Monday, November 2, 2015

Parenthood: Week 125 – Levels Of Giving

My high school senior English teacher taught me about the idea of three levels of giving. The first level of giving was when you would give something to a person but only if you were sure that they would know if was you and would acknowledge your gift.

The second level of giving was when you saw the recipient feel joy from your gift as validation but you didn’t need that person to know the gift was from you. The third level is when you give something to someone but you don’t require any validation from that person. You are motivated not by any feedback from the other person but simply by the feeling of knowing that you are doing something for someone else.

I feel like most of time, I’m at the first level, sometimes I hit the second level and rarely I’m at the third level. That’s the case for most people. It’s hard to do things for others and not get recognition or even see the positive benefits of your actions. Giving for most of us, most of the time really isn’t about the other person, it’s about what we have to gain. Our baser instincts are selfish and it takes a lot of reflection and effort to rise above this.

Parenthood whether you are ready for it or not, places you squarely in the second level and often in the third level. An infant gives you little to no recognition for the time and energy you give to it. Most toddlers have no idea that after they go to bed, dishes are done and houses are cleaned. The reality is that most of the hard work we do for our kids contributes to their life-long development which has many results we will never witness.

Toddlers don’t understand gratitude intuitively and infants have no memory of the times that we scrub their clothes and spend hours rocking them to bed. Because of this lack of awareness, it’s actually not that hard to be a mediocre parent.

If you’re ten minutes late to a kid’s first birthday party, she won’t notice. Your kid will not remember all of the times that instead of reading a book to her, you got lazy and turned on the television. So what is it that keep you going, that gets you to that third level where you do things for this little person who doesn’t say thank you and sometimes doesn’t realize that these good deed are coming from you?

When we do things for our kids, we are nurturing a relationship. When you put in the extra effort to get a stain out of a onesie, you are exercising that part of your heart that gives. Each time you do a small action for your kid, it makes you care that much more, and it motivates you to stay involved. It’s a feeling of pride, it’s a lack of regret and it’s the emotion of love.

We cannot look to our children for gratitude. Yes, we need to raise our kids with a sense of graciousness but we can't look to them for validation. I wasn’t getting it from Ollie when he was an infant, I’m barely getting it now that he’s a toddler.  I don't expect that this will change any time soon.  It’s frustrating at times, because I yearn for that first level, the recognition, but then I have to calm myself and remember that I’m a parent and I need to find a deeper sense of the goodness inside of me to keep myself going.

Push yourself to give all that you can to your child.  Go beyond your comfort level, and make the extra effort every day.  It is aggravating and exhausting, but each time you give, it gets you closer to that third level, where we are at peace with finding the meaning of giving not in what we receive but in the act of giving itself.

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