Last week at the dinner table, we had an interesting conversation. In my son Brandon’s sixth grade health class they are talking about setting goals. Trying to get the kids to look to the future, no doubt, and recognize that the decisions they make and the actions they take affect tomorrow. As part of his homework, he needed to interview his parents about setting goals. If they do; how they do it.
“I don’t need to ask you this question, Mom,” he says, “I already know you set goals.” I was taken aback. We’d not really talked about goals explicitly, how did he know? “Because you wanted to start Kat Eye Studio and you did it,” he answered.
I got a little jolt. Brandon had shown, all too clearly, how much he watches and learns from me.
After that jolt, I got down to thinking about it, and realized he was right. I talk about my goals. I’ll tell my husband and son at the dinner table, the one time of day that we are usually all together, “I think I want to do this new thing…” and then I go work on it. Usually by the time I bring it up I’ve been thinking about it for a while and am a couple of steps on the path to get there, but I talk about it all the same. Sooner or later, my goal comes to pass as if it were meant to happen all along.
OK, that’s cool, I thought. Brandon’s learned about setting and achieving goals from me. But, what else is he learning from my actions? Scary thought.
This conversation reminded me he’s watching. He’s been watching, all along. He sees the good and the bad in what I do, probably more than any other person in the world other than my husband. He’s part of my inner circle, observing from the inside of daily life. It was one of those moments that made me step back and think about the example I’m setting. I felt my responsibility as a parent a bit more keenly than normal. It’s a reminder of the influence that we, as parents, have over our children. They are their own people with free will, but they learn much of how to navigate their lives by watching us. Not listening to us. Watching us. Yikes.
But we learn from them too, don’t we? He has always been the best conscience. If I tell him not to do something and he comes back with, “But YOU do that Mom!” I have to stop and take notice. Even if lately it’s layered with pre-teen attitude, I have to admit: He’s usually right. And I have to take a step back and rethink what I’m doing, too. It’s humbling.
Brandon just turned twelve a couple of weeks ago. Some days, it feels as if we have a long journey yet ahead of us, through the teen years. But recently I realized that if he leaves at 18, two-thirds of his time with us is past. We have six years left, and he’s not going to want to spend as much time with us as the previous twelve. Our influence is waning.
But… it’s still there. Every day I have the chance to be the example. It’s scary and exciting all at the same time. I didn’t know I signed up for this all those years ago when we decided to have a baby. I don’t think I’m a good enough person to be a parent. Probably few of us really are.
But one thing I’ve found: Being a parent is certainly making me a better person, every day.