As a parent, there are so many circumstances that arise that make me wonder “Is this normal? Is my child the only one that acts this way or talks this way?” Sometimes parenting can feel like the greatest thing since sliced bread, and at other times can feel like the most lonely job in the world. What often makes me see clearly again (and laugh!) is remembering that when you become a parent, you basically join a “club”.
Walking down the grocery aisle, witnessing a toddler scream and cry about not getting the food they want doesn’t make me judge the parent- it softens my heart. It allows me to remember that no one should ever have to feel alone because we have all been there. I remember before becoming a mother having SO many ideas for parents to try and wondering “why can’t they just do this, it will help their child!” This makes me wince now, ever thinking that I had the idea that I knew exactly what to do… I guess that was my ego shining nice and brightly!
One thing I know for sure is that parenting IS hard work. It is also the most heart-opening, raw, beautiful thing I have ever experienced in this lifetime. Never have I ever had someone love me so unconditionally, while I examine my entire life story and values. And never have I ever loved someone so incredibly much who cried, screamed, and kept me up all night long 😉
While visiting dear friends of mine this weekend, I have had time to reflect on my skills and ideas as a parent. I was telling my good friend about how my son has periods when he cries for what seems like 40 minutes at a time. After reflecting on my words and the way I told that story, I realized that I was talking about my son’s feelings as if they were NOT okay. I was projecting. I was expecting him to know how to be calm. And he is only 3 years old.
This weekend, I have also had the luxury of reading Janet Lansbury’s book No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame. In Janet’s book she explains about how to stay calm and navigate our children’s ever-changing emotions in a respectful manner.
“Anchors. We help our child and then allow for emotional explosions in response, because children need help with those, too. The assistance they need is an anchor- our patient presence and empathy while they safely ride this wave out. When the wave passes, they need us to acknowledge their feelings, forgive, understand, and let go so they can, too” (No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame. Chapter 15, page 79).
I owe so much gratitude to Janet Lansbury and the late Magda Gerber for creating this “philosophy” called RIE: Resources for Infant Educarers. RIE (http://www.rie.org) is one of the most respectful, clear-cut parenting approaches that I have ever learned about; respectful for the infant/child, as well as the parent/caregiver. If you or anyone you know is looking for some advice with your infant/toddler/child, I definitely suggest at least checking out Janet Lansbury’s blog: http://www.janetlansbury.com
Back to parenting… sometimes I just wish I could have a GIANT sign on my forehead for parents to see that read: IT’S OKAY. YOU ARE DOING GREAT! I want other parents out there to feel CONNECTED and to know that it is okay to have rough days and amazing days…. all those days are normal in the realm of basic human existence. Having children doesn’t mean we are supposed to have “glittery, sparkling happy days every single day”! THAT just isn’t normal.
We, as parents, have so much responsibility each day and constantly worry about how our child is in comparison to other children… we are hearing a variety of messages and things to try from our peers, well-meaning family members, our children’s teacher, etc. Amidst this constant dialogue coming from others and within ourselves, it is extremely important to do the following:
2. Breathe. Inhale….Exhale… and repeat 3 times slowly.
3. Think of your child. Smile inwardly to yourself and remember YOUR CHILD IS EXACTLY WHERE THEY NEED TO BE. They are on their own path, their own journey, and so are YOU as their parent (and as an individual).
Enjoy parenting… it is an amazing dance that may look like wild-animals stomping around at times, and at other times may look like a beautiful ballet. No matter the form, it really is all good.
***As a side-note… writing these stories about my son and my parenting brought up mixed feelings for me, While I am happy to share stories of success and struggle to help others out there, I also want to respect the privacy of my son and his emerging feelings as an individual. So please, remember that my experience is just my own. It’s not better or worse than anyone else’s. Be gentle towards yourself and be gentle towards others. After all, we are all in this together!