Monday, April 26, 2010

Lessons in Life and Eyeliner with the Little One, Part 1 of 2

No one ever prepares you for the mental elasticity you need to raise a child. There's the extent to which child rearing is physically grueling -- all the baby carrying, lifting, stroller-transferring -- but I've found that the most challenging aspect of being a parent is having to constantly evolve with them. I've always been a particular person who likes order. Sure, I'm definitely a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type of gal, who relishes the emotive and creative motivation. But the defining action pulling it all together for me is always the implementation of structure. And when you've got a kid, that ringleader position you held in your own fantastic circus? Well, let's just say, you're suddenly being outsmarted, outrun, and essentially, completely humbled by the smallest, and possibly the most fascinating person you may have met in recent history.

When my daughter A was born, I had incredible difficulty breast-feeding. I struggled with multiple infections, vascular spasms, and ended up only being able to pump, while still being in a lot of pain. I coped with the desire to provide my daughter breast milk as I simultaneously struggled with the logistical issues of pumping eight times a day, a throbbing chest, and all the other intensity that ensues in those first three months post-birth. I mention this because we've all been through one issue or another with our children, whether it's been with feeding, colic, sleeping, etc. While they are very young, every day is full of new hurdles, as well as new accomplishments. What keeps us going are those grin-breaking moments when our child sits up for the first time, takes her first walk in the park, or says something as simple as "uh-oh."

At nearly 21 months of age now, my daughter has entered her Terrible Twos. It began with language -- with the basic words like ball, dog, car, eat. Then, came her first, and really, only sentence to date: "I want ____." At 7:30 a.m., my alarm every morning is: "JUICE! I WANT JUICE!" Throughout the day, A's list of demands seemingly directs the course of our day. She may want to eat turkey, listen to a song, or (sigh) draw with chalk on her shirt and mine. It also could be as ambiguous as "I want THIS!" and I have no clue what "this" is. Her "this" could be as incomprehensible as wanting to spear her string beans from only a certain angle. And with only that one sentence at her grasp, meltdowns, even if they are short-lived, can be a-many. For a few weeks, I kept asking A: "What do you want?" I later realized that by asking her what she wanted I was only making things more difficult for both of us, as half the time, she's just having fun ordering me around. Furthermore, if she sees me getting flustered, my anxiety possibly fuels her frustration.

As I watched my daughter's personality develop over the last few months, and started to characterize her to others as "willful", I felt tested in a way I had never felt, even through the rigors of graduate school. I felt like my hands were tied because I myself was so strong-willed.  I discussed this with my good friend J, a mom of two sons, and she suggested a different approach: why not drop the thinking of it being a "battle of wills"? I hadn't realized up until that point that I had felt like I was in some sort of contest.

So I've been trying -- to be more flexible. I have to give my daughter a lot of credit for this. It's probably one of the biggest lessons I'm learning in life. I'm a perfectionist at heart, but as a parent you ride a wave that's got unexpected bends, jumps and sometimes you're totally blown off that wave and have to start from scratch,  paddling until you're on the wave again (to use a surfing analogy). When A and I are in the heat of the moment and she's screaming, I try my hardest to take a step back and just be, instead of reacting. It doesn't always work. Sometimes we end up both giggling and dancing, and then at other times she's thrown bubble solution in my eyes, I've got fried egg on my forearm, I'm frazzled and late to an appointment …

But at the end of the day, I look at my life, our life together. The reflection tells me I'm a little tired. My eye make-up may or may not be intact depending on the type of tumbles I've taken. But I'm ready for the next adventure. What does Mama need to learn next, little one?


Disclaimer: Nuy Cho has no affiliation to any of the beauty companies mentioned on

1 comment:

ejc said...

Plenty more to learn from little ones!! I think Parents/children are mutual teachers/students for lifetime.