***Joella writes at Fine and Fair, a blog primarily comprised of letters to her daughter. Fine and Fair is focused on the ups and downs along the journey of raising her daughter as a responsible citizen of the world with the values of compassion toward all living things, environmental responsibility, conservation, and celebrating diversity in all of its forms. Fine and Fair can also be found on twitter and facebook.***
When keeping in mind your ideal vision of how you wish to parent, what area are you the most hard on yourself with and why?
As someone who values the ideals of attachment parenting and who also who values the work I do, I tend to be hardest on myself for not being able to "do it all". For far too long, I tried to maintain the work of a full-time stay-at-home mom while also going to school and working part-time. It's really no surprise that juggling all of that was not sustainable, but I couldn't help but feel like I had failed when I admitted that as just one woman, I couldn't do it all by myself.
I think the reason why I've been hard on myself over not being able to be perfect at all of the above is because I have always placed so much value at excelling in everything I set forth to do. It's not enough to be an attached parent, I must be the best! attached! parent! ever! It's not enough to be a student, I must be the best! student! ever! I am coming around to the realization that I need to focus on being the best! me! ever! which means embracing my imperfections, knowing my limitations, and asking for and accepting help when and where I need it.
What is the most difficult issue you have with your child(ren) currently that often results in power struggles and disconnection?
For the most part, I strive to avoid power struggles at all costs. In the interest of embracing my imperfections, I have recently started to struggle a bit with getting Delilah to sleep, particularly at nap times. My parenting philosophy includes an emphasis on the importance of parenting children to sleep, but at the same time, my schedule doesn't allow for me to spend much more than 15 minutes or so to that end. I get frustrated when Delilah won't go down easily for a nap or for bedtime, because I so value having that time to myself (or with my husband) while she sleeps.
How do you overcome it?
I recently read The Division of Responsibility in Sleeping on Hobo Mama's blog, which served as a gentle reminder that I cannot force my daughter to go to sleep. Perhaps more importantly, it made me realize that I am not required to remain with her until she falls asleep, either. After all, I wouldn't have an easy time drifting off with someone near me who was feeling stressed and anxious about staying with me until I fell asleep!
I overcome it by realizing that I can be an effective and gentle night-time (or nap-time) parent by allowing my daughter to fall asleep in her own time and in her own way. I can make sure that she's comfortable and that her physical and emotional needs are met, and then leave her to own devices to fall asleep. If she becomes distressed, I'll return to comfort her, but so long as she's content, I can have just as much "me-time" if she's quietly playing with her stuffed animals or flipping through her books as I can if she's in dreamland.
Can you share a snippet of something you would say to your daughter after a moment of disconnection?
For starters, I either get down to her level or pick her up to bring her to mine so that she knows she has my attention. I always start with an apology, followed by an explanation (but I try to avoid making excuses) for the disconnection and a desire for it to be resolved. For example, I might scoop her up, kiss her, and say:
"Delilah, I'm sorry that I ignored you when you asked me to hold your doll. Mama has to get these dishes done before she goes to work so that Daddy has clean pans to cook your dinner in. I wish I could stay and play with you all night, but as soon as I'm done, we will play together until Daddy gets home; okay?"
What message do you wish to leave your child with about the intricacies of relationships that they can carry forward into their own?
I want for her to understand how important it is to never take relationships for granted. It is so vital to stay mindful in our relationships with others, remembering to ask how we can help meet the needs of our partners and friends, and to let them know how they can help us meet our own needs. We must be gentle with ourselves and ask forgiveness when we misstep, and gentle with our partners and friends and give forgiveness when they misstep. We mustn't be too proud to ask for or give forgiveness. We must continue to grow as individuals in our relationships, while being mindful to nurture our connections with those we love so that we don't lose them in our own growth spurts. Finally, no matter the challenges we face in our relationships, there must always be room for laughter!
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