Sometimes we need to look in the mirror to see what's in front of us. We are faced with a challenging situation and we look everywhere but at ourselves.
Lily is eight years old. She has soft blond curls and a beautiful smile. She makes friends easily in school. She can also be messy, disheveled, and has trouble following directions.
Lily's mother, Karen, is exasperated.
"Mornings are impossible!" she says to me. "By the time Lily leaves for school, I am at the end of my rope. We've had too many power struggles, over everything from her outfit to what she's going to eat for breakfast. Her homework is all over the place. I just end up yelling at her and losing it with the rest of my children. As Lily gets on the bus we are both in tears. When she comes home, it starts all over again. I have to tell you the truth, there are days that I just don't like my own daughter...and I feel terrible about it. We are like oil and water. What can I do to change this situation? How can I make this better?"
I know Karen. She is well groomed and immaculate. She loves everything ‘perfect' and in order.
Sometimes the athletic father is given the son who can't hit a ball. And we are disappointed.
But life is not always perfect. Sometimes, the neat mother is given the messy daughter. The athletic father is given the son who can't hit a ball.
And we are disappointed. We struggle with our children and find ourselves in a battlefield. We never realize that we are fighting ourselves; our lost dreams that we've held onto for so long.
"What do you think Lily sees when she sees your face?" I asked Karen. "When she comes down the stairs in the morning, what's the look in your eyes?"
"Here's the truth," Karen replied. "When I was growing up, I was the girl who always got the main part in the play. I was the one who always looked great and brought home straight A's. I met my husband in college and he was the most awesome guy. I always thought that I'd get married, have children and we'd have this perfect family. White picket fence and all, you know the scene.
"But Lily, she just doesn't fit in to the picture. PTA's are upsetting. She always looks a mess. She not coordinated. It's just not what I imagined".
"And maybe she sees that in your eyes," I said. "Maybe she feels your disappointment in who she is. Perhaps the place to start is within. I am not saying that you shouldn't work with her and try to teach her to be orderly and neat. But first, look in the mirror and see your reflection. See what she sees each time you glance at her. You have this expectation of life, even of your mornings, that it will be easy and carefree, just as you've grown used to. Along comes this child who breaks the mold. You are exasperated. Can she not be sensing this?"
I recall having one of those tough mornings when my children were toddlers. After tantrums and tears, I decided that it would be best to take the children out of the house. We'd all cool off a little. A change of atmosphere and some fresh air can work wonders for both parent and child.
As I watched my children running and playing outdoors, my then four year old son climbed onto my lap. "Mommy, are you angry?" he asked.
"Of course not, sweetie," I answered. "I'm so happy to be outside with you. And don't you see the smile on my face?"
"So why are your eyebrows angry?"
We are constantly communicating with our children. Look how children read our faces. Even our eyebrows transmit a message. Beyond words, our attitude and expressions reveal our innermost thoughts.
Do we impart joy as we parent or do our children hear a deep sigh as they enter the room?
We need to ask ourselves how we convey our feelings toward our children. Do we impart joy as we parent or do our children hear a deep sigh as they enter the room?
You can serve the tastiest dinner, but if it's slammed down on the table or given resentfully, the food is tasteless.
The look on our face as we sit down to read a book to our toddler, the lackluster ‘yes' we give as we respond to helping with math homework, the way we drive our children to school in the morning, all tell our children how feel as we interact with them.
And as our children grow, we need to honestly examine our attitudes. Do we scrutinize their achievements through our own hopes and dreams or do we accept each child for who he is?
When we make every effort to communicate joy, love, gratitude and acceptance in our homes, our children respond to our open hearts. We can then try to help each child reach his great potential and find the blessing that lies within his soul.