There truly is no way to prepare yourself for having kids.
Prior to giving birth to my daughter Audrey, in my futile attempt to prepare for the unpreparable, (an excellent parenting book title) I purchased books on child development, eating, sleeping, etc. etc. etc. As the daughter of a communication specialist, I didn’t really think I needed the book, How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk. Boy, was I wrong.
When Audrey was two months old she woke up from a nap in the car. I watched her in the car seat mirror groggily summarizing that she was trapped in her car seat without her: binky, comfort lovey, or mommy within reach. Audrey scrunched up her face and the tears and wailing ensued. Moms generally know their baby’s cries: hungry, tired, agitated, or in real trauma. I could tell this was not a traumatic cry, but it was still hard seeing her cry, so unthinkingly I sang, “Don’t cry, you’re ok!” Was I singing that for Audrey? Or me? How was that the first thing to pop out of my mouth?
Now you think back to the last time you cried. Imagine someone saying to you, “Don’t cry you’re okay!” That is probably the last thing on earth you would have wanted to hear. So I stopped myself, took a deep breath, and said,
“I hear you baby. You sound so upset. I’m imagining you’re hungry or uncomfortable.”
“You want to be home. I want to be home too!”
“We’re almost there!”
Audrey reminds me, even on the road, compassion starts at home. I needed to self-soothe my own distress before I could be there for Audrey. Having done this, I then had the bandwidth to really be there to comfort her with true empathy. Soon we were both feeling more relaxed and calm.
I look forward to the day I can share the Kids GROK cards with my daughter. In the meantime, I use the GROK cards as a time for reflection and meditation, to give myself empathy for what can sometimes be the most difficult yet most rewarding job on the planet.
Claire Schwartz, mother of Audrey, and Christine’s daughter, is the new VP of Everything—social media, web site, customer relations, shipping, liaison with our Collaborators, and clerk of the works.