I once heard someone say, “If your own mother’s eyes don’t light up when you walk into the room, whose will?” This struck me as both obvious and profound and I’ve never forgotten it.
When our children are babies we don’t even really have to think about it. With each new smile or giggle our eye’s light up. Even in the middle of the night when we have to get up for another feeding, just looking down into their sweet little faces as they eat, you can’t help but smile at them. But when they get older and start misbehaving, talking back, arguing with us or their siblings, it can be hard to force a grin much less work up an eye sparkling smile.
Then the rest of the world chimes in: teachers, principles, neighbors, coaches, family members and other parents. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying my children are perfect, far from it. I don’t even want to think about how much money I have spent on parenting books in the last 8 years. We’re always “working on something”. Right now it’s helping Primo understand that he is responsible for his own choices regardless of whether another student started talking to him first. With Segundo it’s helping him navigate the middle brother issues that have him literally throwing himself on the floor in tears every 10 minutes. I wish I were exaggerating about that. And with Trevino it’s trying to figure out how to get him to be less of a dick in general and to stop hitting as a sign of love and affection. And that’s just naming one per child. But in spite of all that, what I am saying is that they should still feel, and see, that I am glad to see them if for no reason other than the fact that I am theirs and they are mine. Even with all their imperfections I never want them to doubt that I am glad to see them. But it can be challenging not to let what other people say affect this.
I once had someone tell me they thought my oldest son, who was 6 at the time, was displaying anti-social tendencies because he seemed “overly dominant” while playing with the other kids. ??????? He’s the oldest of three boys. His father is 6’6 and so he is always one of the tallest and biggest in his class. At the time, he didn’t have any friends that were older or bigger than him. And not to mention that being dominant or aggressive, to one degree or another, is not something out of the ordinary for any boy. At first I was embarrassed by my son’s behavior. What was wrong with him? Why did he have to be so rough and bossy? So, “dominant”? I was angry with him. By not “behaving”, he was making me look like a “bad mother”.
I try to always remember that there are a thousand different ways to be a boy (or a girl but I have only boys so…) Some are rough and some are gentle. Some are solemn and others emotional. Some are tough and some are tender. Some like pink and others black. Some like art and some don’t. Some like sports and some don’t. Some like music and theatre and some don’t. And none of these ways are any more right than another.
After a few days of stewing about this comment, and being annoyed with my son, I realized that I was letting someone else’s opinion affect the way I thought about my son. It was affecting the sparkle in my eye. So I forgot about the ‘anti-social’ comment. And I reminded myself that it is good to take other peoples thoughts and comments into consideration but that I have to be careful not to let those comments dull the sparkle in my eyes. There are so many different ways to be a boy and it doesn’t really matter if someone else thinks that my boy is the right kind of boy. There really isn’t any such thing.
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