Babies are so stinkin’ cute. From the very beginning, they steal our hearts. No amount of crying, fussing, fit-throwing, or back-talking can make true parents stop loving their children. Sure, little people can age their moms ten years in two months, but somehow they are always worth it. After two hours away from her cubs, Mama Bear is ready to see her perfect lil’ sweeties again. ~smile~
And the poor daddies. Were they ever unprepared, not realizing how easily they could be wrapped around such a tiny little finger. How quickly their world changed from late night ball games and sleeping in on Saturday mornings to middle-of-the-night diaper changes and colic-induced, all-night wailing sessions.
Babies change lives forever and babies keep getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger.
Eric and I have not had the pleasure of raising kids yet, but I am trying to prepare myself for all the hard work they will require; and, I am also trying to remember how crazy I will be about my babies, no matter how much of my sleep they take. ~smile~
Responding to Irresistible Adorableness
So, since I have explained how cute babies are when their steal our hearts, let’s talk about how we respond to them. If you are anything like me, you are holding them over your head, telling them how amazing they are, speaking fluent baby talk, and trying not to squeeze them too hard. It is difficult to remember that a sweet little baby is still a fallen, imperfect creature that will grow into a mobile, verbal, fallen creature.
There is nothing wrong with oohing and ahhing over babies (as long as you are mindful not to neglect the emotional needs of their older siblings); but, I know my own tendencies and I know that if I bond with a baby, I will continue to oohhh and aahhh over him or her long after the baby stage has passed. And, I suppose at a healthy level that is good, but when is it too much?
When Is It Too Much?
When I occasionally babysit, I find myself complimenting the kids often. You did that so great. Wow, did you color all over that paper by yourself? You are so good at this game. You are so handsome. You are so beautiful. You are so smart! When I stop and consider my words, I wonder, “Am I helping them or… setting them up for disappointment?”
When we love children, especially our own children, the temptation is there to flood them with affirmation. After all, they are little people and they need confidence, right? I am no expert on raising kids – not even close – but I find myself pondering… How much affirmation is too much? When do compliments become counterproductive?
Can Parents Maintain an Honesty-Only Policy with their Children Without Breaking their Spirits?
Just as Eric and I strive to have an honesty-only policy between us, I hope I can find the secret to having an honesty-only, but incredibly loving, relationship with my future children. Help me out parents… is it possible? ~smile~ (comment below!)
Granted, I am sure I will believe my children are adorable no matter how they look to the rest of the world, because they are mine. Yet, I think I will need to reign myself in and fight the urge to make comments like, “You are the most beautiful little girl in the entire world!” or “You are so handsome – no woman will ever be able to resist you!”
There will be many areas to explore when Eric and I begin child-rearing and I am sure I will be doing a lot of reading and making a lot of sleep-deprived, desperate phone calls to my mother for advice. In the meantime, while I am well-rested, I will comment on a few ways I believe I would like to connect with my future children while still being honest with them. You seasoned parents out there can agree with me or chuckle at me. I will accept either. ~wink~
Ways I Hope to Shower My Future Children with Loving Honesty:
1. By subtly, and occasionally not so subtly, reminding my precious poopsies that they are not the center of the universe.
Have you ever had the pleasure of watching parents overindulge their child’s ego? Did you choke down your lunch? I’m not talking about the “Good job, Buddy!” or “Look at you run, big girl!” I’m talking about the parents that talk about their children non-stop, congratulate their children non-stop, encourage their children non-stop, and run to their children’s aid the second they cough, sneeze, or demand something. You might try to have a conversation with them, but you fear interrupting their special time with junior.
Though I want my children to know they are deeply loved by their father and me, I hope to resist the urge to make them think more highly of themselves than they ought to think (Romans 12:3). When they go out into the world, I want them to know that God has gifted them to be a part of a grand design – not the entire grand design. We are not doing children any favors when we give into their every demand, jump at every noise they make, and instill in them a false sense of importance. God is great. We are privileged to know His grace. That is an easy message to preach, but a difficult one to display. I pray God gives me the grace not to fall into this trap of overinflating my children!
2. By finding ways to show them appreciation for their true talents, and not for everything they attempt.
Hard. Ouch. So not me. My calling in life, my core, my deepest trait, is empathy. My empathy runs so deeply that sometimes I pour it out on inanimate objects. When I got a new car, I felt sorry for the old one (true story). No, I’m not crazy. ~smile~ All that to say, I want to affirm people, especially little people, for everything they try.
There is no doubt in my mind that I will want to compliment my kids for almost everything they try, but what good will that do? If my daughter decides to try the piano, but she is still not improving after three years of eardrum-torturing practice, perhaps she is not meant to be a pianist. Is my constant affirmation of her non-existent talent blessing her or is it leading her to believe she is good at something when she is not? Maybe she is a writer. Maybe she is athletic. Maybe I should let her give up her piano lessons so she can discover her true talents. When the time comes, I hope I can fight the urge to lie to my kids about their talents. I know they will have some, but I have to prepare myself for knowing that they will not be good at everything; and, they will need to know that it is okay to only have specific talents and not need to be talented at everything for anyone’s approval. ~smile~
3. By encouraging them to try new adventures to find their gifts and talents.
I can already predict how this is going to go. Eric to child: “Get your hands dirty. Try something new! Don’t worry about what people think. Just get out there and find your gifts and talents.” Heather to child: “Be careful. Don’t hurt yourself. Be polite and kind to everybody. Remember that Mama loves you no matter what!” Eric is going to have no problem pushing our children into the world with reckless abandon (at the appropriate time, of course). I, however, will undoubtedly struggle with letting go and letting my birdies fly.
Still, I hope I will have the strength to encourage my kids to try their hands at new hobbies and skills, even if I believe they are staring in the face of certain failure and rejection. As much as I want everyone to feel good all the time, I know a dose of disappointment is like a much needed vaccine. If my babies can experience mild doses of rejection and failure as kids, perhaps they will be prepared, and even expectant, of such failures and rejections in adulthood. And maybe, just maybe, they will not be disillusioned and give up when they fall short of greatness because they will know from experience that failure does not have to be final or fatal.
4. By resisting the urge to over-compliment them for their successes.
When my kids do succeed, do not be surprised if I am that mom that is nauseatingly proud and excited. I will try not to annoy the public too much at recitals, graduations, and the like. The truth is, I may think my children are super-talented and wonderful, but the world will expect them to prove it. My sincere desire is to communicate the right amount of congratulations to my kids. Enough that they know we are proud of them and that they have accomplished something notable, but not so much that we encourage their inexperienced heads to swell.
It is such a blessing to a child when parents can instill a bold confidence without also instilling a sense of entitlement. From what I have seen and experienced, true confidence comes from me trying something and succeeding. False confidence comes from people telling me that I can do anything I want. It is simply untrue. Your future kids and my future kids will not be able to do anything they want to do. I want to ice skate flawlessly, but with my lack of skill and talent, I will never be a professional ice skater – and that is totally fine! Now that I am aware of this fact, I can concentrate on talents I actually possess! It’s great!
5. By teaching them how to deal with disappointments and how to react to success.
In an episode of my all-time favorite TV show, The Andy Griffith Show, Opie runs the 50-yard-dash, but sadly comes in fourth place. Instead of congratulating those boys who did win, he went home and pouted. His dad tried to explain how important it was to be a gracious loser. At first, Opie would not change his attitude, but in true 1960’s sitcom fashion, he came around and learned a valuable lesson about disappointment. His dad did not demand another race so Opie could try until he won. He did not tell his son that his failure to win was due to outside circumstances. He taught him how to deal with disappointments and he assured Opie that some failure in life was inevitable. That is a much easier lesson to learn at the age of seven instead of twenty-seven.
Then there is the lesson of humility for those times when children do win in life. When we know we are good at something, it is tempting to think highly of ourselves. Young people need to know how to enjoy success without considering everything about themselves a success.
Because I am a star quarterback, I am a success.
No, you are a successful football player, but you are in no way infallible. And not only that, but God gets the glory for your talents. They all come from Him. It is a tall order, but I hope and pray Eric and I can show them how bounce back from defeat and stay grounded in the face of success.
And if we succeed in instilling such lessons, to God be the glory!
Kids, Honesty, and Connection
Connection is one of the very reasons we want to overload our children with constant verbal praise; but, as kids grow and realize they are not “all that,” they may feel anger towards those who tried so hard to make them feel good about themselves. Why did you lie to me? Why did you tell me I could do everything well when I obviously cannot? Why were you not straight with me about my capabilities?
When I was growing up, a lot of well-meaning people complimented me often. It was enjoyable to hear praise, but when I reached adulthood I realized that I am not nearly as “special” as those precious people led me to believe. In fact, I am pretty average. To be considered special (if I even want to be) by the world, I have to earn that privilege by accomplishing something truly special (or by appearing on a reality show…). I am not inherently awesome. I know, right? What a letdown. I am fearfully and wonderfully made, which shows God’s awesomeness, not my own (Psalm 139:14).
The best way to create a lasting connection with your kids is to be available to them, constantly teaching them, constantly hugging them, and allowing them to have confidence in your word. Just as I am so thankful to know Eric will always tell me the truth, kids need the confidence of knowing that Mom and Dad will “give it to me straight. I will never have to wonder if they really mean what they say.”
Have you and your sweetie discussed how you want to connect with your future children?