My toddler daughter is still trying to figure out her baby brother. Most days she gives him a wide berth, eyes him suspiciously and ignores him completely. When he gets close enough to grab her dress or pull her hair she repeats (at a high volume) one of my stock phrases, “He’s doesn’t know!” And, “No! He’s just a baby!” Just recently she has wanted to help with Brady and has even showed signs of unprompted affection.
Brady can sit very well on his own. It’s a skill he learned early due to his wide base (re: a chunky butt). But sometimes when he’s tired or hungry or for no damn reason at all because he’s just a baby and lacks reason, he violently throws himself backward onto the ground. Wherever he sits, we have to put pillows behind him so he doesn’t bang his head in one of these backward dives. Every time he ends up on his back he immediately wants to sit back up again and you can see him straining and flexing his little body trying to get back to sitting. I have to sit him upright at least 20 times a day.
The other day my daughter, Brooke, wanted to sit Brady upright. First, she tried pushing his head from behind at which point I intervened explaining why we don’t do that because, “He’s just a baby!” So then, she tried grabbing his hands and pulling on them. Each time she did he recoiled his arms and resisted. She was getting so frustrated because she couldn’t figure out why he wouldn’t sit up and just like every toddler everywhere she kept saying, “No! I do it!”
Together, we figured out how. We figured out that if you just reach out your hands in front of him, palms up he’ll grab onto them himself and you can easily pull him into sitting position.
And I’ll be damned if that isn’t the truth about every human being, everywhere.
At one point or another we’re all laying there in a position we don’t want to be in straining to get up. If you notice, there are usually plenty of hands pushing our heads and pulling our hands trying to get us up against our will. It isn’t until someone offers one, palm up, without expectation and without force, that we decide we’re ready to move because it’s compassion and non-judgment that inspires us.
I have decided this is how I want to raise my kids. I know they are going to fight me, my daughter fights me everyday and she’s not even three. They are going to say, “No! I do it!” over and over and over again and I’m going to have to sit back, knowing better, and let them. I don’t want to be the force that they resist. Instead, I want to be the open hand they grasp when they’re ready to get up. I believe it’s an ingrained human reflex to want to do it all ourselves, to figure it out, to make sense of our world; it’s how we grow stronger, wiser. But there will always be times when we can’t do it all ourselves and we need help. In those times, we want love and understanding to pull us up again.
It’s hard watching your kids fail or get hurt. I’ve already found it to be one of the hardest things to do as a parent. I also know there will be plenty of things to fight about as they grow older. In the moment when they need help and are ready for it, I don’t want to be the one they resist. I want to be the outstretched, compassionate, open hand they reach for because open hands are so much easier to hold.
Hmm? Maybe I’m not giving Brady enough credit? I believe he knows more than we think.