Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Category: goals (page 1 of 3)

Imperfect Parenting and the River of Goodness

One of my greatest parenting successes has been convincing my children that a trip to IKEA’s “Smaland” is barely a step down from COSI. We treat it like a museum or McDonald’s PlayPlace – an event designed around their fun. (Little do they know, mama is accumulating a cart full of garlic presses and organizational bins.)

So on the Random Friday With No School, I decided a trip would be the best use of our time. JJ was off to other productive work, so all 4 kiddos and I headed to Canton. The lady working Smaland was less than excited to see me (she tried to exclude both my youngest and my oldest, but we easily fell within the height requirements on all fronts), probably because we take up 2/3 of the available kid allotment. They had fun not jumping in the balls, and I found the necessary non-brass light fixture. The kids opted for lunch in the Ikea cafe, so we headed upstairs.

Prior to walking through the line, we had a team meeting to clarify expectations: once food was ordered and on a plate, there was no changing of the minds. Everyone executed.  The line was a tad tricky, and we made it through without tears until we sat down and the youngest discovered that french fries had not come with the meatballs he requested. Mama was going to share, but there was no convincing him of anything. Trading plates of meatballs didn’t work. I couldn’t just take the other kids’ food – I’ve learned this the hard way. You just end up with more tears. The other kids were looking at me, waiting as patiently as possible for ketchup while the baby of the family melted into a puddle on the chair. And in my arms.

It was clear there was nothing I could do to save the day. I was powerless until he actually put some food in his belly and overcame the Hangry. I couldn’t leave him to get the ketchup. I couldn’t get him to settle down.

And then, the oldest took a handful of his fries and laid them on his brother’s plate. The other two kids followed suit. They dished off food until the tears stopped. We were finally able to fetch the condiments without nasty looks.

While I had maintained most of my composure during The Episode, I know my Bigs felt the energy of my defeat and frustration. For the rest of the meal, my oldest was beyond helpful, refilling water and ketchup without being asked. He hugged me no less than 4 times.

In the midst of their mama’s powerlessness, my kids stepped up. They realized that to make the best of the situation, they would all have to come together and help one another. This is a lesson they could never learn if I were to continually make the problems go away.

I can preach to them that we belong to one another or tell them to serve and love using more than their words. These will be quotes on a printable until I give them opportunity to put on shoes and take the ideas for a run. Without the chance to do it, they may never know what it feels like to live their values, which we all know is a whole lot different than simply believing something.

I’ve never felt like a perfect parent, and I’m confident my kids are aware of my flaws, so “imperfect parenting” isn’t just about me and my shortcomings. I’ve heard other parents talk about how in our mistakes we can show our kids grace and the need for forgiveness. But I think accepting our imperfections has wider implications.

To parent imperfectly means to stop filling 100% of the holes for my kids and let them learn how to clean up a leak. I think we should give them a chance to let their heart whisper “hey, go get a towel!” and then allow them to feel the sense of goodness that comes from doing a good thing that has grown from their own place in the world.

What if kids learned to trust their ability to do what is right and good?  What if they learned they actually have the capacity to change a situation, even if it’s only in the enjoyment of a meal as a family? Isn’t that still something worth doing?

Goodness is like a stream running throughout the universe. Sometimes we’re swimming in it, and sometimes we’re not. But I’m not sure the Goodness River is something that you can toss your kids into; they have to learn to jump. As a parent, the best thing I can do is to dive in as often as I can, and assure them that they’ll float when I see them standing on the banks, contemplating a swim. And, as they come up from under the waters, greet them with a smile that shows them how proud you are that they’ve decided to take the plunge.

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Just know this

Every parent wants goodness for their children, even if we’re all a tad misguided as to what those good things might be. Lately I’ve been trying to focus in on a few key things. If I could make sure my children know these things before they leave my home, I feel like I’ve set them up for a relatively successful life.

Of course, I also hope they know how to do their own laundry, pump their own gas, choose a perfectly ripened avocado, and settle into a rainy day with a good book. And balance a checkbook. And write a thank you note. In terms of skills, I could go on and on.

But what I’ve really be considering is what I want them to know. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  1. You are loved simply by virtue of being born. It’s not earned by good behavior, skills, knowledge or virtue. You don’t have to work at being loved and no amount of poor behavior changes my love. (Some elements of our relationship will change based on behavior, but my love is not one of them.)
  2. The difference between a want and a need. This may be the key to unlocking true contentment. Things and stuff are not bad, but if you cannot separate what you want from what you need, you will likely be controlled by your stuff and things and a constant sense of yearning that will never be fulfilled.
  3. No one is out to get you. Truly, though you are loved and even sometimes talked about, no one is giving you as much thought as you are giving you. Coaches, parents, bosses and teachers make decisions based upon the good of the whole group, not necessarily with you as the center. That being said, you can expect a certain level of human decency and a fair amount of equal spotlight from the people helping you to grow into a better human. They do see you. They’re simply not ordering everything around you.  (Nor should they.)
    Also, I did not get up in the middle of the night and move your shoes. Neither did your siblings. Stop shifting the blame of your poor memory and habits onto other people.

These are my starting points. I think there might be more, but I’d love to be influenced.

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Raising Nerds

While at the lake, the young boys contemplated fun things to do that didn’t involve screens. Now one to contribute, my eldest offered, “I had math homework. That’s fun!”

Part of me is so very proud. This will put me in a top-notch nursing home someday. Upscale with organic applesauce and fair trade decaf coffee. Only the best and (most expensive) for this genius’ dear mama.

The honest part of me will say it scares me. If you’ve had a child, sibling or even a dog, I think you know the feeling. A sense of wondering, will he be included? As his mother, I love him in a particular and all-encompassing kind of way. I’m aware the rest of the world doesn’t have such thick ties – they’re free to love their favorite parts and tease about the rest, which is terrorizing.

We want our children to be loved and accepted. This is why we buy Under Armor, yes? Those little 10-year-old bodies don’t need power-wicking and compression. We’re buying a Sense of Enough because we desperately want them to be enough. To be included. Whether or not we had a place there, we want our kids to sit at the Cool Kids Table.

Except, I would argue, we actually don’t.  We just think we do.  Most of us don’t want to make cool the ultimate goal – it’s simply the most visible one. If other kids are flocking to your kid, then your kid must be someone good, right?

We mistake popularity for connection. I think perhaps  when we say we hope for our children to be “included” what we really wish is for them to be known and loved for themselves. We want them to have friends who appreciate and honor them. We want them to feel the connection we have with our closest friends, families and partners. (Or that which we wish we had.)

The easiest and most readily-available solution is to help them become what is likable. There’s a profile out there (one, I would say, that is much more rigorous for young girls, but that is another post). Depending on your context you have to put in the ingredients for the right amount of brains (but not too nerdy), athleticism (in our parts, there’s never too much of this), good looks (but not to the point of vanity) and charm. When we succeed at this potion, society readily responds by asking other children seek out this prototype.

I absolutely love that I’m raising a little nerd. I think it’s cute and inspiring. I don’t want him to change – to love math less, to care if his clothes match more. But I do want him to be accepted. To be valued. True friends will do this, I know.

The easiest thing to do is ask him to be like everyone else. The risk of hurt and rejection seems slender when there’s less differentiation. As usual, I’m not in this for easy – I want the good. But I’ll be honest… living my values is hard, especially when my kid’s childhood is on the table. What if I’m wrong? What if these values aren’t worth it? What if the hurt he feels when he’s not popular leads him to other, less desirable ends?

I tell you folks, this parenting gig – it’s not for the faint of heart. Especially when you’re trying to change the world at the same time.

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