I’ve long felt that one of the greatest challenges and responsibilities of being a mom is knowing my kids.
The phrase “I know you better than you know yourself” applies in perfect context to the tiny people who reside under my jurisdiction because I literally do.
I know their triggers. Their buttons. Their tendencies.
Every time my girls react to something (whether positive or negative, although these conversations usually take place on the corrective side of the spectrum), it’s first my responsibility to figure out what they are feeling for them. Then, I’ve got to teach them the words to those feelings. And finally, I have to help them embrace strategies to deal with and/or or process those feelings.
So many feelings. Jake loves it.
What a task though, isn’t it? Especially in this phase of discipline and correction and teaching, it feels so crucial to be a constant student of my kids. What makes them happy? What kind of attention are they trying to get from me? What triggers their negative behavior? What drives them crazy? What energizes them?
These are all questions I work to answer on a daily basis.
Maybe I’m thinking about it so much because I read this in a really great book recently:
Children come into the world not knowing who they are. They learn who they are from those around them.¹
As if I wasn’t already feeling enough pressure.
It’s funny though, because the more I think about my girls and their own various tendencies and needs, the more I begin to think about my own.
For instance, when I see Lily’s tendency to meltdown if she spends too much time in large groups of people, I am reminded of my own introverted need to spend time alone in order to recharge.
When I see Norah’s sadness when left out by her big sister, I’m reminded of the times when I’ve quietly given way to self-pity.
When I see Lily shut down because she picked up on a negative tone in my voice, I’m reminded of my own keen ability to perceive people’s feelings and even keener ability to let them affect me.
I guess I’m finding that the better I know myself, the better I am able to know my kids and help them work through our shared personality traits and downfalls. Similarly, it helps to know Jake, too.
(Goodness knows their joint attempts to sneak out of the house weren’t inherited from me.)
The more I think about this, the more I’m reminded of the cyclical nature of being known. I’ll never fully know my kids or Jake just as I will never fully know myself. There’s no arrival point. As the landscape of our life continues to change, so do we.
We’re still in the thick of the hard work of the middle (which I suspect is really just the constant state of parenting), and my commitment to starting these early chapters off right for my girls remains firm.
And with that comes the added commitment to know them well. To continually know them well. Is there really any other place to start when you’re the ones tasked with teaching them to know themselves?
This parenting gig is not for the faint of heart.
Thankfully, I know this about myself: I love a good challenge and find solving problems exhilarating.
(Just kidding. That’s a pretty good description of Jake. I tend to freak when things don’t go according to plan. But at least I know that about myself, right?)
¹ Katherine C. Kersey as quoted in Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, Energetic by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka