Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Berry Lesson

What is the goal when you're a parent?  For me, I want to raise a child that is a successful and productive adult. Now, that leads me to define "successful." I define it as achieving what you want to achieve. My daughter will outline the achievement milestone, whether it be a carpenter, play major league soccer, be an architect, be a police officer, etc. I add the "productive" qualifier just so that she can't say that she wants to lay around MY house when she's 30 years old playing video games all day. Or a drug addict. Or a felon.  Well, you get the picture.  Outside of those instances that I would get all judgmental and say that she's living an unproductive life, I think she should be able to pursue whatever she wants to achieve.

My job is to help her get the skills/work ethic/faith/generosity/confidence that she can tap to get to whatever she wants to achieve.  Is my job to live the life I had wanted to live (but didn't get the opportunity to) through my child? No. Are my child's achievements my achievements? No.

I think in parenting situations it's easy to lose sight of the long-term goal and focus on the short-term crisis at hand.  Sometimes just getting through the day makes you want to strangle your kid or shoot yourself (or maybe it's just me).  We've all had those rough days.  So I have to constantly ask myself -> What is the end goal here?

The end goal is for my daughter to have the tools to live a successful and productive life in the path that she chooses.  How I live my life and the experiences I show her and model for her are going to be the ones she remembers.  Reflecting as a child, I remember how my mother handled situations she was presented. I find that after so many years of seeing that being modeled, I tend to gravitate to those same initial reactions. Then I have to take a step back and see if that's how I want to model my behavior.  I want to act how I would aspire Julia to act. She can choose to act in a similar way to me, or she can choose a different way. It's her choice. But if I model the way I want her to act, then I can tip the scales in my favor.

After you get over the initial shock of parenting (there's this little lump that lays there or screams, what do I do with it?), you start finding a groove.  You start knowing what your kid can handle, and then you incrementally start pushing the kid out of his/her comfort zone.  I mean, isn't that the goal? Within the span of 18-21 years, the goal is to get that little lump to be a decent problem-solver and critical thinker with a decent personality so that he/she can be successful and productive?  That's how I see it.

As part of the incremental steps toward getting the kid(s) out of the nest, sometimes you manufacture certain experiences. Parents take their kids on vacations, take them to museums, take them to the beach, put them in SAT prep classes, etc.

This week I came up with the idea that Julia and I could pick berries together, make berry cobbler, and then take it to grandma.  Why?  Honestly I've never picked berries, I do like to bake but not really berry cobbler, and I am personally quite tired of mother's depressed nature since she's been off her feet for a month now due to her foot surgery.  But if you look at it from a modeling perspective, the experience is teaching Julia about sustainable living (picking the food you eat and then using it in a recipe), communing with nature, cooking (a practical task), sharing things we have, and visiting family.  It's a freaking Mister Rogers episode with all the good messages.

But I wasn't really in the best mindframe to do it.  I'm cranky, am not that crunchy (i.e., not thrilled to spend an hour getting splinters picking blackberries off bushes), and really wasn't into sacrificing that many hours of my week to see the project/lesson from beginning to end.  When you have a kid with you, everything takes so much longer.

Anyway, I sucked it up and tried to model having a good attitude. And, you know what, while we were picking berries at an exhaustively slow rate together, I was having fun. Mixing the ingredients ending up being hilarious because when I said to put one bowl into another (both had ingredients in them), she literally put one bowl with the ingredients physically into the other bowl.  She was so darn happy about the whole project and anticipating the next step. She was excited to share what she picked and then made with grandma.

The project was good all around. Sucking up my whiny/cranky attitude and doing what's the best for the end goal was the way to go.  I can look in the mirror and say that I modeled behavior that I would be proud to see her exhibit when she's an adult and can make those decisions on her own.

If you'll excuse me, I have a toddler having a tantrum in the other room.  Life isn't always rainbows and unicorns - it may only be a minute here or there of rainbows and unicorns, and then you're dropped right back into the jungle.  

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