The myth covers only one perspective – maybe Narcissus wasn’t admiring himself in the pool: maybe he was trying to get a sense of himself in the eyes of Other People. Yes – he fell in love with himself – where else was he getting a reflection of self? Who else was offering him a deeper idea of who he is? How else is he going to figure out himself?
In that same way, kiddos receive feedback about who they are based on the reflection from adults in their lives. It’s part of raising kids – and many times it happens under the surface and we don’t even realize how we’re doing it. They pick up on the slight frown, or the sharp exhalation when they say something, or the brightness in our eyes when we see them in the morning, and the open smile. They get a sense of their value and importance in our lives and their own from what they see in us.
As they get older, these non-verbal cues are still important to the developing sense of their adult self. Important information is also gleaned through the words we use and the topics we discuss with them: whether we entrust them with more mature concepts and ‘heavier’ issues. We may feel that they’re not yet ready to tackle these higher level issues, but they do. It can be construed as criticisms and negativity when we don’t include them.
Sensitivity to those slights and criticisms increase, and they hear it louder and more boldly than we may intend. As their map of this adult world expands, they become aware of how their words and actions impact those around them in a more mature way – hence part of the typical self-centered-ness we often see in teens.
A benefit to having two adults in the house is that the adults can help each other see the positives in the kiddos, and gently point out if there have been too many critical comments (haha, or maybe not so gently). When it’s a single parent household with few external adult relationships, all the roles fall into the purview of the present parent.
When drama is unfurling its flag and my view of trio is hazy, it’s helpful for me to take a step back and create some space. It’s easy to lose sight of the bouncing ball that keeps me on track of being the Parent and Modelling. So – to create space between stimulus and reaction where I can check in with myself, breathe, and find out what’s really going on inside. I don’t want trio to create a vision of themselves that is skewed to my reactions and what’s going on inside of me: whatever triggers or thoughts or stresses that I’m working through doesn’t even involve them and I don’t want them to think it’s because of them. But since they have a tendency to think it’s all about them, it can be tough to adequately express that it’s my issue, not theirs (and then they have to realize that I have issues too! That’s a lot for kiddos to absorb).
A wonderful piece of advice was given to me when trio were small: they’re going to be screwed up. I’m going to screw them up. That’s part of being human. We are all imperfect and will all have areas for growth. And it’s wonderful and beautiful and very normal. Humans who know they are imperfect have great potential for growth. Maybe helping trio see that will help them be open to growth and development now and later in life.