The Value of a Woman’s Inattention

“The function of ignoring, of inattention, is as vital a factor in mental progress as the function of attention itself.”

William James

As mothers and wives, we are called to notice, discern and introspect. However, with every act of noticing, we must leave something unnoticed. And that’s okay; in fact, it may be beneficial. As William James points out, inattention can be a powerful tool in improving our mental health.

Perhaps we are guilty of noticing too much – of noticing what is best unnoticed. Are we overwhelmed by our own judgmentalness and sensitivity? So many offenses weigh us down – could we have let them fly by? Are we too quick to affix labels on others? Could we instead let them develop without the burden of our judgment? As we become aware of the benefit of inattention, of letting go of the ultimately unimportant, we may see an increase in our mental wellness and a strengthening of our relationships. 

Self-Created Reality

What we focus on becomes our reality. Technically that is true. Look at the view out your window. Now, look at any smudges you may have on the window. When you looked at the view, you didn’t really see the smudges. When you looked at the smudges, you couldn’t really see the view. You were in control of what you looked at. If today you went around and looked at smudges all day, you could get some cleaning done. But as you focus on the smudges – you won’t see the view. Reality is based on perception. So when things don’t seem to be going so well – one strategy is to shift our focus away from what we have been focusing on and attend to something else.

A Woman Seated At A Table By A Window, Carl Holsoe

“Reality is created by the mind, we can change our reality by changing our mind.”

Plato

We hear a lot about the danger of “repression” – the bottling up of feelings or impulses. Repressed trauma, for example, may manifest in subconscious and distressing ways. But we mustn’t confuse repression with self-control. I have heard many claim that stifling a sexual impulse is repression. Not confronting that woman at the bank that cut you in line, that’s repression. It is not repression to make a conscious decision to let some emotions, grudges, thoughts, and desires pass away – that’s self-restraint. Not every thought requires rumination and not every impulse should be acted upon.

Moments Chosen for Joy

“Our life comes to us moment by moment. One moment disappears before the next comes along: and there is room for very little in each.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Let’s not hold onto things that are of no use to us – there is little room in our finite moments. Often we attend to trifles, misunderstandings, and offenses when we could be putting our attention on more important matters. It is certainly true that some details do matter and that continually sweeping things under the rug can lead to resentment. However, the alternative view seems to be neglected in our modern times – sometimes it’s okay to just let go of an offense, a grievance, and a judgment.  This is particularly true in raising children – if we held onto every misdeed perpetrated by our children, there would be few moments left for joy.

Psychologist Philip Osborne writes of the benefits of having “No problem areas” with our children. “No problem areas ” are times when we can enjoy our child where there is no threat of “seeing the smudges”, and no problems are discussed.* Instituting these “no problem areas” with my children has helped me build relationships that are light-hearted and understanding. I get to take life less seriously, and they get to have a mom who will sometimes take a break from the difficult but necessary corrective duties of motherhood. We don’t want our children to think motherhood is all difficulty and no enjoyment, all judgment and no acceptance, all unselfishness and no love. 

Shoes, Vincent Van Gogh

 My eldest son is a wonderful kid who is generally low-maintenance but he likes nice shoes. I have been somewhat bothered by this emphasis on fashion. In my upbringing, we didn’t get brand-name shoes and so I tend to see such extravagances as excessive. He kept asking for Crocs, which you may have noticed is a new fad among the 12-16 year old demographic. I pushed him off for months. He only had enough to pay for half but was eager to get them. Every bone in my very-frugal body told me, “This is a rip-off and I don’t want him to follow fads!” Yet, I felt my spirit tell me something different, “He doesn’t ask for much, help him get the Crocs.” So one day I surprised him and we went out and got some- and I bit my tongue when I saw the price tag. He was so excited! Now every day at school when I pick him up, he tells me in excitement what gibbets (Croc accessories) he has traded, how valuable the basketball gibbet is, and his plans for future trades. It has become a point of bonding for us as I show genuine interest in this childhood adventure. As parents, we want to teach our children important lessons – lessons like not following fads, but we also need to sometimes ask, “Is this important enough to my child that perhaps I should seek joy rather than judgment?”  

It feels nice to just enjoy the view and build some bonds with our child or spouse. To take a break from strife. When we return from our vacation from judgment, we may see that some of those smudges add character to the window. At the risk of taking this metaphor too far – too clean a window is a hazard for passing birds.

A Focus on Trash

Growing up, my father had one clear-cut household duty – taking out the garbage. I got married and in my mind, garbage was a man’s job. Within weeks of our marriage, we had what I feel is an important conversation for every new couple to have – the division of duties. My husband agreed to trash duty. But for years, he would chronically forget. When cleaning up the kitchen, I would often find an overflowing trash can. I started to see this as a sign of his lack of respect and consideration, and resentment started to grow.  He will only do things when I ask. He isn’t keeping his promises.  I saw a Facebook post where a woman decried her husband’s “toxic” inconsiderate behavior, her sentiment further cemented my own view. As women, we can let our thoughts get away from us. We argued about it. “You can be so inconsiderate!” I said. His response helped me adjust my perception. “You are right, I can be better – but when I give you a break and take the kids to the store, or shovel the walkway – why doesn’t that show you that I am considerate?” 

 I was putting my attention on one thing – the trash. I was letting that frame my perception. I was going down a dark road. His inconsistency with the trash was one reality, a true one. But it wasn’t the only truth. Sure, he was forgetful and didn’t always have my desire for empty trash cans forefront of his mind. But there was another much more important and profound truth – he is a good and loving man, and I am blessed he is my husband. With time, we have learned to communicate and negotiate over each other’s annoying trifles – while also putting them in their proper perspective.

“At every trifle take offense, that always shows great pride or little sense.”

Alexander Pope

The modern bandwagon says, “Cut toxic people out of your life!” Many now label others by their flaws rather than their positives or potential. Our definition of “toxic” is usually based solely on the perspective of the smudges. It is tragic to see people label family members who truly love them as “toxic” because of imperfections or disagreements. If I had let my mind run away with me, I could have created a world where I saw my husband as “toxic”. But when we realize, as William James did, that inattention is just as important as attention, we can create a different reality. We can clean the smudges that need cleaning, while not forgetting to also take a break and focus our eyes on the glorious view.  

‘“Choice of attention–to pay attention to this and ignore that–is to the inner life what choice of action is to the outer. In both cases, a man is responsible for his choice and must accept the consequences, whatever they may be.” 

W.H. Auden

Resources:

*Book: Parenting For The ‘90s, Phillip Osborne https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0934672733/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i0

Below: Excellent Q&A with Jordan Peterson. Minute 9 begins some wonderful relationship advice.

A Fool Seeking Wisdom

“But indeed the business of the universe is to make such a fool of you that you will know yourself for one, and so begin to be wise!”

George MacDonald, Lilith

At times it feels this is particularly the business of Motherhood. Mothers accept, as part of their labor, the title of cook, nurse, teacher, interior decorator, theologian, repairwoman, housekeeper, accountant, psychologist, conflict negotiator, etc..the list goes on. We receive no real training and sometimes it shows. So yes, we realize quickly that we are fools. But how do we turn this knowledge of our own foolishness into wisdom?   First, laugh.

“Laughter has something in  common with the ancient words of faith and inspiration; it unfreezes pride and unwinds secrecy; it makes people forget themselves in the presence of something greater than themselves.”

G.K. Chesterton

As Chesterton says, we should laugh at the ridiculousness of life.  Laugh at the fact that my six-year old is asking me, me, “Where do numbers come from?”, and, expects me to come up with a good answer.  In our laughter, we discover that we are a fool and that maybe that isn’t such a horrible discovery. We see the humor in the impossible job we imperfect women are called to do. Then we develop humility.

“The secret of life lies in laughter and humility.”

G.K. Chesterton

 Humility grows wisdom. If we do not see our foolishness, we never seek wisdom. 

“The cleverest of all, in my opinion, is the man who calls himself a fool at least once a month.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky

And yet, rather than allowing self-knowledge to bring humility, we women often ruminate on our imperfections. This is not humility but another form of self-absorption.  We often allow our inadequacies to turn into self-resentment and jealousy. This is not the path to humility but misery. When we realize we are no good at something, we should either try to improve or accept it and move on.  

Boys often are made to learn this early in life. A small, skinny boy is told quite bluntly that he isn’t going to make the football team. That’s okay. He can be a jockey. Girls are more likely to avoid this useful lesson.  They are taught, “You can do anything!” and are protected from situations where they may realize what a lie that statement is.  So when we women discover we are a “fool”, we can’t laugh, our hands are closed so tightly on the idea of perfection. Rather than humbly seeking wisdom we often decide we are useless.

The other day I was invited to visit a nearby church.  A dear friend of mine, Sarah, was also there. She is a wonderful mother of four well-behaved kids. She is gorgeous and hardworking; her house is always clean; she is extremely considerate of others, very intelligent, and always cheerful.  She does influential charity work all over the country and yet finds time to homeschool her children and stay fit. While she has trials and difficulties like all of us, she handles them with grace. I have always appreciated the influence she has had on my life. Our family sat and listened to the sermon and then were surprised to see my friend get up and sing for the congregation.  Wow! She has one of the most beautiful voices I have ever heard. I have known her for six years and had no idea she could sing like that!  In the middle of the song, I felt a temptation enter my heart.  Many of my daily temptations go unnoticed. (I wish I could also say they go unheeded.)  But this temptation spoke very clearly and very loudly and what it wanted was clear –  Be Jealous.  I feel like God was there with me at the same time and so I saw the darkness in this thought.  I share this not to boast of my virtue, but to tell one of my rare success stories.  I dismissed the idea and sat there in tears at the beauty of the song she sang, Joy to the World!  What a gift all of us in that congregation received.  What an incredible person I have the blessing of knowing!  What beauty I would have let slip through my fingers if I had followed the temptation to allow that wicked seed of jealousy to grow in my heart. 

It is true, I cannot sing like that. If I put in thousands of hours of effort, I don’t have that ability.  I will never be all that Sarah is. But what a blessing that I have Sarah as a friend!  I hope some say the same of me and my contribution to this world, we all do. But even if no one says that of me,  what matters is what I say. 

 “It is a small thing to a man whether or not his neighbor be merciful to him; it is life or death to him whether or not he be merciful to his neighbor.” 

George MacDonald

There are really two ways to interact with the world. As a fool seeking Beauty or as a victim seeking Justice. Many say, “They are taking this from us.”  “We deserve this”  “There is not enough”  “Her beauty distracts from mine.”  If you want to inhabit that world, go for it.  But think about where it leads.

“We must picture Hell as a state where everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement, where everyone has a grievance, and where everyone lives the deadly serious passions of envy, self-importance, and resentment.”

C.S. Lewis

If we follow the darkness of jealousy, it takes us to bitterness. We will seek justice for the unfairness of life – for our lack and others’ abundance.  We will never find it.  But in the seeking, we will miss all the beauty, joy, cooperation, and gratitude those we envy could have brought us.  We will miss seeing that we are a fool, and so are they – but we are made for a purpose.  I want to become what God made me for. I want that for others as well.  

It’s great to know I am a fool. Now I can let go of the ridiculous idea that I can do everything.  Now I can move forward to acquiring the wisdom I lack and relying on those that are less foolish than me – and hope they can rely on me where I am less foolish than them. 

-Ally

Two Women At A Window, Bartolome Esteban Murillo

Child Protégé

If you want a simple way to start enjoying parenthood and your children more – start involving your child in your joys and interests. Yes, your kitchen will be messier if they help you bake. Your fishing trip will be less serene with a questioning toddler at your side. But you will be sharing with a beloved protégé , and building a relationship of common enjoyments. The experience and perspective your child gains is more valuable than a clean kitchen or solitude.

Vanity Fair: A Guide to Motherhood

“Mother is the name for God in the mouths of little children”.

William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair

In Vanity Fair, Thackeray describes the lives, sorrows, and triumphs of two women: Amelia and Becky.  Anyone reading this book immediately sees Amelia as the good-natured, kind, and spiritual woman. Becky, on the other hand, is clearly selfish, manipulative, and hard-hearted. As the novel progresses, they both become mothers.  Becky has no natural affection for her child and her son is left “worshiping a stone”.  She is cold and heartless towards the child.  Amelia, on the other hand, is the picture of the “perfect mother”.  Her husband dies and she is left in a state of perpetual mourning.  She devotes herself completely to her son.  

Thackeray shows a deep understanding of human nature. Rather than portray Amelia in the way typical of many Victorian authors – as the delicate and angelic woman who is the model for all women – he shows that Amelia’s dependence and softness are not her virtues. Her weakness and over-nurturing lead to as much turmoil as that caused by Becky’s detachment and pride. Amelia is helpless without the love and support of family and friends. While Becky’s son worships a stone, Amelia’s son worships a puppy. Their sons’ personalities and world-views develop around these mother-imposed perceptions. Becky’s son resents the coldness of his mother and he becomes detached. Amelia’s son becomes spoiled and is disrespectful of others.

Becky shatters Amelia’s idol, Charles Crombie

The power of literature lies in its ability to allow us to see ourselves in both heroes and villains, to realize that we are all a bit of both, and to change our own course as we see the consequences unfold in their lives. We can pull-out the virtues found in both Amelia and Becky, and avoid their lower natures.

On the other side of every weakness is a strength.  While a nurturing and attentive mother is crucial in raising a strong child, so is a strong and independent woman. Amelia’s humility and kind-heartedness help her gain the love and admiration of those around her.  Becky’s strength of will and independence allow her to succeed where others fail.. A sensitive mother, like Amelia, can dwell in self-pity or emotionality, or she can be conscious of the joys and potentials which are oblivious to the less-sensitive.  A woman, such as Becky, who is independent and strong-willed, can narcissistically disregard the needs or desires of others, or she can be an example of confidence and resilience to her children. 

What is worth having?

Vanity Fair was “a world where everyone is striving for what is not worth having.”

Amelia and Becky, despite their seemingly opposite natures, were doomed by the same vice – Vanity.  In modern English, the word vanity most often refers to pride or a focus on appearance.  However, vanity has a second meaning, and Thackeray’s book was an ode to this form of vanity:  futile effort.  Amelia’s life became a vain attempt to feel secure and happy through the love and protection of others.  Becky’s life was a vain attempt to feel secure and happy in money and prestige.  

As mothers we must recognize what it worth having, and the best way to get it.  It sounds complicated, but it isn’t. Rather than depending on others, or using others for our own ends, we actively seek out the good of others.  As mothers, (recognizing that a “mother is the name of God in the mouths of little children”), it is crucial that we give them a proper view of God.  We are not dependent on others, and we do not manipulate others.  We love, we serve, but we are strong and capable. As we examine ourselves, we discover we are not perfect – we most likely have aspects of Amelia and Becky in ourselves.  It is vital to recognize these weaknesses.  That is where healing begins and hope emerges.  Only when Amelia saw the damage she had done by her dependence and over-nurturing, could she change course. As mothers progress, so can their children.  We have never ruined our chances with our children.  The most powerful thing children can witness is their mother recognizing her weaknesses and determining to change; such attempts will not be done in vain.

Ally

Resources:

Link to Vanity Fair Book https://www.amazon.com/Vanity-Illustrated-Charles-Crombie-Introduction-ebook/dp/B078NGYXPN/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?dchild=1&keywords=vanity+fair&qid=1620315613&sr=8-1-spons&psc=1&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUExOUhBR1BGMlJTTzcmZW5jcnlwdGVkSWQ9QTA2NjQ0MTcxMklPSUxUSk00N1JHJmVuY3J5cHRlZEFkSWQ9QTA2NDA3OTAyWFA1VDNCWDRNRFBJJndpZGdldE5hbWU9c3BfYXRmJmFjdGlvbj1jbGlja1JlZGlyZWN0JmRvTm90TG9nQ2xpY2s9dHJ1ZQ

A well-done miniseries version of the book https://www.amazon.com/gp/video/detail/amzn1.dv.gti.2eb3d1c0-88e4-9466-e3a0-c5da6a458053?autoplay=1&ref_=atv_cf_strg_wb

Happy Desire of our Thoughts

“Our life always expresses the result of our dominant thoughts.”

Soren Kierkegaard

We must be careful with our thoughts – they determine our vision; the lens through which we view the world and the course and happiness of our lives.

Our thoughts direct our decisions, and our reactions to the actions of others. If we engage our ability, born of free will, to shift our thinking, to turn from a degrading thought to an uplifting one – we can, thought by thought, build a life of joy.

“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”

Carl Jung
Woman Pondering, Artist Unknown

Aristotle said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” To gain the wisdom necessary for a happy life, we must witness the nature of our internal world and how our thoughts are revealing themselves in our life.

Over the years, I have been plagued with discontented thoughts. “When we move, then things will be better” “If only I could travel more” “My laundry room is just too small!” These ideas have been extremely unhelpful in my life. When they linger, they keep me from appreciating the bountiful blessings that surround me. When I take the time to notice these discontented ideas taking space in my mind, I try and stop and shift to gratitude. Two thoughts cannot occupy the same mind at the same time. Through prayer or pondering we can shift our focus.

If we find ourselves disproportionately angry or hurt by something, we should examine what thoughts have been ignited: “She thinks she is better than me” “He never cared about me” “I am not enough”. If we can examine the thoughts, as disinterestedly as possible, we can search for clues to the source of such thinking. We can determine if these thoughts are helpful or harmful.

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

Carl Jung

Examining our thoughts takes introspection and often a struggle against our own nature. If we have a more negative disposition, the quest will be arduous. It is painful to admit to the destructive nature of many of our thoughts. We may uncover envy, bitterness, and cynicism driving many of our ruminations. But the first step is to notice – to be a witness to our own thinking – and be honest enough to admit to the harm our thoughts may be doing. The next time we see a tired, old, negative-thought pop up, we can let it pass away – seeing it for the devil it is.

If we want our life and relationships to improve, reigning in negative thoughts is crucial. Abraham Lincoln, a man with a life full of suffering and tribulation said – “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” We must make up our minds. When we do, we will transform our thoughts – and our lives can begin to express the happy desires of our thoughts.

As someone thinks within himself, so is he. Proverbs 23:7

Ally

The Joyous Power of Touch

“Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our natural lives.”  

C.S. Lewis

Affection is defined as a gentle feeling of fondness or liking.  A home filled with affection is akin to heaven on earth.  It is a home where you greet your children with a welcoming hug, a home where you wink and smile at your seven-year-old at the dinner table, where you massage your teenage son’s feet after a long practice.  Children feel safe here, they know they are loved, they feel it.  Physical affection is particularly powerful.  When our feelings of love are expressed physically, it unites the spiritual and physical world with a loving touch.

The Potency of Touch

“To touch is to give life.”

Michelangelo
Creation, Michelangelo

We are all seeking happiness, especially the kind that can hold steady in turbulent times. But the nature of life is turbulent and our moods and circumstances make lasting happiness seem like an illusion. However, the longer I am a wife and mother, the more I realize that if there is something to help us cross the rivers of turmoil – it is the loving touch of someone we trust. When our world falls apart, we need to be grounded – pulled back with physical and concrete love – with an affectionate embrace. We have all seen the movies showing a neurotic and over-emotional person being slapped, bringing them back into reality – this I do not recommend, but a loving embrace can accomplish the same feat. Sometimes when pain is stuck in the body, we need to use the body to release it. The physical reality of love can plant our feet on the bridge Overcoming.

Last summer my husband traveled a lot. I had no break from the noise and chaos of a house full of little children and I usually ended the days with my nerves frayed. One night, after putting them all down and relaxing on the sofa, I heard my 8 year-old girl get out of bed and ask for water. She didn’t realize that my “noise-bucket” had been overflowing for hours and I quite angrily told her to get back in bed. Almost immediately, I felt guilty. I knew I had to apologize. But I was so worn out from noise and the hard day that I really didn’t know how I would approach it without allowing my stress to betray itself again. As I walked into her room, I did not say anything, I just went into her bed and laid beside her and held her. It is incredible how those five minutes of affection renewed my spirit. I thought I was doing it for my daughter but instead I felt my own stress melt away. As I left I said, I love you; she said, Mom I love you too.

I can’t tell you how many times in motherhood I have come into a potentially hostile situation with my children with no idea how to properly resolve it. Perhaps we want to do what’s right but our emotions are getting in our way, or the proper course of action is not clear, or we just don’t have the mental energy to figure it out. When this is the case, I usually opt to arm myself with affection. If I put my arm around my son – our previous animosity will melt away. If I rub my husband’s neck as he drives, it helps him release his work-day stress. We should never use touch to manipulate – but it can help us fill in the gaps of our weakness. It is the mortar that holds the family together. Without physical affection the home becomes sterile and unforgiving.

The Decline of Physical Touch

Unfortunately our world is increasingly becoming just that, sterile and unforgiving.  With human interactions at an all time low, is it any wonder we find ourselves less compassionate of others?  Touching another person makes them real, they are no longer an image on a computer screen or a voice on the other side of the phone but a living soul, deserving of empathy.

I worry that even when this pandemic passes, we may retain the norm of “social distance”.  I hope this is not the case.  Physical affection between friends, and even strangers, can tie communities together and prevent strife and misunderstandings. Children, especially, need to be free to express themselves physically and receive affection from friends and teachers. 

My children go to wonderful schools and I am grateful for their loving teachers. However, I am increasingly concerned about the “institutional” nature of schools. My daughter was reprimanded in kindergarten for hugging her friend at recess. In many schools teachers are not allowed to touch the students. It is easy to see why such restrictions may be put into place – schools are attempting to reduce their own liability. But there is no doubt that these “institutions” are destined to be cold and unloving places. Combine this with the worry brought on by the COVID epidemic, sending our kids to school may soon feel like admitting them into a sanitized hospital. We mothers need to make adjustments. If we choose to send our children into schools, the increasingly sterile environment must be counteracted by increased affection at home.

Mother and Child, Mary Cassatt

The Science of Touch

When a mother is affectionate with her child she is building her child’s social networks, improving their ability to fight infections, and building a bond that will last a lifetime.  Premature babies that are touched thrive, while babies who aren’t are much more likely to die.  Studies done on Romanian orphanages show the power of human touch in brain and social development.  Alternatively, children who are raised without affection are much more likely to be violent and have mental health issues.  

Some scientific findings on the power of touch:

-Researchers have found that children touched more frequently by their mothers developed more neuronal networks in their “social brain” – resulting in more empathy.  Children touched less are more likely to be aggressive and antisocial.

-Preterm newborns who received just three 15-minute sessions of touch therapy each day for 5-10 days gained 47 percent more weight than premature infants who’d received standard medical treatment. 

-You have likely noticed the constant rear slapping and high-fiving between teammates in NBA and NFL games. Turns out they have good reason for this. Studies reveal that NBA basketball teams whose players touch each other more win more games.

Research found that students who were gently touched on the back by a teacher in a friendly incidental way were twice as likely to volunteer and participate in a class discussion.

– (And highly relevant now) -“In one set of studies, touch was shown to boost the immune systems of people who had been exposed to the common cold. For two weeks, researchers monitored a little more than four hundred adults, asking them, not just about their social interactions, but about how many hugs they’d gotten over the course of each day. Then the subjects were quarantined in rooms on an isolated hotel floor, where the researchers proceeded to expose them to a cold virus. The virus was quite effective: seventy-eight percent of subjects were infected, and just over thirty-one percent showed signs of illness. But not everyone was equally susceptible. The people who had experienced more supportive social interactions, battled infection more effectively and exhibited fewer signs of illness—and, when you tease apart the effects of social support and hugging, touch, in itself, accounted for thirty-two percent of the reduction effect.” (The Power of Touch, New Yorker)

“The more we learn about touch, the more we realize just how central it is in all aspects of our lives—cognitive, emotional, developmental, behavioral—from womb into old age. It’s no surprise that a single touch can affect us in multiple, powerful, ways.”

Maria Konnikova (The Power of Touch, New Yorker)

Courageous touch

The truth is that often it takes courage to touch. For example, imagine after an argument with your husband it feels like a gulf has opened up between you. Days pass and the chasm grows bigger. You believe that the simple act of reaching over and grabbing your husband’s hand can bridge that chasm – the tension can melt and you will be free to resolve your issue. But that initial touch takes courage, you are reaching into the dark hoping he will take your hand- it will take the full use of your free-will to overcome your pride and fear. But the outcome can be healing and unity.

Touch as a symptom of the relationship

We cannot easily pretend with touch.  A good indicator of the strength of  relationships is how comfortable we feel with affection.  If touch is awkward and uncomfortable then the relationship needs work.  

“One mother, after hearing a discussion about how mother’s should supply love to their children, determined that before her fourteen year old son went to school in the morning, she would give him a hug. She wanted to prove to him and to herself that she was a good mother. That next morning, as she tried to hug him, he rejected her. But she was determined to give him a hug, and she chased him around the kitchen table and even out the back door. He ran away from her- down the driveway, down the long sidewalk, and around the corner beyond her sight. She stood abandoned in the driveway, crying. She was so frustrated that she went into the house and called the school counselor and told him the whole story, how her son was mean to her and rejected her when she had tried to love him.

The concerned counselor called the boy privately out of class and tried to talk to him. He asked the boy why he had acted that way towards his mother. The boy looked at him quizzically, then he said, “Mr. Jones, do you know the difference between a hug that gives and a hug that takes?” The counselor, who was not a very sensitive person himself, replied, “No” And the boy said quickly, “That is what I thought.”

This is a perfect example of doing things for the wrong reasons. The counselor did not call the boy in to find out how the boy felt, but rather to scold him for not making his mother feel better. And the mother had not wanted to hug the boy because her heart was filled with love for him, but rather to prove to herself that she was doing her job as a mother according to specifications.”

Excerpt: Sterling Ellsworth, Getting to Know the Real You

We cannot fake physical affection. We have to build a relationship worthy of its display. We have all had the experience of receiving a hug from someone that is cold and distant – done out of obligation. The soul is betrayed in our physical interactions. We must not misuse touch or it can become a dark thing. Men and women who were sexually or physically abused often have difficulty giving and receiving physical affection for this very reason – honest and loving affection was replaced with something ugly and false. We must always strive to ensure our touch is unselfish and done with an attempt to build stronger relationships. When touch does not come naturally; it may be a symptom of an underlying issue within ourselves or the relationship itself. We must attempt to repair the fracture quickly and then we can honestly display affection for one another.

Some of us are not naturally “touchy” people. Our childhood home may have shunned affection. Some cultures are less physical than others. However, we need to ensure there is a place for touch in our homes. When words aren’t enough, or our pain is too complex to communicate, or when a child feels alone or discouraged – they need to know they can feel safe in our arms.

Some children need more touch than others. If touch is your child’s “love language”, they may not know you truly love them unless you show them physical affection. Ever since I was a small child, I have craved physical touch. My mom said I would give her about 100 hugs a day. Even today, I feel love most not from kind words or gifts – but when someone touches me on the shoulder, or pats me on the back. If I lived in a home that lacked physical affection, I would feel unloved and unsafe.

Touch can, unfortunately, be used as a tool of manipulation. Since we all crave touch, this need can be used against us. My toddler even knows this. A few weeks after taking away all her pacifiers, she was sitting on the couch next to me and I said, “Juliet, come cuddle.” She looked at me sternly and said, “No! Not until you let me have my paci again!”

But withholding affection in an attempt to control others will sour our relationship and hurt our own chance for happiness.

Healing Affection

Forsaken, Norman Rockwell

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” 

Leo F. Buscaglia

When I hugged my daughter in bed that night, she forgot about my harshness and instead saw me as a loving mother. Physical touch can help repair damage caused by our imperfections by showing the genuineness of our love. This love can be shown not just for our families and friends but is the natural outgrowth of the empathy we feel for others. There are millions of lonely and confined people in this world that crave physical contact. Just as babies fail to flourish without touch, the elderly in nursing homes, the homeless, and disabled and mentally ill, need touch to thrive.

A few years ago my sister was visiting my brother’s family in New Delhi, India. While there they went on a humanitarian tour of a nearby train station where there was a large population of street boys. I had attempted to take the same tour a few years before. I was pregnant at the time and despite having relatively mild morning sickness – simply standing near the train tracks and seeing the rats, filth, and experiencing the smells caused me to lose my lunch and nearly faint. Thousands of young boys and some girls in India live in these conditions, attempting to survive off food thrown from passing trains or begging from travelers. They usually have no mother to comfort them, no father to encourage them. Rather they are raised expecting the abuse of strangers, arrest by police, and the scorn of passers-by. The only potential for a kind word comes from the rare soft-hearted stranger, or humanitarians who sometimes bring food. But loving touch – that is something these children do not experience from adults.

Street boy, India

While my sister was on the tour she saw a group of boys berating a small boy, no more than five.  They were mercilessly teasing and hitting him and he was weeping bitterly. The other boys left him in this state of distress. My sister simply could not bear it, she walked over to the small boy and knelt down to sweetly speak to him.  He kept weeping and barely acknowledged her presence.  She kept trying to comfort him but he would not be calmed.  She felt the call of a nurturing mother – to take this poor child into her arms – but also the ambivalence of touching an unknown dirty child.  Yet she gently put her arm around his shoulders.  He instantly stopped crying and looked into her eyes, astonished.  A powerful moment occurred between them.  She was astonished by the instant effect her touch had on the boy, it seemed as if God’s love was being poured out to him through her hands. Her touch was speaking to him and hearing him – when words were useless.  With anguish she had to leave that beautiful boy there, now calm, in that filthy train station.  That experience has had a profound impact on her. 

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”

William Shakespeare

Touch is powerful. It can be the mortar to our relationships. It can bring healing when words are useless. It can develop empathy and bring joy and meaning into our lives. We must bravely use the power of touch often and wisely in our homes and in an increasingly affection-less world.

-Ally

Resources:

Holding children immediately after a traumatic event can quickly lower their stress levels and help prevent long-term psychological damage.

Premature Babies and Touch: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2124885-premature-babies-brains-respond-differently-to-gentle-touching/#ixzz6MF3SFi10

The Remarkable Power of Touch: https://www.heysigmund.com/the-remarkable-power-of-touch/

The Power of Touch: https://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/power-touch

Compassion and Touch: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/hands_on_research

NBA https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21038960

The Patience of God

“This Helper who will, in the long run, be satisfied with nothing less than absolute perfection, will also be delighted with the first feeble, stumbling effort you make tomorrow to do the simplest duty. Every father is pleased at the baby’s first attempt to walk: no father would be satisfied with anything less than a firm, free, manly walk in a grown-up son. In the same way, ‘God is easy to please, but hard to satisfy.”

C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)

The relationship between God and his children is a model for the ideal relationship between parents and children – easy to please, yet hard to satisfy.  I love the analogy of a baby learning to walk. As parents, we want our children to walk. We know we can’t do it for them; they have to figure it out themselves. But we still have a powerful role to play, a Helper as they stumble uphill towards greatness.

How we react to our children’s first steps and the role we play in their striving will frame their experience in life. Sometimes we may want to discourage our nine-month old who is already trying to walk. She is still a baby, she will hurt herself! I am not ready for her to grow up. While an understandable reaction, this is Stifling Motherhood – low expectations and ultimately selfish. Other times, as was the case with my overly-contented babies, we are frustrated by our chubby 14-month old who is still satisfied with his crawling. Is there something wrong with this kid? Why can’t he just walk! This is Disappointed Motherhood. Because our expectations are too high, we miss being present with our current child- the glorious crawler. We have already forgotten our joy at his mastery of that long-awaited skill.

As a previous post explained, we need to have proper expectations for our children. These should be high, but adapted to each child’s capabilities, personality, and talents. We can have high hopes for our child but we must also glory in every feeble step they take- no matter how imperfect or delayed. Expectations become a burden when children feel incapable of achieving them, or when parents never seem content with their efforts. 

Girl with Watering Can, Pierre-Auguste Renoir

The Answer of Patience – Joy

So what is this God-like attribute described in the quotation above? How do we maintain our hard-to-satisfy expectations while glorying in our children’s journey? The answer – Patience. God looks upon our feeble and halting steps here on earth as a Loving Father towards his learning toddlers. Just as we would never shame our two-year-old who tearfully admits to knocking over the lamp, He does not chasen us when we trip and fall short of perfection. He freely forgives, if spiritual toddlers even need forgiveness. God may well laugh at our distraught anxiety at our imperfections – just as I chuckle at my three-year-old’s frustration that she can’t ride the hoverboard like her big brother. He knows the timeline, he is in no rush, but the expectation remains the same. Our immaturities do not demand condemnation. They simply require patience and perseverance. Perfectionism is the thief of joy.*

A few years ago, while living in graduate housing at Norte Dame, I began praying for patience every night – having 3 kids under 4 can do that to a woman. One night after a day full of my own impatience, I had the thought, Maybe I am doing this wrong. Do I even really know what I am requesting? I would pray, “Please give me patience with these kids’ disobedience! Give me patience with my cold and moldy basement apartment! And please give it to me now!” I don’t think I actually wanted patience. I wanted my wishes granted. I wanted submissive kids and to get out of that basement.

So what is the patience we seek? It can’t simply be learning to wait because necessity requires that. It also isn’t an ability to stop wanting things. We need our desire so we feel compelled to crawl, walk, and run. Good desires should not be abandoned on the altar of “patience”, and waiting without action is no virtue. What we need is to develop God’s patience. Patience is finding joy while we wait. We don’t wait to have joy when our kids are perfectly compliant or our house is above-ground but we find pleasure in the here and now, while we wait. Rather than begrudging that my chunky baby wasn’t walking, I could glory in his crawling. Instead of complaining about living in dilapidated student-housing, I could buy heavy curtains and rejoice in my space-heaters.

“The principle part of faith is patience.”

George MacDonald

When our children start to walk, but continue to fall; or when they get discouraged and refuse to attempt the journey into our welcoming arms, we show them God’s Patience. We also accept that our Helper’s patience is there for us as well, in our stumbling steps as a mother.  We strive to be better, and delight in each and every small stride. We bless our children with a joyful mother, modeled after our joyful Father, glorying in their small steps toward greatness. 

  • Ally

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Previous Post on Expectations, A Son Beyond Expectation https://philosophyofmotherhood.com/2019/04/02/a-son-beyond-expectation/

Spending our Thankfulness

“Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy.”

Fred De Witt Van Amburgh

An expression of gratitude is a gift to both receiver and giver. Receiving thanks reminds us that our efforts are not in vain, that we are valuable to others. Giving thanks opens the windows of heaven; it allows us to see what we may have otherwise been blind to.

One of the more difficult aspects of motherhood is that our efforts are often unappreciated. Not only is its significance increasingly disregarded by society but even our own families often don’t acknowledge our sacrifices.  Little children rarely think to thank you for making them a sandwich, or going through the hell of potty training. Husbands simply can’t comprehend the misery of the third trimester. This is a reality best accepted rather than resented.*

 “Gratitude is a duty which ought to be paid, but which none have a right to expect.”

Jean-Jacque Rousseau

Despite the ingratitude of others, we can live in thanksgiving as we adopt our own attitude of gratitude.  Even without receiving it, we can spend grateful-currency on others, which makes us richer in the spending. 

A few days ago I noticed my son, age ten, allowing his three-year-old sister to drag him around by the shirt as he pretended to be her puppy.  This went on for quite a while and I could tell he was not loving this game. He moaned a bit as she pulled him up the stairs, but he generously allowed his persistent little sister to dominate him.  She never expressed her gratitude to her older brother, but she was having the time of her life. After they finished playing I sat down next to my son and said, “Thank you so much for playing with her like that. I know you would rather have done something else but she had so much fun with you.  You are a very kind big-brother.” It was obvious that this statement of appreciation meant a lot to him. We had a wonderful bonding moment together. He felt loved and I felt blessed to have raised him. It is sad to consider how many similar selfless acts I have ignored. It seems it is not just mothers that are unappreciated.

Live Oak in Magnolia Cemetery

Thankfulness is only found when we step out of the humdrum nature of life and notice the miraculous around us. As mothers, we have before us perfect miniature-models of this capacity – small children. Children haven’t forgotten to look – they glory in observing their world. They discover new joys everyday as we become increasingly blind to them. When I first moved to the Hill Country of Texas, I remember being enthralled by the majestic Live Oak trees. Now I can go weeks without actually seeing one – despite their ubiquity. I took a walk with my toddler the other day. She inspected the cracks in the sidewalk and screamed excitedly as she discovered a string of fire ants. She lovingly gave me five dandelions to put in my hair. She chased an ill-tempered stray cat. Rather than the annoyance or disregard I typically give to all of the above, she, in actually seeing them, experienced their magic and joy.

But it is not enough to open our eyes, we must open our mouths. Children live in a spirit of gratitude, as adults we must learn to express it. 

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

William Arthur Ward

Now we can call up our mom and thank her for potty training us. We can thank our daughter for not complaining about her chores. We can thank our husbands for taking out the trash.  With every acknowledgement of appreciation life looks brighter. In recognizing others good deeds, we see that our own have paid off. My son must have listened to my lessons on kindness, my daughter must be maturing out of her obstinacy, my husband notices the needs of his family.

It is an unfortunate truth that we are all tilted towards the negative, we tend to focus on the wilted rose in our beautiful bouquet.

“Man only likes to count his troubles; he doesn’t calculate his happiness.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

However, if we consciously decide to notice the joy in life, and acknowledge it – we unlock the joy that was hidden. 

“No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.”

C.S. Lewis

If we open our eyes as a child we see the glory of life.  As we receive these riches we will live in a state of thankfulness, and become rich.  If we spend our self-minted money of gratitude generously toward the oft-unappreciated efforts of others, joy increases. The world can become a truly glorious and miraculous place.

“Don’t worry about being happy. Just try to be grateful, and happiness just comes.”

Anonymous

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ally

A description on the joy found in a child’s perspective: Start Minute 1:45

-We are always grateful and appreciative of your shares, recommendations, and comments.

*There are things we can do to teach appreciation to our children, I hope to write a future post on how we can help our children learn the art of gratitude.

Scooping out Heaven for Ourselves

“The world is a looking-glass, and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face. Frown at it, and it will in turn look sourly upon you; laugh at it and with it, and it is a jolly kind companion; and so let all young persons take their choice.”

William Makepeace Thackeray (Vanity Fair)
Girl at Mirror, Norman Rockwell

When I was a freshman at university, I worked in the college Ice Cream Shop.  I went through a vigorous fifteen-minute training, done by the creamery supervisor, a sage 19 year-old Sophmore.  He demonstrated how to dip the ice cream scoop in water, sink it into the favored barrel, and put it on a cone. After one practice scoop, I had it mastered.  He didn’t elaborate on the proper size of the scoop or how to interact with the customers – he didn’t seem concerned with such trivialities. The workplace can be quite relaxed when the  management consists of disinterested college students. However, as I worked there I noticed that not everyone interacted the same way with ice cream, or customers for that matter. I discovered some truths about human nature, which have been repeatedly confirmed throughout my life.  I realized that there are only two kinds of people in this world – big-scoopers and small-scoopers. Some of my coworkers would dish out wimpy scoops to a child or student, unaware or unphased by their disappointed faces. Others would push the boundaries of a “single scoop” and deliver a very generous scoop to a delighted customer.  I was more the latter; in fact, customers began requesting me. After seeing the portions handed out by a tight-fisted employee, they would ask, “Is Ally working tonight?” Now, some would say that the stingy employees were more honest – and if the corporate policy was clear, I might agree. However, it was obvious that no one minded how much we put in a scoop of ice cream.   

“For it is in giving that we receive.”

St. Francis of Assisi

I often wondered why someone, given the freedom to dish out a large scoop or a small one, would continually dish out small ones – especially after witnessing the celebrity status of the big-scoop employees. I noticed that those employees who handed out meager scoops, tended to exhibit other attributes.  Rather than enjoying their job working at an ice cream shop, (literally every child’s dream), they came to work grumpy. Rather than interacting joyfully with customers, they acted bored or even rude. They discovered a multitude of reasons to complain about their work conditions or shift schedule. Why interact with the world this way? It certainly seemed this pessimistic view of life was making them miserable and building up their own personal hell.

“We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell.”

Oscar Wilde

Have we Become Miss Trunchbull?

I recently watched the movie “Matilda” with my children. The headmaster of the school, Miss Trunchbull, is a caricature of an angry and vindictive woman – someone that hates life and takes it out on innocents. Miss Truchbulls are all too common in our children’s lives. In school, children are chastised, “No talking during lunch!” “Don’t climb trees!” In Kindergarten my daughter was even reprimanded for hugging her friend, “No hugs allowed in school!” Adults become the oppressors of childhood joy. By focusing on the negative with children, we may be stifling their generous and happy nature and inadvertently creating a new generation of small scoopers.

We have all met real-life Miss Trunchbulls: a snippy store clerk, that curt librarian, or the lady you pray doesn’t call your number at the DMV. Negative women, and men, are easy to spot and we generally try and avoid them. However, for some reason, it is much harder to recognize ourselves as one of them. We may, in fact, be blissfully unaware that we have become a Miss Trunchbull in children’s eyes, or that we are now ungenerous scoopers. We are so consumed by our own suffering, our own injustices, our own stresses, that we don’t see the hell that follows us. We don’t see that our outlook on life is draining the joy of others around us, that our perspective is teaching our kids that the world is an ungenerous place, a place where ice cream needs to be preserved, not shared.

“Hell begins with a grumbling mood, always complaining, always blaming others… but you are still distinct from it. You may even criticize it in yourself and wish you could stop it. But there may come a day when you can no longer. Then there will be no you left to criticize the mood or even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself, going on forever like a machine. It is not a question of God “sending us” to hell. In each of us there is something growing, which will BE hell unless it is nipped in the bud. ”

C.S. Lewis

Why Debbie Downer and not Fezziwig?

“Life begins as a quest of the child for the man, and ends as a journey by the man to rediscover the child.”

Sam Ewing

There are many reasons we may have allowed ourselves to become ungenerous or negative.  Perhaps we have lived a difficult life or have a disagreeable personality type. Perhaps we feel unloved or unappreciated.  Maybe we have developed a scarce view of the world, believing in zero-sum happiness. Regardless of the source of our negativity, we must realize that we can never expect good things from life if we refuse to interact with it graciously. 

If instead, we decide to take the opposite course, the cheerful-road less traveled, we will find influence that even the most miserly among us can appreciate and cherish. Ebeneezer Scrooge was asked by the Ghost of Christmas Present why he respected his old employer Fezziwig, who spent his money on frivolous amusements. Scrooge said, “He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ’em up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.” (Charles Dickens, The Christmas Carol)


So how do we start rendering others happy, rather than unhappy? What can we do to change our negative habits, personality, or outlook? 

1. Become a Spectator

“The best way to keep a prisoner from escaping is to make sure he never knows he’s in prison.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Are we unaware of the prison of negativity and hostility in which we are residing? We need to become conscious to the way we are interacting with the world. We need to look at ourselves as an impartial observer. This should be done without judgement. If we become a spectator to our own behavior, we may see things we would never expect. Are we giving out wimpy scoops? Are we yelling at innocent children? Rather than feeling condemned by the imperfections we notice in ourselves, we should see hope – hope of progress. We have likely noticed we are unhappy – here might be a good place to start to rectify that. If we seek to improve our interactions with others, their reactions to us will also certainly improve.

Despite my previous notoriety as a Big Scooper, I regret to admit I have many moments of stingy behavior. It is interesting how I can become a witness to my own destructive behaviors, but seem unable to stop them. This is when I let my impulses overtake my free will.  I observe a witchy woman – fully engulfed in emotionality, which I seem powerless to stop. I see myself displaying negative habits and reacting instinctively rather than with thoughtfulness and kindness. I see myself yelling at joyfully laughing children in the backseat. I notice myself unloading emotional baggage on my husband as he walks in the door from a long-day at work, without concern for him. These moments all seem to occur above a common denominator, stress.  When we attempt to remove our own bias and see ourselves clearly, we can choose to react differently – more positively. Being self-observant has helped me identify my stress-triggers and prevent them.

The Happy Laundress, Eugene De Blass

2. Decide who you want to be

I used to have a distaste for the phrase, “Fake it till you make it” because I dislike insincerity, I always strive to be genuine and respect others I feel are authentic. However, I have found in marriage and mothering that sometimes if I am in a bad mood – I simply need to fake happiness, for the sake of myself and my family. I want my children to remember their mom as happy and nurturing. I want my husband to feel welcomed by a generous and loving wife.

An interesting and well-known study, now known simply as the Pencil Study, showed that people’s moods can be elevated simply by placing a pencil in their mouths – forcing them to use their smile muscles. It seems “faking it” can trick our brains into producing endorphins and serotonin. Doing charitable acts can make us more charitable. Directing our thoughts to others can decrease our selfishness. We sometimes need to force ourselves out of our negative cycles – improve our posture, take a walk, pray, be grateful. But most of all we must decide who we want to be and work to become that person. We must strive to be the hero of our story and shun the enemy we could become.

3. Integrate who you want to be with how you live

We can decide that we are not going to be a slave to a pessimistic view of life. We can freely choose to prevent such reactions and to interact with the world differently. But it takes using our attention and focus, especially if we are in the habit of reacting negatively.  

We must prepare and prevent. We know when our own Miss Trunchbull is likely to emerge. For me it is 5:30 at night as I prepare dinner. My noise bucket is now full and my will-power muscle is worn out, so I start to get snippy with my children. If I do not change the conditions, the outcome will always be the same, so I play relaxing classical music or send the kids outside to play. If it has been a stressful day, I consciously decide to not complain to my husband until he has been home fifteen minutes, even if I have to tell Alexa to remind me. I usually find when 15 minutes are up, I have forgotten my complaints.

If we are going to successfully defeat our mean nature, we need to “negotiate with ourselves”, as Dr. Jordan Peterson says.  First we need to become a spectator and witness the negative consequences of our pessimism and unpleasantness.  Then we need to decide if we really are willing to become a more positive person. Finally we need to integrate that positivity into our lives.  This might require a changing of routines, shifting our outlook, and even some moments of “pretending”. But there is hope that we can become a big-scooper again.  As we see the benefit of positivity, our efforts will be a reward unto themselves.  

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek, find. Those who knock, it is opened.”

C.S. Lewis (The Great Divorce)

Bring Heaven Down

Ceiling of Pilgrimage Church of Wies, Dominikus Zimmerman

When I look back at my days at the Creamery, I remember it as pure joy.  I gloried in that ice cream and the happiness it brought. I want that “Ally”  back for good. Some days she is here and other days Miss Trunchbull makes her appearance. I have hope that I can live the heavenly days of college again, and why not?  I am now surrounded by my children and husband, whom I love dearly. Now should be the time I am most capable of building up my own heaven. I remain convinced of the truth I learned in college: there are only two types of people in this world, big-scoopers and small-scoopers. But now I know that the choice is before me day after day, moment after moment, who will I be? Will I make a heaven or a hell?

“At the end of things, The Blessed will say, “We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven.” And the lost will say, “We were always in Hell.” And both will speak truly.”

C.S. Lewis

Ally

Thank you for reading. We would greatly appreciate your shares and follows and any comments. We are on Facebook, Instagram, and soon ThinkSpot.

Resources:

Smile Therapy: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/isnt-what-i-expected/201208/try-some-smile-therapy

Effect of Depressed Moms on Kids: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-mothers-depression/moms-depression-tied-to-kids-emotional-intellectual-development-idUSKBN1HW2MZ

Jordan Peterson: Explains the roots and justifications behind the Diner from Hell

Warning: There is swearing in this video

The Shadow of Parenthood

Young Mother and Her Children, Paul Delaroche

“The best thing about not having children is that you can go on believing that you’re a good person.” Fay Weldon.

Raising children can bring out the worst in us, but also potentially the best. Because of children’s ability to expose our weaknesses, parents are given a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge our faults and attempt to change them. It is important to recognize our own “dark side” so we can conquer it. Change is extremely difficult and can even seem impossible – however the love we have for our precious and innocent children (and our desire to not screw them up) is one of the best motivators for personal progression.

In the short clip below Dr. Peterson helps us recognize our own dark potential in parenting, and how we can use this truth to teach our children.

*His rule, “Don’t allow your children to do anything that makes you dislike them” sounds harsh but there is great truth in it. However, it is important to note that the application of this rule is dependent on the maturity and progression of the parent. If a parent “dislikes” harmless and appropriate behavior in their children then he/she is not ready for its application. Clip 3:48