This post was originally published during the national poetry month and I suspect it might have been buried by the avalanche of poems that were published at that time. Since I am quite fond of this post I would not like it to end like that. So just in case you missed it, here it is!
Illustration: Patricia Fitti
“My baby boy won’t eat.
My baby girl doesn’t speak.
My baby boy won’t listen.
My baby girl doesn’t sleep.
And I , oh I , I cook for him so many things.
And I , oh I , I speak to her so many words.
And I , oh I , I explain to him so many times.
And I, alas, I’m lost in an infinite and infernal exhaustion deprived of sleep“.
(sing this playing a little guitar , using a trembling voice, in the sweet and soulful style of Violeta Parra. Repeat as many times as you like or continue reading, there may be alternatives).
I wanted to write this for a long time. As I told you, I do not like confrontation, but today I am not being myself: I got up at 4 am , I showered , I meditated the best I could – I’m not good at it – then I had breakfast , I promoted my free play seminar and reactivated our family business twitter account wondering how is that they suspended me if I opened it yesterday… evidently I can make things wrong from the very beginning.
While all this is going on, my family is still asleep (it’s not even 6 AM).
So I have free time and no one to care for. I do not like that, it makes me nervous.
Since I became a mother most of my attention is directed towards my children. When I got married I focused a lot on my husband. Since I completed college I’ve been attentive to social welfare. And when I was a teenager, ah, I was focused on pairing my thin, rebel and busty friends who excelled me on every aspect getting boyfriends (I never managed)…
Before that, ah… before that I was focused on myself. On my dolls game, on putting up a classroom in my bedroom where I taught naughty and imaginary children, on my rollers and the long balcony of my childhood home hanging above the forest and the lake, on horses, on the morning when I opened the curtains and the whole world was white, white, and only an immense silence covered the ground with snow.
Such an immense silence, so beautiful and deep as meditation. A real one.
When I was a little girl I focused on my selfsame axis. I was myself, ample and self-complacent. Nothing lacked me. Well, I exaggerate. I often lacked a milk tooth and I was so shy that I refused to smile in public because I was acutely aware of its absence (for that reason I lost a casting my mother wanted me to perform, blessed be my destiny). But other than that, I lacked nothing.
The boy, the girl mentioned in the ballad don’t need anything either. They are perfect as they are, a complete, sufficient and full Self.
But we moms have forgotten our own axis, our focus, we depend on whom we can. No one is better than our own child to fulfill our need. And so, depending on them, we teach them to depend.
Oh, is not easy for me to say this…
I breathe …
I infuse myself with courage …
I strive to return to my center, to my true self…
Children do not do anything “against us”.
They do not eat because they have a good reason not to. They do not speak (yet), would not listen (never), do not sleep (not even in dreams!), because we have been doing all those things for them. We have not given them enough space, time and respect to learn to do it for themselves.
We control the food we serve on his plate, the amount to be eaten and what will go to his mouths in every bite. Because we do it all for him.
We control the words she says, how many are they, and run to check the correspondence with the number of words she should be saying at by her age (by 18 months they must speak 15 words, really??? ) .
We control his time, we bounce into his motor skills explorations, into his watchful eye , into his hands and games. Without even a warning we interrupt him, lift him without previous notice. We decide how, what, why and when he plays.
Then children have a tantrum… they rebel maybe? And yes, they would not listen. Because they haven’t learned to depend, not yet, not entirely. They still have so much, much focus on their own self. What we tell them not to do, they do it, again and again . And if they observe that this procedure creates in us a show of anger and rebuke, even if they suffer they won’t doubt in pressing one more time the red button of our vulnerability.
“Aha… How interesting was mom’s reaction when I did this … let me see … I’ll do it one more time and will observe if she does it again”. They say all of this in their own language, without using words, driven by the immense desire to understand human bonds through us, their moms. Their deep interest in decoding and comprehending human relationships is their priority and they go for it.
In this state of things the day passes by and we’re all tired. He, she, us. It is 7 PM, we have to complete a lot of household chores and we are all exhausted.
There is nothing worse than trying to fall asleep when we are exhausted. You have to get to sleep before that. Once depleted, a body that had no opportunity to get rest on time pulls out energy from vital reserves and injects a large dose of adrenaline to keep going (do not take it literal, it is a metaphor, although this may be what really happens from a chemical point of view). That’s what happens when we are sleepy at a party: suddenly we reawaken and we feel could go on and on, so we do it. The next day we pay the price for that extra demand on our body, we all know it. Imagine how it goes for you if you do that on a daily basis. Well, maybe you don’t need to imagine anything. Maybe it’s just what you get. But without the party part, only with the get-energy-from-where-there-is-none part, not getting any sleep at all and be already exhausted from dawn.
Feeling frustrated out of so much accumulated fatigue we take everything personal, we lose our temper with our kid and we cry along with him. We don’t know better.
Until one day we realize we cannot put up with it anymore and we get to read articles like this one and others that are surely better. We read and read and wonder when will the author finally offer us the keys to overcome the 4 most maddening challenges of motherhood.
But we do not get the relieving answers we are looking for and even worse: we are made responsible for our fate.
Ok, ok, don’t despair. Just because you read all the way down here I will sing it for you:
There’s no child who does not want to eat, if eating is just eating and only that. If eating is a free act and only as much as he needs to feel satisfied.
If my mom is happy with my satisfaction, oh gee, how nicely do I eat, how good am I at eating being so young!
There’s no child who does not speak enough, if speaking means communication and connection, and only that. If speaking is through the eyes, gestures, cries and smiles and when it is genuine. Then the girl realizes that she is being perfectly understood.
If my mom is happy with my satisfaction, oh gee, how well do I express myself, how good am I at expressing myself being so young!
There’s no child who rebels against limits, if they offer a safe boundary, a form of love that speaks to the heart and only that. Then accepting a limit means feeling a maternal embrace, firm and calm.
If my mom is happy with my satisfaction, oh gee, how nicely do I respond, how good am I at accepting limits being so young!
No little girl wants to sleep. No baby boy wants to go to bed. Because sleep is a change of state, a transition and only that. But that’s just what the boy feels as a challenge, just that puts the girl on an alert.
If my mom accepts my efforts to learn how to navigate the changes, oh gee, and from the first moment in the day I can eat , express and accept by myself being respected, oh gee, I think it’s time for my mom to stop putting me to sleep, oh gee, to stop bouncing me, driving the car, moving the stroller, walking with me in her arms, rocking me in the cradle, putting me to the breast as if it were a sleeping pill, oh gee, it’s time for her to trust that I can also learn to sleep by myself , oh gee , in my own bed, oh gee, in my own bed, oh geeeeeeee!
(sing this using maracas, tambourines and gymnastics ribbons with pure art. If you get Raffi to sing along with you the chorus, even better).
Sometimes it takes us more than a baby to learn this.
But at some point appears a light at the end of the road , we wonder if we are dead but no, we are more alive than ever before. And if you are left wanting more details, oh gee, leave your comment bellow, because right now I have no more time. It’s 6:58 a.m, oh gee, and one after another three little lion cubs appear into the scene, three little cubs oh gee, and they call me, they call me: Mamaaaa!