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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Being an Authentic Parent

I want to be an authentic parent.  I am, admittedly, the most lenient parent of most of my friends.  It isn’t that I need Ellie to like me AND love me.  It isn’t about wanting to be her friend and her mom. 

I’m her mom.  We can be friends when she’s twenty and just bought a new pair of black boots I want to borrow.

No, it’s about letting her be free to use her voice, to express how she feels.  I try not to discipline based on some principle I feel like I should be sticking to even though I don’t really understand why.

If I say no, it’s because there is a health and safety issue.  Or a cost issue.  (No, I will not buy you the $20 squishee at Michaels.)  That’s ridiculous.  

Ok ok, I am totally buying her the $20 squishee she really wants but I’m thinking I’ll get it from Walmart for cheaper and she doesn’t KNOW about it yet.  It’s a surprise for the trip home.  How did I get side-tracked?  Oh.  Saying no to Ellie.

I say no to Ellie all the time.  Problem is, she says ‘no’ back.  A lot.  At first I was like…holy crap can she DO that?  But apparently yes, she can.  And she does.  A lot.  Or, the other fun one, “ I caaaaan’t.”  As in, Ellie, pick up your markers please.  “I caaaaan’t.  You have to heeeelp me.”

Anyway, I pick my battles.  And a lot of markers from the floor.

There are two reasons for this.  

1) Working up enough indignant irritation to stick to my guns and battle it out with her thirty times before noon is really hard for me.  You don’t want to pick up your toys now?  Cool, cool.  I wouldn’t want to either.  Maybe later, eh?  And later daddy does it so, no issue.  (Thanks Bill!)

2) There are two of them.  And one of me.  And while I’m hovering over her making sure she’s picking up every last crayon Benji is teetering at the top of the stairs about to fall down.  Again. 

Anyway.  Maybe she’ll grow up and be a jerk, hopefully not.  I do know that when I cracked my toe on the couch earlier today the first thing she did was ask me if I was ok.  And then she gave me a hug.  And later when dad was wrapping my toe (it’s all big and purple and…gross.  It’s gross).

Anyhoo, when Dad was wrapping the icky crooked one to the nice straight one she sat next to me even though she was nervous and held my hand the whole time.  And looked into my eyes and told me everything was going to be ok.

Folks, that’s the kind of thing you can’t ‘discipline’ into a child.  Sure she pushes the boundaries and yes she’s stubborn and strong-willed.  She’s also compassionate and empathetic and loving.

She is a beautiful soul.  

My job isn’t to hammer her into a socially acceptable mold.  It’s to show her how to listen to her own voice and believe in her own intelligence and capabilities.  Her own innate goodness.

Parenting Ellie is like guiding a canoe.  Too harsh a course correction sends us veering off center.  Relaxed, keeping the goal in sight, we’ll winnow the water to the shore of adulthood just fine.

Anyway, as a wise woman once told me, “Everything is just a stage.”  Just hold onto the boat people, after the rapids comes the calm.  Or the waterfall.  But then, for sure, after the waterfall is the calm.

“Many a calm river begins as a turbulent waterfall, yet none hurtles and foams all the way to the sea.”  Mikhail Lermontov