Becoming a parent felt like a tornado just ravaged my entire life and I managed to survive while I got to witness the most magnificent rainbow right in front of my eyes. The moment I realized that together with my husband, we built something that will not get used or have a depreciation value, it struck me what a ride parenthood was going to be.
I spent the 9 months of pregnancy projecting all sorts of ideal images of what our life would look like in a formula of 3.
And when I went into labor, I was in total denial – I somehow wanted to keep him connected to me a little while longer. It just felt more comforting to carry him inside rather than protecting him on the outside. But he was ready to meet us…and the overflowing joy I felt when I looked at his swollen eyes, was beyond overwhelming.
The first few months with him at home were exhausting, amazing, painful and affirming. For a while, I completely detached myself from the world and I gave my time and all my resources to a little being who was pooping, throwing up and not responding to my grimaces. Also, I never self questioned as much as I did during his first months: do I have enough milk? is he warm? how can I calm his colics? what should I eat? when will I take a shower again?
And then, one day the little nugget started looking into my eyes, smiling and responding to his environment. A new episode unfolded and motherhood became more bearable: should we socialize more? am I returning to work? what should I feed him? how can I play with him in the most stimulating/intelligent way?
When he turned 1, I wrote in his journal “Paul is the perfect, untamed version of me and his dad. There are times I want to freeze each moment together and store the sweet smell of his breath, his tiny hands… his entire little presence”.
He’ll be soon 4 and his perfection has slightly and occasionally been replaced by temper tantrums and rebellions. For each time he drove me to despair, there were 10 other times when he tought me compassion, empathy and selfless love. In a desire to protect him, I got offended when another kid rejected him on the playground (honestly, I wanted to punch the darn kid) and my heart sank each time he had a flu and wasn’t feeling well.
My conclusion today is that my child is kind, innocent, temperamental, stubborn and wise. I don’t proclaim to know it all, nor do I proclaim my son in the perfect child, but here are some strategies that I learnt along the way and wish someone told me about sooner on how to build resilience and strength in raising a child:
- don’t acclaim when they do something, rather praise the effort
* I admit this is a hard one. The idea is to praise your child’s efforts and his choices as they affect him directly. For example, they draw something cute and they show you, rather than responding “Wow, bravoo!, you might say: “This is great! Do you like what you did? How did you do it?”. The reasoning behind this is that it will make the child own up to their actions – not to please (hear that “Bravo!”)
- encouraging to try harder when they fail
* we are in the process of teaching Paul how to ride a bike and although we haven’t fully succeeded yet, each day of trying is a step closer to pedalling. Although he fell off a few times, so far he always got back and continued trying. Failing is a great tool for succeeding
*leaving room for their own opinion can be an agonizing process. I admit that I’m not always giddy when we’re running out of time and Paul insists in dressing himself up. But I constantly remind myself that supporting his autonomy is a mark of respect towards him
- happy parents make happy kids
*your stress is their stress too. With time, I learnt to take pleasure in taking some time off just for myself, to have a coffee with a friend and just unwind, guilt-free. After all as parents we are role models, so taking care of ourselves means taking care of our children
Feel free to share your impressions/opinions/comments on this post. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!