Last night we did something that we’ve never done before as parents, we went to the movies and saw a kid’s movie without the kids! Sounds crazy right? We’ve sat through so many movies for the simple reason of getting the kids out of the heat, that it might seem a little crazy that we would voluntarily spend a rare night without the kids watching an animated film. But this film was an exception. Inside Out is this summer’s big movie from Pixar. It is hard not to miss seeing a commercial or reading a glowing review by one of the major media outlets. I read the story line about a year ago - a movie from the perspective of an 11 year old’s emotions, I couldn’t wait. And the movie did not disappoint. Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear are the five emotions present in Riley’s brain that influence her moods, actions and reactions throughout the movie. Each emotion has a role in specific scenarios, i.e. Disgust takes the lead when it comes to broccoli. When a scenario arises that they’ve never experienced before, they all have to figure out how to get Riley through it. The movie puts a face to emotions and many other concepts of what goes on inside your brain. It will give children a vocabulary and reference point for how to talk about their emotions, which is so powerful. I’ll write a more interactive post about the movie concepts and incorporating them with your kids, but I’ll give everyone a few weeks to see it first.
One concept I will share is that of teamwork. The five emotional characters each have their own point of view and responsibilities. They may disagree on who should take the lead but they are all present in every scenario. Whether they realize it or not, they are all working together with the common goal of doing what’s best for Riley. As parents we do the same thing. We work to build a team of people to surround our children to give them all the support and love that they will need to grow. This weekend we celebrate fathers and the role they play on the team. A role that at one time was traditionally defined using words like head of the household, breadwinner and disciplinarian. Today the definition has morphed into so much more. Studies show that fathers are more involved in their children’s lives today than at any other time in history. They help with homework, practice, have tea parties and may even be persuaded to get their nails painted. The old stereotypes are shattering and in their place, the idea that these are the things that need to get done, it doesn’t matter who does them. That’s the great thing about being on a team, there is always someone there to step up and help out.
Every aspect of life is about being on a team, from your individual emotions to your extended family and beyond. Today take time to appreciate the team you have surrounding you. It’s easy to recognize individual roles or “positions”, but when you put them all together, their strength as a team grows exponentially.
About a year after my daughter was born, I decided that I was going to start scrapbooking. I could match together cute paper with the pictures and add a few stickers or embellishments here or there. It would be a good creative outlet and I would have albums that we could enjoy for years to come. I started off great, got all the stuff and enjoyed pouring over the pages for hours on end getting them just right. Slowly I started to fall behind. I thought if I group the holidays together I can do three years of Christmas all at once. While that helped, I now have 4 years’ worth of books in various states of completion. The photos, paper and supplies are neatly stacked and have not moved in a number of months. My desire is still there to get them done, we all love looking through the books and remembering. What’s been holding me back is this feeling that I don’t have enough time to do it – getting it all out, organized and put onto the pages is not something that can be done in an hour or two. I picture a day where I have a big chunk of time to lay it all out and get a bunch of it done, but until that day, the project sits and waits.
My scrapbooking project is a very simple example of a scenario that everyone can relate to. You would like to create a photo album/work out/make a new recipe/tackle a home improvement project/organize the junk closet/etc. but you never get around to it because you have subconsciously created expectations around the activity that are holding you back. You may think I’m being over dramatic, that expectations don’t have anything to do with it, but expectations are a sneaky thing and may be present without you even realizing it.
Expectations simmer under the surface of nearly everything that we do every day. We have expectations related to situations -if I go to a restaurant, I can get food. We have expectations related to friends, family, spouses, co-workers, fellow drivers on the road, our children and nearly every other person we come into contact with. And of course we have expectations of ourselves. Expectations can influence your mood, for better or for worse. When something meets your expectations you are happy and excited. When something does not meet your expectation it can make you angry, frustrated, disappointed, etc. Many times expectations lie dormant. You don’t realize they are secretly influencing the things you do, or do not do.
When I started thinking about the scrapbooks I realized I had inflated this expectation of the time I needed to the point where it was insurmountable. I also realized I had an expectation on the amount of effort and “bling” that had to be on every page, which also made the task seem more daunting. In the end, what is most important is that the pictures are in a book that we can all look at and enjoy. Once I acknowledged these points, I had an idea – why don’t I get the kids to help me? Will the pages look the exact way that I would have done them? No, but, they are old enough to do a good job and will be excited that they get to help…….at least that is my expectation.
Our children are literally a piece of us and from the day they are born we are eager to uncover our similarities. It starts by looking for similarities in eyes, lips, fingers or feet. As the child grows, the link to similarities expands to their laugh, smile and curiosity. Once they start school the tendency to look for similarities is second nature. Grades become tied to the ability, or inability, of parents, grandparents or distant relatives. (Uncle Billy worked for NASA, so naturally Little Johnny is wonderful at science.) Written out in this manner, it seems like a huge exaggeration. Right? We can’t help ourselves from taking pride in our similarities. But, what happens when they are not like you?
Like many ten year olds, my daughter participates in multiple activities. Not wanting to be the “tiger mom” (forcing her to do the activities that I want her to), I’ve let her decide. A couple years ago when she said she wanted to play softball, I was excited. Softball was a major part of my childhood, so this was definitely a “she’s like me” moment. She enjoyed it, made lots of new friends and always did her best. I was happy when she decided to keep playing. This season she has become the girl who will try anything. When the two team catchers were going to miss the same game, the coach looked for volunteers. My daughter was open to trying it, put on the gear and ended up loving it. I was excited to see her excited about playing. We got her some gear and a great big bag to put it in. I dropped her off excited to see how she would do that night behind the plate. But when game time came, she was not behind the plate, she was on the mound. What was going on? She had never pitched a day in her life. It turns out two of our pitchers were out of town and one had the flu. No one else on the team had ever pitched before and without one we would have to forfeit. The coach asked her if she wanted to try and she said sure. And in that moment, she was not like me. Growing up I was very competitive and I liked to be good at things. I can’t imagine myself at ten years old going out in a game, doing something I had never practiced, in fear that I wouldn’t be very good at it. In this moment she couldn’t have been more opposite of me and I couldn’t have been more proud.
As humans we find comfort in people who are like us, who share our interests and who are understanding of our point of view. As parents we naturally look for similarities with our children in order to relate to them and guide them through familiar territory. What we learn is that through our differences, our children switch roles and end up guiding us.
I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.