The Long and Winding Road…

1426175_com_labyrinthmOne of the themes this week in the various social media parenting groups to which I belong has been “process”. Several times, I’ve found myself encouraging parents to remember that growing up, learning how to negotiate life, figuring out all the tropes of familial and societal living — in a word, “maturation” — is a long and intricately involved undertaking. So often we can too easily convince ourselves that our kid is taking too long with this or that behavior, or is (dangerously!) regressing, or just might not be developmentally “all right”, and we become hypersensitive and even more impatient, opening the door for greater and greater anxiety to creep in and undermine our parenting, and our kids’ development. The end result — it almost always takes even more time because we’ve muddied the system, tweaked our kids understanding of, or motivation for, the task, and/or awoken resistance in them to our overbearing impatience.

Name any developmental tidbit, and somewhere there’s a parent waiting through the nail-biting moments, days, or weeks for it to show up. Of course, the most usual form of “waiting” that we parents do is actually more precisely termed “hassling”, “rushing”, “pushing”, and/or some even more demonstrative impatience. If some other kid has beaten our kid to it, or our kid has reverted to something we thought was long passed, or we just can’t stand that particular thing another second — we’re likely to be worse than any 2-year-old at waiting for it without making trouble! And don’t worry if you feel like I’m pointing a finger at you — every single parent I’ve ever known has been there at least a couple times.

But here’s the thing — whatever it is, whenever it is occurring, whether we want it to hurry up and stop or hurry up and start — our best bet is to let it go.

“Um — what?!” you say… “What kind of Zen mumbo-jumbo is this?!” you may ask… “If I ‘let it go‘ then how’s it ever going to happen?!” you say… Well, the truth is — as soon as we begin to get impatient with development, or some habitual actions our kids choose, or some old “unsavory” behavior they are re-exhibiting, we’ve lost our ability to beneficially influence the process. We’ve made ourselves antagonists to the system, and whatever is going on — because usually we don’t really know what all is going on — can easily be exacerbated by our disconnecting from our kids. Just the simple reaction of being pissed and pulling away can complicate the operation such that it sets us all even further back, making the rest of the cycle or development take even longer. I know you can mine for your own examples of times you pulled away in a sticky, emotional moment, and your kid went extraballistic. That’s a perfect micro-example of what I’m hoping to underscore here.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that we should never show any signs of impatience to our kids. The plain fact is, we get impatient, so in service of our authenticity, we would do well to own up to that, say it, deal with it in ourselves, and not make it the kid’s problem or fault. And after that — or in between episodes of it, as the case is likely to be — it’s our job to get back on the proverbial team with our children and support them as they move forward (even if by “forward” they move in tight spirals). Only by being on the same team with them, only by supporting them (with our actual support!), and only by soothing our own and their brains (by lowering anxiety levels and connecting and sharing Oxytocin) can we facilitate their process(es).

The point is not to stop in your impatience, not to rest in your opposition, not to steep in your anxiety. When it shows up, you call it out (remembering self-empathy helps you process your emotions more easily), you shake it off (remembering that “these things just take time”), and you get your ass back in the game with your kid! Our job as developmentally-respectful, nurturing, connecting, empathetic parents, in this instance, is to help them get through it without causing more friction in the system. Whether that means just hugging more, or giving them more room to figure out it for themselves, or offering them more information, or simply offering them more time — we want to make the operation smoother, easier, faster; and the best way to do that is with our support, not our resistance.

labyrinth

So when the 2-year-old who’s been perfectly toilet-freindly for months suddenly starts not making it there in time first thing in the morning…

Or when the 4-year-old still can’t seem to let you talk to another living soul without suddenly needing every single bit of your attention…

Or when the 7-year-old occasionally prefers not to brush her own teeth…

Or when the 14-month-old still isn’t walking unassisted…

Or when the night-nurser who has for months been hovering at only one or two sessions per night suddenly reverts back to several wakings every night…

Or even when we’re just waiting for them to put on shoes… or join us leaving the park… or hurry up and fall asleep…

Until he learns to say, “Please” and “Thank You”…

Until she figures out how to share and still feel safe and significant…

Until he stops tweaking your other nipple while he nurses…

Until she stops needing to hold your ear as she drifts off to sleep….

Until whatever we’re waiting for/helping them to figure out and move forward…

Our best bet is to take the long view; to remember it’s all just tiny operations in a full, broad, continually-developing process; to remember that “This too shall pass.”. Who knows where these little undulations and personal eddies come from in the river of being? We’re all just making our ways as best as we can, and what we could all use is just a little more understanding and just a little more space to do the dance in the way(s) the music calls to us, and to still be held while we do so.

Our kids will make their ways too, just as we all are — in exactly the manner(s) that best suits each of them. If we want to make that as easy as we can on all parties involved, then we’d do well to remember that the road is long and the journey never complete. And we might as well enjoy the ride!

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Good journey to us all, in our own times and ways.

*

Be well.

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About Nathan M McTague, CPCC, CPDPE

I am a full-time parent of three, Writer, Life Coach, Lecturer, Parenting Mentor, and Shamanic Practitioner. In all of the above, I am seeking to assist my fellow humans in their processes of claiming and unleashing their highest potentials.
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2 Responses to The Long and Winding Road…

  1. notjustanotherparentingblog says:

    Thank you. I needed this today so much that it feels like you could hear me from so far away and wrote this just for me. I had the worst morning (and then day) ever dropping my kiddo at school, her reluctance to let me leave, that I seriously turned on myself, questioning my parenting as I watched the other 26 kids enter the class with ease and grace snd I seriously wondered where we are going wrong. Thank you for this I’m going to read it every morning as I head to school with my beautiful girl and stick with her and wait for her to find her good journey in her own time and way . Thank you for your always wise words. Kimberley

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