In these past few years of motherhood I have experienced a profound evolution. Not just in the expected way, or the circumstantial/experiential way, but in the I hear myself talking but don’t know who this person is kinda way. It’s by no means terribly bad just a bit jarring or overwhelming at times. As a therapist I can categorize it in many ways…self identity exploration, individuation, actualization, blah blah blah…all part of the existential crisis.
What seems to really be at the heart of the change is the existence of a struggle between the me that I am and the me that I want to be, or that I sometimes think I actually am in regards to being a better parent. In essence, the integration of past and present for the best possible me combination. I will provide a specific practical example. The me that I am, or that I used to be, well partially still am, has an abundance of difficulty dealing with ‘dirty things’. Mainly germs, which translates into our whole existing environment. Now as everyone knows, 99.8 % of life with kids involves ‘dirty things’ and preventing or attempting to protect from this can considerably hinder enjoyment. Don’t touch that, wash your hands, put this apron on, roll up your sleeves, don’t step in that, are some of the warnings we heed. Although at times necessary, we should be aware of how quickly and frequently we instinctually ‘throw out’ these disruptions. Because that’s what they are, disruptions, in a naturally inquisitive hands-on intuitive inclination to explore, which most little ones have. Additionally, I struggle with the chaos which has become our home environment due to the on-going shifting of toys and trinkets and art materials, etc. It is not uncommon for me to organize, re-organize, and yet again for the third time organize what I am certain I have previously already placed away at least five times. I find myself more often stepping on objects than on floor. I am continuously inspecting the tiniest spaces, searching for pieces under tables and chairs and couches. They take out, I put away, and even when they put away, I must re-put away and this is on-going. And for as incredibly difficult as it has been to tolerate at times, I am reminded that THIS is their work. These are the choices and freedoms they have to create and explore and learn. So it’s not put away all at once in the meticulous fashion I’m used to, is that really so unbearable? My answer has become No, no it isn’t. At the end of the day (literally) the room is easily restored and the severity of the situation is immediately diffused.
And so I became aware, that I was imposing my own inherited conflict on my little ones, not because they were in danger or being harmed, but because in my perspective they would end up messy and uncomfortable and unhappy…but those are adult impositions and not at all what most kids feel. So I began stepping back, metaphorically and literally. Not intruding on what was not mine to experience, resisting my life-long urges and letting them explore and get messy (mostly). I started to notice how powerful stepping back can be.
Change inspires change. I also stopped ‘saving’ their clothes (mostly). I realized that the things that are my favorite, that I deem as “too nice to wear”, end up being unworn and unseen. They are “too nicely” hanging in the closet with the tags still on, two sizes too small to be worn and enjoyed. I began seeing how I was mimicking some of my own lifestyle behaviors and unknowingly teaching my darlings the same, after all, that’s how I collected my learned behaviors from my mom. What’s the point of having too nice things? We’re saving the things we love for some phenomenal event that may never occur based on our criteria. In waiting, we never get use or enjoyment from our favorite things.
Maybe this is what happens, when we lose that innocence of greeting every day with the respect it deserves, of being the most special day. Who needs a reason to wear a twirly dress and spin all day, not my little darling! And why not use those special sparkle stickers on a plain paper for no other reason than to admire the sparkle. Sure we all have our reasons of why we save and squander and ration and protect, and it’s OK in some respects and in small doses. I inherited my need for special things on special days from my mother who inherited from her mother. I began passing this down to my daughter but I forcefully stopped myself in my tracks (mostly) and am trying to teach her that everyday, or any day, is important enough for any special thing. That she herself is the event and her life is the occasion. My hope is that she will only save enough to share and enjoy the rest right then and there.
After all, that’s what gives our “things” meaning, when we enjoy them or they accompany us and become a part of a story or a memory. Otherwise a thing is just a thing. And I am learning, trying to do the same. Don’t let your best lived life hang in your closet like that too-fancy-for-anything dress or the pearls that may as well have stayed in the oyster.