I am a 3 year old. I have only been soothing, healing, hosting, feeding, caring for a family, and managing the structures of time in ways entirely different than before – for 3 years now.
In this new season, new Jewish year, and new birthday for Bina, I am cultivating a gentleness in my self assessment. Both because it is a value and a skill to judge favorably, and because I trust that many of my parenting ‘shortcomings’ may be temporary and useful building blocks. If you’re the parent of a 17 year old, you have worked through many challenges and invariably have repeated some mistakes, but you’re still an adolescent in the realm of parenting, so give yourself a break. If you are a grandparent, I hope you are often feeling self-actualized, but you also may just be a 3 year old at managing the role of grandparent, retirement, etc. So you too can give yourself a break.
There have been times as a parent that I felt more out of control than I ever did in my tumultuous days, because all of a sudden, it felt that everything mattered. Right as I’m trying to build this great life, I all of a sudden have less time for it then ever before, and it feels like I’m being seen for my scrap papers more than my polished finished product. It surprised me that my professional standing, my yoga practice, my ability to maintain friendships and be a decent wife, in-law, daughter, sister, niece, cousin, etc., all took on a new urgency at the same moments as my need to parent well, because I also want to model grace in these realms to my daughter.
But we are starting over all the time. We always go from novice, to expert, back to novice again if we’re still willing to learn new things. The more we make peace with the novice phases, the more we are at ease in our own skin. We are seniors in high school only to become freshmen in college. Every time we graduate the real journey begins.
While parenthood is a very singular thing, there have been other life phases that someplace along the way, without any deliberate action, felt serene and second-nature. I have always felt welcome in my husband’s family, but there is a new sense of ease that comes when you have a shared history and that family truly feels like your own. Though I still feel more challenged mothering a child than a baby, I’m getting the hang of little things like organizing our days and weeks, and knowing a few great nature escapes, and I have hopes that this will open doors toward other loftier parenting goals.
I’m now remembering that we have entirely different skin every 7 years. After a little googling (and I hope this is accurate :)), I learned that we have a new surface layer of skin every 28-45 days. We shed about 40 lbs of skin in our lifetime! What comforts me is that it is fair to be challenged in our own skin again and again, yet we can create new habits, new surface layers, in about a month.