Friday, February 17, 2006

Quieting the Inner Voice

Below is an Stunt mom guest editorial.

Quieting the Inner Voice

Sometimes I think that our kids would best be served, not by our discipline in keeping our houses clean, making the best meals or sticking to a schedule, but rather by our discipline in "quieting the inner voice" that says all these things should be done. Likewise, perhaps it is not so important that we try to help our kids excel by enrolling them in the best private school, swim lessons, gymnastic sessions or by putting books in front of them rather than television, but rather that we try to help them see how ordinary we all are. I think that when we focus too hard on making the "best" choices and doing the "right" thing, we might be losing sight of the forest for the trees. I think we must acknowledge that if we're listening to those little voices that are telling us we need to do things better than we are, keep the house cleaner, etc., then our kids are probably hearing those voices, too.

When I say that I want my kids to feel "ordinary," I definitely do not mean dull or even "normal." :) The thing is that I grew up in a household that convinced me for awhile that in my house we did things the "right" way. We made the best choices and were comparatively better than others. I had more help than I probably should have on a lot of my school assignments and, surprise surprise, they often seemed better than the work of my peers. I was given the take-home lesson of "see how you can be above average," whereas I wish I had been given a lesson in, "see how rich of a tapestry is made by all of the people in our community, and all of the varied and wonderful contributions that each person gives." Now, close to 30 years later, I realize that it's just not that important that your school speech fell within the allotted 3-5 minutes and that Jimmy Smith went over by 15 seconds, and didn't even seem to have the whole thing memorized -- horrors!

This past week, I had the wonderful experience of sharing a storytime with a group of kids from a preschool that admits only children of parents recovering from addictions. And what a delightful group of kids it was. I also saw a fascinating documentary about children being raised in a brothel in Calcutta. Again, the kids were alive with all the mischief and wonder that kids should have. It made me wonder about all the choices we make in this country as we head down the parenting path, and whether they are really very important at all. I am definitely guilty of getting carried away with the choices and the voices. But one of my new goals is to have an intention for what I want for my kids (and for myself), and then to let everything that slips in outside of that intention just be part of the fabric of our lives and not something to fret over. After all, aren't the people that are easy-going in life so much more pleasant to be around? Who are the people in our lives that make us feel like we can really let our hair down? I think that when we judge ourselves, it is a natural consequence that we judge others and vice versa. Who needs it? And why is it so hard to stop? It's something I'm working on.


Jayne Martin Dressing said...

This is the best piece I've read on parenting in a long, long time. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad! Thanks for the feedback.

StuntBec said...

The message in this piece is very inspiring. I especially love the part, "see how rich of a tapestry is made by all of the people in our community, and all of the varied and wonderful contributions that each person gives." It is such an important lesson to teach our children: to be admiring and humble of the world around them. (At least that's my interpretation.)

But, I think the inner voice IS important, in moderation. The inner voice is a gift. Really! It tells you to keep the house clean, to cook a healthy dinner, to teach your children to love books, to interact with your children, to help them be lifelong learners, and so on. In my work with the soup kitchen in Portland, and in teaching pre-GED classes in the evening, I've befriended so many struggling folks, who don't have that inner voice. So, if they're lucky, they take a parenting class, or learn from a social worker, on how to cultivate the inner voice.

So, finding the balance, that's the kicker. Listen to the inner voice, but keep it at bay. Keep a clean house, but at the same time, but don't stay home on cleaning day, if it's the perfect weather for a picnic. Try and cook healthy meals for your kids, but enjoy taking them out to eat, when need be. My dad always says, "nothing in excess."

Now, could you explain further what you mean by intention? I enjoyed reading your piece! Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you asked for clarification because I can see now that I was really referring to two inner voices, calling one "intention" and the other "the inner voice." Really, I should have made a clear distinction between the two.

I think that the examples you gave would fall under the positive voice, which is what I've been thinking of as an intention to do well by yourself and others. The kicker is the inner voice that comes along behind -- perhaps better named the "inner nag" that looks around while you are reading a book to your kid and says, "why is this house so messy?"

If you had a true intention during a given day to keep a clean house, make healthful meals, get your kids some exercise, and get to the grocery store, and 3 of those 4 things didn't happen, then I think it takes discipline to just let those things go from your mind. That is when you quiet your inner nag, and anyone else who might try to nag at you, too. Speaking of which, this could be a segue into a spin-off article... one that sugguests that we all stop nagging at our spouses! :) Nagging, like judgment, spares no one, I think. So, the same people who nag others are going to have to deal with the inner nag coming out to haunt them.

Anonymous said...

Best regards from NY!
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