But I think this question needs a more directed answer. What do I consciously practice to make motherhood more enjoyable? The first thing that comes to my mind is that I follow my child’s lead. I came to be conscious of this practice through watching two of my favorite parenting role models. Many years ago, when their child was still in the single digits age-wise, they came to my wife and me with a request. They had watched their daughter turn into a serious tomboy and they were beginning to wonder if she would one day tell them that the closet could no longer contain her. They didn’t know if she would be gay or straight and they didn’t know if she would remain a she. But the amazing thing was that they didn’t want to stifle her choices or personhood in any way. So they asked us if we would spend some time with her so that she could see that two women could live together happily and without hardships. If she was going to come out they wanted her to do so without shame. There are tears in my eyes as I write this – tears for all of those gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer and transgender youth who didn’t win the parental lottery like little Sammie did. Tears for all of the friends I have who came out to their parents as adults only to face shame and rejection.
Of course, we were honoured by their request and enjoyed spending time with their bright and charismatic child. We invited her for a sleepover and when we were helping her unpack her tiny suitcase we noticed a neatly folded pair of boys briefs next to her orange flavored toothpaste and dinosaur pajamas. My wife, a tomboy from an early age herself, blinked back tears as she helped her set up her bed.
|My wife Tracy as a young tomboy|
What foresight these parents had to simply follow their daughter’s lead. When she told them that pink underpants didn’t feel right they made a brave trek across the department store and bought the ones that fit her instead. Such a simple act done out of love but so powerful to witness. They worried for her, they tried to guide her, but when it came to the child’s fundamental understanding of herself they simply followed her lead. Mac was still years away from being a twinkle in my eye at the time but I knew in that moment that I would always, consciously, love my child for who and what he turns out to be.
At only five months old this means that I trust my son to convey his needs to me. It means that when he wakes up for the fifth time in a single night I scoop him up into my arms and bring him into the spare bed so that he can feel me next to him as he sleeps. There will come a day when the mere presence of my warm body lying next to his is no longer able to solve all of his complex problems but for now it does so I will enjoy it.
|Even on the most sleepless of nights it is still, always, a privilege to wake up to this face|
Following him means that I tune into his moods and on the days when he needs to be held close he is and on the days when he’d rather spend his time on the floor exploring his toys he does. As he grows I will do my best to teach him and guide him along the way. And, of course, there are things that I hope for him. But when he comes home with a haircut that I hate or when he chooses a hobby that I’m not thrilled about I will remember my friends and how they bravely let their child become herself and I will do my best to follow his (and their) lead.
And while I truly believe that this is the best strategy I can employ for his happiness and well being it also has the unintended (but very welcome) result of making my life just a little easier. I don’t need to worry about scientific theories on parenting. I can leave those large hardcover advice books on the shelf and I can instead listen to my child’s needs and do my best to meet them. I don’t worry that my lying next to him will spoil him but instead I smell the top of his head and it feeds every cell in my body like oxygen. The pressure to be a perfect mom lifts and I don’t compare myself to other moms because there is only one Mac and we are the only ones raising him. Parenting becomes a whole lot more tranquil when I make a conscious effort to follow my child.
As the years pass the ways that I follow my child will bend and shift. There will be times that he needs more guidance from us and times when he needs the space to carve out his own path. But the principle will remain the same. And if you are wondering how it turned out for Sammie and her parents she is now one of the most self-aware and self-confident teenagers I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. And when she found her first girlfriend she was able to tell her parents without shame or fear. And with that kind of foundation there is absolutely no telling what that kid will do with her future. Just as her parents have provided us with an example we can look up to, she will be a role model for Mac as he grows into the person he’s meant to be. I look forward to seeing the adults they will both become but I am not rushing the process. Today I am just smelling my baby’s head and listening for his cues.
*I have deleted the link to the blog carnival that this post was associated with because I has been bringing in far too many negative comments. Please note that my marriage and "lifestyle" are not up for debate.