Wednesday, January 15 2014
I am a first time mom and only nine months in and I realize it’s normal to worry about how you are going to teach your child to be confident, independent and respectful, but Jax is a little different than “normal” kids. Because he is visually impaired, and his eye looks a little different, he will face different struggles than the other kids his age. It would be easier for me to just do things for him when he gets down or frustrated because of his differences, but I learned from my mom that this will not help him in the long run. Confidence is important for a child to be independent, and I hope I can give Jax all the confidence he needs to succeed and be happy.
I got permission from my mom to share this letter that I wrote for her. I am sharing it because her method of parenting taught me to have respect for her, respect for others, and respect for myself. My mom gave me the confidence that I needed to be independent as a child, adolescent and now as an adult. I gained independence because she allowed me to do things on my own, make mistakes, and learn from them. Excuses weren’t allowed in our house.
In this letter, I am actually thanking my mom for being “mean.” I am not giving parenting advice by any means; my kid is only nine months old. I’m not underestimating the task that I face either. I am only sharing what worked for my parents in raising me, and that I will try to do the same things for my child. I see a lot of criticism floating around the Internet about ungrateful kids who become adults that feel entitled to everything because their parents gave them everything that they wanted and didn’t know how to tell their kids no. That is the reason I wanted to share the positive perspective from a kid (who is now an adult and a parent) that thought her mom was mean and strict growing up because her mom knew the word no and wasn’t afraid to use it. This kid, who happens to be me, only describes her childhood as happy and perfect, and now knows that her mom was not mean at all, she was preparing her daughter for life and her daughter couldn’t be more grateful.
Thank you for being “mean” to me, while I was growing up. I put the word “mean” into quotations because, thinking back, I now realize you weren’t being mean at all. You were showing me how much you loved me. You were showing me that you cared about how I would turn out.
I wish I could go back in time to tell my younger self that those “mean” things you did were all serving a very important purpose. Those “mean” things were actually preparing me for the real world. I would have listened more, argued less, and focused more on the things that would help me be successful. I would tell myself, moms really do know best!
You not only prepared me for the real world, you taught me how to be a good parent as well. I am so blessed that I have you as an example. You have given me the confidence that I need to be a loving, nurturing and dedicated mother.
Becoming a parent has taught me, that it’s not about me anymore. Until I became a mom, I didn’t understand, or even think about, all of the things you and dad gave up for me. You made sacrifices to make my life better, and that is what being a good parent is all about.
After becoming a parent myself, I am starting to understand how much you have actually sacrificed for me. I am only nine months in and the hours of sleep I have sacrificed are adding up quick. There are also those late nights out, vacations, clothes, a clean house, and so many more things that you gave up, because you wanted to see me happy. Not every parent knows how to be selfless and put their child’s needs first, so I want to say thank you for doing that for me.
When I was young, I often complained about being bored. Your response to my complaints was always the same, you would say, “Go outside and find something to do” or “go knock on the neighbor’s door.” You didn’t let me sit inside and play video games, you gave me the chance to exercise my imagination. I was, in no way, addicted to the screen. I could go outside and make a fort in the woods or pretend the back shed was my house. I could entertain myself for hours or find a friend to play with. Thank you for teaching me to be creative and learn to entertain myself. Even if it was a way to get me out of your hair for a little while, it taught me independence.
The ability to be independent, which you started teaching me at a young age, is something I hope to teach my kids. You always trusted me enough to let me try things on my own. Your confidence in my ability to figure things out helped me to build confidence in myself. If I needed you, you were always there to push me in the right direction. As my self-confidence grew, so did my independence. I figured out early that if I wanted something done, I shouldn’t expect you or anyone else to do it for me, I should do it myself. This saved me from a lot of letdowns in the real world and taught me to be grateful when someone did help me out.
As an adult, I know I am not entitled to anything. Growing up, you made it a point that I would have to earn the things that I wanted, because this is how the real world works. You and dad earned the money, so if I wanted to buy a toy, I’d have to earn the money from you in order to do so. This made it clear to me that no one owes me anything. You showed me the importance of hard work and that hard work does pay off. I might have been angry then, when you wouldn’t buy me that toy, but I am thankful now that I didn’t get everything that I ever wanted. It taught me to be grateful for gifts and that there are benefits to working hard.
Because you provided me with a roof over my head, food to eat, and the cool clothes that I had to have, I was expected to help around the house. I had to help rake the yard, shovel the snow, mow the yard, vacuum, unload the dishwasher, do my own laundry, and anything else you asked me to do. I had to get these things done before I could hang out with my friends, and I had to get them done right. You set cleaning standards for me and I was expected to meet them. I remember times when my bathroom didn’t pass your inspection, and instead of fixing my job for me, you were “mean” and made me do it myself. It not only taught me how to make a toilet sparkle, but it taught me that if you have a responsibility, you better do it the way its supposed to be done.
Your high standards taught me to take care of my domain and be proud of what I have. You taught me the importance of an organized home and the stress that clutter can bring. I now take pride in the appearance of my things and I can confidently take care of my own home as an adult. I can now mow an extremely straight line into my lawn because of all the practice I had, and it might sound stilly but I am proud of that, because it looks awesome. Thank you for showing me how great it feels to take pride in what I have and to be proud of my accomplishments, even if it is just a snow free driveway or a really straight line on my lawn.
When I did a good job at something because I did my best, you always gave me praise. You knew when I didn’t try my hardest and knew when I could do better. You criticized me, but only constructively, because you wanted me to learn to do my best and to be the best that I could be. You were always honest with me, which taught me to benefit from criticism, not cry over it.
You taught me by example, the importance of setting goals and having expectations of myself. You showed me that if I am unhappy, only I have the power to change that. I saw that you had a dream to own your own business, and I watched you make it happen. You took the time to do what you needed to do, to be where you wanted to be. You worked full time while you got your business degree, I saw you feeling the pressure, and I watched you work your butt off to get through it. You wanted more, you wanted a change, so YOU made it happen. This taught me that if I want something bad enough, only I can make it happen.
I used to say I was scared of you, but it wasn’t fear, it was respect. Thank you for teaching me to be respectful. To have respect for you, respect for others, and most importantly, respect for myself. I respected you because you showed me that being respectful was the key to my freedom. If I respected you, you respected me. If I didn’t respect you, I was punished. If I was grounded for two weeks, I was grounded for two weeks, not one and a half. I knew there were consequences for my actions and I was free to make mistakes, but you taught me how to learn from them.
Thank you for setting boundaries and limits for me. I learned quickly what your limits were and I was afraid to cross them. I knew I couldn’t get anything passed you, so I rarely tried. If I did something wrong or was late for my curfew, there were no acceptable excuses. “If you knew it was snowing, you should have left the party earlier, so you could have made it home on time.” You made me own up to any poor decision that I made. I quickly learned the importance of understanding the consequences of something before I did it, because I didn’t want to disappoint you.
Thank you for showing me that a good parent listens to their child. A good parent knows when something is wrong because they pay attention and care about what their child is feeling. You showed me how to be present as a parent, but to also give the space that every child needs in order to gain their independence. Although you taught me to be tough, you were there to comfort me when I needed it. You didn’t sugar coat things or coddle me, because the real world isn’t sugar coated. You always tell me like it is. This is the best thing you did to prepare me for the real world.
You helped me understand that life isn’t always fair, and I had to learn to deal with that. Thank you for teaching me that disappointment and adversity is inevitable throughout life. If you had given me everything that I had ever wanted and I had always gotten my way, the real world would have hit me like a ton of bricks.
When I became a parent, I was scared. It’s hard not to be when you see kids on the news killing their classmates and committing suicide because they were bullied so much. But then I realized that I would never do any of those things because my mom was “mean” and taught me what respect was. She had expectations for me and praised me when I met them. She gave me responsibilities that I was required to take care of. She trusted me to make my own decisions because she knew I understood the concept of consequence. She gave me confidence.
So I thought, maybe if I do for my child, what my mom did for me, he won’t do those things either. I will give him chores and responsibility to teach him to be confident in his own abilities. I will let him make mistakes and learn from them so his confidence in the choices he makes will grow. I won’t give him a chance to feel entitled so he will be grateful for gifts he receives. You showed me that it was okay to say no, because if your child respects you and doesn’t feel entitled, they will just let it go. You also showed me it’s okay for your child to be mad at you, because their love and respect for you will never diminish, if you always show love and respect to them.
I know parenting will be difficult at times, but with the confidence you gave me by allowing me to be independent, and the example you set as my own mother, I trust myself with the responsibility of raising a child. Some say you can’t be your child’s parent and their best friend, I don’t think that’s true at all. A best friend is defined as someone you know well and regard with affection and trust. I think that fits us perfectly.
As I continue on this journey called parenthood, I am so blessed to have someone to turn to for advice. I know I won’t be perfect, no one is, but I am confident that I can be “mean” like you were. I want my son to have respect for me, respect for others, and, most importantly, respect for himself. I worry because he is visually impaired, it would be easier for me to do everything for him, but I now know that that will only make his future harder and his independence weaker. You let me learn things by experiencing failure and making mistakes. You made me work for the things that I wanted. You let me feel disappointed by not giving me my way. I am a stronger, more independent person because of that, and I thank you. I hope I can do the same for my son.
Your Daughter/ #1 Fan