I have been attending Hand in Hand PlayMornings with my daughter for about six years now. She has grown from an active, spunky, determined and loudly expressive toddler into an active, spunky, determined and loudly expressive third-grader. But the changes in me are much more pronounced.
Already thirty-five when my daughter was born, I had been looking forward to parenthood for many years. I had worked with children, watched carefully as my friends and relatives sailed into family life and read all the books about child development and what to expect. In other words, I was as clueless and unprepared for the reality of life with an infant as any average parent.
Sleep deprived, begrudgingly recovering from an unplanned C-section and terrified that I was doing a ‘bad job' because my new ‘boss' cried even when I thought I was parenting by the book, I gradually became afraid I was coming unhinged. I looked fine on the outside. I went to playgroup and Gymboree and baby music lessons. I took care of myself and my daughter. I compared Well Baby visits and teething tales with other moms in the park. Yet, at odd moments, I found myself seemingly irrationally furious over bits of my own childhood I hadn't considered in decades. Why was I plagued by thoughts of my less-than-ideal childhood when I should be enjoying my daughter's happy one?
That question nudged me forward into the eventual discovery of Hand in Hand and a much needed Tantrum Training class. I remember feeling physically relieved and comforted by the time I left the first session of class. With the class gratefully completed, I still struggled with restimulation and being distracted from my daughter's present by my own past, but I had learned that was part of the package and a powerful opportunity for growth. Many re-readings of the Listening to Children booklets accompanied me on further journeys that opened up Special Time and Playlistening possibilities in my parenting and helped me move from the fog and anxiety of restimulation into the natural connection and joyful silliness I share with my daughter today.
So, I hope you will join me in reaching out to new parents. Even if they look like they have read all the books and know what to expect. I have a feeling some of them might appreciate a hand more than you might think.
– Juli Idleman from the January 2008 Connecting! Newsletter