I just followed and then unfollowed some wonderful and inspiring writers on Instagram because I felt so freaking intimidated reading their posts. A wash of sadness swept over me, a feeling I know well that happens when the voice of comparison is in the house. The unfollowing was a great act of kindness on my part—the sadness vanished almost instantly. What does that vulnerable, scared new writer part of me need? A little more time to find her voice, make her way, try out her wobbly new legs, for me to respect her process. Today I will meet her exactly where she is.
At school this week I am seeing this same thing in the new 4-year-olds in the yard. They hide behind their parents’ legs, peeking around, wanting in and yet needing time. Lots of time to enter a vibrant, fast, new world, at their own pace. Maybe they will spend the whole day watching from the outer edges of the yard. Eager parents gently nudging them forward are often met with a backlash of kids holding on tighter. Eager parents wanting their kids to be successful. Successful at the four-year-old level means having friends, playing freely, running, laughing. Eager parents of quiet children remembering their own pain as quiet children and wanting a different experience for them.
What if, that different experience is one of acceptance of them exactly where they are. Holding their hand, remembering with them what it is like to feel slow to warm up to new things. What if, instead of acting out our fears, we watch them bubble up:
If I don’t push forward, I/my child might be stuck forever, I/my child will never be independent, I/my child will be an unsuccessful loser with no friends, and people will think I’m a bad parent. I’m already worried I might be a bad parent.
And we breathe into them, and allow them space to move through. Yes, yes, yes. New things can be scary, and we can stay with that feeling. We don’t need to abandon ourselves. You are so brave to be doing this big new thing. I am with you. There is time. I am proud of you, in this moment, exactly as you are.
Wait a minute! You wonder, “Is this about my child or me?”
What if, what you and your child need are exactly the same thing. Kindness and acceptance.
What might happen next?