The conversation always sounded like this:
Person who knows my in-laws: Wow- you have such amazing kids! What is your secret?
Mother in Law (smiling): They just came that way and I tried not to mess them up.
This really struck me. Was she just trying to be humble? And pretend like she had nothing to do with it? Maybe she was trying to hide her secrets of parenting from the rest of us? Or did she actually believe that they came that way?
I wanted to believe it was being humble, or deflecting a compliment. Partly because I wanted it to be true that there was a secret trick. And I hoped that marrying one of her offspring would warrant me the secrets to raising good kids. I wanted to believe that there was a magical spell that she performed at their births to make them great- kind of like Maleficent and the spell she cast on Sleeping Beauty when she was born to prick her finger -- only not so evil.
And then at Disneyland I had a rude awakening. My kids had some of my annoying traits! Traits that I have tried to suppress, traits that I didn't think they had ever witnessed, traits that I worried that they had inherited. (like being afraid of rides) I had mixed emotions. Not only was I frustrated with them for doing things that I have tried to overcome, but I was angry with myself for inadvertently passing on some of my own weaknesses to my children. How could this happen?
I will give you a Non- Disneyland example to illustrate my point:
|Macie at the pool at our Hotel... notice the towel?|
Aren't my kids half Tyler? Then why do they seem so much more Katie than Jonathan?
After a day or so on Vacation, feeling frustrated with their fears of rides, I asked JT why it wasn't bothering him. He said it was just how our kids are- and he loves them for being them. He didn't blame me for their fears. He has never blamed me. Why do I? Why do I get so frustrated with little traits?
Why not just accept that they came that way? It is just them. Not me. (maybe because everything is about me) I spent a lot of our vacation trying not to notice myself or Jonathan in my kids and let them be themselves. If some of their traits seem like Nelson traits (like being funny, I like to take credit for any humor that comes out of our kids, don't tell the Tylers) or some of them seem like Tyler traits (like a fierce loyalty to their siblings -- Riley throwing herself in front of Blake at Disneyland when I did the classic "I am going to walk away" to get him to follow me, and Riley begged me not to leave him - which I will never do again because it did not work and traumatized Riley for life) I will just accept them as their own traits. Not Nelson or Tyler.
Why do I want to see so much of me or my husband in my kids? I am not sure if I am seeking validation in them or if I just want to see all of our strengths and none of our weaknesses. And why do I take on every one of their "weaknesses" as something that I may have caused? (And really, is being afraid of a Roller Coaster even considered a weakness?)
|They are Not afraid of the Carousel|
Either way, it is not about me. It is about them. And letting them be who they are, without a label, and without unnecessary guilt that I may have made them that way. I guess this is what it means to have Unconditional Love. To not only love them if they are funny (again, like a Nelson, don't tell the Tylers) or if they are thoughtful (like JT) but to love them even if they fear water like a toxic poison that may burn their flesh. They are who they are, and that is why I love them.
I really do want to adopt my Mother in Law's phrase- and believe that my kids just came that way- and do my best to not mess them up.