“To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”-Elbert Hubbard
Everyone that you encounter in everyday life has their own story that you don’t know. Some are on a downward slope; some are trekking up a difficult mountain. Some may be in the midst of a life disaster; others are proud of themselves for having just dug out of a deep hole. In your daily interactions, this is really important to keep in mind. Even those on the “lows” will try their best to present themselves well to strangers, but they can be very fragile. So, when dealing with the cashier at the store who made a mistake, or with the girl at the office that seems to be forgetting everything today, you don’t know the full story. They may not have slept at all last night due to a newborn with a cold, or because of a teenager who is going through some difficulties at school. Maybe they just visited their mother with dementia, or their best friend after a difficult cancer surgery. Just like you have faced difficulties and have wanted and hoped for empathy, you should be ready to offer it at every interaction.
Many of us are still working on rebuilding our worlds after disaster, others are trying to become the best they can be; but, ALL of us are a work in progress. It takes time and a tremendous amount of effort to get where you are going in life. Regardless of how hard you try and how far you have grown, those that are watching your progress from the outside will always have some opinion of your choices and evolution. Sometimes they are supportive; many times, they are not. You may find that they are harsh and critical. Finding others on the same journey as you will provide some sounding boards for feedback, but be careful to be conscious of the opinions from those that may not actually be moving forward. They can drag you down.
Unfortunately, a lot of the time you will find your harshest critics will be the elder members of your own family, which can be frustrating and difficult to tune out. Even worse, though, is when it is your own children… Little kids that don’t understand why you are spending time building yourself up, instead of time with them; older teens or young adult children, who resent you for changing their surroundings, even when it was not your choice to do so. They know you well enough to know which jabs and digs will hurt the most, but they are young enough to not realize how painful these jabs can be when the world is already beating you down. When the very people you are trying to make abetter life FOR are the ones who seem the least appreciative, the worst feeling of wanting to give up can start to take hold in your very soul.
You want to be attentive to your kids in every way, but you can’t be if you are not first attentive to your own needs. Like the airplane pre-flight safety demonstration tells us, we must first put on our own mask before helping others secure theirs. What use will you be to your kids if you are not working on being the best you possible? How will you lead by example if you are a crippled mess yourself? It is your job to drag your family through this rough patch, even if they are kicking and screaming, into the best life you can offer them.
Your older children are starting to see how the world works outside of your household, and sometimes they feel enlightened beyond their years when they see what seems to be a “better way” happening at someone else’s house. Remember thinking how great some other family was compared to your own as a teen? You know, that one family whose kids were allowed to do whatever they wanted? They didn’t have to do homework or even go to school… maybe even drank and smoked without reprimand. Were you incredibly jealous of that lifestyle as a teen? Looking at it now, as an adult, it is absolutely horrific how little those children were cared for and looked after, and many of those children had a difficult time entering adulthood.
Your kids may critique your choices, but hold in the front of your mind that you are making these choices for yourself and your family with THEIR best interest at heart, and that YOU have more perspective than they have. They are not aware of the nuances of the full situation… there may be things they have been completely shielded from for their own well being (like when lawyers start getting involved…). Their opinions have worth and weight, so listen to them and hear their concerns. If they are valid, be sure to let them know you have considered them in your choices. Try your best to explain to them your reason for your choices, though they still won’t likely understand, and then do what you have judged to be best and accept your choice.
It hurts, very deeply, to have this criticism, especially from those you want to give the best life too. Hold on to hope that in the future, when these children have grown and seen first-hand some of the difficulties this world can throw at them, they will have some more perspective and appreciate those hard choices you made “back in the day”. For today, just hold your chin up and take a few deep breaths. Protect them from danger, provide them a good life, teach by example, and give them tools they need to enter adulthood with the necessary skills. Check off that box and consider it a job well done.