This post has been a long time coming. I was thinking about it over Christmas but I've struggled to get my thoughts into order, so I hope this doesn't sound too garbled.
It started when I was reading The Continuum Concept. I expected the book would give me insight into raising children (which it did) but I was surprised that it had perhaps more advice for my personal development. Briefly, Jean Liedloff describes the radically different attitudes of the Tauripan people and the Westerners she travelled with when faced with a difficult journey (pp. 23- 25). She observed that she and her Italian companions were "grim faced and hating every moment" whereas the Tauripan people were smiling, joking and seemingly enjoying the arduous task of carrying a canoe through the jungle. Liedloff puts this down to the difference in expectation. She had been dreading the journey whereas the native people lived in the moment. The expectations of individuals coloured their actual experience.
This has a huge impact on my attitude to raising Alice. Sometimes, I am so focussed on reaching the goal, that the journey seems like a hassle. I have been guilty of wishing away parts of her babyhood as I think about the next stage: I can't wait until she can talk, it will make life so much easier, When she stops needing milk feeds so often I'll be able to be so much more productive and many, many similar thoughts. By doing this I am in danger of missing out on a time that neither of us will ever be able to recover. Even though some stages may be tough, they are precious.
Alice herself has taught me more patience recently. She enjoys walking outside more often now, and stops at every pebble and piece of litter to examine them. Sometimes she even goes back a little to step on a particularly enthralling paving slab. My grown up mind is screaming in frustration. Doesn't she know we're going to the park? We've got to reach the end point so she can play! Then I realise how ridiculous that thought is. She is playing. She's enjoying every step of the journey. She's living it, and learning from it. Children are born knowing how to do this, but in our society it is all too frequently sapped away.
I want to allow her to continue feeling the joy in the journey, whether it's an actual journey from one place to another, or a task that needs completing. I realise that this means that I need to model the behaviour myself. As I wash the dishes I try to enjoy the process. I put on some music, feel the warm water and bubbles and I am ready to stop without rolling my eyes and huffing if Alice wants me to read her a book instead. I leave extra time to go out, and try to see the world as she does. It isn't easy. In fact, I think it's a job that might never be finished, but I'm enjoying the journey.