Written by The Mom
“Mommy, what’s perspective?”
I wasn’t expecting this question from my 4 and a half year old daughter, especially after a long, mentally exhausting and frustrating day with the kids. Perspective is something I want my children to understand as they grow up, and while I don’t think it’s dire that she grasp the concept at her young age, if she’s willing to ask then I’m willing to try to explain it as best as I can for her… Even though I really just want to change the subject to something that doesn’t require any thinking until it’s time for me to collapse into bed.
“Well, let me think about how to explain it to you,” I tell her.
I think to myself while she waits. A summed up definition of perspective is, “a point of view”. But perspective is much deeper and more complicated than just that. It’s empathy, compassion, putting yourself in another person’s shoes.
I have found perspective to be vital in my marriage, both in my relationship with my husband one-on-one and also in how we parent together. Perspective helps me remember when I am passionately defending my point of view that my husband feels the same about his contrary one. It reminds me that even though I am home all day with the kids while my husband is away at work, his parenting is just as important, valid, and real to our children as mine is.
I also use perspective every day when parenting my children. It reminds me that their feelings are big, real, and not always easy for them to process. When kids show real and raw emotion, especially emotion that they are struggling to reign in and control, it’s about as honest as it gets. Perspective helps me take a deep breath, hold on to my self-control, and understand what my child is thinking or feeling in the moment.
Perspective doesn’t have to mean the same thing as acceptance. While perspective helps me understand why my child really doesn’t want to get in the car/change their clothes/hold my hand/go to bed, it doesn’t mean that I accept their refusal to. It helps me to gently guide them into following through with what is necessary while hopefully enabling me to keep patient and not flip out on them. Even though my daughter doesn’t comprehend the full meaning of perspective yet, it is something she (and my sons) are learning every day. They learn it when I calmly explain to them why they have to follow certain rules. They learn it when I get impatient and yell at them. They learn it when I apologize to them for yelling at them.
I use perspective in other ways in my parenting as well. Our generation has more styles, ideas, and variations in parenting than any generation before us (or maybe they are just more openly displayed and discussed). Perspective helps us understand each other: that just because someone is not choosing to parent the way we choose to; it does not mean they are less of a parent, or that they love their children less, or that their children won’t turn out to be… successful, well-rounded, polite, kind, respectful, smart, healthy, or whatever else parents worry about their kids turning out to be. Perspective means understanding that while different parenting styles may guide children towards one type of life or another, ultimately children grow up and become their own people who make their own choices.
My daughter is waiting. I do the best I can.
I pick up a glass of water and hold it at the level of my chest. She looks up at the water, at me, curiosity in her eyes.
“Do you see this glass of water?” I ask her.
“Did you have to look up or down to see it?”
She glances down and sees the floor. She looks back up at the glass of water.
“Up,” she replies.
“That’s your perspective,” I say. “What do you think my perspective is? Do I have to look up or down to see the glass of water?” I look up and stare at the ceiling, then down at the glass of water in my hands.
“You see the water when you look down,” she says.
“That’s right. You have to look up to see the water, but I have to look down to see it. We have different perspectives.”
It’s far from a perfect explanation but she wanders away deep in thought, which is what I wanted. It’s a start.
Yes, I rely heavily on perspective every day as a mother, as a wife, as a human being.
Someday, I hope my children will grow up to balanced, mature adults who can put themselves in another person’s shoes and show empathy, compassion, and love, even if it’s towards those they don’t agree with.
It’s been a tough day. My kids accidentally walked through freshly poured cement and ruined their shoes (and the cement). They were particularly ornery and picked fights with each other all day. They were whiny and clingy. At some point, every one of them burst into tears (myself included).
I can’t wait for them to go to bed. As the day winds down, my 3 year old son picks up his Spiderman sippy cup, tucks it under his arm and wraps his other arm around my leg.
His Daddy and sister have already headed down the hall towards the bedroom and as he starts to follow them he calls back to me over his shoulder, “I love you, Mommy.”
Perspective brings tears to my eyes and settles in my chest like love.