Luca spit up on me the other day, and it was. so. disgusting. I can handle poop and pee but something about spit-up really irks me. I frantically pulled him away from my body and said, “AHH! Gross!!” Then, Caleb immediately scooped (read: rescued) him from my arms and said, “It’s ok, Buddy, I don’t mind your spit-up. You don’t have to cut off that part of yourself!” Then he shot me a very disappointed look. These are the types of interactions that happen between two psychodynamically trained spouses. Let me explain…
There’s a Greek myth about the son of Poseidon named Procrustes. He would coax weary travelers to come and stay with him. The only catch? They had to fit perfectly on his iron bed. If they didn’t, he would either stretch them or amputate them so that they would. Sick, right? Well, this story is used now as a metaphor for parts of one’s Self being cut off to appease others. Luca can’t help that he spits-up so Caleb was jokingly telling him that he doesn’t need to be ashamed of that part of himself. I, on the other hand, am apparently a heartless mother who wants my baby to swallow his own spit-up so I don’t have to see it. Just kidding. Sort of.
One of my dear friends in my Mama Tribe is so awesome when it comes to accepting all parts of her baby. She’s constantly posting photos of her precious girl on Facebook, and not just the sweet smiling photos. She puts them all up there. I can’t tell you how much I love seeing them. She has inspired me to start doing it as well. Babies are messy. They cry. They scream. They scratch. They pout. They spit-up all over the place. It’s just who they are.
It may seem silly that I care so much about this but I really believe that this is just the start of my parental attitude towards Luca’s messiness. And when I say messiness, I’m not just talking about dirt. I mean that he will get sad, angry, frustrated, obnoxious even… He is human after all. When we don’t allow children to feel “negative” emotions, they learn to cut those parts of themselves off. Ever heard the phrase, “Boys don’t cry” ? Well, there’s a great example of a destructive attitude toward emotions. When people are taught that it’s not ok to cry, the emotions are still there, they just find another way to express them. Trust me, crying is better than the alternatives.
Often, we don’t like the messy parts of our children because those parts make US uncomfortable. How good am I at tolerating my own sadness/hurt/anger? If I am ashamed of those parts of myself, how can I expect myself to help my kid when he feels those things? I won’t be able to. If he cries, I’ll get so upset that I’ll insist that he stop crying immediately. I may even get angry. This is why it’s important that we all go to therapy. Ok, it may not always take therapy, but it is important for us to be aware of the parts of ourselves/our kids that we are ashamed of. Do you feel like you always have to look perfect before stepping-out the door? Then you may have a hard time with your kindergartner’s wardrobe choices. To your kid, you are saying, “You’re not ok the way you are. You have to change to be accepted.” Ouch. For me, I’m not ok with being sick. I feel ashamed every time I get the flu or anything because I see it as a sign of weakness. I think that’s why I have a hard time with Luca spitting-up. It reminds me of vomit which reminds me of the flu.
So, I’m going to try to do a better job of accepting all parts of my son. As a start, here’s a little taste of our afternoon, post-vaccinations. I love this boy!
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