Monday, November 22, 2010

what I'm doing while they're growing

It's a good question, really. What am I doing to grow and change as a mom while the kids are growing and changing?  There are tons of parenting resources for when they're babies.  (Not that I really was an evangelist for any of them-- I was very quickly skeptical of any book that deemed itself to be The Answer and ended up flexing around a bunch of self-made and online-mama-tested strategies that end up suspiciously sounding like path-of-least-resistance attachment-ish parenting.)

And that makes sense.  A new parent might feel overwhelmed or pretty content to hang out with the baby until the Real Mom showed up (or some combination, like I did), but either way, it was nice to know there was probably a book out there that affirmed whatever parenting style I'd adopted.  The never-ending stream of advice in books for parents of newborns feeds perfectly into the new-parent need to know "am I doing this right?"

But just because we're a few years in doesn't mean my questions have abated. They've changed. I no longer spend hours researching how long breastmilk keeps in the fridge, which carrier is best, the ins and outs of cloth diapering or where to find the cheapest paper diapers-- especially since Sabrina is now potty trained, night and day in underwear (whether it's a giant miracle or the EC we kind of sort of did with her when she was an infant or both, the fact is she definitely wanted to wear underwear like her big sister).

What I do wonder about is how to support my 4 year old's emotional needs and questions, and it's more heartbreaking and complicated than throwing out 6-hour old unrefrigerated breastmilk (although that's fraught too).  These days she's got some anxieties around pre-school, and it comes out in all sorts of ways.  Sometimes she talks about it, but often when I offer to listen she runs away. And it's so hard to know what to do next, when it seems like every skill I have as a parent and as a person is exhausted, and still nothing has worked.  When her answer to everything is to stick out her tongue. When hugs, coaxing, sharp tones, gentle tones, or any kind of communication gets no response because she's repeating endlessly endlessly endlessly, "I don't want to! I don't want to!" When she's too fast and strong to chase down, too smart to threaten. I'm not the strong-arm type of parent anyway-- those methods feel awkward when I try them on, and never work anyway.

So here we are, past the baby books.  I decided awhile ago that there was one book that might help.

From The Tao Te Ching for Parents- a new interpretation by William Martin:

49. Giving Respect
When your children behave,
give them respect and kindness.

When your children misbehave,
give them respect and kindness.

When they are hateful,
love them.
When they betray your trust,
trust them.

The River of Life nurtures
everything it touches
without asking for anything.
You will be happy and content
if you do the same.