Reawakening to the basics of care, good food, good sleep, play, & routines has been insightful. And even more, my work as a nanny is showing me the power of listening, trusting, and attending to your body. I am learning an accessible vocabulary for emotional intelligence, a way of talking about feelings and somatic knowing that a one-and-a-half-year-old understands, and in so doing is profoundly transforming my relationship with my own body and needs.
Listening to Your Body & Attending Your Needs
With the children I take care of, we talk a lot about feeling your feelings. We tell them all of their emotions are okay to feel and that emotions are here to tell you something. They are something you move through. Michael Gervais said, “Through relationships we become.” I am watching these kids become people who know how to use their emotions as insight, who know how to identify what they are experiencing, and working to attend to their needs through relationships with their parents and me. This is a process of co-regulation, meaning they are learning how to be humans through their interactions and observations of the people around them. Teaching these kids to feel their feelings and helping them walk through those experiences is also reinforcing my emotional management skills, showing me how capable I am, and demonstrating how I, too, am who I am because of the people around me.
In addition to the emotions themselves, learning to feel my feelings has gone hand in hand with listening to my body. A phrase I say often to the kids is, “Good job listening to your body!” (often anywhere in context from needing to use the bathroom to being done eating to checking in about injuries).
Feeling my feelings and listening to my body involve an awareness of my experience, and they inform each other. Matthew Sanford says, “Your body, for as long as it possibly can, will be faithful to living. That’s what it does.” Your body is full of grace and has a level of intelligence that goes past our ability to comprehend – it is amazingly complex and designed to maintain, grow, and transform in incredible ways. And when you pay attention, you can learn to listen to your somatic cues. Your body is intelligent and has so much to tell you, you just have to know how to look. Recognizing the relationship between my body and my emotions has been incredibly helpful with the first pillar of reparenting: Emotional Regulation.
In order to be able to emotionally regulate your system, you have to be aware of how your system is reacting. Learning to witness yourself, and to do so honestly, is a skill you can cultivate. It requires awareness, curiosity, and insight. Once you are able to recognize your emotional responses, you are able to guide yourself through the experience and walk yourself to a regulated response and outcome. There is a plethora of practices to regulate your system. I will not go into them here, but you can find more in these articles: “The Healing Body” & “The Healing Body: Part One”
Learning to Trust Yourself
So much of what I am learning in reparenting is how to trust myself. I am watching these children embody their trust in themselves, and it has me sitting there like: Of course, I can trust my body to tell me what it needs. My body wants to take good care of itself. My body knows what it requires. My body is faithful to living. Of course, my emotions are insight. How I feel is another way of understanding my world and my relationships.
Returning to my intuition, insight, and understanding has been a homecoming. It has been a lesson in internal validation, in understanding that I am the only person who has first person access to my life, and therefore I am the only person who can deeply know and understand who I am and what I need. Additionally, not only am I the only primary source in my life, but my body is designed to be loyal and supportive. One of the greatest gifts taking care of children has shown me is that my body is something to be trusted and pouring into that relationship is life giving.
“No one can figure out and know your wants and needs and how to meet them better than you. No one but you can, and will have to, show up each and every day to take care of those ever-changing needs. These are efforts that must come from you, and in the process of harnessing your own power, you will create a deeper, more authentic connection to your Self.” Dr. Nicole LePera
Belonging to Yourself
Along with learning to trust myself again, taking care of these kids has shown me just how deeply I am meant to belong to myself. One of the things I get to say to these kids is, “Your body belongs to you.” Most of the time it is also “your brother’s body belongs to him. He gets to choose what he does and what toys he plays with.” Nevertheless, it is still a profound teaching when I say it to myself, too. My body belongs to me, and I can choose how to use it.
As a kid I learned to be a people pleaser to keep myself safe and to feel like I was worthwhile. This meant that I would change who I was to satisfy other people’s expectations of me. Relearning that my body is mine first is also helping me to break free from people pleasing patterns… it is allowing me to realize when I was saying yes to things not because I want to but because I wanted this other person to like me. It is showing me all the little times where I put off my needs to not cause a disruption, believing no ripples are the only safe outcome. I’ve developed so many habits that deny my needs in order to appear as a “good,” “pleasing,” “nice” person, at the cost of my genuine self-expression. I am a good and nice person, but not because I smile, nod, and ignore myself. Ultimately this type of self-censorship is manipulation with the goal of getting people to give me validation. I am trying to become a good and nice person who is good and nice because I am me, not some mask or pleaser.
Brené Brown defines true belonging as a spiritual practice, and I have found that belonging to myself is exactly that. I am response-able, meaning I am able to respond in my life and for myself in a way that no one else can. I am responsible for my life, and I am learning that that responsibility is at the core or self-care; I am my caretaker, and it is a brilliant thing to take exquisite care of myself in order to deeply belong to myself and to attend to my needs.
“You know who you are when you become independent enough to believe your own thoughts and become responsible for your own actions. And you not only believe what you want but you live what you believe.” Matthew McConaughey
Self-Care & Child Care
Becoming a nanny during my transition from student to adult has been insightful and timely. For something that began as a professional gig, it has been a gift to also become a better person in the process. Nannying has given me the opportunity to reparent myself and heal some of my inner child wounds. Telling my kiddos and myself “Your body belongs to you,” “It is okay to feel your feelings,” and “Great job listening to your body!” has been incredibly healing. I am doing the work of rewriting bad stories I have told to myself about myself, and in so doing inviting a more beautiful and truer world into being.