September 4, 2012

What Do Your Kids See from You?

September 4 happened to be the first day for public school kids in my state this year; it was the first day for many private schools here, too. And, of course, it’s been “that time of year” across the country for the last few weeks.

In acknowledgement of the season, a Facebook friend shared [this] deeply disturbing photo. [As you can see], the picture shows a mom and her children lined up in front of their garage. The kids sport new outfits, backpacks, and lunch pails – and very sour faces. In contrast, the mom grins from ear to ear and is literally jumping for joy, [arms] stretched over her head in victory. The caption says it all: The First Day of School.

As a homeschooling mom, I’m literally with my kids 24/7 most days, so I resonate with a mom’s need for regular breaks. We benefit mentally, physically, and emotionally from spending time with friends, enjoying hobbies, and simple pleasures like taking a warm, undisturbed bath. In fact, our kids benefit when we care for ourselves, because well-rested, refreshed moms are healthy moms. It’s also true that summer vacation can be especially tiring for moms who utilize conventional schools, since they’re not used to being with their children all day, every day.

But there’s a vast difference between acknowledging those realities on the one hand and celebrating “freedom” from the “burden” of our kids on the other. The former is real; the latter is immature. And, more to the point, it hurts kids.

The children in the photo undoubtedly look glum in part because they’re heading back to school; even my homeschooled kids grimace when it’s time to pull out the books. What child wouldn’t? But it’s not a stretch to presume that the kids...ache because they clearly see how their mom feels about them. 

Moms are human, and we’re busy and tired. But a major component of our “job description” is cherishing our children and communicating to them that they’re valuable and significant; the world beats them down, so we need to build them up. Tragically, though, the mom in the Facebook photo unequivocally demonstrates in her kids’ presence that her “freedom” is more important to her than they are. [And it doesn't matter that she insisted the photo was a joke; her request that they pose this way surely spoke volumes to her kids about their mother's feelings.]

Maybe she prepared a special first-day breakfast and tucked encouraging notes into each child’s lunchbox. But she negated all that when she chose her pose for the picture. Now, instead of those kids believing their mom would miss them and look forward to seeing them in the afternoon, they know she can’t wait to get rid of them.

Whether your kids are home with you or not, what do your words and actions tell them about their significance to you? If you don’t like the picture that just popped into your mind, what will you do today to change the image? 

Photo Credit: Lara Forgrave


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