Please trust me to grow
in my own special way.
Love me, hold me close,
follow my lead.
Let me dance my own tune,
beat my own rhythm.
Don’t force my petals.
In my own time, I will blossom.
Just as you trusted me to grow into the beautiful newborn you gave birth to.
(Trust, by Pinky McKay)
I believe our children are our greatest teachers. With each child I have learnt valuable lessons – patience, wonder, humility and trust. Trust can be the most challenging.
As I speak to mothers every day, I see first-hand the struggles that are often around issues of trust: trust that babies really aren’t manipulating (that the needs they express are legitimate); trust that the tiny baby who needs to feed every hour or two right now will eventually space out his feeds; trust that one night your wakeful baby will eventually sleep all night; and trust that your toddler will develop impulse control (that his ‘disruptive’ behaviour and meltdowns aren’t because he’s truly ‘out to get you’!).
Although there is overwhelming pressure to intervene and ‘train’ babies, they will naturally have the capacity to fall asleep with less help as their immature nervous systems develop. And when their tiny tummies stretch and they can coordinate sucking, swallowing and breathing, they become more efficient at feeding and will naturally space out feeds. When they’re ready, they will eat family foods too, without any forcing or fuss.
Even toddlers are still learning, and although we do need to keep teaching calmly and with respect, it isn’t a punishable offence for a small person to have a meltdown when he just can’t manage his big feelings. Your toddler’s brain is still developing the connections that can help him make sense of these feelings, and with gentle guidance and trust he will learn to handle his emotions appropriately.
Just as we learn to trust in our child’s innate needs and his goodness, we can learn to surrender early. We can follow our tiny infant’s rhythms, or we can struggle to impose our own ways. The more we struggle, the more our connection with our child is at risk, and the more difficult we can make our own journey, long beyond infancy – especially if we have a naturally spirited child.
This surrender is not weak or submissive. It is not ‘giving in’. Surrender, in this context, is really about acceptance of where our child is at right now, as well as where we are as parents, and about ‘letting go’. Surrender means living in the present, not missing precious moments through resentment or blame – especially blaming ourselves – for things being different from what we expected or hoped for.
Surrender is also about being kind to ourselves, for the times we didn’t live up to our own expectations of what a perfect mummy looks like in our own unforgiving eyes. Surrender means forgiving ourselves for our own ‘meltdowns’ and ‘screw-ups’. We all make mistakes, because whatever our ideals, we can only do our best with what we know and the resources we have right now – time, energy, sleep and support.
Surrender is also based on trust: trusting our child and trusting our own innate wisdom as we hang in there and work through challenges in the way that’s best for each precious, unique little being. Stop for a moment, right now. Snuggle into that soft downy head, breathe in that sweet baby perfume then gaze into those deep eyes. If you have a toddler, slow down and watch him – how his hair falls, how soft his skin is, how cheeky his grin is, and how he makes you want to tickle him, just to hear him giggle.
Enjoy this moment before it passes. This is surrender.
Pinky McKay is an internationally certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) and author of four parenting books published by Penguin. She offers an online Mummy Mentor program which includes monthly ‘ask Pinky’ phone calls, a structured information series and an archive of interviews with professionals and researchers in child development and women’s health. Check it out at www.parentingbyheart.com.au
(photo courtesy Mel Muller Photography)