All of my ideas and plans about how I would birth my children to how I would raise them, what I would feed them and how I would nurture them was something I could only put into practice through experience once I became a parent.
While pregnant, I was tempted to baby proof my entire house. I also imagined myself holding my boys’ hands every step of the way and capturing every milestone in photograph. I imagined them never getting hurt. I imagined having a superhuman power that would shield them from pain and life obstacles.
Once I had my sons and went through the process of experiential learning, I realized my philosophy was a little off. My proactive, hands-on, micromanaging tendencies were actually hindering my children from having their own unique experiences. I was coming between my children and their childhood.
They could not relive my childhood for me and I could not live their childhood for them.
I remembered the words of my father, be the shade under the tree to which your children retreat.
It was wise advice from a man who was an orphan and who did not have a place to retreat and feel safe. It was something for which he longed—a cool, calm presence near, always there and rarely interfering.
I repeat this to myself on a daily basis. Be the shade under the tree to which your children retreat.
This is my parenting mantra. This is my personal reminder to stand back, to observe, to allow my children to answer for themselves and stand up for their wants, needs and desires. Teaching them these skills from a young age allows them to assert themselves in the world.
I choose to take the place as a life guide—the woman who brought them into the world and who will be ever present in their lives.
My hope as a parent is to be still, aware and cool tempered. I hope to be the parent to which my children retreat to talk, to confess, to share. I hope to create a bond free of fear and authority but rather based on mutual respect and understanding.
The day will come when my sons will no longer need me, but hopefully they will want to be near. They will remember that I was there and that I will always be their shade.
Author: Ashley Martinez
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Kourtlyn Lott/Flickr