This morning my daughter brought her baby doll to me and instructed me on how I needed to care for beloved doll. Be careful, mommy, she said, she is little. Make sure you hug her if she cries and always have extra food in your bag if she gets hungry. It was an ordinary moment in an ordinary morning, but it was the kind of ordinary moment that reminded me of the powerful example we set for our children in the everyday details of everyday life.
What is most important to you as a parent?
What do you want to teach your child?
How do you want your kids to remember you in fifty years?
I think that these are very important question for every parent. I think about them a lot with my own children. I wonder, I am teaching them enough about my values and about what I think is most important in this world. Will they really understand what it means to be a mensch, a person of honor and integrity?
Often it feels like these questions can get lost in the logistics of the day to day. Most of us, most of the time, are floored just by the business of keeping our families on schedule, fed and tucked in at night. Most of us are juggling work, families, homes, extra-curricular activities and appointments. Most of the time it does not seem like there are enough hours in the day. Most of the time we all have a to do list that seems endless.
And when you are raising a special needs child it can sometimes feel like these questions go to the back burner. Mostly because the daily challenges can be, well, so challenging. It is normal to feel exhausted and overwhelmed. It is so easy to want to rush through the hard stuff to get to the end of the day. It is also easy to despair that the ways in which you thought you might teach your children are more difficult to navigate because of social and emotional needs and learning styles differences.
Truthfully, though, perhaps it is how we manage the day-to-day that will leave the greatest impression on our children. They are watching us all of the time. If we are gentle with ourselves and with them we are teaching them to be gentle. If we are always overwhelmed we are teaching them to be always overwhelmed. If we respond to challenges with curiosity and perseverance, they will learn that too. We cannot shield them from their unique struggles or from the painful situations that are a part of all life. But maybe we can show them how to face it all by the small choices we make every day. These are often the choices that we can concentrate on when life feels out of our control.