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A few years ago I was preparing for the birth of my baby. Looking back I remember washing and folding the soft, and tiny clothing my newborn would soon be wearing. I remember thinking about the future then. Nursing, holding and walking her. Talking, singing and playing with her. I even looked further into the future. What will she be like as a little girl? What will she do as a grown woman?
I envisioned her first day at school, her first date, her wedding, and one day attending the birth of her children and walking through the woods with her in my golden years.
I had prepared well for her birth and for motherhood. I did yoga, meditated and ate well. I worked through and healed most of my childhood issues and read every book under the sun about birthing, the first years and parenting. This yoga baby would come out with a clean slate and be happy, peaceful and balanced from her first breath and for the rest of her life.
What I did not prepare for were the six weeks of colic, sleepless nights, the teething, shifts in my relationship with my husband and of course, disciplining a toddler and having the outer limits of my patience tested on a moment to moment basis. Motherhood is not a fantasy. It is the real deal. It is fierce karma. It is at once the most difficult work and the most sublime work I have ever experienced in my life. I would not trade it for anything else in the world.
Here are a few tips i have learned so far:
1. No matter what I did and what I do, my daughter has her own karma and a path that is meant for her. There have been times when she cries for hours and I have asked myself, “what did I do wrong, why isn’t she happy? I don’t get it.” But she is her own person, flesh and blood with her own feelings, thoughts and actions. Her soul has chosen this life, this body to receive the lessons it needs. My thoughts, feelings and actions have nothing to do with that.
I constantly remind myself that this is not about me, this is about her. I can rest assured that I created a strong foundation for her to grow but I cannot fool myself into thinking that I am the master of her destiny. I am here as one of her many guides, her mother, friend and student.
2. Children learn from example. Yes, even toddlers. Okay, so of course I have heard this a million times and I even remember spewing it out to my mom when she would tell me to do something when I was a child. When I approach her with love, compassion and patience, my daughter mirrors back to me love, compassion and patience (most of the time). Likewise, when I am unbalanced my daughter reflects that back to me. On those occasions when I lose focus and bark out a demand, she responds with neither calmness nor cooperation.
Since my daughter was three months old we have been attending a class and practicing a parenting philosophy called RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers). Odd name, I agree, yet it has taught me to respect my child, listen to her and honor her. I have learned that when I apply those practices to myself, the result is that they authentically flow from me to her. I believe that as I love and cherish myself she will do the same as she grows into a woman. That is my intention.
3. Parenting is not 50/50. It is 100/100. My husband and I consciously decided to share parenting duties together. We are blessed in that we both work out of our home and have opted not to have a nanny for the first few years of our daughter’s life. This decision has at times been challenging for us both. Now that we have a child, it has occasionally been difficult for my husband to maintain the kind of focus he was able to apply to his work before our daughter was born. But I also know that he feels blessed that he was able to take such a major role from early on. I, too, am grateful that he has been able to be there for us, especially as my career and work have been expanding.
There have also been times when I have wished he could do more, times when I have not agreed with his style of parenting, and times when I wished he was able to lactate. The reality is that when our daughter wants mommy, she wants mommy, and daddy just won’t do. The reality is that my husband is a father and a man and I a mother and a woman. Those two facts alone define different roles for us and will inevitably produce different styles of parenting. Then of course, there are the differences in the way we were raised, our different personalities and some varied beliefs as well. These differences will cultivate our individual relationships with her and shape the person she is going to be. I have found that it is necessary to honor our differences and our roles as parents.
The lessons of parenting and the opportunities for growth are vast. These few are merely the tip of the iceberg, perhaps the beginning of a book on the subject. For now, I remain open to the blessings and opportunities of now and welcome what is to come.
For more information about RIE (Resources for Infant Educators), visit rie.org.