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We Can't Fix Others, We Can Only Walk Beside Them

When a new baby comes along, we take the responsibility of caring for it; learning the meaning of every cry, making sure it is warm and safe, checking to see if it is breathing when everything seems too peaceful to be true. Our job as parents is to make everything right for this new baby who needs us to fix every problem. The first few days after childbirth are a fuzzy memory to many of us. Functioning on little to no sleep and in a haze of great awe, we struggle to figure out this bundle in our arms: Hungry? Sleepy? Gassy? We are supposed to know this baby better than anyone and we do - but the learning curve is steep and the language confusing.

Days, weeks and months pass and we begin to feel more confident in knowing what our child needs. We read the signals (tears, words, facial expressions) and can fix just about any problem that comes along. We might not even realize that we are capable of this while in this stage. It is only as our child begins to develop independence that we realize how easy things were a few short months prior.

Independence brings with it a bevy of new skills: movement, increased communication (with sounds and actions), interaction. What it begins to teach us (and what we might not be ready to learn) is that we cannot fix things quite as easily as before. Language is a powerful tool but if our own child is not sure of needs or feelings, we cannot rely solely on the words to tell us.

Suddenly, previously confident parents may feel helpless. We can see how things would be better for our child but the child doesn’t quite see it that way. In fact, for many years to come, (20 + actually) our children will not see logic as an adult sees it and even then, our children will have their own perspectives and experiences coloring the lenses of the glasses they wear to see the world.

The initial stage of this realization can seem manageable because our kids are little enough that we can still control most of what they are doing. It only really begins to hit home when they head off into the world on their own, sporadically at first (preschool) and then more regularly (school, hockey, choir, and dance...insert life experience here).

We suddenly realize that we can’t make kids do things. We don’t control them. This can be frustrating but what is sometimes harder is that we can’t fix their problems. We can’t make them more patient or make people want to play with them. We can’t stop their feelings from hurting and we can’t make them better at reading or math. Watching them suffer can be painful, even more so if they are reliving painful experiences from our own youth.

So what can we do?

 

  • The only behaviour we can change is our own.
  • We can change our expectations for ourselves and for our children.
  • We can change our scripts, using words that are respectful
  • We can choose calm times to problem-solve with our child not for our child
  • We can take the time to teach strategies and scripts to our child, providing options for the child to solve problems and face difficulties
  • Most importantly, we can be there to support our child through difficulties.

 

We cannot fix others, but we can walk beside them.

This message applies to our children, our siblings, our parents, our friends. The gift that we can give to those around us is to walk beside them and to offer support in any way we can. Only the individual can choose whether to accept our support. Each of us has our own lessons to learn and by walking beside others and offering support, each of us can help others to learn and learn a little ourselves.

 

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