Have you ever tried to put together Ikea furniture without following the instructions? I don’t even know if that’s humanely possible. Even with instructions, it’s frustrating and overwhelming at best.
When it comes to parenting and all the various ‘styles’ that are out there, I believe that as long as you do your very best for your child and commit to really being present with them on your journey together, there’s very little that can go wrong.
Wouldn’t it still be nice though if your child came with instructions that could help you figure it all out? I don’t know why they don’t tell you in the hospitals or in the parenting magazines, but they actually DO!
Perhaps it was so small you missed it when the stork delivered your bundle of joy or it was stuck to the inside of the wrapping, thrown out and left behind when you took baby home.
The fact remains that each and every individual child DOES arrive with an instruction manual to guide his or her parent through. Shy child? Yep there is a chapter on that. Difficult baby? – A whole section dedicated in there! If you’ve got a problem, this manual 100% has a way to guide you through.
Now, before you start googling or getting your credit card out for Amazon… just hold off a minute. You already have a copy imprinted directly on your heart.
When my first child was born, I realised very quickly that he (and therefore, I too, as his mother), didn’t seem to fit in. Born not quite at peace with the world, it took an incredible amount of soul searching and challenging of everything around me perceived as being ‘right’ to find our path together.
I sought answers from every expert. Label us, please tell us what’s wrong! But no amount of expert opinion could give us an answer. In fact, the very opposite. They simply reassured me that while our situation was definitely not ‘normal’ (…”the doctor has asked if you could please wait down the hallway with your screaming baby”…) he himself, was perfectly ‘normal’.
So it only left one other possibility to consider. That it was me. But while I was trying my hardest, I was still failing dismally and day after day, I would find myself staring desperately at my wailing child, images of sweet lullabies and walks in the sunshine fading further and further away.
One night, a few months in, he finally fell exhausted into one of his beautiful deep sleeps. I remember sitting there, outside his door for a very long time in the silence of the night, weeping until my tears ran dry and feeling emotionally drained. I just sat there silent. And it was in that silence that I crawled back into his room, looked at my sleeping child and simply whispered to him “I’ve got this kiddo”.
I found renewed strength, took a sledgehammer to the images in my mind, in my heart, of what my child was supposed to be like, how it was supposed to feel and what society said he was supposed to do and I gave both of us a clean slate with no expectations.
Fiercely protective and burnt out from judgement being passed on a daily basis, I decided from then on to start walking to the beat of my own drum and the beat of my own heart.
I became responsive, instead of reactive. I tuned into his world and was respectful of his individual needs, as opposed to what others wanted from him. I found joy in his individuality, instead of despair. I searched for him. And I found him.
And in doing so, he and I began to thrive. It didn’t become easier, in fact, it became harder. But I had answers. I had confidence. And I had trust.
Society at large often didn’t agree however. More and more judgement was passed our way. I cannot tell you how many times I heard through the grapevine or worse, overhead them myself, that I was doing it wrong. That by not pushing him harder, or being tougher on him that I was only going to create bigger problems further down the track.
But tonight, as I yet again watched my happy, kind-hearted and well-adjusted child move confidently outside of his comfort zone, I give thanks for those early days that forced me to look deep within and learn to ignore societies expectations. And for helping me discover and open the instruction manual for my child that I so desperately needed to find.
If you ever feel lost or overwhelmed, just pause. Quieten the world around you, open your heart and find the instructions that are sitting there waiting for you. No-one knows your child like you do. If it feels wrong, it is. You’re born with that instinct, an unconscious connection between your heart and theirs.
It’s quite simply just parenting by heart.
And always remember… You’ve got this kiddo.