Once every week I go to swim with my daughter together with other parents. We meet up, sing songs, swim together, and the kids learn to become comfortable with water. All in all, it is supportive and my daughter enjoys it. During these moments I made some interesting observations of parent-child relationships. One thing I see in many parents is the tendency to want to present themselves to their children as happy, positive and slightly mentally diminished. It takes on the form of constant smiling, laughing, talking with high pitched sounds, asking the children questions that we already know the answer to, and in general, behaving towards the children as if both themselves and the children have a limited capability to understand their reality.
I have asked myself, why is it that we believe we need to behave this way when we are with children? Why cannot we be natural, the way we behave with adults?
When I look at myself, and why I sometimes behave in the above mentioned way, I would say it has to do with a sense of inferiority – a belief that I am not good enough as I am – and that if my child is to have a good time – then I have to step up and be this super happy, smiling, laughing, clown type of person. I can also see that there is a belief within me that children are not able to appreciate a sensible, deep and grounded expression – and that they need some speed and energy to get going.
What I have come to realize by getting to know my daughter is that she is a real person – and that even though she does not look like an adult – she is able to perceive and interact with reality with the same depth as an adult. And just like any adult – it is not fair towards her to put up an act and try to be someone that I am not – further – it is not fair to myself. Because how can I create a real and fulfilling relationship with my daughter if I do not allow myself to be genuine? Children might look cute, and they might say things that are innocent and funny – though the depth of their experiences are the same as for us adults. And only because we have a different perspective, a broader view of life – does not make it less real, and it does not make us more than them. We are equals – yet we have different allocation points – and that is important to remember. Because it seems as if many parents forget this and act as if their children are stupid and their experiences are of less weight than that of our own.
What is the solution?
What helps me is to remember that my daughter is equal to me – and that I do not need to pretend to be someone else. I understand that even though she is smaller than me, and I have learned to master the areas of life where she is still learning, that does not make me superior – and in order to bond with her – I have to be genuine and take her seriously. I remind myself that it is not my place to teach, or show her some perfect example of what she is supposed to be later on, I am in her life to be a support, a guide and someone she can rely on – and to do that effectively – I have to stand as her equal. In practice – I push myself to speak with my normal, grounded voice – and I use adult words. I approach her experiences as real – and thus I take note of her and make sure that I communicate with her to find solutions – and I do not force my way only because I perceive I see what is the ‘right’ way.
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