Eliza is growing quickly. She is almost 2 and has learned so much in her 2 short years. She is talking up a storm, thinks she is the boss of the house and has more opinions than I ever thought possible. She is turning into a little girl rapidly and with a massive amount of gusto. Realizing this, has made me stop and think about what kind of mom I really want to be and how I can help to mold her into a strong, confident and compassionate young girl. There are so many things that I want to instill in her and so many things that I want her to learn. The educator in me wants to write lesson plans and start to drill it into her but I also want her to like me, at least a little bit, so I think I may scrap that plan. The more I have been thinking about how best to let her grow into the amazing human I know she is going to be, the more I have been thinking about that word “let.” The idea of letting her learn and grow keeps circling around in my head. I am not great at letting things happen. I have a massive tendency to want to control every circumstance; to make sure that things are done according to my sense of what is right. I think I am astute enough to know that this is probably not going to work as a parenting tactic, especially not with my equally as stubborn daughter. I am going to have to let her figure things out on her own and let her discover the world around her. So what can I do to accommodate this; to give her the space to explore? I can provide her with safety. It seems like such a simple concept and a no-brainer. I will venture to say, however, that for many kids, in many different ways, a feeling of safety is fleeting.
Growing up, safety in my world was never really achieved. My mom worked tirelessly to make us feel safe but other forces were working against that plan. I loved going to school because of the safety I felt in those walls but going home was a different story. I was constantly worried about messing up; about doing something wrong. I rebelled against becoming meek and intimidated in those situations and instead was confrontational. That didn’t mean that I felt safe, however. It was quite the opposite. I was always on edge and waiting for the roar of disapproval; the finality of displeasure. This fear became my norm and I carried it with me for many years, until I finally discovered what it felt like to be free from fear. Now, years later and years separated from those feelings, I can more completely understand the importance of feeling safe to the development of a young child.
Safety, and a lack thereof, comes in many forms. Physical and emotional safety are both equally as important and both things that Greg and I can be mindful of providing Eliza with every day. I want her to know that she can mess up, that she can try things and fail, that she can do something wrong and that through it all, she will always be safe in our home. That does not mean that she will not get in trouble; that there will not be any consequences. In fact, as I am writing this she just got mad and threw all of her paper on the floor. She is now having to pick it up and apologize. But what it does mean is that, she will never be chastised or feel threatened in any way. I want to have high expectations for her but honor the effort and progress over the achievement. I don’t ever want her to feel like she has failed us or that home is not a safe place for her to learn about herself, discover her talents and her shortcomings, and try new things that ultimately crash and burn. Home is exactly the place where you should feel the safest and the most yourself.
It is not going to be easy for me to relinquish some control and let her figure things out for herself. I truly believe, however, that I was entrusted with the task of raising this young girl because of what I can give her and what she can teach me. I don’t think that it was any accident that I was sent this determined, powerful, hilarious little individual. She has already taught me so much about letting go and throwing my hands up, and I am sure that there will be years more of those lessons. What I hope I can in turn provide her is a place where she can set the bar high and sometimes fall short; where we can celebrate the successes along with the attempts and where we can talk about mistakes without fear, but with a tinge of disappointment and a plan to do better next time.
There is a fine line between providing safety and coddling. The last thing I want to do is give her everything and never correct bad behavior. That just breeds a person that hasn’t ever had to do the hard work to discover themselves and their worth. I remember being pregnant with Eliza and actually worrying that she was going to have too easy of a life. How crazy is that? I deeply value my history because it taught me so much and made me who I am today. Because Greg is such a good dad and so stable, I really worried that she wasn’t going to have to overcome enough. Then I remembered how crazy I am and figured she would have enough to contend with on my end. The thing is, there are going to be obstacles in life. That is not a question. But having a safe place to tackle them and take a break from them is something that as parents we should strive to do daily.
So I am going to try to remember to make her feel safe every day, keeping it in the back of my mind while I love on and discipline our girl. I am going to fail at many things in motherhood, probably on a daily basis, but one thing that I can’t afford to get wrong is providing her with a nurturing, and solid environment; a place where I can guide her down the right path and let her both succeed and falter. Home, Greg and I, should be the place she runs toward to share her biggest successes and also the cushioned landing after a fall that encourages her to pick herself back up and try again. MEB