Accepting Your Child As-Is
This is a parenting page, about parenting Page. I am a child psychologist and a mother. So I specialize in children, yet I am human, thus I am full of knowledge and yet as full of emotions as any other parent. So I decided to write this Parenting Page since it might be informative and funny for others to take an insider look at a child specialist raising her child. I also wanted to create a way to show Page when she grows up, if she chooses to have children, a real-life view of the experience. I hope you enjoy these stories and musings. (All names except immediate family have been changed.)
Every parent knows to say that they accept their child just as they are. Most parents also want to believe that. Yet they have their list of ways they openly or secretly wish their child were different. Oh, it might be a really short list or it might be a very long list, but the list exists. Some parents feel a great deal of guilt about having these thoughts. Fear not! It’s perfectly normal to not think your child is perfect. And parenting has an inherent conflict built in, since we are supposed to love and accept our child as-is, yet we are also supposed to mold and shape the child, raising our children to be kind, intelligent, self-sufficient, law-abiding citizens.
I think for most parents, the length of the “things I would change about my child” list has a strong relationship to our own personality and sense of self. Simply put, we gel with people who are similar to us, which may or may not be your child. This is true of all family relationships. You know which family members you still would have ended up close friends with had you not been related, and which ones you would not have developed a friendship with. We “click” with certain people, and we don’t click with others. It’s the beauty of friendship. And it’s wonderful… except when you’re noticing yourself not click with your own child. Then it can be distressing.
Many moons ago, before children, Peter and I were talking about this topic and mused, “What will we do if we have a child who hates school and loves sports? Can you imagine the torture of attending practices and games?! Or of having a non-academically-oriented child? It would be awful!!” We figured maybe we could instill our interests in our child. We weren’t insightful enough to be musing about how our child’s actual personality might differ from ours.
Then came Page, and the experience of first-time child rearing wherein you learn how probably much more is innate as far as skills, interests, and personality than you ever imagined, and your child unfolds in front you, and despite you.
In the early elementary school years, Page loved school, but was also chatty and silly. Peter is not silly. He can be funny and is fun, but silly is another whole level of humor. And this led to his foray into the dark hidden underworld parents sometime slip into… seeing another child and wishing your child could be just a little more like that child. Eek! Forsaking your child by daydreaming of another child’s good points! Which is a slippery slope of thought, because those “good points” are generally not really good or bad, but simply things that click more with your own personality. Page totally called Peter out on this!
Page and her other (silly) friends at school had created a world of Fufus, a Fufu being some sort of cute animal, apparently – sort of like Little Bunny Foo Foo, yet not exactly, as Page explained to me when I was trying to understand Fufus. The best thing about Fufus was that they are so, so (so, so) silly! Now, not all of the girls at school were Fufus, no, there were the more serious girls who found the whole thing silly. Peter, meantime, decided to try to orchestrate a friendship between Page and one of the non-silly-girls, so that perhaps Page could learn from this girl’s example. After their play date, Peter said to Page, “So, did you have a good time with April? Seemed like you had a lot of fun?!” To which Page replied, “It was fine. But you know, dad, we’re not alike. She’s not a Fufu.” Then Page stood proudly and proclaimed emphatically, “I am a Fufu” in a very declarative way, and went on to explain to him that she has always been and will always be a Fufu. It’s just who she is.
And in that moment Peter accepted Page’s fufu-ness, in all its beauty. The experience even softened him to the way he views and judges people overall. One of the wonderful things about parenting is that as they grow, we grow – as we try to raise them into good people, they turn us into better people.