I want to raise thoughtful children. Children who wield equity and empathy as tools of their trade. Children who fight with compassion for what they believe in, and speak for those with no voice. I want them to understand the intricacies of discrimination and injustice, without letting it weigh them down or pull them under. I want my son and my daughter to recognize their privilege and leverage it for positive change. Maybe that means they lead by quiet example, or maybe they become activists for bettering the lives of those around them.
Social media fills us in on all the ways we accidentally undermine kids, giving them subtle messages that teach them to devalue themselves and others. The words we should not say, and the ones we should.
I don’t expect them to be perfect, I just want to lower the learning curve. To give them those tools to use how they wish.
All I can see are the ways I am failing. The opportunities missed. The signals mixed. My desires contradicted by my actions. Do as I say, not as I do.
I see the unintentional ways we teach our girls that they are less than, and the lessons to our boys reinforcing those beliefs. The gender roles heaped on so slowly that they pass by without our notice.
I worry that I am doing it wrong. I’m so tired. So in over my head on a daily basis that I can barely remember how to tie my shoes, let alone the more subtle implications of my interactions and examples.
Sometimes I criticize myself in front of them. Sometimes I criticize myself about criticizing myself.
Sometimes I am not the person I want my kids to be.
I overlook the obvious lesson. The one where we learn from my mistakes. Where I show them that I am imperfect because we all are, and that what matters is how we pick ourselves up and brush ourselves off.
Compassion hides in those cracks of our foundations. I forget that I am tasked with helping my children find it for themselves, and an unable to hand it to them outright. All I have is an incomplete set of tools, an Ikea instruction book, and a bucket of flaws and good intentions to lead the way.
I don’t expect them to be perfect, but can’t always extend that grace to myself. And that’s okay. There’s room to grow. For them and for me. So we’ll err because we’re human, and learn because we want to better ourselves in the general pursuit of happiness and justice for all. Not the pursuit of perfection.
Rhiannon Giles is an overwhelmed mother who only occasionally considers giving her children to the circus. She has a sarcasm problem and writes regularly at rhiyaya.com. To keep up with new posts and see some of her favorites, join her on Facebook.