15 October 2008

Lessons from My Daughter

When I first learned I was pregnant, I felt simultaneously thrilled and anxious.

"Yay!" There'll be a new little soul in this world. "Yay!" Cute baby clothes. "Yay!" Cute baby toes. "Yay!" Sweet, smooth, baby skin. And that perfect little baby bum.

But the OMGs followed hot my heels.

OMG. How do I raise a responsible, thoughtful, well rounded, intelligent, fun loving, confident little girl? OMG. I'll never be able to take a shower again. OMG. I'll never see the inside of a restaurant again. OMG. Will Rodney and I ever have sex again? OMG. Will there be a day that I DON'T go to Target or Babies 'R Us to get something? OMG. What if Zora is like those kids on Supernanny? OMG.

It never occurred to me that Zora might have a thing or two to teach me. Being a parent meant sacrifice, responsibility, compromise. I didn't anticipate being the pupil.

Don't Be Afraid to Ask for What You Want or Need, Even If It May Inconvenience Others.
Asserting myself is very difficult for me. I'm a people pleaser at heart and hate when I perceive other people may be irritated with me. As a consequence, I say "yes" when I mean "no," I bite my lip when I should open my mouth, and I spend a lot of time feeling resentful rather than delegating tasks and telling folks what I really want and need. My daughter doesn't seem to have this issue.

"No, no" Zora shakes her head vigorously from side to side while I ply her with sweet potato fries. Then she looks over my shoulder, points to the tofu sitting on the counter, and smiles.

"Mama! Mama! Mama!" Two little arms stretch upwards. I need attention and love.

Don't Take Yourself So Seriously.
I never considered myself "egotistical," but after reading about the Buddhist concept of ego in Cheri Huber's That Which You Are Seeking Is Causing You To Seek, I realize that I spend a lot of time examining myself and my actions. Did I say the right thing? Am I organized enough? Zora only ate orange food today. Is she going to be malnourished? Is it bad that I'm reading People instead of The New Yorker? Often, I find that I'm not up to snuff.

Not Zora. If Zora makes a mistake, she's still okay with herself. The other day, she tripped over a pair of her shoes and landed on her face. "Oops!" Rodney and I sang out when she realized she was okay. After picking herself up, she turned, grinned at us and said, "Oopy!" We giggled. She giggled. Then she toddled over to us and pretended to fall into our laps. "Ooopy!" she yelled and let out this outrageously deep cackle. "Oopy!" The girl can laugh at herself.

True Grit.
Remember learning calculus or how to drive stick shift or trying to hit a softball? Remember how much you sucked at it? I do. Tears, theatrics, self deprecation, thoughts of quitting. Eventually, I learned how to do all these things, some well and some not so well. In each case discouragement ran high. Even today I find there are times when I'm not willing to challenge myself or try something new because I might be bad at it. Why should I put myself through the misery?

Let me tell you, Zora was spectacularly bad at walking when she first started. She could trip over of piece of lint, her own feet, other people's feet, thin air. Turning a half circle still makes her dizzy enough to pouf! land on her diapered bum. But she kept at it, and now she walks more than she falls and has even started running. I marvel at her determination. New experiences are her life, and rather than fretting about her To Do List, she's eager to meet the next challenge be it learning how to stop, using a spoon, forming words with more than one syllable, or the laws of physics.

She's swamped, but somehow, Zora always finds time in her busy day to offer me what I need be it a kiss, a good laugh or a lesson in self esteem.


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