"Just do your job, then let go."
As part of my new morning routine, I work through the Lebe Inspiriert Book by Debora Karsch, as well as reading the Tao for my spiritual work. I realised amidst the topsyturvydom of motherhood, being sleep-deprived and coronavirus lockdown nr. 373 (or so it feels), I needed to establish a routine that allowed me to concentrate and reflect spiritually every day. The Bible is just not my book, so I'm working with the Tao translation by Stephen Mitchell.
Today, the quote above was part of the text in the Tao and it hasn't let go off me ever since reading it. As a control freak, I find great power in the message of letting go, and it is something I practise to do every day. The reason I am sharing it here on my Mama Blog site, is that it goes in accordance with so many great books on child-rearing I've read in the past. Maria Montessori's famous motto was, "Help me to do it on my own", when she worked with children. I am also reading the books of Emmi Pikler at the moment, who advocates for an environment in which children can develop and explore the world sheltered, but on their own. With children, particularly, I feel this quote pretty much sums up parenting. "Just do you job, then let go."
I have regularly been in households where the predominant word that summed up the children's life was "no". "Don't touch that", "Stay away from there", "Give me that", and "Don't open that" are just a few of the ways to limit a child's explorations and squelch their curiosity in their world. Of course, some areas of danger need to be fenced off, but shouldn't children explore the world as a place of wonder before seeing it as a place of harm?
I have never understood why these parents didn't just make their living area adapt to the child, so she can explore on her own and without the parents needing to worry all the time. For me, the main job of parenting lies in creating an environment in which Lily can feel safe, loved and curious. In which all areas of danger are fenced off or in a place where she can't reach (top of the shelf, or a room where the door is locked). I want her to see Home as a place of freedom for herself, not a place of prohibitions, inhibitions and fear. A place that adapts to her needs, instead of her being dumped in a cage, limited to explore the space she calls home with her eyes only.
At first, baby-proofing your apartment may seem like a big undertaking, but, then again, isn't it easier to once proof it instead of permanently saying "no"? You can, of course, never guarantee complete safety; however, that is where the quote comes in for me again. There is a point in which you, as a mother, have to let go and realise you cannot control the entire universe to protect your child. Do your job (baby-proof the apartment) and then let go of the control and let your child explore every nook and cranny of her space.
Another reason why the letting-go approach seems more plausible and child-friendly to me is that children can engage with themselves much more when they can move about freely. I've heard many parents complain that their offspring needs permanent entertainment and how exhausting it is. Well, blame yourself, say I, if you already put a phone or tablet in front of your small kid, or permanently talk, engage and explain the world to him. How should a child learn to engage with himself if he's never given the space to do so?
Lily can entertain herself for up to one hour at five months. She lies on her mat, which is put on a carpet. There she has 3-4 toys (never more) and rolls about, plays with her toys and practises talking (mamamamama, blablablablabla). I usually sit on the sofa and react when she calls me, but when she's not had a bad night or is during a growth spurt, she's usually content for quite a while.
I am not telling you this to brag. I am telling you this because it was extremely difficult to stay away from her in the beginning. She's the darn cutest baby and I want to cuddle her whenever she's awake, but by constantly engaging with her, playing with her, I am not doing her a favour (or me). I can observe how happy she is when she's figured out ways to reach a toy which is just at her fingertips, how to roll onto her stomach, or explore the different ways her toys taste. If I'd permanently do her job for her and inch toys closer, turn her around or talk all the time, I'd take away her exploration to do so.
In the Tao, it also says,
"The Master doesn't talk, she acts.
When her work is done,
the people say, "Amazing:
we did it, all by ourselves."" (Tao, 17)
Transferred to the domain of child-rearing, this ties in so well with the first quote and the approach of people like Pikler and Montessori. As mothers, we shouldn't demand praise. It is our job to create an environment for our children to thrive, in which they can explore the world themselves within the frame you give them. Giving them the unique joy of feeling they did it all by themselves, while still feeling protected and supported. This is my goal of motherhood. To do my job, and then let go.