Monday, December 14, 2009

Be Authentic

I’m in love with these books called, “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk,” and “Liberated Parents, Liberated Children” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlisch.

Seriously, in love. I’ve given the first book as a baby shower gift to like a thousand women who probably think I’m crazy and wonder why I didn’t buy something from their registry.

But back to my point. Be authentic. (My happiness commandment #7)

Somewhere in the second book, the fantastic authors of these books about how to be a fantastic parent give us permission as parents to have yucky feelings and to let our kids know about them. Did you hear that? Seriously, the authors say that if we are feeling angry and try to act all happy with our children (or spouses, or whoever we are with), then we are doing a disservice to the child because they can read our emotions, and our actions/words will not match our feelings, which will confuse them. The authors say that, rather than put on a happy face when we are about to blow our top, we should say something like, “Mommy is very unhappy right now. I see ink pen all over my brand new tablecloth. I’m steamed!” Without assigning blame, without insulting, without hurting feelings, parents should be authentic in their emotions. Describe the situation, your feelings, and state what you need. This allows children to learn that sometimes they have to consider another person’s feelings, helps them see your point of view, and helps them develop empathy, as well.

I tried the whole being “authentic” thing a few weeks ago. I woke up with a migraine and was feeling very nauseated on that Monday, and to top it all off, my husband was out of town and I had just gotten back from being out of town and had absolutely no groceries in the house. I had to scrounge up some frozen bagels for breakfast and packed my daughter a lunch of canned soup in her thermos with a few raisins I found in the bottom of the pantry. Not my best moment as a parent.

Then, as I was sitting on the floor of the bathroom trying my best not to let myself throw up, my daughter decided that the Dora video and frozen bagel I had given her were not as interesting as I had passed them off to be and ventured into the bathroom asking me to play playdough with her. Normally, I would’ve slapped a smile on my face and done my best to redirect her to some fun activity she could do on her own. But I was feeling hid-e-ous-ly! Plus, I had just read about being authentic, so I said, “Honey, mommy is feeling very sick right now. I have a headache and loud sounds make me want to throw up. I need to be by myself for a few minutes until I feel better.” This was hard for me to say, and I worried that it was going to upset her. (Up until now, I had always been the “smile and make everything okay” mother.) But amazingly, rather than crumple to the floor in despair because I couldn’t open her playdough for her (as I had anticipated would happen), my toddler actually came over, rubbed my back, leaned her head on my head, and said, “Mommy, what can I do to make you feel better?” If I hadn’t already been on the floor, I would’ve fallen down. Then she went back to her frozen bagel and Dora movie until my ibuprofin and bengay substitute for Head-On kicked in. Authentic works, apparently.

I’m also trying to be more authentic in other situations, like, telling my supervisor if I’m feeling overwhelmed, or trying to be more straightforward and less overly-reassuring with clients when they ask about prognosis. It’s a work in progress, because I’m a people-pleaser, but it’s getting easier!

Do you ever feel like you’re being “fake” around certain people? If not, please, tell me your secret to authenticity!!

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