Before I became a mom and back in the early days of motherhood, I often thought about what I wanted to teach my kids. Or what kind of people my kids would become.
For the most part, I wanted them to be kind and happy and healthy. Compassionate. I wanted them to discover their authentic selves and then I wanted them to be the kinds of kids that would reach out to help others or be a friend to someone who needs a friend.
As my kids have grown and their personalities emerge and develop and bloom, I find that my focus shifts with their changes.
For Teagan, at age 11, I want her to feel like she doesn't have to be in control of all the things, all the time. She has a wonderful grasp on compassion and caring for those in need. She has a great sense of equality and justice. I ponder over her anxiety and her desire for control. She is delightful to the world. She is respectful and kind and funny and sweet. She is smart and pretty and people just like being around her. But any doubts or worries or sadness or concerns get locked away inside and held onto until she has reached her safe place - home. Which means the bottled up anxiety and worry gets dumped on the people who are the safest - mom and dad. She also really, really, really likes to be in full control of all the things and all the choices and all the people. Sometimes, that kind of leadership is needed. More often, it backfires.
I want my daughter to develop a strong sense of self worth. I want her to see the positive impact she has on others and I want her to grow in that aspect. I want her to find the power that comes with building people up, with being a good leader.
For Zach, age 8, I want him to find his confidence and his voice. Zach has a touch of social anxiety. He shies away from meeting new people, making new friends, being in new situations. He would be perfectly happy if we would just let him live in his room with nothing but a computer for company and regular drop off of a PB&J for sustenance. Once he has connected with someone, once he has become your friend, he is witty and silly and funny and loyal to the ends of the earth. But getting him to the place where he feels comfortable can be a challenge. This also means that trying new experiences or foods or adventures is a struggle. It is helpful when we can prepare him as much as possible for what a new thing might be like (like watching ride videos before we went to Disney - that was a vacation saver!).
I want my son to be confident in the wonderful boy that he is. There is depth and sensitivity in him that warms my heart. I want him to use his strengths (his sense of humor, his intelligence, his kindness) instead of hiding from them. I also want him to find a sense of adventure so he doesn't miss out on new things just because he's afraid or unsure of them.
And for both of my children?
I want them to understand that other people are impacted by their choices. That how you behave impacts those directly involved but also has an impact on those nearby. I want them to understand the power they have in every choice they make.
Of course, I wish a lot of adults would figure that one out, too.
I also want them to know that they have purpose. I want them to know that if they have a desire in their hearts, they have the power to make that desire happen. And that they have a family who supports them in setting and achieving and dreaming those things with them.
And I still want them to be happy and kind and compassionate. I want them to be silly and strong and wise. I want them to know how safe and secure and loved and adored they each are in our immediate family and in our extended family and in our extended circles.
Which means I have a lot of work to do as a mom. And Jeff has a lot of work to do as a dad. We have to be adjustable and plugged in. We have to recognize when we need to change our approach, when we need to be soft, when we need to use a little tough love. The parenting thing is the toughest challenge I've ever chosen. I've never done anything that entails as much risk as raising my 2 children entails. I've never done anything as important.
As an employee, I get performance reviews. I have a boss who lets me know if I'm not doing something well or if there is something I need to learn more about. I have internal and external customers I have to keep happy in order to be doing my job well.
I kind of wish there was something similar for being a mom. That there was some type of performance review so I could understand what my kids need from me and what adjustments I need to make in order to be the mom my kids deserve.
Instead, I have to just figure it out as I go. There is no real checklist or annual goal setting and there certainly isn't an end of year bonus. I have to figure out on my own if I'm succeeding as a mom.
I know I'm a good mom. I also know I can always do better. Because they are worth it. And because there is purpose and plan and dream along their path - and Jeff and I are the ones chosen to guide them.