You see a tiny toddler pitching a fit; a pre-teen rolling their eyes; a teenager spinning their car tires after you shortened their curfew by thirty minutes. “You better enjoy this now. Because soon they’ll be gone!” comes the unsolicited advice from a stranger. “Well, good. Gone is better than this trouble right now,” you think.
Growing up, I once thought my middle name was Cain. My Uncle Jack said so many times with a chuckle that my Momma was “Raising Cain!” Since I knew my first name was Danielle, this mystery middle name was confusing. As a kid, I didn’t necessarily want to be bad and disruptive; I just went with what was fun for the moment. As an adult, I’m still that way…with slightly more self-intervention.
I always knew my parents loved me and that I was important to them.
This isn’t a new concept I’m writing about. Bloggers and Mommas chatting in coffee shops are discussing this very topic: “How do we let our kids know we want the very best for them without them turning out to be terrible adults?” Maybe you’re a completely hands-off Momma who lets their kid dress themselves in head to toe whatever they want. Or are you the Momma who has an eight-year-old that can iron pleats in the khakis of his daily homeschool uniform. Either way, you want them to be amazing, contributing adults.
I’m convinced that showing up and being proud of the little things is what’s most important.
Even if you didn’t plan to be a Momma, a new human to care for rocked your world. I get it; I was a Momma at 18 years naive and still that baby became the single most important thing in my life. The seesaw of self-care and being selfless is a forever struggle bus for Moms. Completely abandon one side and the other will slam you to the ground. What picture does this paint for our kids? We are so stressed out from not caring for ourselves that we don’t have time for their kittle kid woes. Our goals and dreams don’t make space for who they are becoming.
Listen to the wisdom of those gone before you.
Apparently my Mamaw wasn’t the same kindhearted, gentle woman I knew when she was just a Mother. By the time she had a dozen grandchildren, she made each of them feel like they hung the moon. How did she make me feel so safe and perfect while to others I was this kid named Cain? She talked less, lived out her life by example, and listened more.
Little ways that go a long way in making a child feel important:
- Listen in on those little moments. You might know the entire process of photosynthesis, but listen in like it’s the first time, and a complete miracle that your child is so wise to comprehend it.
- Hang up their artwork. My house is white and artwork is bare. My artist husband helped me stop being a prude about the construction paper cut out doors leading to Santa Claus’ home being all over the walls for a few weeks.
- Those little moments you listened to will become big moments. I cringed internally when my son gave me his innocent and curious opinion of racism. It was embarrassingly offbeat from our values. Taking a step back and coming back to it later allowed him to be heard and discussion to take place.
- Show your kids that you are important. If we don’t have self-respect, what will they mirror? Our insecurities? Probably.
- Ask them the hard questions. “How was your day?” is going to get a “Fine” every time. Shotgun car rides or lying down with mine before bed to ask, “What was the best part of your day? What was the hardest part?” have proven to be some of the best one-line openers for their deep heart issues.
Think of where you feel in your body when someone stifles your self-worth. Yes, even as adults we can feel slighted. Reach back into that inner child and feel the tightness in your throat and pit in your stomach when you weren’t heard. Those big emotions and tantrums can’t be silenced with a “Don’t cry!” or “Suck it up!” or “I’ll give you something to cry about!” You wouldn’t do that to yourself; let’s not do that to our kids either.