Well it’s no surprise that as I focus my intentions to Laugh Play Love more this month, something would happen that would push the boundaries of my own heart. You see, I’ve had a couple of profound experiences over this past week that have changed my perspective on life.
Last week I took my 4-year-old to my neighbors house for an art class. Let me back up and say, my son is extremely reserved in new situations. He is the most talkative kid I know, but when he’s around other adults or big groups, well no one would ever know he even talks. (I remember being this way when I was young, too.) I left Kestan at art class for the first time last week. He was there with two other friends and the teacher, who is our friend and neighbor. But this week was different. Before we left the house Kestan said, “Mom, last week you left me at art class before I was comfortable.” I remember giving him a big hug goodbye that day and made sure he felt safe, but I was so grateful that he could share his feelings with me. I apologized and told him that I’ll make sure he’s “comfortable” before I leave this time.
So, we walked over to my neighbor’s house for class. Kestan picked out the chair he wanted to sit in. He grabbed my arm. He wanted me to sit right next to him. I also had my 15-month-old in my arms. The other girls had started painting. Kestan was quiet. Smiling, but gripping me. I told him I wasn’t going to leave. Our neighbor – the teacher – was very good with him. She was trying to get him engaged. She was very kind and patient.
After he seemingly relaxed and started to paint, I tried to slowly slip away. I wasn’t leaving. I just wanted to back off a little so he could get “comfortable” with his friends. At that point I told Kestan I was going to take his brother home for nap time and that I’d be back really soon. He started to cry and the teacher tried to console him, putting Kestan on her lap and into her arms.
Well, that didn’t go so well. Kestan felt as though she was keeping him from me, and he lost it. I mean really lost it. He screamed and cried and even kicked off his shoe. I’ve never seen him like that. The teacher let go and he came running to my arms.
Well, crap, as any mama knows – that just feels horrible! We spend years building trust with our little ones, and I told him I wouldn’t leave until he was “comfortable” and then this happens. I consoled him. We hugged and kissed. And once he was feeling more relaxed and safe again, brother and I stayed, right by his side, while Kestan finished his project.
Maybe this seems pretty minor to you. But I have to tell you, this experience brought in a flood of emotions for me the rest of that day. I had a pit in my stomach. And when I sat with those feelings here’s what I realized. Those old negative thoughts about not fitting in came up again. Thoughts like Have I kept my son too sheltered? What will other parents think? Why is my kid the only one who seems shy? Will I ever be able to leave him? Have I ruined his chances for socializing and having friends? Why don’t we just fit in?
I should mention here that I’ve tried to help Kestan get comfortable in these kinds of situations for years now. I am usually one of the only moms sitting on the floor with him at story time. Or dragging him along with me to toddler yoga, or encouraging him to talk to his friends at playgroups. And what I’ve seen over the years is that he is getting more comfortable, little by little. In his own time. Not my time. Not the time the experts or the books or the preschool teachers tell us. But his time. Because his natural temperament is one of an observer. Kestan needs space and time to observe his surroundings. And when he’s ready, he participates. He smiles. He has fun. He gains confidence. He shines. When he’s ready.
So these feelings of not fitting in reminded me that I’ve been trying to gently push Kestan to get involved in these activities because I was feeling pressure from the outside world. Pressure from friends who ask “Is Kestan in preschool yet?” Or the moms who list off all the activities their children are signed up for. Or the preschool enrollment dates that make you think If you don’t sign your child up for preschool RIGHT NOW he’ll be behind for the rest of his life! And of course, I know that none of these outside influences can put pressure on me without me letting them.
After this incident at art class, Kestan and I talked about what had happened. And my sweet, wise little 4-year-old simply said, “I’m just not ready, mom.”
And that’s enough for me.
This reminded me of the time when I was preparing Kestan to wean from nursing. We was only nursing about once a day at that point and I was getting him prepared for his little brother’s arrival. I explained that there would be a new baby who would need mommy’s milk all the time, like Kestan once did when he was little. He was excited for his new baby brother. He told me brother and he could “share” mommy’s milk. And even though I was ready for Kestan to wean, he said, “I’m still little mommy.” And we nursed until the day we brought baby brother home and Kestan confidently said, “I’m done.” And that was that.
Our kids are wise little creatures.
They know things.
And it’s our jobs as their parents to be mindful. To listen. To observe. To let them express their feelings. And to make sure they feel “comfortable” and safe in this world.
As I learn more on this path of motherhood, I can now say I am 100% committed to listening to my heart. When something doesn’t feel right, I must listen to that. Because the more courage I find to follow my intuition in all aspects of my life, the easier it becomes to make decisions that are LOVE-based, and not ones that are coming from fear.
The fear of not fitting in could persuade me to get my kids involved in too many activities. Or leave them screaming at the door. Or sign them up too early for preschool. Or do a million other things that it seems the world says we mothers should do.
I’m making a conscious choice to mother with my heart.
And to let my beautiful sweet boys lead the way.
Love to all you mamas,
Your Personal Reflection: What does “mothering with your heart” mean to you?