Sometime about two months ago or so, I was sitting in the living room with my family and I looked around and realized… I’m relaxed. I’m relaxed, at home, with my family. And yet, everyone is awake...! And I realized that it’s been about, what, four years? Since I’ve felt that way.
I’m not sure if it’s because the kids have hit a developmental stage where they can play more independently, or because something has shifted internally in the way I approach parenting, or a little of both. Up until this point, parenting has been for me a source of constant tension – always worrying about what and whether they’re eating, timing their sleep just right, wondering in just what ways I'm doing permanent damage to their psyches, and of course the ever-present risk of bodily harm as they careen through a world full of sharp corners and hard surfaces. Short of raising them inside a padded room, though, I didn’t really see any other way to do it.
When we were in Akron I heard a quote that began to revolutionize the way I think about my role as their parent: “children are hard-wired for struggle.” And I thought, wow, that’s true. That’s how we learn. Remove from their world all struggle and pain, and you remove the opportunity for them to learn and grow up to be resilient, adaptable, resourceful individuals. Not only is it impossible, but it’s actually not good for them. They are born with the inner resources to meet the challenges of life and grow through the struggle. It’s my job to nurture them through that process in a timely manner, to judge what struggles they’re ready for, to coach them through it. Not over or around it. Through it.
The tension and fear that has shadowed me as I shepherd them through life is abating somewhat. I find that these moments of relaxation are becoming more frequent and longer in duration. I still find myself at times drawing in to that place of tension and fear, that robs me of my breath and joy. I remind myself to breathe, to shake it off. (This is something I’ve been working on a bit with my sister-in-law who just started a business as a life-coach, she’s fabulous – I highly recommend her!)
This is who I want to be as a parent: patient, playful, positive, and peaceful. I’m also looking for a word that starts with P that means teaching – pedagogic? Professorial? Not sure those capture the idea – but focusing on these notions has recently helped me recently as I confront trying moments.
When Valerie was born, someone said to me “Enjoy your baby.” I want to remember to do that every day. Enjoy my children.