March 5 - reflections on mothering
Something about those little hands shoved deep down into those little pockets makes me stop and smile every time. Laugh a little.
Reminds me to look, to listen, to watch what she's doing. Soak it all in as much as I can, these glory days of her toddlerhood. Where she's beginning to figure out this big old world and her personality is really, truly shining through. Where she is starting to understand the subtleties of communication, of humor, of body language. Where she tests boundaries and limits like it's her job.
Because it is.
Where my heart continues to grow as she squeezes further inside of it, filling up the darkest little corners and expanding it more and more until I'm sure, really sure this time, that there's just no more room.
But there is.
I've been mad about her from the beginning, of course. Loved her to the moon and back, for sure. But this is something else. Maybe it has to do with being past all of the transitioning into motherhood and figuring out just how much of the old me remains and watching what takes the place of the parts that I've left behind. I don't know what it is. Don't know how to explain it. Know I don't have to explain it, if you are a mother as well, because you already know. Something about it reminds me of how, when you become an adult, if you are lucky to already have a decent relationship with your folks, they suddenly take on a new role. Parents, yes. But also friends. Peers. People by your side, allies, as you navigate this world and all it throws your way. As if now that she is able to communicate so clearly and I can see her human-ness, not just her baby-ness, there is a whole new layer to the dynamics of our time together. I am her parent, her guide, of course. I look out for her, love her unconditionally.
But now there's this. With her able to communicate to me what it is she wants and needs and what she wants to know more about, the dialogue changes a bit. We are partners, in a way. She respects me, I respect her. And that's the thing. I've always respected her as her own person. Everyone deserves that of course, from the moment they are born. But now the communication allows me to hear, see, feel and know more clearly how my side of the arrangement affects her. Makes it impossible to not take her feelings and needs into account when we are playing out a little struggle of wills. Makes it obvious that I can't just walk away thinking "Oh, she'll be fine. She'll get over it. She's the baby, I'm the grown-up, it's up to me." and so forth.
Don't get me wrong. I most certainly believe in there being clear boundaries, expectations, guidance and such. Consequences, opportunities for growth and learning by mistakes. I can be firm and walk away like anyone else. I can stand it for her to be upset about something and not feel guilty and give in every time.
I choose my battles very carefully. In ways that, I believe, show respect for the little human that she is. Not just a baby. Not just a toddler. Not just a child.
A little human. A partner in this world. An ally.