Dear Atticus, on humility

A large portion of my relationship with Atticus this first year has been consumed with breastfeeding, so I hope you will forgive me if I say a few more things about that.

Dear Atticus,

During my maternity leave, a lot of people asked things like, “Don’t you just want to sit and hold him all day long?!!?!” The answer to that was a resounding no. Partly because I wanted to teach you to fall asleep on your own, and partly because every time I held you, you wanted to eat. You would snuggle with your dad and with Grammy, but I was the lady with the milk. You wanted the milk. And, as a baby, you didn’t have the sense to know when you should stop drinking the milk, so if I didn’t cut you off, you had a tendency to eat so much that you would make yourself sick.

Atticus and Mom

I nursed you in a lot of places, Atticus. In restaurants, in parking lots, at the pool, at my job, at church. At the ACC tournament, surrounded by UNC fans (we won). On the way home from the beach this weekend, you would not stop fussing, so I (broke the law and) climbed into the back seat and leaned over you and gave you some milk. I am hoping those people in the RV couldn’t really tell what was going on. That will not go down as one of my favorite moments of this past year, let me tell you.

Everyone has a different experience when it comes to these sorts of things, but I never got a negative comment from anyone for nursing you anywhere. Not even so much as a raised eyebrow. I always used a cover, but I think it was clear what I was doing. Sometimes people refused to look me in the eye and got very focused on their phones, but mostly I got supportive looks from other mamas. Occasionally I got questions from children. What are you doing? Where is the baby? What is the baby doing? I answered as honestly as possible. A few times it got a little bit awkward.

I was ready to defend my right to breastfeed, because that is the law: I can nurse you anywhere. But I never had to. I have begun to learn that I don’t always have to come out swinging. When I was in the trenches with the pumping, I said it was humiliating, and, oh, it was. I don’t wish that on anyone. Now that I have some distance from the whole thing, I can see that, though it was humiliating, I was also learning about humility. The good-for-you stuff: asking for help, choosing to de-escalate, assuming positive intent. The patience that it has taken to breastfeed this year has served me well in other areas of my life, especially in working with a whole bunch of middle schoolers.

I hope it will serve me well as your parent, too, Atticus. There will be things that you don’t want to do, things that will require patience, that will embarrass you. I hope that I will respond to your concerns with more compassion because of my own experiences this past year. There will be times when you have made choices I disagree with, and I hope that I will remember to assume positive intent. There are times that you will hurt me, and I hope I will remember humility.

I will fail in these things time and again, I know. But our relationship has taken me a few steps closer to the person I’d like to be. And that is one reason I am able to say, in humility (not humiliation), that all this work has been worth it.


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  1. One of my favorite breastfeeding memories: I was shopping at an outlet mall with a friend, and my baby got hungry. There really was nowhere to discreetly nurse, so I sat on a bench outside, used my cover, and let him nurse. I was softly talking to him the entire time, so I didn’t see the woman approach me. When I looked up, she was smiling such a friendly smile, and she said, “I just want to tell you that I am SO glad you are breastfeeding your baby!”

    Motherhood is such a challenging, exhilarating, humbling, and sacrificial process. I am often lonely in the journey. These encouraging interactions with other women, no matter how brief, are like manna to my starving soul.

    Posted 11/15/2011 at | Permalink
  2. Judy

    As an older woman reading your posts, Kari, I can sigh, remember, wish I had done things differently, ruefully smile. The something hits me straight on – an application that I can’t ignore. That happened today. “I hope that I will remember to assume positive intent.” What a powerful reminder for all of us, until the day we step across – especially in these volatile times. I am glad it is morning, so I have all day to try!

    Posted 11/15/2011 at | Permalink
  3. That’s one of the ways that I feel like working is really helpful, because I practice the positive intent thing all day. It is easy for me to snap at a student and then realize that they were genuinely confused about something, or that something has happened at home that makes it hard for them to follow a rule, or any number of things. I have learned to take a breath and keep my tone calm first and let them clarify.

    Posted 11/15/2011 at | Permalink
  4. Thank you for 1) the thoughts about humility and 2) the mental image of you clambering over the console and into the back seat, keister-over-kettle. I know: you aim to please, something for everyone. 😉

    Posted 11/15/2011 at | Permalink
  5. :fistofsolidarity:

    Posted 11/15/2011 at | Permalink

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