I love taking advantage of the fresh-start effect and birthdays are a great time to take stock and look forward to the year ahead. As time has passed, I’ve also used the birthdays of my children as times to take stock. After all, each birth experience has also allowed me to be reinvented as a parent.
Today is my oldest child’s sixth birthday. Elizabeth’s entrance into this world really set the standard for our relationship, even six years later. The thing about birth is that your body can be ready for the baby to make its exit, but unless the baby is on board with that idea it can be slow going. It’s easy to think of our babies as blank slates, simply bending to the forces of nature. It’s especially easy when we’ve never even laid eyes on them before. But based on my own experience, that is simply not true. There are pieces of our personality that are integral to who we are, even before we’re born.
Parenting, as a verb, is a relatively new concept. As our relationships with our parents is our first, this notion of active parenting influences our expectations for relationships in the rest of our lives. Since the 1970s, we’ve been living with the social expectation that we need to provide all the things all the time. None of us live in a bubble, so on some level, we all try to comply with this social pressure.
But then we get into adulthood and dive into the idea that we don’t owe anyone anything.
And we don’t. Well, not exactly, anyway.
But to have a functioning society, we do owe something to each other.
We don’t have to be all the things to everyone in our lives. In the last six years, I’ve learned that I don’t need to be everything, even to my kids, but what we do owe to everyone is the courtesy and grace to help people get to where they need to go. Just as giving birth can be exhausting and painful, making space as we’re able to help the bend of the universe toward justice can be hard but it is critical so that all of us can get where we need to go.
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