This week has been another low-energy, restful week. A cold hit the household, and we retreated beneath quilts and blankets until it passed.
But we have been enjoying new bursts in Ava’s speech, keeping us constantly on our toes. She has so much to say now, and seems to be picking up our phrases every day.
‘There you go, Mama’ or my favourite, ‘Dinner, where are you?’
And then there are little things here and there, little descriptions thrown in, like, ‘it’s so nice’ or ‘very sad’ when she sees someone crying. Yesterday she said to me, ‘Are you ok Mama?’ which, obviously, nearly broke my heart. I was fine. But I guess she was just checking.
I’ve also noticed that she has become quite attached to some of her toys lately. Every night now she takes tiger on her sleepy walk with Daddy. Mousey is also a favourite and accompanies her most places. Her rocking horse, Puck, gets daily samples of her food. In fact as I write this, I can see last night’s mash potatoes still smeared over his mouth.
As she approaches two, and her will continues to emerge in delightful and surprising ways, I find myself thinking more and more about my feelings toward discipline and such. And I hate that word – discipline, and we don’t use it either, since obedience isn’t our goal.
I’ve always felt like Ava wasn’t mine – that is, that she wasn’t mine to control or to even make unfair demands on. I don’t see it as my job to mould her, and I am very uncomfortable with any mode of thinking that boils down to ways to control her. Even gentle control makes me uneasy.
So I’m thankful that I happened to start reading Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, by Naomi Aldort, who is one of my favourite authors when it comes to children and parenting. It couldn’t have come at a better time, and is reassuring that I should continue to do and be with Ava the way I feel is right, which means, as the title suggests, unlearning some very bad habits that we all inherit. It means trusting our children above anything else. It means letting go of the notion that unless we find a way to control our children’s behaviour they will be little monsters. I suppose, at bottom, it is about doing things out of love rather than fear and believing that your children will not only be good people, but the best people they can possibly be, not because you demand it of them, but because they want to, out of their own free will.
I have no reason to doubt that Ava is anything but a wonderful, compassionate little girl. She is the best person I know, and I’d like her to know growing up that I have no expectations – I really just want to see who she is and whatever that is, to accept. She cannot disappoint me, because she doesn’t have to be or think or act in any way I’ve already shaped out for her.
Mostly, it comes down to freedom, and my hatred of not feeling free, of remembering that weight of other people’s expectations. It’s a terrible thing to be told you’ve disappointed someone, words I will never use with my children. And it’s terrible to be aware of the myriad expectations that those who ‘love’ you silently, unconsciously, expect you to fulfill. That’s a weight I am still learning to shake, every day. I don’t want that for Ava.
‘If you have the courage to trust your child so that she can direct her own life, you will enjoy the most fulfilling parenting experience, one in which you will fall in love with the unique wants and preferences of your child. Such love is unconditional – loving your child, not your idea of how she should be. Love is only love when there are no conditions. The moment love is used as a reward for behaviour or achievement, it ceases to be love and instead becomes a lesson in give and take.’