Monday, August 31, 2009

Current Motherhood Conundrums

I see a lot written about what mothers are, or what we suppose them to be, but not so much about HOW they do it. Mothers are the Orientation Advisors for Planet Earth. They're Julie, your cruise director. They are the matrix from which a person emerges. How wonderful it would be to have a helpful matrix, one that facilitates success and happiness in the broader culture.

To be truly successful that way, a mom must have a perspective. That is, she has to be awake. As a mom, my goal is to be like an oak tree--rooted, strong, unerringly stable. That doesn't mean I'm never confused, broken down, or fed up. It means I have words for these feelings and their expressions, and that helps me to present them as transitory states. They are all part of life. They are not end points, and they're not to be stridently avoided like pits of quicksand.

If you are not awake as a parent, you will do what you do. But you won't necessarily have reasons for it, you won't have words to describe it, and you won't be able to present that path as a choice, with both benefits and drawbacks. I want my kids to have choices. Having choices means you can weather whatever hard feelings come with the drawbacks of the choice. Coping with hard feelings involves 1) being rested, fed, and not overwhelmed, and also 2) being able to distract oneself and re-focus on something helpful or positive.

Here are my current conundrums, as I nurture, protect, and teach my developing humans:

1. How do I teach that # 2 above (distraction/re-focusing) to a 6-yr old? By modeling it? By lecturing? By supporting him through micro-doses of those experiences? Some combination of all of these?

2. Then there's also this piece about me--my basic rights and needs, like the right to not be driven crazy by my kids' nit-picky and ever-changing preferences. That is pretty easy. Deeper still is my need for self-esteem. How do you tease out the self-esteem that might come from being a "good" mom--after all, it's a LOT of work--and the self-esteem that I need to bring with me to the party?

3. How affronted should I be by my kids' behavior? How much affront is OK to express?

4. How do I separate when they need to go through something themselves and they object strongly? How do I know when to not take their behavior personally?

5. How do I balance what my kids appear able to handle with the real or perceived demands/expectations of the culture? How do I learn about age-appropriate behavior and, once I do, protect my kids and allow them to be below the curve (above the curve isn't ever a concern, is it?).

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