13 November 2008

Message to my girl

I'll lead today's post with my favorite song in all the world, which is "Aguas de Marco," or Waters of March, by Antonio Carlos Jobim.

It's lyrically beautiful, it's long enough for me, and I imagine it is responsible for many thousands of people learning Portuguese (a number that may one day include me). This display of the lyrics is lovely because you can see the original alongside the translation. On KGNU, our local community station, on Friday afternoons is that super-silly Afternoon Sound Alternative show with the lovely and talented Agent 99 and Barry, who has curated a fine collection of Aguas de Marcos in his electronic nook over here. I love this song because we're all connected by all these things: the sticks and stones and nails and words and joy in our hearts, the communities and rituals and languages and the wine we share.

Becoming a parent is like Jobim's song about everything: like putting a human being on the moon, it organizes us and splashes us with all the grit and heft of pure humanity. It's no longer just an intellectual idea, a wish for the future, a symbol of hope. It's flesh and blood and sweat and tears and you are bound up with this person and their constellation of people from here on out. It makes your family bigger than you, which is a good and healthy thing. It makes you ask for help, and shows you who your friends are.

So I know you know this stuff but I am feeling the need to compile a few pieces of advice that I wish I'd known or understood from the get-go about having a child. I'm gonna want to say this stuff sooner or later, so might as well do it now, right?

My top ten pieces of advice based on my few years of experience as a mother so far would be, in no particular order:

  1. Every day, tell your child something you would love to hear someone say to you, or that you wish had been said to you when you were a child.

  2. Sometimes what looks like malingering is much more complex.

  3. I looked up one night when my little one was about one year old and realized I'd been so anxious about not waking her after she'd fallen asleep that I wasn't going in and kissing her or stroking her cheek when I felt like it. Once I saw this in myself, I felt terrible, feeling like I had traded warmth and accessibility for adherence to rules and systems. I cried a few remorseful tears. And I started going in more and giving her a kiss on the cheek or head before I went to sleep. I think she started sleeping better after that, but maybe that phase was over. The points of that story were not just that you want to be the kind of mother who checks her child in the night but also that sleep problems occur in phases. Sometimes you just have to wait them out and be there for your kid as much as possible when they have night terrors or other disturbances, even when you fear you're giving them the wrong message by sitting up with them in the middle of the night.

  4. Take your child outside and enjoy some different scenery every day.

  5. Breathe deep. Again. Remember that weird yoga teacher you didn't like (he was a bit odd, I agree) who told you to squeeze out all the breath all the way down to your tuchus? That deep, at least a few times a day.

  6. Don't take it personally. Whether it's unasked-for but well-meaning but ignorant advice from others or it's criticism from your kid. Or it's your fears of inadequacy as a parent. We all get that.

  7. Family comes first. You don't owe anyone explanations or need to tell anyone about anything concerning your family, especially in public places when your child is melting down or would rather you didn't talk about them. (This was big for me since my skin is a different color from my kid's, and I always felt I had to reassure people that I was carrying an overloaded screaming brown child out of the grocery store because I'm a mother, not a crazed maniac making off with someone else's kid.)

  8. Try to meet your child where he or she is. Get down low and try to see things from their perspective.

  9. Give yourself breaks. Don't feel bad about asking for babysitting or housecleaning help when you feel overwhelmed -- or a little before that. People want to help you, and when they can't, they will let you know.

  10. You definitely know this already, but read to your baby every day. Even in the early days when they're a little lump of sleeping babyness, read a paragraph of the book you are reading out loud. They need to learn all about you and your voice and they just love to listen to their mother's dulcet tones.

Good luck, girlfriend!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you sweetie. On the one hand, there's no going back now! and on the other, it hardly feels real. Now comes the waiting game.