Saturday, March 17, 2012

Guacamole and God: A bit on Parenting my Toddler

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde

Being a mother is the hardest role I have ever taken on (save, being a wife!) I think most days I could go back to teaching at North High and find it a "cake walk" compared to mommyhood. My students in Minneapolis have nothing on Marguerite Kiemde in terms of inspiring intense emotion and the deepest sense of inadequacy within me. (Good thing I'm wildly in love with my daughter!)

Kiddo has been sick. Let's just acknowledge this fact. We are going on day six of Ms. K. suffering from a hacking cough, green-yellow-phlegm in her nose, and a whacked out eating and sleeping routine. I am trying to ride this wave of unwellness, by nurturing, supporting, parenting her in the best manner I know. (Stroller-rides in the sunshine, warm chicken broth, lots of songs and snuggling during the day and night.) Yet during several moments in this past week, I have admitted defeat. Her suffering I cannot alleviate, and this fact, coupled with my own plate full of desires/ dreams/ tasks to complete, makes me quake within my own sadness, anger, frustration and wall-hitting. Her suffering parallels and informs my own. And I wonder where to turn in such moments.

It just sucks being inadequate -- or feeling inadequate.

Yesterday, it was a packed up bowl of guacamole that my precious kiddo threw at me, hitting the side of my car, that started my descent into parenting-self-doubt hell. Tantrum? Yes, it was a tantrum. She was mad she had to get in the car. I have been "feeling" these deep emotional expressions of defiance (or passion?) since baby girl was six months old and arching her back and letting me know she was pissed, or wanted to be in charge.

I feel for her. I get on every level the desire to throw guacamole when you are mad. What I'm faced with now, is how to compassionately and boldly parent in the face of what I understand.

I can add to the guacamole break down. Any moments of "no" or "redirection" (shoot, even a cheerful hello when she's engrossed in something else) this toddler takes personally, falling into a puddle of tears. She closes her eyes, opens her mouth, the snot pours out of her nose, and she wails. Tears stream down her face. I can count all her teeth during these moments. I imagine her experiencing utter rejection in these minutes; her expectations of the world are not being met with a desired response. Mom's and other's expectations or desires are threatening to her very core, and this brings on the tears.

Today, both my neighbor and a church friend were met by Maggie's hysterical outbreaks when they warmly greeted her. Did kiddo not hear the friendly tone in their voices? Did she mis-interpret their words? Were their "Hey Maggies!" translated into requests for something that she wasn't able to deliver on? I am plagued on this count. I wonder, "Why the broken heart, kiddo?"

With closed eyes, then, and outstretched arms, my daughter begins walking towards me in such moments of despair. She's like a blind zombie baby moving desperately in my direction. I try to embrace her need, without overdoing the coddle. I try not to laugh. And I ask myself: "Do I really need to 'save' her from these moments?" Ack! This is the parenting rub I'm currently up against!

My spiritual self sees these moments of angst and emotion akin to my own melt-down moments, sans the adult filter. My child acts out physically in a manner that I think perfectly expresses what I am doing inside on a faith level with God. Wailing. Eyes closed. Arms outstretched. Blind. Trying to find comfort or security or a saving grace.

So in my inadequacy as a parent, I take a deep breathe and try to tune in. I may comfort, reassure kiddo, but really its not my comfort to give. I believe with all my heart that within Marguerite, within all of us, is the Divine indwelling, that can provide a peace not found anywhere else. Question is: how do I teach her to tune into this kind of love?

My friend Lisa, witness to one of these outbreaks today, who works with kids all day long, said, "Ah, give her some toys. She will cry. She will learn to self-soothe."

I agree. And I pray. I hope for the "God-soothing" wisdom and instinct to develop and be re-inforced as she grows. May the moments of heart-ache that Marguerite experiences teach her about the world, about her own desire, and may she find a balm within her, a song that carries her into the next moment of love.

Photos by Louisa Marion Photography


Brian Mogren said...

Holding it all with you, Meliss.
Big, deep breaths...

Gramma Beth said...

I thoroughly enjoyed your reflections and observations Melissa. Truly hope Punkie gets to feeling better soon. Don't let it turn into something bigger like inner ear problems. Keep the faith, you're doing a fine job.

Anonymous said...

Ah - I loved this, too! The "God-soothing" wisdom - Amen. I have so many ugly, guacamole-throwing-like moments of parenting. This was such a good reminder to me that my frustration is shared by my children; the difference is I have "words to use" as I always coach them to do. (And yet, yelling those words is not the way to use them!) Thank you for a smile and deep breath reminder.

Queen Mab said...

Mothering Spirit,

Thank you for the gift of your commentS this day -- here and on my most current QueenMabpost...Your tuning in invites me to revisit writing, parenting, life themes that I've lived but haven't shared publicly....What a gift a reader and commenter is! I look forward to connecting IN PERSON over our work in days to come....

Peace, Gratitude,