I like when my children sit still with me and rate me how am doing (and how I have done) in my role as a parent.
There is nothing like the brutal honesty of your own child to see things from a new perspective. What intrigues me most is the different vantage points. Add that to "what I know" about myself and the errors of my ways and I think I've got a decent perspective on how I've rated over the years.
My oldest son tells me the truth. Time and time again. My mom loved him unconditionally. He knew that as a child and he knows it now. I missed the memo on mother/baby bonding and I did it wrong. I did it all so very wrong. No matter what has transpired between then and now, my son's heart feels that lack of bonding and unconditional, unwavering love.
I get it. I truly do. I was so very young and naive and just plain stupid. Yes, I know that is the wrong way to describe myself. But the truth of the matter, is that it is the truth. I was seventeen years old and I didn't know anything. I didn't love anyone more than myself in those days and I didn't care too much for myself at the time, so you can only imagine what was not left over to give my baby boy.
My middle son has memories of the tirades between him and me. The one he quotes (but there are oh, so many more) is the time I said, "If you slam that door one more time, I'm taking it off". He proceeded to test my ability to follow through and apparently I did what I said I would do. He tells me I was right to be strict because he was well aware that he was in need of discipline.
We have the ability to talk of everything these days. I do believe he got a better mother than his older brother did. I learned to love outside of myself by the time he was born and he felt the difference. As angry as I got, I think he knew I had his back. And he had mine. An incident with a parent of one of his friends when he was a teen, drove that point home. It is mutual, this thing called "love".
My youngest son has not quite reached the point of adulthood and we have had no skirmishes that I can recall. We have had such an easy going relationship. There are no demands, there have been no shouting matches, we speak to each other with kindness and respect. It is amazing. It is a gift.
Recently, he "hit a wall" and had no idea which way to turn. He just knew he had reached a breaking point with his expectations of himself and he couldn't maintain them. So he stopped dead in his tracks and "quit". He may have quit school at that point if it was a viable option. His older brother did (quit school) and if I had known then, what I know now, I would have acted and reacted so differently.
One child taught me what I needed to know to raise the next. And so on and so forth. Oh, how I wish I had had a practise child. There are so many things I would do differently.
My youngest son sat with me yesterday as we watched over my little daycare family together. He reminisced about what he thought and felt when he was little. He remembered my hands off style of parenting.
I never doted or cajoled over any one of my children. I treated them much the way I treat my little daycare family at the park. I will not lift them up to any precipice they cannot reach on their own. I don't push them beyond their own limits. When they reach a point that is scary to them, I don't lift them up and over it. I stand close so I can catch them if they fall and urge them to feel their way down to safety. If they know how to reach solid ground on their own, I can trust them to try new things.
My son said he didn't like that feeling at the time, but he said he realizes now that it was the right thing to do.
He told me he watches how parents discipline their children as he rides the bus to and from school each day. He compares and contrasts "their way" with "my way". He agrees with my methods and justifies other parent's methods because they are not running a daycare and/or they are sitting on a bus with others watching so perhaps they are being lenient.
I am 36-1/2 years into this parenting gig and I'm finally getting a passing grade. Maybe I should have opened my daycare first...