For the past year or so, you’ve had great delight in really getting in touch with your soft spot. Having been shamed as a child for showing emotions, which were backfired by adults as being ‘weakness’ – you’ve had a tough time allowing yourself to just be. To be there for your baby, to take care of it’s every need. To not diminish your baby’s needs or paint them off as manipulation. To stretch out your comfort zones and breaking the limits of what you thought you were physically capable of. You got in touch with your gentle, nurturing side and bathe in its soothing embrace.
Then suddenly, your little one starts changing. You hear things like ‘NO!’. Where you were once able to place your baby wherever was convenient and they’d stayed in proximity, your little one’s mobility urges itself to go into all those precarious places, their sense of observation drives them to test the laws of gravity over and over again – throwing things around and off many times over. Food is just another creative art medium (and the whole house is a canvas, living things included) – your calls for law and order go unheeded or only put more fuel on the fire.
For the longest time you battled with the voices – both the voices from the past repeating in your head, how you were raised, the standards and values that were imposed to you – as well as the external voices of well-intentioned advice (but not quite what you’re looking at in raising your baby) and the many warnings with scorned looks as to how you treat your baby. You’re spoiling him, she’s going to know no boundaries, he’s going to rule the house, she’s going to manipulate you, he’s going to know no discipline. But despite the many voices prodding at the doubts you thought you stilled, you kept going back to your calm, your trust, your faithfulness to your own inner voice, that you will see this through, that you need to see this through if only to come to a sound conclusion for yourself.
It took great bravery to go against your conditioned impulses – but now all hell is loose.
What if they were right?
What if I totally @#!8%$-ed up my child?
When something happens that appears to be the realization of your fears, we tend to petrify immediately. Following your inner guidance was just too good to be true. You’re a @#!8%$–up after all. Nice try though. You can go back now to a desolate inner landscape that holds no future.
When we fear something so much, the moment we see something that resembles our fear in the slightest, we think ‘Oh my God, this is it’. We believe our reaction at face value without investigating what is really going on. A toddler’s brazen rite of passage into freedom and responsibility easily becomes one of such fixations.
When we remain fixed on our fixation and only look at what is happening on the surface (unruly behaviour, tantrums, defiance, opposition, etc), we forego the bigger picture and perspicacious insight.
So why did your cute mogwai baby turn into a downright gremlin?
One of our unique features of being human is that of Free Will.
Free Will poses some challenges, considering there over 7 billion of us, not even taking into account the other gazillion of life forms on the planet.
We have the power to do what we want, but none of our actions come without a subsequent reaction or consequence. While we are free to choose how to act and be, we don’t have the freedom in picking out and selecting our set of consequence for that very action. On a global level – this is exactly what we are facing and is becoming more prominent and pronounced in its manifestations day by day. War, conflict and poverty are the epitome of our conflictual relationship with free will in the quest of making our free will a reality while rivalling everyone else’s free will. We’re all so much focused on our individual, personal free will, our own desires, dreams and fears that everyone else comes second.
When your toddler (or even baby) shifts his or her behaviour and interaction with reality in the realization that there are no defined lines or boundaries as to what goes and what not – an exploration sets forth to thirst his or her curiosity into one’s own ability to create and shape your reality. Your child steps into its power with no direction other than to find out ‘what can be done’ with this power.
For us parents, the advent of the power phase can be quite startling and alarming. Over eons of time, we and our ancestors have subdued our own in free will and have settled for complacency. Surviving to a ‘good old age’, having had kids and having accumulated some wealth to call your own is all we aim for. We’re just trying to get through the day and having a good time here and there. We’ve long given up our hopes and dreams for ourselves and the world; which was painful at one time, only to later be conceited with our own sense of ‘realism’. We turn our losses into triumphs because the truth hurts too much. We’ve given up. We’re proper a-dull-ts now. A child or infant stepping into its power phase, reigning chaos and mayhem, we’re not interested as to why they are doing it. All we know, is that it is oh so terribly inconvenient for our lives which we’ve limited to a narrow range of conduct in order to survive. We’ve worked hard to fall in line and run with the cog out of fear of being spat out and rejected as being defective. Our children, being new to this world – have no idea about all the tacit and explicit agreements we’ve made collectively and are out to explore for themselves their creative abilities.
Our fearful response to a child’s wild nature then doesn’t stem from our desire to raise a well-developed and rounded individual, but from a desire to raise a person that fits the collective agreed upon framework of survival on this planet. Whether this framework is the most beneficial to both personal and global well-being and harmony is not part of our consideration. Just that they need to fit the framework. Or perhaps we do want to nurture and raise our child(ren) to their utmost potential, but still battle with our own fears and conditioning.
You find yourself in a situation with two opposing elements. You have the child who is still raw and boundless and the adult who is excessively defined. How to bring these two elements together in harmony? What seems like two opposing forces are in fact the keys to balance to one another. The young child needs direction – not through fear or morality but through understanding. The adult has too many directions, too many fears, beliefs and conditioning that need to be erased. As much as you will be working with guiding and navigating your child through this world and learning the responsibility that comes with freedom, you too, as an adult, will be guided (well, more like triggered and challenged…) to reconsider your own approach to life and drop belief systems which do not actually serve you and get in touch with your own inner child. You come together and you learn as one.
A Toddler’s Brazen Rite of Passage is not only a tumultuous time for him or her, you too go through you own tumultuous transformation and metamorphosis if you allow yourself to embrace what your child triggers and challenges in you and give yourself the opportunity to re-evaluate your points of view.
In terms of guiding your child, what I found most effective is to work with simple explanations of cause and effect and the implications of free will and ‘doing what I want’. I will show him that when he steps into a position of doing what he wants regardless of how it affects those around him, he implicitly gives license to everyone to do the same. I give him examples of how this would look like. If he decides he wants to throw the toy at me, I can decide to go away. I could also decide to throw it back at him. I can also decide to put the toy away, because of my physical size I am able to place it out of reach. How does he feel about someone abusing their power over another? If he had lesser abilities (like for instance a dog who can’t throw a toy back but can bite when it’s really fed up), how would he feel in their position? Would he like to be considered in that person or animals position and not be taken advantage of? What would happen if EVERYONE starts playing out this particular behaviour? Does that result in an outcome that’s pleasant? Mostly these situations end up in fight, conflict. He understands this. Sometimes he doesn’t understand (or he does but insists on playing it out for himself) and then natural consequence will show him what his behaviour creates. Other people don’t want to play with him, he’s not welcome somewhere or another child hits him back.
“Now I know” – is a phrase I hear very often, and a phrase others around me starting picking up from my son as well lol.
Sometimes the roles are reversed. My son really wants me to come play with him on a jungle gym and in the sand by a crowded restaurant. I’m resistant because I don’t want to make a fool of myself and get ‘dirty’. I’ll tell him ‘No, I can’t, I’m busy drinking right now’ as an excuse to get out of it. He’ll come grab me by the hand, tell me to put my glass down and just come play with him. That it will help me and make me feel better. In those moments he pushes me to drop the beliefs, the rules we impose on ourselves but don’t help us. Our social anxieties, our fears of being ridiculed, all the little rules where we hold ourselves back because ‘what if’. We remain stagnant because we don’t allow ourselves to embrace life and celebrate the many opportunities we have to shine in our self-expression.
With Freedom comes great Responsibility. We can do what we want, but only certain actions will provide the outflows that support all that are involved. Our current society is not one of Freedom and Responsibility. We abdicate the responsibility of how life on Earth should be managed to our politicians (and then we complain about what an awful job they’re doing) – believing we gain the freedom to ‘not worry about such things’, while our actual freedom gets removed as we allow random laws and regulations to be imposed on our lives. We abdicate the Right to Life to money, a manifestation that took on a life of its own, with many being at the mercy of volatile markets. But at least, we don’t have to think about who gets what, we have some extra time to watch a soccer game. Money can decide. The more we imprison ourselves, the more our children will rebel against our mental bars.
Our conceptualization of Freedom invites the most limitations. Equally so, we carry many ideas of responsibilities which are futile and only burden us. We need to learn to balance both Freedom and Responsibility to get the best out of both.