I have a long, LONG list of things I’m trying to work on. Many of them deal with spirituality, parenting, or just being a better person. Since my list is so extensive there’s no way I could write about all of my shortcomings, especially since that list is always changing. In my experience, every time I feel like I’m making headway on improving one specific thing, I begin to realize about 10 more inadequacies. I guess that’s life though. I’m trying to make sure I’m not delusional about who I really am and that I’m self-aware enough to see my short-comings. On the other hand, I don’t want to be overly critical of myself to the point where I am self-loathing. All of that to say, today I’m going to write about one area I need to work on in each of the 3 categories I’ve mentioned: spirituality, parenting, and personal.
I’ve embarked on a (much needed) major overhaul of my life since November. I know. That was only 2 months ago. But I had a wake up call that led to some self realizations. It was good/bad. There are times that it takes something negative to bring about something positive. I have coasted for too long in my spirituality. I have simply been relying on my strong Christian background and the fact that I go to church 3 times a week, just as I have all of my life. But to be truthful, I have been stagnant. My faith hasn’t been growing. In fact, it has been diminishing. I wasn’t habitually reading and praying, and my thoughts weren’t on spiritual things. I was in a self-induced trance of some sort and I was pretty checked out from life in general, including my faith. So as you can imagine, I have several areas that need rebuilding. However, I know that things won’t change over night and that I can’t fix it all at once. So I’m trying not to get overwhelmed and to focus on one thing at a time. The first, and really the easiest thing I’ve focused on, is simply habits. Read everyday. Pray at least 3 times a day. And, this is the biggest change for me, do my best to focus completely while reading and/or praying. That’s it. It’s not something hard or special but it’s made a tremendous difference. In this short time I can already see a big change in my attitude, my thoughts, and my feelings. My faith is growing again. My relationships are improving, and hopefully, so am I. Every day I read my Bible or listen to sermons. I do it without distractions and I try to stay engaged and present the entire time. It’s not always easy, but it’s something I need to practice. While it’s important for me to do the right thing, it’s also important that I am engaged in what I’m doing, otherwise the impact is lost. I am also praying several times a day, including one time that I pray aloud with my family. My husband and I have prayed before bed with our boys since they were little, but honestly, there were nights we neglected it. Maybe we didn’t all pray together because one of us put the kids to bed while the other was showering. Or we put the boys to bed at different times so we weren’t all four praying together. Or, we simply neglected it because we were just ready for the kids to be in bed already! Whatever the case, we weren’t all four saying separate prayers out loud together, as a family. I know now, more than ever, how important that is. Since I’ve previously written about this topic I won’t elaborate now. I’ll simply say, praying aloud has made my husband and I so much more mindful of what we pray for and how we pray for it.
Where do I begin? I feel incredibly inadequate as a parent so many times that it’s hard to pinpoint one specific skill that I need to work on. So to stay with my theme of simplicity, I have chosen to work on showing my children, and my husband for that matter, that I believe in them. I want to use language and a tone of voice that will mold their inner voice to be encouraging, kind, and loving. I don’t want my kids to have an overly critical inner voice that tells them they can’t do it or that they are inadequate. To me, just having a parent say, “You can do it!” isn’t enough. We have to constantly show our kids that we have faith in them so that they truly believe they can do it. This happens not only by how we speak, but how we treat our children. I recently re-read parts of Parenting With Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility. While I don’t agree with everything it says, it did give me some perspective on helping my children to build a positive concept of themselves. One section talks about children having a three-legged table of self-concept that is built through implied messages that we give. If any leg of this table is weak then it will wobble and rock. The three legs of the table outlined in the book are 1) I am loved by the magic people in my life (making sure kids know that they are loved unconditionally, our love isn’t contingent on their behavior or accomplishments), 2) I have the skills I need to make it (giving kids the self-confidence that they can do it by themselves without their parents), and 3) I am capable of taking control of my life (this helps children to be responsible by knowing that they can make decisions and think for themselves). The book says that we need to let our children fail in non-threatening situations while emphasizing their strengths by being uncritical and not protecting them. This helps children to learn to believe in themselves, but it can be very difficult for parents. I’m not a controlling person at all, but no one wants to see their kids fail. However, wouldn’t we rather them fail and learn the lessons now, when the consequences are so nonthreatening, as opposed to when they are older and it really could alter the course of their life? Of course. I want my children to take responsibility for their actions while also having the confidence in themselves to know that they can discern what the right choice is in a situation. This happens through my tone of voice, implied messages that I give them when I speak, and in the way I treat them. I’m doing my best to keep these things in my mind in my daily interactions with all three of my boys. But most importantly, I’m trying to lead by example and show them that I believe in myself. This is by far the most difficult part.
When I was thinking of personal things that I need to work on I started thinking about it in context of relationships. How can I be a better wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend. I think that one thing I need more of is patience. I can wish all day that I was patient but I needed some real steps that I can take to work on being more patient. Since I become impatient when I’m highly frustrated, the first thing I’m working on is just being more relaxed. There are many times when I’m trying to help my kids or instruct them on how to do something. For example, I’m trying to decorate respectable looking cookies with my boys. I can do it caring about the outcome and get super frustrated, or I can just let them have at it and save myself the headache. So now I’m asking myself if it is that important that this particular task be done well. Most of the time the answer is “no”, and so now I’m just letting it go. Another thing I am doing is trying to slow down. Most things take time, and if I’m not willing to put in the time then I shouldn’t do it knowing I’m going to be in a rush. This is sometimes hard for me, because unlike my husband and my first-born child, I’m not a perfectionist. Their need to do things meticulously “right” really drives me nuts sometimes. I want to get things done, and done right, but I’m not stressing over every small detail. In order to be more patient I am trying to add more time to things to account for the detail-oriented nature of both Cale and Max.
I’ve been trying to choose specific things to work on for only about two months but I can already tell a difference. This time of year people are always coming up with resolutions for the new year. I’m really not into that because let’s be honest, no one keeps them. I’m no different, I lose my steam and my enthusiasm wanes just as quickly as it began. However, I know that I have some personal deficiencies that need improvement no matter what time of year it is. I’m making it a point to write more and to write down the things I want to focus on. I always have a journal and I write it in quite often, but instead of just making a list of things to work on, I’m writing about specific ways I can improve on these things. I only hope that this will help me to stay focused and remind me of the things I can do every day to become a better version of me.