Dear Caring Parents,
There are two Bs in your parenting experience that are fun to think about. They can help you out of guilty times and allow some annoying things to even be funny. It’s all about adopting these two Bs – becoming and being.
I must admit that balance was the first word that came to mind when I thought about two Bs in the parenting experience. However, that’s not what I’m going to write about because I’m going to put that under “I” for imbalance. Sneak preview – I think we need to get good at normalizing the fact that parenting is full of imbalances. So more on the later.
The First B of Parenting
Let’s start with becoming. It means ‘begin to be’, or ‘look good on’. For example, we exclaim “I’m becoming a parent!” Furthering the pregnancy example, people might say “pregnancy becomes you.” I’m going to focus more on the first definition though. Obviously it fits well with the learning curve we are constantly on – parents and children are always beginning to be ____(something). One could say that parenting is an ongoing sequence of becoming.
It overtly starts with pregnancy. Many of us felt the excitement and awe of becoming parents during pregnancy. Also, most parents-to-be I talk with feel some fright; ranging from practical preparedness concerns to personall concerns about one’s ability to parent and grow their personal relationships. I often hear concerns like “I don’t even know how to change a diaper, what if I don’t like my child, what if it changes us so much we don’t like each other any more”. Once some of this is discussed and explored, everyone starts to become their kind of parent. Pregnancy is a huge time of ‘becoming’!
What we learn about becoming in this stage is that becoming involves a range of feeling. From excitement and delight to fear and overwhelm. It also involves a range of learning. We are reminded that sometimes learning is scary, as we read about risks and things that can go wrong. Additionally we are reminded that learning also is exciting and helpful. For instance, reading about baby development puts us in awe.
What’s the Big Deal about the first B?
It’s worth acknowledging this B of parenting. Because the process of becoming does not just show up in pregnancy. It shows up in every stage of our child’s development. Do we not have to learn more about and become adept at parenting toddlers, at managing schedules, at talking with teachers when there’s a conflict? The list of ‘beginning to be’ is ginormous in parenting.
This word is so great because it expresses the experience of the uncertainty that goes with parenting. When we are becoming, we allow ourselves to see that things are unfolding, the process and outcome often feelfeel uncertain. It can be so exciting yet so overwhelming.
I like to put out this B of parenting because it normalizes that we are all newbies in this, even if we have multiples. Each child is different, not to mention the rapidly changing social environments our children are growing up in makes things different child to child. When we think of ourselves as having to be ‘all knowing’ about how to parent our children, it induces a lot of guilt and worry. Noting ourselves as being in a state of becoming vastly reduces that. Just stop and think about a time when you’ve felt guilty. Now rather than think of that situation from the perspective of “I’m supposed to know this”, note that you are in a state of becoming – you are overwhelmed or tense, have something to learn and you get to know something different as you learn and pay attention to your feelings.
How a B Mindset Could Effect Our Children
What if we approached our children with more of our becoming side rather than the knower-of- it-all side? This is what I imagine and wonder about:
- When they need reassurance, could we stand in our own uncertainty about how to deal and STILL be a safe haven for them?
- We respond to ourselves in a more uplifting way on that day when we drive away, guilt ridden and stressed after dropping them off at daycare.
- What would happen to our worry about their friendships?
- Would we fret the same way over a milestone that doesn’t happen exactly when it’s supposed to, or a picky eater?
- We could forgive our children their missteps and goofiness if we weren’t projecting our self-judgment?
- How could this help us not jump into fix their problem instead of letting them fix it?
What does it take to tolerate all this mindset of becoming? Because it definitely is a change in how we think of ourselves as a parent. The answer lies in the second B of parenting, being. It takes an ability to ‘be’.
The Second B of Parenting
“Being” is the more abstract concept of the two Bs in your parenting expereince. If we think of it as the opposite of doing, doing, doing it helps. It’s the state we are in when we are reflecting on our feelings, maybe pausing during the day to do that or to just breathe. If you practice mindfulness you recognize that it’s purpose to get us into a ‘being’ state. Our brains quiet, we feel centered, present. We aren’t mentally scattered in the past, present and future all at once. It is the yin to the yang of becoming. Being (yin) is receptive, inward. Yang (becoming) is active, outward. It is what brings our bodies into a better state of health.
For the purposes of taking on a mindset that parenting and child development is about becoming, we have to stop and ask what are we are feeling (frequently more than one thing by the way) and what is our child might be feeling. We can’t even ask that question unless we first pause and notice ourselves, i.e. listen to ourselves. .
For those that don’t have a simple way to stop all that mental chatter, here’s something to try:
- Notice the sound of your breath as it goes in and out.
- Feel your lungs or stomach moving as you breathe. Put your hand over either area if that helps.
- Notice the feel of air in your nose as it moves in and out.
- Label all the feelings, thoughts as they come up.
- Keep bringing your focus back to your breath.
- Doing this even briefly helps.
If you want more ways to get into ‘be’, specifically applied to parenting, I offer some in my book The Dance of Parenting.
What about the Second B is Important?
If we are twirling around in our head about things like how we “should be on time, my 3 year old daughter must learn to be on time or she’ll fail as an adult, I’m so stupid I forgot the book I was supposed to bring…”, we are mucking around with our nervous systems, not to mention separating from the very important constructive and creative side of ourselves.
Only through pausing and reflecting can we identify an ongoing problem, or, that there really is no problem! For instance, if we find ourselves constantly forgetting something, use PAUSE instead of beating ourselves up. Use ASK to get at what this is about. We can then do some problem solving OR conclude that life is a little wonky right now so of course distraction and it’s sister, forgetfulness, are present. When we pause and ‘be’, the caution is to note the barrage of critical thoughts we have but not dwell on them. We want to activate our problem solving, our solution.
So Being involves noticing and letting go of self judgement and other judgement – like our critical thoughts about our children. ‘Being’ is not always easy because we do bump into the volumn of judgemental chatter in our heads. Just call it out – ok, judge. And go back to breath. See what starts to emerge. Honestly, sometimes I have to do this breath practice 12 – 15 minutes! It is SO worth it though. Sometimes it takes another 20 minutes or so and, in the midst of whatever I’ve returned to doing, I feel more relaxed, have more mental clarity, and things start going more easily not to mention my responses to everyone around me are better received. Sometimes I can feel the release of tension during the breathing.
As a parent, demoralizing is not what you want! So ‘be’ with yourself so you can more easefully deal with what you and your child are ‘becoming’. These two Bs in your parenting experience work together. And, always remember, this is not about perfection. This is not about adding more to your to-do list. It’s about incorporating these mindsets into what you already are doing!
Take care now, Natasha
p.s. If this resonates with something you are wanting to shift in your parenting experience but are not succeeding with, let’s check in. Take your free half hour!