Single Parent Faith

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Parenting— Suspending Judgment


“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”— Mother Teresa of Calcutta



Last night my teen daughter was in a talkative mood. There are times when she gets this way.  I have learned, that no matter how late it is, no matter how tired I am, when she gets in these moods, I show up fully “present” and “in the moment” for her. This means I don’t focus on anything but her and what she’s sharing.  All kids need to feel like they're our most important priority, and that what they think and feel matters.

She shared such incredible insight. I was in awe of her. Out of the mouth of this 17 yr old, were relationship concepts and observations, which if spoken by a mature woman you’d be aware you were in the presence of wisdom. It took me much later in life to awaken to many of the truths she shared last night. I sat in jaw dropping realization that this “child” of mine has most definitely grown leaps and bounds in the last few months. It was as if I was in the presence of a peer, not my child. It is in this moment that as a parent, I knew, that no matter what happens in life, “My baby will be alright!” 

It is reassuring.

Sometimes my mind becomes ensnarled in frustration, which leads me to impose reminders like: “Don’t forget to study for your SAT today!” or “Remember to get on-line and research Colleges!” These are the moments I am certain my child is still a child.

The teen years are such an awkward stage, where she is part child, part adult, which keeps us both mutually off balance and frustrated. I have to walk the narrow line between hovering too much and giving her enough independence to make her own decisions.

I have often shared a lot of life’s lessons and observations, so that she could benefit from my and others’ mistakes, and not have to commit them herself to learn. As parents we try so hard to protect our children from getting hurt. But try as we might, they will make their own mistakes, perhaps even repeating some of ours (despite our forewarning). It’s a part of growth that they must walk through their own mistakes.

I’ve always maintained open and honest dialogue with my daughter and no subject was ever off limits. It’s important to me to always be available to talk about anything, no matter how sensitive the subject. This stems from my childhood where I never felt comfortable talking to my parents about sensitive matters, because we didn’t have such open communication and I always feared my mom’s judgmental nature.

Last night I realized that no matter how much I love her, forewarn her, or lay the moral framework from which to assist her to make decisions, she will still make mistakes.

She began with, “I want to tell you something but I don’t want to disappoint you.”

With such a preamble, I knew I needed to reassure her that I wouldn’t judge her. “Sweety, I won’t be disappointed in you. I am proud of you for having the courage to talk about difficult things.”

In the midst of her talking, all I could feel was relief. I recognized that at the end of the day, if I can’t be my child’s support system and gift her with unconditional love, I have failed as a parent. Failure is not whether my child makes mistakes; it is how I handle her doing so.

Many times we as parents fall into the trap of defining ourselves through our children’s successes and failures. We may even react with shame, disappointment and fear of “what will so and so think of me?” We have to let go of judging ourselves as parents, so that we do not judge our children.

Friends and myself have experienced parents of our own who replayed our mis-steps, constantly reminding us, making it impossible to forgive ourselves and move on. We can begin anew every day of our lives— Even if we make the same mistake more than once. Regardless of how we were raised, we can discard the destructive parenting experiences, and replace them with a new loving model that our children can benefit from.

As parents we must never be the ones who damage our kids’ psyche and self-esteem. It is our job to build them up, help them navigate through their feelings, not tear them down with reminders of failure.  If we don’t know how to do this for them, then we should reach out to parents who know how, and to professional counselors who can walk us through the process.

According to my daughter, “What’s most important is a parent’s reaction when you tell them something. You’re already feeling bad, and you’re trusting your parent…you want their unbiased opinion, but if they come guns loaded and screaming, next time you don’t want to tell them anything. You’ll hide imperfections because you don’t want to make them mad or disappointed. It makes you feel worse because you already know something’s not right. That’s why you come to them in the first place— you want them to help you get through it.  Getting angry doesn’t help us get through it.”
Ella Venezia
Copyright © 2011 Ella Venezia. All Rights Reserved.

“The major block to compassion is the judgment in our minds. Judgment is the mind's primary tool of separation.” Diane Berke

Image Source: http://flic.kr/p/8vKHtR   © All rights reserved by leannabenn

6 comments:

  1. A very thought provoking post and full of lessons.

    Thanks for sharing your comment on my son's trip a couple of weeks ago. After our talk, he ditched the San Francisco trip and went on a camping trip with friends instead, a whole 90 minutes away, lol.

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  2. Alvarado- Terrific! 90 mins away is alot better :) given your valid concerns. He sounds like he's a sensible smart young man, and that your talk had a positive impact. You're a very good mother Alvaredo. You are involved and actively participating and teaching your children. I know you must be exhausted, but keep up the great work! Perseverance ... Is another word for parenting :)
    Take care....you and your family are in my prayers.
    -Ella

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  3. I am a single mother to an 11 year old son. I agree with every single thing you said here. It's very important that our children be able to come to us and talk to us about anything without worrying that we will judge them or make them feel worse than they may already feel.

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  4. Angela- Thank you for your comment. I'm glad what I wrote resonates with you and your son. Thanks for visiting my site and I look forward to more of your inputs.
    Take care-- stay strong. Single parenting is very challenging! But the love for our kids keeps us focused :)
    -Ella

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  5. Thank you for your comment on my blog. I think this post is a beautiful commentary on the great job you're doing as a parent. I know single parenthood isn't easy. I pretty much raised my daughter solo her first year as my husband was deployed and then he filed for divorce the day he returned so now I'm a suddenly single parent of a toddler. I put up a link on my blog about Charles Stanley's sermon of sowing the right seeds into your children, like what you're talking about here. It's been on my mind a lot lately and that sermon totally rocked me to the core. It's a huge responsibility, and of great importance.
    God bless,
    Carrie

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  6. Carrie- I agree, conscious parenting is a "huge responsibility." To be aware of how we as parents sow into our children's life, is imperative for their future abilities to deal with life's challenges, and for them to fluorish. Thank you for the info on Dr Stanley's sermon- I went to his site to watch.

    I've been alone raising my daughter since she was about 3- 1/2 yrs old. She's 17- 1/2 now. I never remarried (not that I didn't want to, but it is the way it was to be) and my daughter till this day tells me how much she's loved it just being the two of us, since as she puts it, "I can walk around in my underwear and be relaxed."

    May you and your daughter be Blessed on your journey together.
    -Ella

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