Parenthood is like swimming in the ocean.
It can be a very liberating, even exhilarating, experience, perhaps touched with some fear or uncertainty.
Are you swimming confidently, close to shore and in control?
Are you swimming between the flags?
Or are you caught in a rip, and being carried away?
To swim between the flags, is like parenting with guidelines (perhaps those of your health professionals, or family). They give us safe barriers, perhaps even a netted in swimming area, to ‘protect’ us from the unknown dangers that we are incapable of recognising or understanding.
At the beach, these flags do help to protect many, who are very unfamiliar with ocean swimming, but they do nothing to help them learn to understand the currents and tides, and to reach out beyond the boundaries and wonder at the beauty and adventure that might be beyond. The flags, or nets, actually help the lifeguard control the crowd. They can not give individual attention, lessons or assistance, so they need the boundary to help keep an eye on everyone as a group. A controlled situation, best for everyone.
Best for everyone except maybe those who are confident in ocean swimming and feel restricted and controlled in the ‘safe zone’. Those who have learned about tides and currents and know to keep their eyes open and not turn their back on the sea.
If you do venture beyond the flags you may find yourself caught in a current, a rip, that carries you along.
Perhaps the only clue you have that you are caught in a rip is your increasing feeling of isolation or lack of control. Perhaps you are alone in this rip, and you find you have no where to turn for help, do you try to fight the current to get back to the safe zone, furiously swimming against the tide until, exhausted, you sink and get carried along with the current anyway. Unless you know you can calmly swim across the current, to find calmer water and freedom, you are powerless in this current.
As parents we can stay in the safe zone – unadventurous, perhaps controlled by others, but safe. Here you might find guidelines that you can work with while still having fun. You can feel reassured that you have a place to turn when in need and the company of like-minded people. You might try a few beaches to find the one that suits you, and you can parent happily within those boundaries, having made an informed choice of where you wish to swim and knowing you can change beaches any time.
Getting caught in a current is like trying to parent following strict rules. Perhaps you are using a baby-guide that says “baby should” or “you must” or you have ‘support’ from people who feel very strongly about how babies need to be treated. This current goes against your instinct, against your wishes, it doesn’t feel right, but you are being carried along. The pressure leaves you frightened and dis-empowered, you are not happy, not safe, not enjoying parenthood. If you are lucky, perhaps a ‘life guard’ notices your distress and can help you back to a safe zone. Even better, in the process, you are shown how to get out of a rip, you are given the tools to empower your parenting and take control. Then you are free to choose your own safe zone, where you can come and go as it suits you, seeking help if you need it, from trusted supporters.
You are your child’s parent. Your instinct is your most powerful tool. Once you tune into your instinct and trust your own ability, parenting can be a joyous and rewarding experience. You will be happier, your child will be happier.
I hope you enjoy your swim.