“I walk down another street.” Portia Nelson, “Autobiography in Five Chapters“
Certain parts of parenting make it easy to go on autopilot. Here, autopilot can mean simply shifting back into a familiar place of parenting how you were parenting. I knew early on that I didn’t want to parent E like that. After my mother abandoned me, I was raised by grandparents who were loving, firm, but not overly affectionate. We were not an effusive household. The expectation was that you knew how to do the right thing and you did that, more or less, all of the time. Punishments were usually the loss of privileges, an occasional spanking until I reached a certain age. Mostly, though, I was raised knowing they cared and not really understanding there was much more to it than that.
When E arrived, I had been thinking about how to be a different parent. I found much of that shifting quite hard, much because it was rewiring my brain. I knew a change was necessary, but was nearly paralyzed by the inertia of those decisions. What? Just hold the baby for hours at a time? Attachment parenting? Show the baby a million ways how you love him? Even more: tell him I loved him? A lot?
Time for the patron saints of parenting (and of life, really). Enter: Dr. Laura Markham and Rachel Macy Stafford. Dr. Laura helped immensely with healing my own childhood so I could be open and receptive to E.
Rachel Macy Stafford of Hands Free Mama showed up in my email a couple of times a week with some wisdom and advice gleaned from deciding to show up for love and to choose only love today. Believe me, this shift to more acceptance and less distraction, has been powerful. Don’t get me wrong: I didn’t wave a wand and wake up one day as a new parent, but I’m working on myself. That means, too, that E benefits in ways big and small.
I saw an email on one of the Hands Free Mama that gave away advance copies of Rachel’s New Book, Only Love Today: Reminders to Breathe Less, and Choose Love, responded and got an ARC. Woohoo!!! This new book of hers (I’ve now read all of them and love them all equally, though this latest one is probably my favorite) is easy to digest a bit of the book on a daily basis. I’ve taken to reading it in the mornings when I write in my journal and have found it calming, centering, powerful.
I think I respond to Rachel because she is a work-in-progress like we all are, and she is not perfect, and she doesn’t claim to be. Instead, she tries to listen to her children, be kind to herself and to others, and to live your life. I’ve heard her voice in my head a few times when I’ve wanted to say terrible things to myself when the scale doesn’t display the hoped-for results.
I find myself thinking how great of a gift this will be for not just those in the parenting game, but for teachers (first years and experienced ones) who need a bit of perspective and encouragement. I plan on gifting it a few times, though I’m not passing on my ARC. Nope. It’s now too treasured to give away, and I’d like to keep it for the constant maintenance I am going to need on my parenting journey. I need to return to the already dog-eared and highlighted pages, need to just have it near to turn and return to.
Seriously, I doubted that simply deciding to DSD (do something different), then intentionally reading and practicing the work of my Patron Saints would yield any change, but if E could tell you in his oft-meandering almost-three-year-old train of thought, I’m sure he’d attest to the growth his Mama is doing and how much better off we both are for it.
It’s a choice. I choose love. And I’ll keep choosing it every day–and SHOWING it–every day until it becomes a habit that is as natural as breathing. Every day is a chance to get closer to that goal.
I am walking down another street.
One year ago: #sol16 Half Steps
This post is part of the Slice of Life Challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers, who have created a space for writers and teachers of writers to come together. To learn more about this challenge, click here.