Thursday, January 10, 2013

Changing Perspectives

"If you haven't had a major change of mind in the last five years, you haven't experienced growth."  A friend of mine posted something to that effect as her Facebook status about 2 years ago.  It has been nagging at me ever since.

I could not wrap my head around this.  Why would one HAVE to have a major shift in thinking to grow?  Are we all "wrong" about something if others don't agree?  Guess what?  We are all wrong, all the time, about everything, if that is true.  I initially took this as a challenge, or affront, to my currently held beliefs of all that is fodder for the never-ending news cycle: guns, religion, politics.

What I have concluded though, are that "Major Changes" in thinking, don't have to be major at all, or sudden, or even particularly noticeable at a given time.  I realized that I have had a seismic shift in how I think of parenting, expectations for my children, and education.  As a back story, let me explain that I am a "follow the rules, toe the line, listen to authority" kind of girl.  I become anxious, angry, and nauseous at the mere thought of breaking any kind of rule or social norm.  I am learning, as Brene' Brown says, to lean into the discomfort.

I have decided now that it is more important for my children to be who they are rather than what anyone else wants them to be. I do still hold the expectation for them to have at least a B average (I know myself enough to know I can't let it go completely) - if they are not struggling or working on learning new concepts. But grades are just one tiny measure of the potential of what someone can contribute to the world.  Put my son in a programming class, and watch out - he will be immersed.  Give my daughter anything artistically creative and she will wow you with her concentration.  I am dismissing from my mind that they must attend college to get ahead in the world.  Both of my children are very bright, but the best part is they see the world with a creative and humorous lens  - and I love that.

I am taking a page from Celebrate Calm and letting go of my own anxiety when my children do not do as I or society expects.  I am listening to some of John Bradshaw and Brene' Brown's ideas about shame and parenting.  I am working to internalize the messages and insight I received from Brene' Brown's books,  and from Gretchen Rubin's happiness project and both of her books on the same subject.  These stories, instructions and insights have allowed me to see past everyone else's highlight reel and realize that we all struggle with making decisions regarding our families, friends, personal achievements and external image.

When my children were very young, I was under a lot of stress.  Many mothers are, and while my experience might not be very different from others, it was MY experience colored by my perspectives, expectations and conditioning.  If you had asked me during that stressful time how I was doing I would have told you, "Great", "Fine" or maybe even "Army Strong".  I would have been incredibly angry if anyone had told me I needed to seek therapy, take medication or stop yelling so much.  I probably needed to do all those things, but I was not in a place where I could hear it.  I was so worried - consciously and subconsciously - about what other people would think, that I could not allow my children to just be. I would become so frustrated when they would not conform social norms.  I am not proud of my bullying of those sweet little children, but I am working on accepting that I gave them my best at the time, but it really was not good at all, and I can give them better today.

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