I had a conversation with a neighbor today, a mom whom I have not spoken to for more than a few moments in passing for several years. She needed to spill some resentments she’s had towards me. Her point-of-view did not surprise me, but it helped me connect some dots.
Since becoming a mom, many of my weaknesses have been unveiled, but I have also realized some surprising strengths. For most of my life I have been a push-over and a people pleaser. I have never been good at sticking up for myself. But when it comes to my children, I’m a big bad mama bear.
I would die one thousand times for my kids. I would (and did) alienate friends and neighbors because of my parenting ideals. For instance, I did not want my children watching TV and certain movies, sitting at a computer at the age of four, or left unattended with peers on the beach while a dad went surfing. This all seems reasonable in retrospect, but many times it meant separating my kids from the herd, which to other parents was viewed as judgmental of their own parenting.
I am told that other parents were afraid of me, which, even as I say it, is so hard for me to believe. They were afraid of me, a person who has always made herself as humble and non-threatening as possible, a person who would rather be liked, or at least not disliked, than be admired and respected.
When I began taking my baby to RIE parenting classes, I knew I was onto something. My gut told me that I had found exactly the guidance I’d been searching for, even though I was unaware that I had been searching. The fundamental truths I perceived in the RIE philosophy gave me the conviction to go against the grain.
I could no longer tolerate a stranger touching my baby in the supermarket. If friends or family members wanted to hold her, I would not let them near without the sense that my baby was leaning towards the person, or in some other way indicating her consent. I may not have expected others to respect me, but I demanded respect for my baby. As much as I wanted to be liked and accepted, I wouldn’t compromise my child. I was a push-over, but she was a person not to be messed with.
So, though I understand why other parents may have felt judged by me, I wasn’t judging. I was determined and focused. I was learning exciting new theories and applying them to my life with my children each day. I was fully engaged, and I never doubted the process.
I have made lots of mistakes as a parent, as we all do, but I am proud to say that my children are not people pleasers or push-overs. They stick up for their friends and are surprised and dismayed when others don’t do the same. They have a strong will, a sure sense of themselves, and they don’t dim their brightness to please anyone. I hope they stay that way. And I’m grateful to them for showing me the strength and success that I never knew I could have.
“We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
– Marianne Williamson