When I dropped my ego, I found my place as a parent and realized what each of my kids needed from me.
I’m fascinated by birth order, though admittedly largely in an anecdotal way. My older daughter (my firstborn girl), I realized, almost as soon as she started talking, was exactly like my other favorite firstborn girl (my older sister). As a mother who embodies every stereotype of a second-born child, this girl has taught me what is possibly my greatest lesson in parenting. It has, in turn, shaped the way I approach nearly all other aspects of life.
I came into parenthood feeling very confident. Not necessarily expecting it to be easy, but also not terrified of what was to come. When my daughter was a month old, I was at a new moms’ group, and a woman commented that I seemed so natural and relaxed. She assumed this wasn’t my first baby. Nearly thirteen years later, that compliment still brings me a sense of pride. I had an “I got this” attitude about parenting, and in many ways, I did.
One day, I realized that I was raising a child I didn’t really understand. Maybe I didn’t quite have this as much as I’d thought.
I would see this look on my daughter’s face…it was happiness tinted with a “huh, that’s it?” kind of look. Not disappointed, not ungrateful, but like when you go to your favorite restaurant, and they forget an ingredient in your favorite meal. I sat with this for a long time, trying to figure out what to do with this. After all, I’m the mom, and I fix things. It’s what I’m good at!
My ego was telling me that I should be able to fix this. When I ignored that, I realized I don’t need to know all the answers, but I need to be open to solutions.
Simply put, I didn’t see what she saw. I wasn’t processing situations the way she was. So I put my ego aside, I realized (and became comfortable with the idea) that I couldn’t fix everything, that I didn’t need to, and I wasn’t actually supposed to. This (like so many other things in life) wasn’t about me. It was about my daughter. So I asked her.
Shortly before her 7th birthday, I remember sitting down with my very precocious girl and asking what she needed, how she envisioned this day. It’s an exercise we’ve repeated dozens of times since – for all kinds of days, big and small. Lightbulbs going off in both of our heads as I explained that I don’t see what she sees, but that it was important and she should ask. It’s still something I say to my kids, not because I want to overindulge them, but because they shouldn’t expect unknown needs to be met.
“If you need something, ASK. Say it!”
My daughter told me what she wanted for her 7th birthday. Not the gifts she wanted, but how she wanted the day to unfold, what she needed for it to feel like her special day. She laid out what she wanted for breakfast and dinner…and she outlined the card she wanted the family to give her – she saw it, I didn’t, so I had her make the card, and we all filled in our appropriate section.
She knew what she wanted, and I gave her the voice to ask for it, and then I listened.
As a mother, I realized, at that moment, that this isn’t about me. That my power as a parent was to love and care for each of my kids based on THEM and not me. It wasn’t about me.
I put my ego aside, and it’s changed the nature of my relationship with my kids. I ask them questions and let them be the expert when they explain how they see things. I absorbed what they were offering without putting it through the filter of what I thought it should be or how I would interpret it. And it literally changed EVERYTHING.
As my kids are getting older – 9, 11, and almost 13 – the little things have turned into bigger things, and not having to guess what they need or are thinking has much greater implications these days. Laying this foundation has let me become the parent each of my kids’ needs – it feels like a gift to us.
Outside of parenting, I’ve tried to make this same shift. I started to approach situations by removing my perception lens and taking things in as they were being given. This isn’t to say that I don’t analyze or think critically or strategically about situations or information. Still, I do it without being guided by my ego, assuming that I, or my feelings, are at the center of everything. I’m not. It’s not about me.
The more I take myself out of situations, the less emotional hold outside situations and scenarios have on me.
This simple shift in my parenting opened a whole new world for me. It changed the relationship I have with my kids, and it changed the relationship I have with the world around me.