Monday’s Mama Musings, Just a Day Late: Its Okay to be You, and You, and You
I had intended to write a very short post this morning, something about contentment, or perhaps why conflict may not always be a bad thing, maybe. I had several adorable anecdotes to share with you all, moments that would make us smile at the curiosity and freshness of children. But spending a week away with those dearest to me and reconnecting with some whom I see but a few times a year has propelled me in a different direction.
I hope you’ll hang in with me on this one, because for the sake of myself and those I love, I think it needs to be said.
We spent all of yesterday travelling back from Cannon Beach for a fourth of July weekend with my husband’s family and friends. I am exhausted from staying up into the wee hours of the night before, continuing a conversation that was just too good to interrupt for something as transient – yet very, very valuable to me – as sleep.
Why is it that, as the hours pass from evening to night, both honesty and laughter increase? Considering those are two of my favourite things, I’m definitely a night person. I know, it’s not good for me. I’ve tried – with increasing veracity proportionate to my age – to switch my tendencies, for I love the quiet hours of the morning as well, and my body feels so much better if I am in bed by 9 or 10, but I think my mind – and my soul – will always be drawn to nights. I understand now why David’s Grandpa Bob – also one of our favorite people – chose to sleep only five or six hours a night for a section of his life.
He just didn’t want to miss out on anything.
Some important interruptions happen in those hours we expect to be quiet and still. You moms of young children know that the 2 or 3 am feedings, walks, rocks, and cuddles with your young ones are both sleep-depriving and bond-forming. I remember one of my mommy mentors from the early days with Noelle told me that she used to wish she could adopt her children at five years of age, after they were all schooled in the basic routines, namely, sleeping through the night, and potty training. But then, she paused, and said, ‘I guess,the hard stuff, the interruptions, that’s what bonds you to that baby, isn’t it?’ I think she’s right. Whoever schools the child in these basest of things is often the one they turn to when their world comes crashing down. For it may just be that all the middle-of-the-night, insanity-inducing moments are the moments you really learn – maybe not at the moment, but on later reflection, at least – who your child is, what their biggest fears and worries are, and how much they really need you, no matter how difficult your day with them may have been. Those night moments are when I’ve learned to really listen to my children and learn who they are.
I wonder if it is because, at night, when most of the world is quiet, we are finally able to listen.
And perhaps, not just to our children.
For Sunday night, as the 3rd became the fourth – a very big day in the United States, a day when that place celebrates their individuality, and uniqueness – when most of the beach crowd was finally quiet, a very important matter injected itself to our previously light-hearted, round table discussion, and my mind traveled vividly to those early days and weeks as a mom, when strangers would follow me around in Costco, making all sorts of inappropriate comments, requests, and questions regarding my newborn, and yes, even my birthing and nursing experiences. I remember those I had never met approaching me in malls as I was pregnant and touching my swelled stomach without permission, never recognizing the horrible encroach they were making on my personal space. I recall how they could “just tell” I was having a – insert gender here, I heard both, and in equal amounts. And, by the way, those who said they just knew, it had to be a boy, you were very, very wrong. I also remember hearing every piece of parenting advice I could have ever imagined, all before I’d delivered my first or had even a clue of how exacting, how amazing, it was going to be.
Of course, the unsolicited, highly pressured, advice, continued into the early postpartum period, and beyond. For some reason, when it comes to parenting, everyone has an opinion, even those of us who would not even have a clue how to care for an actual baby. By day ten of Noelle’s young life, I was sleep-deprived, hormonal, and fundamentally shaken in every part of not only my fledgling mothering skills, but also my ability to function as a human being.
Fortunately, two weeks into this earth-shattering experience, a wonderful, beautiful, woman whom I barely knew but will never forget, stopped by my home with a meal, a card, and a gift, all on behalf of our growing little community. She must have had a sixth sense about what I was going through, or maybe she just had been there herself, because she looked straight into my eyes and said words that still induce tears:
You were given this baby on purpose. This baby was meant to be raised by you.
And somehow, instantly, I knew she was right.
It all made sense, then. It still makes sense, now, when Noelle is about to turn six. I look around and see my friends do far different things with their children, and somehow it seems right for those kids, just as I endeavor to figure out what is right for mine.
Someone, or something, far bigger than me, knew that these babies was supposed to be mine, and that your babies were supposed to be yours. That somehow, someway, we’d each figure out what to do with them and what to do for them.
If we think about it, maybe this idea applies to more than just mothering, doesn’t it?
For aren’t our most powerful epiphanies discovered, or at least led by ourselves? Don’t we all tend to learn a little more effectively if we are allowed to seek out our own solutions? I’m not implying that we learn in isolation, or that we don’t need each other, for we certainly do. But, the things that really tend to stick with us are those we initiate on our own, sometimes looking to others for insight, but deciphering what to do with that insight, ourselves.
So what is it that compels us – myself included – to demand others think exactly the same as us, or do exactly the same as us? Perhaps it is that we wonder, if they do things differently, even opposite, from me, and are successful, does that mean that my way is wrong?
Or does it just mean that, in so many situations, there is more than one way to do it?
I think this art of knowing what’s yours is one of the great beauties of motherhood, and of life. There are many, many ways to do many different things, and all of them may be valuable. And even for those things that really DO have one best way, isn’t it better that we help guide others to find that best way themselves, instead of push them to it? They’ll only resent us, or worse, reject the very thing that could help them, if we don’t.
So here’s my challenge to us today: yes, part of being an effective community is intercepting inappropriate behaviour in those around us.But I think the most effective community realizes that in certain situations, supporting those around us means believing they are capable of finding out the most advantageous answers for themselves, and sometimes, by themselves.
If there is one thing I would wish for all of us, particularly for those of usraising little children right now, it would be that we would all be so okay with who we are, what we think, and the life we are called to, that we would feel comfortable with, even proud of, those who act, think and live, so wildly different from us. It is our uniqueness that gives our community flavor, and our differences that allow each other to grow. They say it takes a village to raise a child. I agree, it does take a village. It takes a village of those so comfortable in their own individuality, that they are free to empower each child’s mother to be equally comfortable in her individuality.
So the next time you feel an overwhelming urge to state your case and plead your argument for why your child rearing advice is the only way to do it, or why your anything is the only way to think or do about anything, I urge you to stop talking, plunge deep down into what you actually feel about those things, and figure it out first. Once you know yourself and why you really think that, you’ll feel much less propelled to force those viewpoints on others.
And when you see me feeling so uncomfortable with myself that I find myself being extremely unhelpful to someone else, feel free to smack me upside the head.
Don’t worry about leaving a mark, either. It won’t look much different from the half-forehead sunburn I have from sitting in one direction at the Oregon Coast all weekend, staring at the vast expanse of deep, wide ocean, knowing there’s nothing between me and Japan right now, except water. And that water comes in at night, and goes out in the morning, over, and over, and over, every day since long before I was even a thought in my parent’s heads.
It’s a big, big, world out there, guys. Let’s let each other be ourselves in it, okay?
And moms: its okay.You’ll figure it out. So will I, someday.