I took my 1 year old for a walk early in the morning recently. It had just rained the previous night and the pavement we were walking on was strewn with wet, fallen leaves.
While I was hoping for a straightforward walk amidst trees, she had different ideas. She wanted to surgically examine the leaves and the dirt on the ground. The trees and the fresh air were of lesser interest at that point.
So, when she bent down, lost balance and fell on the pavement, I found myself saying – “No no no.” She’s begun to understand the meaning of the word no and looked at me wondering what the problem was. Hoping to distract her, I picked her up, moved her to a different part of the pavement and said – “This is better for you.”
That’s when it occurred to me to ask myself – “Better for her or better for me?”
I realized soon enough that the better experience for her was to explore everything she wanted to explore. But, that wasn’t “better” in the sense I envisioned as it meant a lot more vigilance (in case she popped something into her mouth) and cleaning once we got back home.
Of course, she was oblivious to all this internal dialog and went right back to exploring stuff on the ground. This time, I squatted next to her and joined her in her exploration.
The themes of learning from my journey as a parent so far have been engagement, flexibility and self awareness. I realize how often I’m present but not engaged. I’ve found myself needing to become more and more flexible. And, I’ve found myself staring at my inadequacies around engagement and flexibility very often.
This experience also reminded me of the importance of conflict of interest. Better for them is often better for us.
Going back to the story for a moment -after this bit of exploration, we went back to walking and exploring. As we did it, I realized that there’s a person with a tiny hand holding tight onto my index finger as she takes in the wonders of this beautiful world. It won’t be very long before holding my hand will be considered “uncool.”
And, here I was getting all wound up in my desire for control over the experience.
It is easy to lose sight of what actually matters.