setting-a-positive-example-to-children

Setting a Positive Example

I haven’t had a parenting post in a while, so it’s time for one. If you are like me, and a parent with a chronic illness, thoughts of “how can I be a better parent” come up in moments of self-reflection. A constant concern I have is, am I setting a positive example for Jai? Am I being a good mother, especially in the moments my illness seems to take over?

I feel like there’s a lot of expectations placed on mothers, especially on how we project ourselves in public and private. When we have moments where we are vulnerable, we get frustrated. Coupled with a chronic illness, especially invisible ones where society forgets we are ill, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

For myself, in the moments I feel overwhelmed, I feel like I struggle to set a positive example. With my MS, I feel obligated to set an example about the importance of handling things out of our control in a positive way.

When we have a Little Clone

It isn’t always the case, but have you noticed being closely aligned with a parent in personality? More like your mother or your father? Or a nice blend of both? If you are a parent, you may notice your child favors you or your partner more in personality.

This may be frustrating because two strong personalities in the same home is a recipe for conflict. But it can be a wonderful bonding experience if approached properly. The parent whom the child favors is able to identify personality quirks and be sensitive to particular needs. Rather than being an adversary, the parent can be a valuable alley within the home.

When a child is similar to us, it’s a wonderful opportunity to see our own behaviors in their purest form. Children can provide a deeper insight to ourselves.

I find that Jai teaches me how to behave better. Observing his interactions on the playground, he does not get upset when another child steals his toy. Rather than getting upset, he’ll move on to another toy. It’s an opportunity for me to learn from his wisdom: focus not on the loss of the toy, but the opportunity to do something else.

I recognize his behavior is age/developmentally based. In a few months, he may not behave so passively in a similar situation.

In those moments of adaptability, I encourage his behavior. Likewise, I want to make sure he doesn’t pick up my bad habits. Rather than swooping in and letting Jai know that something negative happened, I try to be as non-reactive to keep the situation calm and under control. My instinct is a bad habit developed over the years: take the toy back while reprimanding the offending child for not knowing how to share. This teaches Jai to be aggressive in a negative way and I don’t want to encourage that.

If Jai is upset over losing something, it is better I show him how to ask for a toy back in a nice manner, rather than fight bullying with bullying.

Setting a Positive Example to Children

Children, even in their worst moments, provide us with valuable insight to our own behaviors. They observe our every moment, behavior, and style of speech. A few weeks ago, when I braked the car suddenly, I heard from the backseat, “what are you doing?” directed at the driver causing me to brake.

I knew in that moment I needed to be more aware of the language I used while driving around the city.

Consider this: next time your child behaves in a manner you find problematic, step back and see where that behavior was modeled for them. Was it from you? A co-parent? A secondary caregiver? School? If you find that it is a reflection or response to your own behaviors, consider finding a way to change it so you model the behavior you want your child to have.

This might be particularly difficult to achieve with a chronic illness, but it is still possible. Use your illness as a teaching moment: sometimes we cannot control our own behaviors because of an exacerbation, but we are doing the best we can with what we have.

When you mess up, rather than ignoring it, sit down with a child and explain what happened. Do not excuse it. Provide a reason to your thinking and behavior, or admit you don’t know why. Walk a child through how you plan to approach the situation in the future and acknowledge that you may not remember/achieve it the next time. Admit to your imperfection, and reassure the child that it’s okay to be human but not okay to hurt others. Finally, make sure you apologize to your child if necessary.

Treat your child, no matter their age, like the human they are with all the respect that goes with it. You’ll find that the example you set, no matter when you start, will eventually payoff with some patience and compassion on your part.


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Featured photo credit: Michelle Melton

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Kids as Self-Improvement Motivation

Kids as Self-Improvement Motivation

Monday, I talked about not using children as your main goal for self-improvement. Instead of working towards being a better parent, figure out why you struggle with the aspects you want to improve and work on that instead. Improved parenting becomes a secondary benefit when you feel better about yourself. So when I say, kids as self-improvement motivation, it feels like I am taking a step backward from Monday’s post.

But I’m not.

Because children are a part of our daily lives, they can also be a part of our motivation. Seeing your children born and grow may motivate you to become healthier to live longer. Or they reflect behaviors that you do but know needs to change. Their appearance in your life may be enough for you to say “I need to make some changes!”

With that in mind,  kids can work as self-improvement motivation.

A Clarification: Parental Responsibility

Before I go any further I need to make some clarifications and disclaimers to contextualize the rest of this post.

Your children are not responsible for motivating you. They do not create or affect your happiness or ability to succeed. Only you are responsible for yourself and your behaviors. Things in your past may influence your current behaviors, but you are responsible for your own actions. Therefore, your children are not responsible for your ability to make and achieve your goals.

What I do suggest is to use their natural behaviors and inclinations to achieve your goals. If you have a toddler it’s near impossible to keep them still, so if you want to exercise, try to take advantage of their energy.

Jai loves to exercise and run around the house. One of my short-term goals this year is to do more yoga. Why not combine his need to burn energy and my need to practice? Using his natural need to expend energy as a means to motivate me to exercise is using him as a motivator. I am placing no expectations on him, no responsibility, he doesn’t even know that he is helping me out.

Likewise, if you are looking to de-stress and improve how you react to your children under stressful circumstances, do not expect them to behave any differently. Look at how they react to you when you react to them. Sometimes seeing a look, that look, that they give can be motivating enough to work harder to avoid getting it next time.

You are placing no expectations on the children, no responsibility on them to help you through your journey. The only responsibility your children have in this journey is being their own, individual person, enjoying their childhood, and reaping the benefits of the work you do for yourself.

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Toddler Life Lessons

This post was originally published August 2018.


Toddlers are too young to understand deep, philosophical lessons. They are too young to understand moral quandaries. They are too young to really grasp right from wrong.

As parents, we know that just because they can’t understand it, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be taught. I feel like this is a “no, duh” moment many parents are saying to themselves right now.

Yet an issue I run into as I parent Jai with Ash is knowing what lessons to teach and how best to teach them. Questions I ask myself on a daily basis: is this something worth correcting Jai on? How do I correct him, with a warning or straight to time out? Should I follow the mainstream recommendation or go with my instinct?

A mentor once told me years ago, well before I met Ash, that you are never truly prepared to have a child. So if you want to have one, you have to just jump in and learn as you go. It won’t be easy, but the payoff will be worth it in the end when you have a functioning, well-adjusted adult that wants to have a relationship with you after they’ve moved out of the house.

But in order to achieve this, I have to begin training Jai to be polite, thoughtful, a good listener, able to share, and comfortable with adults as a toddler. The list is a bit longer than that, but those are the main concerns I have on a daily basis with a toddler.

As I am training Jai, I have to be mindful of several things: I’m an adult, what battles to pick and being humble throughout the whole experience.

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Gratitude for my Parents

For the month of November, I am taking each day to highlight some element in my life that I want to express my gratitude about. This could be something deeply personal or just a passing appreciation for something more superficial. 


I talk about my parents occasionally on the blog, but their presence is in every post. It shines through the help my parents provide to make each post possible. My mother is especially supportive, she provides many of the pictures seen on the blog and the time watching Jai so I can write.

So for today, I wanted to express my gratitude for my parents who are huge cornerstones in my life. I find writing posts such as these to be extremely difficult because it’s hard to encompass all that I love and appreciate about my parents in a succinct way. The English language is flawed in many ways because there aren’t proper words to express the depth and breadth of my appreciation.

I will try my best despite this shortcoming.

My Mother

My mother is my biggest fan. She’ll be the first to tell you that. Which I think tends to be the case for a lot of mothers. I know that I am a fan of Jai and when he starts doing cooperative group activities, or activities in general, I will be one of his greatest fans.

Her mantra for me growing up was that I could do whatever I wanted to do, so do what I love. I stumbled along the way, my diagnosis catching me off guard and I took a couple of detours, but I am finally doing what I love: writing on a near-daily basis for an audience.

The only reason why I am able to do this is my wonderful and supportive mother. Jai is a handful now that he’s a toddler and sitting down during my peak energy hours to do my writing is near impossible because it coincides with his most active play time. She makes the journey several times a week to watch Jai for a few hours while I write, do extra work, or clean without worrying about him getting underfoot.

Some days just having her with me helps keep me from feeling lonely or depressed, so her presence is soothing to me even as an adult.

But that’s not the only thing I appreciate about her – without her, I do not believe I would be successful in my health journey. She is my running and accountability buddy. On the days she is unable to make it out to meet me for a run, I am not motivated enough to go by myself. I know I need to work on that, but I really enjoy meeting up with her in the mornings to chat about all sorts of things. I find that I look forward to these runs, even if we’re doing the really long one for the week.

She’s always been my inspiration for a variety of things in my life: she went to college while I was a teenager, so I was inspired to go; she started running many years ago to get healthy, so I decided I could do it myself; she’s showing what it takes to be an awesome grandparent to Jai, so I hope I can follow in her footsteps if he starts his own family someday.

My Father

My dad and I are alike – we look similar, we have very similar personalities, and we have the same sense of humor. Because of this, we have that unique connection that comes from parents with children who are little clones of themselves. I understand him and he, for the most part, understands me.

Growing up I have a lot of fond memories of time spent with my father. We would go to to a local lake and stick our feet in the water for fish to nibble our toes. When he had a motorcycle, I remember him taking me on mini-day trips around the state where it was just the two of us.

He encouraged me to climb the trees in our yard, helping me get started on one particularly difficult tree and the two of us spending time up in it chatting away. We would wait until my mom would come out and check on us and then play pranks on her while she was on the ground. She did not appreciate it, but the two of us giggled until the tree shook.

As adults, we aren’t climbing trees anymore, but I enjoy the days where we sit on the back porch and sip Scotch while grilling or having a fire in the firepit. In those moments we can talk about everything and anything – and I enjoy hearing how much he loves spending time with Jai when the topic comes up.

I appreciate how seriously he takes being a grandfather to Jai. I knew he would love being a grandfather, but it’s a lot of fun seeing how he plays with Jai. I have very similar memories of play with my father when I was younger, so it’s like watching the past. Jai adores my father and always asks to see him when he’s gone more than a week without seeing his Grampy.

 

I recognize how lucky I am to have both of my parents in my life, especially now that I am getting older. I know that having one or both parents is a luxury at my age and I try to not take that for granted, especially considering how supportive they are in my life. It’s hard for me to demonstratively express my gratitude and appreciation for them, as I feel embarrassed sometimes over such things, but I am trying to be more active so they are aware of my appreciation and Jai learns that showing gratitude for those closest to us is important.

Because of how things worked out this year, I will be spending the Thanksgiving holiday with my parents and I hope to express the gratitude shared in this post with them over supper.

How have your parents helped you grow as a person that you are grateful for? What would you say to them if given a chance? Leave your stories and thoughts in the comments.


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Featured photo credit: Photo by Mihai Surdu on Unsplash


Prepping for Pre-School

Jai is going to be two soon. I still can’t believe it.

What that means is that we have another year before we need to consider enrolling Jai in pre-school. The cultural narrative is if he isn’t already enrolled in a quality pre-school before being born, I might as well accept the fact that he’ll never get into college.

I exaggerate but I do have that fear.

Ash and I looked at a couple of local pre-schools but to the extent of checking out their programs online. We haven’t visited, we haven’t contacted them, we haven’t really discussed our options other than: should we?

For a person who likes to be on top of everything and stresses out when I’m not, this “lack of planning” is a new feeling for me. Part of me is concerned that I am not concerned and another part of me isn’t ready for the idea of sending Jai way for portions of the day to be under a stranger’s care.

I am torn between being more proactive or just waiting until I absolutely have to make the decision to enroll him, around age 4.

Jai may make that decision for me: if he isn’t ready developmentally to join pre-school before 4, then I don’t have anything to worry about other than getting him into a decent program when he’s ready.

Right now, because I have a year to go before he can even be considered for pre-school, even part-time, I am not stressing too much. But I do need to start thinking about it because of applications, enrollments, and other deadlines that come up fast.

I also have to consider: what does he need to know before he steps into the classroom? And how can I, as a parent, work with his future teachers to provide him with all the tools he needs to get the most out of his education?

To be clear, this post isn’t about the first day of pre-school or finding a pre-school to send a little one. It’s about what I can do for Jai before I send him to pre-school so he’s prepared when the time comes. I will cross the bridge of the “do I send him at 3 or do I send him at 4” when I get to it.

This is something I can work on now.

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