I was amazed when I participated in my first Personal Excellence program and understood the power I have over my own past. Depending on what I put my attention to, I could easily have had a life of victimhood, been the hero of the time or I could have had an uneventful, ordinary life. Etsko’s saying “It’s never too late to have had a happy childhood” may come across as rude at first, but as it has sunk in over the years, I really find it profound and liberating.
A New Success
I am now into my fifties, and it was a long time since I was a child. Moreover, a long time since my own children were small. Both my daughters are now grown up and study in other cities. And, as other parents, I am amazed at all they know and achieve. Last weekend, I had the four children of my dear friends Ivica and Kristina here for a sleepover and it was lovely.
On Sunday morning, Maria (8 years old) and I made gingerbread cookies and I took out the tin of cookie shapes for us to use. Immediately her eyes fell on the complicated shape of Pippi Longstocking, a children’s book character we have here in Sweden, and she wanted us to make a cookie of that shape. Now, you must understand that this shape has braids sticking out from each side of her head, and long spindly legs and arms that easily both break and burn! I felt the old stress from my daughter’s childhood coming back, since I have NEVER succeeded in making that cookie. Never in 20 years.
However, I could feel that something was different now and I felt ready to take Pippi on. Not only Pippi, but her horse and monkey as well – and we made it! We managed to bake cookies of all three of them and they neither broke nor burnt.
“Why did I do that?”
I was so amazed about this achievement, so I took a proud picture of the three cookies and showed it to my daughters. Thereafter, I had a very interesting – and heartwarming – conversation with my youngest, Elsa. When I showed her the picture, she started telling funny stories to her boyfriend about me from when she was a kid. About how I was so impatient with anything that wasn’t fast and easy. Also, how I swore over those cookie shapes of Pippi and her friends. She also told him about the time when she got beads for making tiny jewelry from a friend for her birthday and I refused to help her with it.
The story was very funny, and I laughed with them, but I thought “Why on earth did I do that? Why didn’t I take the time to sit down and at least try with the beads? Why did I hate the Pippi cookie shapes so much so I wouldn’t even have a go?”. I said something like that, apologetically. “I’m sorry, I don’t know why I didn’t do that. In hindsight, now I really don’t see the problem.” Elsa continued laughing lightheartedly and told me not to worry about it “We got that from grandma, mum! We brought the beads to her, and she’d sit with us for hours making jewelry. And grandpa sat next to us, happily watching. So don’t worry, we got it anyway!”.
Returning Your Attention
Wow, it was amazing to hear that they got that anyway. That there were other important grown-ups in their lives who could give them the attention they needed. in other words, what I didn’t have the time or peace of mind to do. It also made me realise why I didn’t make tiny jewelry or complicated cookies 20 years ago. I was so very, very busy with everyday life! I, quite honestly, did the very best I could, and that simply did not get me all the way to the tiny jewelry or the complicated cookies.
Seeing that, I can now let myself off that hook. I did the best I could. I made sure my family was fed and the kids got to school and did their homework. Furthermore, I read them bedtime stories, handled my job and took care of the house (well, to some sort of sanitary level at least!) and and and… Come to think of all those things, I was actually quite a good parent!
What we choose to emphasize
Not having had the patience or brain space for tiny jewelry when my kids were small does not make me into a bad parent. Just as we can choose to see that our own parents did their best for us and that there was plenty of happiness in our own childhood, we can also choose to be generous with ourselves. We can choose to pay attention to what we did for our kids and that a lot of it was good. It is never too late to allow oneself to have been a good parent!
Then there is the insight Elsa gave me when she told me they had brought the beads to grandma. That is where I am now! I am now the older, calmer person who can have that patience and brain space to make Pippi cookies. Perhaps even tiny jewelry. Isn’t that wonderful. With refocusing my attention, I didn’t miss the chance to be that important person in children’s lives, it is here now.
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