"Let's talk about it."
It's not flashy, but it may be the most creative thing that I have ever shared with my daughter. And I say this because, of something I just heard yesterday.
I was listening to an interview with Todd Henry, author of the The Accidental Creative and most recently Louder Than Words where he talked about the "U shape journey" of the creative process. He described what was involved in the work of being a creative; the layers, experience, learning, time, challenges, and struggle that made success look easy...from the outside. And he affirmed that you can't get there without all of that stuff. That to make lasting, long term progress, sometimes we have to be inefficient in the short term to be effective in the long run.
I can't think of a better description of parenthood that I've heard in the last half of year.
Let me share a little bit more about this U shaped journey: he likens it to taking a hike down, through, and up a canyon. When we start our journeys, be it a project or parenthood, we can see across the gap to the other side. We can see the end result. We can see our baby breastfeeding well, that our baby sleeps through the night. We can see our toddler using a toilet and not using a diaper. We can see them reading books, or riding a bike, or learning to swim, or ANY of the millions of things our children will learn in this life.
In our minds we see the end. So we start. We get excited!
In essence we hike down the path.
We decide that we will try a sleep sack. Or a white noise machine. We start the process of introducing a potty and teaching cues to go pee. We spend time reading books to our children, we introduce letter sounds and names, and then sight words. We use scooters, then training wheels. We start at the beach on the sand, with toes and legs in the water.
Then we get to the bottom of the "U" and something happens.
We are surrounded by weeds. The path isn't as clear. We look up and can't see the end. It starts to get dark and we realize the trip is longer than we planned and we will have to camp out in the bottom of the canyon for a night.
When we are in the bottom of those canyons, when we have tried to keep our focus but the path gets blurry, it starts to feel like failure. It starts to feel completely hopeless. It starts to feel like a mistake.
We question our direction. We question our decisions. We question what got us excited in the first place.
But the next day, the sun comes up, and we have more light, we keep going on our path, and we we start to climb. We climb up the other side of the canyon - each step hard, but showing incredible progress. And before we realize, we are at the top, on the other side.
We are there, with our baby who can breastfeed seamlessly. We are there with our baby who is sleeping through the night. With our toddler who is potty trained, or our young child who can read herself a story or ride a bike, or swim for hours.
Through the canyons I have already hiked with my daughter and the many that are come come, I know I will continue to use a phrase that invites cooperation - "Let's talk about it."
I would talk with my girl friends when my baby was causing me worry. I would talk with my husband when it felt like I was losing my mind. And I would talk with my daughter. Even when she had no clue what I was saying.
Just recently, when she was not interested in picking up her room, she even said it back to me. "Let's talk about it, mom." And I was so happy that she used those words instead of fussing, and that she engaged in (if I'm being honest) a negotiation of sorts.
Everyone goes through these canyons. But from the outside we rarely see each journey. We rarely see them at the bottom of their "U."
And what I'm learning, and what Todd Henry affirms, is that the process is important.
For some families, deciding to have a baby is the starting point of their canyon. Prenatal education, IVF, IUI, surrogacy, or adoption are all huge undertakings.
Some families are able and happy to be pregnant, but are lost when it comes to birth and labor.
Some families are solid for labor, but have zero help or plan for postpartum.
When we are in the weeds and need help getting back on track, to get caught up, or to start the process with some help, you need to be able to know who can help.
Know that you don't have to to this alone. Contact me for early support for pre-pregnancy or labor support or postpartum support and you can have all the help you need along any part of your U-shaped journey.
Authored by Ariel Swift, A Swift Doula