Everyone is on a battlefield, even your kids.
Every single person on this planet is going through some kind of struggle. Moreover, every single person’s struggle is the worst thing happening in their world and by extension, the biggest concern they have about the world at large. This isn’t because people are totally self centered, it’s just how our brains are wired. We magnify danger and fixate upon it because evolution favors survivors and we are all trying to survive on our own personal battlefield.
Our problems are always the saber tooth tiger.
This insight is useful for the purposes of disarming our own neurotic behaviors but I find that it is especially useful when trying to understand other people. I love people, even those who I don’t like. In fact this is the cornerstone of my perspective on humanity. I am empathetic towards people, regardless of the context of our interactions because I understand that while I don’t know what they are specifically struggling with; they are going through some stuff. I feel like this allows me to have more meaningful relationships with the people in my life because I have no need to judge them. I have no right to judge them.
But then there’s my kids…
Passing judgement has always been central to my understanding of what parenting is. It’s logical, my job is to teach them how eventually become functional adults. Consequently my parenting routine consists of assessing their behavior, judging it and then either supporting it or suppressing it.
“Chew with your mouth closed, use a fork and eat over your plate. Don’t punch your brother, don’t stick legos in your nose and no more farting contests at the grocery store. Quit waking up at 4 a.m. to eat ice cream sandwiches…”
More often than not, parenting is reduced to it’s most expedient, utilitarianism. That’s our struggle but what about the kids?
I don’t perceive them in the same way that I do everyone else on the planet. That’s my bad and one that I intend to right.
Of course I must still do the things I do as a dad because that’s my job but I think that just opening my mind up to empathizing with their own personal struggles will only aid my mission.
To have empathy for another is to humanize them. I realize that I’ve been so caught up in the job of parenting that I’ve forgotten the most important fact. My kids are people too and they have their own struggles and to them, those struggles are the most pressing issues of their world. Even when I don’t like them, I love them. More importantly though, how can I hope to effectively influence their behavior if our relationship is built upon something less than what I strive for with everyone else. I may have the need to judge them but that still doesn’t give me the right.
My kids, just like everyone else, are struggling with something. I hope to understand their problems but if not, I will still be mindful that they are dealing with it. We’re all on a battlefield after all but the battle need not be fought alone.