Every mother has a different style of parenting. Some are more lenient, others more strict. Some mothers shower their children with constant affection while others take the ‘tough love’ approach.
I am a firm believer that we are a product of our environment. For me, this holds true. I am my mother’s daughter. My parenting style was a learned behavior. Many of the ways in which I parent my son are lessons from my childhood.
My past has taught me about the type of mother I want to be but has also shaped the type of mother I don’t want to be.
Let me explain.
My mom is an extremely affectionate, loving person. She shows her love in many ways – hugs, kisses, speaking it out loud, buying gifts and giving unconditional support. I parent much like my mother.
But, in some ways, her love was all-consuming.
In order to protect me from negative things in life, my mom kept me from experiencing a lot. I never went away to college, I never had chores or real responsibility growing up and I never wanted for anything. These things have shaped the person that I am.
My lack of experience in the outside world has left me with a void.
I often wonder what it would have been like to go to college. Would I have enjoyed living on my own, in a dorm or apartment?
My mother always told me “You don’t need to move out to experience life. You aren’t missing anything” She wanted to protect me from everything bad in this world. But I believe that you need to experience the bad sometimes to appreciate the good.
So, as I raise my son, I try to fight my inherent need to protect him for everything and anything I can. I know that he needs to experience life, to live life – to stumble and fall before brushing himself off, and standing back up again.
How will my son ever learn to deal with unkind friends if he never strays from his core circle? How will he ever know his limits if he never pushes them? What if his next great opportunity lies outside of his comfort zone? If he never leaves it, he’ll never know.
So, I am thankful for my mother sheltering me and wanting to protect me from heartache and pain, but without those things, I feel I’ve missed out on certain aspects of life. It’s impacted my ability to handle disappointment and hurt.
Because I never had chores growing up, I never felt the satisfaction of earning something – if I wanted it, my mother bought it for me. Where was the lesson of value? Of working hard for what you want? It was lost.
But, fortunately, my mother also taught me to take pride in what I do and to be a strong woman. Because of that, I’ve developed my own work ethic. I am too proud to ever take something for nothing. If I didn’t earn it, I don’t want it.
I want my son to place the same value on things. When you work hard for the things you get, they mean more to you than if they’re just given.
My mom’s overindulgence on me quickly transferred to her grandson – buying him everything he wanted and even things he didn’t ask for. Whether it costs $10 or $100, my son would play with it for a short time and then toss it aside. He had no sense of worth.
When I saw this happening, I chose to change it.
My son now has chores he’s responsible for. Once he completes them, he earns money. The look of pride on his face when he saves enough to buy something he truly wants lets me know I’m doing the right thing.
My son’s eating habits are another thing I am striving to change. My food obsession was inherited from my father and I’ve passed it onto my son.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with being a “foodie”, but having a lack of willpower is a separate set of problems. As an infant, my son was a great, healthy eater – drank his Hipp organic formula with no problem, loved when I introduced cereal to his diet and devoured his fruits and veggies.
But it was all over when he got his first taste of sugar.
Now, candy is his favorite food group, juice boxes are his drink of choice and he feels he can’t live without McDonald’s. Though he loves his protein, my son loves his snacks too. He is a very active little boy. The last thing I want is for him to become self-conscious or fixated on his weight at such a young age.
But I also want him to be healthy. And I know that starts with me.
I learned early in my journey as a mother that your children are always watching – everything you say and do help shape the person they become.
That’s a lot of pressure, but it’s also an amazing responsibility and honor.
The parts of my childhood that have helped mold my personality are ones I cherish and thank my mother for – my kind heart, giving spirit, manners and respect are all things I wouldn’t change.
But my sheltered upbringing, skewed view of what things cost and less than healthy eating habits, are things I reflect on and want to change for my son.
And as his mother, I have the power to do so and as his mother, it’s my job and my mission to see it through.
And I will.