(some of you may recognize this as a postcard for parents . I am reprinting it for the benefit of the folks who are new to my blog and linked over from parenting sites.)
When I was in college, I came down firmly on the side of nurture in the
nurture vs. nature debate. Tabula rasa and all that. It was so obvious
. . . good parenting produced good children. Simply hold firm to a
schedule and baby will adapt. Oh yes, I knew all about raising children.
Until I actually gave birth to one!
I took one look in his eyes and knew that this was no blank slate. He
came already programmed! Within hours everything I thought I knew
thrown out the window. Nurse every three hours? Ha! Apparently he had
not read the same books I had. He thought he might take a 10 minute
break after nursing constantly for three hours. Sleep several hours at
a stretch? I was lucky to get him to sleep more than 45 minutes at a
time for at least the first 2 years.
What an awakening. Brutal, as I recall. Especially since most of the
babies I had cared for in my home day care business had been easy-going
types who just settled down and took a nap at the same time every day. I
did such a good job taking care of other people's kids. I thought I was
pretty competent. I had even accepted some credit for their good
behavior. (yes, it is embarrassing to admit!)
Now I was faced with this kid who would only sleep in my arms and wanted
to nurse all the time. Although the inclination was to blame myself
somehow, it was hard to do since he was too young for me to have done
much damage yet. Maybe I screwed him up in utero?
Thankfully my mom introduced me to her sanity saving motto for parenting:
No credit, No blame. What your kids do is not yours to take responsibility
for. It is theirs. Take no credit for their 'successes', and no blame
for their 'failures'. (quotes added because often, in hindsight, failures
become successes and vice versa. Seems easier just not to label them
from the start. But that's a topic for another postcard!)
Our kids come to us with their own agenda for their life. This does not
always correspond to the one you would have selected for them. And it
does not always coordinate nicely with the agenda you have for your own
life. As you can imagine, this can get to be a real pain sometimes!
But each of our agendas is equally valid. The dance of parenting
(actually, of any relationship, I think) is to find a rhythm that honors
both life paths. This can take some creative footwork! And we can only
begin in earnest when we take a step back and see the other as our
partner in the dance, not an enemy who must be converted to our life path
at any cost.
So, can you make space for the single file path taken by your introverted
child even as you travel the superhighway of the extrovert?
Can you allow time for your slow-to-warm up child to adjust even though
you are an eager risk-taker?
Can you accept that your sensitive child is not just trying to irritate
you when she tells you that she hates the smell of your peppermint gum?
These quirky idiosyncracies truly do make life interesting once we give
up on trying to get rid of them. There is no one right way to be. One
path is not superior to all the others. Many spokes lead to the center
of the wheel. The temperament of your child is not a reflection of your
skill as a parent. Nothing good can come from comparing you or your
child to anyone else.
Respect your child's path as your walk your own. Take good care of
yourself and ask for help when you need it. Enjoy the places where
your journey overlaps with that of your child and you walk together for
As my favorite philosopher, Winnie-the-Pooh, says:
Rivers knows this: There is no hurry, we shall all get there someday.