Kerrie is a former home schooling mom of 4 and Nanny-K to three. She majored in Early Childhood education and is also a photographer.
A Mother's Apron Strings
A lot of the wisdom I now have as an adult is "hind sight" wisdom. I don't expect my children to raise their children the exact same way I did them. This is a very different age in which we live. Everything from the latest scientific research to what we eat change the circumstances in which my grandchildren will be raised. As a grandparent I have to acknowledge these changes and try and keep up. I have to continue supporting my daughters as they navigate being a first-time parent in a world that is far different from what it was when they were little. It's new territory for all of us. We have to maintain a certain level of fluidity with every generation. It’s kind of like me trying to help them work their cell phones using my knowledge of a rotary phone. I can't advise them based on old technology or outdated health practices, especially when so many new time-proven methods are now available. New studies and their findings, have changed the way we feed our young and even educate and discipline them. Those things are constantly evolving as our knowledge base grows. So, with that said, are there things that seem foundational to every generation? Yes.
The first one is love. Every child needs to feel they are unconditionally loved. That love needs to be expressed and nurtured through all five of a child's senses. Snuggles at night before bed, a gentle stroking of the cheek as they drift off to sleep, and a holding of their hand for no reason, all satisfy a child’s need to be touched. My younger two daughters love full massages on occasion as we talk about their week. That eases away any stress or tension that the week may have brought.
Then, there is smell. Everyone has smells that to them are comforting. A certain meal that you prepare, a cleaner that you use, your perfume or cologne and even the cohesive pheromones that personalize your home to your family, help nurture a child. My 13 year old loves to wear my shirts to sleep in when at her dad’s house, just because its smell reminds her of me and keeps me close when she is away. These are the “apron strings” of childhood.
The next sense that children need satisfied in their care, is hearing. Whether written or spoken, our tone of voice when we instruct, discipline and converse should be as loving and nurturing as possible. Yes, there are times when we must be stern to help emphasize the seriousness of a matter, but always followed by love. Our ears should always be attentive to their voices and comments so as to detect anything they may be trying to tell us, but aren’t sure as to how. We should be listening for cries for help, hurt feelings and dreams of the future, tucking away comments and stories that we might later remind them of as they navigate their childhood milestones. Notes of tender nurturing words, should be tucked under their pillow, slipped into their lunches and the pockets of their coats, as reminders that we are there and we are listening.
The fourth one is taste. Every child should have a special comforting food that is made just for them on occasion. They should be encouraged to try new dishes and expand their palates. I had a rule for my children that they were expected to try at least one bite of something new, before rejecting it. Letting a small child sip from your cup and taste from your plate are both a gesture of connecting and those little things strengthen that bond between the two of you. After all, you fed them with the umbilical cord of your body and you nursed them. This is only an extension of those beautiful and natural acts. An air of caution should be given to rewarding children for good behavior or punishing them, using food. Please feel free to read my article on “Attaching Sweets to Behavior”. Having a daughter with an eating disorder has made me rethink this common parenting mistake. Girls especially, have such a delicate bent toward a poor body image. As nurturers we should carefully consider how we use and speak of food.
The last sense is sight. Oh how I miss my children when they are away and I cannot see them and experience them. Who is the first person of choice all young children run to when hurt, sad, excited or anxious? Their mother of course. When they are denied that, there is great instability mentally and emotionally. A mother’s face should always be carefully aware of its expressions. A child’s reaction is usually a mirroring of those they trust. If you are prone to overdramatic and fearful responses and reactions so will the children be. Children are watching, mirroring and mimicking everything they see you do and say. They are continually searching our faces for affirmation, courage, love, instruction, boundaries and security.
The second most crucial thread that should be sewn into the development of every child is security. Security for a child is not simply a bicycle helmet, a locked door or a bottle of “monster spray” for under their bed. It is the occasional “No” in response to a request, an explanation for why something cannot be, consistency in discipline, expectations and love. It comes from competition and the losing of a board game or foot race. It is a struggle which requires them to ask for help and rely on someone other than themselves. It helps them to realize that everyone needs others to feel secure and that they can be the security for someone else.
The last foundational element in nurturing a child into a confident, caring and strong adult is one that we all find hard to do in this technologically driven world. Children need us to communicate with them and not solely through electronics, but through face to face, deep, engaging, stimulating and creative conversation. The conversations I have with my daughters are some of the most memorable moments of my life. I cherish them by remembering a look, a smile, a reaction or a feeling. These are things that a text, a post or email will never convey in such depth. Social media has so desensitized us to the absence of those we love and miss. We have, in a sense, settled for less meaningful engagement and cute emojis instead of taking the time to be present in person. It has become sufficient to leave a message, post or text, instead of an actual visit. Children need us to engage them in conversation. They need us to carefully articulate our instructions, wishes and desires. They need to feel that no matter the subject, they will not be judged or reprimanded for questioning what we tell them. They need the freedom to be who they are and to develop their own views on things even if they are the opposite of ours. This world is full of diversity and we should always be mindful of the fact that no one person knows everything, nor has experienced everything.
The apron strings should never be cut as the old adage goes. They should be loosed and ever present should they ever be needed, even into adulthood. Apron Strings should be attached to home, a place of love, security and communication. A landing place that is immoveable no matter what happens.
© 2020 kerriejrichardson
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on May 20, 2020:
How fantastic to put this in the realm of our natural - easy senses. The more I read the more right on this is.
Hey my youngest and I will work on touch today --- with all this stay at home, smell, sound and sight are getting boring ;-)