I have a friend who teaches skiing. We’ve been friends since we skied together as young adults in the amazing Rocky Mountains more than a couple decades ago. Both of us have grown children now. Too bad we live in different parts of the continent, as I know our kids would be fast friends.
Over Christmas Don and I spoke through video chat. He had a sense of heaviness in his voice when he spoke of his son. “I’ll be honest, Suzanne, I’m worried he’s depressed”. Don’s son attends university and is clever and ambitious, but not able to direct his energies forward. He described his son as “painfully shy.”
Don and I spoke of the successful aspects of their father and son relationship. He parents like he skis, calmly navigating the hills and valleys thoughtfully. Don said, “While you’re in the middle of it, you can’t tell if it’s going smoothly. It’s not until you reach the bottom and see the S-curve on the snowy slopes that you get the feedback that you crave.” Don was looking for that same positive feedback from his son. Don just wanted to know if he had done all he could for launching his son into the confusing adult world.
As much as we would like, kids can’t give us the feedback that would help us in our own hills and valleys of parenting. They can’t tell us what aspects we’re doing right and wrong. We can’t be sure how valuable our efforts of teaching and mentoring has been. Science does tell us, however, that our children can feel our intention behind our acts. Research indicates that it is the intention behind our actions while we parent that hold the real power.
It turns out that being real, really matters. Our intentions are what matters. Children, and most of us, can feel the intention behind an act. Through our ability to sense and mimic others (research now shows us we have a mimic gene), it is discernable whether or not our parenting behaviors are motivated by altruistic means or selfish means. Your child can feel the integrity. That’s what’s knowable, like seeing that perfect S-curve after turning your skis down a hill of fresh snow.
We want our children to have a relationship with the truth. Although we hope they act with integrity, how truthful they are is not in our control. You and I can only control their ability to experience the truth in our interactions. Ensuring our children know what the truth feels like can be lifesaving.
They can only get that knowledge through their relationship with you. You need to be honest and transparent. Even if your child is too young to use adult words, use adult words if you must, to convey your genuine sentiment at the moment. It’s the genuine sentiment that they connect with and that they need to thrive.
Back on the slopes, downhill skiing incorporates the muscle system to coordinate the stabilizing of the core muscles while allowing freedom of motion at the knee muscles for softening impact on bumpy terrain. Social interactions involve the communication system to stabilize emotions while allowing a stream of thoughts to flow in response to the surrounding party atmosphere. Both activities involve regular deep breathes. In skiing you exhale after executing a turn, in social situations you exhale before approaching a person to engage in conversation.
At a party it can be quite unpredictable what gets said and how your words are interpreted, not unlike skiing when you head down a patch of fresh snow that involves tree skiing. Yikes! Breath. Slow down. Focus on the target.
While at a party, yikes, a group joins you and it becomes a kitchen party where a moment ago it was just you and one other. Breathe/ Slow down your words and focus. The goal is to hang in a little longer. Find one more topic that can be pulled out of the conversation to socialize a little longer.
Don is right, shyness is like skiing. Keep being calm and thoughtful as you navigate the hills and valleys, my friend. There’s no job more important job than raising children well. Ultimately, our children are our world peace plan.