Our children’s lives are a by product of our lives as their parents. From what they wear and eat, to how they behave, to what activities they do, our choices affect every aspect of their lives.
As children, they do what we do, go where we go, vacation where we want to go on vacation, travel when we travel, adventure when we adventure. They’re lazy at home when we’re at home, they eat at the restaurants we like, they experience the life we want them to experience, learn how and what we want them to learn (mostly) — and hopefully we’re teaching and guiding them to make good decisions, stand up for what they want and believe in, and approach the world in a way that fulfills them at the core level, creates happiness and joy, and positively contributes to society.
I think our life is pretty amazing and I like to think we’re doing a pretty good job in the parenting department. But it’s hard when my children are punished for our life choices. Thankfully it doesn’t happen too often, but it does happen and it is heartbreaking to watch my children hurt because others either don’t understand our life, or are jealous of it.
Now I know that their behavior reflects more on their own “stuff” and they are projecting it on my kids, but it doesn’t make it any less difficult to deal with — and kids don’t always understand that vein of thinking. And even if they did, it doesn’t make it hurt any less.
Please Don’t Punish My Children For My Life Choices
Let me back up a moment and explain a few scenarios that drove me to write this post:
- This past year my daughter’s core group of best friends from elementary school began to exclude her from their activities. There was a sleepover that everyone was invited to except her. Then they talked all about it in front of her at school.
- They all went to get their nails done together before the school dance, then came to our house to get ready for the dance, and talked all about it in front of her.
- They went to the movies without her and they all went to a concert together without her, and they all talked about it in front of her face — even saying things like, “I wish you could have come,” all while knowing she wasn’t invited.
We had a lot of tears and a lot of hurt feelings. She tried to ignore it and hung onto the relationships as long as she could, but eventually she asked one of them what happened and why she was suddenly excluded from everything. They said (and I’m paraphrasing):
“You get to do cool stuff all the time that we don’t get to do. You get to go places we don’t get to go. So now we’re doing fun things that you don’t get to do.”
Ouch! She was crushed and hurt and frustrated because we plan all our our family adventures and vacations. She realized that even though she wasn’t making the decisions, she was being punished for our decisions. She was being cut out because they couldn’t handle how we choose to live and what we choose to do in our free time.
After a lot of tears, and a lot of talking with us, she made a decision.
I’m so proud that she was savvy enough to understand that they will be going to school together for five more years and it’s never wise to burn a bridge. Instead of getting mad, arguing, and burning bridges, she let it go, accepting their point of view and feelings, and giving them grace for their actions. After all, there are all different types of friendships, and these friends can still be school friends, but not best friends to make plans with outside of school — at least not right now. But who knows? They will have classes together in the future and maybe over time things may change.
Parents Are At Fault Just As Much As The Kids
I know that not everyone can be invited to everything. I know that sometimes my kids will be the kids not invited. Everyone at some point will be in that position as that’s just the way life is. But the way it is done and the way it happens can be done with more grace and compassion.
I don’t know about you, but my parents raised me to be considerate of other people’s feelings, and especially to not talk about events someone wasn’t invited to in front of them. My parents taught me not to talk about a birthday party or sleepover at school if everyone wasn’t invited and encouraged me to think about how my decisions would affect others.
When my daughter was told why she was not being invited to activities anymore, it became clear that this wasn’t just the kids talking. The words that were used and the phrasing of them made it clear that this action and these thoughts were coming from a parent. A parent was uncomfortable with their child being around a friend who does more or has more. A parent was playing a part in purposefully excluding a child — which is totally okay, because again, not everyone can be invited to everything, but if you’re going to make that decision, also teach your child not to talk about it in front of the excluded child.
You may be reading this thinking, “So what. Your kids wasn’t invited. Get over it.” And you may be right. But let me tell you about a few other things we’ve experienced:
- When I was completely overwhelmed with work, peers in my networking groups responded with, “You’re tired because you have too much work? We have real problems,” and I was left alone.
- We made great friends at Mommy & Me Gymnastics, so we invited them to our home for a playdate, and when they saw our cars and our backyard, they started acting weird, and after that they weren’t very nice or friendly at gymnastics.
- We had awesome neighbors that we became close with, until they figured out by deduction that our financial situation was much different. Then they made some awkward comments and stopped spending time with us.
- In preschool and elementary school, a few times the kids would make friends, Brian and I would introduce ourselves to their parents, they’d ask us what we do, and we’d schedule a playdate. But then at the playdate they’d make a comment that made it clear they googled us, and we’d never have another playdate again.
When it was just Brian and I, we accepted it and moved on. When our kids were little, it got tougher, but the kids didn’t really know what was happening and we again accepted it. After all, we’re not going to change the way we live our lives just because other people don’t like it, don’t understand it, or are envious of it. But as the kids are getting older and becoming more aware of everything around them, it is much more difficult to deal with because they get hurt too.
We’re No Different Than You
It’s easy for others to sit back and judge us and make assumptions about us. If you only know what you saw on Facebook and Instagram, it’s also easy to feel envious. But here’s what I wish other people would understand:
- While we own our own business and work for ourselves from home, it’s not easy. Work never stops. We don’t just work 9-5 then leave work at work. It’s always there. There is always pressure, deadlines, clients, sales, invoicing, marketing, business admin, and more — and because we work from home, it’s always calling to us, taunting us. Work, client projects, and the business is always in the backs of our minds.
- We play hard, but we work harder. Yes, we take lots of vacation and do lots of day trips, but we work more than we play. We pull 16 hour days to get work done before a trip. We work nights and weekends so we can take extra days off. And between the hours of 9-5, we’re not chatting in Slack groups, we’re not browsing Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, we’re not lunching with friends, we’re working.
- While we take one totally disconnected vacation every year, most of the time we’re traveling we’re still connected and still working. While we may not be doing design or writing code, we’re responding to contact forms and new project inquiries, managing email, answering phone calls, and communicating with remote team members who are still moving client projects forward while we’re gone.
- The glimpse into our lives through social media is a look at our highlight reel, our best of the best. Yes, I share all the good stuff because no one wants to see photos of us crying, angry, exhausted, frustrated, hurt, or sad. Social media is positive and fun. I don’t air our dirty laundry online. So while our life looks like it’s all fun and games, we have the same crap come up and deal with the same junk that everyone else deals with. We have unexpected expenses come us that tighten the purse strings, we have family drama, we have stress and sleepless nights — just like you.
- Our life isn’t any better than yours. It’s just different. We have a different schedule, different jobs, and different responsibilities. We make different decisions, have different histories, and create different priorities. So it’s natural that our lives are different. That what makes things fun and interesting and fosters amazing conversations.
- Everything about what life looks like comes down to decisions. Decisions about how we make money, how we manage our budget, and how we choose to spend it. It’s okay that our decisions are different.
Let’s Celebrate Each Other
Instead of judging, criticizing, and being envious of others, let’s instead celebrate each other and be happy for each other. Let’s tuck the insecurities away and instead be happy with who we are, where we’re at, and what we have — and be happy for others in the same way. Let’s own our own junk and work toward achieving what we want and reaching the places we want go, without stepping on others or putting them down along the way.
It can be done.
I think that’s why Brian and I fell in love with the WordPress community so quickly.
I think that is why it was so easy for us to make friends with other WordPressers, and why we believe so strongly in giving back our time to help build our local Sacramento WordPress community through organizing the Sacramento WordPress Meetup, and WordCamp Sacramento. While the WordPress community still has drama and it’s own issues, it is overwhelmingly supportive and positive. Competitors can sit side by side and help each other improve, they can cheer on each others’ successes, and offer encouragement through tough times.
In terms of children being punished for their parents’ actions, I know my story and our experiences are tiny in comparison to what some others experience, yet the core solution is the same.
As a parent, I am acutely aware that my behaviors and actions, words, and thoughts and beliefs directly impact my children and their behaviors and actions, words, and thoughts. If I judge people, talk about them behind their back and gossip, act negatively, and behave poorly, they will model that behavior. Likewise, if I am positive, supportive, helpful, and kind, they will also model that behavior.
As parents, we must be the type of people we want our children to become.
I want my children to live an amazing life full of adventure, joy, love, and happiness. I want them to be fulfilled and feel successful. I want them to learn everything they can and be smart. I want them to contribute to society in a positive way. I want them to be kind, and generous, and to give others grace.
I want them to understand that when they are punished for our life choices, those actions really have nothing to do with my kids, but about the other person and their own “stuff.” I want them to understand that life isn’t always fair and that they are going to be left out and excluded at times, but that they are strong enough to stand on their own.
My Wish For Parents
My wish today for all parents is that we set a strong, positive example for our children. That we can be happy enough with ourselves to have enough happiness left over to share it with others and to be happy for them as well.
I want all parents (and basically everyone) to understand that:
- Being happy for someone else’s success doesn’t take anything away from your success.
- Everyone is at a different stage and phase of life, comparison does nothing but create stress and unhappiness.
- Social media often shows only the highlight reel, not real life and the day to day struggles people face.
- Your decisions and priorities shape your life. If you don’t like where you’re at or you want something different, you have the power to change your priorities and decisions to move you in a new direction — it may not happen fast, but it will happen.
- Whether positive or negative, your actions affect everyone around you and set an example for your children.
And most of all, please don’t punish my kids for my life choices — or any kids for their parents’ life choices.