Saturday, October 2, 2010

Trusting Babies and Pondering Expectations

This morning I woke up earlier than my kids (that is why I have time to type right now!!) and looked over to my two sleeping boys.  They were both facing me with their mouths open and two teeth sticking out.  Kanoa was blowing warm, sweet smelling breastmilk breath on me.  I began thinking of how fast they are growing and how I am now looking at my 21 month old and my 9 year old, but someday I could be looking at an 11 year old and a 17 year old.  I imagined baby, boy, teen, young adult, adult with kids, adult with grown kids, old man who lived a full life.  Whatever point you are at in life, the past seems to have passed by so fast!  I started thinking of how truly enjoying our moments makes our life lived full of good times and thoughts.  Li woke up for a brief moment, caught my eye (as I was staring at him and Kanoa still), smiled and turned over.  Sweet!

I thought about how we are all born "big" and important and  that babies have preferences and should be taken seriously right from the start.  People should not have to wait until adulthood to have opinions, to be taken seriously, or to be treated like what they say or want matters. 

Babies are small people and as parents we can help them to do as many things as we can as they learn and figure things out for themselves in our world.  If our children don't want to be social while out and about, we can help them feel protected and safe.  If our children don't want to wear socks and sneakers, they can go barefoot, wear slippers, or boots with no socks.  If our children want to press the button on the thermostat so it makes a blue light, we can hold them so they can press it or spot them as they stand on a chair.  If our kids want to see the doggie, but not get too close, we can hold them and read their body language so that we do our best to help them feel comfortable while they "see" the dog.  If our baby wants to pet the dog, we can be next to him while he pets the dog.  If our kids want to swing, we can push them in the swing.  If our child doesn't want pasta, we can offer other foods.  If they want to nurse and read and snuggle under the soft blanket on and off during the day, we can do that with them.  We grow to know our children so well that we understand their cues and they learn to trust that we'll acknowledge them and respond to their cues.  By letting our children lead and by exploring the world with our babies, we are their partners and trustworthy friends.  This, to me, is the beginning of a beautiful, joyful relationship.  A relationship that I wouldn't trade.  A life in which my kids feel safe in and are happy in.  A life in which I am truly happy and satisfied because I want to have that kind of life with my kids.  I like it!! 

Something puzzles me.  You know how in our culture people love babies?  Most people seem to.  I do.  When you have a baby, you meet many other people who are excited to see and look at and touch your baby.  Some babies get to a point where they don't seem to like this.  Some mothers let their babies get passed around, plug up the baby's mouth with a pacifier and say in a sweet voice while dismissing the child's obvious signs of distress, "Awww.  Shhhh.  There's nothing to fuss about!" as baby goes from one stranger to the next.  What would happen if those mothers took their baby's feelings seriously?  Their mamas would likely appreciate the love people have for their child, but they would protect their little one from overbearing and excited baby lovers.  Their child would trust their mother to keep them feeling safe even in a midst of strangers. 

Our culture also thinks children shouldn't be shy, or that this is something children should grow out of.  What if a person is shy their whole life?  Are they then a failure or less than?  Are they defective?  Does that mean an extroverted person is better or more important or will be more successful?  What kind of messages do we give to kids at such a young age about how we think they should be?

When kids are growing up, they are told to respect other people's boundaries.  That it is important to treat others the way they would want to be treated.  To be kind and patient and gentle.  How are kids expected to learn this if adults don't begin to treat kids that way?  We need - right from the getgo - to respect our kids boundaries, to be kind and gentle with them, to treat them the way we would like to be treated....or the way they want to be treated. 

In our culture, kids are expected to go along with what others want them to do when they are told to do so.  Often they are expected to answer when they don't want to speak, or they may be told not to speak when others have expectations that they should be quiet.  They may be told to look at things they may not want to look at, or look away from things that others deem inappropriate, to go out of their comfort zone and not be "shy," to be more reserved when others think a situation calls for it,  to talk more quietly so no one is disturbed, or to speak louder so they can be heard.

There certainly are lots of expectations that humans have for one another.  Some of these behaviors are expected because they are out of consideration for others (and we usually learn this by others being considerate of us and through life experiences) and others are cultural expectations of children based upon what others think children or adults should behave like - perhaps because they grew up with those same expectations and pressures put upon them or because they want their child to fit in with our society. 

Often children are encouraged to think about things, not to follow what everyone else is doing - ie. "If Sally jumps off a cliff, are you going to do it too," to be an individual thinker and to think outside the box.  Yet kids are often simultaneously told to "listen" and follow instructions and do what they are told to do.  Kind of ironic, huh?  Confusing too.  Should they question then?  Or just question every authority but ours when it is convienent for us?  How will they learn to follow their own inner voice?  How will they learn to trust themselves? 

Have you ever heard a parent shame their child by saying, "If only you had done what I told you to do!  Then this wouldn't have happenned!"  Do we give them room to make mistakes...or er..."learning takes?"  What about ourselves?  Do we give our own selves room to make mistakes and learn from them?  What would happen if we chilled out when we made mistakes and felt okay or even grateful for the learning experience?

Pondering all of these things and questioning everything myself helps me make more thoughtful choices.  I love my children and will do the best I can for them.  All life is full of different pathways of different lengths.  I hope I choose a long, windy one full of adventure!  And I hope to support my beautiful children's paths no matter where they may lead!

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