As part of the final exercise for my coaching certification, we had to give feedback to each of our fellow students on which behavior/s each of us exhibited that really stood out during our eight months together. I thought it was a great way to see how people viewed me and was excited to hear the comments…after all this has been a very introspective process.
The one remark that I haven’t stopped thinking about is that I spoke a lot during the course about my space, my room, my time etc. It struck me because of other things that have been happening lately. My babies are no longer babies. They are almost three. They have opinions, likes and dislikes and they are not shy about expressing themselves. How do establish a friendship with them while still enforcing rules and boundaries and repeating the endless NO that is part and parcel of life with a toddler.
In different conversations with various people from diverse walks of life I have had a similar discussion; the things I don’t do with my kids. I rarely take them with me on errands, unless it is one that lasts under five minutes. I rarely go to the grocery store with them, unless I just need to pick up five or less items. If we go on a day trip, I either go with family or my babysitter. They didn’t come to the Passover seder and if I am having a Friday night dinner, it starts after they go to sleep.
Part of this is simply that until now, that is when they were smaller, it was much easier to do these things on my own and I always had a babysitter for several hours a day, so I had the time to do it. Also, while that age is farther away from me than I like to admit, I still shudder when I think of having to go with my mother to do all these tedious errands. Some of it is that I don’t have a lot of friends with kids, who a. live nearby b. have kids of a similar age or c. at all. But some of it, I must admit is that I have divided myself between us and me.
I am a compartmentalizer. I have files for everything and to some extent this has also extended to the people in my life. I have my Chicago friends, New York friends and Israel friends. My Jerusalem friends and my Tel Aviv friends; my religious friends and my not religious friends; friends with kids and friends without children. I have begun to realize that while this method has worked for me in the past (maybe) it is not working for me now. At least not with my kids. They aren’t outsiders; they are my family. The grocery shopping and laundry and holidays are for them and a part of them and are memories for them. Now that they're almost three it is time to include them and watch them enjoy and learn. When I look at them I see they are no longer babies. They're bodies have become little girl bodies and when we converse I actually understand what they're saying.
The other night a friend from the United States was here and suggested we go out for dinner…with the girls. I immediately said no…but then I remembered what my friend from school told me and how my new approach is to relax, enjoy and include. So I said yes. It was certainly not a relaxing dinner over a glass of wine with meaningful conversation on a variety of subjects. It included spilled drinks, seven trips to the bathroom in 20 minutes (we're in the midst of potty training) crayons, stickers and about 100 wipes. But it was dinner at a restaurant with my family. And it was fine, pleasant, even fun…although of a different variety than once upon a time. It certainly helped that my friend was good natured and helpful.
Maybe I'm just a slow learner, but only now am I realizing that my adjustment to motherhood is still ongoing. While I have adjusted to getting up at 6am and the 24/7 nature of my job and the midnight wake up call, I hadn’t really internalized that I have little people in my life who are part of my social life. Maybe when they're babies it's easier to separate because essentially you are a caretaker albeit a very loving one. But now they are little girls and they are the joy and loves of my life. It's time to become friends and not just a custodian. I am so looking forward to the continuation of our journey together and establishing an even more complete bond.