I think I’m due for a semi-long, thoughtful post.
I stumbled upon this article, as I always do, and maybe a year or two ago, I could relate on some level. I’m glad I came across it today as it truly hits home.
I had a pleasant childhood. I had two parents that worked jobs so that they could send my brother and I to private schools, a roof over our heads and food in our stomachs. My grandmother also lived with us and helped my parents by taking care of me and my brother so that they could both work. I played outside with neighborhood kids and had plenty of family and cousins to spend time with.
My parents and grandmother all did their best to raise my brother and me. They taught us things we should and shouldn’t do. They also, without their knowledge, taught me things that still linger with me today. My grandma would always get on us for cleaning up and washing the dishes right after we ate. It was the worst thing ever. Being a teenager, it really was, but I grudgingly did it anyways. Now, I see a sink full of dishes and always have this urge to clean them rather to let them sit and clutter the kitchen.
Since we split time with Malia with her dad, it’s hard to raise her the way Mary and I would like to since there’s no continuity. We do our best and at times I feel like we really get through to her. I feel I’ve come a long way in my relationship with Malia. I’m not her dad, her real dad is still in the picture but I am definitely in a parenting role. It was hard for me to figure out what I was going to be to Malia and how I was going to do it.
I can’t take on everything a parent does. Disciplining a child, especially one that is not yours, is a very fine line that I don’t want to straddle. I tried putting her in time out couple times and it really wasn’t helpful. She ended up being scared of me which is not what I want. I’m better leaving that up to her mom. What I did find was helpful and the most useful was explaining why she got in trouble in the first place. I found what works the best is that I speak in a firm, but clear tone. And I’ll always ask her questions to make sure she understands, instead of just telling her what we expect from her. To hear her tell us helps me know that she understands the lesson that we’re trying to teach her instead of going in one ear and out the other.
I read this article and noticed that even though we directly teach Malia what we believe is right and wrong, it’s also the things that we unconsciously do that she will learn from us as well. We always eat together at the table. We don’t watch TV while we eat. We’ll try not to play with our phones at the table. We pray before we go to sleep. I’ve always made it a point that whenever we pick up Malia, whether from school or from her dad, I’ll ask her how her day was or how her weekend was. I want her to know that we care about what she does at school.
During the week, Mary leaves work early to pick Malia up from her dad. Whenever my phone rings shortly after the 5 pm pick up time, I know it’s Malia wanting to talk to me (which is a big deal by itself). As usual, I ask her how her day was and ask what they were doing. Yesterday, however, was the first time that she asked me how my day was. I was already having a great day but that just made my week.
Whether you’re a parent or not, after reading that piece, I think you can appreciate all the little things your parents consciously and unconsciously taught you.