Letter to my 7 year old

Our darling child. We sit here and watch in awe as you mature into a kind young person. You are slowly but surely letting go of our hands. We see you venturing into the world and looking over your shoulder back at us just that little bit less often as you grow up.

You are spreading your young wings and attempting to make them stronger, so that one day you can soar the skies of life and not just survive, but live a full life.

We knew this day will come, and we know that this letting go and pulling away will become something that happens more often than not. So for now while you are still learning to navigate the world with what we have taught you, we need to tell you some things.

Not all people are good or kind. Not all people view life the way we do. Isn’t that amazing? You will be get opportunities in life to try different things and have adventures, to make mistakes, to learn, engage, understand, challenge and as much as it pains me to say, even to get hurt.

Don’t let the moments of disappointment and mistakes colour your life in shades of grey. Allow it to bring colour, understanding and new skills to the already vast set of skills you have been born with and taught.

Know that life won’t just be filled with disappointments or mistakes. There will be great moments of success, trust confirmed, moments of such intense joy that you cannot ever think that life could possibly get even better. Life will be as adventurous as you allow it to be and as mundane as what you choose to settle for. When you can choose adventure, even if we raise an eyebrow.

Ashleigh Brilliant stated – “Life is too important to be taken as a joke, but too ridiculous to be taken seriously” Laugh at yourself at least once a day. Remind yourself that you are worthy and that whatever you do, it matters.

Here is the thing though. Life is filled with choices. Good ones and bad ones, but there is always a choice to be made. Life does not wait for indifference, even by not actively making a choice, you are choosing to let life take you to wherever it wants to go. Be the one in charge of your life, make as many choices as you can, so that when life swerves your choices remain good ones.

No, the good guy does not always win. I wish it was different, but it is not. However living a life filled with goodness, will afford you a quality in life you will see others seeking for. I won’t be around forever and you need to learn to navigate life and choices, so that when I am gone, you know how to live a full life.

We have taken a step back now, we are still in the water with you. We may not be able to stop your fall before you hit the ground, but we will help you up. Even when the time has come for us to sit in the bleachers and cheer you on. We are not there yet. Where we are now, is us as parents allowing you to test your freedom, ready to help you when you ask. Ready to step in and help you navigate the choices you have made. No, we won’t shield you from the consequences that would not help you at all. But we will get down and dirty with you and help find solutions to the tricky parts of life.

You are 7 now. The time has come where you truly will slowly start to drown out our voices and give precedence to your peers and others. You will try to measure your worth in comparison to your friends. You will push harder to fit in and some will even try to abuse your kindness. I wish I could protect you from this, I hope that the foundation we laid will be strong enough to bolster you, give you confidence and faith in who you truly are. Fitting in, is really not what it is made out to be. Stand for what you believe in, even if you stand alone. It takes more integrity and character to stand for what you believe in, than to stand for what someone else has told you to stand for.

Let no choice paralyse you and remember, you will always make the best choice you know how to make, with the information you have available. Never stop asking questions, never stop investigating and never stop believing in the power of learning from your mistakes.

Mistakes do not define you, it is how you grow from them that defines who you are. Be you, be true and remember love wins, always.

Lastly when confronted with a choice I want you to choose: Whatever:

“…whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise,…” Philippians 4:8

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It is not a Child’s responsibility to make an adult feel loved

My eldest was just over a year, when a very powerful realisation struck me. I was not able to explain why I felt the way I did, nor could I verbalise as to why I spoke up. It just happened. Later it all made sense. My eldest was going through a developmental leap, he wanted nothing to do with any person besides his mom. Dad was proverbial chopped liver and so was the rest of the world.

We went to visit my folks, and as soon as anyone tried to take him away from me, he would wail and scream. Initially I would let him cry for about 2 minutes in the family member’s arms and then whisk him away to breastfeed. He would stop crying and calm down at my breast, but as soon as he was calm, another well meaning family member would try to take him away again. So the day continued. My son crying more often than usual, family members taking him, because they want to play. Me having to use breastfeeding as a shield and excuse to get him back so that he can stop crying.

I did not have the guts to say to them, don’t pick him up or take him. Just engage with him here in my arms. I swear I fed more that day than on a growth spurt. By the end of the day, both him and I have had enough.

In came my brother. He wanted to show him off to his colleagues over skype. He wanted to “bond” with my son. The moment he picked him up, my son started crying, for the umpteenth time that day. I have had enough. I asked for my son back. Which was refused, I asked again and my brother walked away with my screaming child in his arms. That was when I snapped and said “Please respect my child’s feelings. Now give him back to me.”My child was shoved into my arms, he stopped crying almost immediately and my brother stomped out of the room.

I was shaking angry and scared. That day the reality dawned on me, that I am my child’s voice, but I have been compromising him for the sake of family and my needs to not be rejected. I was angry at myself that I was so scared to cause a scene or a fight, that I did not protect my child. It took me almost eight hours, of a screaming child and then nursing said child, to finally not care that I upset a family member.

We so desperately want our family to love our child. We so desperately want the approval of our family members, that we forsake the very child, who needs us more, we and compromise on their needs, wants and feeling of safety and autonomy. A few weeks later, my brother informed me, that he can no longer love my child because of the way that I spoke to him, and the fact that I restrict the interaction (read when my child cries I step in and remove my child from the situation), he no longer feels like he wants to build a relationship with my son. That moment was when I found the words for what I have instinctively been fighting for and against. That very moment it became crystal clear.

To them, my child is an accessory to their happiness. He has to respect their needs. My child was not a human to them, but a means to stroke their ego and have their own needs fulfilled. My child’s need to feel safe and okay was not even secondary on their priority list, it just never featured. They wanted to be known as the uncle or grandparent who could calm the baby down. The uncle or grandparent who could make the baby smile. The uncle or grandparent who gets to brag about how cute this baby is. My baby became the the collar for their own self worth and I became the obstacle to their selfish drive.

They were taught no different while growing up. They could not see their behaviour as wrong, because that is just how things are suppose to be done. A child has to fit into the family, the family does not have to create space and change for the sake of the child.

From that day forward I had to learn how to be brave enough to set boundaries and accept the backlash it caused. With every boundary I enforced, I could see my child grow stronger in his own voice and he became more confident. I wish I could say that I never stepped into that compromised, scared and angry place again. That I always put my child first when dealing with the family. I stumbled on this new terrain of rejection and struggled as I grew. However I did grow and my voice became louder and prouder.You may ask, why is it an issue when we compromise for the sake of family?

It is simple really. While we teach our children to be afraid of stranger danger. We teach our children that their bodies are their own, unless it is a family member who just wants a hug, or just wants a kiss. We tell them especially at the infancy age, when they literally can only cry to announce their needs, that their needs does not matter when it comes to older family members. We try to keep the peace and ignore the cry for as long as we can stand it, because we are scared to make the family member feel unloved or scrutinised.

We allow our family members to override our parenting, because we are scared to be “that” parent, or we are scared to be ostracized by our clan. Our drive to belong creates an environment where we compromise our children’s sense of autonomy, safety and self, all for the sake of peace.

We don’t realise that we are teaching our children to compromise themselves for the sake of belonging. We teach them to compromise their safety for the sake of others. We look at the world and ask why do children so easily forget the values we teach them, yet we taught them that the core value of their personhood is compromisable for the sake of belonging.

Children and babies are not responsible to make adults feel loved and happy. It is not their responsibility to be brag worthy. It is adults’ responsibility to make kids feel loved, protected and safe. It is adults’ responsibility to listen and adhere to the rules of personhood. Adults need to learn to respect children as whole human beings and that their NO and STOP has the same value and power as that of an adult.

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