We recently had some terrific news in the Conlee household that I was sharing with my daughter, Annika. I had a hard time reading her reaction. It seemed a little reserved. So, I inquired, “Are you OK? I thought you’d be happier than that.”
Little did I know, but from this point on, the conversation would go downhill. Her immediate answer was something about how she had a hard time showing extreme amounts of emotion. It was as if I was looking at myself in a mirror. Boy, could I relate! I’ve blogged before about the joke in our home that my emotional range is a +2 to a -2. I’m rarely too hot or rarely too cold. I wish I was Goldilocks, because I could be “just right.”
Unfortunately, we weren’t talking about bears or porridge. I was getting ready to launch into my “let me teach you something I’ve learned the hard way” message. On the tip of my tongue were the words, “One thing I’ve learned in marriage is how important it is to express emotion.” I wanted to tell her to be intentional now so she doesn’t unintentionally live in a rut. All of us express our emotions differently, but if I could give her a little advice in hindsight, I definitely wanted to.
Before I could get the monologue out of my mouth, Annika took my breath away. She said, “Mom, that’s hard because my entire life I’ve watched you look skeptically at women who expressed a lot of positive emotion.” I can’t believe I just put that in writing… It was hard enough to hear it, let alone to see it.
Until that moment, I would’ve told you that I rarely look skeptically at anyone… let alone that I spent my entire life looking skeptically at people with certain qualities. I was dumbfounded. All of a sudden, it wasn’t just that I’d lacked a little emotion on my part, but in my daughter’s eyes, I’d reinforced that that particular emotion was negative.
After I caught my breath, I told her that for all these years, we’ve prayed that generational sins would be broken and that she wouldn’t bear the consequences of our sin or dysfunction. She sweetly said, “It’s OK, Mom. If all our generational sins were broken, I’d just be starting new ones of my own.”
Why do I share this so very unflattering window into my parenting world? For two reasons…
First, I want to do my part to normalize that we’re all doing the best we can as moms. Sometimes we think everybody else is doing it right and we’re the only ones struggling within the walls of our own homes. There’s not a mom out there who has her act totally together. And quite honestly, if your whole world revolves around your children and trying to do everything perfectly, you’re setting both yourself and your children up for failure.
Second, there are things you hear out of the mouth of a teenager that a 5- or 6- or 10-year-old can’t articulate. I wish when Annika was 5 that she’d innocently said, “Why do you roll your eyes when you see someone acting silly?”
The truth is, I would’ve told you that I’m skeptical of fake emotion… not emotion in general. But I’m sure somewhere mixed in there is the fact that we tend to criticize the things that make us uncomfortable. Accidentally, we can reinforce the wrong things with our children. If this causes you to step back and evaluate, then God can give you insight to help you. Just promise me you won’t let the enemy have his way. I’m done beating myself up. I gave it my best for the first 18 years… and I’ll continue giving it my best the rest of my life. That’s all God asks.