Childhood milestones bring huge transitions every. single. time. When a baby begins to crawl we transition as a family as well. Sometimes these transitions are easy to step through, other times they bring a lot of emotions with them. When our youngest not-a-baby turned five I had major emotions for months leading up to it as well as a while after. It was so hard to move onto the next phase of life. I was so excited about that next phase, I ADORE having big kids, but it was also really hard to let go of not having a baby anymore.
Milestones are often celebrated, but transition is a rather dirty word. ‘Transition’ implies work and effort. It can be a time of stress. But I’ve also discovered it can be an amazing time to connect with our family.
Why Connection Is Important
Before making connection our goal, we often used arbitrary rules to guide our day to day life. They didn’t feel arbitrary at the time, but in hindsight, the benefit from enforcing those rules didn’t balance out the amount of work and stress brought on by the rules. Things like, having supper ready close to 6 PM, or making sure the dishes were done before leaving the house were good ideas, they did help in the short term. But they didn’t guide us through these tough transitions. Those rules limited us and our relationships with each other instead of creating a more peaceful home.
When we decided our goal was to use connection as the guide for our decision making, it opened up so many possibilities. We found ourselves watching our children reach greater heights than we ever imagined. We also found ourselves letting go of the need to control situations the way we used to.
A connection between parents provides our children with a safe haven. This allows them to explore their world and reach psychosocial milestones easier. A connection between parent and child lets the child know they are accepted and loved. It provides the stability that gives our children confidence in themselves and their parents.
What Connection Looks Like
Connection is trust and peace. Connection is vulnerability. When we connect with our family, we give them power. Power over us. We let them know they are important to us and we value them. This means we kneel down at the level of our children instead of talking over them. It means we listen to what they want and why they want it. Sometimes it means saying yes when we really want to say no. It always means telling them we want to say no as well as why we want to say no. It means we tell them when we don’t know what to do, but we’re going to try a few things and figure it out.
Connection means we need to understand who we are and what we want - enough so we can tell someone else.
When our 11 yr old daughter asked me if she could make sugar cookies, my first thought was, “I really hate rolling cookies.” Followed closely by, “Ugh, the kitchen is such a mess and I don’t want to clean it right now.” Remembering our goal to connect in these situations, I let her know I didn’t want to make cookies. I told her why. I also let her know I trusted she could do it on her own because she’s spent so much time in the kitchen baking already. I was there to help if she needed it.
Not only did she successfully make and decorate sugar cookies, but she also cleaned the kitchen and had the biggest smile on her face the whole time! Plus I got to eat cookies (which I LOVE)!
Shortly after this event happened, she began making cookies and selling them to our neighbours in an effort to save up for an (expensive) American Girl Doll set she wants. Because I connected with my daughter instead of using rules to guide my decisions, she was able to reach a milestone I never dreamed of, running her own business by the time she was 11.
Barriers to Connection
The biggest barrier to connection, to peaceful parenting in general, is not knowing who we are or what we want. If our children ask to go to the playground and the thought fills us with dread, we need to know why so we can give that information to our family. Otherwise, we find ourselves saving no and putting a wedge between ourselves and our children. Or we say yes, and end up having a horrible time - which usually puts a bigger gap between us.
The other barrier to connection is the belief that we are the only ones in the family that should be allowed to make decisions. If we don’t allow our children to have a voice within the family, then they do not feel loved. Without love, they have no reason to help us reach our goals, they have no reason to do what we want.
Milestones and Life Transitions
When our babies reach new milestones it can be very emotional for us. Each of their milestones is a new transition for us as mothers. When we have a strong connection with our family, we’re able to let go of the moments that came before easier and move onto the new stage of life with greater joy and peace. I’m not saying it’ll always be easy. But having a few nights of flipping through thousands of baby photos while you laugh and cry over what has come and gone is a lot easier to cope with than yelling and fighting with everyone about everything.
If we’re connected to our children when they reach these milestones we’ll lift them up and help them keep on going instead of silently, secretly, subconsciously holding them back.
Sarah Langner is mama to four wonderful children ranging in age from 5 to 12. She’s a Blogger and Life Coach that focuses on helping other mamas connect with themselves and their families. When she’s not working, you can usually find her creating wire sculptures, gardening, or reading a book.