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Remembering the Essence of Mother's Day, Everyday

May 6, 2016 by ·

mother and two kids walking on sand beach at sunsetOn this mother’s day, I am struck by the irony of highlighting just one day in appreciation of this daunting parenting role.

For nine months, we anticipate with a full range of emotions, the birth of a child.  We have nine months to prepare…for the pregnancy and birth.  What we can’t adequately prepare for is the baby.

We come into the world partially baked.  We’re hard wired for all of the capacities that allow us to live full and active lives….but many of those capacities require interactions with the environment to emerge and they often occur in the context of relationship.  Consider learning to speak…we need to hear spoken language in order to understand the rhythm of speech and the meaning of words.  Then, though we’re wired to speak, we need to practice making and combining sounds   to form words.

Now, enter, center stage the baby, who needs everything from us to grow and develop.  And….the only way they have to communicate their needs when they arrive is a shrill and sometimes piercing cry…the signal that something is wrong.  We have to figure out, in short order, what they need. This can be incredibly anxiety provoking for even the most experienced of us.

We have to become adept at reading and responding to their needs.  This requires trial and error.  It can take some time to figure it out.  We do this under the watchful eye of the world.  A crying baby draws attention and demands action.  It’s easy to feel judged by disgruntled onlookers.

But, worse than feeling judged by others, is how we judge ourselves.  We can quickly feel inadequate and bad about ourselves…as if we should know better and be proficient at this. And, knowing that this is a universal experience may not temper the intensity of feeling inadequate.

Children have temperamental differences and will experience the world in their own unique way but they all have the same developmental challenges.  As they grow, each developmental milestone requires trial and error….practice, practice, practice.  As with most hurdles in life, getting up and falling down can be very frustrating and can cause agitation and disruption…sleep and eating patterns can be disturbed.  We mirror the emotional states of our children…when they become anxious and agitated, we do too.  And, again we play a guessing game about what’s going on.  It becomes another opportunity for feeling inadequate.

But what if we flipped the switch….what if we looked  at parenting through the lens of character strengths…what if we could call out the character strengths that we bring forth in learning to parent well.

When babies are trying to crawl, we don’t put them down as failures because they can’t do it immediately.  We admire their persistence.  We know there is a learning curve.  How might we feel differently about ourselves if we noticed our persistence in trying to be responsive to the needs of our children?  How might we feel about ourselves if we noticed how creative we were in trying to calm and care for our kids?  How might we feel if we acknowledged the deep love that drives us and inspires us to give it our best?  What would happen if we reminded ourselves to maintain perspective about the complexity of human development as well as the complexities of parent child relationships.

Finally, what would happen if we forgave ourselves for not knowing it all and getting it right all the time.  If we let go of the judgment about how we’re doing and focus on the strengths that forge the way, maybe we could hold onto the present and fully savor the joy of being a parent.

-Donna Mayerson, mother of two.

Donna MayersoncroppedDr. Donna Mayerson, Lead Consultant for Applied Practice at the VIA Institute, is a licensed psychologist and earned her master’s degree in special education. Formerly a coaching director of Hummingbird Coaching Services, she is a certified coach who has used her deep knowledge of the VIA strengths as a framework for individual and organizational change with hundreds of education administrators and teachers, leaders of youth-serving organizations, in training coaches/practitioners and with individuals and families.

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