Our children are our mirrors. They reflect back everything we do and all that we are. There is no escaping it. Habits, phrases, curse words, manners, laziness, energy, indifference, passion, perspective; they absorb it all like little sponges. Your children will mirror the best of you and they will mirror the worst of you.
A few weeks ago we went for a walk and encountered a woman standing in the street yelling at her husband, who was near their house. I wondered if she had any idea what she was doing. It was a snapshot of their relationship, and while I don’t know the circumstances around this moment, my inner being could feel her pain.
Then she turned it off and said hello to us as nice as anyone has ever said hello. And after we passed, I wondered why we do it. Why are we the nicest version of ourselves in front of strangers, and the worst of ourselves to the ones we are supposed to love the most. We do it because we learned somewhere that it’s what you do.
As adults we can easily turn off our normal behaviour and be pleasant in public. We have the ability to turn off the hurt in our hearts and say hello to a stranger with kindness. But children aren’t yet aware of these social norms. They will not censor for others’ benefit. And that is the most beautiful thing about children. I love that about them. I immediately thought about how she was teaching her children in that moment. They are our mirrors, and being a parent is a golden opportunity for change.
Yes we can’t be loving all the time. We will have moments that we crack and let the darkness in, but as you become more and more aware of the cracks, you can heal them. You can keep the light in and the darkness out.
The first shift in awareness occurs when you shift from sleep into awareness. When you wake up from being the victim of circumstance and realize that you have the power to create your world, you have completed the first of many shifts.
The second shift occurs when you become aware of your actions. You see yourself reacting in ways you did in the past before you woke up, but you can’t seem to stop it. And that’s ok. First, you will be aware of these reactions, and then you will start to change them. Sometimes you will succeed and sometimes the tape will play out just as it would have in the past. It may take you years to feel like you have your reactions under control, and that’s ok too. Life is a sea of contrast. There is always room for improvement.
And just like improving your level of fitness, at some point you will shift from walking and running into running and sprinting. Eventually you will shift from watching yourself do something that you would rather not do, into a place of calmness and non-reaction. This is what I call the shift of detachment. When you can stop the cycle of reacting and place your focus, desire, and action on producing a different outcome, you will have successfully achieved a state of detachment and allowing.
When I can detach from what my children are doing and keep my sanity about me, and act with love and guidance rather than anger, then I feel I have done the best I can do with my current knowledge.
When I have told them ten times to put on their pyjamas and they’re still running around like little crazy minions, I can get completely unhinged and yell at them. I am aware while I am doing it that I am in misalignment with the version of myself that I wish to be – not just for my children’s sake, but for my own. As soon as I become aware, I take a step back from my yelling and reassess the situation. I don’t want them to go to bed with anger between us. I want them to feel loved.
So, I set them up for success. This may mean I actively get them dressed and brush their teeth while they continue to play. I don’t mind. Or it may mean getting them into their room and giving them the one on one attention they need to get the task done themselves. Whatever feels right in the moment is the path I take. The path changes daily.
Some nights I completely lose my mind, and that’s ok. I’m not perfect and I never will be. But I can forgive myself and learn from my mistakes and move forward. Self forgiveness is the key to lasting change, so be easy on yourself and keep moving forward.
I talk about my shortcomings with my children. I tell them why mommy acted the way she did, why it’s not okay, and tell them that it is not their fault. I tell them what I want to do differently next time and how they can help me to be the best mommy I can be.
The other day Oscar and Luca were on their scooters and we were crossing a busy street. They assume that because we are moving, it’s okay to cross, meanwhile as adults, we are assessing the situation and slowing down. They know to stop before every road and yet kept going because we were moving forward. We immediately yelled and screamed at them to stop, which is of course was out of love, but comes across as anger to a child.
We explained that we were not angry with them, but that they needed to be careful when crossing the street. In that moment we were acting out of love, but there was no time to lovingly address the situation! This is when it is important to talk with your children and explain what is happening.
I am constantly asking myself how I can act out of love with my children. Asking the question begs our subconscious to come up with an answer. Again, awareness is the light that shines on the darkness. How can I shift from fear and anger into love in this situation?
If you are angry around your children because of any number of reasons, they will internalize it without giving it a second thought. They pick up on the energy we are offering. Even as adults we tend to internalize anger. We may think, “Why are they mad at me?” or “What a bitch!” when 1, we are not the source of their anger and 2, we have no idea what circumstances have led to that behaviour.
And after they internalize this anger, they will radiate it. They will play it back to you. They will throw it in your face and you will know that you created this behaviour. Children are always watching, always mopping up our behaviour when we are least mindful of it.
Whether you are swearing in traffic, yelling at the dogs, stressed out because you’re going to be late for work, or whether your anger runs deep along the lines of resentment or withholding love from yourself, your children are taking it all in and learning that this is how they are to act in the world.
The more you can act out of love, let go of external circumstances and be loving anyway, the more your children with exude these behaviours. The more loving you are the more loving they will be. The more patient you are the more patient they will be. If there is something that is lacking in your children, then you must look within and see how you have been creating this behaviour.
For instance, I have a habit of saying “I hate that!” And of course, Luca is my little mirror and now he “hates” everything. Now I am in the process of undoing the damage that I so carelessly created. Here’s another example. Our dogs go crazy when someone comes to the door. It’s like our 8 year old dachshund wants to kill them. I’m not kidding. He’s out of control. (Yes we created that behaviour too…) And due to our not being incredibly careful with our words, Oscar now tells the dogs to “Shut the fuck up!” He’s 4. I wonder where he got that? Another habit we need to unravel. I plug away at it every day.
Our kids listen to our actions rather than our words. We speak very clearly when we act. Actions don’t lie. Words do. When you tell a child to do A, but consistently show them that B is your preferred action, they will perform action B because they want to be just like you.
Are you the adult you want your children to be? Ask yourself this question and then change your thoughts and behaviours accordingly. If you want them to eat their vegetables then you have to eat their vegetables. If you want them to be kind, then you must be kind. If you want them to be healthy then you must be healthy. And it all starts with self love, which I have covered in previous blog posts, and which I will write about until the end of time. You must put yourself first if you are going to be able to give your children the best version of you so that you may help them to create the best versions of themselves.
Your children are your greatest chance to improve your behaviour for the better. Sometimes, when we have not yet managed to love ourselves, we will change for our children. If you need to use them as leverage, then use them. If you can’t love yourself for yourself, then love yourself for them. Eventually you will come to realize that it’s one and the same. We are all one.