A Parent Tells The Truth

A friend of mine called last week, rather irritated, to inform me that her eldest daughter was lazy.  She did not say this as an unkind judgment, nor did she place any blame on the child.  In turn she said, well, I know what I have to do, “I’m taking away all screen time during the school week and limiting it on the weekends.  She’s gonna be mad, but, oh well.”   As our conversation continued, I found myself amazed at my friend’s shocking ability to tell the truth – about herself and her daughter.  She blamed no one, but sprung immediately into action.  After all, parents are raising their own future as well as the future of the planet.  Quite a responsibility and not for the faint of heart.  What struck me most was her ability to lovingly own the reality of the situation.   I knew right away, this child will be fine.  She will rise.  Her mother will show her how and furthermore, she will learn, by her mother’s example, how to intervene on the parts of herself that could one day become extremely disruptive to her life.   

In the passing days following our conversation, I found myself returning to it often.  Slowly the flower of understanding opened before me.  My friend was able to own her daughter’s behavior because she had already owned her own.  She need make no defense or excuse for her child because she need make no defense or excuse for herself.   She had already smashed that lovely trickster, Denial, within herself, therefore it could not rule and reign in her home.   I took her actions as both an admonishment and an encouragement to myself.   Am I willing to be brutally honest about myself, to own my character defects ?   Can I see, clearly and honestly the need for change in myself?  Can I intervene on my behavior?   Do I blame my pain on others actions?  Do I excuse myself from reality for any reason at all? Do I seek permission to not face who I am – the good & the ‘room for improvement’ parts?   If I can not say yes to those questions, it is highly likely I will excuse and permit and defend my children’s behavior – as I am already doing that for myself.   

Relationships with our friends, our partners, and our children continue to point us back to that which is unresolved within ourselves.   Parenting, as I am discovering, is less about changing the child’s behavior and more about changing the parents behavior.   There was a doctor, pediatrician, from Georgia.  She saw my cousins for their entire childhood and became a friend of my grandmother’s.  This doctor was remarkable.  The first female doctor in the state of Georgia, responsible for the creation of the pertussis vaccine, and many other accolades followed her long career in medicine.  She died at 113, having practiced until 100.   However, what stood out most to me was a small sign she kept in her office:


I am constantly challenged to look at who I am, what I am unwilling to admit, and what parts of myself I am ashamed of.  Who knew the real task of parenting would be to further own my own character defects.   Children mirror us.  If we deny what is in us.  They will deny what is in them, the good and the ‘opportunities for growth’.   If I am defending my child’s behavior, the real question becomes, who am I actually defending?   And, why? 

There is a passage in the literature of 12 step recovery which states, “it is a spiritual axiom, that ANYTIME I am disturbed, there is something wrong with me.”   How can I mirror such rigorous honesty to my children?

sending you love wherever you are in the world.