Believe in Yourself
On Mother’s Day, I reflect on some of the life lessons I’ve gained not only from Psychology, but also from the relationship I have with my mother. Now that many of my friends have children of their own, I often imagine what it was like for my mom (and my dad) when I was born with a physical disability. Thirty five years ago, there were no ultrasound scans, they did not know anything about my disability and more importantly, there was no Google! My parents were not teachers, nurses or doctors. They decided to go to the library (it was 1979 after all!), equip themselves with as much knowledge as possible and allow me the opportunity to be part of a family, a mainstream school and a community. I like to say that they did a pretty good job!
Let me share 3 life lessons that I hope you can implement in your life and relationship with your children:
1. Believe in yourself.
When I meet parents of children with disabilities, I always say to them that the greatest gift that they can give their child is to believe in them. I was never made to feel ashamed of my physical disability – if I wanted to run naked across the beach, I did (although they’re a bit more strict on this now!). Often parents try to hide their child’s disability, perhaps by covering them up or taking them out of situations where a hidden disability may be made visible. Often, it’s not from shame, but from the need to protect the child from stares or judgement. The problem is that this gives the child the indirect message that they need to hide their disability; that something is wrong and it must not be seen. If you believe in them, they will believe in themselves. It also comes down to the belief you have in yourself that you can handle change, challenges and adversity.
2. Focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t.
After one of my talks, a young mother came up to me afterwards and said that this life lesson has made her rethink her approach to her son. He has developmental delays and she realised that she was so focused on having him achieve his milestones on time, that she was forgetting to focus on his strengths. She was always comparing her son to his peers and feeling pressure from other moms questioning when he had started walking, feeding himself or holding a pencil. The interaction I had with this mom is what inspires me to keep speaking! Imagine my parents did not focus on what I can do?! We need to embrace our uniqueness; recognise that we can’t all be good at everything.
3. Learn to tolerate uncertainty.
Being a parent comes with a great deal of uncertainty. Imagine my parents uncertainty about my abilities when I was born. My mom “stopped working” and took on the challenging role of raising me and my siblings full-time. I was encouraged to play educational games, take part in all activities and when I started school, my teachers knew that it would be important for me to have extra computer lessons (the Commodore 64 in those days!). It is impossible for us to know what will happen in the future. We cannot predict our children’s strengths, challenges or life path. What we can do is equip ourselves with as much information as possible, give our children the best we can and keep learning each day. If you worry too much about tomorrow, you cannot enjoy today.