Yesterday we celebrated one of my son's 11th birthday. While this may not be a traditional "rite of passage" birthday, it was for my son. Why? Simple, we gave him a few tools requiring maturity to handle and use.
This got me thinking about the tools that we share and give to our children. While we could spend time talking about actual hand tools, toys, and equipment, I am referring here to those "invisible" tools that we each hand down to our children from our own toolkit.
For example, how you handle stress in your life will most likely be a "tool" you hand down to your children. Do you overeat in stressful situations or stop eating all-together? Do you say things like, "I just need a beer" or "I need some serious relaxation time, just for me"? These tools are the way in which we deal with those things bombarding us on a daily basis. What is important is that these are tools that we have adopted and accepted over time as ways to function in life. Why is this important? It is important because these tools are not an integral part of us, contrary to what many modern folks will tell us. The stressed out over-eater can learn how to adopt new tools during a diet. The alcoholic can learn to deal with stress outside of relying on "fire water". There is proof of this in all of our lives.
As a parent, the tools we hand down to our children are usually our own. Sure, we may poke, prod, and cajole our children to become better persons than we are, but they will grasp onto our example more than our words. This is where we have to take a good, hard look at how we do things. Ignore what you want to do, what you hope to do - and be honest about where you are and what you do today. You may want to be a soft-spoken, peaceful parent, but you continue to explode and yell at your children. Face it. Challenge it...oh and realize, you can change it!
Let's go back to the first example, how you deal with stress. Picture yourself as an early settler, pioneering your way across the open plains...you look up and see a group of Indians facing you with drawn bows. What is your first reaction? This stressful situation will move some to lay down and cry, others to buckle down and fight, others to yell and try to scare off the enemies, and others to try some other, unheard of option. There are always options....even for you. In this scenario, the first step is to accept that the Indians are real, the bows and arrows are real, and you are really in a bad situation. You can't fight unless you realize that the battle is real and really important. Do you see how real this battle is?
Now let's think about our children. You are passing on your faults and virtues to your children each day. Do you care enough to challenge yourself to be better...so that your children can be better? Are you ready to trade in some outdated, overworn, worthless tools for some that are time-tested by the saints?