I was watching an exchange between a few kids in a swimming pool the other day. Three had originally brought a float to the pool that was now being occupied by three others of similar ages.
The original owners decided they wanted their float back. So, one of the float owners politely asked the current occupants to please move so they could play on their float. But, she wasn’t getting much traction.
Just as this threatened to escalate into a fight, one of the dads of the temporary occupants stepped in. He told the kids that he was a sea monster and would give the kids 15 seconds to get on the float.
This resulted in a lot of squealing. But, before you knew it, all six kids were on the float and having a great time.
Tact is powerful.
The biggest lesson I learnt in my first year as a parent was flexibility. That year was a journey in accepting that few things would go as per plan. I’m now more flexible than I’ve ever been. That, however, was the easy first lesson as our first was still a baby.
The second year was all about realizing that I needed to curb my instincts to fight fire with fire. I’ve written before about my instincts and the challenges posed by it. I was also fortunate to read Marshall Rosenberg’s wonderful book – Non-Violent Communication – at a time when I needed it.
This third year has been about figuring out a path to dealing with the root of those instincts – impatience. When I take stock of my good and bad parenting moments, patience tends to be the common factor.
In the good ones, I demonstrated plenty of patience and approached the situation with a desire to understand as well as a willingness to be creative and tactful. In the bad ones, I had none of it, rushed too quickly to an attempted solution, and sacrificed effectiveness for a misplaced sense of efficiency.
So, I’ve begun to think of my experiences as a parent as my opportunity to get better at being patient. I have the benefit of having plenty of opportunities to practice every day while also being blessed by a partner/role model who seems to always have plenty of it.
I don’t expect to become the most patient person around. But, I do hope to become more patient and learn to channel my impatience better in the coming month.
Here’s to that.
In a conversation recently, I mentioned the challenge presented by an idea from Kahlil Gibran’s exceptional poem on children – “Seek to be like them, seek not to make them like you.”
On hearing that, this friend shared that their struggles weren’t in trying to make the kids like them – instead, it was in trying to make the kids an aspirational version of them. It was more pressure than both the kids and the parents could handle – until they sought help.
It was a powerful reflection and one that translates beautifully to many other relationships where the power dynamic at any given time is unbalanced in our favor.
It is tempting to attempt to control and force conformity.
But, it is in the “letting go” and in the ability to absorb the best of those around us where the learning lies.
I was watching kids interact with their parents at a play zone recently. If their basic needs (not hurt or hungry) were met, I realized that two words summed up most of what they asked for – attention and appreciation.
Just as I was about to file that away as a reflection on kids, it got me thinking about the root causes of issues adults I know face at home or at the workplace.
It turns out that attention and appreciation are just as important in dealing with adults as they are with kids.
The best partners, friends, managers, and leaders make it a point to never forget that.
Dr. Shefali Tsabary has written a powerful book called “The Conscious Parent.” I’ve been reading the book on and off over the past couple of years. It reads like the expanded version of the wonderful poem by Kahlil Gibran on parenting that is our aspirational parenting philosophy.
One of the recurring themes in the book is the idea that your kids come into your life to help you grow. In doing so, they stretch you and help you become more aware of the areas where you need help becoming a better version of yourself.
I have written repeatedly about my increasing awareness of my tendency to fight fire with fire when the better approach would be to follow the fire department and use water (or, in this case, tact :-)). And, today’s note is another one of those. I received another reminder this week that impatience and tempers generally only serve to exacerbate problems.
The combination of patience and tact, on the other hand, go a long way.
I expect to keep encountering these lessons until I learn to move beyond reaction into response. It takes time to overcome our natural tendencies – I’m definitely in it for the long haul.
The powerful extension of this theme is when we extend it beyond our kids to everyone we encounter.
What if we treated every person we meet as a messenger from life to help us become the person we want to be?
Early childhood is a tough process for kids. They’re exposed to plenty of new stimuli every day and have to figure out how to process all of it. And, every time they get tired of exploring the many possibilities in front of them or fall sick (happens as soon as they meet other kids :-)), they seek comfort. For a large proportion of infants and toddlers, that source of comfort turns out to be mom.
I was introduced to this wonderful 3 min 15 sec SNL sketch called “The day you were born” this weekend. Amy Schumer plays the mom receiving a mother’s day gift – breakfast in bed – from her son. And, the video wonderfully contrasts what she says about the day he was born and his early years with the actual chaotic and painful experience.
It ends with the line – “Thank you for pretending it was easy.”
As I see this movie play out day in and day out, it resonated deeply.
Thank you to all the engaged moms and dads who, well… engage. It matters.
And, while I know it is going to be a busy week, I hope you find some time to call your parents.
In the past 2.5 years, there are no passages I have thought of as much as these from “On Children” by Kahlil Gibran. Every time I read it, I either see something in new light or I am reminded of how much learning lies ahead for me as I aspire to be the person he describes.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.