On Friday evenings I take my two year old daughter to a Mom and Tot yoga class near our home. The class just started so I am pretty excited about it. Before this we were driving an hour on Saturday morning to attend a 45 minute class on the other side of town, so this is much easier. We go to class together and then have dinner before I put her to bed. The time together is sweet and precious, since I am a working mother and miss many of her regular activities. We talk a little on the way to and from class. I ask her what she did that day and she tells me, as much as a two year old can, what she is thinking about.
I wonder sometimes if she’s getting much from the class. I know she remembers things because she will occasionally sing one of the songs we learned or do a yoga pose. But she spends a lot of class time just running around in circles, and I spend a lot of time worrying about her biting another kid in a tussle over blankets or bolsters. When I remind her at home to take a deep breath she usually ignores me or tells me "I don't want to calm down!" I keep reminding myself to have patience and faith, and that over time this will benefit us both. That this investment of time on a regular basis will pay off in relationship dividends for the rest of her life.
I see my daughter as being a lot like my younger sister. They are both high intensity, high energy girls who really like to get their own way. Like my sister, my daughter has trouble calming down when she’s upset and when she’s really distressed she pushes us away, shouting “leave me alone.” She responds aggressively when she’s threatened or upset by another child, despite all of our conversations about using her words.
My younger sister had a very difficult childhood. My mom is a wonderful person, but she was a single mom working 3 jobs and going to school when she was raising us. She also had her own emotional wounds. So she and my sister had regular screaming matches all throughout our childhood and adolescence. I even remember her kicking my sister out once, to live with my father for two days before she let my sister move back in. Even now when my sister is an independent adult they fall into those old patterns. They still fight, although less loudly, if they are together for more than a few days. I know they love each other, but their relationship is difficult, to say the least.
I want a different relationship with my daughter. I know that things will probably be easier, since I am not a single mom and I only work one job. But I also have realized already how hard parenting can be. How easy it can be to tangle my own self-image and wishes in my efforts to parent her. I want to give her the tools early on to calm and soothe herself and bring that intensity under control, so that it serves her instead of mastering her. And I want to give myself the tools to stay calm, not take her tantrums personally, and to continue to value and appreciate the person she is. To worry less about controlling her and be more focused on loving her. So I take her to yoga every Friday night – each class another deposit in our relationship account.