So many of the lessons we strive to teach our children get lost in the process of daily living. We want to teach our children to be strong and independent and loving and creative and honest and compassionate and humble and creative and responsible. Yet, shocker of shocks, we don’t always live that way in our day to day.
I know that my own Mom meant to teach us to stand up for what we believe in. I know that based on conversations that we have. She is my Mommy, after all, and I know to whom she contributes part of her income. I know that she offers financial support to organizations that stand up for the underdog. She believes strongly in looking out for all different kinds of minority groups. I know that my Mom meant to teach us to stand up for others and to stand up for ourselves. However, as Kate Bartolotta points out in her great blog post “Eight Things I Learned From 50 Naked People“, our bodies hold lessons we have learned…and by the same token, I would say that our bodies teach lessons to our children which they will hold on to. Even when we don’t know it. Kate says, “Everything you’ve experienced is stored in your body at a cellular level. Each cell is a record of all of it. I’ve felt it in your skin. Being born. Being held. The time you fell off your bike and weren’t that hurt but very scared. That brutal sunburn on your shoulders at 14. The time you fell out of a tree and broke your collarbone. The first time you felt deeply loved. The person who hurt you so badly you thought you were broken for good. Your muscles remember it. They remember it like it happened 10 minutes ago.”
Here is the connection between what Kate says and what I have learned from my own Mom about standing up for ourselves and what we believe in. One of my own biggest challenges is being able to discuss differences of opinions with people. I have a few close friends with whom I feel safe and comfortable discussing even major life philosophies that differ. With most people I absolutely do not want to discuss any differences of opinion. Even what kind of dog food is appropriate to buy. I want zero confrontation. On things that really and truly matter to me, eventually I will blow up. My body will not handle keeping silent forever. All the time I was growing up, and even as an adult, my own Mom has told me that I was ultra sensitive. I know that she told my siblings that from time to time as well. She did that to help toughen us up and I understand those words. And yet – my Mommy taught me things she possibly didn’t mean to teach. When my Mom finds herself in some sort of confrontation with people she loves, she turns on her heels and exits the room. Or, she snaps just a little bit to end the conversation. Her body moves away from whomever she is not wanting to have a disagreement with. I KNOW that she did not mean to teach me, or any of her children, to walk away from little differences of opinion. I know that because of the organizations she supports, the ones that stand up to society over all kinds of differences of opinion. Yet her body tells a different story with the people she loves. She is afraid to express a different opinion, at least with the people she loves. She is afraid that the people she loves will become angry with her. Or perhaps I am wrong. Wherever I learned it, I know perfectly well that my own Mom loves me so much and would want me to stand up for myself, and would want me to stand up for myself in loving and polite ways. I don’t know how to do that. My body tells me to keep it all in because it is too dang scary, and I am probably too sensitive, to discuss different opinions with people and its not worthwhile to do. It isn’t worth rocking the boat or risking the possibility of fighting with people. Somehow that is what I learned.
Now I am teaching myself something different. To be able to have authentic relationships with people means understanding the different opinions we may have, and respecting each other regardless of differing opinions. To have authentic and meaningful relationships with people means not being afraid of showing who we are, it means not walking on eggshells around people we love and care about. Having authentic relationships with people means understanding the difference between confrontation and a difference of opinion. I am teaching that to myself, to unteach what I learned from my own Mom, and she will likely never know that I learned from her to be scared of standing up for myself. I learned a lesson from her that she never meant to teach.
We are all going to do that. As parents, we are all going to teach our children lessons that we just do not intend to teach. Many of those lessons we won’t even know about. Fortunately, most of us will end up having children who love us and won’t want to hurt our feelings. They won’t want to tell us where they feel that we made mistakes. They will accept the fact that we are imperfect, and they will love us anyway. We are not necessarily going to know everything that we teach our children, and yet we will love them, and be loved by them.
So here is the thing – today, when you are fretting and stewing about how best to get your children to take their dish to the sink or how to get them to put their laundry away, or even if you are trying to figure out how to teach them not to drink and drive – don’t fret too much. It’s small stuff. Live your own life to the best of your ability, because you are the inner voice that your children will hear for many decades to come. The life you are living is the example your children are learning from. Your actions and attitudes become your childrens inner voice. Go ahead and make your own actions be strong and independent and loving and creative and honest and compassionate and humble and creative and responsible. It may just turn out that it is us who learn from them rather than the other way around.