Love Letter to... My Kids
They are amazing. As are most.
I am finishing off the year a little backward. If you have noticed, I attempt to do two ledger posts a month. Failed some months and succeeded others. Toward the end of the year, I started these love letters and made those one of the two. Planning went weird and was going to do a parenting ledger and then a love letter to my kids. Whelp, the love letter is showing up first.
As usual with my writing, all these messages are transferrable. If you are not a parent I think there is value here. Some of these points can be helpful if you have nieces or nephews. There are even lessons if you have direct reports at work.
I have been a parent for 7 years. Yes, they somehow let me have tiny humans and I have yet to completely mess it up. I’m sure I am messing something up, I just won’t find out until my kid goes to therapy and HOPEFULLY, we are close enough to tell me where I went wrong.
Anyway, it has been a crazy ride so far. Every time I think I can coast a bit it gets harder.
Using a game metaphor, it has gone from the card game war (no strategy) → uno (a little strategy → checkers (more strategy → chess (complex). I know we are going to 3D chess soon then probably Go and I am not prepared.
I make a lot of mistakes. I yell too much, I have snap reactions that are very poor and my kids watch and repeat, and I always question if what I am doing is right.
However, when I look back and reflect I realize there is so much my kids have taught me and I have changed because of them.
Parenting is hard. I love living in an era where memes exist. As "I constantly say, “If memes exist of my exact thoughts and emotions, I am not alone.” Parenting memes make me feel not so alone in the chaos.
I do call my kids chaos agents and at the same time love them more than I ever thought was possible.
With that said, here is what I have learned and appreciate from my kids.
If you have kids and have not learned patience… I don’t know what to say. Kids move on their own time. The more you force them to move on your time, the more immovable they become. They learn super early what triggers you and exploit the crap out of it!
Now do they do this maliciously? I don’t think so. I think they have goals and limited tools/negotiating power to reach those goals. I don’t think they know what they are feeling or how to properly express these feelings. My 4-year-old confuses bored as hungry. Adults don’t even do this well so why would a 5-year-old?
I have tried to plan a little better to allow them to do their thing. Does that mean they can take forever? No. It does mean they can take more time.
More time is important.
We all love control. It’s why so much about our world is scary. When you start thinking about it, we have very little control over most things around us.
Now, imagine you are 7.
You can’t get anywhere on your own.
Orders are constantly coming down from others for you to do.
You’re told you have to go to school for most of your day. The reasons we give likely don’t make sense to them. Their world is simple, they don’t know how the things they do today will impact them in an ambiguous amount of time.
All you want to do is play.
So what did I learn from this? Well first is perspective. We get so lost in our world we often forget what it’s like to be them. We as parents also have the power to pass control over to the kids.
We make many decisions that we can pass on to our kids. For that matter, we can pass them on to others as well. If you notice you are in a position where you can pass a decision to someone because you think they would appreciate the choice, not because you are avoiding the choice, DO IT.
The big lesson is knowing when you can give up control. I also think it’s more often than you think.
With kids, it’s pretty simple. Ask if they want to leave the park now or in 5 minutes.
Separation of tasks
I have been reading a book on Adlerian psychology called The Courage to be Disliked. As someone with a master’s in counseling, I was not taught Adlerian psychology. I won’t go into much here, maybe for another love letter.
One major concept is the separation of tasks.
This is an incredibly hard concept to grasp and is an example between adults. It’s pretty easy to say it’s not my task to make you happy. It is not up to me for you to enjoy what you are reading. I can do my best to make this awesome. I can lead you here and I can not make you consume.
With kids, it becomes incredibly complicated.
What if your kid does not want to do their homework? It is still not your task.
I think we feel it is because our kid’s success is our success. What will the other parents think when their kid gets bad grades? What will the school and my kid’s teacher think?!?
Going down that path because it is a tough one based on what other people think.
Like I said it is incredibly hard and tricky.
I am not going to address this now, just know learning what tasks belong to your kids and which to yourself will benefit you greatly. If you can do it with your kids… it will be much easier everywhere else in your life.
It’s like when I was playing baseball. My dad made me hit pinto beans with a broomstick. If I can do that, I surely could hit a baseball with a bat.
What do you do once you have decided to take this path?
Sit on your hands
Sitting on your hands as a parent is insanely hard.
Watching your kids learn to play video games is torture. They are so bad and you know you can do it better. It is not your task. You can’t make them better by doing it for them.
They have to try and fail. The important part is to be there with them through it. It won’t be to do it for them. You want to be their guide through the hard things.
When they do something and fail, ask questions. Don’t rush them through it or grab it and say I’ll do it. I have done this and it is a mistake 10/10 times. Yes, the thing gets done or the level passed, however, look at the cost.
This is the ledger principle. You get the “goal” and at what cost? You made it known they can’t do it and you will have to be there to do it for them. Their independence and confidence took a big hit. They may even see you as an enemy to their growth.
Just like knowing what tasks are theirs, knowing when to not rip the controller out of their hand is also incredibly uplifting.
Sit on your hands, know your tasks, and make space.
One of the most known anecdotes of kids is they continually ask why. They will ask why until you have explained the molecular structure of ice cream. Props to you if you can pull that off!
They ask why is not the lesson here. However, sticking with them will teach you patience.
At some point, we stop asking why past one or two levels. Not only that, we get annoyed when someone goes beyond that whether it’s a kid or adult.
I think we lose so much by not asking why. We have stopped caring how things work and why we do what we do. We just accept what people say and forget to fill in the space. We just assume that’s the way it will always be.
I will get into a political ledger at some point. Likely will get me in trouble and that’s fine. What I want to stress is, we lose our way when we stop asking why.
Kids are exceptionally good at this.
The fun thing is when kids ask why, you get good at…
Learning how to explain things is an art. Teaching someone something so they can understand it is hard. You know how you understand it and can you get them to the same place?
Teaching is the best way to learn. If you know it and can teach it, you then know it pretty darn well.
Teaching complex things to kids is a whole other ballgame. It’s one we should become very good at.
It’s like the pinto beans with a broomstick again. If you can teach complex topics to a 5-year-old. You can teach it to anyone!
There is something else amazing with kids. You don’t need to know everything. I can imagine it was much harder pre-internet. However, now you can say “You know what, I don’t know, and how about we go figure it out together!”. My kids and I have learned so much together and had some bonding moments learning together.
Talk about ledger power. Learning, bonding, and showing it’s okay to not know everything.
One topic I have made a purpose to teach is…
I was fortunate to grow up in a house where money was talked about a lot. My dad loved to pay attention to stocks and was a money hawk. So was his dad.
I can’t believe how just being around money talk helped me.
The lesson my kids have taught me is how hard it is to explain sometimes. While the internet and technology have helped us discover more things to explore, they have done the opposite for money.
We used to do everything with cash and you could see physical change back. Now… we don’t even have to pull a card out to pay. We can just tap our phones.
How are kids supposed to understand any of this?
Schools will not teach money literacy either. It is one of those game changers you as the parent have to step up in.
I have had the privilege to be able to learn and read about finance and money.
So you ask, how am I supposed to learn finance while I have kids, a day job, all other adulting responsibilities?
I’ll start by saying yeah, it’s really rough. Adulting is no joke and too much falls on you.
So I would recommend not trying to do it alone. Find people that can help you in more than just finance. If you are one of those people, offer to help. Balance the give-and-take ledger.
I was reading a stoic book by Ryan Holiday and he once said “A little fella follows you”.
Your kids are ALWAYS listening and see you as a role model. Therefore they will copy what you say and do. If those are incongruent, they will likely do what you do.
Be aware of how you act. The better you behave, the better they will. If you open doors for people, they will likely pick up that habit too.
One of those things I hope they see?
Do you want to know how much I mess up?
I lost count.
I keep trying to do better and will continue to mess up. Thats life.
One thing I make sure I do?
My kids will know I mess up and what to do when I do.
Remember a little one follows you!
I sit down and let them know where I think I went wrong. I ask what I can do to be better next time and ask if we are good.
I want them to know everyone screws up and it’s ok.
I want them to know an apology may not even mean you were wrong. You just value the relationship more than being right.
Until next time…
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