Guest post by Jenn McMillin
I have the somewhat odd habit of daydreaming about my son’s wedding. Now, my son is only a toddler and is not betrothed to anyone so the exercise is purely hypothetical. I’m not entirely sure why I do this, but since I’ve shared my secret, I’ll elaborate on my current hypothesis.
When I envision my son at his wedding, I am looking at a man who is kind, compassionate, loving, generous, patient, intelligent, ambitious, conscientious, creative, adventurous, honorable, talented, respectful, respectable, thoughtful, confident, eloquent, funny, and of course, handsome. I imagine my husband and I amidst our family and friends swelling with pride at the man we see before us. There are speeches and toasts and everyone is looking and feeling their best.
I suspect that the purpose of these daydreams is to give me space to reflect on the journey of motherhood and how my parenting practices affect my child, both in the moment and in the long term. Reflection is an incredibly important tool for analyzing our feelings about various issues, rehashing our responses and imagining how we might do better next time. But for most mothers, there is little time left in any given day for quiet contemplation. And so I multitask by stealing moments for reflection while pondering days to come.
By casting my mind into the future and envisioning the man I would like my child to become, I am offered the chance to critically evaluate my own role in shaping his personality and his outlook on life. Do my actions suggest to him that he is a unique and worthwhile individual? That he is a good person and worthy of respect? That his opinions and feelings matter? That the people in his life are trustworthy and that his parents are a consistent and reliable source of comfort? That he is loved even when his actions do not model the behavior we desire? While every parent wants to communicate these values to their children, it is all too easy to forget that there are lessons learned even when we are feeling tired or upset or are running late. It helps me to deal more effectively with day to day frustrations if I can remind myself of the big picture. For example, as I’m helping my son to sleep at night, I can sometimes feel irritated that it’s taking so long because there is something else that I’d like to accomplish. As these feelings creep in, I try to remind myself that a) my response to his needs should leave my child feeling safe, loved and important and b) someday in the not too distant future I will likely give almost anything to have my little boy curled up next to me (or bouncing on the bed as the case may be).
Similarly, daydreaming about the future serves as a reminder to not sweat the small stuff. I have the honor and privilege of guiding the growth and development of another human being and with that as my mission, I can better temper my reactions to spilled milk, snatched toys and missed appointments. Don’t get me wrong, I still get angry, frustrated and impatient with embarrassing frequency. But when I envision the payoff of my parenting efforts at some distant point in the future, I am better able to keep things in perspective and remember that while the days can be long, the years will be short. And so it seems to me that daydreaming about my son’s wedding serves as a simple reminder to parent my child with an eye on the person I hope that he will become.
Jenn works in the field of environmental management and education and is the proud mama of two little boys who have turned her world upside down in the best way possible. She writes at her travel turned parenting blog, Adventures Down Under.