I used to believe that applying all of my energies to a project would guarantee success.
Then I discovered that even my best efforts fall short some of the time.
Today, the girls taught me that my best can even be too heavy-handed sometimes, as the job of parenting requires instinct and patience above all else.
Most days, I’m filled with the easy confidence of someone that can trust herself to respond efficiently to whatever demands the day puts before her. On a substantial number of others, though, I slump around, humbled by the excellence I see in others and daunted by my own lack of tangible direction toward any goal outside my family.
It isn’t uncommon for people to worry about their peers discovering their own perceived inadequacies, so I try not to get too upset by these down days.
Today, however, was particularly brutal for the “yes we can” side of my personality.
I was trying so hard, with my most trusted set of tricks and tips, to teach Elliot how to fall asleep without nursing. I started a week ago, but this morning I told myself, “this is it.”
I can safely say that this was her worst sleep day, at least for naps, in all of her 9 months of life. She wanted so badly to sleep, and I wanted so badly to put her to sleep. Yet somehow, we both managed to muck it up.
Meanwhile, Maya was expected to entertain herself, quietly no less. She’s three. I could simply have asked her to make dinner for me, since I was bestowing such independence and maturity on her. I then struggled to identify the right punishment for the three potty accidents that occurred while I was monkeying around with Elliot all morning.
At the time, I was completely oblivious to the fact that my lack of attention to Maya must have played a roll in her accidents. Instead I congratulated myself on how calmly I responded to her accidents, in spite of the fact that she woke Elliot up from what surely was going to be a successful sleep moment.
This morning a friend advised me that if I find myself getting frustrated with the girls all the time, I should examine my own expectations, because it is unlikely that such young kids are actively trying to make things difficult.
At the time I mindlessly agreed with her and moved on with my day, but as one failed attempt to super-parent followed another and another and right on until bedtime, I have to look to myself.
Some days, no matter how hard I try, no matter how well informed or how patient I think I am, my most focussed effort can actually push me back a few steps in this strange daily life of raising up two other independent little people.
Parenting almost always works better when I don’t try so hard. I wonder what other tasks that holds true for?