When we were kids my sister and I each had a green polyester sleeping bag.
I remember playing "caterpillar" at our grandparents' house one day, both of us climbing into our sleeping bags head-first and inch worm crawling across the carpet.
We were having a blast.
When I crawled out I remember my grandparents and my parents laughing uproariously.
Because the static was unreal in that house. And every strand of my baby-fine hair was standing comically on end from friction and polyester.
And I thought it was funny too (sort of) except that I'm pretty sensitive.
And so part of me thought they were laughing at me.
When my grandpa suggested they take a picture I vetoed. "No," I said. "Don't take my picture."
And my parents honored that.
No picture. Respect. Relief.
We laughed, I wet down my crazy hair, and we got on with our visit.
When I was older I remember thinking what an epic 1970's childhood picture that would be to have. And I wondered – why didn't my parents take one anyway? Who cares if I said no? I want that picture!
But the truth is, they made the most loving, respectful choice possible. They put aside their own desires and honored mine.
Not because the child's needs always trump but because in that situation the choices were about the child.
My comfort. My image. My body. My boundaries.
What a strong message they sent by honoring my needs. What a vital message to deliver to our kids every day. Because at some point it stops being about the picture and starts being about the person.
(Thanks mom and dad.)
Despite our best parenting intentions, we sometimes go off track. We lose sight of our values and shoot from the hip.
Two days ago I shared a picture of my kids on social media looking less than thrilled with the garden bed we were building.
It was a light and funny and I gave it a sarcastic caption about the enthusiasm my children shared for my hugelkultur project. My crazy garden bed, their "you want us to do what?" expressions. It was comedy. It was real.
Yet after some reflection I took the photo down.
The picture showed a normal, messy, imperfect life. Something I think the internet could use more of.
But here's the rub: not without consent.
Because if I had asked their permission to share the photo – something I do 99% of the time – I'm confident they would have said no.
And it is not a courtesy to ask your kids how they feel about things. It's vital.
It's about their comfort. Their image. Their bodies. Their boundaries.
And it's my job as their parent to honor their needs. Yes, even when it involves something as seemingly insignificant as a photograph.
Because having your boundaries respected not only teaches you that your needs matter, it becomes a metaphor for other parts of your life. You learn to respect the boundaries that other set for you.
No means no. Because it always has.
There's a lesson to drive home with our children if ever there was.
Indeed, I believe that children deserve every bit as much respect as adults.
Would I have shared a similar photo of Pete or my mom or a friend? I think not. Then the same standards should apply to my kids.
I think of taking the photo down as retroactive peaceful parenting. I found a better way, and went back to set things right.
Because it's not about the picture after all. It's about respect.
As for parenting, we won't ever get it right on the first try.
We need to be ready to go back and fix what we broke. Apologize. Mend. Heal. And then move forward from here. With our children and in every relationship we value.
We are all deserving of respect – no matter our age.
Even if it comes a day late now and again.
And yes, I'll still share real, raw, honest moments. But no, it won't involve anyone who didn't give their consent.
Dissing my dishes (or my own housekeeping skills) is one thing. Dissing the people I love (intentionally or not) is another.
And now I'm mostly feeling grateful for the chance to evolve and learn and grow through my own stumblings. To witness my own imperfection and make amends.
To continue move toward becoming the mother and person that I most want to be.
And to be humbled by my own mistakes.
In the end that picture turned out to be a better demonstration of imperfection than I ever intended.
8 thoughts on “Retroactive peaceful parenting”
Your honesty and sharing of life’s ups and downs with all of us keeps life real. That photo of Sage and Lupine was good for all of us to see because we all see those faces from our own kids and we can all relate. In some ways you breathe a sigh of relief when you know others get that face too. Then you took the photo down and put in words something that is so important to remember, and this time I took a deep breath in and reflected on respect especially when it concerns my kids.
Thanks as always for reflections on life’s perfections and imperfections!
Thank you Angie. Love.
You are right Rachel. I think we all need a reminder that children are people. They maybe shorter and younger but they are people too. I try to remind myself of that everytime my kids have a tantrum and I am tired and want to react negatively, I think they are people to just like me, and look I want to react the same way. So how would I want to some one to treat me if it was my camera that broke instead of a banana? I know that is slightly off course, but I was trying to go with the idea of respect.
I have a ton of respect for what you did. I have to admit that when I saw the photo a part of me felt relieved, as though just the knowledge that your sweet, nature-loving kids might not enjoy EVERY moment gave my future self as a mom permission to not feel like a failure in that moment when my kids maybe don’t totally relish the work that I’m asking them to help me with in the future. I’m sure that sounds silly, but I appreciated the post.
What I appreciate even more, however, was THIS post and the reasons why you took the photo down. My daughter is only 8 months old and I read your blog for parenting and everyday life inspiration…I strive to be as peaceful and thoughtful as you seem to be, and hope to maintain that as she grows older. I learned something wonderful from you today. Thank you!
What a beautiful comment. Thank you Laura. Your words made my day.
Thanks for getting it, KC. Truly.
You’re welcome! I’m very glad. =)
Just yesterday I read this post (http://www.kim-foster.com/blog/cheese-butt/) Your posts are very different, yet both really made me stop and think, so thank you.