Wednesday, November 01, 2006

On Being a Parent (Fit the First)

One of the hardest things in my life has been being as good a parent as I can be in the life of my youngest, aka Youngest Sister. My first wife and I adopted her when she was 19 months and, for all intents and purposes, she's growing up as an only child...most of the time.

I was an only child, so I understand the viewpoint she may be developing. I certainly see similarities in her behavior and my behavior at the same age...especially when she interacts with others. I cut-up and tried to be the class clown. I shouted out answers and laughed too loudly. All in all, I did everything I could to be noticed and (hopefully) valued for being noticed. As you might expect, it didn't always work out the way I'd hoped it would.

I certainly see her confusion as the very same things that confounded me when I began to interact with others. For example, I found it hard to understand why people would be irritated when I was too loud for too long.

I can tell she's trying to work it all out. It's a bit unnerving, actually...watching her work through and model some of the same ideas I grew up with.

One of the hardest things for me to learn throughout childhood, young adulthood, and eventually full-blown adulthood, was how to recognize the needs for others and to care for their needs as intensely as I care for my own.

Throughout my adolescence, I wanted someone to validate me. Yes, I eventually learned to validate myself, to be my own biggest fan, but it took years and many, many mistakes in the interim. Having said that, there was a time, I really wanted someone to reach out and accept me for who I was...unconditionally.

I've tried to give my children the knowledge that they're loved unconditionally and the awareness that they are valuable in their own right and that they are valued by me as their parent. I've tried to help them recognize the fact that they are individuals, yes, but individuals in a world filled with individuals. I try to nudge them toward an understanding, an awareness, and a recognition of the importance of other people's lives. To understand that the person over there has dreams, needs, hurts, fears, desires, and talents, and so on. To understand that life is as dynamic to the person over there as it is to my children. I suppose you could say I'm tying to teach them empathy and compassion, qualities that are very rare in the world today.

It's hard, because you really don't get a lot of direct feedback as a parent. You hear when you're messing up, of course. But getting it right, well, that's a more difficult piece of feedback to scare up, at least in my experience.

My youngest is a bit of a firebrand and she can certainly be a handful. It's hard for her to recognize the feelings and needs of others. Oh, sure, it's age appropriate (she's almost eight, after all) and it fits given her daily environment, but I still feel it's important to help her grow up as centered, focused, and aware as possible.

This was my year to "trick or treat" with her. When I picked her up from school yesterday, she gave me a card, one of those things that melts a parent's heart and reminds them that they're raising a real (albeit young) person. It was like a letter from Heaven, really.

With appropriate pixelation (and a tiny edit), here's what my youngest daughter wrote to me:

Happy Halloween, Daddy!

Dear Dad,

I hope you have a good halloween. I like you because you love me for hoo I am, Thank you for taking me out for halloween.

I love you dad,

Love, "Kara"

P.S. Boo!!!!

In all seriousness, it brought a tear. (OK, it brought more than one.)

Thank you, sweetie! Yes! Thank you for recognizing that I do love you for yourself--unconditionally. That's exactly what I had hoped you would see and I hope you know that will never change.

Anyway, this little card is going into my super-secret hiding spot. The place I put the things I need to remind myself why I do what I do.

And I am going to keep trying to reach that aware little person that I periodically get to spend time with. She, like so many others, is well worth reaching.


Blogger Jane Poe (aka Deborah) said...

Beautifully stated, love. And yes, little 'Kara' is well worth all the effort we both put in helping her to be the best she can be (and to believe that she's worth it). xo, d

7:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just keep swimming, my friend. -T

5:11 AM  

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