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Thoughts about teens, tweens, parenting and this adventure of living on Earth in the 21st century.

Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

What my children taught me

May 26, 2011

Oh, what fun to be a mom!

Every year on my birthday my daughter and son each write me a thoughtfully worded letter expressing how they feel having me as their mother. Touched I read their acknowledgement of what I’ve taught them and how I’ve shaped them. Of course I blubber through it all. They think I cry because their words are so beautiful and I’m a sucker for sentiment (both true). But mostly I weep over the Bigger Picture of one generation doing its best to raise the level of humanity through the next. I read my kids’ letters and see myself doing what I do because I’m a parent, and like all parents, it’s what I’m here for. The eternal dance is awesome. How can I not cry?

Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduations and weddings all offer opportunities to acknowledge parents. These messages of thanks are as important for children to articulate as they are for Mom and Dad to hear. But every relationship is a two-way street and we rarely hear expressions of gratitude flowing in the other direction. Which is why I want to take this time to thank my daughter and my son for some of the many things they’ve taught me.

My daughter has taught me that she is not me and that her way of doing things is not my way. Different doesn’t need fixing just because it’s different. From this lesson I’ve learned that other people have their own way of responding to the world. When I allow myself to be open-minded and respectful there is much I can learn from their ways. I can even change my way of doing things if someone else’s works better.

My son has taught me that it’s good sport and a great mental workout to explore all sides of an argument. From this I’ve learned that when you can understand someone else’s point of view well enough to take that side and advocate for it (even if you don’t necessarily agree with it) then you can learn some important things about the way others perceive the world… and how they perceive you!

My daughter has taught me that fun can be had in pretty much any situation. You just bring your imagination and your sense of play. From this I’ve learned you don’t need a reason to tweak the ordinary into the extraordinary or the outlandish. Weird is it’s own reward. If it amuses you and brings a smile, that’s reason enough. So why not?

My son has taught me that talking about people in unkind ways isn’t the best use of anyone’s time or intellect. It’s hurtful and habit-forming. From this I’ve learned to watch my mouth and remember that just because I’ve thought of something smart, sarcastic or clever doesn’t mean I need to say it.

My daughter has taught me that organizing your time and your life helps you do more of what you want. It also helps you feel good about what you’ve accomplished. From this I’ve learned that you don’t have to choose between being creative and being efficient. You can be efficiently creative. You can also be creative in your efficiency.

My son has taught me that listening is a skill worth developing. From this I’ve learned that most words are superficial. When you want people to take you seriously they’re more likely to do so when you listen more and talk less. Also when you do speak you should always come from a caring place.

My daughter has taught me that setting boundaries is a good thing. From this I’ve learned that telling other people what you need makes it more likely that you’ll get it. You’ll also find out sooner rather than later whether someone is willing and/or able to be the kind of friend you want. If not, lower your expectations and you won’t be disappointed.

My son has taught me that everyone deserves respect as does their time and their endeavors. From this I’ve learned that just because I’ve got something I want done now doesn’t mean that my desires are a top priority for everyone else. And so I’ve learned patience from this one too.

My daughter has taught me there is great satisfaction and sense of accomplishment from going outside your comfort zone physically and emotionally.

My son has taught me that staying calm is usually the first step to resolving an unexpected challenge.

My daughter has taught me that accesorizing is fun because if life is a stage then the body is a canvas.

My daughter and son have helped me realize that being their mom is truly an amazing honor. Like, the best. Thanks so much, guys. I am eternally grateful.

 

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13 Comments »

  1. Awwww…what a gift to your children, Annie! So beautiful and insightful! It’s sweetness beyond measure. My three are still under my roof and they astound me on a daily basis. They teach me things you can’t learn at school, and things you would never find in books. Here’s to our kids…and to the peace in knowing that we’ll pass the torch onto them some day…so they can write the next chapter in our family novels. I bet you taught your mom lots, too, Annie. She just didn’t have a blog on which to write it!

    Hugs,
    Wendy @Kidlutions

    Comment by Wendy Young, LMSW, BCD — May 26, 2011 @ 7:58 pm

  2. PS…I love that photo…and the sheer unadulterated joy!

    Comment by Wendy Young, LMSW, BCD — May 26, 2011 @ 7:59 pm

  3. Love this post Annie! My kids are only 5 and 2, and already they have taught me about myself, about being playful, and that perfect is not better than good :) I am inspired and encouraged by your view from further along the journey.

    Comment by Grace Marshall — May 27, 2011 @ 2:16 pm

  4. Wow! What a wonderful acknowledgment of the parent child relationship. The honesty of your relationship permeates the words and stories you shared. You continue to be a source of inspiration as both a parent and a colleague. My own two kids deliver a continued stream of insight, experience that often cause we to step back and rethink what I thought was true. Thank you.

    Best,
    Joe Bruzzese

    Comment by Joe Bruzzese — May 28, 2011 @ 6:44 am

  5. Wonderful post!! My 3 children ages 13, 10 & 4 have already taught me so much. What a wonderful gift children are!

    Comment by Karen Toz — May 29, 2011 @ 9:35 am

  6. That’s what they looked like when I first met them and I love what you’ve written…particularly the part about being “efficiently creative”…that really resonates with me Annie!!

    Comment by Paula Boggs — May 29, 2011 @ 11:59 am

  7. What an amazing catalog of learning your kids have offered you! How wonderful to be so connected and reflective – and to so enjoy the gifts that each child has had to offer!

    My older daughter also teaches me that different doesn’t need fixing just because it’s different.

    My younger daughter teaches me that being passionate and outspoken about your views and feelings is healthy and should be encouraged!

    Comment by Heather Mundell — June 8, 2011 @ 2:36 pm

  8. That’s lovely.
    It reminds me of my own kids and how honoured and grateful I am to be a mother. I learn from my kids too — every day. And I am continually reminded of what an amazing life privilege it is to be a parent. It’s such an incredible way to experience, understand and share life, the world and what matters.

    Comment by Pam @writewrds — June 29, 2011 @ 5:15 pm

  9. Thanks so much for sharing this! It reminded of beautiful letters from my 3 (now adult) children, in which they expressed what they were grateful for from me (of course, all the acknowledgments just highlight what they have given me in insight & growth over the years).
    I think there is tremendous value in expressing these thoughts in writing, to be savored and reviewed as time passes. Often I recognize an attribute in myself that I didn’t even know existed thanks to my kids for bringing it to my attention!)
    Recently, my 27 year old son and I have been having rich, deep discussions about values, life where it takes us, the choices, the predicaments, everything and anything that comes up. I’ve thought about doing a blog with him sharing these exchanges. Your article inspires me to look at that possibility again!

    Comment by Ingrid Johnson — July 2, 2011 @ 7:05 am

  10. Thank you for sharing these inspiring thoughts. It’s interesting to observe that what was taught TO your children (and modeled by you) has now become a full fledged dialogue of the most important kind. When you have the opportunity to add the dimension of an extra generation (your grandchildren, I am sure he dialogue will grow even richer.

    Comment by Steve Collins — July 31, 2011 @ 10:12 am

  11. What a wonderful post. I have the same type of relationship with my children. Each is unique in their own way. I am also finding that my grandson is molding himself to where he is comfortable. For those of us that are blessed to have this – that’s great. For those that are struggling and want to help themselves and their children – there is help out there. Seek out what will help you. Don’t let the precious years go by without making good memories. Michele – Author of The 4-1-1 on Life Skills.

    Comment by Michele Sfakianos — August 30, 2011 @ 12:32 pm

  12. This is so touching.

    My son is just three, and my pregnancy was a surprise… oh, the things he has taught me in such a short time!

    I appreciate your thoughtful words and the work you’ve done in raising the next generation! Thanks for sharing.

    Good work, mama!

    Comment by OhanaMama — September 23, 2011 @ 6:38 pm

  13. This is a great post. Very witty and wise.

    Comment by Maggie — November 10, 2011 @ 4:55 pm

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