I was running late…again. I could feel the stress rising inside of me. The internal acceleration of adrenalin was great; the temptation to just put my foot on the accelerator felt greater still. My shoulders rose to my ears and I was clutching the steering wheel, intent on getting to my destination as quickly as was legally possible. My impatience for red lights and slow drivers revealed my intolerance. Speed bumps became more like jumps, as slowing down to 20/kms I deemed optional under the circumstances. I was determined to get there on time, or as close to. I knew I was pushing it; I knew I wasn’t a model of driving sensibly and calmly, but my default response to time pressure had kicked in.
Running late and keeping to strict schedules is a point of great stress to me. I hate being the one to arrive late, even when it is out of my control. Unfortunately, being a Mum of four kids, with all manner of time constraints, appointments and obligations, has the potential to be a daily issue. While I have organisational strengths, my weakness for emotionally responding to unforeseen circumstances usually undoes my good intentions.
However, it was not until a friend jokingly said I was a bit of a ‘lead-foot’ that I stopped to consider what I was modelling. It was that embarrassing moment of being found out! I was conscious that my driving in a stressed manner wasn’t helpful to me. What I wasn’t aware of, was how others observed me… especially my kids. It was shocking to realise that I was modelling to them bad driving habits. The opposite, to what I would hope I was doing! I decided to ask my 16 year old son (who is of driving age) if he felt I was a bad role model in the car. His response was, “You’re a great example Mum…of how not to drive!” I guess I asked for it.
It got me thinking how we all have blind spots; be it in our speaking or in our actions. We are either unconscious of how we come across to others or we are self-aware but not necessarily others-aware. It may not be until someone points it out to us, (kindly or bluntly) that we fully realise how unhelpful that behaviour is. What follows is a challenge. How will we respond to this new insight? We can ignore it, we can respond in pride and defend ourselves, or we can humbly admit our failings and seek to mindfully change the way we behave. To do the later takes self-discipline and humility; a conscious effort to make a change and an admission that we are not perfect.
It is sobering to remember that our children carefully observe everything we say and do. It is with our kids that we feel most comfortable to be ourselves. Often, it is not until they begin to copy what we do or reflect our words and attitudes, that we see the significance of our influence. Therefore it is important to be mindful of how you act in certain situations, and how you speak to your children and to others. When they say to you, “Mum, why do you always…?” it’s a good indicator of our habits being noticed.
If, at this point, you feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of parenthood, (a feeling that I often experience) then here is an encouragement. There is no such thing as a perfect parent. It is impossible to get all things right, all of the time. Be encouraged that when you do fail, (you will do so often) you also have a wonderful opportunity to model what it looks like to take responsibility, to say sorry, to show vulnerability, to be real and authentic. To say to our kids, “This is something I need to work on.” All kids need to see that modelled.
So what are you modelling that needs a makeover? Is it how much time you spend on your phone? How you talk about people you find hard to love? Your attitude to work? Your response to stress? As for me: I’m seeking to slow down. Reminding myself that it’s not the end of the world if I’m late. Making sure I leave more time for travel, and taking deep breaths when I feel the stress level rising. And being kind to myself when I fail.