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17 Things I Want to Tell My Parents After I Have Become a Parent

17 Things I Want to Tell My Parents After I Have Become a Parent

My parents sometimes tell me that I changed their lives more than any other single person, including each other. I am their firstborn child, and it was only after I became a mother myself three years ago that I finally understood what they meant. My own two children have completely rewired my priorities, routines, and emotions. Becoming a parent myself has also added depth and texture to the gratitude I have always felt towards my own parents. Here are 17 things I would like to tell my own parents now that I have become a parent myself.

1.  I am truly, truly sorry for what I did to your sleep.

I expected some midnight wakefulness on the front end of this parenting gig, but I had no earthly idea what we were really in for. And now I realize that you didn’t warn me how bad it could really get because the chronic sleep deprivation that you were enduring during the early years of my life, have made it almost impossible for you to recall those years in any detail. So, thank you for enduring years of irrational and determined resistance to sleeping, 2am screaming marathons, and demands in the wee dark hours for company, drinks, dry sheets, the vanquishing of monsters, etc.

2.  Thank you for saying no to me.

Until I became the mother of a toddler and a three year old, I never realized how much energy it takes to keep saying no over and over again—even to things like touching power-points and playing with scissors. Thank you for setting some limits and sticking to them in the face of repeated and vociferous (and did I mention repeated?) demands. Those no’s helped teach me to be more patient, appreciate my possessions, and cope more effectively with frustration.

3.  Thank you for reading me so many stories.

Until you have to read Fox In Socks every single night for three weeks, you don’t truly appreciate the degree of sacrificial patience it can take to read to toddlers. Thank you for reading to me at all times of the day and night when I was little. I know there were probably times you would rather have been at the dentist than reading me Are You My Mother for the 452nd time, but all of those stories ignited my imagination and established reading as a lifelong passion.

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4.  Thank you for teaching me that poo does, indeed, belong in the toilet.

Thank you for changing approximately 5500 of my diapers. Thank you, also, for spending many hours convincing me that using the toilet properly really is an essential life skill, for wiping my bottom countless time, and for repeatedly wrestling me out of wet clothes and into dry ones. Also, if I was anywhere near as difficult to toilet train as my own kids are proving to be, then I apologize for the couch, carpet, and mattress I undoubtedly ruined all those years ago.

5.  Thank you for answering approximately one million questions that started with the word “why”?

Listening to little person chatter gets tiring (and, let’s face it, sometimes boring, too). Thank you for all the times you stopped what you were doing and paid attention to me when I wanted to talk to you. Thank you for taking my childish contributions seriously and for asking me questions. Thank you, in particular, for answering innumerable “why?” questions (and particular kudos for doing that in the pre-Google era).

6.  Thank you for loving each other.

Parenting can feel a lot like being the logistics manager of a small business—a 24-hour on-call business with customers who are impossible to satisfy completely. Thank you for making each other a priority despite the continuous barrage of demands from your knee-high charges. Thank you for hugging and kissing each other, for sharing, for speaking nicely, and for using please and thank you. In other words, thank you for treating each other lovingly and respectfully, the way you were always telling me that I should treat people. I was watching.

7.  Thank you for trying so hard to figure out what was best for me.

Parenting is 1001 daily decisions and not all of them have easy answers. I rarely feel completely sure that I’ve made the right call when I’m deciding how and when to discipline, when to hold a line or to compromise, and where to draw that line in the first place. Thank you for all the time, energy, and emotion you spent on trying to figure out what was best for me.

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8.  Thank you for not telling me that I could do anything I set my mind to.

You didn’t raise me to believe I could do anything (because, let’s be honest, it was apparent from quite early on that astrophysics lay outside my field of strengths). However, you raised me to believe that doing what I was interested in would lead me to figure out what I was good at. And that doing what I was good at would help make me happier and the world a better place.

9.  Thank you for feeding me.

Until I gave birth to a child who apparently never feels hungry, I had absolutely no idea how much creativity, effort, and anguish can go into getting a child to do something as necessary as eat. Thank you for feeding me. Thanks for making sure that I actually ate. And special thanks for never telling me, “Oh, he’ll eat if he gets hungry enough,” in the last two years.

10.  I’m sorry for all the worries I’ve caused.

Until I had a baby of my own, I didn’t really understand that having children means watching a big piece of your heart walking around this big scary world—climbing trees, traveling in cars, and sometimes getting their bodies and feelings hurt. I didn’t really understand that my own birth granted you fear right alongside love. Thank you for embracing that burden of vulnerability, and for loving me enough to worry about me.

11.  Thank you for showing me the world.

When you are little, your family is your whole world. So thank you for taking our little family out into the big wide world. Thank you for showing me so many different people and places, for embracing adventure, and for teaching me to do the same.

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12.  Thank you for saying “I love you.”

I was lucky – I never doubted that you loved me. But I was extra-lucky that you also said it out loud. Words matter, especially when they are “I love you,” “thank you,” and “I’m sorry.”

13.  Thank you for loving my children.

Now that I have babies of my own, I realize how precious and awe-inspiring they are. Sure, I have hours when I’m just done chasing a toddler around, and if you leave me alone with my kids for too long I am likely to end up bored, stir-crazy, and craving a glass of wine. But even when parenting is high on hard work and low on happy feeling, I know my children are miracles. Thank you for loving them with the same whole-hearted, focused, and transparent love you lavished on me.

14.  Thank you for teaching me your beliefs.

Thank you for taking me to church while we were growing up, and for telling me what you believed about God, the universe, and the meaning of life. This gave me a starting point. It gave me an enduring belief that all this matters, somehow, and a solid framework of meaning that I could test, question, and adapt as I grew and changed.

15.  Thank you for always letting me come home

Thank you for letting me move back in with you at 26, when I wanted to quit being a psychologist and write a novel instead. That worked out better than any of us expected. Thank you for keeping an open door throughout years of globe-trotting. You have provided a safety net that helped enable me turn my face to the wind and embrace adventure.

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16.  I forgive you.

Last week I heard my three year old cry out from the next bedroom. I was hurrying to get to him and he was hurrying to get to me. When I opened his bedroom door he was trying to come out, and the corner of the door hit him in the face and split his lip wide open. I felt terrible. Mum and Dad, I want you to know that I forgive you for those times when you accidentally hurt me, or you lost your temper and said things in ways you wish you could take back.

17.  I love you.

Thank you for parenting me then, and being friends with me now. Thank you for all that you did then, and all that you still do now to support and encourage me. Thank you for, so much of the time, looking like love to me.

Featured photo credit: parents via i.huffpost.com

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

Reference

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