How I’m Failing at Respect

Dahlia of the Week: Custom-made Christmas Booties (handmade by Papa!)
Dahlia of the Week: Custom-made Christmas Booties (handmade by Papa!)

First, let me say I use the term “failing” loosely here, because is it really failing if you don’t stop trying? With that said, I am using the word to make a point. The point is – I need to do better at respecting the people I love.

I recently read the Huffington Post article “My Conversation With Co-Sleeping Expert James McKenna” and he said something that really resonated with me:

“Like most soon-to-be parents, we rushed to buy all the parenting books. But after reading a few books about how best to care for your new baby we were left with one of two conclusions: either everything we had learned in anthropology, my specialty, was wrong, or all these western recommendations about how best to care for babies had nothing to do with babies at all. Maybe it had everything to do with recent western cultural ideologies and social values that more accurately reflect what we want babies to become, rather than who they actually are and what they need.”

When he says our western ideologies and values “reflect what we want babies to become, rather than who they actually are and what they need” I’m reminded of the hundreds of conversations I’ve had with girlfriends over the years when I’ve preached, “love your man for who he is, not who you want him to become.” Accept the person as they are. Respect what they need.

*sigh* My own words used against me at a time when I really needed to hear them.

My mother came to visit recently. We have a tense relationship and a history of mutually inflicted, poorly healed wounds. When I mentioned something about her behavior in the past, during my childhood, she said, “Your memories…it’s like you remember things that never happened.”

At first I was furious. How dare she diminish MY experience of my own childhood by implying I’m making stuff up just to sound like a victim. I was there. I remember! I’m not making this stuff up!

But then, in a moment of clarity it struck me. She had her own experience of my childhood.

She clung to her own memories, and it sounded like while I’ve been holding onto the bad ones she was desperately holding onto the good ones (especially after my brother’s passing last year).

So there I was, seething at her lack of respect for my experiences as a child and I couldn’t even consider she’d had her own, separate, just-as-real experiences as my mother. It’s not that I didn’t wonder what her experiences were like, or how they were different from mine. I’d discounted her experience so completely it was if they didn’t exist. In my mind, my experience was the only one and, quite obviously, the right one. FAIL.

Also recently, Baby came down with whooping cough. (Yes, I know, it’s sounds horrible. Yes, it’s dangerous if left untreated. No, there were no trips to the emergency room. Yes, she’s doing better now.) There were a couple of weeks during which caring for her at night kept me up for almost the entire night. For almost two weeks I slept 2-2.5 hours at night in 30-minute chunks here and there.

Again, here I am, struggling, suffering, trying to maintain a full-time job (thank GOODNESS for my work’s flexibility) while caring for this little one, and I’d forgotten…I have a husband. He’s tired, too. When he eases out of bed slowly in the morning, wrestling exhaustion, as I bound out of bed in my adrenaline-fueled fury to get everything done that day I practically bulldoze him. Rather than honoring him, who he is (my partner), and what he’s going through (he’s just as exhausted as I am!) I silently judge him for not making more of an effort, for not trying harder, for not doing more. FAIL.

Finally, I am just now familiarizing myself with RIE principles of parenting and am wishing I’d discovered RIE sooner. There have been moments over the past 9 months where my instinct was to treat Baby like a fully-fledged human being, to communicate with her like I would a close family member or a treasured friend. Instead, some part of my brain decided, “She’s just a baby. She doesn’t understand what you’re saying,” or “Those things don’t matter to her.”

I should have known – no attempt at authentic connection with another human being, whether you speak the same language or not, is wasted effort. After reading more about RIE I’m realizing now that Baby understands, and is capable of, way more than I’ve been giving her credit for. And she deserves my utmost respect as a whole, complete, perfect human being just wanting to be seen, not formed into my idea of her. SUPER FAIL.

Lately I’m feeling so far from the loving being I know I could be, t one I know I truly am inside. In fairness, the last four weeks of caring for Baby and her whooping cough have been brutal. I feel like my world was turned upside down, and I’m just starting to see the world right side up again. And sleep deprivation really messes up your brain.

I’m hoping to find myself again soon. I’m planning to slow down these last few weeks of the year and show myself a little tenderness and compassion. Be a little more gentle. Be a little more kind. Maybe then I can put down my need to be the only one, the right one, and once again see these people in my life for what they are – gifts. Treasures. Opportunities to love and be loved. Being who deserve to be cherished, and who are worthy of my respect.


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