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Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time there was a parent. No, wait, I mean a person. There is no greater responsibility or bigger transition in life than becoming a parent. It can be all consuming and unrelenting. We are bombarded with information and expectations for our babies in every area of development, like when they should walk, talk, eat food and sleep through the night. However, our babies are unique with their own journey and, in fact, so are we.

Think about the expectations that are put upon us as parents. We’re inundated with pressures and expectations to be perfect parents; to respond ideally to every situation and every crisis; to plan every event in our baby’s life to perfection; to enrich our baby’s life with music, movement, and activities all while carving out time to exercise, eat well, and take care of ourselves so we can be the best parent we can be. Parents are exhausted, anxious and overwhelmed, forgetting that first we are people. Our young children don’t need parents who are trying to be perfect; they need people who are present in the moment and able to share their most vulnerable selves. Brene Brown, author and speaker, says she changed her daily mantra from “I can always do better” to “Today I will show up.”

Here are some ways I’ve seen parents “show up” for their young children and tune into themselves as people.

  1. Make a list of the top five values you use to anchor your life and your choices (i.e., family, empathy, accomplishment, forgiveness, trust, kindness, education, etc.). When you hear expectations from yourself or others, ask yourself if they’re in keeping with your values.
  2. Have a dinner or coffee date with your baby or toddler out in the world. What will your conversation include? What topics might you talk about?
  3. Instead of posting/tweeting/snapping things about your baby’s daily accomplishments, take one day a week to let people know what you are proud of and what makes you like yourself as a parent and as a person.
  4. Identify why you matter in this incredible story of parent and child. What are you passing on to your child? What lessons have you learned? What mountains have you climbed and what views have you taken in? How would you like to pass this along to your child in the future?
  5. Forgive your mistakes, mishaps and freak outs and tap into all the feelings you feel. Your emotions are your compass and, knowing this, you’ll help your child rely on their emotions and intuitions to lead their way.

You are a parent but, more importantly, you are a person and you have your own story to tell. And, don’t forget, showing up for yourself and for your baby is the thing that matters most.

Dana Libby, Child and Family Therapist, Early Years Team Vanier Children’s Services For the Middlesex-London Community Early Years Partnership


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