Friday, February 23, 2024

What do Birds Know that We Don’t?

April 10, 2009 by  
Filed under Parenting From Balance©

As parents, we often want to save our child from every pain that comes by. We would gladly feel the pain ourselves rather than see our child struggle with it. (And without getting into it too deeply, this is probably because the crying or pain or struggle brings up things within ourselves that are unexamined or unresolved.)

For example, we naturally jiggle a child in our arms and against our hips to distract them from their crying. But what does it accomplish? Are we stopping them from crying for their benefit, or for ours?

Just yesterday I just had a wake-up call about my relationship with my 4 year old son. It began as I held another child for 40 minutes while he cried for no reason apparent to me, or to any of the other teachers. There was nothing obvious to “fix,” so I did what I could: I simply held him and allowed him to cry. I didn’t try to jiggle him out of it. I didn’t try to joke with him, or cheer him up, or even reassure him about some fears I could imagine he might be having. I had absolutely no idea why he was crying, so I just let him cry. While he was crying, I periodically checked in with him: “Would you like to call your Mom?”


“Would you like to call your Dad?”


“Is there anything I can do to help you?”

“No. I’m sad. Hold me.”

His little frame was filled with incredible resolve. I could feel him confidently conquering some big fears. And he obviously knew that he had the strength to do it on his own.

At one point I looked him in his teary eyes and said matter-of-factly “You’re doing great.” He nodded, and kept right on crying. During his process he was clearly reaching down inside and pulling out resources he had previously not yet discovered he possessed.

After about 20 minutes more he sobbed his final sob, and looked up. Something had caught his eye brightly enough to propel him out of my lap for some investigation. He quickly immersed himself in a starch and truck “snow” plan for 10 progressively sunny minutes while I sat nearby on the grass and watched invisibly. Suddenly he looked up, and said “Hey Linda, guess what?!”

“What, Joey?”

“I’m not sad anymore!”

His face was bright and triumphant. He had overcome something on his own, and in the process had developed another tool for his emotional tool chest… he had gained a skill that will carry him through life and allow him to stand on his own feet!

It hurts us so deeply to see our child in pain, in hardship. And it hurts our child even more when we shield him from that pain. It prevents him from filling his emotional toolchest!

Birds know this too: They must peck their way out of their own shell in order to survive in the world. In the process of pecking their way out, their cardiovascular system develops and strengthens enough to allow them to live outside of the shell that protected them pre-birth. And if they are helped out of the shell; if their mother were to remove some of the shell for them, they would not be capable of surviving outside of it.

It is all unfolding perfectly, and our children are more capable for having faced their own difficulties, with us standing by them, and allowing them to have their own process, and their own feelings and emotions.

Yes, yesterday was YET another wake up call for me, and it hurts a little. I have many children in my care, but my own son is 4 and a half. I know that I have not allowed him to cry in the way I allowed my little friend to cry yesterday. Sometimes I was too triggered by the crying, sometimes too tired, and other times too preoccupied to really hold him and let him cry at length. Maybe part of it was him: he doesn’t seem to like to be held when he cries. But for whatever reason, I know I have not always been as present with my son as I was with Joey yesterday. And I am so glad that I am able to wake up now, before it is “too late.”

Here’s to Being Awake!

Lots of Love,
Linda Shannon
Riviera PlaySchool, a Redondo Beach preschool for attachment parents

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