February 24, 2019
Babies are awe inspiring. We stop to behold them like we would a sunrise or a flower in springtime. We breathe out, hold our fluttering hearts, dab our teary eyes and wonder, who are you little one? Where have you come from? What do you need?
When parents first look into their baby’s eyes, they fall deeply in love and worry about whether they can do what’s right for the precious little being entrusted to them. What if there is no right or wrong in parenting, but there is showing up, doing your best, and accepting the outcome? Discerning what a child wants from what a child needs and what a parent wants from what is happening is a lifelong process, maybe lifetimes. It presents a form of a puzzle, one that takes practice and experimentation to solve. Parents sacrifice uninterrupted sleep, expectations of how things will go, personal time to do whatever they want, to engage in solving this puzzle – all because of incredible devotion to their child.
Babies have much in common, but they are not all the same. Some sleep for extended periods, eat and digest with ease, and make parents feel like they are doing a good job, which is easier to come by when you are well-rested. Others sleep in spurts, eat frequently, and struggle to eliminate. Weary parents can feel a loss of confidence. The child’s response to our actions is not a measure of our parenting success. It is not a parent’s job to make a child happy nor for the child to prove to parents that they are doing it right. Both are self- generated.
Nonetheless, parents can understand themselves and their child, and do much to support development. Children are an expression of life itself in its many unique forms. The more parents cultivate the ability for objective observation, for accepting what comes, and for acknowledging but not indulging their emotions, the more capable they become of addressing what is. Any devoted parent who feeds, clothes, houses, and loves their child is doing a good job, despite the outcomes. Struggles are normal and are a part of the learning process.
Besides providing for our child’s physical needs, emotional needs are best met by a mature and steady adult. It is safe to bond to a steadfast parent; a strong primary attachment is key to a child’s healthy development. The child may be rocked by the sensations of the physical body, by emotions that wrack their souls, but the adult who models that no matter what, all shall be well, provides just what the child needs to bear it all.
Young children absorb everything in their environment, particularly the human beings in it. Adult’s way of being even more that what they do, makes an impression. Practicing a calm, confident and caring way of being does not guarantee immediate results in our children, but it does guarantee that adults will develop a certain unwavering way of being. This is a source of security for both the child and the adult in a world that can be chaotic at times.
Practicing this way of being is a path of self-development. Parenting is a path of self-development, if we choose to make it so. Due to the devotion to a child, motivation is high. Since we are not perfect, mistake-making is common, which also increases motivation to stay on the path and along the way, to hone our sense of humor. There is no better way to address life’s pitfalls than both acknowledging the truth and finding a way to laugh, to make light, especially of our own foibles.
Along the way, we may become better parents. We may become better human beings. Our children may imitate us, obey us, and emulate us, yet they will not become us. They will become themselves. They will live out their destiny path and do what it is they came to do.
Parents may claim success if they have shown up, learned along the way, taken responsibility for everything they can change (including themselves), and released the rest. All parenting paths are not the same, but every path has stretches that are winding, rocky and steep, even so, walking the path is a privilege. A privilege that both requires and fosters courage and perseverance. Learning to accept, go under, above or around obstacles leads to strength, gratitude for the lessons, and confidence in the ability to learn from life. Without obstacles, we might not discover our inner resources. Knowing and developing them, is what we are here for.
by Judith Frizlen
Founder of the Rose Garden Early Childhood Center and Author of Unpacking Guilt, A Mother’s Journey to Freedom