My Buddha Daughter and Her Emotional Mother
Recently, I have spent a lot of time writing and reading so that I can prepare for our new series of parent talks. As I was doing this I started thinking about my own journey in motherhood and how it has affected me. The one aspect of parenting that I have struggled with is the subject of the opening talk: how to parent the personality your child was born with. I have a very strong personality. (My husband attributes it to“being Colombian”.) When I was young I was told I was dramatic, and as an adult some people tend to be a little put off when they first meet me. I am passionate when I speak and it makes some people uncomfortable.
My daughter and I are very different. She was born at 32 weeks, and even while she was hooked up to machines in the NICU she had this calm energy that surrounded her. She’s eight now and she still has aspects of how she was when she was just a little preemie. Her temperament is a real challenge for me. Temperament is the way that we react to the world emotionally and behaviorally and scientists discovered that we all have a particular way of doing that. The key to parenting to the personality your child was born with is to figure out how to respond, discipline and set values to the temperament of your child. My daughter and I do not have a good fit. I am highly-reactive, highly emotional and when stressed, irrational. She is low-reactive, methodical, observant, and mostly calm. The development literature describes her as “slow to warm”; that’s her temperament. The literature describes me as difficult, that’s my temperament.
In infancy her temperament was a complete godsend. Since the circumstances of her birth were so scary, her time in the hospital, terrifying, her calm nature helped this irrational and emotional mommy stay calm. But then came the toddler years and temperament showed its face clearly as her personality began to emerge. All of a sudden, I had a baby girl that was shy. For her mommy, this very dramatic and in-your-face personality type, her being so calm and not being able to come into a situation and just take charge highly disrupted me. Toddlers also start getting into things and since I had the trauma of the NICU every time she got into something I reacted. Of course I reacted in my own personal way – it was big, it was 0-10 and that caused great distress for my little toddler. So we had a poor fit: I was scaring her and she was frustrating me. But since I was the parent and she the child, I had to adjust. In the adjustment I began to understand my baby girl. She began to teach me a lesson in the ways of the Buddha.
When I took a step back and stopped comparing her to me I realized that she wasn’t “shy”, she was observant. Every time we went to a new space it took her about 10 minutes to adjust, to look at everything, to notice and then she would happily join in. When I saw her getting into something I took a moment and gently stated, “ah ah ah danger” and she would stop immediately. It was so easy. Before when I screamed be careful, all she did was get startled and cry. I learned that my daughter quietly sees the world, noticing how everything functions. Once I started seeing the world through her eyes the world was amazing and a lot less scary. My emotional and dramatic self sometimes feels the world is a scary place. She opened me up to a curious and beautiful view and for that I will always be grateful.
My daughter taught me a great lesson. The difficulty of parenting rests in being able to look at your child and see their individuality. I encourage all to take a moment today and truly look at your child. Wonder are they like me? Are they different? Do our temperaments fit? When you figure the answers to those questions, I know beautiful things will happen between you.
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