The biggest decision I have made in my life wasn’t to become a parent. It was the kind of parent I chose to become.
My husband was the first of the big decisions I made. I had a very clear choice. I could have done the safe thing and went off to college, built up a staggering debt, and repeated the small town cycle of life I grew up in. I didn’t know any different. Through him I had another choice. He said, “Stay with me.” And *poof* just like that I made the decision to leave everything I knew and write my story my way. The Hub has been the greatest gift of my life. Together we’ve built a beautiful life full of happiness, trust, and support. I know without a doubt that in 50 years he’ll still be by my side come hell or high water. He makes me strive to be better, for him, for Emi, and for myself. I know I made the right choice.
When I got pregnant, I realized parenting wasn’t just about my child, it was about me too. When I chose a home birth I faced some of the normal backlash of “But it’s dangerous!” and “It’s selfish!” I think it started me off on the right foot because it forced me to prepare, to research, and to gain more knowledge in the physical and mental processes of pregnancy and birth. I didn’t sit back and let things happen to me, I chose the path I felt was best, regardless of other’s thoughts. This was a huge realization for me. It isn’t selfish to think of your own wants and needs, it doesn’t make you a bad parent to respect your own happiness while fostering your child’s. You matter too! It was the beginning of listening to my truth above the chatter of everyone elses.
As I started thinking about the kind of parent I wanted to be, I only had to think about the kind of person I wanted Emi to be. How could I shape her into a strong, kind, independent, loving, secure, and healthy person? By being that person to her. Without showing her love, kindness, strength, security, and an example of health, how could she internalize those things? She could eventually, but it’d be a harder road than it needed to be. For starters, I do not withhold affection from her for any reason; if she asks for me I give her everything I have. Period. No situation changes that. I set limits, I tell her no, but I do it with respect and empathy for her feelings, because her feelings matter. When I speak to her, I think about what I am saying and I choose my words carefully. I don’t tell her she can’t do something if I can’t give her a valid reason. “I see that you can climb onto the counter! That is exciting for you. I don’t want you to climb onto it because it’s not safe for you to be up there. Remember when you fell off yesterday? It scared us all and it hurt you. I won’t let you play up there.” Does this upset her? Absolutely! Does she push limits to test my seriousness? Of course! But I am her parent and I owe it to her to be consistent and trustworthy. My word has to mean something and without follow through and consistency it won’t. I am not perfect, I fail many time a day. When that happens I apologize. I take responsibility for my actions and my feelings and I am open with her about them. The night before last I fought with her, becoming so frustrated that I yelled while I was trying to get her ready for bed. I stopped, I looked her in the eye and I apologized. I took responsibility for my frustration and asked her how we she wanted me to help her get dressed. All she wanted was to lie on her stomach while I put her diaper on, such a simple request that took me much too long to listen to. We got her dressed and she crawled into my lap for a hug. It’s moments like that that I am so thankful I parent deliberately and not just from the hip. She deserves my best, I owe it to her to be present and involved in her life every moment, not just for the big picture. It’s the moments that matter most.
“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” — Maya Angelou.
Read that quote again and again; live by it. Let your past go and embrace your future. Learn more, do better, and make the most out of what you have. Live deliberately. Make the choices that will facilitate you dreams. I spent too many years miserable, letting things happen to me instead of making the choices that would have made me happier. I made the right choices where they counted and I love the life I have made for myself with my family. I think the key to happiness is going for what you want and failing as many times as you have to until you get it. And if you have the right people around you, they will support you. They will help you build the ladder that reaches to your moon. Hold those people close and don’t ever let them go.