When I was in high school, I discovered musicals. My favorite at the time was Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim. It’s a mash-up of several fairy tales, whereby they all have to go into the woods to get what they want. (Symbolism, anybody?)
Toward the end of the work, a widower/baker begins to tell his fussing infant child the story of his mother, creating a legacy for his offspring. The witch who was the antagonist throughout the plot stands off to the side, offering one of the main messages of the musical in the form of a haunting lullaby, warning:
Careful the things you say;
Children will listen.
Careful the things you do;
Children will see
Children may not obey,
But children will listen.
Children will look to you
For which way to turn-
To learn what to be.
Careful before you say:
“Listen to me.”
Children will listen…
I remember singing along with my tape (yes, I’m that old), in my bedroom and I loved that song for it’s bittersweetness. Now that I’m a mother and have children of my own, I understand this song on a whole different level.
For me now, the message this song sends is that your sons and daughters will learn about the world through your words and actions. What lessons do you want to send through how you act?
The first understandings of how a relationship is supposed to function is from how you interact with your partner. (At a young age, they cannot separate themselves from the situation; how you react with them teaches them more about the world; not interpersonal communication.) Therefore, it is very important to model what a healthy, loving relationship looks and sounds like.
I was given the model of dysfunction. When I was growing up, my parents argued all the time. They were never affectionate. I came to believe that the people who are highly involved in your life are also the ones who know you enough to hypercritical about you. Hugging and kissing was only the stuff in movies and obviously not reality. As a result, I sought out that same dysfunction I was used to seeing as a child.
Only now as I write this am I realizing that it took another 18 years away from my parents to totally relearn life lessons in how to attract and keep functional relationships. I think I am not unique in this phenomenon whereby people turn a corner in their insight about their lives in their mid 30s- it’s because they have had as many years away from their family of origin to realize that their understanding of the world and the people in it comes from their childhood and is not necessarily Truth.
When your children experience second hand your relationship you have with their father, mother — biological or otherwise — you are really creating a certain “relationship radar” in your children. So make the 153Promise to your husband, wife, partner or any other people your children come in contact with to model the type of relationship your children will have when they become old enough to have one of their own.
Children will listen, see, and learn.
Make their lessons happy .