Desires to write and reflect have emerged more since my baby turned one. I have tried to write a couple of blogs this summer about how I think parenting is one of the most divisive things I have ever been part of or why in the world I think getting my PhD is important in this season? But what I keep returning to are the three most important words I heard while I was pregnant and what they mean now.
I was reminded of these words again when a handmade envelope came in the mail this week. It was created from a page in a magazine, with the utmost care to display a beautiful print of a painting. The painting wasn’t important, but inside was a CD of pictures and notes from our nanny last year. She is off on other adventures this year pursuing her vocation, but I was struck by what a difference a year makes.
Last September, I was preparing to go back to work. Amidst interviewing people, I was trying to figure out how to pump breastmilk at work and what life would be like for Thatcher without us there. We trained someone; she started to work and then a few weeks in, she realized she had overcommitted. Ugh. It was frustrating and annoying, but we found our wonderful second nanny in that season of nothing-ever-going-according-to-plan.
Again, I didn’t know how Thatcher would react especially with so much transition. I realized (and mourned) firsts would happen without me and fretted he would bond with someone else. But when I put that CD in my computer, I realized this is exactly what needed to happen – to open myself up to the reality that my son will form amazing connections with other people.
He will learn in community, not just from his parents. He will be shaped by others and that has to happen by me loosening my grip a bit.
Of course, I was nervous about this when he was just a basketball under my shirt. How would I navigate new family issues and childcare dilemmas? What would happen – tell me the future, now! My anxiety and hormones put me in therapy while I was pregnant. I needed space to process this transition. It was there, expressing these thoughts, that my ever-caring therapist said gently but firmly, “Kristin, you need to trust your son.” Those three words: Trust your son, have stayed so close to my heart.
I want to trust books, advice from blogs, and, yes, even other people. But trust a baby? A toddler? What does that even look like?
I go back to the anxiety of the first year of parenting – the “What does this mean?” questions. The googling. I remember the worry of when will he smile, poop, stop screaming? Will he eat this? Why won’t he sleep? When will he walk? When will he not need a bottle? Will he be okay?
There were a couple of weeks where I scoured apps looking for black and white flashcards in the first 10 weeks of his life. I worried that he wasn’t developing or that, rather, I was slacking. Now I realize that those first few weeks were for being held – him by me and me by the serenity and deep relief of having this little being on the outside.
I thought it was about trusting myself, my God, my community, and if not that, then chat boards and Mayoclinic.com, babycenter or a blog. For sure, those are helpful, but in my deep anxious moments of grasping for information, cures, and plans, I was looking at a screen when I needed to trust my son.
When he was ready, he sat up. When he wanted to, he chose walking over crawling. When I leave, he cries, and that’s okay – it’s okay to be upset. He needs to listen to his emotions and so do I. He needs more than just me. When I trusted that, he flourished in these relationships. And he comes back to me. There is nothing greater than our bond and in that trust, I can let go of him because it will be okay. Oh the fear I had in doing it though (still do).
So as I scrolled through these precious videos and pictures of this past year not taken by me, I realized again that trust is a beautiful thing. A thing I will need to learn again and again as a mother.
Therefore, instead of “shoulds” or anxiety, I have been experimenting with a new mantra for parenting: “trust and surrender.” Trust and surrender my body, trust and surrender relationships, trust and surrender time, trust and surrender to faith – a faith that tells me Thatcher is created to unfold as he will, grow in community, and feel the world around him. A faith that says this is about me letting go and trusting it will be okay.