I was reading a blog post about gifts we have to pass on to our children and the first item on the list was the gift of empathy.
Empathy is something very important to me. Trying to understand how other people feel makes me a better person. It also makes me a better writer, which is something I always strive to be.
I also happen to feel like a lot of people these days are missing empathy. Every day I meet people who are rude or self-important and people who make jokes at the expense of others.
The post reminded parents: “… let’s not be the parent who addresses their crying child with exasperation and says, “You’re fine!””
I am an empathetic parent. I often take my daughter in my arms and discuss how she feels about something, tell her I’m sorry and that I understand, share stories of when I have felt similarly.
But then I thought some more, and it occurred to me that I’m not a very empathetic co-parent. It’s so often about me and her that Joe gets left behind.
It was always very important to me that if I decided to have children, that my children would have a great dad. It was non-negotiable. I didn’t think I would be a good enough mother to make it on my own, so a great dad was a must. I found one.
Joe comes from a great, loving family and always wanted to be a dad. He loves our daughter very, very much, but he struggles. It doesn’t help that she always wants mommy first. Sometimes to the point of kicking and screaming.
And in the fight between him and her, the kid usually wins with me. She get angry, unreasonable, whiny, Joe gets angry, walks away from the situation and comes to fine me. Me being totally un-empathetic.
I don’t understand why it’s so easy for me to hold her emotions with my whole heart, but so difficult for me to set her aside for a few moments and put myself in Daddy’s shoes. It’s just so much work to feel both sides of an argument. It’s not fair that she wins just because she’s little and learning. She’s a smart kid, she knows what she’s doing a lot of the time when she picks battles.
At the really bad times, I worry that parenting will tear us apart, which seems totally ridiculous and unfair. We should be brought together by our love for this child.
So? Take a step back, let go, develop more empathy for the least-wanted parent – as frustrating as being the most wanted.