What I learn from my children

My children are all teenagers now and when I recently stood still to look back and focus on what is happening right now, I looked at all the ups and downs, the very difficult and the easy moments, the moments of joy and the ones of deep sadness.

Life is not a long fleuve tranquille , we all have our challenges to deal with. What helps me since my own teenage years is Nietsches’ What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. – I admit that sometimes I wonder how strong does one need to become?!
Fact is, that I am very proud of where we are now. – Be prepared, this is a long post…

We parents learn a lot from our children

We learn more from our children than from any parenting book. This is something I love about being a parent! It is the hardest job and it doesn’t come with a course book, or a guarantee for success. It is the most amazing journey but also the most daunting one. It is a 24/7 job.

Our children teach us to slow down, to focus on every-single-step, they actually teach us mindfulness, and they teach us to question our values and beliefs (over and over again!). What I love the most is that they teach us to be flexible and coherent at the same time. It seems impossible but it’s not!

Every step our children take, we have the great chance to admire and enjoy it. Unfortunately, many of us parents tend to get caught into a rat race, where it is more about whose child speaks first, walks first, eats solid food first, gets into the gym team (first), has higher grades, gets accepted into the most prestigious University, has the best job, earns more money etc.

I say unfortunately, because we risk to loose our children along the way.

We think what is good for them and tend to guide them with such a determination that they naturally follow our lead.

It starts with putting them on the jacket (maybe I’m warm…), choosing the right shoes for them (I prefer the other ones…), convincing them about the importance of maths and science (there are other subjects too…!), that it is good to try out numbers of sports (and if I don’t like sports, or those you suggest?…), be consistent in one (why only one?!). And no, we’re not helicopter parents.

We just want what is good for our children” is what many parents say.

But, honestly, how do we know what is good for them? What makes us be so sure that the path we see (and choose!) for them is the one that is good for them? Who are we to make them do things they are not ready or prepared for, or willing to do? – Whoever says that we’re doing this because we want that our children don’t have to experience certain situations, is not doing them any favor!

Our children will make their own experiences, at their time, with their pace and with their consequences.

If we, parents, recognize patterns in situations or behaviors, that can lead to consequences that were hard for us: it was about us, not them!

I don’t mean that we don’t learn from experiences, we do, and we learn a lot from history, from the past – I am the first to say that history is one of the most important subjects taught at school (and beyond) – but we have to take experiences as what they are. They are things-that-happened-in-certain-circumstances-with-particular-consequences: they are not universal law. They are somewhere on a continuum from objective to subjective that is very difficult to define and to sum up in a post. And this is exactly what makes parenting so difficult: when should we draw the line between our experience and the one of our children? How much should we guide them? And what does this even mean?

I’m one of those mothers who don’t push their children.

In the past, I let my children decide what jacket to put on, I don’t push so they go to the highest maths group, and I don’t push them to go to university.

I don’t care what other parents think. I don’t care what my parents think about the way I’m raising my children. I make many mistakes, but I have no problem to own them. I apologize to my children when I do. They know that I am not perfect and that I don’t know everything. Since they were very young I would say “I don’t know, let’s find out together”, and I am sure this made them not consider adults as know-it-all – and lead them quite often to question adults (teachers and educators too).

I spent days (and nights) thinking about what kind of consequences my decisions might have, and what consequences my childrens’ decisions might have.

I’m not a laid back mother. I worried a lot in the past, especially because I didn’t have parents who would take care of our children. We live too far away and my parents are not the kind who would offer to take care of our three children so that my husband and I could have some time “off” parenting. I know many expat families can, but we couldn’t.

I know now that I was anxious at times, and that this reflected in my parenting style. But what I recently discovered is, that my anxiety wasn’t coming from me, it was coming from the expectations of our society, our community, our extended family and friends. When I realized this a few years ago, I decided to let me guide by my children.

I am growing with my children

Yes, I am literally growing with my children. They show me the way. They show me what they like, what they dislike, what makes them happy, what makes them anxious (yes, we dealt with some serious anxiety issues in the past) and what helps them recover from setbacks.

What I have learnt in the past years is that the more I let my children decide and deal with the consequences, the better we all are off. We discuss a lot about the decisions. But instead of anticipating our children with possible consequences of their decisions, we ask them what they think a consequence could be, we explore them together and we let them make their own experiences.
Sometimes it is better to not mention a negative outcome, because we could spoil the opportunity for them to actually have a very positive experience!
The growing with my children also means to let them go. The first steps that took them further away from me/us are now leading further and further away, but I am happy for them that they have the confidence and the capacity to do so.

I also grow with them because I don’t want to grow apart from them. My lovely three teenagers show me every day what they can do, what they want, what they fear and what they love: and this changes regularly. This flexibility is healthy for them and for me. I don’t like putting people in boxes, define them based on their capacities, preferences, etc., so, this flexibility helps me to always consider all the options my children (and I!) have. – It is an amazing journey that my husband and I are very grateful to be able to experience!

What are you learning from your children? – Please let me know in the comments here below!

5 replies »

  1. Great Post! We’re in exactly the same position with our two. Jess is about to enter her last year as a teenager. Learned so many things from them over the years. I remember a useful thought I was told long ago – every parent is an amateur. We’re all learning on the job!


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