TEXAS, USA: Mixed Messages
The past few months, I have been listening to a few songs which have really “spoken” to me. The first one is Katy Perry’s “Roar”. It just makes me want to stand up and really tell people what I really think instead of what I think is the polite thing to say. The second song, “Brave” by Sara Bareilles, says so eloquently what my inner self has been whispering to me for years…“I just want to see you be brave.”
Growing up, I went to Catholic school, and I was always taught to not draw too much attention to myself, and to always make everyone feel welcome. I always remember feeling that I should agree with what the majority said because my own ideas weren’t as good as the others. After all, who would want to listen to a gawky junior high girl?
As I got older, those traits seemed to stay with me to the point that I think I would go out of my way to please others because the thought of someone being upset with something I had said or done was too much for me to handle. I started to feel like no one really knew who I was because I had built up so much of a false identity trying to make other people happy when deep down I was unhappy because I was too afraid to be true to myself and tell others what I was really thinking.
In the last few years, I have started to realize I do have my own voice and my own opinions to share with others and my fear of disappointing or making others upset is dissipating. That may sound silly to someone who has never had any trouble speaking her mind, but for me, it is a huge deal.
Now that I have my own children, I often wonder if messages I am giving them (sometimes unintended) could cause them to feel the same way. I find myself telling them that they don’t have to be just like everyone else, but when we have friends over for dinner with their children and the kids have a disagreement with a friend over what to play together, I tell them that they should play what the other friend wants and then try to take turns.
Often times, we will go to another friends’ home and the children in that home are allowed to do many things that my children are not allowed to do. I find them coming to me and whispering to me about things that are happening, and I can only tell them that it is not acceptable for them to do those things. They observe the other parent saying nothing to their child. I know they don’t quite understand how I have one standard for them and another for other children.
I have always told my children not to tell a lie. So, when my daughter opened her present from a friend at a third birthday party and declared in front of everyone that she didn’t like it, I should have been proud, right? Or when my son told my Father-in-Law he was “fat”, I should have been proud of him for not lying, right? Embarrassed was more the feeling that was engulfing me at that moment. Cue the talk about the “little white lie” to my children so that we don’t hurt another person’s feelings with words we may say to them.
Are these “mixed messages” going to cause my own children to be afraid to speak their own minds and afraid to stand up to what they see is wrong? I guess only time will tell. I just keep hearing the words from Katy Perry’s song in my head, “I stood for nothing so I fell for everything.” I look back at my own life and how I am just now seeing how important it is to stand up for yourself. I guess it is all a learning experience. Along the way, we have to decipher the mixed messages until we come to our own conclusions of what is wrong or right from what we have been taught along the way.
I wish I could make it so simple for my children and tell them that when they speak their own mind and are true to themselves that they will always be accepted no matter what. But the truth is, they may not be accepted. And, isn’t that what true bravery is? Bravery to stand up for what they believe in is really what I want for my children. Being brave and true to oneself is what leads to ultimate happiness. I hope it won’t take them as long to figure out not to be scared of what others may think, but if it does that’s fine, too. My hope for them is that they do figure it out because it would be such a shame for the world not to know the bright, kind and brave souls that they truly are.
How do you teach your children to stand up for what they think?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Meredith. You can read more about her life as an expat in Nigeria and her transition back at www.wefoundhappiness.blogspot.com.