My daughter wanted to celebrate her 12th birthday in style. She had a festive afternoon planned for herself and a few close friends. A few were unable to make the afternoon and she asked me if they could come by after dinner for a sleepover.
I remember that moment clearly: I was making dinner and listening to a podcast when she asked. (Strategic tween move to get mom while she is preoccupied).
In my busy and distracted head I had a marathon dialogue that went something like this:
“Well it’s her birthday! She should have fun! Why not?”
“It’s too much! For me, for her and for the family….It’s too much in one day and we will be exhausted. I know better. This is a recipe for disaster.”
“I’m too busy to think about this right now…”
“It’s no big deal, it’s one day, you’ll all be fine! Don’t be a scrooge!” I told her, “let’s talk about it later.” My avoider won out.
A few days later the question arose once again.. I could hear that little voice inside saying “don’t do it, you’ll regret it.” I ignored this whispering voice of reason. Instead I t said, “Oh alright. It’s your birthday!” It seemed like the right thing to do.
I’ve made a lot of choices in life that I “think” are the right choices. I think them through, I weigh all the options and I look for the decision that makes the most “sense".
Ironically, so often those “right decisions” have gone wrong in so many ways. Each time I hear myself saying, I KNEW I shouldn’t have done that. Why didn’t I listen to myself?
Fast forward to 11pm a week later where I find myself in bed with a 12 year old having a meltdown and a tween drama in my basement.
I could hear the voice inside mumbling “I told you so!"
Although the girls eventually calmed down and went to sleep, the next morning was much of the same. My daughter was exhausted and could not wait for her guests to leave. She was completely out of her mind. And I was not in the greatest shape myself! When they left she sat down with me exhausted with her head in my lap and began to talk. She confessed that spending that much time with her friends was hard for her and she really needs time to herself. That was an “A-ha” moment for her.
This of course is something I already knew about my daughter, yet in this case I overrode my knowing. I ignored it and we paid the price. Or better yet, we learned something. Both of us. I learned to pause, listen and trust myself. And she learned something very valuable about her limits.
When I listen, I learn. When I don’t listen, I also learn. Each “wrong” choice has taught me something and helped me understand the wisdom of my inner voice. And as a consequence, my inner voice has gotten bigger and louder over the years as my trust in it has grown.
If there is one thing I most want my children to learn, it is to be able to tune into their inner knowing and LISTEN. Whether they make a choice with positive or negative consequences, they will learn valuable lessons and recalibrate what they know to be true about themselves and the world. The most important thing I believe we can do for our children is to teach them to trust themselves. No matter how small, each lesson helps guide them closer to themselves. It starts with a sleepover, and evolves into a college choice, career choices, and choices to begin and end relationships.
The truth is, I can do little about the choices they will continue to make throughout their lives. Just like me, they will have to learn to trust themselves and their inner voice and knowing. Their missteps, mis-takes and “wrong” decisions will help teach them about their unique internal navigating devices.
My daughter learned something incredibly valuable about herself on her 12th birthday. No amount of me telling her about her limitations would have had as big an impact as her own experience.
In retrospect, I can find deep appreciation for all that occurred that weekend...the frustration, the stress, the tears and even the fatigue. I can see how that was for both of our learning. I was reminded of the brilliance of my inner knowing and guide,the inner parenting expert that never leads me astray. She’s the one I can trust beyond a reasonable doubt.
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