Honouring Authenticity and Belonging in Our Babies and ChildrenBy Marion Badenoch Rose, Ph.D.
Babies come into the world with two (of many) vital needs – to belong (to their family and culture), and to express themselves authentically.
Babies have an imperative to be true to themselves. Each baby comes into the world a unique being with particular preferences, skills and gifts to give.
In order to fit in, she also imbibes her family’s behaviour – our language, intonation, our response to feelings, our beliefs, and so on. Since this begins in utero, a baby learns by a very young age what her family requires from her, and continues to learn this throughout childhood.
Babies have a wide range of feelings. When a baby experiences fear or sadness or frustration, as well as joy or excitement or interest or happiness, she feels this fully, and begins to express these feelings. When she is heard and accurately mirrored in the safety of mum or dad’s arms, she stays connected to her natural state of presence.
As parents, there are feelings that we are more and less comfortable with, and we carry lots of beliefs about what babies need and why they behave as they do. When a baby expresses her feelings and preferences, she receives our response by taking in our every tiniest gesture, posture and facial expression.
The degree to which we are able to see, and mirror, and be present with, the whole range of our baby’s feelings, the more she is able to stay connected to her authentic self, her true presence. The more we are unable to be present with particular behaviours or feelings, the more she learns ways of hiding aspects of her true self, in order to fit in and be loved. This dynamic continues into childhood and through the rest of her life.
If we want to give our babies and children the freedom to be whom they really are whilst also fully belonging in their family, we need to enquire into our own consciousness. What beliefs do we have about love, about closeness, about feeling joy or feeling sadness? The more aware we are, and the more we choose to live authentically, the more we are able to be present with the fullness of our baby’s and child’s being. She experiences this as unconditional love – to be truly herself, and to fully belong.
An edited version of this article first appeared in Injoy Magazine in March 2009