Welcome to the January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Learning from children
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared the many lessons their children have taught them. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
It almost goes without saying that my son has taught me about living joyfully, living in the moment, and living as though every detail in the world were worth exclaiming over, lessons I forget and re-learn daily.
But what he’s really taught me is about me.
It’s not that I was new to introspection before he came along. I’ve written plenty about the various roads I went down pre-child to deal with my issues and get healthy in my head and heart: talk therapy, craniosacral therapy, emotional freedom technique, flower essences. I always considered myself a pretty self-aware gal, almost annoyingly so.
But. Then I had a child. Plenty of books talk about needing to get in touch with yourself in order to be a good parent. And plenty of people probably find ways other than parenting to really explore their own complexity. Still, there is something special about having a being that is a product both of your nature and your nurture, something that screams: “So that’s who I am!”
Some of the things I’ve realized about myself have been surprises, but most have been frightening confirmations.
I talk a lot. This I knew. But hearing the never-ending stream of narration from my toddler then preschooler’s mouth. It’s not just a phase. He’s using my words. My gestures. My inflection. I even titled my first blog “Mama’s Mouth” because he had a replica of mine, both in shape and in spirit.
I am messy. I do not live a ritualized, orderly life. My son has inherited and/or learned to copy my hoarding tendencies and my failure to put things away in a logical place when we are done with them. Yes, this is the opposite of a Waldorf approach, and yes, we’re working on it.
I am judgmental. Not in a scary way. But when I hear him — with a finger-wag in his voice — spouting about how someone biking without a helmet is not safe or that someone shouldn’t eat a certain food because it has chemicals, I cringe. He’s been learning a bad/good dichotomy from me that I don’t want to be a part of our lives. Safety is cool, and good nutrition is great. But telling people what they should and shouldn’t do? Not so much. The more bossy his four-year-old self gets, the more I remember being that obnoxious girl in preschool who told her classmate, “There’s no such word as ‘buyed.’ It’s ‘bought!'” Notice I said classmate, not friend. My haughty ‘tude never made me all that popular.
I am sensitive. The more I write, the more it sounds like I’ve been stunted at the developmental level of a four-year-old. But when my son stomps his foot, or says he wants something NOW, or falls into sobs on the sofa, I know just how he feels. I can remember doing the same thing at his age, and I’ve spent the intervening 33+ years trying to figure out more appropriate ways to channel the same frustration, sometimes more successfully than others. My heart broke like a Christmas ornament when he came home bleeding from a sledding accident, telling me his friend’s parent said “it would be the most fun run” and that the third parent on the scene was supposed to keep them safe but didn’t. I’m not sure when or how I’m going to get over watching his faith in adults drip out of his mouth.
I am a singer. Never a soloist, I’ve still always been someone who likes to say it with a song. I remember lyrics like nobody’s business, and making up new ones is a specialty. I’d forgotten this until Junior came along, and it was like I rediscovered an old friend in my new and returned singalong self. Now that he’s doing the same (all. the. time), I’m reminded to call on that self with his baby sister, who tends to get me more often distracted than channeling my inner Ani DiFranco.
I am loving. The sincerity with which my son tells me he loves me at least once a day gives me a clue that, despite all of the above, I’m not doing so bad. He seems to get supreme joy from sharing his feelings, making his love known. That won’t always be the case, I’m sure, but I don’t think he’d say it if he didn’t hear it, really hear it, from me.
I can make a positive difference. The baby is the best teacher of this right now. When I’m just muddling through, trying to get dinner made or get the boy run around while it’s still light out, I catch my five-month-old daughter just staring at me with her big blue eyes. All I have to do is smile at her, and she’ll smile back. Wiggle my hips and she’ll giggle. Clap my hands above my head and she’ll laugh.
Then, and when she’s crying in her dad’s arms but stops the instant mine take over, it’s those times I know that I’m not just a broken mom passing her bad habits and quirks onto her children. I’m someone who can create joy, soothe spirits, warm hearts.
See also this post about watching parents lost their cool at the zoo; at the end, I list some books that discuss how learning about yourself helps you become a better parent. And how to deal with all those issues you carry from your own childhood so they don’t become your kids’ issues, too!
What is the most profound — or the simplest — lesson you’ve learning from your child, or just from parenting?
Or a lesson from a parenting book that made the biggest difference?
Visit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon January 11 with all the carnival links.)
- Affection — Alicia at I Found My Feet has finally become a hugger and kisser, now she has someone sweet and small to snuggle with. (@aliciafagan)
- Learning from Daniel — Amy at Anktangle hopes that she and her husband will always be open to learning from their son. (@anktangle)
- Kids Cultivate Awareness of Universal Truths — From forgiveness to joy, Amy Phoenix at Innate Wholeness has become aware of deep truths that come naturally to children. (@InnateWholeness)
- What the Apple Teaches the Tree — Becky at Future Legacy has learned about imagination, forgiveness, and strength.
- A Lesson in Slowing Time — Bethy at Bounce Me To the Moon revels in the chance to just be with her baby.
- Learning From My Children: I Am So Honored — WAHM Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey is learning to choose tea parties over work. (@MyMotheringPath)
- P-A-T-I-E-N-C-E — Now that she’s a mother, Danielle at born.in.japan is finally learning about a personality trait she lacked. (@borninjp)
- Top 5 Homeschool Lessons My Children Taught Me — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares what she learned from homeschooling her (now grown) children. (@DebChitwood)
- Learning to Live in the Present By Looking to the Future — Dionna at Code Name: Mama finds the patience to be a gentle parent, because she knows how fleeting childhood really is. (@CodeNameMama)
- The watchful Buddha boy — At Dreaming Aloud, they are learning to cherish their thoughtful, sensitive child in a action-driven, noisy world. (@DreamingAloudNt)
- What My Children Taught Me — Dulce de Leche‘s children have taught her to value herself for the wonderful person and mother she is.
- Lessons from the First Year — Having a child made Emily at Crunchy(ish) Mama realize that her decisions affect more than just herself. (@CrunchyishMama)
- Lessons from Loss — Erica at ChildOrganics learned so much from the love — and loss — of her sweet Bella, five years ago. (@ChildOrganics)
- The Socratic Baby — Erin at Multiple Musings has so-called “identical” twins to serve as a daily lesson in nature vs. nurture. (@ErinLittle)
- Learning to be a Mother — Farmer’s Daughter learned the type of patience that enabled her to calmly eat one-handed for months and change clothes seven times a day, before noon. (@FarmDaughter)
- A Few Things Being a Mom Has Taught Me — Heather at Musing Mommy shares the curious, hilarious, and sometimes Murphy’s Law-like tidbits we learn from our children. (@xakana)
- I Feel You — Motherhood has taught Jamey from At the Bee Hive empathy, and it extends beyond just her child. (@JameyBly)
- Lessons From My Child… — Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy shares the inspiring ways she’s learned to expect the unexpected — and have a camera ready! (@imaftmummy)
- My child is my mirror — Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama has seen herself in her children – and it’s not bad. (@crunchychewy)
- There is enough to go around… — Kellie at Our Mindful Life learned that love doesn’t diminish when it’s shared.
- Learning From Our Children, Every Day — Kimberly at Homeschooling in Nova Scotia, Canada is continually inspired by her children. (@UsborneBooksCB)
- Life Lessons From My Children — Kristen at Adventures in Mommyhood has learned that every slug is fascinating, doing the dishes is fun, and sharing a banana is a delight. (@crunchymamato2)
- Things I’ve Learned From My Children — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings uses pictures to share what she has learned from her children. (@sunfrog)
- Beyond the questions lies the answer — Lauren at Hobo Mama stopped wondering and started knowing — loving and liking our children comes naturally. (@Hobo_Mama)
- Learning from Children — Lily, aka Witch Mom, finds out just how enchanting balloons can be. (@LilyShahar)
- Lifelong Learning — Lindsay at Living in Harmony has learned that what works for one kid might not work for another. (@AttachedMama)
- Walking alongside my daughter — Lindsey at Mama Cum Laude is learning to give the clock less power over her family’s life.
- Things my baby taught me about me — Luschka at Diary of a First Child is proud of how she has grown as a mother. (@lvano)
- From my children, I have learned — Mama Mo at Attached at the Nip has a litany of beautiful lessons, from selflessness to sleeplessness.
- The Little Things in Life — In a simple and lovely prose poem, Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children shows how adults worry about the wrong things and forget the little, important ones: watching ladybugs, jumping in leaves, cherishing each moment as it comes.
- The Virtues of Motherhood — Melissa at The New Mommy Files has had opportunities to learn from children as both a teacher and a mother. (@NewMommyFiles)
- My Kids Have Taught Me That It’s Time To Stop Blogging — Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite! has learned that childhoods fly by too fast to blog. We’ll miss your wonderful online presence, Melodie, and we wish you much peace and happiness. (@bfmom)
- Having Kids Has Taught me a Thing or Two — Michelle at The Parent Vortex learns all day long — from fun facts about hedgehogs to tying a complicated wrap with a screaming child and an audience. (@TheParentVortex)
- We Could All Learn from the Children — Momma Jorje takes time to get on the floor and play so that she can see the world through her child’s eyes.
- Teaching Forgiveness — Mrs Green at Little Green Blog has a daughter who’s taught her unconditional love — even when she feels like she does’t deserve it. (@littlegreenblog)
- Parenting as a joint venture — Olivia at Write About Birth appreciates watching the astonishing way her children learn. (@writeaboutbirth)
- Beginner’s Mind — Rachael at The Variegated Life learns from a child who builds bridges to nowhere, calls letter magnets his numbers, and insists dinnertime is truck time. (@RachaelNevins)
- A baby’s present — RS at A Haircut and a Shave presents a short poem on the differences between a baby’s mindfulness and ours.
- Self-Confidence Was Born With My Daughter — Sara at Halfway Crunchy learned to trust her instincts by responding to her child’s needs — and saw her self-confidence bloom.
- The Importance of Being Less Earnest — Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante has one list of earnest and one list of silly things she has learned as a parent. (@seonaid_lee)
- Lessons my children have taught me — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes learned that attachment parenting was the best way to meet the needs of her child and herself. (@Sheryljesin)
- Till the water is clear — Stacy at Mama-Om learns that being present is the best present. (@mama_om)
- I Hold It — Stefanie at Very, Very Fine has learned that the ability to communicate is much more important than the number of words a child knows.
- What My Children Taught Me About Letting Go — Summer at Finding Summer is learning from her kids to laugh in the face of heartache. (@summerminor)
- Finding My Tools — The Artsymama has applied some of what she’s learned as a mama in the classroom, with great results!
Mrs Green @ littlegreenblog.com says
Great post mama and I can relate to some of what you have written. I remember a time when my daughter was having a tantrum and I was so ENVIOUS! I wanted to get on the floor too and shout and scream with all my might.
It bought up for me the fact that anger was not an emotion I was allowed to express as a child and really gave me the opportunity to work through some repressed anger which still comes out in the ugliest of ways…
Without my Daughter earthside I would never have had my buttons pushed or had the courage to face this emotion. Thanks for reminding me how far I’ve come…
Melissa @ The New Mommy Files says
Isn’t it amazing how much parenting can teach us about ourselves? My daughter is too young to have taken on any of my traits yet, but I often stop when I catch myself in some of my own bad habits and wonder if I’ll pass them along. Perhaps I should work on things like eating too much chocolate and shaking my fist in traffic while I still have the time… ;)
Dionna @ Code Name: Mama says
I love your take on this topic – it’s completely different from most of the entries. Our kids are SUCH mirrors. I remember when Kieran started using a couple of phrases as a toddler. I thought omg! too cute! where did he get them?!, and then I heard the same thing coming out of my own mouth one day. (Not saying everything that comes out of my mouth is cute. Ha! Everything is much cuter out of the mouth of a toddler.)
Kids are mirrors and sometimes like funhouse mirrors at that. I find that my little one mirrors me but, I hope, that when he mirrors it out-of-context it is like one of those exaggerated funhouse mirrors. Reality is there, but it is also a bit distorted.
I’m glad you also reflected on the good parts that your son mirrors. I think sometimes as parents we neglect to acknowledge all of that. :)
Momma Jorje says
Interesting! I think I may find myself watching Sasha over the coming days through a new filter. While I do recognize my own behavior in my children occasionally, your post makes me suspect there is a lot more there. Thanks for your post!
Lovely! Thank you for sharing. :)