My children are both in new schools this year. My daughter took to classroom life like a fish to water; not so my son. For years he wailed and gnashed his teeth over it. . . until fourth grade, when he had Lori for his teacher.
He thrived in her classroom. What magic did she have? When I observed her classroom and spoke to her during conferences, I got to see and feel her magic for myself: She is unhurried. She asked my son a question and then waited peacefully for his answer. When he answered, she listened. Then she replied thoughtfully. She asked him to do something and then folded her hands calmly until he did it. She noticed what he did well and acknowledged it. She trusted him.
It seems almost counter-intuitive, but under her unhurried, trusting, build-on-the-strengths direction, he did more work, better, and took more responsibility for it than I ever expected he could do.
Could do. And I’m his mother. What prevented me from seeing his potential?
One of the biggest adjustments adults make when they become parents is in their relationship to time.
We are strongly socialized into the idea that time is scarce. It should be used “well,” which means efficiently. To “make good time” means to be ahead of schedule. We believe time can be “wasted.”
The high value we place on control and efficiency affects how we perceive parenthood and our children. As soon as baby is born, the time-obsessed questions are ceaseless: When will baby latch on? When will my milk come in? When will he sleep through the night? Roll over? Sit up? Crawl? Walk? Talk? Catch a ball? Read? And what is a mother’s most common lament? There aren’t enough hours in the day.
When her young child wants to “help,” efficiency directs the most loving of mothers to brush the help aside. She rolls her eyes in exasperation when her toddler insists, “I do it!” as if she has no idea where this desire for control comes from.
Babies just do not respect the clock in any way, shape, or form.
It isn’t easy. But only if we keep trying to control time.
To Save Time, Let Go.
Releasing expectations for how long things – breastfeeding, a toddler putting on shoes – will take, and when things – first words, complete knowledge of math facts – will arrive is our child’s life-long challenge to us. To accept that challenge is to let go. When we allow things to begin and unfold in their own time, we paradoxically save time and effort. This is true of:
Initiation of breastfeeding. Nature has it figured out so that it will work if no one shows up. Put baby on your belly after birth. After a rest, she will begin to root then crawl up to your breast and self-attach.* An unassisted infant can latch on about 50 min after birth. Experts believe this is baby’s first developmental milestone and helps the establishment of breastfeeding.
Acquisition of baby and child milestones. “Normal” covers a wide range. Comparing your child to another leads only to anxiety, which does not help your child. Do you, her mother, think she’s okay? If so, chances are great that she is. When you notice what she is doing instead of what she is not doing, you free her up to do more, on her own.
The hours in the day. Is it true that there are not enough of them? I invite you to question that belief right now. Recall the last time you had that thought and answer these questions: How do you react (think and feel) when you believe it? What would be different if you believed that you had exactly as much time as you needed?
In spite of the fact that my son was doing well in Lori’s classroom, I had some time-based anxieties. I thought his homework shouldn’t take so much time, that he ought to be faster with his times tables by now, that he was wasting time fumbling around with his pencil and daydreaming.
One day when I picked him up after school, I shared these concerns with Lori. I felt her go soft and peaceful. She smiled. She said to me – in words and energy – “It’s okay,” and I relaxed.
She turned to Nathan. “You’re doing really well,” she said. “You’ll get there. What’s important is that you’re building a really strong foundation of knowledge and study skills. It’s not a race.” He relaxed, smiled and stood up a little taller.
I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that after that conversation he did more schoolwork, faster and better, than before.
When I let go, ease entered in.