Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What Are You Really Worried About?

Any of you who have attended one of my sessions, whether on infant care or labor and delivery, whether a small group or individual hour or two, knows that I always ask early in the session, " What are you really worried about?" Granted, it depends on whether it's L&D or Baby Basics. And it commonly is, " How much is it going to hurt? " But mostly, it's, I really worry about if my baby is going to be okay." Well, okay means many things to different people. In this case, I know it means, healthy, whole and doesn't have autism.

Thankfully, we have wonderful technology that can visualize most of the baby's anatomy. We can thank goodness for high definition resolution and dimensions to see inside brains and hearts, count fingers and toes. And we have learned to identify "soft" markers for many problems that can be further explored before the baby's  birth. But we can't "see" autism or Asperger's or any of the myriad of variations on that spectrum that everyone seems to worry about.

Likewise we cannot see if your child is going to be developmentally delayed, a slow walker or talker, a klutz or a ballerina. We can be reassured to a great extend about the visual tangibles. It's all those gray areas that keep us up at night. And there is a lot of gray on the spectrum of hopes and wishes, preconceived notions and dreams about how our offspring is going to top the charts, in every respect, because ultimately that makes us the best parents.

The best parents, take a breath,  understand it's not about them, at all. It's about the desire to welcome an individual into their homes and hearts because good parents have a genuine desire to nurture and raise up a person, with all the uncertainties of what life might offer us. It's not about the disappointments and failures that our child will inevitably face and inflict upon our preconceived ideas about what superstars they will be. It's mostly how will I cope if I don't get what I want?

That is what becoming a parent is really all about. How do I cope with meeting the needs of a person whom I love, more than my life itself, when things don't happen as I have planned? How do I accept this unique person for what he is and further his growth and development so that he may leave my home with the tools he needs to reach his potential and be able to cope himself.

I restate over and over, " you can't die if you can't leave your child behind." The goal is enable this person to live successfully, no matter the limitations, out of our control, so that he can forge on in his own life, without you. Without your money, without your love, without your advice, without your best wishes and intentions, without your rationalizations and without your direction. The goal is make sure that while you gave this person life, you are not his life. You believe that he belongs to you. Nope, you belong to him and when he no longer needs you, he's supposed to be able to take that life and make of it what he will. Not what you want. What he can.

So begin this endeavor with, " How can I provide my child with the tools to make the decisions appropriate for him and to carry on with those plans with the self-respect and self-confidence to cope with the many gray areas he, himself, will encounter along the way. It's not about you at all. When you become a parent it's a very selfless question to ask, " What can I do for him? " so that the results are, " so he can leave me?"