Dear Caring Parent,
Have you noticed these two A’s in your parenting experience – acclimation and acceptance? We usually think of acclimation when we’re changing seasons or hiking higher mountains.
Acclimation means to adapt to a new temperature, altitude, climate, environment, or situation. It’s clearly huge in the parenting experience! Pregnancy is a concrete start acclimating for women. All of a sudden your body is very different than previously. For men, the full reality of becoming a father may hit a bit later because their body isn’t overtly changing (it is on a hormonal level though), yet they are definitely adapting to a woman who is having a very different experience of herself.
Acceptance is about you getting to a point where you are neutral about a situation, in particular one that is bugging you. It’s when you say “oh, there it is” with no feeling about it. You aren’t denying, resisting, or judging the situation. It just is. It’s preparation for the best action. The kind of acceptance I’m talk about here is not saying “this is agreeable, okay.” As Eckhart Tolle points out, “It looks passive, but in reality it brings something entirely new into the world.”
These two As of your parenting experience are frequently dancing together.
ACCLIMATION – The First A in Your Parenting Experience
Once a baby is birthed, acclimation is forever present in your day. The child’s growing personality along with capabilities and emotional temperament are forever changing. We feel like we are always playing catchup – just about when we figure them out, they change! Everything changes – where we keep things, the day’s rhythms, the mix of time and energy for self, child and partner, who is available to help or not, the clothes we wear, our work priorities. Parents are constantly acclimating, adapting!
Like acclimating to the altitude when hiking a mountain or seasonal weather changes, sometimes we are full of wonder and awe in our parenting surroundings. Sometimes we are out of breath, don’t think we can make it, and wish we could turn around and return to previous normalcy. Unlike when mountaineering, we can’t do that turnaround!
Everyone has different aspects of their parenting experience that they easily acclimate to, or with which they have difficulty. I easily acclimated to the needs of a child – I was ready and worked as nurse in various maternal child health areas so knew quite a lot about children. Yet I had a hard time when I needed my introverted self’s quiet time – on vacation, during the drain of logistics management, or during particularly noisy days. At those times, acclimation took a certain resolve. I had to listen to myself kindly, including when full of frothy language.
In order to return to a calm patience with myself and my daughter, I had to take a lot of deep breaths to check in with myself. It helped to envision what I wanted to be saying at the end of this phase/day/mothering ‘hike’. I needed to learn how to acknowledge my needs and voice them to a child. I became adept at exploring my options for easing a day or situation. It required the L.O.V.V.E. I subsequently laid out in my book, The Dance of Parenting. I didn’t know that at the time, but I wish I had. It would have simplified the times I struggled with these two As of my parenting experience.
When I look back on it, the very thing I had when I wasn’t challenged in my parenting experience, was what helped me acclimate to a change. Acceptance. The second A of the parenting experience.
ACCEPTANCE – The Second A in Your Parenting Experience
You know how some days your child’s tantrums don’t trigger you, and other days they send you up a wall? Or some days you feel ready to learn a new way to deal and other days you just push against it – why is this happening, what’s wrong with my child, what’s wrong with me, why me, does anybody know how hard this is, this scares the sh-t out of me. Well, the days you aren’t triggered, you are full of acceptance. You know acceptance.
Acceptance doesn’t mean you like something or that it is ok. It means that you are in a space of realizing this is what is. It’s not good or bad. You know that you may need help (or not) but that you can step into this situation or solution and be fine. It’s like your inner world expands instead of contracts around the situation. It takes you into a space within where you find your resolve, patience, new solutions – whatever you need to acclimate!
If you’ve experienced acceptance, you know it is a state of being that is incredibly calm and open. You also know it is a state of being from which new and brilliant solutions flow, solutions that make you wonder, ‘why didn’t I think of that before?’. When in acceptance, your anger is a full throated expression of what you think/feel/need rather than blaming, downtrodden, or the need to win. For those of you who are physically aware, you notice that when in acceptance, whether you are expressing from anger or calm, it comes from your chest and throat rather than your head.
I have yet to find a switch that puts me into acceptance when I’m not there. Moving into acceptance seems to be a process. It starts with being aware of the need for acceptance. I become aware by paying attention to when I am cursing, worrying, or making self-pity or pithy comments. From there, I can process into acceptance, quickly or slowly depending on the depth of what’s triggered by a situation.
HOW ACCEPTANCE AND ACCLIMATION WORK TOGETHER IN YOUR PARENTING EXPERIENCE
These two As in our parenting experience work together. Noting where we are having trouble acclimating starts movement towards acceptance. Acceptance then allows you to acclimate to your circumstances! These two As work synergistically.
In other words, once I notice that acclimation is not happening, moving into acceptance is oh so helpful. Because acceptance leads to the most beautiful, good problem solving ! Once we get into acceptance, we are in the doorway to new, energized and amazingly easy problem solving. It is not taught in school!
To help get into acceptance a little more quickly, here are some steps I’ve found helpful. When it comes to a parenting experience, I ask myself:
- What am I reacting to?
- How am I resisting it?
- What about my resistance to it is important to me? This I keep asking myself until I’ve got that gut level feeling that I’ve hit on the answer.
- Is my reaction, expectation, imagination of outcomes appropriate given my child’s developmental abilities and temperament?
- What would happen if I stopped reacting to it, or trying to change my child? I write down each anticipated result.
Somewhere in this process, I let go of whatever I’m gripping on to and start to lean in to acceptance of the situation.
We all have times when our baby cries and we don’t pick them up because we are exhausted. We yell at our partner to go get them or at the world for the lack of help. The next day we feel guilty. All along we’ve been thinking this would get easier, but it hasn’t. We berate ourselves with ‘what can I do differently to make this stop?’. ‘Why aren’t I like other ever-loving moms out there’, we wonder. ‘I just want my baby to stop crying so I can sleep so I can get the things done that I need to do tomorrow’, we rant. Until….we have a dawning moment.
‘This baby cries. It’s just the way it is’. And all of a sudden, or after the above process, everything shifts – it’s not something horrible, it’s not impossible. We find ourselves recognizing, ‘this is how this baby is. I can invite it in. I’ll find some different ways to deal’. That’s acceptance. Now when our baby cries, we pick them up, hug them close, sing and speak gently to them, all with a heart of acceptance. We can attune to them. Additionally, our guilt dissipates (that’s important) and our needs become differently discussed and met.
Notice, in the example, I didn’t deal with the partner! That’s a whole other round of the acceptance process!
Keep noticing where you aren’t acclimating and work the acceptance angle. And relish the areas where it’s all flowing well for you – hooray!
Take care now, Natasha