The importance of being selfish

I have noticed that I have become a little more selfish than I used to be… And all for good reason.

As parents we often put the needs of our children before our own. This is a remarkable part of biology that we are so hard wired to respond to every demand of our child starting with those little “mew” sounds they make in the first few days. Now that my children are getting older I am starting to think about the impact of my actions on their development.

I was recently reading in Buddhism for Mothers of School Children (Sarah Napthali) the importance of allowing your children to experience discomfort. This resonated with me. How will our children grow up to face the challenges that life throw at them if they have had no experience of the smaller sufferings that can happen on a day to day basis.

Let’s think about the simple examples in our lives. Heading out to the supermarket with your newborn and toddler which turns into a recipe for disaster. Quickly ducking out to do something forgetting that rain has been forecast and getting soaking wet. Carrying heavy shopping bags and a child through the local shopping centre until your arms ache. Flat tire on your car. Phone stops working. Laptop battery runs out in the middle of an important conference. On it goes including those incidents that leave you worn out and frazzled. Now, you made it through all that discomfort, but how do you think your children will fair?

My children are getting older and I can now see the importance of them developing emotional and physical resilience. No longer am I jumping at their every request and I am making sure that my husband doesn’t either. I consider all the little decisions during the day which may enable them to learn how to manage themselves and take responsibility for what they do. It is a tough process as my hard wiring kicks in, but really, parenthood is ALL about guilt, so what is a little more when I know that it is for the greater good?

So what exactly am I doing? Well, I allow my children to be “bored” and find their own entertainment. I make my children carry their bags to and from school and kinder. I give them the space to work out their own fights – so long as no one gets hurt (too badly). I let them walk in the rain, get wet feet in the puddles, wear themselves out completely, climb too high in the trees, ride their scooters beyond tired. And many other simple things. Pushing them when they have had enough to just keep on going is slowly helping them to experience tiredness in their bodies and know how to manage it. By developing their own strategies for dealing with each other during play time means they are better when with their friends.

It is slowly all coming together and I am finding I am less emotionally caught up (read: roller coaster has flatten out) and I have more time for other things which make me a better mother.

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