Monday, July 16, 2007

What's my motivation?

Well, I'm just having one of those days today. I shouldn't be, as I'm feeling showered with love and care from every direction. Despite that, my thoughts are drawn toward self-reflection and I find myself lacking--always disappointing.

It's been a somewhat slow journey to this frame of mind, and I wouldn't say I got here until yesterday evening. But it all started Saturday night.

I brought up sibling rivalry with a friend who has quite a few kids. I figured if she'd dealt with it and figured out how to deal with it, then I could safely take her advice on it--because her kids all seem to get along and love each other.

I'll be honest that she didn't seem to have much practical advice, but she assured me that she doesn't think it will be a problem in our family.

I wish I could share her conviction.

You see, when I got my first sibling, it ruined my life. I felt betrayed, bereft, abandoned and unloved. And it was ALL. HIS. FAULT. Dumb little brother going and messing up my life like that. Who did he think he was?! I literally hated him. I wasn't much for the physical abuse, although I'm sure that he got his fair share of shoves and whatnot, but I was much more about the emotional manipulation and cruelty. To this day, I believe that I can see evidence in my brother of damage done by me and by my parent's reaction to my behavior towards him.

I'm very afraid of the same occurring between Eve and her little brother. I'm afraid she will feel unloved and displaced. I'm afraid she'll take it out on her little brother. I'm afraid that anything I try to do to "fix" their relationship will only further harm things. I'm afraid of putting distance between Eve an I, after working so hard to foster closeness and attachment and trust, I'd hate to see it all go to waste, wiped out by the arrival of a sibling.

You might see something in the above paragraph that my friend picked up on. Fear.

She told me she got the feeling I was afraid and implored me not to be. Reminding me that fear is not of God. Unless, of course, it's fear of God. But I can't seem to help myself. It's ingrained in me, and probably something I need to really work on.

Yes, I'm fearful about sibling relations in my home. This led me to examine my parenting in general. I am very much motivated by fear in my parenting.

Now, unlike perhaps many (not all) parents (I suspect), I am not really much afraid that my daughter will misbehave. She does misbehave, but I'm not a behaviorist, or at least, I'm not hung up on the here-and-now of behavior, and I recognize that a lot of what we might think of as misbehavior is really just developmental behavior. Yes, I get frustrated by that behavior, but most of the time, I can deal.

What I am afraid of is screwing her up. I'm sure my fear will double soon as I have a whole new little life I can screw up too. Maybe I'm giving myself too much credit, maybe I don't have so much power.

I really try to trust God over my daughter, and to an extent, I feel I've succeeded. I'm much less fearful for her physical well being and health than I used to be. I'm not perfectly fearless in the face of danger or disease, but I think I've come a long way.

I feel I'm well-equipped to be a nurturer of little lives. I find it easy to be a responsive mother of a newborn and infant (although I do anticipate struggling a bit with doing the infant thing at the same time as the toddler thing). I guess I should say, I know what to do with a baby. I know that they don't have mere "wants" and every desire is truly a need. Every moment is a learning one for a baby. And the goal of the first year is to teach trust and self-worth.

After that, things get more complicated. When do children begin to have mere "wants" and when can such desires be safely denied? When does age-appropriate behavior cross the line into inappropriate behavior (besides the obvious of bringing harm to others), when is it disrespect, when is it something else equally unsavory that should be stopped? I've been stumbling through that with Eve, and I still honestly don't know. I feel fairly confident that at her age of several months past 2 and a half, she's long been in the stage of everything not being a need, I'm just not sure when the transition occurred, and I still have a little trouble deciphering which is which.

I'm not afraid that I'm doing too much in the way of discipline, although I'm certainly afraid of going there. Instead, I'm afraid I'm too far on the "permissive" end of the spectrum in which I'm not establishing enough boundaries, and I'm not training her in good behavior, decorum, or work ethic. I'm also afraid I'm leaving God out of the equation--although He is in my thoughts and I am trying to do things in a Godly fashion, I'm pretty sure I don't communicate that to Eve enough, and I don't feel that we're doing much to teach her about God. Very frustrating, really.

I'm also dreadfully afraid of teaching Eve a God that doesn't exist. I've shared that before. I don't want to present to her "God" who is not true. I want to only present the True God to her, but I am, again, afraid that I'm failing.

I hate failing. It makes me feel really lousy. Failure in general is just one more thing I fear. And being fearful makes me feel I've once more failed.