My nearly 3 year old, Natalie came to me a little bit ago and said “Na-Na hair cut” while holding her hair. (“Na-Na” is her name for herself.) After a few questions, I confirmed that she wants her hair cut to her shoulders. I told her that she should think about it some more and talk to daddy about it later. I explained we that once it’s cut, we can’t put it back on, but that it will grow back slowly. I told her that after she thought about it more, if she still wants it cut, I’ll do it. I feel that it’s important to respect her wishes, especially because this is about the age when our older two girls cut their own hair without my knowledge.
I love that my toddler came to me with her desire instead of trying to do it secretly. It makes me feel really good about the trust she has in me, the depth of our connection.
Autonomy over one’s hair is such a non-issue compared to important things like physical safety. I was so upset when my older girls cut their hair. And now, I can’t tell you how often I feel like going back in time and shaking myself by the shoulders and telling myself to wake up and stop stressing over such petty things!
Sometimes, looking back at my old Facebook posts is really painful. Seeing my statuses about spanking the older girls for the stupidest things. Being so exasperated at what I now know is normal child behavior. It makes me cringe.
It breaks my heart when I see other parents locked in power struggles and screaming matches with their kids. For more reasons than one. Now, I understand how badly those parents are hurting. How frustrated and confused they are. How badly they want their kids to grow up to be responsible, kind adults, but how clueless they are as to how to encourage those traits. And how most parents are actually doing better with their kids than was done to them, so I see how much pain they’re carrying around that they may not even realize they have.
But how do you kindly and gently tell people to look in the mirror and change themselves when they ask in desperation how to get their kids to “obey”? How do you even begin to explain to them that obedience isn’t the goal of parenting? How do you get them to admit that their parents did the best they could with what they knew, but obviously what they knew wasn’t good enough?
I’m at a loss of how to simplify the last 5 years of my life, my journey from authoritarianism to peacefulness. Because that’s what it’s been. A journey of a million tiny steps that have led me to where I am now.
I think the only way to show others is to invite them into my world, into my home, and show them what parent-child relationships can be like. How family time can be peaceful. How chores don’t have to be a struggle. And then wait for them to ask, “How do you do that?” And then explain that I can only truly control me, I can only change me. And once I began to change myself, my relationships were changed in the process.
I guess the problem is that everyone is unique, so what needs to change, and in what order, will be different for everyone. I suppose the bottom line is letting go of controlling others and beginning to control myself. I guess if I had to simplify it, that’s what I’d say.
I’m not perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination. But I’m trying. I’m growing. I’m learning. I can look back over the last 5 years and see the incredible strides I’ve made. My journey is mine alone, it won’t look exactly like anyone else’s. But maybe my mistakes and realizations can help others in their own journeys. At the very least, maybe my admissions can help others not feel so alone in their transformation.