My New Year’s Resolution is to be more accepting. Now, in many ways I am already ridiculously accepting (a sap, truth be told) but I am in the process of learning something new and wonderful about the relationship between acceptance and trust, so bear with me, please…
For the past two or three years, it has become increasingly difficult for The Wave and I to fully trust a boy who can’t seem to learn from mistakes and modify his behaviour accordingly (and a girl too, because although it is more manageable with the Dood, in her own way, she can’t either). Where other parents have at least some vestige of an incentive, in the form of sanctions or consequences or rewards or time out or even a well-delivered cutting yell, as a means of teaching their child a necessary or at least well-intentioned ‘lesson’, we seem to have no strategies that work like that.
But when I look at the difficult or annoying or challenging things that our children do over and over again, they are almost always in situations where we are not fully accepting them as they are. One continuous, if perhaps petty, example is table manners. Rightly or wrongly, I was brought up in a family where table manners are very important and I remember telling our children from the first meal we shared, to ‘bite, chew and swallow’ their food, rather than grab, nibble and guzzle. Since then, I have reminded them almost everyday to sit straight, put their plates under their mouths, pull their chairs in, cut their food into bite sized pieces and / or eat with their mouths closed. I have made jokes about it, turned it into songs, been cross, been sad, warned them, set up charts, given them marbles, been cheerfully astonished and / or full of praise when they do it right but still, even after 6 years living together, good (nor even half decent) table manners are not the norm.
At home, that is. When they are at other people’s houses, they apparently have impeccable table manners. Perhaps this is because they are trying their best to impress other people, whereas with us they feel safe enough to be at their worst. But it made me think that other people don’t question their manners in the way I do, which led me to thinking that perhaps it is me that needs to change. If I accept them, however ‘badly’ they are eating, and I just model how to eat well, without commenting unless really necessary, they are much more likely to eat well too.
This is all so blinking obvious that it’s a complete no brainer, and yet I have been criticizing my children on an almost daily basis just because that is how I learnt to eat. The big difference being, however much I was reprimanded for having my elbows on or (heaven forfend) singing at the table, I knew I was loved. I trusted my parents to look after me and teach me the right things, however they chose to do it. I trusted them because they met my basic need for food and drink, protection and love. Our children did not learn to trust, because those needs were not met. And by failing to meet their needs, their birth parents were modeling a lack of trust, which has become wired into Blue and the Doods’ behaviour patterns ever since.
Trust can only be built by acceptance. Most of my friends (those who are parents) trust their children much more than I trust mine. And their children trust them implicitly. Is this because right from the beginning they totally accepted the challenges their children brought with them and still met their needs? In spite of the discomfort of pregnancy, the pain of childbirth and all the yukky, shitty, snotty, sleepless and difficult bits of their baby’s early life, they loved them and were there for them. The Wave and I have missed out on all of that. And so have our children. But I want to trust my children like they do. And I want Blue and the Dood to trust me. So I am going to become much more accepting of them, and see if that makes a difference. I have a feeling it will. Watch this space!