An Open Letter for Mother's Day
To all the incredible moms out there,
Yesterday being mother's day here in Melbourne gave me a chance to think of all the amazing mothers I have had the privilege of working with over the years. Whether I met them on one of their darkest days as their child was about to have surgery, on a long night by their child's hospital bedside or over tea in their home discussing toilet training and tantrums; these ladies have one thing in common. They want the best possible outcome for their child. An outcome that will allow that individual to be the best that they can be and to be accepted for the person that they are.
Of course, every parent's journey is different and with each child the path is unique. However, no matter what hurdle you are facing with your child, know that it is normal for it to feel like the worst thing to ever happen and for you to be terrified. That is what makes you an amazing mom. This hurdle may be something that everyone around you seems to jump easily which only makes you more concerned that there is something wrong with your baby. Chances are though, there is a hurdle you have already overcome which is keeping those others awake at night.
Remember that your parenting choices are valid and are yours and your partner's alone and that if your child is safe, loved and looked after, you are doing your job. Facebook, friends and well meaning relatives can be an amazing support but nothing can replace the gut instinct that you have about what is best for your child in any particular circumstance. You are the best person to advocate for your child. If you feel, that you aren't being listened to, or that a professional is not hearing you; knock on a different door until you feel reassured that the best is being done by your child.
I am not sure where the myth began that everyone loves every stage of parenthood. It simply isn't the case and remind yourself in the middle of yet another sleepless night; cleaning poo from your carpet; rationalising with a toddler screaming down the supermarket; a hospital admission or a particularly difficult day reasoning with teenagers that this is a stage which you and they will survive and come out the other side of.
In all my work with parents, it is rare that I hear someone who regrets having spent the extra time lying with the child at night ( although tedious at the time); when they look back on it. The quality one on one time which puts you under pressure are the times that build the most special of memories that tie you and your child together for eternity. By forcing children to forgo some of these minutes with you, sometimes, it can be easy to wish away their childhood. You will miss them when they are grown - they aren't with you for that long and so where you can, relax around the extra 10 minutes here or there.
I often ask parents if it really matters whether or not their child is doing exactly " as the internet / book says?" I am not trying to be flippant, it is just that with almost no exceptions, the children who cause the most concern will grow up as well rounded adults who can organise their jobs, get dressed without prompting and are toilet trained through the night. That doesn't mean you shouldn't promote their independence but rather be mindful that they are more likely to achieve it when you make them feel secure. Demonstrate that you will help them but not do it for them and you and they will become an unbeatable team.
My favourite piece of advice to remind my clients is that children are people! That means they have their own likes, dislikes, eccentricities and mannerisms which you may not like or understand. But accept and love them for who they are and guide them to find the path which is right for them even if it is different to the one you took. It may be that your first 3 kids fit the mould but you quietly suspect that your 4th is from another planet and you aren't sure quite how to parent them.Your tried and tested strategies simply don't work! Experiment with different ideas that will work for the person that they are and work with the strengths that they have. Allow them to pursue interests which are outside of the " norm" and build their self esteem so that they are proud of the person that they are.
Mother's day yesterday gave me pause to think about my mom - the most incredible one I know who had all the ingredients I have advised here. She fought and advocated for us, loved us unconditionally, gave us wings to be independent with the safety net that she would catch us and most importantly made us feel that there was no mountain that was too high to climb with her support.
So to all of you and to my mom, you do a great job and thank you for allowing Kids on Track the honour of travelling some of the journey alongside you.