Sunday, October 20, 2013

Reconnecting with my Dear Delilah

Dear Delilah,

The last few weeks have been challenging ones. Between you starting preschool, me working a few more hours, and all of the small but significant ways those changes impact our routines, there's been a whole lot of adjusting to do that hasn't always been smooth.

Sometimes, it's been downright ugly.

If I'm being honest, and as I'm seeing more clearly now that I'm taking some time and space to process just how and why things have gone off the rails as much as they have recently, my expectations have been unrealistic. I've been expecting too much from you, and I've been expecting too much from me, too. I have ignored what I know to be the limits on my energy, my patience, my time. I have pushed aside or postponed until later your very real needs for my affection and undivided attention. You have expressed those needs in the best way that you know how, which sometimes involved refusing my requests, or whining, or crying and stomping feet. I have lost my temper, which sometimes involved yelling, slamming doors, or crying and stomping feet.

We have been caught in a cycle of pushing each other's buttons, and of responding poorly to having our buttons pushed.

I, being the adult here, am committed to being proactive in healing the dynamic between us, and in better expressing and managing my uncomfortable feelings, like anger or frustration. Some of that is work that I have to do on my own, like using my knowledge of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) to be mindful of my thinking errors, which lead to uncomfortable feelings, which lead to inappropriate behaviors. (Being angry or frustrated is fine, yelling and slamming doors because I'm angry or frustrated is not fine.) I can't count the number of times in the past few weeks that I have let flawed thoughts spiral out of control. Thoughts like: "I can't handle this." "I'm not capable." "I'm a horrible mother." "I'm not cut out for this." Those thoughts do not serve me, and I must be mindful not to let my mind run away with them.

I need to be more aware of my own self-care needs. I need enough sleep, I need enough physical activity, I need enough quiet and peaceful time to myself, I need enough coffee, and I need enough yoga.

This is about more than just me, though, and I have some work to do with you, too. Primarily, I need to pay more attention to your needs and your cues, and I need to have realistic expectations about how patient a nearly 4 year old is capable of being. I need to give you bigger helpings of my undivided attention. I need to play, really play with you more, rather than expecting you to be satisfied with helping make dinner or handing me a wipe during your brother's diaper change as quality interaction. I need to sit down and just snuggle and be with you.

The last few Sundays have been really good for reconnecting with you. Last Sunday, you spent the afternoon outside with me while I planted tulip and crocus bulbs. I could have had it done in an hour, but I let you help dig and fill in the holes, and when you got bored and wanted to play in the leaves instead, I went and grabbed a rake, burying you in leaves as requested, then letting you bury me, our giggles drifting through the neighborhood. Today, we spent the day snuggled up and reading books, singing, and chatting the day away. A few times when I'd return from throwing a load of laundry in the dryer or stirring the stew, you'd pat the couch next to you and ask me to sit by you. Rather than asking you to hold on or wait a minute, I simply sat where you asked me, pulled you in close, and kissed the top of your head while you seemed to melt right into my body, the body that carried you for 9 months, then nursed you for over 2 years.

These close, connected, joyful moments with you recharge me, and I will make a conscious effort to have at least a brief moment of true, uninterrupted connection with you each morning, before the hustle and bustle of getting ready and leaving the house carries us both away. Despite this phase that has been difficult for both of us, I am grateful and humbled to be your mother. You continue to teach me about myself, about parenting, and about the world. You continue to delight me with your energy, your creativity, your wit, your spunk, your sass, and your kind and gentle nature. I know that I'm not a perfect mother, and I hope that you'll forgive me my mistakes, knowing that I tried to recognize and learn from them, learning and growing right alongside you.




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