9 years ago I had an ectopic pregnancy which you can read about Here. I had carried around the fear of infertility for a long time. I prayed, yearned and waited for this little girl. Parenting her is the highest privilege that God has bestowed upon me.
Raising someone is a very personal act and there is no “right way” to do it. We are all driven by a deep love and desire to do what’s best for our children, which looks different for all families.
This past 2.5 years of raising a rather headstrong, assertive little girl who marches to the beat of her own drums, have taught me quite a lot. Parenting her has been the catalyst to the most tremendous growth, learning and unlearning process of my entire life.
We do not follow any specific parenting rules, but as our parenting muscles have gotten stronger we have established some guidelines, limits and certain things that are really important to us.
1. It all starts with us
What I have come to learn is that I need to constantly parent myself before assuming the responsibility of raising another human being.
Children learn through observation, they mirror a lot of what they see. They might not listen three-quarters of the time (frustrating, I know) but they are observing us and learning from us.
How do I teach my child not to hit when I use corporal punishment on her? How do I teach her respect and politeness when am constantly yelling at her? how do I teach her patience when I cannot afford her any. How do I teach kindness, empathy, or any value worth having if I do not model it?
On impulse, I am impatient and irritable. It is a constant job overriding my impulses and parenting from a more conscious, mindful and aware state. I have to constantly check in with myself, breath, journal, do what I have to do to calm myself down. It is a lot of work and at times I fail, but it is worth it, because, not only does it make for a calmer child but a little bit of an easier parenting.
About a year ago I learnt something that I haven’t quite mastered but constantly working on. To start with the end in mind. To visualize the relationship and bond I want to have with my loved ones, not just now, but in years to come. This strategy helps me be intentional with the way I choose to interact with her and build on the things that will lead us to the envisioned end goal.
2. Fostering Autonomy
Someone told me a while ago that I needed to be more of an authoritarian! Mind you, not because my child was badly behaved, but because she did not understand the need to confer with a child while making decisions about her. Note, said child is a toddler whose speech is developed enough to communicate her needs and wants. I felt offended.
The way we parent is mostly impacted by the way we were parented. I want to raise my child in a script that we write. Not how I was raised, not how anybody thinks I should raise her. I’m sure she will not escape unscared but at least she will have a hand in writing her script.
It is important for me to foster a feeling of autonomy. To remember that though she came through me, she is not a part of me. She is not an extension of myself but an individual with her own character which is beautiful and flawed as well. I let her take the lead on little things that make no difference to me. Little things that help her build a sense of independence as well as boost her confidence.
She gets to directly influence a lot of things that happen in her day to day life. Nothing too big because we know a lot of choices can overwhelm little people. We want her to always know that her opinion counts and is taken into consideration.
She gets to decide if she wants to play at home or go to the park. Wear outfit a or b, walk or sit in the stroller. Does she want to shower or bath? Should we cook happy nudeln (pasta) or ugali? Does she want to cook with me or play while I cook? How much she eats is her decision, our bedtime read as well. We also let her know and consent before we hold another child. It might sound absurd but it helps cut out the crying that would have followed had we not informed her.
While this is all great for her development it demands a lot of patience. I have days where it runs so thin. Days where I tell her, the same thing for about 1000 times. Days that I’m struggling with anger, days that I’m just dog tired. Days where I don’t get enough sleep…Generally, bad days Where I’m not fit to parent anyone or anything, not even a plant.
On one of those days, she goes high and I go high! These are my lowest point, rock bottom and my internal prosecutor has a field day! We all know that familiar mom guilt. These days can be so long, they feel like a 48 hours day! On these days, I thank God that I’m not a single parent because then my husband takes over as I find my calm. These days are a reminder that there is no such thing as a perfect parent or a perfect child. I try and meet myself with as much compassion and forgiveness as I can. Hats off to you single parents I see you.
Below is a quote by Gordon Neufeld which resonates with me so strongly. It looks exactly like the end goal I envision for my relationship with Shay.
The secret to parenting is not what a parent does, but rather who a parent is to a child. When a child seeks contact and closeness with us, we become empowered as a nurturer, a comforter, a guide, a model, a teacher or a coach. For a child well attached to us, we are her home base, from which to venture into the world, her retreat to fall back to, her fountainhead of inspiration. All the parenting skills in the world cannot compensate for a lack of attachment relationship. All the love in the world will not get through when the child does not feel connected to us.- Gordon Neufeld
Thank you for reading and please do share your views and opinions with us. Stay tuned for part 2 on breaking the cycle and discipline.