Friday, July 6, 2012

They just came that way

When JT and I were first married and I was getting to know the wonderful family I married into, I noticed a lot of people would make comments to my Mother in Law about how amazing her kids were.  (Part of me would smile with pride that I married one of those amazing kids- and the other part of me would feel like bragging about my own cool family and how lucky JT was to be married to a Nelson! competitive much, Katie?)

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:

Water.  My kids do not like water anywhere near their faces.  Most of my family is the same way.  Growing up we would shower with a towel draped over the shower door so that we could wipe our faces the minute a drop of water touched our forehead.  I overcame this on my mission when I had to shower without shower doors.  But I know some of my sisters still shower with a towel close by.  I was determined that my children would not be so aqua-phobic.   After all, no one in JT's family had that issue.  I watched the Tylers splash in pools with water dripping into their eyes without even noticing.  Dripping into their eyes!  Were they half amphibian?  JT didn't even shower with a towel!  In fact he enjoyed letting the water run down his face!  Crazy.  I believed I could raise kids to be like Tylers.  Fearless, brave, tough, (when we were engaged JT had his littlest sister on his shoulders running through the house chasing someone else when they ran into a room with a lower sealing and he smacked her head right into the sealing!  I would have cried, Lindsey didn't flinch), and not afraid of water on their faces.  Well, have you seen my kids around water?  Bath time is filled with cries of terror, sopping wet towels that get pulled into the tub, and the word "shower" is practically a swear word to my kids. 

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.


  1. seriously? no comments, talk about a blow to my ego!

  2. I just read this...was out of town. Anyway, I feel the same way about my kids! This is such a great reminder to let it go. To let them be them and not take responsibility for their traits, good or bad. Thanks for the perspective!

  3. So I have been learning a lot about unconditional self acceptance lately; the thought that no matter what I may do, I accept myself for who I am, that I am a good person and can love myself no matter my choices. I am glad you posted this, because I think parents need to show their kids that they accept them no matter what. I like my mom's saying, because it says to me "you are who you are, and I am not going to get in your way." So glad you are showing your kids that it is not about you, but about them and what makes them happy.