I was not a gentle parent with my first born. I felt pressured to entertain her at every moment. I had all the gadgets + battery operated toys that I believed made her happy + helped her develop. I forced diaper changes when she got squirmy + never let her have any time alone to be curious, play freely or rest in boredom.
As she got older, we entered the tantrum stage. Her anger made me angry. Her crying made me cry. In an attempt to “control” the situation, I would yell, punish + threaten. I was so scared + uncertain, and that revealed itself everyday. I forced her to share, to apologize + beneath the surface, just needed her to make ME feel more comfortable being her mama. Today, I’m not a perfect parent. But I’ve learned so much since then. To some, these shifts may be minor, even ridiculous. To me however, they are monumental.
As a child, I was always told what to do, but never shown how to do it. I shouldn’t grab off someone’s plate, yet mine was always up for grabs. I was punished for hitting my brother, by being spanked with a leather belt. I was asked to tell the truth, yet teased for being too sensitive + sent to my room for getting upset. I was considered disrespectful or bratty if I denied a hug, and carried all of these “rules” with me into my own parenting. I had to unlearn a lot, and it took time. I had to pave a new way for myself, for us, with intention + hard work.
We are taught to believe that children are helpless; that they don’t know how or what to do unless we make it loud + clear. We fear they’ll fall behind, in crawling, walking, talking. We sign them up for activities they don’t like so that they become “well rounded.” We won’t let them quit anything because quitting isn’t an option, even if we have to lose ourselves.
Truth is, children (even babies) know a lot more about life than you + I. But over time our narratives + conditioning + fears strip them of their curiosities + boundaries + confidences. We force them to please us + others, dimming their light + innate creativity.
What we really say to them is: I don’t trust myself as a parent, and therefore I can’t trust you either. I have found, the work really starts with me.