I was at the climbing gym with my middle daughter. She shared with me that I inspired her to step just a bit more. When we climb, even when I am tired, I push myself to do just one more wall, even though I know it's going to be tough. She told me that example inspires her to step out with just a bit more effort than she THINKS she has. That moment showed me how important my example to my daughters is and how important it is for me to recognize my own determination.
My oldest daughter was making her first big move away for a job and was having some anxiety over the change. We talked about all the wonderful things that it could bring, but also that if she didn't like it, that the changes she makes in life never have to be permanent. She went on to make the move and had a wonderful growing experience but realized she wanted to be closer to family. After about 18 months she moved back. She also updated her favorite quote on Facebook to read
"Nothing ever has to be permanent. ~ My Mom"
That showed me how impacting and lasting my words to my daughters can be.
My youngest daughter took her first summer job. When she started we let her know that she was responsible for getting up on her own and too work on her own. That's a challenge for any first job, but even more considering that she had to be at work at 7am every day, and that she does not yet drive. We have always given them accountability over themselves- the level increased as they got older. She took on her responsibility and did it all summer long without complaining. That showed me the importance of teaching them life skill and responsibility. It stays with them as the step off into the world.
All of these things were not overt lessons that happened in single conversations or commands barked- although conversations were had. They were more of lessons by example, consistency, and perseverance. My children watched me, listened to my words, and learned from the boundaries and responsibilities of our household.
As parents, it's difficult to see the rewards and the progress of parenting in each day. But, it does come. As they step into the world the impact you have had shines directly back to you like your reflection in a mirror. They have been absorbing how to be in the world through their relationship with you. Certainly social examples have an influence, but at the core of their foundation, what they have watched and learned from you is what steers them. It is a huge responsibility to be such a large part of their compass.
The next decision you make, the next words you speak, the next time you handle anger or failure, the next crisis you navigate, the next triumph you have, the next goal you work towards, the next time you show compassion - keep in mind that it sets the narrative of who your children are and how they have learned to be in the world. They can be either empowered or encumbered by what they see. Choose wisely and steward your life in the way that fills their understanding with useful tools.
Remember - they're watching...