November 2006
Kids Aren't Crops

by Annie Fox, M.Ed

It’s our job to give to our children all we’ve got in terms of love, emotional support and lots of guidance…
Kids Aren't Crops

All gardeners are incurable optimists. I’m the same. Whenever I plant I dream of results that will match or surpass the dazzling photos on the seed packets. Sometimes reality isn’t that far from my fantasy. More often than not, it doesn’t come close. But even my worst farming failures can’t deter me from burying peach pits, grapefruit seeds or old potatoes. Those who’ve outgrown playing in the dirt may laugh, but this season my optimism, care and hard work paid off big time.

Yep, the tomato gods have smiled upon us. Actually they’ve been laughing their leaves off non-stop since mid-July. Why even a week before Halloween my garden rewarded me with yet another basketful of gorgeous red orbs. Tomato harvestWhen it comes to gardening, I definitely “give to get,” that is, I shower all kinds of attention on my plants (including regular doses of compost tea and worm castings) because I want something in return. I believe that I’m entitled to a major payback for all my efforts otherwise I wouldn’t bother.

It’s not supposed to be that way with parents and kids.

A child’s development is a direct result of a parent’s optimism, care, and hard work. Unlike other “crops,” though, we shouldn’t be giving to our kids with the expectation that they will eventually pay us back.

We love our children and want more than anything to know that they’re thriving and growing into kind-hearted people who care about others and contribute to the well-being of their communities. That’s enough. No other payback needed.

The truth is, the fruits of our parenting labors will benefit our kids and their kids. What we’ve taught them will be at the foundation of their character and that’s what they’ll use later in life to make their own way in the world.

It’s our job to give to our children all we’ve got in terms of love, emotional support and lots of guidance when it comes to our values and the way we expect them to treat others. That includes treating us with respect. When what we give comes bound by strings, it creates resentment and walls.

…we shouldn’t be giving to our kids with the expectation
that they will eventually pay us back.

Someday your children may express their appreciation for all your efforts. And if they do, what will you say? If, in some golden moment your child’s eyes shine with love and gratitude and he asks: “Mom/Dad, how can I ever repay you for all that you’ve done for me?” what’s the response? First appreciate the fullness of the feelings behind his question. Think about what’s taken place between the two of you that has brought you and your child to this time and place in your relationship. Savor the sweetness of your own feelings at this moment. Then take a deep breath, beam back your love and speak the truth: “Sweetheart, there’s nothing you owe me. Nothing you have to do to pay me back. I’m just happy to be your Mom/Dad.”

One way streetOf course, indirectly, you’ve been paid many times. We get tremendous personal satisfaction from raising our kids. We also experience joy when they succeed at something they’ve worked for and delight when they honor us and themselves by making healthy choices. But all of the “parental payback” comes from inside, not from anything that your child consciously gives to you. Parenting, unlike a marriage or a friendship, is pretty much a one-way street rather than a game of Give and Take.

Does this mean that you’ll inevitably raise an entitled young person who won’t give a fig about anyone’s feelings or needs but her own? Absolutely not! Because a huge part of what you should be giving to your children is an education about what it means to be a loving and compassionate adult. You’re demonstrating that every day in the way you treat them. So modeling is absolutely a part of what you give. The other part is a clear set of expectations for the behavior you want them to exhibit. Acknowledge them when they treat their siblings and friends with kindness and respect. Tell them how you feel when you see them being compassionate. Praise their thoughtfulness toward you. Even at these times you’ll still be giving… but you’re also reaping the benefits of knowing that you’re preparing your child to become a much-needed loving spirit in the world.

Questioning life and homeworkNow there’s a harvest worth a whole lot more than a basketful of tomatoes.

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours.

In friendship,
Annie

P.S. I encourage you to model good citizenship for your kids on Tuesday November 7th by exercising your constitutional right to vote.


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