Many of us have read that famous essay, "All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten." by Robert Fulghum. Well, I guess I took a little bit longer than that!
This morning my baby woke me up with the birds - squirming and kicking by me in bed. I did all the usual things to try to get him to settle back into a deep sleep - offering to nurse him, holding him closer by my side, laying him on top of me - but none of the things worked. It was clear that I was just putting off the inevitable eviction from our warm bed, so I finally got up and brought him downstairs. I held him on his little potty and sure enough - he had to go... BAD! Amazing! My little-not-even-4-month-old baby is already learning to not soil his diaper, even in his sleep!
As I held him I thought about my options; it was not even 6 am yet. Also, it's my birthday and I'm not really a morning person! So - back to bed would be the obvious choice, right? Except that now I have all these thoughts racing through my mind and I'm kind of awake. The powerful urge to share and write was rising through me. Plus I was pretty sure Carter would go back to sleep in his swing, giving me uninterrupted time, a gift these days. Baby in the swing and coffee in a mug and I am here, sharing with you some of the things I've learned in 38 years - some profound, some "duh", and some a little bit of both. Most of these things I've actually learned since becoming a mother, almost 10 years ago.
Here are those things in no particular order, without rhyme or reason - a Random Rambling for you on my birthday:
1) Almost everything I "knew" turned out NOT to be true:
Who puts their baby on the potty? Everyone KNOWS that babies must "go" in diapers - Right?!? They can't possibly "know" when they need to eliminate or control that urge, RIGHT??
Wrong. Babies are way more capable and in tune than most of us realize. They CAN learn to eliminate in appropriate receptacles at a surprisingly young age. It's amazing and fun!
This is just one small example of something I used to "know" that turns out not to be the "Absolute Truth" at all. These past 10 years have really been about UN-learning many lessons that had become ingrained in my being without me even considering whether they were really true or not. This is pretty remarkable considering how well I did for the first 28 years of my life. I was the master of doing things the way I was "supposed to" and it really served me well. This made it difficult to change that pattern when I became a parent, but I'm glad I did because my family's life is better for it.
2) The best** way is often not the fastest or easiest:
Putting your baby on the potty is actually a great analogy for this lesson too. Elimination communication is not the fastest, most efficient way to get your kid out of diapers, but it is a pretty great way to do it! The benefits are many - less diaper rashes, fewer or no "battles" with your child about using the bathroom, less diapers used, less clothing soiled etc. But yes, it takes time and commitment and it is not something that everyone can do.
Birth is another great teacher for this lesson. I chose to have natural births all 3 times. This last time I remember whimpering, "I can't!" minutes before Carter was born. Luckily I had so much love and support surrounding me that those moments were fleeting and I was soon riding the post-birth, oxytocin high! Afterwards I looked at Mike and said, "That was hard!" but I would not change one thing about that day.
**sidenote - The term "best" is very relative and very personal. My "best" choice is likely not yours - I don't really believe in "Universal Bests" anymore. You do you, I do me. Thanks for not being offended by my choice of words on my Birthday! ;-)
3) There are always "Tradeoffs":
Every choice we make will have advantages and disadvantages, pros and cons, risks and rewards. WE CANNOT DO EVERYTHING. Women (particularly, mothers) CANNOT "Do It All." By choosing to homeschool my children WILL miss out on some of the school experiences that I loved. I cannot be home with my kids and also have a full time career. And my baby will not learn to go on the potty EXCEPT for in the early morning on my birthday when I'd rather sleep in! Tradeoffs.
4) Change is the only constant.
Carter started out his young life pooping multiple times per day. It seems that he is "consolidating" his BMs now though and that has meant that the past 2 mornings he has woken up early needing to "go". This has meant an earlier rising time for me. I've mentioned quite a few times how well rested I've been since Carter was born - and I immediately "knock on wood"! Because I've learned that babies sleep patterns can and WILL change. Guess I better keep up with my nap schedule!
5) Kindness is always the best way and always possible:
In the early years of parenting I struggled with a lot of things. I worried about the "right" way to do things. I stressed because I was doing things "differently." As I worked through things I finally realized the answer was always Kindness. This was a relief because it made a lot of things easier - I didn't "have to" follow the advice of the latest "expert" or punish my kids to be a good parent. It also meant that I didn't have to be perfect. Nope - it is guaranteed that I will mess up and that is ok because Kindness and forgiveness towards myself is part of this lesson, and self-love is crucial if I want to offer loving-kindness to others.
I was actually pretty embarrassed when I realized that it took so much time and struggle to figure this out (30+ years!) But you know what? As much as we think we value Kindness in our culture we really DON'T. We pay lip service to Kindness while the value that permeates our culture is COMPETITION. We justify this by telling ourselves it is the only way to achieve happiness and success. So we tell our kids to "be nice" while ranking and sorting them and telling them that it is great when they outperform their friends. It is the basis of everything - from school and sports, to careers and capitalism.
So I guess I can forgive myself for taking so long to unlearn that lesson.
Bringing this back to the important lessons about babies, potties, and kindness. I don't believe that putting your baby on the potty is the "only" way or the "right" way. Kindness makes me recognize that there are many ways. Kindness reminds me that "my way" isn't even an OPTION and that I am very fortunate and privileged to make many of the choices I do. Kindness spurs me to share my experience in order to connect with others not to compete or judge.
6) Letting go, Living in the moment, and Accepting "What is" are the keys to Happiness and Inner Peace
Ok so that is kind of a lot to lump into one "point", but this is getting long and I'm thinking I should wrap this up. I'm pretty good at accepting "What is". I could have been upset or annoyed that my birthday started off with less sleep than I preferred. But instead I embrace my early morning and wrote this awesome post! Hopefully I'll make up with some rest later because I feel a scratchy throat coming on. But if I do develop a full-on cold, I will be ok and know that it will pass.
The other two are things that I have learned and know to be true, but still struggle with every day. I struggle to let go - of the bad and the good. I struggle to remain present often wishing I could go back in time or impatiently making plans for the future. Letting go and living in the moment is a tough and constant practice. Sometimes I seem to be getting better at it and sometimes I "regress". But I can always come back to the practice - just like we come back to our breath in meditation.
38 years to UN-learn and learn these lessons - hopefully many, MANY more years to get better, practice and relearn them when necessary. My 38th year was pretty darn spectacular which makes "Goodbye" feel a little sad and bittersweet. But if I can remember that life if really just a flow of moments strung together, then I don't have to say Goodbye. I can remember that This Moment is Enough.
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Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.