At the soccer games some kids have parents on the sidelines that give them advice and praise when they do things "well" or "right", and these kids look to the sidelines constantly. When they miss a goal? Glance to the parents. When they kick or do something praise worthy? Glance to the parents. From where I stand the kids' game experience is filtered through the lens of the approving or disapproving parents.
This isn't what I want for my kids.
Our girl is like a mexican jumping bean, leaping from one thrill to another all over the field. Sometimes she's stoked because her teammate hugged her after a goal. Other times she's just simply pumped because soccer is crazy fun! When she looks at us we mimic her spastic enthusiasm - for no reason other than that she's silly-happy. At the game on sunday Echo had some technically successful moves and her coach bellowed out GOOD JOB ECHO!!! Our girl, who never hears these words, lapped it up. Her spastic joy movements spiked. But she didn't look at us. She just started running crazy again, all over the field, not even necessarily trying to repeat the great thing she was praised for. That praise she received seems to have nothing to do with how she feels about herself, or about soccer in general.
That's what I want for my kids.
Heck, that's what I want for myself. I want to write in spastic joy, not because my last post got thousands of shares and I want to repeat that, but because it's fun and feels good. I want to draw or sculpt, not because my last photo on Facebook got several "likes" but because it stirs my spirit to make things. Unfortunately praising children for the "good" they do has been the parenting ideal for decades and decades. My very make-up has been shaped by this tenant and it's hard to shake.
Here's to the next generation.
ATTACHMENT ISN'T JUST FOR BABIES
In other news...
Echo now sleeps in her mini bed next to ours. It seems like a personal challenge she has taken on and she's simply determined that this is how things will be from now on. I like it that she is making a choice free from parental or societal pressures. It feels like her personal flower is blooming at the precise pace that makes sense for her. And somehow for me this translates into a knowledge that she is becoming herself, a marvelous dynamic interesting self all her own.
I'd say four out of five nights she joins us in our bed sometime in the early hours. The other night she found me in the bathroom brushing my teeth before my own bedtime and she wanted me to help her fall back asleep. I was thinking we should just get in the parents bed because I was looking forward to some serious zzz's and the short nature of Echo's bed means that I can't actually sprawl out and pass out.
But my girl wanted to "sleep in her own bed" and was hoping I would help her, then get up and get in my own bed. How I resisted! How this sounded a lot like postponing sleep! I tried to talk her out of it, but I was also totally aware of how stupid that was in the middle of the night with a half-conscious child. I inwardly railed against my circumstances. Then I remembered how long I nursed this girl. I remembered how long I carried this girl. I remembered how far I have pushed my strength in order to escort this being through this world in a way that felt good to us both.
Hell, my body and will can do anything for this child.
Suddenly my complaint of bent knees in a too-small bed seemed so paltry. If I was able to do all that I have been able to do - physically, emotionally, and psychologically in order to meet my own parenting goals in the past, I certainly can sleep (or not sleep) in a too-small bed for twenty minutes until my girl drifts back to dreamland.
EMPATHY, WHY DO I FORGET YOU SOMETIMES
I have a personal quirk that is sometimes difficult to manage. I like to walk the dog early in the day. It sounds like I simply have a preference for this time period but really it's more than that. As the day goes on, if I haven't taken a dog walk yet I feel anxious. I say it's because of the needs of the dog but it's also for me. Taking a walk is a need of mine. Also, once the walk is imminent and my mind is turned in that direction I am super impatient. Super. Impatient.
Yesterday, by the time we did tasks, picked up snacks for soccer, attended the Wild Walk Parade, and finished the soccer game itself I was ready for the dog walk, but Echo wouldn't go.
She had caught whiff of some possible computer time and in kid logic I think it seemed to her if she refused to go that possible computer time would happen and happen soon. My adult logic was like: Are you f-ing kidding me? Kid, your PARENTS ARE LEAVING. We aren't leaving you here, you aren't having computer time, and I will pick your ass up and manhandle you into the stroller. But I kept my cool. I swept the floor to still my impatience. Nathan and I got curious about Echo's stance. She gripped the chair she was sitting in, refused to elaborate and repeated that she. was. not. going.
I swept for a long time. Then I finally asked if I could hold Echo. She consented to a hug. But the hug turned into holding. The holding turned into connection and empathy. Going for a walk just doesn't sound good huh? You're tired from your game and it sounds delicious to curl up and watch Planet Earth huh? That DOES sound good. I love Planet Earth. Now that we were on the same team I gave her some more information about my perspective - how I like to take good care of our dog, how I think of the dog walk as a task to complete, how I would be more open to Planet Earth after the walk because I will feel more relaxed and willing to let it last longer because I wouldn't be hurrying that part. Nathan and I also offered to walk the same loop but at a quick pace.
And somehow it all worked out. Empathy is invisible but powerful. Even with a time lapse camera you wouldn't be able to see it actually doing it's thing, but you certainly can feel it taking affect.
(No) praise, attachment, empathy. The basics still pop up.