I'm thrilled to share a guest post today from a writer whose work and approach to parenting I respect and admire: Dionna of Code Name: Mama
There came an evening shortly before Kieran turned four years old that he refused to go into our bedroom alone when it was dark. How many countless times had he walked those two feet past the doorway and turned on the lamp's switch?! How could he not see the switch by the glow of the kitchen?
Something he'd done hundreds of times became something to be feared. And so he called for me to accompany him. And after my initial annoyance (was this just a ploy to have me entertain him?), after it finally dawned on me that my formerly fearless boy had noticed that the world might be just a little less safe, I began walking with him or coming when he called. Willingly (and yes, sometimes still with a hint of exasperation).
Because I know that childhood fears are normal. And while the things that go bump in the night seem trivial to me, they are very real to my child. I do not want him to feel shame that he wonders what is lurking just beyond the glow of the kitchen light. I felt that way once, too.
So I walk him in and help him turn on the light.
Some nights, I pretend that I am scared, too. "No! I'm not going in there!" I whimper, and he takes my hand and pulls me in behind him.
"It's ok, mama," he comforts me, "there's nothing here. Here is the light, see?"
And we smile knowingly at each other. And, I like to think, he feels a little braver. Or at least a little better, knowing that he's not alone.
Someday, he won't need me to hold his hand in dark rooms. Someday, he'll need me to hold his hand as he stands up to friends. Someday, he'll need me to hold his heart when he loses a love or feels betrayed.
These days I'm holding his hand now, they are practice. They are giving me the chance to empathize with him on a smaller level so that I can hurt with him on a bigger level when life starts handing out the more adult-sized heartaches.
And these moments of holding my preschooler's hand are for him. To let him know that I love him and respect his feelings. To build trust so that he can ask me for comfort later, when it is harder to ask for (and maybe, even, harder to give).
This poem by Lauren Wayne of Hobo Mama spoke to me:
How to love one whose heart is breaking
A friend's heart is not breaking
but bruised. In our wisdom,
we know this. In our age,
we know bruised hearts
-- even broken hearts --
mend, as time moves us on.
But it's wisdom that can't be
imported like data. It must be
worked through and obsessed
and lamented and elaborated.
When you are a young man
and your heart is first broken,
will we have the patience
to sit quietly
and let you relate?
Will we cut you off
from our exalted positions?
We who know of all the greater heartache
that is to come.
We who know that this one
is not so big after all,
though it feels big to you.
Will we feel it big, too?
I'd love to hear from other parents: How do you stay mindful of your child's big feelings, even when they don't seem so big to you?
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Dionna is a lawyer turned work at home mama of two amazing kids, Kieran and Ailia. You can normally find Dionna over at Code Name: Mama where she shares information, resources, and her thoughts on natural parenting and life with little ones. Dionna is excited to share her newest project, a journal for mothers of adult (or almost adult) children. Order a copy for your own mama! For My Children: A Mother's Journal of Memories, Wishes, and Wisdom from Amazon or Barnes & Noble will be ready in time for Mother's Day!
And if you liked this poem by Lauren Wayne, she is giving away 7 copies of her book. Enter at Code Name: Mama by April 30.