Restoring the 'Real World' in Parenting : Ellie Knaus for The Huffington Post
We want our children to do well in life, so we prepare them for the real world. With the best of intentions, we sign them up for extracurricular activities, shuttle them to play dates, and expect them to catch up to our frenetic pace. Already I say to my toddler, “We don’t have time.... Can we please hurry up?...I’m not going to ask again.... We can do that later.” These nagging phrases fall out of the same mouth that kisses her goodnight, and it doesn’t feel good to either of us. I blame my tension headache on the fact that she’s resisting me. After all, these lessons, and play dates, and “parent and me” classes, I’m doing it all for her, to prepare her for school, and socialization, and.... Wait a minute. Is that true? Am I really doing this for her? Or am I terrified of slowing down myself and remembering the moment-to-moment world I abandoned decades ago. Perhaps my mom-stress actually comes from the deeper truth that I’m trying to ignore: my imagined agenda does not matter as much as my actual child. The bad feeling that arises when we’re running late somewhere, and she is meditatively picking up every leaf on the sidewalk, is not rooted in her resistance to hurrying up, but in my resistance to slowing down.
My child is shepherding me back to the real world I’ve neglected because I’ve been too busy constructing an imaginary world of future accomplishments, and external validation, and Pinterest boards of what our lives should look like. I have so many ideas for our little backyard that I haven’t gotten around to, but my child begs me to stop and admire it just as it is. Sitting on the back steps, she spots a dead ant five feet away. (How is a kid’s eyesight that good?) She puts her little hand in mine. Her little round belly fills with breath. She is my guide to the real world. The actual real world.
When I have the courage to slow down with her, my defenses fall away, and I am overwhelmed with love. Of all the people who exist on this planet, all the ones who have come before us and all those who will come after us, this is the little girl I get to steal my kisses from. This is the child who calls me Mom.
I devote Atomic Moms podcast to conversations with esteemed thought-leaders, or rather, heart-leaders, such as Dr. Shefali Tsabary, Erika Christakis, Jennifer Waldburger, Susan Stiffelman, Emily Filmore, Dr. Robin Berman, Roma Khetarpal, and Janet Lansbury. These revolutionary women are restoring the parenting connection that has been lost. They are begging us to slow down and to make the conscious choice to be present with our children. And I know in my gut (the second brain, the brain that senses into our truths more easily than our thinking brain), I know these experts would all agree that the main purpose of childhood is not for preparing them for the future trophies, or test scores, or acceptance letters. It’s for the connection, the giggles, the sense of security, the mutual admiration between parent and child.