I had an interview last week with a lady who’s a psychologist here in the hills.
I just had to google and make sure she’s a psychologist, not a psychiatrist. If you’re like me and didn’t know the difference:
- Psychiatrist: focuses on medication-based treatment.
- Psychologist: focuses on behavioral intervention.
I’ve clearly taken some liberties in my simplification. Always learning though, right?
As I was saying. I met her at a local coffee shop, and I showed up early so I could grab a bite and enjoy my coffee without having to talk and run the risk of it getting cold. My toddler causes that conundrum on a regular basis as it is.
With my order number in hand, I found a table where I’d be visible without having to awkwardly walk around the entire coffee shop. I put my number on the table, plopped down a copy of the last two issues of my magazine, and put my purse on top of them. I always bring copies of the magazine I’m interviewing people for in case they haven’t read it, which is frequently the case. Considering this particular interviewee doesn’t have children, it’s unlikely she would pick up a parenting magazine.
I sipped my coffee and looked at my notebook. The whole arrangement felt out of place, so I moved my purse to the chair next to me and stacked the magazines neatly in the middle of the table.
I thought about it, then put my purse back on the table and flicked the top magazine to the side an inch so it looked more nonchalantly placed.
Nope. Now they looked too forced; like the guy who wears a tie with a short sleeve shirt when the dress code is business casual. It’s probably not wrong, but it just feels like it’s trying too hard.
I’m fairly socially inept in my natural state, so when I get into my own head about interviews, I can really get in there. I rustle around in every nook and cranny of my awkwardness until my interviewees probably wonder if I’m really who I say I am and not just some goon who’s wasting their time.
I moved the top magazine a little further over and resolved to leave it alone. Time to enjoy my white mocha and stare out the window. This is actually why I show up early; to get all of my weirdness out.
After I ate my biscuit and gravy (yes, singular biscuit) and sipped on my mocha a bit, my mind settled and I simply waited. Okay, no, there wasn’t anything simple about it. I did, however, at least occupy my mind with the productive task of reading through questions and considering what my angle was, so I actually got the information I needed. I do also have a tendency to just chatter at people and end up half an hour into an interview realizing I’ve gotten to know them, but haven’t gotten to any of my questions. I suppose I am a goon, after all.
She finally walks in, or at least who I assume is her, as she looks older than twenty. We’re in a college town and she teaches rather than partakes, so when she walks in looking a little older than myself, it’s obvious who she is. She seems to make the same connection about me and walks over.
“I’m going to order a coffee real fast and I’ll be right there,” she says.
I try to smile and say something suave but it pretty much comes out half “okay” and half giggle. I had a flight instructor once tell me I have a nervous laugh, and in the wrong situation it could make people uneasy. I’ve never quite figured out if he meant to include me in that group too.
As she came back to the table and we got to chatting, it turns out she’s not only intelligent, we do actually click on a level that makes the interview more of a conversation — and luckily for me, a productive one inline with my questions. The article was about self-care, but one with actual practical advice for parents and their families. My goal was to break free of the “take care of yourself too, mom,” line every parenting blog since the dawn of dialup has espoused. Is self-care important? Yes, absolutely. But telling moms to lock themselves in a bathroom to take a bubble bath as a way of caring for themself helps only a small smidgeon of the population. What about people who hate bubble baths? Or don’t have a tub?
We discussed the bubble bath conundrum and parent self-care at length. What I found fascinating was her ideas on how our children also need self-care, and how parents can help guide them. Particularly when I asked her about toddlers and preschoolers. They, certainly, aren’t taking bubble baths unsupervised any time soon, so what gives?
Sensory awareness is apparently what gives. For kiddos even as young as ours, she told me parents should do one-on-one activities that engage all of their senses. For example, playing with playdoh. While you squish the dough between your fingers, talk about how that feels, and how it smells, even tastes. Barring toxic dyes or chemicals, of course. What this does is teach them how to feel all of their senses and helps ground them in the moment. It’s a foundation that later helps them recognize their emotions and what triggers them.
Blew. My. Mind.
I spend a lot of time reflecting on who I am as a person, what makes me tick, and what traits I do or don’t want my children to embody. My son is already devious and stubborn like I am, but has his dad’s athleticism and smarts. He’s also a morning person, which he certainly did not get from me.
Something we both hope to do differently by him, however, is helping him be in touch with his emotions on a more practical level. I mean practical in being able to recognize and express them in a positive manner, no matter if he’s happy or stressed. We are working together on doing that for ourselves, so we hope that tool is something we can continue as a family.
That is, I think, where sensory awareness comes in. I’ve been practicing grounding myself this past week, especially when I’m with my son in quiet moments. The temptation to grab my phone and scroll through social media while he snoozes on my chest is huge. I find it’s almost second-nature, and it’s honestly something I’ve been trying to quit since he was born. Clearly, without much success.
This week I’ve instead tried to ground myself; to enjoy these small, fleeting moments of his childhood I will never have the chance for again.
I hear the soft squeaks of his breathing as he settles into my chest.
I feel his fingers in my hair slow their fidgeting as he drifts off to sleep.
I smell the comforting fragrance of his sensitive skin baby detergent.
I see his eyelashes flicker as his eyes move behind his lids.
I don’t taste anything in the moment, but I fill the void by softly kissing his forehead. This usually results in another small squeak as he responds to my touch.
I cry. Every time. I treasure each little breath as it moves his stomach and pushes another tiny sigh out of his lips. I hold him a little longer than I need to for him to be ready to go in his crib, simply because I can.
His first birthday is coming up, a holiday that I will forever share with him due to its proximity to Mother’s Day. I hope he likes to share, at least for a few years. But perhaps the most precious gift for my first Mother’s Day is this one: to slow down and ground myself in his childhood.