I was recently reading yet another one of those articles judging a parent based on a short period of observation. I certainly don’t feel influenced by a parent feeding their kids fast food while surfing their cell phone across the parking lot. But, the authors of those articles seem to be.
However, I have been changed by short meetings with amazing people that I had as little contact with. I am thinking today about gratitude and those who have inspired me, but most likely have no memory of me, much less realize the profound effect they have had on my life.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I saw two moms who blew my mind. The first occurred when I was having a casual conversation with a mom when her very tall, very mature looking 5 year old ran up asked her to nurse. She pulled him onto her lap and pulled up her shirt while she continued to speak.
I was shocked because it had never occurred to me to breastfeed an older child. I quickly got over myself. I watched the easy, attachment they had with one another. I decided it was wonderful for them as he sat up, gave his mom a kiss, and ran off to play with his friends.
He had found homebase with mom and took of with strong independence. I could see that she trusted him to go as far as he wanted because they had this secure link. It inspired me to understand that breastfeeding and holding an older child close was a normal and healthy part of family dynamics.
The second was again, casual conversation with a mom of twins. At the time of course, I had no idea that I’d end up with twins, but when I observed her gentle parenting and tandem breastfeeding her two 1 year olds, I felt inspired for that kind of softness with my family.
A third conversation at a park again, was with a dad who was struggling to balance his desire to teach while understanding the way that kids actually learn things. He said that it wasn’t until he had his third child that he realized getting down on the floor to play with his kids wasn’t enough. He was still seeing play time through his own eyes, inserting himself into the structure of the play.
It was the first time I started looking for when I unintentionally took over free play time. For example, if my toddlers were happily engaged with stacking blocks, I would suggest building something else without first looking to see if they even wanted to try something different.
I follow my kids’ leads much more because of this parent. I’ve seen how much they are learning by being left to explore their own way, with me sometimes invited to follow along.
And finally, when I had no desire to ever have children and even less in giving birth myself, I was in a prenatal yoga teacher training (mostly to add it to my box of teaching tools.) We watched birth videos that ran the gamut from natural births around the world to highly medicalized births and c-sections.
We saw good and bad outcomes for mom and baby. The teacher trainer-led discussions after watching forever changed my view of childbirth.
But most importantly, one of the days, I was in a small group with a woman who had lost her children in an accident the year before. She was in the training as part of her healing path to stay fully present with other people’s most intense experiences while she was learning to stay present with her own pain.
Seeing someone so raw, yet brave and compassionate profoundly changed the way I approached Yoga, of course. But, even though I doubt she ever knew my name, I approach difficult situations in my life with mindfulness because of her quietly spoken words.
It is with gratitude that I remember these strangers. These interactions, as well as many others, remind me to be gentle as I move through life. I never know who I might effect, even if it’s only for a few moments: A smile for the cashier, letting another person go ahead of me in line or acknowledging another after Yoga class over our shared experience.
I may only get one chance to be the stranger who caused a conscious reaction. I’ll try to make in a good one, in gratitude for those whom I saw only briefly.
Disclaimer: These were experiences that I had. I am in no way saying that breastfeeding or other attached parenting practices are the only way to have a loving relationship in a family. In fact, it’s the loving relationship that is the basis from which all the other practices within a family spring. That a parent and child choose to bond is far more important than how feeding, disciplining, educating, and celebrating one another is manifested.
Can you recall a time when a stranger had a positive impact on your life? I’d enjoy hearing about it in the comments below.
Post for NaBloPoMo
(Since I’m writing most of these late at night, in bed, while tandem nursing twins, I’m choosing to concentrate on writing rather than formatting, proof-reading, researching or editing as much as I’d like. Please forgive the extra typos and non-nonsensical grammar. Thank you.)