My daughter’s birth, it turns out, wouldn’t be an aberration.
Realizing that earlier would have saved us years of frustration and struggle.
Back in 2009, I was nine days past my due date and battling with the midwives on the phone.
“We need to get this baby out!”, I cried — literally, cried — as I begged to be induced.
My very-British midwives refused.
But three days later, when my daughter showed no signs that she was trying to be born, they relented, and induction began.
Thirty-six hours after that, with my daughter doing very little to arrive unassisted, the doctors forcibly pulled her out.
She was our first-born, so we didn’t think much of it.
But how my daughter was born, it turns out, is precisely indicative of how my daughter lives: She wasn’t in a hurry then, and she hasn’t been in a hurry since.
Sophie is unmoved by the pressures of the world, including her parents.
A ticking clock, an approaching school bus? Not her concern. She has things to say, a shirt to change, books to find.
My daughter lives life at her own pace.
It took me years to accept that.
To be clear: It isn’t hard for me to love her. It’s never hard to love our kids.
The challenge, I think, is that we can’t just sit back and love them: Our job is to grow our children into adults who can successfully navigate a world that has no intention of bending to their will. Or, in my daughter’s case, to her preferred schedule.
Nature is strong, but we can’t forego nurture altogether.
I fought my daughter’s slow-mo nature for years, believing that if I cajoled, incentivized, consequenced and — sigh — yelled enough, eventually she’d speed up.
For all the times we said it, we could have straight-up named her “Hurry up, Sophie!”
In retrospect, her kindergarten teacher had the better attitude.
“She is doing great. She knows you value school and she is showing growth and progress in all areas. Well…still super slow when getting ready to go home or outside…but that just may be the way Sophie rolls!”
It is, actually.
And our house has been much calmer, everyone has been much happier, since I learned to accept and adapt … to an extent.
Freedom within limitations.
What does that look like?
One example: My daughter isn’t a morning person and doesn’t like jumping straight out of bed. So we’ve agreed that she can lie in bed for 10 minutes after I wake her up. Nevertheless, she needs to get ready for school. So if she’s not dressed by 6:45 a.m., I’m not making her breakfast.
Many mornings, she’s still pulling on shoes, jacket half-on and backpack unzipped, as the bus rumbles down the street.
And truly, it’s fine.
My daughter’s nature isn’t wrong, it just is.
Maybe other parents understand this from the get-go. But I had to learn it on the fly.
Our younger children have benefited from the lessons we’ve learned trial-parenting our oldest. Thus is the burden of the first-born child.
When our son’s teacher mentions he doesn’t talk much in school? “Are you OK? Why don’t you want to talk?” “I like being quiet.” “OK.”
If our youngest pulls on a sparkling purple skirt over her unicorn costume? Sure. Why not? It’s personal expression.
I believe we all have a specific purpose in life and we’ve been given the skills and tools we need to fulfill it. I’m certain, certain, that Sophie’s way of moving through the world is integral to her life’s purpose.
Someday, I’ll even appreciate it.
But during these years, while I’m still responsible for getting her to where she needs to go … well, peaceful acceptance is the best I’ve got.
My daughter is a force of nature.
Like the northern lights or an approaching thunderstorm, she isn’t mine to control.
I can, however, pause. Look at her. And marvel, “Wow. That is so cool.”