Square Peg, Round Hole

I have a loud friend.  She is so confident, so very direct.  I also have a quiet friend, who is so careful in all that she does that I simply cannot recall a time when she ran into even a touch of conflict.  My two friends are very different, which I believe helps create a certain dynamic in our little group.  Nobody has ever forced either of them to change; to merge into one similar, or superior, personality trait....well, not since they were children, at least.Because it seems that there is a pre-determined childhood mould into which we are expected to squeeze our babies, our toddlers, our children.  For some little ones, this squeeze will hardly be noticeable; perhaps a little extra control here, or a sprinkle of personality 'management' there.  But for others, the words 'square peg' and 'round hole' come to mind.  And as people, because let's not forget that that is in fact what our children are...when pushed into an ill-fitting and over-bearing corner, our little humans will inevitably either fight back or submit.For those that fight back, labels will start to fly...naughty...bad...out of control...and with these labels comes a shift in expectation.  A cycle begins, where we are led to believe the worst from our offspring; where we are told that they are 'rotten to the core' and that their behaviour is merely a mirror of their innate 'badness' and our corresponding 'failure' as parents.And for those who submit because they have learned that society values behaviour above thoughts and feelings; for the children who are correspondingly labelled as good...obliging...easy...my heart breaks.  It literally breaks.Because when we give in to external pressure; when we start to change our behaviour in order to better fit in with society's expectations of us, we start to give up on ourselves.  We start to give up on who and what defines us.  You see, these little people, the ones that we grew and birthed; these little people have selves as well.  And guess what?  Not all selves are the same.Little bean is a gentle bean.  She is a watcher, a waiter.  She will loose herself and go wild in the moment only once she has worked out exactly what that moment is about.  She trusts certain adults, most older children and babies, but she is wary of fellow toddlers.  And rightly so, as her confidence has been shaken by the snatching and hitting and screaming that she has witnessed at our local toddler group.  Toddlers are unpredictable and egocentric and there is a wealth of research to say that putting a group of thirty pre-schoolers together in a hot and cramped community centre hall is a far cry from nature's intention of childhood for our species.  So I totally understand why little bean plays mainly with mama at toddler group, and why she doesn't tend to approach or get close to the other children.  She asks to go and is happy there, but little bean's display of happiness in such a situation is rather different to little Jonny's display of happiness.The clincher here though, is little Jonny's parent, who says to me "Oh, isn't she shy", using the exact same intonation as you would use whilst saying "Oh, isn't she poorly."  Yes, my daughter is reserved today.  Just as your son is outgoing today.  Neither quality is good, neither quality is bad.  They are both just describing words for how each child is acting in this exact moment, on this exact day.  You see, I am careful not to pre-define little bean's future based on what she is today.  I suppose what it comes down to is really rather simple.  I want her to be herself and I am here to help support her in finding out who that self is today, tomorrow and in many moons from now.  With no judgement or prior expectations, it leaves a clean page onto which little bean can sketch out her own identity, under her own terms and with complete support.So today, little bean is a watcher, a waiter, but that's not to say that she will be that way tomorrow.  I too am a watcher, a waiter.  I love watching my daughter be herself in this moment.  I also love waiting to see who she will become when she is a bigger bean, because for me, at least, true mama-joy is letting go of external expectations and enjoying what has been gifted to me in the shape of my daughter...whatever shape that happens to be.
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