Before you are a parent, it’s easy to judge, to watch parents, and think that you could do such a better job. We have all done it. When you are a parent, you reel, you think, wow, how could this be so hard, how could I be so unprepared for this? Why didn’t anyone tell me that this little being would open me up so much, that I would be so filled with love for him/her and with pain from my own childhood, all at the same time? Even if they had told me, you wonder, would you have listened, would it have sunk in?
I was so ready to love a child, that much I knew, but that was the extent of it. After Zara was born in early 2009, I felt so much love for her, I was soooo happy, I wanted to love her, honor her, squeeze her and kiss her and I wanted to have a chance to do it right. I thought to myself, maybe I can do this better than my parents, better than other people, maybe I can really do this. Ha, I used to be so judgmental, even in loving my own child, I had to compare it to others. I am so happy to continue to pull out of that consciousness that encircles our planet, the judgement, the need to be better, the need to compare, it’s getting easier just to be me, thank goodness.
After Zara was born, there were times when she wouldn’t sleep. I watched others with babies that slept, so I thought I must have been doing it wrong. I tried and tried and tried, unaware that trying was what might have been making it harder; trying to be perfect, trying to help her so she never cried, so she would never feel alone like I so remembered feeling. After a lot of trying and crying, I started reading more and more parenting books. I read about Attachment Parenting, principles of which include:
-co-sleeping, baby-wearing, breast-feeding and extended breast-feeding, not controlling your child, but rather giving them permission to be themselves, not forcing your child, but guiding them, baby-led weaning, gentle discipline, unconditional parenting, mindful parenting, etc.
I read so many books and I joined an awesome local Attachment Parenting group where I met like-minded people!! Whenever Zara would nap, she needed to be in my arms, so through reading those books, I was able to accept that she needed to be in my arms to nap (or else she would wake up), so I accepted that for 2-ish hours a day, I would be sitting on the bed, reading. I took advantage of that time and I read. I filled myself up with all of these ways to honor my daughter in ways that I never knew possible. I armed myself with those principles and they became my bible….
I have met so many beautiful parents who are attachment parenting (AP), doing what they feel is best for their child. It is truly exciting to see so many parents who just aren’t willing to let their kids cry themselves to sleep, or to be let alone in their rooms to cry until they can “calm down.” There are many more of us who are aware of what we experienced as children and who are trying to do better for their children. I think the irony is that in the trying, we end up doing the exact opposite of our parents, and then there we are, right at the other extreme, and really, is that any better? Maybe if I share my story a bit it will help to explain what I went through and what I see other people doing.
I decided that I was going to use every single principle from those books I read: we would limit praise, we would get creative to help Zara transition, we would co-sleep, I would breastfeed until she was ready to wean, she would never be left to cry it out by herself (I had tried that a couple of times in my most desperate moments and I felt like I was a tiny baby again, crying by myself, feeling like I was dying inside, so thankfully it didn’t last more than 3-4 times), we would follow her lead, we would give her lots of leeway, I would carry her in a baby carrier or baby backpack, I would limit how much I would leave her because it was always hard on both of us when I left, etc. Again, I used all of those principles as my bible, if something happened, I would scan my mental list of attachment parenting tools and I would use the gentle approaches to help us. Is that wrong, is it a bad thing? No not necessarily. It really helped us, but it was extreme and I will elaborate.
It got to the point where it was like Zara was controlling us. I was so desperate for her to feel loved and appreciated, that I gave myself up. I used all of those tools from the attachment parenting books and I used them to my detriment, even to Zara’s detriment. I never gave myself permission to say no to her, I did everything I could all the time to say yes. I thought it was horrible if she cried, so I did dances so she wouldn’t cry. I tried to keep her happy at all costs. I sacrificed my well-being, the well-being of our family and my relationship with my husband even, just to employ those principles. It was like I had read those books through the eyes of a 2 year old hurt me, and I vowed to follow them no matter what, even when I was suffering inside from using those AP principles. I remember so many incidents where I was using some tools, thinking I was “doing so well”, because I was doing what I had read, but somewhere inside I knew I had gone too far. I even judged other parents for not AP parenting, and I remember judging other AP parents for not being AP enough.
It wasn’t until I got really sick and couldn’t eat anything any more, that I started to see it. The naturopath I saw told me, “you are reactive parenting,” and I remember being shocked, horrified. What, I thought, how could I be reactive parenting, I’m an AP parent!! But she was right. I was viewing my daughter’s life through the eyes of all those hurt inner children who I was still carrying inside and I was reacting to the past hurts I had experienced, from a place of “there is no f&*^king way I’m doing that to Zara.” And there it was. I was reactive parenting. Wow. What a good call!! Hahaha, it was hard to hear, but it was exactly what I needed to hear, and that comment started me on my path to my soul, to my awakening from the depths of unconsciousness, to the awareness and the place I am in now, more connected to myself, more aware, more balanced than I ever thought possible.
So now, I ask myself, am I still off balance, are there more ways I can come more to the middle, to be living and parenting from my heart and not from the hurts? I have come so far, I am so proud of myself, so proud of my daughter for how far she has come as I have opened up my heart and let go of the hurt that kept me so deeply locked in protection mode and so proud of my husband for doing the same work, so we can each be free and be a more cohesive and happy and balanced family unit. I am so happy that I am working to get to this balanced place, so I’m not carrying around as much anger towards my parents, instead I can love them and honor them and really and truly know that I am just like them, doing the best I can, through different paths, not one path being better or any more worthy than another. It is truly a different life for me and for my family and I am feeling so blessed and loved.
I can always come closer to the middle, to a more balanced place and I am exceptionally committed to that, to living my true life, instead of one that is chosen for me by emotions, judgement and fear. No longer.
I ask you, are you at one of the extremes with your parenting? Can you be honest with yourself and take baby steps to come back to the middle? I send you love and support as you love yourself and your family and take a look.