Saturday, November 12, 2011

30 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 20

Today I am thankful for my cousin Carol. I grew up in a small family, and only had five cousins, three of whom lived on the west coast. So since Carol and I are only a few months apart in age, when the cousins got together growing up, we were naturally playmates. She has two beautiful children who remind me very much of my own – an older boy who is laid-back, bright, curious, and articulate, and a younger girl who is a delightful social butterfly with a will of iron. They are both polite, pleasant to be around, capable of keeping themselves entertained, and willing and able to participate in adult conversations, all skills that I hope my children will develop over time. As a parent, however, I am NOT like Carol – and I wish I could learn her laid-back, calm style of parenting. I have a lot of friends who are terrific parents, but she is one of the ones that I most want to emulate. I am thankful for her model of parenting.

When I think of her parenting style, I think of two specific incidents. The first was a visit during which she told us that the kids had been learning the word “consequences”. I forget exactly how old they were at the time, but they were young enough that I was impressed that they knew that word. Carol explained very carefully to them that all the choices you make lead to consequences, some good and some bad, and some that just happen (like a toy breaking if you throw it) and some that someone (like your mother) can make happen (like taking a toy away if you throw it). I remember her telling them they could choose to disobey her if they wanted, but that they would have to live with the consequences if they did. And I remember her son very seriously deliberating making a rebellious choice, and then deciding against it because the consequences of that decision would not be fun. Because of that conversation, I have already been planning on having a similar one with my son in the near future, as soon as he is able to understand the concept. It is a beautiful encouragement of independent thinking through choices, and of using your own will to make decisions, but without encouraging rebelliousness or disobedience.

The second incident I think of happened at a family reunion at Carol’s brother’s house. It was a large backyard party and Carol’s daughter Emily had a bit of a tantrum and slapped someone. Carol sat her down on the porch, just away from the festivities, and quietly and calmly explained that she would have to sit there and miss the party until she apologized to the person she had hit. Emily set her jaw, folded her arms, and plunked down on the steps with a scowl and outright refused to apologize. And so they sat. And they sat. And they sat. And at one point, Carol sighed a bit ruefully and quietly said, “I wish I hadn’t picked this battle. But I did, and I’m going to see it through.” As I recall, it took well over an hour for Emily to finally decide that not missing any more of the party was worth apologizing for, and she gave in. But Carol’s simple statement about picking a battle and seeing it through always stuck in my head. Just a few days ago, I had a battle of wills with my son and I thought to myself, “Is this a hill I want to die on? Am I willing to see this one through?” And I decided that it was. It took several hours, but I did eventually win the battle. And sometimes, I decide that it isn’t a battle I want to fight, and let it go. I didn’t fully realize the wisdom of either choice until I had to make them with my own children.

I am thankful for Carol’s wisdom as a mother, and I am thankful that I have her parenting to serve as a model for my own. If my children grow up to be as charming, pleasant, and well-mannered as hers, I’ll be very proud.
Carol with her kids, Henry and Emily

With my son Ryan, her godson

Three things I am thankful for today are a reliable car, recipe sites on the internet, and fresh-baked bread.

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