The Purple Comb
The purple comb. I can't remember my Mum not having one. Each night after our bath she'd comb our hair with the purple comb and blow dry it before sending us off to bed. It became part of who she was - like her green coat and the smell of John Paul Gaultier, Classique. At the time it didn't have much significance but now, sitting down to comb my own daughter's hair I realise I've been using the exact same comb. I'm slowly becoming my mother.
I hadn't fully realised how much you take on of your parents. I didn't notice it before I had children but now, with kids of my own, I'm discovering the full extent of our similarities. There are so many things that I've purposely tried to copy, like the meals and the traditions and some of the discipline techniques, but there are many things that I naturally do without my acknowledgement. Like the click of my fingers when I'm trying to get my children's attention. Like the way, at the end of the book, I'll snap it shut and shout THE END. The way I call everyone 'lovely' or 'sweetheart', or how I phrase an instruction as a question (i.e "Why don't you go and put that in the kitchen?"). I went perfume shopping the other day and the only perfume I could stand was, you guessed it, John Paul Gaultier, Classique.
I didn't buy it. That would be weird.
All of this had me thinking. Maybe one of the most effective ways of parenting isn't to try and instil good character in your children, but to be good character for them to follow, naturally. I feel like every day I'm fighting a battle with my children to get them to be the best that they can be. To be kind and considerate and generous and loving, without thinking about whether I'm demonstrating those characteristics myself. I mean, how many times have I found myself yelling STOP SHOUTING at my kids?! Maybe what I need to do is stop, assess myself and rejig things to make sure that, as best as possible, I'm being those things for my kids to see. The old saying, "Do what I say, not what I do" may need to be changed:
"Do what I say AND what I do".
It's not all about who I am because, of course, my children are their own people too - there are many ways that I'm NOT similar to my parents. But maybe, just maybe, if I'm being the best I can be then naturally my children will follow suit. Kindness will be so ingrained in them because I've been kind. Generosity will be a natural characteristic because I have modelled generosity, and so on.
A new parenting technique is forming for our family. One where we're modelling the good behaviour too (or trying to as best as we can!). How can I expect my children to do anything I ask if I am incapable of following my own instruction too? This doesn't work with everything, I'm not suddenly going to be going to bed at 7pm for instance, but for the big values, the things we want our children to BE, then making sure we are also those things is one of the easiest foundations for us to begin that training.
And what if it doesn't work? Well then, I'll have practised patience and kindness and generosity so will be better at handling those situations anyway. It's win win really!