We begin to see how divorced we have become from our feeling nature, and how the desire to “do the right thing” according to our friends, neighbours, parents, peers and parenting magazines, has become the driving force in our parenting. When we start to understand a child’s introduction to the world, we also begin to understand ourselves and why we have lost touch with our feeling nature…
Through the eyes of a child:
“When I first came into this world things were very different. People liked to hold me, smile at me, make funny noises at me, my mummy spent a lot of time with me, holding me, kissing me, playing with me. She was with me all the time. Sometimes I didn’t want to go to bed, I would cry a lot so they would put this strange thing in my mouth. But I felt loved. I slept next to my mummy and if I woke in the night, she would gently lift me into her warm bed, giving me the warmth, love and closeness I needed.
Then someone suggested I should sleep in my own room as I was getting older. I cried. But my mummy and daddy were told this was ok and normal. So I was left alone crying. Suddenly I couldn’t cry anymore …. This was my first experience of the world in which I would come to live. At the same time, my mummy decided that I couldn’t have the warmth and comfort of her breasts any more. She gave me a plastic bottle instead. I felt so many things during this period, but I couldn’t tell anyone, as I didn’t know how to talk.
Around this time I was also taken to a strange place. It didn’t feel nice, there was a tension in the air. We entered a room with a person in white, she was saying nice things to me, but it felt wrong. Mummy held me tightly on her lap, I started to cry as I felt really frightened – I could tell that mummy was worried too. The lady in white stuck a sharp thing in my arm and some drops in my mouth, I struggled and cried. Mummy kept telling me it was alright, I was scared, my tummy hurt and I started to feel unwell.
As the weeks went by those early memories of the closeness began to fade. I stopped crying in the night as I knew no-one would come, so I would just lay there feeling frightened and alone…
I was given more toys to play with during the day, some of them were fun, and some of them I did not understand. Daddy kept putting them in front of me, at certain times I was told how clever I was and once more received those loving smiles. Sometimes I was frustrated and threw these strange toys across the room – I was then told how naughty I was.”
Can you imagine life through the eyes of a child?
So, just as there is More to Life, there is also More to Parenting. As a parent we have to make decisions. But what are these decisions based upon?
Are they based on Fear? Peer pressure? Other people’s opinions? Or what feels right in your heart?
Many years ago, as a parent, I was faced with these challenges. Torn between what I felt was right and what I was being told. So how do we make these decisions?
I was challenged with the fact that my daughter wanted to sleep with me, I was being told by others, that she should be in her own room. So after three nights of “the controlled crying” technique we were both at breaking point. I had to welcome her back into my bed. I had read many books, throughout my pregnancy and when my daughter was very young, but the one that sticks in my mind was “Three in a Bed”. And this is what brought the breakthrough and gave me the confidence to do what I now do. It reinforced what I believed deep inside and went against what everyone else was telling me.
When my son was born 6 years ago, I didn’t even attempt to put him in his own room, or even his own bed. This tiny person was not a stranger, but had existed inside me for over nine months, my instinct screamed that he needed to be with me.
Life was so very different, he had the warmth and comfort he needed, as often as he needed. I even remember teaching a group of students, with him tucked inside the sling, suckling away.
If you look at the decisions you are asked to make as the parent of a young baby, you will see how many of them are based upon fear. You are frightened into making decisions that “others” have deemed are right for you. From the moment the system realises you are pregnant, you are tormented with one decision after another, and sometimes you may not even realise you even have a choice!
We are told breastfeeding is good, and if you don’t breastfeed, you are often made to feel guilty. But then if someone realises you are breastfeeding beyond the “normal” length of time (whatever that is?), you are told this is wrong, made to feel guilty and weird. So you go “undercover”. How sad, that whilst providing your child with the warmth, love and comfort they need, you are made to feel that you are doing something wrong, something un-natural. Is it the breastfeeding mother and her child that is wrong, or the judgements of those around her?
There seems to be a continuous pressure to reach the next goal, the next developmental stage. To walk, to talk, to be potty trained. It won’t be long before they will be expected to come out and collect their emails later that day.
So often as a parent there is pressure and expectation, but whose expectations? Maybe the following will surprise you. Whilst looking for inspiration for this article, I asked my children….
Q: What is the most important thing in life when you are 13?
A: To be caring and kind and loving.
Q: What is the most important thing in life when you are 6?
A: You of course!
Q: What is important to survive? (To my 13 yr old)
A: LOVE – because love is important.
Q: How does love need to be shown to you? (to my 13 yr old)
A: Hugs, play and happiness, when I want a hug, I walk up to my mum, rest my chin on her shoulder and grab her arm and put it around me. Play is important as well.
Q: Do I have to do anything to be a good Mummy?
A: (6 year old) of course not silly, it’s just because you are you.
A: (13yr old) No. Just be your usual self, you don’t have to do much to be a good mummy, JUST LOVE US!
Q: What is the most important thing your mummy can do for you? (to a 6 yr old who loves Lego – could be on dodgy ground here?!)
A: Cuddle me….
I also asked the 6 year old (out of interest)… Q: What if I said I thought I wasn’t a good mummy? How would that make you feel…?
Interesting really – it is easy to be lead to believe that our children have very complex needs, but really it comes down to two basic things… Love and Contact….
Clare & Andrew Carter are ‘Elders’ of More to Life – their work will feature regularly in each edition of More to Life.