It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.
When my daughter was born one week before my twenty-ninth birthday, I thought I was prepared for motherhood. I’d been a youth group leader and camp counselor since I was fourteen. For years, I taught kindergarten in Saturday school. Since becoming pregnant, I’d doggedly perused the 649 shelf in the library, hauling home and reading dozens of parenting books. I knew what to expect during my baby’s first year.
Scratch that. I was familiar with timelines for normal development. I had read about infant behaviors. I had developed a how-to-parent-a-newborn plan. And I was wholly unprepared to be a mother. I had expectations, for my child and myself. I thought having an agenda was a good thing.
Let’s raise children who won’t have to recover from their childhood.
Within a few days of being home with my much-wanted, instantly-loved child, I yelled at her. She had been screaming for hours. I had changed her, nursed her, rocked her, left her in the crib for a bit, sung to her. In my ignorance, I never considered that she might be in physical or emotional pain, that there could be a reason for her distress. I was failing — so soon! — at being the kind of mother I had prepared to be, the kind I was supposed to be.
Immediately after I yelled, I lay on the bed beside her, and joined her in despondent weeping.
Education: the path from cocky ignorance to miserable uncertainty.
Almost two decades have passed. I think I have forgiven myself for that horrible lapse of self-control, the abhorrent dearth of understanding, but I continue to regret it. My children are my greatest teachers, and I continue to remember the profound lesson: I have much to learn. Always.
This post was inspired by Forgiveness Prompts For #1000Speak January Link-up. #1000Speak is a group of bloggers from all over the world are coming together to talk about compassion on the 20th of each month. The above is my first contribution.
I write about my parenting journey, and the journeys of other mothers, in Swan Mothers: Discovering Our True Selves by Parenting Uniquely Magnificent Children.