To the Parents Playing the Long Game
To the parents playing the long game
Gentle parenting, responsive parenting, conscious parenting… whatever you want to call it, it’s not easy.
There are a million times you will want to send them to their rooms, introduce some kind of rigid sleep or feeding schedule, tell them to get over it.
There will be a million times you’ll get side-eye in the supermarket while they’re crying, wind up crying yourself, wonder if your relationship will survive this.
There will be a million times you’re told you’re spoiling your child, that they’re too dependent on you, that you’re using them as crutch for your own issues.
The months tick by and it feels like this endless giving will never end. You keep going regardless, not because it feels comfortable or easy or natural, but because doing anything else feels wrong, out of integrity, morally unbearable.
And then, after their first birthday comes and goes, and the second, and you are really tired and questioning yourself like never before - something shifts.
Do you remember back to when they were a newborn and you gave everything you had 24/7, without a flicker of appreciation from them for weeks, then they smiled at you?
For me that smile was like seeing the clouds part to reveal the most brilliant, joyous sunshine I’d ever known.
If you have small people and you’re playing the long game if gentle parenting, I want you to know that soon that same sunlight is about to come out and burn you with that searing love all over again.
I want you to know that at 2 and a half, the child I’ve never sleep trained or even bothered to night-wean has slept through twice in the last five nights.
The child who spilled their milkshake on the floor this morning wailed then said “oh no, not to worry” and collected a cloth to help clean it up.
The child who didn’t cope with daycare to the point I pulled her out again is now a social butterfly who scoots so fast and far away from me I can’t keep up.
Nurture breeds nurture.
The other day my daughter’s little friend cried and I watched her sit down next to them, silently holding their hand until they’d finished crying. She does the same for me too.
After what feels like an eternity of “giving” yet also the blink of an eye, I have the first glimmers of “proof” that this way of being with your kids and all of their chaotic feelings works.
Neuroscientists tell us that infancy lasts three years.
It’s so, so long, and so, so short.
Just like the weeks leading to the first newborn smile, the giving-to-receiving ratio is still very lopsided, but the first fruits of emotional nurture appear before our children even make it out of their own experience of infancy.
There is a whole lifetime of learning to go, but for all of us responding, listening and holding our children, the foundations are getting stronger everyday.
When we let them be little and they will be big in their own time.
Our love and nurture are never wasted.
[ID: Anna, a blonde white woman, wears a pink patterned shirt and jeans. She sits next to her very small, very blonde child on autumn leaves. They are studying sticks and seed pods together].
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