The other night I put my daughter to sleep like I do every evening.
We went through her routine — a bath, getting into pajamas, nursing, and a lullaby. I laid her down in her bed and sang softly to her. She gurgled and kicked her legs until I kissed her. Then she stretched and relaxed, and I left the room. When I peeked back in to check on her a few minutes later, she was asleep.
She was five months old, and this was a scene I couldn’t have dreamed of with my first two children. It was in that moment I realized exactly what my children needed from me, and how different it was than what I’d thought as a new mother.
It wasn’t my presence, comforting, wearing them, rocking, patting, shushing, or any of the other things I thought I had to do for my children so they would feel safe and secure. I’d done that with her older brothers, and they never had the peace at night that she did.
All they need is my connection, and my support, and they do everything else happily on their own.
Every day it amazes me. I started off as a mother thinking I had to do everything for my children — teach them to sleep, sit, and eat; teach them courtesy, kindness, empathy, and on, and on, and on. As much as I hate to admit it, I thought my children were empty, and they needed me to fill them.
And then there was that moment. I’d heard children were capable right from the start, that they weren’t empty, but full of everything they needed: empathy, kindness, curiosity, peace, and motivation. In that moment with my daughter, I saw it. It was pure wonder. I thought I had to teach, to do, to make – but no! I only had to step back and let them be the amazing people they already are.
I’d seen glimpses before with my daughter. I trusted her from the very start, and I watched in awe as she learned. She would lay on her back and just study her hand, or the ray of light on the wall, or the speck of fluff that floated in the air. But that night when I put her to bed, when she told me with her actions and expressions how happy she was, and then peacefully drifted to sleep, that was when I knew.
It hit me how incredibly capable she is, that all that power and insight and wisdom was already there behind her beautiful bright eyes. And ever since then I can’t stop seeing it in all my children. It’s a wonder of discovery every day.
One day my four-year-old son asked to make lemonade. When I turned around, he already had the juicer, sugar, measuring cup, cutting board, and the lemons. All he needed was for me to grab the knife and watch him carefully cut the lemons in half. Then he carefully squeezed both of them, scraped the pulp to extract all the juice, poured it into the mixing container, added the sugar, water and ice, and shook it all up. Then he got out cups for his brother and himself, and poured some for both of them. He did it all. I just had to sit back and watch him. We’d done it together once before, and he remembered every step.
And then there was the day my younger son, who just turned three, learned to ride his pedal bike. He’d had a balance bike for almost two years, and his face lit up when he realized the shiny blue pedal bike was for him. He tried it out, and couldn’t do it. He got frustrated and left it in the garage to ride his old bike again.
“He’ll get it when he’s ready,” I said.
The next morning he pulled the new bike out and tried again. When he struggled, the little girl next door reached out to steady the bike and walk with him.
“No!” he said, “I can do it on my own!”
And with a few pushes, he could. He pedaled around the cul-de-sac and never looked back.
I didn’t need to teach him. I didn’t need to remind my older son where everything was for the lemonade. I didn’t need to teach my daughter how to sleep. All I had to do was give them opportunities, and to be there. I didn’t even need to say it. I trust them. I support them. When I realized how little else I needed to do, that was my mothering moment.
They amaze me every day.
Photo credit: Tobyotter on Flickr Creative Commons
This post is part of BlogHer’s My ‘I’m a Mom’ Moment editorial series, made possible by Seventh Generation.