I caught myself.
Penelope started crawling last Thursday. Popped up. Moved from “canoeing fish” across the floor to a sturdy determined little crawler. I was so proud of her. Her focused little face that I caught on camera makes my heart leap. She is our Mighty Mouse.
I thought with rookie-mother pride, “My daughter is so determined!”
Yesterday was a longer day. We think she may be teething after 11 months of being a toothless-wonder. To provide some context to the story: in combination with a more-than-normal feistiness, our daughter loves to eat. Honestly, she is a 15lb bottomless pit. I don’t know where she packs it, but if we feed her, it’s gone. Last night for dinner when the bits of egg weren’t coming fast enough on her tray (I place a few at a time to prevent a mega-mess), she took her pointer finger and slammed it down repeatedly on the tray. I realized quickly that this action mimicks my pointing on her tray with the words, “finish this first Pen before you get more” (even typing it now I realize I’ve repeated this 10 times a day for 3 months). Aside from the immediacy required for eating-satisfaction, what I thought was so cool is that she has figured out that this action says: More. Mom. Now. Slightly edgy after a long of these teething-baby-demands, I was also proud of her. She made the connection of thought, want, and kinesthetic communication. So cool. What’s also awesome is that my daughter knows what she wants and has learned how to get it.
I took it in: “My daughter has a strong will and mind!”
This morning I woke up before sunrise to brainstorm a blog post. I reflected on my last few days as a parent and realized “Holy crap, it has started.” I caught myself. Meg, you’re doing it.
[Yes, when I am in reflection and trying to distill learning from life experience I speak to myself in 3rd person. Weird, yet effective habit].
Up until now, I have separated my self – and my ego – from my daughter’s development. I didn’t read books on milestones and made a conscious effort from before she was born to say, “Penelope’s life is not mine. I am fiercely committed to being a container for her to live into her own life.”
And yet, in the last week, my big ego sneakily used a baby pincer grip and clamped on.
Achievement. My kryptonite.
As a recovering achievement-addict, I am very aware that something in me gets a boost through achieving new things, doing challenging tasks, and accomplishing things for the first time. It’s a sly obsession that is cloaked in language of “striving for excellence,” “personal growth,” and “self-understanding.” Yet, when I am truly honest with myself, I know that the psycho-somatic hits of energy I get from achievement (no matter the size or form) fuel my ego.
Upon reflection on the last week, I can see how easy it is to conflate (a) being excited/happy/elated as a new parent, with (b) feeling a sense of personal pride … for the exact same thing. What I did, without even realizing it, was take Penelope’s achievement (crawling), personality (determined), and accomplishments (communication) and linked it something about me. For me. For my ego boost.
And… when we know better, we do better. Thus, how can I re-start the day with this new awareness?
I’m going to keep the following question on my radar: The next time Pen learns something new, how can I observe it with both excitement and love AND not use it to feel good about myself as a parent or a person?
Today is a new day. I hear Penelope awake in her crib from my office.
Pause button off.
Time to be a mom.