Really, are you?
Just this week my students were sifting through news magazines for research they needed for a project. We were doing it the old-fashioned way – Time Magazines, paper copies, no screens, fewer ads. How refreshing. Anyways, after getting lost in a horrifying article out of Syria, I stumbled upon this open letter from mother to son (I see the irony in providing the link). Actually, it was an apology from mother to son and it caught my attention.
On the precipice of one of her greatest life achievements (her son graduating from college) Kristin van Ogtrop reflects on the journey that got them there. Instead of congratulating herself in helping to support her son along the way, she talks about all the things she wished she did better. Sound familiar? It felt like she was talking to me. Even on my best days I think of how I could have dealt with one of my kid’s behaviors better. I worry that a short reply to one of my students made them felt like I didn’t care. Hours later, it seems crazy that I almost lost it right before dinner time. Did they catch me rolling my eyes? Should I have read one more story (after the ten I already did)?
You know what eases the questions and doubts? When your kids do something good. When you get an unexpected compliment. When you witness them doing the right thing. When they return the love that you offer in infinite ways.
She has an answer to that too though. Those accomplishments aren’t really ours – they are theirs. Her son’s college graduation may have been impacted by her hard work, but it is his accomplishment. It is good to be proud, so, so proud, but you know what’s better?
If our kids are proud of themselves. She says our focus should change. “Instead, say, ‘You should be proud of yourself.'”
My husband and I say we are proud of our kids all the time, every day. We end the night with the phrase every night. We thought it was important. I think it still is…
But today I asked Lucy if she was proud of herself (after a great day of school and being particularly helpful throughout the afternoon).
She said, “no.”
Heart-broken. But in true teacher-mom fashion – I am ready to dig in and fix this problem. Time to teach my kids what it feels like to feel proud. Have any ideas?