Friday, January 11, 2013

The Importance of the Optimistic Mother

When my son was first born I had never seen a more beautiful child.

When he took his first steps I had never seen such a graceful athlete.

When he said his first word, “Zebra”, I was certain that we had a male Jane Goodall on our hands (of the four-legged variety, of course).

Typical, right?

Before kids, many of us are certain that these ooey-gooey outpourings will never happen to us. Especially for those who consider themselves to be a realist, or an intellectual, or at least a level-headed human being. There is NO WAY that you are going to let a diaper-clad anarchist inspire outlandish optimism.

And yet, becoming a mother is transformative; from the molecular structure of your being to the emotional make-up of your feelings. Almost immediately we begin to see abstract art in the curve of a dull Crayola and observe genius potential in the smallest of sentence structures, “Daddy go?” Pure poetry.

But it’s true, once a child becomes your own, a new creed finds itself stitched tightly into the fabric of your soul. By nature, you become much more of a miracle believer, a shaman, a spiritual beacon- you firmly begin to believe in Something greater than yourself. Any child is evidence of that. God does exist.

And while you will have these mountain top moments with your adorable offspring, you also have these dark days where you doubt yourself, your child, and your ability to do the job with a smile on your face.

For any mother that wonders why parenting is so hard and why other mothers seem to have it so easy (I may or may not be a part of this category), join the club. You are not alone. Motherhood is the hardest job I’ve ever had. And for those of us that work full time too, it’s no longer simply a job it’s a climate change. Your world no longer looks the same- whether it be desolate, fragrant, barren, or lush- all of our parenting landscapes have different shades of ash and Amaryllis. That’s the nature of the job.

I have found that the importance of being an optimistic mother isn’t something that is instinctive, it is something that is learned. But, nonetheless, it is imperative.

We must allow ourselves to be elevated to a new level of love outside of ourselves- we must outlandishly allow the “ooey-gooey” metamorphosis to happen. It’s an integral part of our own self-preservation and our child’s chance for a love-filled childhood. To make it through those first few newborn months into the terrible-two’s and all the way down the road to the teenage tumult- you must submit yourself to the power of optimistic parenting. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

The truth is that young mothers will find themselves up to their eyeballs in fecal matter. They will discover their wit’s end amid cleaning ketchup off the walls. And they may develop their first intense desire for a cigarette no matter how organic their purees are.

But most of all we will find ourselves on our knees, especially when our children disappoint us, hurt others, or hurt themselves. But believe in your ability. Believe in the power of forgiveness. And pray. A lot.

As a mother, I know I am not the first biased parent to fall in love with their child from the get go. And I know I am not the only mother who felt guilt over the first time he fell down the stairs (there goes that soccer scholarship), the first time he pulled on a cat’s tail (hmm… toddler “animal testing” at it’s finest), or made you cry in public.

Regardless of the challenges, I am still boggled by how many modern parenting styles there are, such as: Attachment Parenting, Helicopter Parenting, Instinctive Parenting, Permissive Parenting, and Authoritative Parenting. I think it is great that there are resources out there for parents who are in desperate need of direction, but there is much to be said of instinct- we just need to trust it.

These days I watch a lot of Animal Planet. My two-year old is an animal “expert”, so we spend afternoons identifying Capybara’s and Gnu’s until I am blue in the face. In doing so, I have found myself intrigued by pieces highlighting the parenting styles of cheetahs. It is a part of their nature to seek prey in order to keep their cubs alive and a lot of them are single working mothers who don’t have any one else to rely on. These wild creatures don’t spend time doing flashcards, they focus on surviving. Some days that will be our task too.

I encourage you to try a parenting style that isn’t a style at all.  Develop a moral compass and work hard to raise respectable, joyful kids who are allowed to be children (even if that means sticking crayons in the DVD player every now and then).  Instead of treating our kiddos like a standardized test score the minute they exit the birth canal, let’s leave the boxes unchecked and opt out on the basis of optimism.

As humans we have the greatest resource at our fingertips to help ease the challenge: the ability to believe in the beauty of our imperfect children and in the beauty of our ability to love them unconditionally. This is the secret that isn’t a secret at all.

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