One of the things I’ve admired the most about Evening, and the one thing I hope I can learn from her, is her utter honesty in everything she does. I say it is Evening’s quality, but in truth it is a quality that every infant holds. Evening is merely the one who has taught me.
While over the course of my life I have learned to guard my reactions, my emotions, for reasons of privacy and also to protect myself and others. While there are times where this is appropriate, I find myself envying Evening’s ability to just – be.
She isn’t second-guessing what she should be feeling in any situation. If she is happy to see me, she smiles. If she is unhappy, she cries. When she wakes me up in the morning, gurgling and touching my face (not always gently), grinning from ear to ear when I finally (begrudgingly) open my eyes? That’s real too.
Simple. Honest. No affectation. No desire to present a ‘front’ to the world that may or may not be true. No devious desire to hide her true feelings. She simply feels her emotions openly, allowing herself to be in the moment because she hasn’t yet learned not to be.
I admire this ability so. When did I lose my ability to be so honest in everything I do? Why do we feel compelled to force a smile through our tears? Why do we hesitate to show how happy we are in any given situation? Why do we pretend that nothing is wrong when something is very wrong? The ability to hide our emotions is often touted as strength in our culture. Why the heck are we so dang complicated?
I can see the reasons, good and bad. There is an innocence to her honesty. An innocence that I would like to protect at all costs.
Where is the balance? For there is one; we are taught not to stare at someone in a wheelchair, for example. It is considered rude. Yet it is, undeniably, something that grabs our attention and leads to a hundred questions our natural curiosity brings to the surface. We repress these questions out of respect for the feelings of the wheelchair-bound individual. Yet, it is the lesson taught to protect this person that shows us how to hide other emotions as well. How many of us actually go out of the way to compliment something when we admire it? I have admired a hundred gardens, but never once have I knocked on the door to tell the gardener as much (hmmm…I think I’ll start making an effort to do that from now on).
Puberty, as well, does a lot to destroy the open-ness of our selves. Ah, puberty, so important, and so dang awful. Tumultuous, confusing – I learned to hide my true feelings because within a moment they would be different anyway. I got my heart broken and stomped on more times than I would like to admit. I tried on a million different versions of myself and didn’t feel like any of them fit. In the end I came full circle, finding myself in my twenties and finally the same girl I was when I was eleven. With one new trick – being reserved.
Unfortunately, I still got my heart stomped on a few more times, reservations or no. Those reservations ultimately had little purpose beyond giving me the illusion of control.
So, considering everything, how does a mummy go about protecting this honesty in her child?
Is this something attachment parenting can help with? I realize that not everyone knows anything about attachment parenting beyond some comments about vaccinations and a certain Time cover so…the theory behind attachment parenting is that our bond would be secure enough to give her a natural confidence with which to face the world.
That sounds good. It sounds like a very solid foundation.
I honestly think a mummy’s got to drop the reins there – it ends up that ultimately I can’t protect her from all of the emotional hurts that she’s going to feel in her life, and it is entirely up to her to deal with them. If she feels she needs to quell that honesty that currently bubbles out of her infant self, then it is only for her to say.
Beyond the foundation, though, there is one more thing. The ever-present and mindful – example. Meaning, of course, that suddenly I am calling upon myself to be more authentic, more honest. To learn from her while I can so she can learn from me one day.
And boy, do I have a lot to learn.