“We parents are the first and most important teachers of our children and teens. We must accept this fact as a personal challenge to our creative nature and to our intent. Our children will thrive in direct proportion to how reliably they can count on having a parent available when they need to talk, when they want inputs, when they want a hug communicating that they are loved or when they need assurance that life will work out. Our communication skills and our intentions will be of the greatest importance to our children in their work of creating themselves.”[i]
I have a son for whom I would like to take credit. But in all honesty, he raised himself. He was good, kind, obedient, happy, self-disciplined, smart, and applied himself in all the right extracurricular activities.
This same teenage son stunned me one afternoon when he came home from school, laid down on the sofa and started to cry. I dropped everything to find out what could be troubling him. I was shocked to learn that “I” was the problem. In fact both my husband and I were the problem. “You never light up when I walk in the room.” That depiction stabbed me in the heart.
How could we have let this amazing young man think that he was irrelevant????
After visiting with our son for more than an hour I learned that he felt insignificant. Through the weeks and months he saw us giving time, counsel, and attention to our children with concerns or demands. We never had concerns for this son. And he never demanded anything.
After our conversation I began noticing how I felt when friends and family were “excited” to see me, and in contrast, when they seemed “indifferent.” What a difference!
I began noticing that when I called my parents, and my dad answered the phone with, “Rachel Roo!!”, I felt that he was eager to visit. His pet name for me was endearing. I felt loved and valued.
From that day forward I made a conscious effort to use my children’s and other family and friend’s names just like my dad did…with enthusiasm. I want the people who are dear to me to KNOW they are treasured each time we meet.
I have heard that when encountering anyone, the first few seconds are the most important. I want my voice, my face, my embrace to validate their existence. And I try to be aware of those undemanding souls who live life wondering if they are noticed and loved. They are and they should be!
[i] Gayle Peterson, PHD, The Association for Marriage and Family Therapy