Friday, March 2, 2012

What Will They Remember?

My brother follows my thoughts in this blog, which is absolutely wonderful since we're so far away from each other.  Anyway, he just wondered aloud about what his children are going to take from the parenting style/choices that he and his partner have chosen.  Stay tuned!  In about 10-15 years you might have the hint of an idea as to the answer.  As soon as I saw his question I realized that this is the thing that plagues us - no immediate affirmation that what we are doing is going to achieve our objectives.  If I give X amount of chores for them to do, will it build a strong work ethic and sense of responsibility or will it turn them against me and increase their desire to be couch potatoes?  If I maintain the expectation that they continue their music lessons am I teaching perseverance and commitment or am I setting up a scenario for rebellion and eventually a full out music boycott?  If I hold out and don't buy the most recent gaming system am I helping them develop their own creativity and holding the wave of adult like influences at bay or am I merely setting up a scenario where they over indulge when they are at their friend's house and ensure that they never want to invite their friends over to our place (we don't have enough cool stuff)?  Ugh!

The list of these queries is long, perhaps endless.  I do know that I feel slightly better when I am able to describe the values that are driving our choices.  I also feel better and feel like there is the possibility of lasting impact, when I know that I'm consistent with my behavior and there's.  For example, when the boys were little, I would tell them to get out and exercise, enjoy the fresh air, get away from the t.v.  If the value and life lesson that I wanted them to remember was physical health and active living then I should have shared that message from somewhere else other than the couch.  A couple of years ago, I started going to the gym on a regular basis and invited my youngest son to be my gym buddy.  That was a great turning point in our relationship.  It turned out that he could hold me accountable to what I said was important AND I got to interact with him using our bodies and just being together instead of a bunch of talky talk.  Similarly, our boys are both very sensitive to other people and pretty appreciative of what they have in life.  I know and they have confirmed this for me, that it is a result, in part, of them having two parents who work in social services.  We've invited them to volunteer in a variety of ways since they were 4 or 5.  They also see us caring about other people in little ways, donating to causes that are important to us, bringing food to sick friends or shoveling the walk for our elderly neighbor. 

We talk about our values.  We live them out in visible, real ways.  We invite them to live them out with us.  We still don't know what all will "stick" with them but we can rest easier knowing that we weren't hypocritical or offering mixed messages.  They will very likely live out what we try to teach in ways different from us. They can make different choices and still retain the values that we shared. I firmly believe that what we do has just as much impact, if not more, than what we say.   Arrested Development has a song that I LOVE called, "Mama's Always On Stage".

"Words of wisdom should be ways of wisdom!
That's exactly how u must walk.
Life's too short your missions too dire.
Nurture another mind before yours expires.
...But mama don't sleep your lifes a turnin' page mama's
always on
stage!"        (By Speech)

They are watching, learning and remembering.

1 comment:

  1. Have been struggling with this question for awhile:

    "If I maintain the expectation that they continue their music lessons am I teaching perseverance and commitment or am I setting up a scenario for rebellion and eventually a full out music boycott?"

    My husband and I know that having music in our lives as children was important and are grateful that our parents insisted we practice even though we didn't usually like to do it. I can only hope that our boys will feel the same when they are older!!