Sunday, May 18, 2014

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Listen to them and let them speak

 I had a rough childhood for a lot of reasons. The short of it is that being in a combined family Brady-Bunch situation seldom is the thing that children remember fondly. By biggest beef with my childhood is that people just. didn't. listen.  To anything. You were a child. You were to be seen when it was convenient. You were not to be heard. You were not to feel. You were not to complain.

Now I dare say that my upbringing was better than that of our parents, who were allowed even less freedom of thought and action. I.e. we were fed and clothed well. We had all the educational opportunities they could provide. So as far as they were concerned, they were doing a bang-up job.  But it did not feel good. At all.

My brother, after staying with my family a couple of months proceeded to analyze my parenting style. He said, "I've noticed that you set out to NOT raise your kids the way we were raised... You accomplished that".  His comments were mostly complimentary.  I know he thinks the girl child is too mouthy and needs to be sternly reprimanded, but there was a lot of admiration in his comment.

He was right. I did set out to not do what I did not like about my upbringing. I was not heard as a child, and barely heard as a young adult... well into my twenties. So even if it meant hearing my kids say things to me that were uncomfortable to hear, I let them speak their minds, always.  I gave
thought to what they said and allowed them their feelings, right or wrong. In doing so, it appears that I brought up some kids that I really like. I really, really, really like them. It is my pleasure to provide for them. It is my honor to care for them, even as they begin to age out of the age of parental covering.

Listening to children doesn't mean being overrun by children. It doesn't mean being disrespected. It doesn't mean being a foot stool.  It just means giving them permission to speak their minds and their hearts. It means letting them be upset and saying so. It means letting them be joyful and  over-excited even at the risk of a little parental embarrassment.  It means letting them be kids. In all that, I was still a stern-enough parent. They knew to behave in the toy store and to not nag in the candy aisle. I think perhaps saying yes most of the time made the NO's more definite?

While I from time to time begrudge my upbringing, I do not regret it. Without it, would I have been the parent I am? Would I have remembered so strongly the importance of a child having a voice? Would I have been so keenly aware that kids are just adults in training with emotions and frustrations? Would I have given them the freedom to express themselves? Probably not.  And so I am glad.

I just pray that they in turn provide their kids the same freedom of expression (whenever that happens... not rushing anything).  I also pray that whoever reads this gives it serious thought and asks themselves... Did I allow my child to express their feelings today?


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