when the little one was simply a wee one, I felt like I had to follow suit with all that hype of “read all these popular parenting books to learn how to do this”. and it was crazy-making and it was impossible to listen beyond the banter and chatter of what parenting should look like. so, I refused for a long time because in trusting myself, and my child, felt far more important than trusting a book who knew nothing of me beyond my privileged ability to simply purchase it.
but then I read Naomi Aldort’s “Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves” and it made so much sense to view this as a journey for us both, together. so I kept absorbing more, and more again, and Pam Leo’s “Connection Parenting” spoke my hearts language. the invitation to meet them in this sacred connected space was delicious and so incredibly validating.
soon I dove into anything and everything by Alfie Kohn, Thomas Gordon, Larry Cohen, Gordon Neufield, Gabor Maté, Laura Markham, Jean Liedloff, Genevieve Simperingham and Kim John Payne. with each book I found myself having these epiphany moments, getting to yes! over and over, and finding my ‘parenting-self’ in the words shared.
comfortable. validating. connective and present. mindful and grounded.
then, life shifted. the ground shook, first, ever so slightly but it jarred me enough to take notice. then another shock-wave hit. then another. and another still. and as I held on tight it was all I could do to keep my head above water as the tidal wave overtook so much of our gentle, connected space.
this wasn’t in any of those books! (I checked) where I had such comfort and connection to this positive, attached parenting of the little one, I now felt like I lost my sail and rudder. I was so mad for so long at the universe because I felt like I did the right things and this wasn’t supposed to happen! the tables turned and my questions screamed in my head searching and begging for answers and for solace. what happens when you can’t connect? what about not being able to touch, to hold and nurture, without senses overloading and avoiding? (there is nothing so painful as your child, deep in their own pain, pushing you so far away) what happens when the words fail your little one and you beg for them to come back? I was back to those books being pages with empty words because I thought they didn’t speak my language anymore.
on the days when the floor felt like it simply fell out from underneath me, I used to hold her close to me when she was sleepy and open to touch and dance slowly in the kitchen while singing along with John Mayer’s “Say (What You Need To Say)” on the iThing hoping that in some magical way her words would come. I struggled. I mourned. I cried rivers and oceans of tears. it is the thing you must do – this deep mourning – for the shift in your world is real and it is for a lifetime.
the gravity of this is heavy, and the mourning comes in waves, still, and always when you least expect.
today, our road is no easier and all the books in the world cannot speak to where we are as a family. but I returned to a few of them recently and re-read them anew and some of the old words connected in a different part of this momma’s journey. our connecting was there … but it was different. growing as a momma hasn’t been an option, it’s been necessary to understand so much so quickly and to be the best advocate and learned therapist to reach her, guide her, and bring her back. today we spend more time in therapist offices and special education meetings and working, working, working on progression in the smallest of increments.
success is measured slowly, deliberately, thoughtfully as the little one guides us on her journey.
and when I am allowed to enter her space and see life through her lens, I am humbled and grateful and always in awe. this weekend I joined her at her space, at the school in the woods and their newly redesigned playground. so much to see and often introduced to me by the little one with a smile or giggle or an open arm to join in next to her when words fail her. other times the words spill out with precision around the replaying of an exact play scenario in which she found some comfort. and then, she extends her hand, open to receive mine, and bounds us both to the new zip-line and rope-swings. it is here that she shows me why she keeps telling me “no more dresses, momma. can’t do the zip-line with dresses“.
she glides. she bounces. she moves her body effortlessly and purposefully, inverting her head, allowing her body to feel the push and pull as she moves back and forth. and then, the words came. “momma! look! I bend my head back like C and K taught me!” (her private occupational therapists) she was getting learned sensory input by simply being one with this space. she was self-regulating and self-modulating on her own and I sat there with happy tears streaming down my face.
it’s what is called carry-over and it is a hard thing to learn and promote because it comes from within. but there she was, in an expansive school playground filled with natural wooden structures and five slides and countless swings and even the “ten-tire bouncer”. and the little one was showing me how she was using it like the gym at her occupational therapists office, doing carry-over from all her countless hours of therapy. there is so much of her that remains a mystery but this I heard loud and clear: this. this is my space where I can be amazing, incredible ME.
so, those books? many of them have been donated to families who need them more than I, but their message of connection and attachment and being present remain. I mindfully stopped reading all those popular (and unpopular) parenting books, as I have learned that our journey is ours alone to travel and experience and continue to be present in. the moments, as long as I allow them to be, are rich and filled with so much that is spoken and unspoken. it is an honor to be her momma and to simply have the great privilege to walk beside her on this life journey.
and the invitation? quietly, ever so quietly, I wait for the next time the little one offers an outstretched hand for mine. for the next time I’m asked to join her zipping on a zip-line or learn how she plays with J and S on the ten-tire bouncer at recess time. knowing I can trust her to continue to show me what she needs is powerful — her voice may not be strong at times, her gaze may never meet mine fully and touch may still be hard … but in all of this, the invitation remains to meet her right where she is. and when that door opens, I will always be there for her. always.