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Where did my sweet baby go?!

Control is defined as, "The power to influence or direct people's influence or direct people's behavior or the course of events." For some reason, I made the mistake of thinking that my two year old, Jahara can be controlled.

I had this aha moment today as I sat in a circle with a class full of first graders and asked them, "who are you really?"

some said a friend, a big sister/brother, an athlete, a poet and Ms.Barb? She listened quietly as she stared a hole into her paper; the fourth line from the top -- Control Freak. 

Anxiety and control don't mix. I've struggled in the past few weeks trying to figure out which one I should deal with first. Since I can't get a hold on either, I hid from the strongest toddler I know. One who sees my need to control and dares every day to push me to my limit. When I say vegan for dinner she screams Mac and Cheese. A few times I have seceded and we went on to have a peaceful night and other times...well...we (she) screamed from the tub to the bed and it wasn't fun for either of us.

With Tatiyana, at two; she was so sweet, quiet, inquisitive and just all around calm. Meet her younger sibling the raging toddler. Jahara is a loud, in your face, sweet as pie and sour as a pickled onion all in one breath ball of fun. There is no telling what you're going to get when Jahara wakes up, it's become the norm for my family to hold our breath when she stirs because we're never sure what side of the bed she will wake up on (Hint: It's usually the wrong side but more on that later.) Whenever I facilitate a Professional Development training and I ask participants to think of one word to describe their child(ren), students or maternal/paternal, etc. I always think of 'free' when I have to think of a word for Jahara.

Me and Jahara Circa 2015
Jamal and I always laugh to hide our weary when we talk about her being older. "She's so strong headed and I just hope that it doesn't get her into trouble." I have to remind him that I spent much of my childhood being a strong minded Black girl and a lot of times it didn't end in my favor. "No matter what, we just have to protect her and make sure no one including us breaks her spirit. She has made up in her heart who she is and it is our job to make sure she feels secure and loved." That's the best that I can give him because he knows my fear of raising two Black girls in this country, something we share with millions of other Black parents in the states, even as I recover at age twenty-five from my childhood.

To know my sweet toddler is truly to love her. One thing I realized about her this is evening is that she is my youngest, most challenging teacher. What has she taught me so far? That control has no room in my life or in our relationship. My colleague said something to me a couple months back and I never thought about it until then:

"People don't like to be told what to do...Children are people."

She's right ya know.

 Now, of course I know that children are people that isn't the point stay with me here. It was the fact that I wasn't able to make this equation myself. I am the same Black mother who will pluck as a last resort even though I can hear my grandmothers suck their teeth and roll their eyes while saying "I would've popped her." I am the same mother who will let my child have a meltdown in the store and wait patiently for her to collect herself so we can figure out what she wanted pre-meltdown. I try to be the most restorative mom I can be. What stops me is my need to control. I don't like to be controlled so how could I think that someone else would? Especially my child of all people. I often want to control things so badly that it usually ends in chaos.

 I tell myself when she nor I are our best selves that "I am adapting, I can be the one who surrenders this time."  Nothing beats the feeling of surrendering to the love of my two year old. Spilled milk can be cleaned, lost dolls can be found, my favorite shows can be recorded, bed times are meant to be disregarded (I shout a joyous praise if she's out by 9PM) but these days when they are no longer a baby but not too old to be smothered in kisses and hugs will go by quickly. I'll have plenty days for quiet time and days that adhere to my to-do list and small need to control. In the meantime, I find  peace and joy surrendering to my two-year who has a spirit that will continue to grow bigger than this life time.

I learned in order for Jahara to be her authentic self I have to leave my tendency to control things behind, that includes her. I can offer suggestions and ultimately she will decide what is best for her, even if I do not agree. My nine year old (for the most part) makes sound decisions for her age and I have to trust that Jahara will too. No, I do not let my baby just do whatever the hell she wants, I do try to give an environment that promotes well informed decisions and yes, even two year olds are capable of that.

The biggest lesson she taught me is to 'surrender'. It feels better and organic when I meet her in the middle. Toddlers are great negotiators if you are willing to work with a level three terrorist (kidding, they're not that bad). I have to remind myself that Jahara has a vocabulary that does not match mine or Tatiyana's. I have to remind myself that her world consists of all Jahara and the rest of it is for cuddles, chocolate milk, kisses, youtube kids and love. Even as I type this she is sitting in my lap and I have made a makeshift lap desk because she remained persistent to sit on me.

Another aha moment: My sweet baby is still here, she just gives me more homework and tests on things I haven't learned until her, which makes her even sweeter to me.

 I made a few more gentle requests none of which she listened to and then she looked up at me smiling at the same time I looked down to ask her to scoot over for a second. Her smile immediately softened me and I just shifted my MacBook to the side: for a chance to sit and cuddle with her, I'll surrender every time.


How do you surrender to your children?

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