I am an empathetic person. Some may even say I am too empathetic (if there is such a thing).
Empathy comes to me naturally and without much prompting, or so I thought until my babies taught me a thing or two about myself.
You see, society has done a damn good job of removing a certain ‘relatability’ from our relationship with our babies.
It’s almost like in the quest to push our babies towards independence, we have lost sight of the whole person underneath. The push to sleep independently, play independently, eat independently, dress and toilet independently; it all seems to consume so much of what we see in our babies, for good or bad.
We view and form opinions of our own experience with our child based on how they make us feel or the demands they place on us, the parent.
I got caught in the crush with my first baby and his whole being was minimised down to his ability/ inability to sleep without enormous input from me.
For the longest time, my conversations and thoughts centred around how tired I was, how over it I was, how frustrated I was, and how sorry I felt for myself being stuck in this shitty situation with this baby who would not let up.
Poor me. Pity me. Hard done by me.
For an empathetic person, I was pretty bad at seeing past my own nose to look at my beautiful baby who was struggling ever so much to find and maintain sleep.
It may have been the hardest most relentless time in my life but he wasn’t doing it for kicks and he certainly wasn’t doing it to make me suffer. He wasn’t out to get me. He simply needed me. All of me and then some.
He was a whole person and his experience and his feelings about it all were just as valid and just as important as my own and as the completely dependent person who was only months into life on this earth, HE deserved every ounce of empathy and understanding he could get.
I came to this realisation eventually and life with an intense, high needs baby became ever so much more enjoyable once I could see HIM.
All of him. The good, the bad, the easy, the hard, the beauty, the challenges… all of him.
The whole person, worthy of being treated as such.
My second baby, is currently a teething mess. I have never before encountered such horrific looking gums as he has right now as he simultaneously erupts molars and canines.
I had an appointment this morning and the lady asked me how the boys are and I explained that the littlest is really not himself with his mouth so sore.
Her response took me aback a little, ‘oh poor you, I bet you’re not sleeping then. God, I hate teething babies. Right pains in the arse they are. Fingers crossed they are through soon so you can get some rest.’
You see, she’s full of empathy … for me. She can relate to me, the mother, but heaven forbid she show an ounce of compassion for the poor wee soul who is living this painful struggle day in, night out right now … my baby.
Yes, I am freaking exhausted. Yes, I do hope they come through quickly so I can rest, BUT more importantly, I want them through so HE can rest without this horrible pain. I want him to get back to his cheerful self, without this terribly sore mouth pulling him up short and dampening his day.
HE deserves every ounce of empathy I can muster. This isn’t all about me and how I’m suffering (although sending your sympathy is fine, provided it’s not dissing my baby).
My babies have taught me the importance of seeing the whole.
The saying, ‘your baby isn’t giving you a hard time, they are having a hard time’, has been a real game changer for me.
Sure, I am still often having a hard time along with them but this is not due to some deliberate act of my child. They aren’t malicious and they aren’t manipulative. They are babies being babies and kids being kids. Their babyish or childish nature is not an act against me.
The challenges they face as they grow and develop at a phenomenal rate, would have us desperately tied up in knots even as adults. It is hard on them and they are just as entitled as you or I to voice and show their feelings.
For goodness sake, the last time I had a toothache, I was as cantankerous as an ogre!
If you are finding you are caught up in your own adult struggle with your kids, do the whole family a favour and focus on finding a way to empathise and connect with them as whole people. You’ll all feel better for it. The tough times are so much easier to take when you don’t feel like the helpless victim in it all.
Our perfectly imperfect little people deserve our respect, understanding and empathy.
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