Surrendering to motherhood has been a major challenge for me. Parenting is one of the few arenas where my Type-A, perfectionist tendencies don't equate with success. It's mostly the opposite; I've found "success" with my family (or some semblance of it) comes from an unfolding of things in their own way and time. Less pushing, and more accepting that children, and their development, have their own seasons and cadence which don't adhere to my timeline. More shrugging of the shoulders, and fewer hard and fast rules for us all to live by.
Before both my children were born, I fretted over the type of pacifier I should buy. Which one helped avoid buck teeth, or was dentist-approved? What if they sucked their thumb instead? How would we quit either?! Both kids surprised me by refusing pacifiers (and their thumbs) all together.
Then there was the foray into ballet. We asked my daughter if she wanted to attend dance class, and she replied with an adamant, 'yes!' We outfitted her in an adorable pink tutu, matching tights and ballet slippers. She was my three-year old dream come true. Every Saturday morning for 6 weeks, our family traipsed to the dance center where we watched my daughter sit on the floor, and refuse to move. The other little girls twirled, skipped and hopped in all their pre-school glory. My girl remained firm in her resolve, unwilling to budget despite the threats, negotiations and bribes we put forth. We'd return home defeated, where my daughter would promptly ask us to play music, and dance her heart out delightedly.
A few years ago, I quit trying to parent from books. I found so much conflicting information on child behavior, development and parenting styles shouting from magazines and parenting manuals, and it was all dictating how I should be raising my children. Coupled with all that noise, my husband refused to read the material. Managing him around the process of ingesting reams of information was another task I wanted to be freed from. Leaving this noise behind, in this particular season of my life, felt better than forcing it to work out. I let it go, and it was liberating.
I'm learning that children dictate who they are, despite who you expect them to be. I’m also learning that getting quiet (both within, and without) can help with letting go, and that there continues to be so many chances for me to flex the muscle of surrender during parenthood. Increasing opportunities for listening and observing, and decreasing the time I'm spending talking and directing my kids, often leads me down the path of least resistance. This letting go, isn't the same thing as giving in (and if I'm being honest, giving up can also be a part of my parenting.)
Additional ease can exist (and prevail) in our lives, if we release what we grasp so tightly, namely expectations. We can also give ourselves permission to change verbs: to live (according to a flow) versus adhering (to scripts we feel pressured to live by.) The obligations we place on ourselves and our families, can elevate the pressure cooker to uncomfortable levels. For the most part, our children are over scheduled, and we are increasingly anxious because of it. It may seem obvious, but limiting activities and classes, reducing structured play (and playdates), and extending downtime can all help get us to greater happiness, if we are feeling overwhelmed on our journey as parents.
As you venture into quieter times with your children, expect some resistance, from within, and from others. After all, reigning in the noise around how we should parent, can seem counterculture. Marketing is based off the premise that we are simply not enough. Marketing to parents is this same message, amplified. Walk into any baby box store, and the products scream at our inadequacies. And where marketing diminishes, peer pressure kicks in.
And yet, if we dim the noise, and make space for what may arise in the void, we may find that parenting intuitively has its own, delicate melody. It's as soft as a prayer, and barely audible but it can grow if you give yourself over to it. While you may be tempted to conduct as the orchestra plays, flowing intuitively through parenthood, is less about you leading the music, and more of you listening to the orchestra unfold a lullaby that you've never heard, and never expected.