Chill, Mom, Dad. They Already Have Your Values

This guest is post is by Carol L. Covin, who also goes by Granny-Guru, is the author of “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers.” The book is a series of articlesbased on 40 interviews with mothers and grandmothers about what they would like to advise the other generation on how to raise the grandchildren. Available at her website and amazon.com.

Perhaps we should have been warned the first time one of our little angels broke out with a swear word. We didn’t think we swore around them, but they used it with perfect emphasis, at exactly the right time, and we suddenly realized they were watching us. At heart, your children want to be like you. You are grown up. You are successful. You have the freedom they seek. You are hoping their awareness of the responsibility that goes with freedom keeps up with their desire for it. They don’t know yet that you’re not perfect, though they’re beginning to suspect. They don’t know you have your own frustrations and sorrows, things you would like to havedone but now never will. If you have talked about missing out on something, they may think it is their fault. You had them, life stopped, and it’s their fault.
It’s not, of course. If you have been talking about what you wish you had done or could have done except for the pressures of family, you will want to reassure them that their value in your life far outweighs anything you might have done otherwise. There is always a road not taken. In fact, there are lots of roads not taken. Wistful thinking about them does not mean you would rather have taken any of those other roads, a subtlety that maybe lost on sensitive, self-focused teenagers. It is your job to help their understanding of you morph from the ogre who keeps them from doing everything they want, which they sometimes, secretly or unconsciously, are grateful for, since it gives them an excuse to say no to peer pressure, into a complex, rational and emotional person with feelings and needs of your own and a history that helped shape you before they ever came along.
Apparently, it is not uncommon to be in your 30s or 40s before you entirely forgive your parents for being who they are. I was in my 40s before I found out the embarrassing circumstances under which each of my parents had lost an opposite-gender parent,when they were in elementary school. Suddenly, their inability to communicate intense emotions all made sense. Probably, when they were grieving over the loss of a parent, no one knew quite what to say to them, so said nothing. And, they learned that you handle intense emotions by ignoring them. It was this sudden awareness of their own history and its implications for their parenting choices that allowed me to forgive them their flaws at last. But, for all my frustrations with them, they had passed on the enduring values from their families. You treat others with integrity and compassion, period. Just like your little angels picked up swear words when you thought they weren’t watching, they have picked up your values. You will recognize them by their acts of kindness.

Carol L. Covin, who also goes by Granny-Guru, is the author of “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers.” The book is a series of articlesbased on 40 interviews with mothers and grandmothers about what they would like to advise the other generation on how to raise the grandchildren. Available at her web site and amazon.com.

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