Swan Mothers

Discovering Ourselves through Parenting

Forgiving Myself My Own Ignorance

IMG_5803.jpgIt takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.
Thomas Sowell

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.
Pam Leo

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.
Mark Twain

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.


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Full Responsibility Parenting

A Mother’s Lament by ~Yohnnilee Fan Art / Traditional Art / Drawings / Books & Novels©2010-2013 ~Yohnnilee

A few days ago, I wrote some lovely words about not interfering with my children, about letting them have their own experience, about trusting that they can manage their own lives. I clicked post, sending my insights into the world. I felt good about my enlightened parenting. For a minute. Then, life resumed its relentless march.

Ellana came down dressed to go out in tights and a shirt. Daniel got in Jonathon’s face and made silly faces, which caused Johnathon to groan and speak harshly to his brother. YouTube and i-Pad games took precedence over homework, for a long time.

And I . . . interfered.

I used what my daughter once called The Tone of Voice, the same tone of voice which I admonish my children not to use. I offered dozens of suggestions in rapid succession. I pushed and prodded, which, in my Not Interfering post, I implied would build a foundation for resentment. Way to go Swan Mother. Yay, me. <sarcasm>

Knowing What Kind of Mother I Want to Be, Not Being Her

Cover ImageI wrote a book about my journey to recognizing that my children are magnificent exactly as they are. I’ve been a mother for a long time (15 1/2 years). I’ve done lots of things wrong. I’ve read piles of books and blogs. I’ve learned from my mistakes. I have a clear picture of the supportive, gentle, and loving mother I want to be.

So . . .

  • Why do I offer observations and suggestions, when my goal is non-interference?
  • If I love them exactly the way they are, why am I frustrated?
  • Why is my best so flawed?

Total Acceptance

“I have come to drag you out of yourself, and take you in my heart.  

I have come to bring out the beauty you never knew you had and lift you like a prayer to the sky.”

originally, Rumi (now, my family, to me)

We do not live in a bubbles. The moods and actions of people around us affect us. Weather affects us. Moon cycles and solar flares affect us. Childhood experiences and what our spouse said this morning affect us. Humans are complex creatures.

There is no excuse for me to speak unkindly, but I apologize to my children, not here. I do not want my children to apologize to the world for being who and how they are, so I accept myself as I am — even when I don’t like myself or my behavior. I keep doing my work and remembering Carl Rogers’ curious paradox:  When I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.

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