Sometimes we need a bit of perspective. Claire is a wonderful kid, but she can also have quite the attitude. At times she frustrates me beyond belief, and I have to work REALLY hard not to respond in anger. (And I don’t always succeed.) Sometimes I feel like a failure. I fear I haven’t done my job in raising her to be a kind, generous, empathetic human being.
A couple of weeks ago, a good friend of mine enrolled her son in the same class as Claire. As a parent of a new pupil, she was invited to spend a few days observing the class. She sent me texts during her visits, mostly about how impressed she was with Claire, and how sweet she was.
Of course it made my heart sing to hear my friend praising Claire, especially for her kindness. At first, it made me wonder – why does Claire put her best foot forward with other people? Her teachers all talk about how polite, kind and helpful she is in class. My friends tell me she is so sweet and kind. But at home, she antagonizes her sister, she talks back to her parents, she pouts and slams doors when she doesn’t get her way. What gives?
Hearing my friend go on about how wonderful Claire was in class actually gave me a whole new perspective. I realized that Claire IS a kind, generous, empathetic person. She may rail against me when I constantly remind her to be patient with her sister, but that doesn’t mean that my words haven’t sunk in. Perhaps she gets angry when I send her to her room for being disrespectful, but that doesn’t mean that she hasn’t learned a valuable lesson. She might feel frustrated when I insist that she think of how other people may be affected by her words and actions, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t learned to be more considerate.
Another friend had such an incredible insight to share on this phenomenon. She said our kids spend their entire day ON, working hard to meet expectations with their friends and teachers. When they come home to us, they may be exhausted from the effort. They might let their behavior slip, or even completely fall apart. We need to be there for them through these tough times, because it may precisely BECAUSE they are trying to be good all day that they are unable to keep it up when they get home. What an incredible way to look at it! It changed my whole point of view.
I’m working on being more patient and understanding of my daughter’s outbursts. I try to remember how revered she is by the other adults in our lives, and how well liked she is by her friends and classmates. Claire may not always show me her best side, but I’m confident that she IS growing to be that caring, considerate person I dreamed she would be. Sometimes it takes seeing our children through someone else’s eyes to realize it.