Friday, April 8, 2011

Day 95: Room to Breathe

Yesterday was the first truly beautiful Spring day we were able to get out and enjoy, and boy did we take advantage! The morning was spent at the "Sugar Shack" where we learned all about maple trees, sap, and syrup. We even got to roam the woods with buckets, collecting the dripping sap. The combination of sun, fresh, open air, leaves crunching under our feet and mud squishing up around our boots was magical after a long winter, especially for my earthy boy.

But the real treat came after the field trip was over. We sat in the grass and dirt - sans blanket or wet wipes (*gasp* I'm working on appreciating the value of unclean and messy!) - and ate a picnic lunch with good friends. When the kids (all 2-3 years old) had finished eating, they ran to the row of massive rock piles right next to us, where they spent nearly an hour climbing, jumping, and sliding around with each other while we mothers enjoyed nearly uninterrupted conversation.

The conversation itself was energizing and encouraging as it always is among this supportive group, and it stirred ideas that will be coming out in future posts. But I was affected on a deeper level simply by watching these wonderful women with their children.

I cringed as Jackson rolled around in the dirt and dust. I worried when he wandered out of sight on the other side of the mound. I held my breath as he stood at the top, working to keep his balance. I watched intently as he interacted with his peers to make sure I'd see if he needed my help.

Then I looked around and saw the freedom these other women felt and started tuning in to it.

One child was climbing the rocks barefooted, another without pants, and all were taking their turn on the other side of the mountain where they could be heard but not seen. There was no one yelling, "Careful!", no one standing up to check in. These women were trusting their children, giving them some much-needed freedom and space to play and explore. And they seemed to be doing it without a second thought.

I, on the other hand, was running an inner monologue to convince myself to honor these same needs that I know Jackson has: The car seat can be cleaned, his clothes can be washed, he can take a bath - let him get dirty. He is capable of asking for help if he needs it, he is capable of making safe choices without me hovering - let him play in earshot out of sight. He's thoughtful and cautious - let him decide when to be careful and what careful means. He's an excellent communicator, capable of navigating peer relationships without interference, and able to ask for help when he needs it - let him interact without guidance and decide how to handle conflict if it arises.

After a while, my nervous energy was overtaken by the calm coming from these other women, and the monologue was put to rest. Then both he and I were able to really bask in the gift of freedom we were being given in these moments.

Jackson is sensitive, but not weak. And he's growing stronger by the day. I'm doing my best to recognize and respect his emerging confidence and abilities and his diminishing need for guidance and assistance. But in all honesty, I'm probably doing a below-average job.

I hover. And when I do, I communicate distrust. When he senses that I don't think he's capable, that I think he'll need help, it eats away at the confidence he's trying to develop and stunts his growth. My only reward is a bump or bruise avoided, maybe an insignificant conflict diffused; very small prizes when they come at the expense of his autonomy.

The times I'm able to let go and give him room to breathe, I see him flourish. I watch him attempt big things, believing he can accomplish them, and he surprises me with capabilities I didn't know he had, because I never gave him an opportunity to showcase them. And the payoff I get when he beams with pride or learns to pick himself up and try again is enormous.

Being a part of this community is a humbling and inspiring experience, and one for which I will be eternally grateful. I'm continually challenged and validated in ways that wouldn't be possible on my own. So thank you, to those of you who blessed us with your presence yesterday and gave us the gift of freedom!


  1. Ah ah ! It comes easier with the second child, and easier again with the third... I was never stressed, not even with my first born, I let him run free and do things that made my MIL comment... I am even less stressed with my other children ! We went to the lake this afternoon, the children and me. Elias (not quite 6 yo) and Nina (not quite 3 yo) frolicked on the shore / in the water in their undies while Sophie (1 yo) discovered the dirt and twigs and other wonders on all four... I sat on the floor when we arrived, and I did not get up once until we left 1 1/2 hours later...
    It is fun to let the children have fun !

  2. Yes, Murielle, I can definitely see it coming easier with Max! Hopefully someday I'll be as carefree as you and these moms ;)