Have you ever heard the David Bowie song “Changes”? Despite the fact it was probably never intended as a self-help anthem, I love the chorus : “Turn and face the strange changes”. It’s like a challenge for me to stand up and take on something that sometimes scares me–new situations.
Nothing in my life has caused more rapid, jarring changes than becoming a parent. Rather than a gentle learning slope where I pick up realizations as I glide down it, it’s a seat-belt-free crash course where I’m hurtling toward the unknown while my butt catches fire.
This is a challenge because a large part of me finds comfort in routine, its predictability and sameness feel safe to me. I never get “shaken up” and I don’t have to face situations I don’t know how to react to. Children thrive in a routine, as it’s suggested by numerous experts. But as we all know, children also have a curious way of shaking things up for themselves and everything around them. What worked today may suddenly not be an option tomorrow, and there’s not going to be a heads-up first…for us OR them.
When my baby learned to flip onto her stomach, her once long, mostly quiet stretches of night-time sleep were suddenly punctuated with frustrated shrieks. She knew how to flip over…but not how to flip back! Her new skills were so exciting to her, her (and OUR) sleep was suffering while she practiced them at unholy hours of the night. The disruptions made all of us pretty cranky but more importantly, it was an obvious sign that she was changing–again–and we would need to change WITH her.
We would need to give her more daytime play on her stomach, get used to a lot of interrupted sleep for awhile, and guide her while she perfected her ability. Once she did, there would be no time to catch our breath, as more new developments lay ahead.
This is a wonderful thing–because obviously without change, she wouldn’t be growing and learning. While my Aspie nature fights tooth-and-nail against yet another routine upset, it’s also amazing to see my daughter suddenly jump ahead in her development. She’s delighted to grow up, and I’m delighted to watch her.
The bottom line is, kids keep us on our toes, and we NEED to be on our toes. Otherwise, we stop growing and improving as human beings, and our parenting suffers. Ultimately, some of the most amazing things in life happen only when something drastic occurs. Things like marriage, moving, getting a new job–these are all things that make us completely uncomfortable, yet yield such fulfilling results that we would never have experienced without willingness to adapt. And that flexibility is a great example to set for a child growing up in a constantly shifting world. Considering how often children change and grow, we don’t want to teach them that the new and unexpected is always dangerous and scary! As my kiddo grows, she’s continually nudging me to “go with the flow” more, and those lyrics, “turn and face the strange changes”, always come to mind. It’s good advice.
And if I need something predictable to rely on, it’s this: Always expect the unexpected. Changes will come, and you can rely on that.
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