Monday, February 12, 2007

My Obsession


So much of my life is now focused on my daughter. She is both my waking and sleeping obsession. At night, when her Father and I finally make our way to bed and the rest that we so desperately need, we often find ourselves still awake and whispering stories to each other about all the noteworthy 'Stellaisms' that have taken place since that morning. It is particularly at this quiet time in the final hours of the day that I feel an overwhelming love for my baby, and can't help but smile in the darkness. "I love that little girl so much."

What interests me is how it is that this all consuming love can coexist with utter frustration. It is no lie that several times a day, Stella drives me completely crazy, and there is nothing more that I want than time to myself, away from her whining pleas for attention. Carving time out for work, the computer, and what I see as my "recharging time" plugged into the couch and the t.v., is hard to do. I know that at times I am neglectful. I'm not really paying attention to Stella in any deep and meaningful way as I try to distract her with any number of toys or books. On one level, I feel bad about this, but on another, I know myself enough to understand that my constant attention would be no good for her. She would tire of me as quickly as she tires of her blocks, and isn't quality better then quantity? I must admit that it is easy for me not to be concerned about quantity issues because we are always together. Since I work in our home, my presence is constant, and I have no doubt that she derives a certain amount of security from this. However, without breaks from baby overload, I am unable to patiently play with any focus and calm. I NEED time for myself. This is the only way that the two of us can have what I believe to be more meaningful interaction.

This got me thinking about the special kind of intense love that the majority of parents feel for their children. Why is it that the feelings we have for our offspring are deeper than anything known before? I think it is akin to a form of self love. Although there is no doubt that being a parent involves a lot of sacrifice and a placing of our child's best interests often above our own, there is something self centered about loving our children, even while being selfless. Our babies are new creations from the seeds of our love, nurtured in our wombs, and we hope that they will manifest all of the best parts about ourselves. I believe we easily love our children because we see so much of us reflected in them, for better or worse. Our intense feelings of unconditional love can be emotionally overwhelming, as we personally experience pride in their every growth (learning words and walking), and deep concern for all that is less than perfect (like sleeping habits). There is an intensity to our dreams and aspirations for our children that can make for an obsessive love. None of us wants to smother our children or impose our own desires above their own future wishes and yearnings. Thus, there comes a point when we have to completely recognize that these little beings are not mere extensions of ourselves but that they are their own rightful beings.

I already see my little Stella trying to prove this point to her Father and I. She is communicating her independence and likes and dislikes on a daily basis. She refuses to eat all that we place before us, disdainfully throwing her food on the floor, she runs away when we call her name, or continues to smack the stereo when we tell her not to, and cries and goes boneless when it is time to leave a play center and she is not ready. We refer to her tantrums as mini-rebellions, and recognize her frustration as she tries to communicate with us. She is doing all that she can to express herself. We are learning that we can't always make Stella do what we want. We may be bigger and stronger, but that doesn't mean that we win our battles. She has her own mind, drive and feelings that direct her emotions. All that we can do is guide her with our love and experience, and have faith in her instincts. We MUST respect her independence, because she is not a little me or a little Dan. She is something new and unique, and someone very, very special.

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