I had a lover once who loved my belly — my soft mama belly. He’d lay his head on my bare belly sometimes and tell me how much he honored and respected that part of me. It’s not a big belly, but it is soft enough to be a nice pillow.
He told me that he loved it because of how it represented the most beautiful part of me (to him) — my being a mom. He knew how much I loved my children and had been taught my greatest lessons by my children. My experience as a mother had been difficult to say the very least. I had been alone and lonely so much of that time. But my children kept me going. Knowing they depended on me kept me moving and happy enough to endure the hardship. I didn’t have a partner who was present or aware of my needs on any level. He was capable of neither of those.
My children tease me a lot. One of the things they tease me about is being soft…not being a “tough” mom. I was pretty easy on my kids, I guess. I was nothing like my own mother, as amazing as she was. But I wanted my kids to have childhoods, something I never had. I wanted them to have time to play and explore outside, read books, and make quality friends. I didn’t have those things either.
I wanted to listen to them when they were angry and try to see what the problem really was, rather than meet them with anger. I guess it was a gift that my neurological system does “do anger” very well. In fact, it shuts down and I end up in a really unsafe place.
So I was a soft mama. I didn’t make a lot of demands except that they be kind to each other, do their homework, and help me with chores. And they did. And they were. And they still are. I am super blessed.
My son made a joke about my parenting that made me laugh once. He said:
“You know, Mom, when a kid is a teenager, he needs something to push against — something to rebel against. And you did that all wrong. We had nothing to push against and get mad about. You were always willing to negotiate and work with us and our needs. We got to set our own curfews, even! I remember wanting to feel repressed and mad about something and getting mad because there was nothing to be mad about!”
What a funny thing for a kid to say. I’m grateful we have always been close. His dad did a number on him for a while, but he returned to me. That boy of mine knows my heart like no one else, even if he does make fun of me.
Being soft has been my gift, I guess. Like I said above, I can’t do things differently. Being the “tough” mom doesn’t suit me, nor does it appeal to me. Loving my kids has looked like being there for them, listening, and doing my best with what I know. It has been offering my skills, my wisdom, and my attention. It has been so many sleepless nights and endless dreary days…just surviving. But it’s what I signed up for.
The difference between myself and so many other parents is the fact that I actually knew what I was getting myself into. When I had my kids, I knew what to do with them and how to care for them. The wild card was my then-husband, not my kids. Kids make sense. They come with their own personalities, but those personalities are still nurtured in the petri dish of an environment…a family.
They are not mysteries.
No, my kids aren’t perfect. They do their share of stupid things. Luckily, they all survive to tell the stories and laugh together about said stupid things. They love each other and enjoy spending time with each other. I could not be more proud of them.
If there is something I wish I could tell all of the parents of the teenagers of the world, it would be this:
If your child is displaying conduct you don’t approve of, look at yourself first.
- Ask yourself why you can’t stand what they are doing…why it is a problem.
- Ask yourself where your ego stands in relationship to your child’s behavior.
- Ask yourself if you can take your ego out of the equation and see your child’s actions as the message that it intends to be.
- Try to see the pain they are in and where its source is. Be creative about how you offer to help them.
- Get coaching. Go to therapy. Learn what you need to know to be more available to them.
This is the hardest part of parenting real, alive, children. But it’s what the world needs us to do.
Being soft with our kids requires us to be soft with ourselves first. Forgiving myself for being human is a daily feat. It is hard. I want to do better. I want to be better for them and for myself. But I must forgive myself and grant myself all of the grace I give them if I am going to be the mom I know they need.
Softness does not dismiss fierceness, however. I am fierce as well. I once saw myself as a lioness who moves only to find food for my children and myself and rests the remaining hours of the day. We are fierce when needed but rest in softness.
I love being a soft mama. I am trying to love my soft belly, too. But, that’s a whole different blog.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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