Springtime is the prototypical unveiling of transformation. You can’t step outside without each of your senses seeking out the changes that took hold during winter. Daffodils bloom so dramatically their stems bend with weight, apple trees explode with kaleidoscopic arrangements of pinks and purples, the sun bursts to set all of this growth in motion.
And people transform too. This year especially. People are leaving their homes and establishments are populating again, and everybody has a chance at revealing their transformations. As I considered my own evolution, I found myself feeling a little stagnant. What’s my big reveal going to be? Which evolutions did I undergo all winter in order to step outside with my best—possibly pedicured—foot forward? I felt stumped for a moment. And then I realized that my own blossoming happened months ago.
I remember it vividly. It was winter, too cold to spend any significant time outside with my children—a toddler and an infant. I was sitting on the miniature stool at my daughter’s miniature table. I looked out the sliding glass door next to me: leafless branches shuddered in the frosty wind. It was only morning and we had already done so many different activities. Museums and play places were shut down. Recreation activities were frozen like the skating rinks outside. I tried to come up with an idea for what to do next, and then I thought about the next day, and the next week, and the remaining months until spring—and I began to panic.
What would we do? How would we endure?
“You torment yourself,” my husband told me when I expressed my worries about how I’d keep the kids occupied all winter. So hard had I pushed against my instincts and my natural urge to surrender, so badly did I want to provide my children with enriching experiences that they would have received at daycare had I not been laid off, that I ran myself into the ground trying to be all things to them.
My husband was right: not only was my self-tormenting unnecessary, but it made things much worse. What did I really need to feel guilty about when the entire planet was just doing what they could to get by? Why would I have been an exception?
This pressure point is where I let go; it’s when I blossomed.
It started small. At first I simply noticed when I was making things harder for myself than I needed to. Once I became aware, I began to cut myself some slack.
Beyond meeting my children’s basic needs like food and shelter, I gave them the one thing they really needed, and the thing they most wanted: me. I was with them when they woke up and I was with them when they went to sleep—and for every moment in between. This was enough for them, and my transformation happened the moment I realized that.
It’s incredible what happens when you decide you are enough. You give yourself permission to act without scrutinizing your every move, which makes taking action so much easier. And when actions are easier, and when your analysis of said actions are tempered, you begin to move from one action to the next without much thought.
I gave myself grace—and my god did that feel good.
It started small. At first I simply noticed when I was making things harder for myself than I needed to. Once I became aware, I began to cut myself some slack. I allowed myself to throw on the television to preoccupy my older child while I nursed the baby and, eventually, I did it guilt-free. If I became stressed and yelled, I didn’t get down on myself for losing my cool. I just told my toddler that I felt overwhelmed and hadn’t done a good job of managing my emotions. Talking through it, even with a tiny person, was a way of telling myself it was okay.
Because I was—I am—enough for them. This realization led me to another important transformation: my ability to mute the noise all around me about parenting. When people asked me if my baby was sleeping through the night yet or if I had any sort of educational schedule for my toddler during the day, I began to just say “no” and continue on without defending myself, knowing there was nobody better equipped to make the decisions I was making for my children. The onus had always been on me to make the decisions for them, but only when I decided I was enough for them did I stop second-guessing every decision I made.
Yes, I still have my insecurities. I recently unfollowed a lot of mother-centric Instagram accounts because old comparison habits started to creep up, which I noticed when I started to question some decisions I’d made. Like the magnolia tree in my front yard that grows a little bit each year, my transformation is incremental, not one-and-done.
We’ve all grown this past year, in some ways better than others, but the growth happened regardless, and it’s important that we all take the time to recognize just how far we’ve come.
Now that the buds are peeking out of the trees, now that libraries and gathering places are slowly opening back up, I have a couple of choices: I can go back to being the parent I was before this transformation occurred; the parent I fought so hard to remain at first. Or I can lean into the one I’ve become—the one who gives herself grace and recognizes when she’s setting herself up with impossible standards that can’t be met.
We’ve all grown this past year, in some ways better than others, but the growth happened regardless, and it’s important that we all take the time to recognize just how far we’ve come. And as life creeps back to a semi-normal state, we all have the opportunity to decide if we want to return to the way we were, or if we want to remain the more agile, more forgiving people we’ve become.
I know which choice I’m making.
Kolina Cicero is enamored with stories – reading them, writing them, getting lost within them. Other things she loves include yoga, traveling, and taking cooking, Italian, and writing classes. Her first children’s book, Rosie and the Hobby Farm, was published in July 2020.
BY Kolina Cicero - April 13, 2021
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.