I have two brothers. Shaun, our youngest brother lives in Johannesburg, South Africa and Dean lives in Sydney, Australia. It just so happened that both of my brothers were in New York for work last week and stayed with us for the weekend. It has been four years since the three of us were together at the same time and that was for Shaun’s wedding. My kids were so excited to have two uncles visiting and we had a great weekend hanging out together.
We reminisced and shared many family stories. It’s interesting to see which incidents and events stood out from our childhoods or had the most impact. It was especially interesting to see how a particular situation was such an important and dramatic event for one of us and yet did not affect another at all. In many ways we are so defined and molded not only by our experiences but by our perceptions of that experience and the narrative that we develop in our memories
It made me think about a class I heard a few weeks back. The teacher, Chani Jurval, told us that she an annual review process for her kids. She explained that just like we get reviewed by our colleagues and bosses at work, why should we not get a review from little people who are far more important – our kids?
Once a year she gets the family together usually when they are in the car on a road trip. Each kid can mention one parenting issue or concern that they had in the last year. She told us how one kid was adamant that she had hit him with a shoe. She said she was so shocked at the accusation as it was patently untrue. But on further reflection, she realized this is not about her – if that was her child’s perception then that is his or her reality. And it was far better to come out now then fester for the next twenty years and become part of the kid’s psychological baggage.
I think this approach is so wise and really struck a chord with me. So many of the situations I discussed with my siblings were seen so differently by each of us yet for the one whom the issue was relevant it was so defining in many ways.
I have decided to make annual parent evaluations part of our family interaction. I am curious to hear what the issues or incidents are for my children today.
For all of us, our perception is our reality and how much more so is perception critically important and formative for our impressionable children. I think it behooves us as parents to pause and intermittently take the pulse of what is going on in our children’s reality.
Originally published: April 23, 2012