9 August 2016

Yes, I apologise to my daughters

I have been known on more than one occasion to utter the following phrase, "I don't care if my girls are as dumb as dogshit, provided they are kind and confident."

Now I appreciate I'm no scientist and that for all I know dog poop could be full of sophisticated bacteria which will one day run the world, but I think you get my point.

And I still stand by it.

How clever my girls are is nothing to do with me - that's nature. I can't teach them to be smart. Nor can my husband. We can encourage a love of learning, we can support their teachers, we can teach them about discipline, help them access information - but ultimately, all we're doing is giving them opportunities to achieve whatever potential is burbling away inside their brainbox already.

But the other two things - well they are much bigger and much harder.  We're very much responsible for teaching our children to be emotionally intelligent. That kind of intelligence is based on what they see, what they hear, how they see emotions being processed, how we process events and information for them so it's relevant contextually, how we relate to them, how we relate to each other, how we relate to others.

It's huge.

And I entirely appreciate that worrying about my children's emotional intelligence is something we can afford to do because we've got the basics (food, shelter, health, education) covered. That's a privilege of which we are aware. Very aware.

I don't want my children to be 'nice'. I'm not a fan of 'nice'. Being 'nice' is entirely subjective. It's bland, it's superficial. If the kindest thing you can ever think of to say about my children is that they are 'nice', we've failed.

We want them to be much more rounded individuals than 'nice'. We want them to be kind. Kind is objective. Kind is actually understanding what is unkind, and why it's unkind. Being kind is active thinking and proactive behaviour.

Kindness leads to confidence. Confidence is not arrogance. It's an acceptance of oneself in all the complex, messy and contradictory glory that acknowledges that you are what you are, and that is perfectly okay. It is not to live without doubt, it is not to live without ambition, it is not to live without stuffing up sometimes.

Confidence is being able to live purposefully, talk about your feelings, acknowledge the negatives, have the courage to try new things, to fail and to try again, to not constantly compare or worry that you are not as worthy, not as good, as the next person. Confidence is knowing that you are loved for what you are, not how you do-or-don't reflect on others.

Which is why I apologise to my daughters.

I don't need to be perfect to my daughters. I don't need to be better than them. I don't need to be smarter than them.

I need to be honest with them. And by honest, I mean I need to admit that sometimes I'm an arse.

And that's okay.

If I speak crossly or lack patience or behave badly, it's not because of something they have done, it's because as a human, I've been human.  And if I have hurt them by speaking crossly or upset them by being unkind, than it is my responsibility to acknowledge that fuck up and say sorry.

And mean it.

I can get my children to do what I want without being an arse. I know this because that's mostly how it happens. Because, like all children, they are fundamentally good human beings just working it all out - little by little, day by day. Their default position is to do what they think is going to be the thing that makes you happy. If they're getting that wrong regularly, chances are you may need to rethink your behaviour, not theirs.

I know not everybody agrees with me on this, including some of my friends. They think that discipline and boundaries are best defined more autocratically and they must be enforced no matter what.

My girls have discipline and boundaries, but fundamentally they are humans. They are going to make mistakes, push those boundaries, break the rules, be rude, misbehave, say bad words, do the wrong thing. For some adults, they do all those things just driving to work.

So why would I constantly hold the two most precious people in my world to a standard that I don't constantly uphold?

There is not one person in the world that is the best version of themselves all of the time. Not one.

Not even Justin Trudeau.  Even in this picture.

So yes, I apologise to my daughters. I say sorry for yelling or being cranky or when I take my adult moods and responsibilities out on them, or even just plain get it wrong. Yes, I pick my battles. Yes, I let them make choices that I wouldn't necessarily make for them. Yes, I let them run wild sometimes. Yes, I discipline them. Yes, I say no to them. Yes, I give them boundaries. Yes, I cuddle them even when their behaviour has been nothing short of contraceptive. I tell them I love them when they are being horrid, not just when they're being super.

I don't expect them to just know that I love them. I don't assume it. I show them. I tell them. And then I tell them again. And then once more just to be sure.

For the only way I can make sure that my daughters grow up with the kindness and confidence that I so fiercely want for them, is for them to know that they are loved. All the time. Unconditionally.

And I'm not at all sorry for that. Not one little bit.

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