The traditional structure of parenting has been where where a parent imparts their knowledge, wisdom, advice, instructions, expectations and sometimes even their demands onto the child.
That child then has two options – obey or rebel.
If the child obeys, he/she is a good son/daughter and wins the love and respect of the parent.
If the child rebels – the relationship is challenged. Life becomes difficult for the parent and the child in different ways.
Before I became a mother, I knew that this method of child rearing was not what felt right to me. Now that I am in fully immersed in parenting my little 2 year old, I think a lot about what kind of parent I am to her.
One thing I know for sure is that parenting is a two way street. I have an important and valuable learned wisdom to share with Reya, and she has an important and valuable innate wisdom share with me. I don’t subscribe to the belief that one is superior to the other. They both have it’s place in the parent-child relationship and in life.
Yes, she is new to life but so am I.
The day my daughter was born, a mother was born too.
This is the mindset I keep when my daughter and I experience the very many growth lessons in our mama-toddler life together.
In every key interaction, in every growth lesson, I have with my babe, I am guided by the following:
What is this teaching my child about themselves?
What is this teaching my child about life?
What is this teaching my child about me?
I would say the most challenging part of parenting Reya at this time, is meal times. The girl does not want to eat.
Her favourite foods are;
3. Food if it has fallen on the floor and about to be eaten by the dog.
I often find myself feeling desperate at meal times. Elated with each bite she takes. Disappointed and unsettled with each bite she refuses.
In this moment, I step back and observe myself.
What am I doing here?
I am insisting that my daughter eat healthy and nutritious food.
I encourage her to eat certain foods, and discourage her from eating certain other foods.
I am insisting that she eats a certain amount of food that I think is a “good amount.”
And, after all of that, I label her “a picky eater.”
But, do I have a picky eater, or does my daughter have a picky mother?
I observe my insistence and my expectations of her. Turns out I’m pretty picky about what she eats, when she eats, and how much she eats.
Maybe if I was more open and more relaxed about meal times, maybe she would be too. I can’t say for sure but isn’t it worth a try?
What would happen if I treated my daughter at meal times, as I would a dinner guest? Would I insist my guest finish their plate? Would I require that they eat their food in a particular order? If they told me clearly that they don’t like mushrooms, would I bribe them with “if you want to have dessert, you got to finish your mushrooms!”
Of course not!
Why don’t I treat my child with the same respect as I would a friend?
Our inner wisdom
I believe that there is an intelligence within us all that knows exactly what we need.
When carbon dioxide levels are high in our blood, our body takes a deep breath. That is physiology, but it is also wisdom. Somehow, “You” just know.
When a newborn is placed on the mother at birth, it will start to root and search for the mothers nipple. That is evolutionary, but it is also wisdom. Somehow, “You” just know.
Beyond physiological and evolutionary wisdom, there is another layer – a deep inner knowingness.
This intelligence knows what is good for us. It knows exactly what is good for our body, our mind, and our spiritual evolution. The problem is that from childhood, that knowingness is overpowered and muted by external forces, and eventually by ourselves because we do not know better.
We are told and taught by society to disregard that knowingness. For various reasons in various contexts.
Then, we are inundated with external stimuli that confuses us. Over time we forget how to get still and listen. Over time we feel numb to our knowingness, and we feel restless. We seek answers, validation, acceptance and happiness from anyone and anything but ourselves.
We just disconnect. Not completely, of course. We keep breathing. We keep waking up in the morning and falling asleep at night. But we have shut off our connection to ocean of wisdom that is made exactly for us.
We are not taught how to nurture and kindle the flame of our inner knowingness.
I ask myself – what is the first step I can take to not deliberately turn my daughter away from her inner knowingness?
I can listen to her.
I can observe her.
When she tells me she is not hungry – why shouldn’t I listen to her? Why should I push my agenda on her? I am not her body. I do not know what it needs right in this moment.
I know, through my learned wisdom, that the meal I have prepared will work well for the body. I can offer her this.
But, she knows, through her innate wisdom, that she is not hungry right now. She tells me so.
I can listen to her. She has told me she is not hungry. I can hear her.
Then, I can observe her. She is full of energy, and wants to play. She knows. She knows exactly what she needs right now. I will respect her. I will trust her.
And so she must play!
And it will be glorious to watch, because she, in that moment, is living IN her inner knowingness. It is beautiful thing to see a person living that way. At any age, at any stage of life.
And when she is hungry, which eventually, she will be, she will tell me. I will listen. And I will, in my inner knowingness, bring to her a dinner that I have made with love.
When we engage like this, we have a true relationship. A true relationship, to me, is a relationship where there is a mutual honouring of both people’s body, self, wholeness, essence and truth.
That is what I want for my daughter and I.