I have a friend who was injured a few weeks ago at a competition. There is a possibility that her knee may never fully recover, meaning she would not be able to perform at that level again. There is a lot of uncertainty at the moment and the fear of losing something she loves, her sport to start.
As a mother she is struggling to wade through her emotions with her two young daughters watching on. Intuitively she knows she needs to let her emotions flow but fear grips her as she sees the glances and their own tears when she cries and hits the walls of anger. She wants to protect them and be an example of strength and resilience.
Being a woman and mother today is difficult. You would think it would be easier with technology and the ability to connect – but it seems that instead of being an opportunity to share and release, it offers the spotlight to compare ourselves and worse, judge ourselves.
In an attempt to calm some of her fears I shared with her that after my mom passed away in 2012, I cried everyday. I cried (what felt like) all day. I just cried. I would sit with my roll of toilet paper and just sob. Sometimes, my eyes closed, trying to take deep breaths to attempt to create a dam so I could have some relief, the tears fell like a faucet you didn’t quite turn all the way off, slow and steady. My face burned.
I remember talking with someone and saying “I’m just crying…what is going to happen to my kids?”
What I have always believed and over the last few years have learned is that our children learn the most from us when we are brave enough to be authentically ourselves. Learning doesn’t come from what we know – that’s why it’s called learning. Learning comes from taking a step into a space of unknown and being willing to be open and sponge like – absorbing new ideas, information and lessons that can potentially help us.
I want my kids to be learners and seekers. I want them to be ok with things they don’t know, and to have courage to admit that they need help. I want them to know that learning isn’t always pretty. Sometimes it can look beautiful and fun, full of excitement and joy. But then there is learning that is difficult and painful, doesn’t feel worth it or worth the discomfort. There is learning that is often far from your comfort zone. Sometimes so far, you don’t know if you will make it back.
Being willing to go down these paths of growth and learning requires both courage and faith. Courage in yourself and faith in what you have already built as a foundation within your children. Trust that, no matter what the outcome – there is opportunity, for both of you.
I encouraged her to just be honest with the girls. It’s what I have done with my kids. It’s not an unusual thing for my kids to hear a version of the following:
“I’m ok. I’m just sad.”
“I’m really sorry, I want to (insert activity) but I really need to rest.”
“You know when I said (insert angry words), I was really upset and should have taken some time before I talked with you. I’m really sorry, it’s not ok for anyone to talk to you that way. Can we talk about it now and maybe I can explain?”
My goal is to be my best as much of the time as I can while I weave in honoring myself and my needs and embracing who I am. And who I am is human who is flawed and growing. I am a woman with a story that is unfolding over time. That doesn’t stop because I have children. It just means they are now part of my story.
And it is my hope that moving toward being more of myself and more authentic with them I can teach them the following:
I want to show them that the label ‘parent’ should be taken seriously and responsibly but isn’t another way of saying ‘I know everything and make no mistakes’ – because then we never end the epidemic of perfectionism, judgement and lack of self forgiveness.
I don’t want them to fear the very emotions that create parts of life; sadness, anger, frustration and disappointment. I want them to feel fully so they can use those to propel themselves toward happiness, lessons, solutions and new opportunities. When we try to bypass what is perceived as negative, we often bypass what it was trying to teach us and more importantly, what it is trying to give us.
And most of all, I want them to love their families fiercely and I know that the only way they will be able to do that fully is by deeply loving and embracing themselves, their needs and desires, within the confines of taking care of everyone else.
I tried to convey this to my friend; when we are fully ourselves, living authentically – in both the joy and the sorrow is when we likely will teach our children the very most important lesson of all:
To be that themselves.