Hey folks. I’ve got a few random thoughts swirling around in my head these days about parenting, and how it’s changing me and my own awareness of self… I’m going to just start writing and see what things come out. Bear with me.
Respect is a complex concept for a one year old, perhaps too complex? Well certainly too complex to explain in words and signs… it is one of those things that really must be demonstrated for young ones, that they might grow up in life experiencing it. As we grow accustomed to it’s presence, we are then most aware of it’s existence when it is absent- isn’t that true for so many of life’s gifts? Respect feeds compassion, another virtue that must be grown into as time goes by. Although I think that most young children lack true altruism- simply, that is not their jobs as they are engaged in a self-centered exploration of the universe, I don’t think that respect should be excused as a virtue that children are incapable of. I think these concepts of respect for my space, your space; respect for my things, your things; respect for my choices, and yours can be understood by very young children- but only when respect is consistently modeled for them in their daily lives.
Is this too cryptic? Well let me back up a few weeks. Finn’s new developments this past couple months have included expressing his own will and desires in a much more independent fashion. It is an absolute marvel to see his little personality emerging further as the days pass, as he is getting to know himself while we also get to know him. In all of that Finn-growth I had been finding my own patience well stretched, and Finn as the object of that stretching. It felt like I was reaching capacity some days for his strong will verses mine, and finding a challenge in many situations. But I have to tell you, my desire to learn about myself through this mothering process is so great (dude, doesn’t everyone try to be the best they can at their jobs?) so I try my best to observe my own actions/reactions when we reach a point of conflict, and figure out what is causing the incongruity. At the core I have absolute faith in Finn’s own ability to express his needs. And also at the core I know that my job is to help him translate those expressions into meaningful outcomes- well, as much as he would like me to help.
Last week we ran into a conflict, and when I realized that I had lost sight of respect in our interactions, it sent me thinking and analyzing myself for days. Here’s the story: I had been observing for a couple days that Finn hadn’t been eating much food when we sat down for meals. So about day 3 of this, at lunch we were eating and again he just wasn’t interested, and after a few bites he made his “all done” sign and asked to get down. I was feeling a little concerned so I encouraged him to stay put and try to get a few more bites into him… well this quickly got Finn upset and he started throwing his food all over. Well I was already concerned and on edge, and so the throwing food (an unusual activity for Finn) just set me off. I said quite angrily “STOP! ” and grabbed the food away from him. He burst into tears. I burst into tears. I got him out of his chair, gave him a quick hug, and then marched myself into the kitchen to take a few breaths and calm down.
I was so shaken up, but in those next few minutes as I was wiping up the food on the floor and he came over to ‘help’ it occurred to me that I had brought this on myself. I hadn’t respected Finn’s knowledge of his own hunger, his own desires (clearly expressed by his signs), and I had escalated the situation by trying to force him into something he didn’t want. I would have been pissed off, too, if someone had tried that on me. I wasn’t listening when he told me what he wanted. And it also occurred to me that I wasn’t sure if I was more upset about him not eating or about the tomato pasta splattered across my floor…
So this also got me thinking about priorities, for both mama and baby. For me, a priority is to have the floor clean throughout the day. And so I go around sweeping and wiping because it makes me feel good to have clean floors. This whole respect situation helped me realize that this is not a priority shared by Finn, and he could care less about clean floors. I shouldn’t expect him to value clean floors like I do. That doesn’t mean that I can’t share with him my appreciation for clean floors, and ask him to help with his messes- good habits to learn- but ultimately it’s not his thing, it’s mine. That is me learning to respect his own interests as he learns to respect mine.
Is this making sense? I have so many thoughts floating around, it’s hard to know if they are coming together.
I believe with absolute conviction that my job is to be the compassionate supporting adult and his job is to be the exploring self-centered toddler. And tied directly to that is each of us learning to respect and honor one another’s space and choices. He likes to sit in the living room and read or play with toys or just walk around investigating. I like to be in the kitchen baking or hanging out knitting or sewing. We both check in on each other, but also give each other space to do the things we love to do. I want him to know I’m available, but not on top of him trying to stimulate him all day long- cause honestly, he is pretty capable of long stretches of self-directed activity (respect!). I want him to see me doing the things that I love, learning about me as he grows- mama is a knitter, mama bakes bread, and also seeing that mama is also doing her thing and needs a little space, too (respect!).
Honestly, a great deal of detachment came from these little (big!) realizations. I do love going through these times in life that twist and shift us once again reminding us to let go of attachment to outcomes and expectations and appreciate the magic of one another. There is so much more joy in living WITH the flow, rather than against it. Don’t ya think?
Remember? Grace, Abundance, and Health.