My kids are like any other kids — independent, creative, challenging, and delightful. I am like most parents — happy and weary most days; working to fit it all in. For me, the hardest part of being a parent is when I can’t protect my children from my own mortal deficits.
I’ve written before about how I am louder in my parenting than I’d like to be, rigid more often than I’d like to be, and not great at handling frustration. My children know the very worst me and the very best one. So far, I think it’s at least a 5 to 1 ratio, and though the worst moments are powerful, so are the best ones. I try not to forget that, but it’s hard.
Today is Veterans Day. I am a Veteran. We review the history every year, because kids forget and I want them to understand. We take out my photo albums and we stroll through the past. What’s different, is that today I told them Captain Berg is still inside of me.
I retired her during the Presidency of the young George Bush, resigning my officership in the United States Air Force Reserve. She is the most no nonsense person I know.
Typically, she presides over my judicious internal council, but some days I call her out of retirement. The kids know this happens for any one of four reasons: 1) they are not listening and/or responding to other prompts or inquiries and I’m over it, 2) something inappropriate is taking place, 3) something unsafe is going down, or 4) I am too weary to be my highest, most gentle self.
When she emerges from my mouth, everything changes. My demeanor shifts and I embody a different person. My daughter has said before, “I don’t like it when you use that voice.” My typical response has been, “Then do what I’ve asked you to do.” She’s also reflected that perhaps I am so strict because I was in the military. Yes; I honored her wise observation.
But it’s always sat wrong with me — enough to compel a teaspoon of cognitive dissonance. I am a self-regulation coach for children; the most patient person I know. What gives?
I know puzzles are completed one piece at a time. Insight and personal growth are like that. For a long time, the picture is unclear. Eventually knowledge shifts to understanding. With any luck, that understanding is integrated into a new reality. Something different.
This Veterans Day, I told my children how sometimes Captain Berg comes to help me when I’m overwhelmed. I shared that she always knows what to do. She is strict, loud, clear, and effective. She is also intimidating. The kids agreed, nodding soberly.
Then, I told them that I’m pretty sure it’s not ok to treat them like adult airmen in training. No one wants to be treated that way. Their grave faces gave way to giggles. My son said, “We are not soldiers!” He has a very specific mischievous twinkle to his eyes. We all laughed.
I asked them earnestly to give me a “T” for time out with their little hands the next time they see this beloved strong woman come out of me in our home. They practiced and then nodded.
We talked about how powerful the Captain is, and I told them I want them to have full rights to their own power, too. We’re going to give this a try. I’m hopeful; on the way to something new.
Maybe part of you has been usurping your children’s power, too? Maybe you’d like to join me in giving some of that back? But let’s be real. There will be some tardies involved.
Thank you to all who served. Behold your power AND your wholeness; your security AND your gentleness. Your creativity, not your rigidity. All of these in balance. You deserve nothing less.
Wounded Warrior Project is a charitable organization that helps veterans and active duty service members. Learn more…www.woundedwarriorproject.org
For veterans, crises can be heightened by their experiences during military service. If you’re a veteran or service…suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Today Tanya’s bio reads: Why don’t we cry more? It feels so much better than a clenched jaw. It really does.