The eyes of others are there, our children have to behave well! We are all the more unhappy with their shortcomings because we imagine that this external view is severe. Are we so afraid of judgment? As if our children’s escapades were talking about us. More than just a simple mistake, the child damages our image! We imagined the stigma attached to us. When the child is noticed, feelings of parental guilt are never far away.”
Isn’t that true?
Well, in this situation, I felt that way. I couldn’t believe it!
Many thoughts were racing through my mind. Feelings of disbelief, embarrassment and guilt.
“He wouldn’t do something like that!?”
Then, as we went to see the crime scene, and I saw the syrup on the carpet, I was filled with wonder:
“How could he even do that? I can’t believe he did that (to me)!”
I didn’t really know what to say.
After a while, the idea came up, and we asked my little boy the one good question:
“Why did you do that!?”
He answered, visible happy and proud of himself:
“The dog – I shared some syrup with the dog …!”
Now, we marveled. So that’s what he was doing! He wasn’t a nasty boy, being rude and emptying the bottle of syrup on the carpet! Instead… he loved syrup and thought the dog would love it as well!
I would like to share with you a few points I took out of that little story:
- As we saw here, our reactions toward our children are not neutral. Yes, we react to what they do – but mostly,
our reaction is rather to what it does with us.
In this case, being at a friend’s home, I felt embarrassed.
As Filliozat sais in her book, we feel that our children will damage our image by their behavior. Depending on if our identity is firm or fragile, we react more or less strongly if this image is in danger to be damaged.
And we all know… if shame rises up inside of us, we aren’t capable anymore to think and act wisely. We quickly do and say things we regret afterwards.
- The fear of judgement from an outside source is often a great factor on how we react to our children. What does this person think of my capacity as a mother, if my boy is behaving that way?
I could have thought: Now I have to show that I have my little boy under control! – and tried to show it by disciplining him right away.
- Our belief about our children will greatly influence the way we respond too.
In the story above I told my friend: I don’t understand… I don’t know my boy as someone who is doing such things! That’s the reason I didn’t reprove him right away. The way I saw my boy made me ask him calmly (but I guess with some urgency in my voice) :”Why did you do that!?!” His answer “The dog – I shared some syrup with the dog …!” unlocked, eased the whole situation.
- There are many more situations where our reactions toward our children are not neutral.
What about moments when we are tired, worried, have personal struggles or are in a hurry?
I find myself time and again confronted to the fact that it is more difficult to react lovingly and wise in such moments.
I once more realized how important it is to raise our children with a consciousness of our humanity. A consciousness that our reactions toward our children may be much more than just a “right, educational way of raising them”.
The more we grow in our personal identity, the more we are able to act out of love and wisdom, rather than reacting to our own damaged image, fear of judgement, or erroneous view of our children.
This is a journey. On this journey, we will do many a mistake. However, if we have the openness to learn, to question our reactions, and if we are willing and open to listen to our children… we can grow together with our children and strengthen our bond with them.