I graduated from Teachers College thinking I knew everything a parent could possibly know about child rearing. I had spent 3 years, full time studying educational theorists, stages of development, the purpose of play and the whole child.
I was enthusiastic and confident, up for the challenge! We had timed the pregnancy perfectly and our baby was due to be born 4 months after I finished my final practicum. Towards the end of my pregnancy there were complications with my health and I was hospitalized for the final month with a condition known as ‘pre-eclampsia.’ I was almost twice my usual petite size and my fingers, ankles and face swollen like a toad fish.
Unfazed and still excited about becoming a mother I was induced at 38 weeks and after a long labour our little girl was delivered by an emergency C-section. I couldn’t wait to be home and despite the recommended 10 day hospital stay I was home in 5 days.
I took to motherhood like a fish to water. It was all I ever wanted to do. I loved my tiny baby, dressing her in little clothes, bathing her tiny body, long walks with the pram and catching up with friends. I felt like I had the most idyllic life and didn’t feel the challenge of parenting until my little Sam reached about 3 months.
Her little personality had began to emerge and suddenly I found myself completely out of my depth. Long before she had words to speak Sam was communicating very clearly that it was going to be her way or the highway. She refused to feed at my breast unless I was completely silent and all the attention was on her. For a month I wrestled with her presenting a bottle ‘for fun’ at 4 months. That day she took the bottle in her minuet hands, plummeted it into her mouth and out again. She gave me the most enormous grin as if to say ‘finally you got it right.’
With that I began to wean her from breast to bottle. I began to discover how different her personality was from mine. Intrigued, I began a search through my development books, mentally documenting how strong and determined my daughter was.
I wasn’t playing with a dolly anymore. This was real. Now my little girl is 21 years old. She is still strong and determined. She still undermines me at times. But I have spent the last 21 years ‘seeking to understand’ her and the two other children we gave birth to after her.
I’m hoping that as I begin to share my stories with you that you will be inspired to understand the little baby you hold in your arms, or the child you just dropped to school or the teenager who grunts when they walk in the door.
Proverbs 20:5 ‘The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.’