Thursday, July 12, 2007

Tips From My Mom #2

Lately I have been wondering about the art of raising children. Is it an art or a crap shoot? For the past several days (beginning with an in-depth kitchen conversation with my sister, her husband and his parents) I have discussed the dynamics of the parent/child relationship. How is it possible to give birth to helpless, loving babies and raise them into secure, happy, confident, contributing members of society?

Conversely, how is it possible to give birth to a helpless, loving baby and when all is said and done the adult they become is mean, hateful and generally disagreeable?

Is it something in us at birth that determines the person we will become in spite of surrounding influences. I do not mean a nature/nurture debate per se because I think it is something more than genetic or primal. I wonder if it is something spiritual or karmic speaking to one's essence.

My parents always said that I was their 'happy baby' and I can say that that general mood has prevailed. I feel it to my bones; a gratitude for my family, my friends, the opportunities that have unfolded.

I see this in the children I teach. The inner core of the person they will become is already evident.

Of course outside influences play a huge factor. Our families, culture, society, opportunities, etc. all mingle together to support or eat away at our developing personas. And this brings me back to the point of all of this: How do parents foster positive relationships with their children and in what ways can they ensure that their children will grow into well adjusted, happy adults?

Let's take a look towards my mom for this one.

Never one to push her views on anyone she quietly teaches by example. She exemplifies what it means to be a model others can emulate. Here I am in my 40s and her subtle messages are still unfolding.
  1. Do not judge. As with any family there comes a time when disagreements arise between a parent and a child. When I dyed my hair blond and it came out orange my mom smiled and said "Isn't that interesting". When I decided that I wanted to go to New York University to study acting she (and you too dad) dug in her heels and did everything possible to make my dream a reality. No words about it being a difficult career or perhaps I should go in another direction. Just "what do you need and how can we make it happen".

  2. Let them do what they want. Here is where that ol' lovely demon pops in...guilt. My mother has never, never made any of us feel guilty about choosing to spend time with our friends over her, for not staying home, for not calling. So what did we do? We brought our friends over to hang out, we stayed in, we called. Well, not always but her understanding went a long way towards building positive life-long friendships with each of us.

  3. Acceptance and Understanding. And if there were things she couldn't understand she at least accepted them until she could. What more could you ask? And in return we did the same thing.

  4. Let them see that you are human too. Parents are like Gods to young children, at least mine were. As children grow older that changes. Sometimes drastically. But sharing emotions, thoughts and caring in open conversations allowed us to see the person behind the role of parent. Of course, I never went through a rebellious period but I see that having an open door policy in terms of communication can keep some situations from spinning out of control.

  5. Love them!
So there you have it.

Lead by example.

Simple and utterly complex. Hopefully one day I will get to try this system out for myself from the other side of the looking glass. Until then, I remain ever watchful.
Oh, and keep lots of cookies in the cookie jar!


lettuce said...

simple and utterly complex

- exactly right.
Your mum sounds great, what a lovely and wise mother.

i've been wondering if i'd add to your 5. Nothing immediately comes to mind. except maybe "don't get wound up about little things".

(speaking as someone whos child is at present extremely rebelliious....)

Your family sound great.

MONA said...

How did I miss three posts! :) yet I made up by reading them now :)

This as, others is another wonderful sharing! your mom is beautiful both inside out.

To be a mother is easy. To become one is not so easy. It is the greatest responsibilty in the world. because once the relationship between a child & the mother goes wrong, the child's whole life goes wrong. Motherhood is a great art which one has to learn.
It is great to know that your mom has never made you guilty about you choosing to spend the time with friends over her.That is totally unselfish love that can come from a mother.It is essential that mothers learn never to possess the child.
We must treat a child with respect and also like a grown up. we should not impose anything on them, on the contrary give them freedom to explore.make the child intelligent and alert, but never give him commandments.

Joy said...

Here I go recommending another teacher.

Have you ever read anything by Leo F. Buscaglia? In one PBS special I heard him talk about how he and his siblings had very different views on what their family was like - same environment different perceptions. There may be something in his books that addresses this topic. As with Joey C. it was hearing him speak that moved me to check out the books.

la bellina mammina said...

Very thought provoking. I'll give yourpost much thought Gary.

I would like to add though, that honesty is ALWAYS, ALWAYS important too.

Junk Thief said...

I've known so many cranky, mean people with wonderful parents and absolute saints who came from dysfunctional, abusive families. And then there are other families where everyone seems so kind and sane. But coming from good stock surely gives one a head start on leading a more productive, meaningful life. Your family sounds so wonderful, though I am sure like any healthy one there are disagreements.

Gary said...

Lettuce this whole conversation began because my sister is clashing with her 16 year old daughter who is also going through the rebellious stage, much like your LG finding her way in the world but still playing in a box :) A difficult time. What is it between mothers and daughters -that's another topic I have been discussing lately. Thanks for adding to the list. I am sure there are tons of things that should be added and yours is one of them.

Mona, thanks for coming back. I am actually still pondering your last post and wrote this one about my mother directly after reading Help! Am I delusional? You bring up some deep thoughts. Things I sit around and talk about with my friend Joy. Anyway, as a mother I am sure you know more about raising a child than I ever could. I defer to you and Lettuce in this area.

Oh no Joy. Are you introducing me to another teacher that will change my perspective on life? I am still learning from Joe. Do you own any of Leo's books? Pack 'em. Thanks again BFF.

La Bellina how could I have forgotten honesty? Mona and Lettuce have also added some to the short list. Do I see Tips From My Mom #3 formulating?

Junk Thief you are correct in assuming that there were rough times and hurdles that we as a family had to cope with. I think more than anything our love for one another (and respect) has been our saving grace. Nowadays the biggest disagreements are between my twin brother and I.

Joy said...

There's a book packed in the lovely lime-green suitcase already. I wanted to give you a couple of years alone with J.C. before moving on to Leo. Too much is overwhelming. ;) Clearly you are ready now.

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Who said that? Yoda? Hmmm.

Reya Mellicker said...

I've seen a pic of that cookie jar before, yes? It's scary and fabulous!

How I wish more parents would think about the art/science/crapshoot of parenting BEFORE breeding! Yikes.

As for myself, I was born miserable, became unhappy, then neutral, and finally, happy. I grow happier every year. Weird, isn't it?

Gary said...

Reya - the progression you detail is better than being born happy and becoming more miserable with each passing year. Glad to know that happiness has found you.
And yes, the cookie jar was on my sidebar but thought it worked well with this post. It makes me happy.

d. chedwick bryant said...

Gary--I just saw this post this morning and freaked out a little when I got to the photo of the cookie jar.
(see my post which I just posted and tell me... what is going on?)

d. chedwick bryant said...

my parents did advise us a lot, but they really treated us all as individuals and with respect. I can recall thinking they had an awful lot to put up with from us sometimes.

florecita said...

I love your mom!!!!!! You are bliss with her love!!!! Namaste, Pat.

florecita said...

I mean you are blessed!!!!!! LOL

WAT said...

Man, I wish my parents had raised me in that fashion. UGH! Well, if I ever decide to breed or adopt some of those mini-humans I will do my best to not make my parents' mistakes.

But I dunno. Life is so much simpler and nice being independent. At least, for the time being.

Merle Sneed said...

Gary, whoever said having children is offering hostages to fate was right. I like the advice you Mom gave and the example she set.

With kids you never know what they will become ultimately. We have one with a doctorate, one with two master's degrees and one who is an inmate. Same family, same parents, same opportunities. At the end of the day all I can do is look back with the satisfaction that I did the best I could.

Gary said...

Ched, respect is another good one.

Florecita I think bliss works well too. You know my mom reads this blog and the comments and she will love yours. Right mom?

Funny you should mention learning from mistakes. When my mom and I talked about this post she said the reason she did the things she did (like never making any of us feel guilty about going out or not spending time with her) was because she did not want to repeat the practies of her and my fathers parents. You are still young yet and have a while to think about parenting yourself.

Merle thanks for sharing a bit of your story. I find it so interesting how children 'turn out'. I guess what is all comes down to is doing the best we can. I had not heard of that quote "hostages of fate" but it is so true.

MONA said...

Hi Gary! Hope you are having a good weekend :)

& I was thinking, how does one get to make that fabulous neckline of your mom's dress...[ dont laugh, I am seriously considering making one like that]

She looks as smart as Jackie Kennedy!

Gary said...

Mona, I just called my mom after reading your message and she did laugh, but only because she has trouble sewing on a button and can not answer that question. LOL. But I think you have a good idea there - the picture was taken around 1960 or 1961 but retro is in! Good luck. If you make the dress you must let me see a picture of it.
Have a good weekend.

Pod said...

lovely lovely mum
a jar full of cookies wins my heart hands down
i had a funny dream of you and lettuce (not a rude one!)......

Gary said...

Do tell Poddy, I want to know more...

Salty Miss Jill said...

Would you mind if I shared this list with the parenting groups I facilitate? Your parents sound so wonderful. :)
Thanks for posting!

Gary said...


Please go ahead and share away, how flattering. I am curious to know how this is welcomed. (Sorry I took so long to respond but I was away.)


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