teaching fish to swim

I was always taught not to make too much of myself. Don't make too much noise. Don't upset others. Don't cause a fuss. Put others first. Nothing wrong with some of that - manners are important and there is nothing wrong with a well behaved child. But there was a point when it became clear that the needs of others were more important than mine. That my role was to accept things as they were. To not stand up for what I wanted. Easier that way and besides, who was I to deserve it anyways.

The pros of this upbringing is that you are generally thoughtful of others and make friends easily. You keep your commitments no matter how hard it may be. You think of others first and put their needs at the front of the line. Nothing wrong with some of that. Nothing wrong at all.

Except it also made me feel small. And by the time I realized my smallness it was already so ingrained in me it was no easier to separate it than it is to isolate the red part of the rainbow apart from the rest. It's just not a rainbow without the red.

Suffice to say this has had both a negative and a positive impact on my life. I've had to learn how to get my needs met in relationships the hard way and it's still a work in progress. My 20's were a fierce struggle of individuating and reprogramming. I still hold things in. I peacemake more often than I should. It's still evolving and this is no sad lament. I like who I am, the bumpy parts included because trying to find myself has been hard won and that alone is worth a lot.

But I am determined to teach M differently. To say stop if someone is bothering her. When she hurts herself I don't try and shush her. I hold her and let her wail and I tell her to wail some more because it hurt, dammit, and she has a right to it. If she's angry I give her a pillow and tell her to whack it. Nothing wrong with whacking a pillow. And if she's upset over not getting what she wants I validate her reaction even as I hold my ground. She's allowed to react and her feelings matter. Things don't always go her way and I don't think they should but she's allowed to not like it and she gets to find her way through it too. And she needs to know she is always most important even when things are ugly. That she is safe with me and she is safe with herself.

I fear I may be overcompensating but so far it seems okay. She tells me when she's sad and she comes back to tell me when she's better. She apologizes for being an occasional brat and will ask me how I am doing and if I had a good day. She doesn't always want to share and I don't always push her. I tell her what I think and how much I adore her and when I am upset. We will talk about it with her in my arms and when she's not ignoring me it feels like it's sinking in.

And sometimes we make way too much noise in public. Harmless toddler noise but noisy all the same. And I deliberately choose not to quiet her because she's got a lot of important things to say. Because I want her to be a warrior no matter how she chooses to define it. My job is to give her the space and breadth to scream yes to the moon and roll naked in the surf.