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Two words of advice I remember still

by Mary Mazzoni on May 12, 2012

Twenty five years ago, just as we were about to leave the hospital with our baby girl, a nurse looked into my eyes. And she gave me two words of advice.

This woman had the gift of being truly present. She could sense how hard I was trying, already, to be a “perfect mom”.

In that moment, when she spoke to me, I felt Seen. Safe. Respected.

When she said those two words, I was able to receive them. I didn’t understand them well. But I did receive them.

And, like birdsong, those words have gently floated into my awareness – over and over again. In all the many seasons since that long-ago day. 

She said, simply:

“Enjoy her.”

Maybe the best way for me to communicate the power of these words, in my own life, is to ask you to do two things – at the same time.

Ready?

First – hold your breath. Now – at the same time – laugh!

Impossible, right?

Turns out that when I’m enjoying my daughter, it’s impossible for me to do certain other things at the same time.

When I’m enjoying my daughter, I’m not reacting compulsively from my own fears and expectations. I’m not scrupulously evaluating the quality of my parenting, or looking for evidence that she has mastered skills and developed habits. I’m not comparing her to anyone else. I’m not fretting about the future or stewing about the past.

In moments when I am enjoying my daughter, I am present with her. Here. Now.

I am  seeing her as the whole and uniquely marvelous person she is.

Listening to her. Delighting in her. Grateful for her.

When I enjoy my daughter, I offer her hospitality – freedom and safety – to be who she is – to feel how she feels.

I let go (for a little while) of the illusion that I can (or that I should) control every aspect of her life. And I discover, when I put that burden down for a moment, that I can breathe and think more freely. My perspective broadens.

Balance

But wait a minute! This site is filled with information and tools for teaching and supporting kids. We’re supposed to guide them and think about their future. They can’t raise themselves!

True enough. But let’s not get too carried away with what we’re “supposed to do”. Our children are not our projects. Their lives are their own. Each child is unique. We can discern how best to guide our children only when we take time to be present with them, listen to them, enjoy them.

I invite you to balance. That quality so beautifully found in nature, and so elusive for us humans. Sure – learn about planning tools and evidence-based practices. And – also – take time to enjoy your child – just as she is right now. Only then will you and your child together be able to discern which options may be helpful. And which options should be discarded like shoes that no longer fit.

Joy, laughter – open us to possibilities. Holding our breath all the time is no way to live!

Forgiveness

I confess it’s easier for me to write these words now than it was for me to live by them when my daughter was a teen.

Back then, she was doing the work of adolescence – separating from me and trying to figure out her own identity. As all humans do, she made mistakes. Some of them were messy and scary. I made my own mistakes. Reacting harshly, out of fear. Trying my best to willfully shape her – like clay – in the form I thought best – using my arsenal of evidence-based practices.

But, once in a while, the two words spoken by that kind nurse drifted into my consciousness. “Enjoy her”.

Enjoy her!  How? It felt like we were on opposite sides of a great divide.

Yet, every so often, we’d find a way. We’d watch a movie together. or go for a ride, or to breakfast or a bookstore. No agenda. Except to be with one another. Inevitably, something funny would happen (life is full of humor if we’re willing to see it). We’d share a laugh. Making space for us to breathe. And to forgive. And to see and hear each other. And enjoy each other for a little while. Those moments make all the difference.

Hospitality

When I enjoy my daughter, she feels Seen, Safe, Respected. I’ve learned that offering this kind of hospitality to my child means opening the windows of my heart. Letting in some fresh air, so I have more to offer than the stuffiness of a closed room.

For me, this may mean journaling, time with a friend, prayer, counseling, playing with paints, going for a walk.  Sometimes it means asking others for help so I have a little time apart to – yes, I dare say it – enjoy myself.

When I care for myself in this way, space opens in me. And I hear anew the birdsong, reminding me: “Enjoy her”.

Your turn

How do you take time to care for and enjoy yourself?  What favorite ways have you and your child found to enjoy each other? Have you ever received advice that has stayed with you over the years? Please share your thoughts in the comments so we can support one another!

Like this post? Please share it. Thanks!

Please take a little time today to enjoy yourself – and your child!

Photo Credit: New Jersey Birds at Flickr

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Doreen Fulton June 4, 2012 at 5:05 am

This is such an awesome article, Mary!! God Bless and the wonderful nurse who gifted you with these words….Enjoy her!! You are wisdom packed and so is your site!! Thank you!!
Doreen

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Mary Mazzoni June 4, 2012 at 6:18 am

Thanks for your kind words of encouragement, Doreen! Isn’t it wonderful that we all have the potential to give and receive the gifts of encouragement and wisdom to bless one another? Thank you for all the ways you encourage parents at Believe in a Ray of Hope and An IEP for Me. I so appreciate you!

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Sue Adelman March 8, 2013 at 9:24 pm

Wonderful advice. Our daughter is 16 (almost 17 already!) When she was born my mom said “the kids are great, it’s the parents that have the problems”. Those are the words that float in and out of my mind. Dev is our second child. I wish some one had reminded me to “enjoy” my first born, that time is going even faster…

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Mary Mazzoni March 9, 2013 at 8:07 am

So good to meet you, Sue! Your Mom’s words open my heart and make me smile. We parents do sometimes struggle! It’s a challenge for us to grow and come to discern how to nurture, support, and love each unique and beautiful child.

Clearly you cherish and enjoy your children – even as time passes and they grow and change. Thanks so much for sharing your heart, Sue. You encourage us all to enjoy our children – one day at a time – in every season of the journey!

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Jane Brooks March 21, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Hi! My wonderful son is 16. He has DS-ASD. I wish I had as much serenity as some of you seem to have. But the fact is I don’t. I’m profoundly grateful God granted me the gift of my son. He is so much stronger and smarter than me in the important things in life. I have fought food addiction for years. But little D makes the right decisions for himself and just says “no”. He really cares about following his fathers wishes. He works out with weights three days a week. He goes to church with me. I enjoy my alone time and spend it gardening in summer, advocacy research all year, which can get me into obsessing about it . So I have to remind myself to stop and spend time with my boys doing what they enjoy. Little D loves his Les Beletsky bird song books. We recently also got a membership to book share and BARD as we weren’t getting anywhere in IEP meetings.

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Mary Mazzoni March 31, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Jane, thanks for sharing so generously.

I can relate to your comment about obsessing. Serenity is something I need to intentionally nurture.

One way I do that is to – as you say – “remind myself to stop and spend time” with those I love. Your sharing reminds and encourages me to do just that!

Glad your son is accessing text with Bookshare and BARD.

Thanks so much for sharing. All the very best to you and your family!

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