Do you ever sit around and worry about the bad habits your children watch you throw down on a daily basis?
You know, like when you yell at your son to stop yelling at his sister, you work through entire beach vacations, and you drink wine out of a box for easy access? Yeah, those.
The idea that your children are watching and learning from your behavior might be a horrifying concept, but like it or not, children are sponges. They absorb everything we do as parents. Talk about yikes!
Before you go fast-forwarding to a doomsday future, though, make note: It’s not all bad news – because they’re soaking up the good stuff, too.
That’s right. Yes, you’re doing good stuff. That might be hard to believe if the self-destructive radio in your mind is always telling you that you stink. But it’s true, you make good decisions all the time that your children see and learn from.
When you say no to your boss to attend a field trip with your son, he’s paying attention to your priorities; when you look in the mirror and like what you see rather than cursing yourself under your breath, your daughter is learning how to look in the mirror as well; and when you make a mistake and say you’re sorry, everyone in your house learns that mishaps are acceptable and apologies are awesome.
The other night, I crawled into my 11-year-old daughter’s bed to tell her good night and stumbled upon a binder that she had hidden under her comforter. Worried at first that it was a math or science binder for school (and therefore needed to be in her backpack, not her bed), I immediately inquired, “What’s this?”
What happened next blew my mind.
My free-spirited, first-born child lifted up the covers to reveal not only a binder, but her laptop computer. She proudly held up the binder and said, “My friend and I are going to start making and selling bath bombs, and the binder holds our business plan.”
Well, okay then little lady.
I’m obsessed with binders. Binders have gotten me through every major growth spurt in my professional life – allowing me to break busy concepts into bite-sized chunks.
One page in her binder featured a list of ingredients they’d need to purchase, while another held what appeared to be a mini P&L statement (profit and loss if you’re wondering), complete with their estimated sales (price per bath bomb times how many they’d sell), as well as expenses. We sat side-by-side in bed and calculated how much money they’d have left over and looked for ways to reduce the expenses, like buying in bulk. That last idea was hers, not mine.
Because I grew up in the marketing and advertising industry, I immediately suggested that she should come up with a fun name for the product to create a brand.
“Like this?” she asked as she flipped to page five in her binder.
Um, yeah – exactly like that.
There’s no doubt in my mind that my daughter is intimately familiar with the unbelievable passion and joy that stem from developing a unique product and putting it out into the world because she’s been on the sidelines watching her mother do the same.
Sure, my daughter has seen her mother lose her temper, stuff her muffin top into her mom jeans, and drink tequila on the rocks. But she’s also seen her mother start her own company, write a freaking book, and manage a balanced existence.
Put that in your muffin top and smoke it.
We must resist the temptation to assume our children see and learn from everything we do wrong and nothing we do right. It’s simply not true. You’re a whole person – more than the sum of your biggest wins or worst losses.
If anything, I’m willing to bet your children’s view of you is much better than what you’re imagining. A guy friend of mine once told me that when his mother was in her late seventies, she apologized for working so hard and being away from home so often when he was a child.
His response: “What are you talking about, Mom? I don’t remember you being absent. I remember you being a rock star!”
The next time you need to give yourself a little pep talk, think of three wonderful things your children have learned or will learn from you. You have a lot to offer as a mother, far beyond the roles of Carpool Chauffeur or Cupcake Maker. (And yes, those things are amazing, too.)
Whether you know it or not or admit it or not, you’re shaping your children into cool little humans who want to follow in your footsteps. Because they’re pretty fabulous footsteps to follow.