What Will People Say?

by Stefani on 18-October-2007

I hate it, HATE IT, when my own words bite me in the a**.

But let me back up…

I thought I’d try an experiment. I told my guys to come up with their own challenges for themselves. The idea, was to think of things that they wanted to do, and learn, ways they wanted to stretch themselves academically and then to decide, on their own, what an appropriate celebratory reward would be, once they accomplished their goals.

Say, for example, you read 10 books, on your own, books of a certain level. Maybe you’d get to have a picnic at a favorite park, ride a city bus or bake a cake and have 10 candles.

I told them that I was not going to ask them to work toward their goals, or even remind them. This was their own deal. I gave them each a notebook and watched as they felt around in the dark.

“What should my goal be?” he asked, bewildered that I was not telling him what should be done.

“You tell me. What do you find difficult? What would you like to be able to do, or know, that you don’t now?”

“How about 5 songs on the piano?” says he.

“Sure, if that’s what you’d like to do to challenge yourself, I think that’s a worthy goal.”

“Do you get to pick the songs?”

“No, this is your thing.” (seriously, have I been that controlling?)

So, he writes it down in his notebook (along with a few other goals). In the end, he subtracted a song, but added in the fact that he would need to play them for his grandmother and grandfather before considering it a thing accomplished. Very cool goal, for a boy who is pretty shy about being the center of attention.

Challenge

He spent a pretty fair amount of time, banging away at the keys until he finally called for me to come and hear his music.

“Well, does that qualify for one? Can I move on to another?” he said when his song was done.

“I don’t know, can you?”

Dumbfounded stare.

“Look, The whole point of your challenge is for YOU to push yourself to do something hard, and to do it well, and to be proud of your accomplishment. If you are proud, and you think that you played that song the best you can ever play it, move on. It. Is. Your. Choice. It does not matter what I think. It matters what you think.”

He set to work, practicing some more. In the end, he really did play that song beautifully, and he knew it. He was REALLY proud.

Pianisimo

I went away, smug in my good parenting. I was sure that I had just made it completely out of the question that he would ever worry about what anyone else thought, or that he would ever gauge his worth or his abilities based on the attitudes of others.

I stayed in my smug state right up until we had some folks over for dinner. James was out of control goofy and downright irritating, like a kid on crack. Ryder was cranky and tired. Luke dissolved into tears over a disagreement with me. And I did not think, “Have I done my best? What can I do to improve? In what areas will I work to meet this challenge? How will I go about this differently next time?” I did not think about learning from those challenges. I did not think about hearing their struggles or even what my part was in bringing about this moment.

Nope, I just thought about what our dinner guests might be thinking. I measured myself and my kids by whatever I imagined them to be thinking, and I failed, miserably. Our guests left unceremoniously, and everyone went to bed in a huff, without even brushing their teeth.

Then, I came around the corner and saw my boy’s little chicken scratched goal for himself and sat right down for a good cry.

In the middle of all of them having a melt down, was I on hand to help them get to the heart of the matter and work things out, or was I just in full blown, rein-them-in-because-other-people-are-looking mode?

I heard myself telling Luke, earlier in the day, “It does not matter what others think, it matters what you think.”

I think I want a do-over.
I think I will keep practicing, and hope for beautiful music next time.
I think parenting is hard, hard work.
I think tomorrow will be better.
I think this post is a major downer, but that honesty is the best policy… it ain’t all tepees and field trips, people.

I think the weekend will be good, and I hope yours is too!

Sarah Jackson October 18, 2007 at 8:36 pm

Oh, Stefani. I’m so sorry you had one of those days. And it’s such a good lesson that it does matter what people think, no matter how hard you try for it not to. And it mattered because YOU weren’t happy with how things were going down, so they must not be either. Sometime all we can do it rein it in and deal with it later.

Parenting is rough stuff. You’re a great mama, and even the best of us have our bad days. Brush yourself off and have a better tomorrow.

Anne October 18, 2007 at 9:02 pm

Parenting is the hardest job there is, and some days are just like this.

Tomorrow is another day.

Alicia A. October 18, 2007 at 9:48 pm

You are an extraordinary human being, Stefani.

Here’s to more good days than bad.

kelly October 18, 2007 at 9:50 pm

You are an amazing parent because you are honest! I love your blog and posts about being a parent of boys, your honesty just makes me realize I am not the only one! The sun will rise again tomorrow for that well deserved do-over! -kb

Krista October 18, 2007 at 10:25 pm

This is such a wonderful post about mindfulness.

I, too, forget so often to work with my kids and not against them , and I so often allow distractions to blow my parenting skills and my childrens’ needs right out of the water.

“What other people think” is one example of a distraction, but also things like MY needs in the moment, such as; I am obsessive about being on time for things, to a fault, so sometimes I’ll get in a mood and forget to be my “best” most loving self when a child is holding us up or being difficult somehow.

Or I’m bored, or tired, or angry about something… the list goes on.

There are so many things that can distract us and help us to forget to keep the priority of having a peaceful, healthy relationship with our children at the top of the list in each moment.

Yes, it is hard work, very hard. But I think there is so much value in the fact that we strive for awareness each day and we strive to do and be better.

You’ve done beautifully here in my opinion and I totally understand the chord you are trying to strike with your children when giving them the opportunity to set their own standards and values and take the focus off of what everyone else thinks or wants from them. I’ve been there with my oldest, as well. It’s a wonderful lesson, for our children and ourselves!

You’re doing some Great Work, mama!

Stephanie October 19, 2007 at 12:49 am

You know what he will remember? Not that friends were over or that last night was a bad night. He will remember that Mama trusted him enough to make his own decision about whether to keep trying or to settle for just okay. Children are so resilient and they understand even better than adults that tomorrow is a brand new day.

dana October 19, 2007 at 2:09 am

You are an amazing momma. For real.

And an amazing writer too.

erin October 19, 2007 at 4:47 am

i just had a day like that myself. hugs. being a mom is tough stuff.

Ali October 19, 2007 at 5:12 am

Parenthood – the highs and the lows just follow in such quick succession.

You are a wise woman. And doing a tough job well.

Katherine October 19, 2007 at 5:12 am

My favorite parts, you kid did succeed and it still counts. Then the part where you were so smug – cause I do that all the time myself. Then the part where you dropped the ball and then cried a lot – cause I that all the time myself.

Thank you for this beautiful honesty.

Grandmother October 19, 2007 at 5:16 am

I can hardly wait for the piano concert! What a wonderful accomplishment for Luke and a treat for me.

Tracy October 19, 2007 at 5:18 am

Oh, dearest. I hear you. I relate to you. So many things are hard like this, and I know that alot of the time I don’t stop to think about what it all means like you did in this situation. I think that is the most important part, though. Not that you may have failed, but that you learned, and you know how to try harder.

You are definitely a wise woman, and I am so appreciative of your wisdom, and your honesty.

Cheryl October 19, 2007 at 5:20 am

Man, can’t we all relate to that? And that evening is also a lesson to the boys, we are all human. This is what I tell myself, anyway.

I really love the goal setting idea though. So you have inspired that exercise in our home. I’ll let you know how it goes.

kristin October 19, 2007 at 5:24 am

don’t i know it.

exactly.

too familiar.

Lisa Clarke October 19, 2007 at 5:46 am

It says something that days like that are not so commonplace that you just brush them off as insignificant. The fact that you are bothered by it proves what a great Mom you are.

I love your goal-setting idea. I think maybe I’ll give that one a try myself! Hope today is a better day.

beki October 19, 2007 at 5:57 am

I so needed to hear this.

MollyB October 19, 2007 at 6:03 am

What a great idea for teaching your boys self-discipline, independence & critical thinking. And what a wonderful reminder to us moms the important, but sometimes difficult task of living in our own reality and not inside the minds of others.

I once (under the what are my in-laws thinking? influence) told my 2 yr old that he knew better than to smear frosting all over his head-What was I thinking!?

Bluebirdbaby October 19, 2007 at 6:26 am

Aw. What a touching post. The realness of motherhood, which we often don’t see in this blogging world. I have many days like this. It’s so challenging and sometimes we have those “less than proud” parenting moments. I can also see that you have many “proud” parenting moments. You are a great mama.

Eren October 19, 2007 at 6:51 am

Oh sweet lady…sending you a big hug from across the miles. I think we all, big people and little people, have days that we need a do over. Bless you!!!!

=^..^= October 19, 2007 at 8:23 am

The fact that you’ve realized these things, well, that means you ARE all of the things you accused yourself of – but that you don’t want to be. You are already several steps ahead of so many parents. Good parent. Good.

Marjorie October 19, 2007 at 9:13 am

Thank you for sharing. Don’t you love when your kids knock you off your pedestal? Mine are always doing that to me. It’s good for us, I suppose. Life is always better after a good cry, anyways. Have a great weekend 🙂

brit October 19, 2007 at 9:35 am

ah the irony. I know you aren’t fishing for compliments and I won’t be giving any because you won’t believe me. Being a teacher is so hard especially when our own lessons hit us in the face. It’s so hard to judge when we have accomplished our goals and harder still to believe we did our best, so much easier to let others validate us.

I don’t think this is a downer post. I think it is a reality check that says I’m invested in my life and sometimes I forget to hold myself to my standards and not other peoples.

It’s sure tough being a mama. And a teacher. And a warden. And a tour guide. And a friend. And a ship captain.

But like so many of us? You wear your hats so well….and you write pretty good too.

liz October 19, 2007 at 10:03 am

Reading about the thought and love and patience you put into your mothering is such an inspiration (I keep using that word in my comments but it applies to you ceaselessly). You are a perfect example of how elevated parenting can be.

Please know that worrying about what others are thinking is what helps keep us civilized. You aren’t a hypocrite for wanting your boys to meet their own goals and meanwhile not horrify you in front of your friends. I think there’s something entirely appropriate about wanting to teach our littles to behave in society but still answer only to themselves in their hearts.

Lina October 19, 2007 at 10:17 am

It sucks when we have moments of realisation like these. You are only human after all and I like to tell myself that its important that my children see that mummy makes mistakes too and life isn’t all hunky dory. Thank you for being so honest. I think your boys are very lucky.

Lori October 19, 2007 at 11:18 am

ah but we want them to be resilient, too, and remember that one failure means nothing — you just pick yourself up and go on. right? right? that’s what i tell myself. :^)

why is it that no matter how wonderful your kids are, what scintillating dinner table conversation you had the night before, the precocious and truly funny thing your four-year-old said dryly that morning, they always *always* melt down when company’s over?!

xo

Heather October 19, 2007 at 12:00 pm

Oh sweet Stefani! You are so brave and so honest to share with a roomful of friends and strangers. Thank you. Every time I catch back up with your blog you awe me. You are an amazing mama and your boys know it. Isn’t it wonderful that you’ll have a chance to apologize and tell them how you wish you’d done it differently? Such an incredible teachable moment. Hugs, girl, hugs.

Heather October 19, 2007 at 12:09 pm

Oh, sister, this struggle is so close to my heart. So often I step back and ask, “Does this really bother you, H? Or does it bother you that it might bother someone else?” I started my journey (in January) to seek the approval of God over the approval of men. I want my kids to know who God made them to be, not who the world wants them to be. I want them to rise to meet the purpose for their lives, not be fearful of being “different” than the world. All this while seeking my own purpose and learning to accept myself as fearfully and wonderfully made by my Creator. It is so hard. But struggle away, sister, because you will be stronger for it.

molly October 19, 2007 at 1:47 pm

gosh. i really needed to read this. this little post is going to stay with me for awhile, i think.
i wish we were neighbors. I could use a good friend like you around, to remind me of these important things and to commiserate with in the moments that we aren’t parenting “stars”.

happy weekend, stefani.

molly October 19, 2007 at 3:48 pm

I too am so tired of worrying about what others think, but most of the time what I think they think is just really my harshest criticism of myself. Perhaps our children will grow up to think less about what others think, find fulfillment in their accomplishments and be nice to themselves. As for a do over, I would probably make a whole new set of mistakes – but mistakes are the best learning tools.

nancy October 19, 2007 at 6:27 pm

I love the, “it ain’t all teepees and field trips, people” comment. We had a similar event this evening with some guests and a rushed exit due to a screaming out of control child. Parenting is very hard, I agree. I applaud you for your hard work!

Leigh-Ann October 19, 2007 at 11:06 pm

Stef,
you may feel down, but it was very moral of the storyish post… i like what you wrote. it was real. and even though you didn’t do what you wish you woulda…you see that you want to behave different next time, and i believe you will. because you’re a learner. and you’re willing to revise. love you.
LA

Pam October 20, 2007 at 4:45 pm

This was the first post I have read on your blog. I appreciate the honesty of recording your day. And what a wonderful reminder: “It does not matter what others think, it matters what you think. I think I will keep practicing, and hope for beautiful music next time. I think parenting is hard, hard work. I think tomorrow will be better.”

What a perfect post for me to read. Thank you.

autumn October 20, 2007 at 5:51 pm

It is refreshing (not certain whether this is a good term) to read of struggles so similar to my own. Thank you for your transparency as a parent…your words are a gift.

Ellie October 20, 2007 at 10:11 pm

Hey Stef,
This post is NOT a downer. This is uplifting, and motivational, educational, humbling. Seriously, if it was all teepees, picnics, perfect piano recitals – then where would the learning be. And wouldn’t that be boring, having no tamtrums, drama, tears in our days!
But, it’s true isn’t it – we try to teach our children, when really they are teaching us. And, I think – as long as you are listening and learning from them, then you’re allowed a few ‘mistakes’ occassionally.
Enjoy your weekend, challenges and all.

Teaque October 22, 2007 at 11:24 am

SO I’m obviously behind in my reading… As we’ve discussed before – thank you for being real! As I’m sure all the others above (NO I didn’t read all of them) have said we ALL have those days and the amazing thing is it seems that your do-over days seem to be far less than your amazing days! Keep that in mind – you are not alone in your uggg parenting but you totally stand out in your amazing parenting!! I think looking at the big picture truly makes a difference… your parenting as a whole is awesome and one bad day (well not even that) one bad evening does NOT cancel that out! 🙂

Melissa! October 26, 2007 at 10:32 am

Above everything else, my daughters humble me, enlighten me, inspire me…to me parenting is the most challenging endeavor yet the most rewarding, too.
The beauty of this blog world and dear friends at our side is we’re reminded that we are not alone 🙂

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