I am, frankly, surprised at how awesome it is to have a kid. I pushed it off until I reached 30 because of reasons like how much work is involved, responsibility, less freedom, interrupted fun, poop and boogers are gross, and other people’s kids can be so annoying so I need to wait until kids don’t annoy me. But what my mom always said is true. It is so different when it is your kid.
My fun doesn’t get “interrupted”, because it is enjoyable to take care of her. It doesn’t feel like “work”, there’s no burden there when I so thoroughly want to do it. Last week we were in the middle of a hike at the wildlife refuge and her diaper exploded so that it looked like someone squeezed a container of mustard down the front of my pants. The nearest diaper wipe is a half hour walk away and I don’t even think it’s that gross. So different when it’s your baby’s poop.
A new situation today really hit home for me how this is a new and different level of love. This got me thinking how not only do I need to reach a balance concerning worrying and letting go, but I also need to reach a balance concerning empathy and boundary. I’m going to feel my child’s pain and want to take it for her, but I can’t do that.
I don’t want her to come to me with her pain, physical or emotional, and look into my eyes and think that she’s causing me pain/stress with her pain, or for her to just see her pain being reflected back through me. If she had looked into my eyes while getting her shot today and saw me crying, how would she have felt? Of course I wouldn’t mind for a second that I am resonating with her painful experience, but I don’t want this to be the message she picks up, consciously or unconsciously. I can’t empathize with her/for her to the degree that I just resonate with her suffering through my whole being.
I want her to come to me with her pain and look into my eyes and see that I know it hurts but she could never hurt me with it. I want her to know that any feeling she expresses to me is okay. I want her to know instinctively that I am safe, that I cannot be overwhelmed. I will not take it over for her, but will do what I can to help her feel better, and I trust in her capacity to work through it and survive it.
This is easier said than done, as I learned in the doctor’s office. Part of the practice of parenting is the balancing of closeness and distance, holding and stepping back. Plenty of mistakes to make along the way but hopefully for the most part I will hit a consistent stride. Sometimes it will hurt more for me to step back when I want to rush in and rescue, but there will be times when to do so will be better for her. I believe that the indicator of my success in this will be that my private hurting as a parent making these calls to boundaries and letting go will never be something about which she feels guilt or responsibility. Hopefully she would not even notice!
Hopefully what she will notice is that I am always there when she needs me.
Sep 29th 2009parenting