Having a snail crawl across my arm does not feature strongly on my bucket list. But my four year old son delights in it. Picking up insects and carrying them around is not what floats my boat. But gosh, my son LIVES for it.

snail arm

Putting makeup on and taking it off again leaves me cold. I never brush my hair because it’s so short it’s hardly there. I don’t wear pink, sparkly clothes and skip around the house singing “Frozen” songs. But my 8 year old daughter relishes every chance to use a potion or cream, a brush or a comb, and has so much music in her heart that she sings in her sleep.

I’m not raising my children to be me. I’m not raising my children to please me.

Might parenting be easier if those were my goals? Raising my children to be themselves, giving them the freedom to explore their own interests and express their own personalities is an everyday challenge. It forces me to the limits of my comfort zone and demands that I pick apart long-held beliefs. It is making me question myself and grow. It’s like I’m sloughing off an old skin. It’s another step in my mothermorphosis.

Watching my eight year old apply Geisha-red lipstick with incredible deftness to her little pursed lips makes me furrow my brow—I have baggage about makeup. I worry about her growing up too fast, the sexualisation of youth, the impact of the media. Her interest has meant that I’ve had to drag out this baggage, unpack each item onto the floor and sift through it all. For every worry that I pick up and examine, I notice how it is based on fear. For every negative feeling I have about it, I confront myself with the reality of my child who simply loves performance, texture and colour. I have worked hard at supporting her while she explores her interest without letting my worries or distaste distract or impede her. I want her to be herself.

I repeat (as much for my own benefit as for anything else): I’m not raising my children to be me. I’m not raising my children to please me.

When my son presents me with his latest invertebrate find, I am usually as fascinated as he is. But there’s something about slugs and snails that makes me press my lips together in a grimace of disgust. While my boy stares intently at the snail working its slimy way across his arm, I try not to make that “ew” face. I try really hard. And when he says, “do you want to hold it?” I wrestle with myself. Should I come up with a cheerful excuse not to (“That snail looks happy right there with you, honey.”), should I hold it, or maybe it would be more authentic to say I find it a little gross? I’m working on it.

red beetle hand

You see, I’m not just working on accepting my children as they are for their own benefit. It’s for my benefit too.

If I can accept my children for who they are, I can accept myself. If I can embrace those things about my children that perplex and confound me, I can embrace those dark perplexing parts of myself. If my children have the freedom to be themselves, then I can be me too. We all have permission to be our own authentic selves.

In all my brokenness, my imperfection, my not-very-good-at-this-parenting-thing-ness, I can take an honest look at myself and say, “Not everyone is going to find this pleasing, but this is who I am. And I’m okay about it.” Even if I’m not wearing lipstick.

©Lisa Hassan Scott 2014.

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Freedom to be Myself
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14 thoughts on “Freedom to be Myself

  • 22/05/2014 at 9:28 pm

    What a fantastic conclusion to come to, Lisa. I confess, I wasn’t really expecting that. But you’re absolutely right. I’m going to try to remember this.

    • 23/05/2014 at 10:01 pm

      That’s funny that someone else also said they didn’t see it coming. What were your thoughts on it? What were you expecting? I’m curious to know.

      Thanks for taking the time to stop by. xoxo

  • 22/05/2014 at 11:45 pm

    Great post again Lisa!

    But I think there’s a whole other post about make-up just brewing away in your head and I wonder what your feelings are about that. I’d be interested to know.

    Best wishes, M x

    • 23/05/2014 at 10:00 pm

      Yes there is Marija– you know me well. 🙂 But it’s not finished cooking yet…

  • 23/05/2014 at 2:19 am

    Lisa, I’m in tears. Your writing always touches me, but this. This is a post that goes deep within my heart. Thank you for accepting your children, and yourself. You’re a wonderful example. XO

    • 23/05/2014 at 9:59 pm

      Oh Angie, thank you. When I read your writing, I feel as though we are both trying to reach the same place. Let’s walk that path together.

  • 23/05/2014 at 9:56 am

    Lisa this is just brilliant. I didn’t see your conclusion coming either, but I can totally see where you are coming from. Both my boys like things, or do things, that I find bizarre and ‘against my grain’ – I’ve always tried to wipe the frown from my face and ‘go with it’ as I believe they should (at some level) find their own path……but I had never thought about how it might reflect back to me, and teach me about how I should also find my own path. Thank you for your beautiful words – I miss being able to chat to you but reading your posts feels almost as good 🙂 Gx

    • 23/05/2014 at 10:03 pm

      It’s good to read your words here Gemma. I miss you too and am grateful that you still read my posts and take the time to comment. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      I’m curious to know (and I asked Kirsten too) where did you think it was going? What are your thoughts on it?

  • 23/05/2014 at 1:25 pm

    I’m kind of in awe about how you’ve embraced your daughter’s interest in make-up. My kids have led me many places I wouldn’t have ended up on my own (coaching soccer?!?!), which is one of the hugest gifts of parenthood. The stretching, in obvious and not-so-obvious ways. But I’ve not yet had to hurdle an interest I *really* had a reaction against.

    (As for the snail, I think it’s perfectly okay to say you’d rather not hold it right then. Part of owning our interests is, I think, learning that not everyone shares the same ones, yet we can still support and encourage each other anyway.)

    • 23/05/2014 at 9:52 pm

      Yes Amy, I think that’s the line I’ve taken– I just say that I’d rather not hold it, but I still observe it with him, take photos, chat about it. It’s ok that I don’t want to hold it.

      As for the makeup, as Marija mentions in her comment, there is another entire blog post in that… but I’m not ready to write it yet. I’m still working on it all, gradually working through my feelings and thoughts about it, sorting through that baggage piece by piece. It hasn’t been easy. Don’t be in awe, because it certainly hasn’t been graceful either!! 🙂

  • 23/05/2014 at 1:49 pm

    Oh Lisa!! What a beautiful post. This is something I struggle with too, at times. I love the line “I am not raising my children to be me or to please me.” Yes yes yes!!!! We as adults want to be seen as unique and ourselves, we need to instill that in our children as well. Thank you for writing so eloquently about this. A good reminder for all of us to be who we are meant to be whether others like it or not!

    • 23/05/2014 at 9:41 pm

      Thank you Jen. It can be a challenge to encourage and nurture that individuality. When they are little they aren’t afraid to wear what they want, express their personalities the way they want… as they grow older there’s greater pressure to ‘fit in.’ I guess I feel that my kids don’t need that pressure from their own families as well as their peers. It’s a practice though– every day I work at it, sometimes with success, sometimes not. Thanks for stopping by xoxo

  • 23/05/2014 at 4:01 pm

    “I am not raising my children to be me or to please me.” Brilliant!

    • 23/05/2014 at 9:39 pm

      Thank you. A mantra for me to remind myself of my authentic goals– practising every day to get there.

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