Sunday, October 10, 2010

Critical parent genetics

N recently wrote a letter to Santa.   It read as follows:

Dear Santa

For Critsmas
I wold like
some Barbie clotse.
Some clotse for me.
A stuft anamal dog not to big
My own pen
Some kid girl's hi-heel shoes pink please
Hanna Montana sticers
Thank you

Now for a brand-new first grader, I think this letter is pretty darn good.  Heck, I used to teach 6th graders who wrote like this.  Words are misspelled, but you can easily decipher what she means.  (Recently I helped a bit in N's class where I saw a child write the word "nothing" as "nugn.")

I showed my parents and my MIL the letter because I thought it was cute that she wrote this herself, especially since last year I had to practically beg her to write a letter to Santa.  N is very, very into writing now, which I think is just great.

Nana and Mamaw were like, "That's great!" while my dad said directly to N, "You're going to have to practice your spelling."


When he said this, I quickly defended her writing, reminding him that she is a first grader.

But I felt deflated for her, and to be honest, for myself.  Because this reminded me a bit of what my childhood was like.  Forever trying to live up to a parent's probably too-high expectations.  And it is, to some extent at least, why I have spent my life driving myself crazy to be "perfect."

I recognize that I am a critical person like my dad.  I hold very high expectations for myself and everyone else around me.  But I really try to temper it when it comes to my kids.  Because they are kids. Because I don't want them to think they have to be anything other than their true selves, warts and all, to get my love.  

Therapy has taught me the pointlessness of blaming my parents for every little thing.  I understand now that as parents we bring a whole hell of a lot of baggage to the job.  And some parts of the parenting job are easier, more natural for us than others.

I work to find that balance between being my children's biggest cheerleader and encouraging them to do their best and give great effort in what they do.


Brandi said...

I love reading your blog. I feel like I am looking into a mirror with every post that I read. In fact, I just had the same discussion as your blog with my therapist last night. Almost to a T. And my blog today was very similar to this one.

Thank you for being out there in the blog world, so I know I'm not alone. It truly helps!

Keri said...

For what it's worth, I agree with you that N's letter is great, but I know that's not the point of your post.

Isn't it amazing that ANY of us turn out even semi-normal, with generations upon generations of baggage coming down through the ages???

As someone who also tends to be critical to a fault (especially with my eldest), I'm learning that a lot is conveyed by tone. If I have a legitimate criticism to make with one of the girls - something that really does need to be corrected or changed - I try to force myself, no matter how annoyed I am, to use an upbeat or a gentle tone of voice to make my point, and it makes all the difference in the reaction I get.

This is definitely something I constantly have to work hard at, though, since I'm usually tired, headachy, or just plain grumpy, and my first reaction is to snap and pick in an unkind way. And I probably fail as often as I succeed in my desire to be positive with criticism.