Tuesday, January 3, 2012
: not adequate : insufficient
: not capable
My daughters are in a stage where they fight. A lot. Maybe this isn't really surprising. Maybe you're thinking, "Oh, my children fight all the time. Her children can't possibly be as bad as mine." Or, "Poor thing. My children love to be together. I wonder what she's doing wrong."
Tonight as I was preparing to load all three girls into the van for B's basketball practice, a fight broke out between B and K. I don't remember what the fight was about. What I do remember is J taking me by the shoulders and saying, "You can do this." I think he meant both that I could handle taking them to the practice alone and that I could handle parenting them through this age of constant conflict. Yet here's how I feel: inadequate.
How can a woman who devotes large amounts of energy to avoid conflict help her children negotiate sibling relationships? Because sibling relationships are about lots of things, chief among them: conflict and conflict resolution.
I don't think my daughters are really all that unusual in the way they fight and the things they fight about. I don't have any sisters, but I remember taunting, provoking and being generally unkind to my brother (two years my junior). What I don't remember is actually learning from all of that conflict.
As an adult, I've certainly learned some ways to deal with conflict (otherwise I'm pretty sure I wouldn't still be married). My favorite method? Pretend nothing's wrong and hope it will go away. When that fails, try to see the other person's side and hope that makes me feel better. If absolutely necessary, state my side and brace myself for the other person to be angry with me.
The problems with teaching any of my children these methods are manifold. But the bottom line is that I don't want to teach my children my own techniques for conflict. I'd like for them to be far better at facing and dealing with conflict than I am.
Yet a mother with inadequate conflict resolution skills is all my girls have. And I can't help but think that's part of God's grand design.
I think, in fact, that being less than perfect is a prerequisite for being a parent. Marriage has done a lot to make me into a better and truer version of myself, but parenting is truly transformative. Parenting shows me my inadequacies, my failures, my unabashed need for God.
Perhaps I have it completely backwards to bemoan my inadequacies. At least when I know I struggle in an area, I work harder to compensate for that in my parenting. With some regularity, I tell my daughters, "Tell your sister how you feel. Then tell her what you need. Don't yell. Don't whine. Just how you feel and what you need." It's advice I could stand to take. Until reading a book on emotions a year or so ago, I didn't actually understand that it was OK for me to have needs. So actually stating aloud what I need is a huge step. I know that I am willing to go along to get along instead of standing up for what I think and believe, so I encourage my daughters to speak their minds - even when I don't agree with what they think.
Maybe it's the areas of my parenting where I think I am capable that I fail my daughters the most, because I'm relying on my own strength and not God's. I think I'm letting them each be who they were designed to be, but one day they may tell me they wish I had pushed a little harder in one direction or another. I think I'm giving them freedom, but they may wish I'd forced a few more issues. Maybe they will one day wish I had fed them more meals from boxes instead of from scratch... ok, that one's probably not going to happen. But I do think the areas where I feel weakest as a mother are the ones where I work the hardest and seek God's wisdom the most consistently. They're also the areas where I am growing the most as a person because I am a parent.
Parents tend to think it's their job to teach their children all about life. And it is. But I think we often miss out on the other end of the equation. We're meant to learn from them, especially in the areas where we are inadequate. I think our children teach us how to live, if only we'll let them.