I sometimes wonder if doctors feel more pressure to have children who never miss school due to illness. Or if coaches feel pressure for their children to be the best athletes on the team. And surely teachers’ kids should have the highest grades in school. But them I’m reminded about PKs (preachers’ kids) and know that they’re often not the best behaved in church. Or how in a playful twist on the latter, I referred to my children as DKs (director’s kids) when I was the administrator of a child care center. Everyone there knew that directors’ kids are NOT necessarily perfect child care program advertisements!
As a parent who works in the early childhood field, I am fortunate to be exposed to a wealth of information on child development and best practices for interacting with children. In fact, one of the things I most enjoy about my work is the many opportunities I have to share this knowledge with parents and other professionals. Most often I do this through writing and presenting workshops. I’m a firm believer in the “When people know better they do better” philosophy and love putting people, especially parents, “in the know.”
Recently, while preparing to present a workshop that addresses speaking with children in ways that are respectful, meaningful and developmentally appropriate, I found myself evaluating how well I practice what I preach. I considered an example I give workshop participants: The participant, their husband and another couple are watching a game on TV. During an exciting play, the other husband lurches forward and spills his drink on the carpet. He’s embarrassed and says, “Oh, no! Look what I did to your rug!” As everyone scurries to clean up the mess, the participant tells their friend, “Don’t worry. This carpet has seen a lot worse.”
I’m certain that is how I would react if one of my friends were to spill their drink on the carpet. And I’m pretty sure that’s how I would respond if it were one of my children. Whew! I passed that test.
But I failed one a few weeks ago.
Heading out the door to the pool, I noticed my seven-year-old smearing her excess sunscreen into my cream colored Shabby Chic sofa! Totally exasperated, I asked her, “Have you lost your mind?” Mortified at my response, I could have bitten my tongue out the minute the words were out of my mouth.
The look of shock that passed across my little girl’s face served a dual purpose. It reminded me how powerful my words are. I may as well have struck her. The second was an affirmation that I usually do speak with her in a way that is appropriate. Otherwise, she wouldn’t know the difference.
In that moment, it was blatantly clear that she hangs on my every word. And she needed to hear one – Sorry.
That takes me back to my earlier ponderings. Since I work in a child related field, do I feel more pressure to put it all into practice and parent perfectly? Absolutely. But I’ve learned to cut myself a little slack. We all make mistakes. But it’s to our credit, and our children’s, to learn from them and make a different one each time.