Leading with Love
As parents and children there are lessons we receive and give that we do not realize until they show up and prove their existence. As a daughter I recall two lessons my father gave me that show up in my mind when I reflect on choices I have made that either counter or honor his words of wisdom. Even when I didn't grasp his bigger message, he was leading with love through his messages and actions.
Lesson #1 “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." Lesson#2 ”If I cut, then you choose“
The first one was to remind me to be cautious and reflective. The second to ensure I was fair and just with others. I expected I would one day impart his as well as my own wisdom on my children as well.
When my three boys were younger I was an active mother who engaged them in projects and adventures, but all the while my spirit was empty. Much of my energy in my home was focused on their father and managing the equilibrium of emotions in our home. I loved my children and was devoted to them and their well-being, but I wasn’t fully there emotionally for myself enough to be there for them. When we are not completely present in all aspects of our life, we are pouring into others from an empty cup.
Raising my daughter in this restart of motherhood while being an independent single woman has given me space to be whole as a parent the way I never could with my boys. I gave them moments, but I missed the opportunities to give them the lessons I now realize I should have.
The gift she provides me in return is the moments where I watch her draw upon these lessons to make meaning of her own life. I want to share these with you and ask you to reflect on your own lessons learned or given. How have those phrases and stories impacted your parenting or upbringing?
Mama's Words of Wisdom
“Be a beautiful soul in this world, show kindness and give others grace.” This one was a battle of wills recently. As a charming five year old girl whom many gravitate towards, there is s strong possibility of her being pulled into becoming a cliché mean girl. If you have daughters or are a woman who has experienced this, you know what I mean. Popular girls often use their power to influence others in negative ways and it’s easy to fall into that pattern when the world seems to cater to you. She is the youngest of 4 with 3 older brothers who are 16, 19 and 21. She definitely has a clear sense of the power and influence she has in a world of boys. So as a mom, my job is to keep this chick grounded and humbled to the world by ensuring she chooses kindness over her ego.
We came head to head on this one recently when she was talking about two girls at school who always want to play with her during recess but she avoids. I quickly sensed her disdain and intervened in that potential mean girl moment. Regardless if we are young or old, empathy and seeing commonalities helps us shift our outlook on others. After a quick talk about the way she feels when she does not get the attention from her brothers and older kids, she saw the similarities. The next morning without any prompting, she decided to make cards for both the girls. Some lessons need to be revisited often and addressed in new ways to counter the pull of social expectations and messages. Kindness and grace are life long reminders that we all need.
“We can have emotions and cry just as long as we don’t do it for too long.”
I think one of the biggest weakness in today’s society is a lack of emotional intelligence and the permission to express the feelings we are experiencing. Like most five year old's, she gets upset. It's not often, but when her emotions are triggered it's not easy to come back down from the heightened feelings. As she matured and I was able to talk her through her thoughts and help her identify her triggers the high and intense emotions started to subside faster each time. Now she will turn to me when she is over it and say. I cried because I was sad, but now I’m ready to be happy again. And just like that my five year old has shifted her mindset to control her own thoughts and bring about positive outcomes.
I wish I had also taught this to my boys, tears and emotions are what make us human and release the pain we are carrying internally. This gap between how men respond to feelings of their own and others stems from this inability to sit in the emotions for a moment and articulate what is impacting us and how we are reacting to it. It keeps many men from gaining the emotional intelligence to share themselves and be vulnerable in relationships.
When someone apologizes to you, thank them because it takes a lot to say you were wrong and admit you hurt someone."
This was one that I shared with my boys as well. In the infinite number of arguments and physical fights they got into, there were many times where an apology was necessary. I wanted them to give grace to the person saying sorry, because not everyone does.
That's the truth in adult life. This often shows up in unhealthy dynamics with gaslighting and manipulation conversations to blame the victim, rather than own up to doing someone wrong. So, I made it a point to teach my children to apologize and own their mistakes, and also to appreciate and honor someone else when they receive the genuine apology because that takes courage to do.
“Nothing will be perfect, but everything will be special.”
This was my most recent one that formed from a day I was overwhelmed in making sure Kaiya's 5th birthday was a success. Now it's become a mantra to ground us in stressful moments. When things go differently than I plan she can sense my energy shifting to frustration and quickly pulls this gem out to ground me. Yes baby girl, you are completely right. Life is not about perfection, it’s about living in the present and appreciating what is in front of us as a gift.
I am sure as she gets older my advice will evolve and I suspect that there will be moments where she starts to advise me on how I should see and be in the world. I’ve got grown kids, I know how this parenting trajectory plays out. My hope is that one day when she becomes a teenager who exchanges the bare minimum of words with me and avoids being in the same room, she still reflects on these lessons as guidance to navigate her world.
Parenting is a crap shoot, you never know what is going to work and when. Treasure the moments when a lesson is taken and remember that even when they don’t vocalize it, they are watching and listening to our words and actions to determine who they want to show up as in the world.
Lead with love and they will follow.