Tonight I asked my five-year old to consider what type of person she would like to be. Not whether she wants to be a ballerina, an artist, or a firefighter, or a musician, a gymnast, or a doctor. I am confident she would have success in any of those roles should she so choose. My asking of what type of person she would like to be means, if you are a ballerina, what kind would you be? Would you be honest? Would you be generous? Would you be compassionate? Would you be a helpful ballerina? It matters not what passion she pursues, to me, it matters what she’s made of along the way & when she has arrived. It matters what her heart looks like & how she relates to others.
Allow me to rewind. It is fitting that I should address the things I am in this post from the comfort of my bed tonight. Typically I would find my creativity and solace in a coffee shop. Tonight, I am a tired mother with a baby sleeping peacefully in her space. No room for a solo coffee shop visit tonight. My purpose for backing us up here is to say tonight Makenna confessed to being dishonest with me. It was an emotional evening for both of us as a result. Once she confessed to her dishonesty it put a demand on me to address the situation & (hopefully) effectively teach her despite my emotions surrounding her decision to be dishonest. I explained to her she would be receiving a spanking (please don’t riot, my child is RARELY spanked & I know people have different policies on this so please stick with me & read on), before I spanked her I explained why she would be receiving a spanking. This moment, the spanking, wound up changing me. After she received that swat on the behind, I asked her to have a seat in her room with these instructions… I asked her to spend that time thinking about what kind of person she would like to be in the world. I reminded her of the concept of telling the truth and telling lies & left it very basic for her to meditate on without too much of my influence.
When I say the spanking changed me, I mean it changed my perspective of spanking. I explained to my daughter that lying is wrong and punished her for it & then I asked her to contemplate whether she wants her character to include honesty or dishonesty. What do you think she will choose based on the fact that she just received a physical reprimand from me in opposition of lying? Obviously she will reason that choosing honesty will help her avoid getting spanked. I stole her choice. Not that I want her to choose to be dishonest, but I wonder could my parenting & asking her to consider the weight of each act have been effective without the influence of the spanking. If the sole reason she chooses to be honest is to avoid punishment, it won’t be out of respect for individuals that she tells the truth, it will be to avoid being punished. What happens when she is older & doesn’t have a mother around to reprimand her for being dishonest… she will have no threat of punishment & the thing keeping her bound to honesty will be removed from the equation. She won’t have developed the skill set to understand why we tell the truth but simply the skills of how to avoid being punished.
This entire thought process is crippling! I want her honest because she has compassion for the devastation that can be caused by lying. I want her to be honest because she cares enough about an individual to give them transparency. I want her to be honest because she wants to be! I want to be a mother who helps her develop her own will to be forthcoming out of a heart that values people. I was raised in a home where being spanked was a normal thing so when I became a parent I naturally did what I knew from experience. The good news is, we parents have the ability to learn from our actions just like our babes do. The good news is we don’t have to do it the way our parents did or how society thinks you should. It is within our control to rely on our own convictions and judgements to be the best parent we can. We make mistakes & that’s perfectly okay.
Let me round this out & get back to my baby girl who was waiting patiently for me in her room. When I returned, I asked her if she had considered it, she said she wants to be honest. I couldn’t allow myself to feel proud of her decision because I felt like I had bullied her into that choice with an unnecessary spanking. I took the opportunity to draw on a real life experience in an attempt to create a reality for her to relate to that involves dishonesty. As we sat together, intimately looking at one another while holding hands, I asked if she remembers the earlier part of this year. I asked her if she remembered seeing mommy cry when we left the church community we belonged to. I asked if she remembers nights when she had caught me being sad. As she responded I began to cry & explained that the pain that existed in our home was because people had been dishonest with mommy. She was crying at this point & so was I, I tried to give her a tangible example of what being dishonest can do to people we care about instead of shaking my finger at her for something she couldn’t understand.
All said & done, we loved each other (the most important bit for us), we learned, & we were able to move on with our evening to have a peaceful time together in unity.
This morning I read a portion of my book that I think is appropriate for this topic.
“Clearly define the person you want to be. Who exactly do you want to be? What kind of person do you want to be? What are your personal ideals? Whom do you admire? What are the special traits that you would make your own? Its time to stop being vague. If you wish to be an extraordinary person, if you wish to be wise, then you should explicitly identify the kind of person you aspire to become.”
The Art of Living – Epictetus
Sometimes the best teacher, to help us answer the questions posed in the book, is being in situations that leave a bad taste in our mouth or saying or doing things that makes us feel unsatisfied with ourselves. All these wrong turns & realizations of our truths help us decide exactly who we want to be & what we value. Be easy on yourself & on those around you, they too are defining the kind of person they would like to be.