Free Radicals

Brave Writer

Remember, your child is an independent being from you.

When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up to be a mother who’d understand my child as well as I wished to be understood by my parents. Enneagram 4 here, so you understand the depth of that craving.

When I eventually had my own kids, it became inescapably true that I could never know them as well as they might wish to be known. The fact is: these little beings are “free radicals”—a bit like their chemical counterparts.

Here’s the definition of a free radical: “A type of unstable molecule, free radicals can build up in cells and cause damage to other molecules, such as DNA, lipids, and proteins.”

Let me rewrite that for small humans (aka free radicals): “A type of unstable being, free radicals can build up in families and cause damage to the other members, such as siblings, parents, and even pets.”

Yeah, I’d say that is a PERFECT description of the way in which kids are independent beings.

What does this mean?

The good news: they are delightful! Kids repeatedly astonish and entertain us with their antics and self-expression. Thank goodness they aren’t adults in miniature clothes. Their energy is life-giving to a family.

The bad news: you can’t heal your child self by being to your child what you always wished you’d had as a child. That ship has sailed. Your new child deserves to be known as a unique individual whose needs are not obvious to you and whose ideas are not identical with yours.

Chemical free radicals stimulate important physiological processes, like helping the immune system function properly. So when your child catches you off guard, that’s the moment to lean in with curiosity. Who is this free radical in my presence? What new experience am I about to have thanks to this little being who wants to stimulate new psychological processes in the family?

Say to yourself: “I’m here for it!”

This post is originally from Instagram and @juliebravewriter is my account there so come follow along for more conversations like this one!

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