I taught preschool years ago and noticed that almost every parent worried about their child and compared them with other children. The children that cracked me up, lifted my heart, and amazed me could be such a source of worry for their parents! I was constantly reassuring parents that their child was fine, a little quirky maybe, but fine. Some kids start writing their names when they're tiny, and they just love making letters. Some love to climb, to be with animals, to draw. There are children who don't even need their house 'baby-proofed' and others who create chaos wherever they go.
From the moment we first meet our children, we can see glimpses of their individuality. I hate to generalize about parenting, but I think it's probably true that every parent finds some things about their child delightful and finds other things really hard. And the delightful things can be pretty closely related to the hard ones. Sometimes we can see seeds of wonderful strengths in our children's challenges.
My natural tendency is a bit critical, focusing on what needs to be fixed. It's been important for me to cultivate more of the delight. I want my children to know that when I see them, it makes me smile. That it's not their ability to fit in or be 'good' that makes me love and admire them, it's just their presence. I want them to know that I appreciate the whole mess of who they are, that even when they overshoot the delightful use of their gift and cross into being annoying or foolhardy, I adore them.
So when I'm feeling frustrated or negative, I look deeply into the behaviors or qualities that are bothering me. This deep look reveals a hidden gift, an underlying truth about my child (Reactivity may have a hidden gift of sensitivity and empathy. Defiance may be rooted in an innate ability to lead). Once I see it, I can hold it in my heart and nurture my awareness of it. Sometimes I can mirror it back to my child, helping him to recognize this part of himself, to embrace the positive side and know that it is seen. Can you discover a hidden gift in your own child today?
I'm a mom, wife, daughter, friend, and teacher who has long struggled with the desire to be the perfect person I imagine that I should be. Practicing mindfulness has changed my life, helping me to make peace with myself as I truly am and to appreciate my family, life, and the world as they actually are.