It takes a lot to keep risking failure but it takes risking failure to succeed. I’m not talking about starting a business, falling in love or climbing Mt. Everest–I’m talking about connecting with my child. Because connecting with my child is a daily practice that sometimes requires more strength than anything else has ever required of me.
My priority is to facilitate an environment that allows my son to enjoy life and grow into a kind, empathetic and happy person. If you had asked me before I became a parent, this would have been my same parenting goal. I would, however, have never projected that connecting with my child would be exhausting and sometimes feel impossible.
Parenting doesn’t feel as good as I thought it would.
I spend hours and days and years reading parenting books and blogs, going to therapy, unblocking my chakras, meditating, praying, trying and failing and trying and failing some more. Little by little I am learning what works, sometimes, and what doesn’t work, most of the time when it comes to connecting with my child.
There are simple things I can do that provide a basic platform of requirements for a well-balanced existence. I provide healthy food choices, a consistent sleep routine, outlets for exercise. But, I can’t force my child to eat or sleep or play and even though I have struggled hard to do so, I for sure can not make him enjoy any of those things.
Then there is the next level of requirements for well-balanced emotional and mental wellness. Like any of us, my child needs connection and learning how best to connect with him is an even greater challenge than figuring out what to feed him.
Building a connection is difficult but vital.
All a parent really wants is for their child to know they are loved and cared for. This healthy connection is the foundation that allows us to have a healthy and successful parenting relationship. It is what we build on. If the basic connection feels tumultuous it is hard to find moments to feel like you are successfully parenting and doing things like “building character”.
I have had to simplify my focus and intentions regarding parenting and the most helpful thing has been to reset my expectations which is two-fold. First, reminding myself that it is not all about my feelings and that my need to feel needed in order to feel loved and successful (I am an Enneagram 2w3) does not serve me well as a parent to this child. That is not his love language! Second, realizing that I need to go back to the basics every day to discover my child’s needs and then to practice meeting my child’s needs even though they are not what I expected they would be. It is not easy and it does not come natural and wow, that is a challenge for me because I felt like I was born to be a mom.
I am caring and intuitive and generous and understanding. That has always worked for me. At least it did until I got married and then it didn’t work. Now, I laughingly tell my ex that he is always with me in the form of his mini-me because it certainly does not work on our child either. It’s like the Universe saw that because building relationship always came easy for me, I didn’t learn enough about myself in the first 25 years of life. So, now I am learning.
I’ve learned my child needs routine.
This is the exact opposite of me. I have never had a routine in my entire life and anytime someone tries to put one on me, I run. But, I love my kid so I am finding ways to be successful in this area. It has taken trial and error but I have found tools that actually make it easy and enjoyable for us both. Morning meditations with Sadie, essential oils diffusing for emotional regulation, bedtime routine of stories and back scratches and foot rubs. Literally that simple, those are our routines.
I’ve learned we need less conflict.
This is a hard one because defiance and saying “No. Period.” is his first response even to something he would enjoy doing. He comes by this honestly and thankfully, I spent enough time with his dad to recognize that this is not him trying to drive me crazy, it is a neurological pathway that he was born with. I haven’t come close to figuring this one out yet but my current strategy is this: few but clear expectations, no surprises, more saying yes (on my part). Somedays it feels like it is working.
I’ve learned I have to let go of my stories.
Grace to cover both of us as we do our best is what I try to find every day and grace is so much easier to find and give when I recognize and release my preset expectations–They are just triggers for anxiety and frustration. So, I am working diligently on letting go of any story I tell myself about how a day will go, how a plan will go, how my child might respond (good or bad) to me. So many stories to let go of! It gets easier to remind myself to let go the more that I do it but it really is an all-day, everyday practice.
Connection is worth the effort!
Maybe you have watched other parents and thought they were handling life way better than you. Maybe connecting with your child has proved harder than you expected. Maybe you feel frustrated more often than not. Maybe you wonder if you are the only one struggling. I am here to tell you that you are not alone.
I don’t have answers, I just have experiences to share and high hopes that we will grow through this together. The risk of failing to make the connection I want to in one situation is worth it. The effort of extending an open heart, an invitation for a walk or a visit to the playground, or a request for a hug is worth it. The times when those efforts are met with resistance and struggle are worth it for the times that connecting is successful.
Connecting with my child is vital. I will keep surrendering my stories and open my hearts and mind to the possibility of small successes day by day.