Sometimes I feel so tired. (Right now I'm tired because it's 4 am, but that's another story.) I'm talking about a different kind of tired - a weariness. This week I'm feeling this weariness - but it's not in a bad or depressed way - it just is. In fact, sometimes when I'm tired (like this week) I'm actually more present and making better choices - more in line with my true values.
This fatigue stems from years of thinking and reading. Sometimes I realize, "Man, I don't want to research every little decision I make!" I don't want to think about all the chemicals in our food, fillings for our teeth, whether I'm an optimist or pessimist and what that means, organic bed mattresses, what words I use, how what I'm doing might impact my child years from now - and on and on. I just want things to be easy - for someone (anyone!) to give me the answers that no one can.
Unfortunately, that is not the world we live in presently. Things have gotten complicated. We are disconnected - from nature, from our own biological instincts, and from each other. We have more "choice" than we ever have had in our evolutionary history, but many (most?) of the choices are unhealthy for us and the earth to some degree.
There is an upside to the way things have unfolded. We have a lot of free time to do things that we enjoy. We can see a lot of the world in a short time. We can keep in touch and meet new people oceans away. Many of these new developments boil down to two things: convenience and comfort.
I dig both of these things. Convenience and Comfort make life enjoyable. But life often feels ironic and like one big contradiction when you are trying to get back in touch with all that you are disconnected from. Many decisions based on convenience and comfort are not ideal (fast food, SUVs, Lysol sprays come to mind). With TV, more sitting (at the office and on the couch), food in the fridge, lots of "free time", and way more choices, Life is both "easier" and messier every day.
In this tired state I find myself yearning for simplicity and times of the past (loooooong past - I'm not talking the good old 1950s here or even the 1800s, I'm talking about our evolutionary past when we lived on the plains and were one with the earth.)
Of course, if I actually got my wish and was transported back in time I'm fairly certain that I wouldn't be all that happy. (I probably would barely survive a day - getting eaten by a lion - oh wait, I did learn that lions might leave me alone usually, and maybe I'd be lucky enough to land in a tribe that would care for me. But, I'd probably be a whiner and my body much too soft... hmm... well I guess I'll try to be optimistic and say that maybe I'd eventually adapt! I'd sure miss "America's Got Talent" though! And pillow-top mattresses. And air conditioning.)
As a new mom, articles, Facebook pages, and blogs about why "African Babies Don't Cry" have always had a certain appeal me. I believe in babies' biological drive to be held, to breastfeed on demand, to sleep close to parents and to generally get their needs met. I also believe that most parents possess instincts (although sometimes buried) to meet these needs.
But I also know this phrase "African babies don't cry" is very misleading and even harmful to modern parents and babies. When Marisol was a baby if she wasn't happy I felt some pressure - *why* was she crying if I did everything "right"? (Oh, I had a long ways to go!) I think that maybe this is why many parents are turned off by Attachment parenting - it's too much pressure to be perfect and do things "right" (even though at it's heart, that's NOT what it is at
But these two societies - the one we evolved in and the "civilized" world many of us presently inhabit - are extremely different. So making any comparison is like comparing Apples and Oranges. Our world is fast-moving with gas powered engines, high speed trains, and planes in the sky. In our world we live in multi-storied homes not a simple shelter in the wide-open plains. In our world we go to the grocery store to hunt and gather. If we run out of time to make dinner we can throw something in the microwave or order a pizza.
Babies are going to cry in our world sometimes (I hear my mom and dad's voices ringing in my ears as I type this) - in their car-seats or carriers (or -gasp!- strollers), when their mamma goes to a movie and they are safely held in their Aunt's or Grandma's arms, when they poop in their diaper (disposable or not).
I'm not saying that I've changed my philosophy or what I believe in at all. I still believe Attachment Parenting is best - by meeting everyone's needs in ways our bodies and spirits are made for - and that by doing so we will largely be happier and more connected. BUT I'm also saying that it's not always as simple as we sometimes think. And that because it's complicated, our best response is always Love. I'm saying that we need to be soft with ourselves and others when we are trying to figure out this modern parenting gig, because "figuring out" the answers does not mean perfection - no parenting path will make us immune from meltdowns or sleep deprivation.
So much of what we do is as a protective measure, limiting screen time,
eating organic, wishing for simpler times and choices. We've seen the HUGE
changes that have occurred and are happening before our eyes, and we KNOW this has to have an impact. So we retreat into fear. We think we can stop things from changing and even go back in time.
It is so tempting to think that if we could go back - to less stuff and living closer to the earth and in tribes, things would be better - easier. And there are thing we can learn from the past - about how we parented, how we nourished our bodies, how we lived and thrived. But the truth is, in most present situations, thinking, "What would a Hunter-gatherer do?" is hardly relevant. They wouldn't know WHAT to do in our world because they wouldn't ever have deal with most of our situations (like Toys R' Us meltdowns and refined white sugar). They would probably be so confused and scared in our modern world that they would be worse off than we would be in theirs! (I take comfort in this thought, and mostly think "WWAH-GD?" to remind myself to slow down, be present, and respond from a place of love.)
Our challenge is NOT to return to the days of our past (whether that be the '50s, the 1800s, or the days of Hunting-gathering). Our challenge is to simplify NOW. How? By prioritizing what is important RIGHT NOW and letting a lot of the other stuff go. By living by Principles NOT Rules (because it's human nature to break the rules). By recognizing the contradictions in our life and embracing them (like wanting the best for our earth and future and loving electricity, for instance). We may have a strong desire for simplicity while our kids want every new toy they come across and THAT is our present reality. We may have big dreams of being catalysts of changes (that look like "going back"), but the most transformative changes will use our past and present strengths. Simplifying today may look like less time on Facebook and more time playing "TV-tag".
Yes, I'm tired, but in a good way. I know all of the reading and analyzing and thinking and debating was worth it - it's all part of me. But I'm more ready than ever to think a lot less about everything and just BE. Right here, right now - with the people who mean most to me.
I've noticed we humans sometimes have a tendency to get stuck in "either/or" thinking. Thinking "either this or that" is very limiting. Children either eat healthy or they eat crap. They are either respectful or out of control. Parents are either Authoritative (the "good kind" of parenting) or permissive. They are either involved or completely clueless.
These black and white thoughts are rarely true. And they don't lend themselves to thinking outside the box or creative problem solving - both useful skills.
One example that sticks out for me is the dichotomy that people like to put on "screen time" and playing outside. "Kids shouldn't be watching so much TV because they should be outside playing!"
Recently we were outside playing with all our neighborhood friends. I saw that a bunch were all huddled around my daughter, sitting cozily on a blanket under a tree. Most of the other moms were across the park chatting. I smiled inwardly. I knew that the kids were watching something on my iPhone. When we all converged we all laughed because the other moms thought that they were all coloring and getting along so well.
Last summer Marisol and I watched a movie after dark out in the park. We brought our comforter out and cuddled under the stars. It was really nice. It was her idea and I resisted at first, but I was glad that I followed her lead. Embracing technology - TV, computers, laptops, iPhones and iPads, and every other gadget out there doesn't mean that kids need to miss out on Nature and the Great Outdoors. And when kids aren't limited they will combine them in wonderful, new ways that will surprise you.
That's right I said when kids are NOT limited at all. As in - no limits. I know most people are probably thinking, "What?!? Of course we need to limit "screen time" - all of the studies, scientists, Doctors, and parents say it."
Well, I'm getting kind of tired and I have a lot to say on this, so I'm going to try and give you a lot in as few words as possible.
First read this article called, Economics of Restricting TV Watching of Children by Pam Sorooshian. It is a must read. You just can't argue with the logic presented - if you want to keep a kid wanting something REALLY BADLY, then limit them. If, on the other hand, you are looking for healthy relationships - both with you and whatever it is that you are thinking of limiting (because this works for anything, TV, Candy, etc) - you might want to consider a different route.
Second, I get it - where you are coming from, I mean. I really do. I did a COMPLETE 180 on TV and screen time in the year leading up to Marisol's second birthday. The year I started reading about unschooling.
Before discovering unschooling, I had read a book about how dangerous television is to babies and toddlers and how it alters their brains (which it probably does... I'm just not convinced anymore of the "danger" that is involved). I was really careful about not letting Marisol and the little boy I took care of watch what I thought was too much.
Then I discovered these radical people that talked about not putting artificial limits on... well, on anything.
And you know what? It was kind of a relief. Because watching TV is something that Mike and I enjoy - and it's kind of hypocritical to tell the little people in our life that we can, but they can't.
But, I'm not saying it's always easy. It's tough letting go of ideas that have long been planted in your head. It's difficult when you're doing things differently from "everyone else". There's an awesome analogy here about how we all have different "balloons" that we hold onto. TV is one of my balloons. I'm just really good at pretending that I've let go - so good at pretending that my kids don't even know I'm holding onto it. They can watch what they want and when they want - and they usually do.
Of course there are times when we "need" to be somewhere - dance class, or the airport to pick grandma up, etc. Or there are times when we negotiate who is using the "Big" TV (Gerry has been getting the most use lately - 3 year olds seem to love their TV shows extra passionately! But we have iPhones, computers, and laptops too - so there are more than enough screens to go around!)
I will also say that there are times when I've felt guilty about how much they watch. There are two kinds of guilt - the kind that I listen to because it's telling me, "you and the kids are a little disconnected and you need to be more proactive", and then there is the kind that I should tell to go jump in a lake. That kind of guilt is from the little voice in my head that has been programmed to tell me that they need to stop, JUST BECAUSE.
In any case, the main way I deal with either kind of guilt (because I strongly believe that NOT limiting them is the best, most respectful and logical thing to do) is by reconnecting. Sometimes that means sitting and watching with them. Sometimes it means asking if they want to go outside with me, play a game together, or some other activity (while accepting that if they don't want to, that's ok!) Sometimes *I* just need to get busy myself - off the computer, and into something more active - there is always plenty to do around here (and often they will join in - because they like doing things with me)! Sometimes I bring them food because I know that they are needing a snack.
This is one decision that I am absolutely sure of, there are no doubts for me. First of all, I can see the benefits of them watching or interacting (if it's computer or some other type of game). The amount of enjoyment and LEARNING they get from "screen time" is immeasurable. (Marisol often says a math concept or word that I didn't even know she knew - thank you Cyber Chase!)
More importantly, I can see how vibrant, healthy, and active both of them are. They love to go outside, run with their friends, ride bikes, dig in the dirt, go swimming, catch fireflies, climb trees, and tons of other things. And they also love watching TV and playing computer games. I can look at them directly, without any fear, and see that they are whole and that our relationship is remaining intact because I respect the things they love and support choices they make.
I've also had the huge benefit of seeing how my daughter has grown and matured without having any limits placed on her. She LOVED her shows so much when she was smaller and watched a lot. She still watches a lot now too, but she easily decides when she would rather be outside or playing with a friend - and in fact now she prefers that our TV not be on when friends come over because she wants them to play with her, not watch TV! I had more doubts when she was little and would watch for hours, about whether we were making the right choice. I relied a lot on others' experiences and what they shared. (Read here for more reassurance). Now that Gerry is in a similar state of TV-infatuation, I feel confident that we are doing the right thing by respecting his love for Max and Ruby.
It's very rare that something has to be EITHER/OR. More often than not, it is so much better than "either/or" could ever be.
"Life has no meaning.
Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life.
It is a waste to be asking the question
when you are the answer."
Quite some time ago I read two articles that I rather enjoyed. But there was a line in each of them that jumped out at me. Here they are, in no particular order:
"But then, none of us have any idea what we’re doing" and "but anyone that implies that they have it figured out is either drunk or lying (or both), so don't be too hard on yourself."
Both articles are about parenting. Overall, I found both articles compelling in their own way (click on either quote to read them in full). I agreed with many points in each (although one was a little too "doomsday" for my personal taste). But I got to thinking, "Hey! I do have an idea of what I'm doing and I feel like I *have* figured some important things out! (and I don't think I'm drunk either). So I'm going to give it a shot and lay it all out here - everything that I've got figured out.
This is the #1 most important thing that I figured out - that NO ONE can give me "The Answers" to all the tough questions that come up in life and in parenting. I have to figure it out myself (with the help of some really important people - my husband and kids for instance!) This is a really tough lesson to learn in our culture. We are raised in a culture and a school system that puts a very high value on doing things the "right" way, and often there is only a very narrow definition of what that might be. For someone like me, who really excelled in this system, it is very difficult to let go of the idea that there isn't some "expert", system, or handbook "out there" that will lead to the promise-land of perfect parenting. I suspect that it's difficult for many people, not just the ones who excelled, because we've been conditioned to expect that there are "right answers" to all problems.
Once you realize that you are kind of "on your own" it's important to figure out some other BIG things. Like what is going to guide you. Peace was my first big guidepost. It was something that I sought and wanted to cultivate in my life. Right on Peace's heels came kindness, compassion, and love. Holding these three tight keeps Peace close by too.
So, I know that no one can give me the answers AND I know what values I want to permeate my life. Sounds pretty simple. But we all know that parenting isn't simple - if it was statements like those above wouldn't ring true for so many people. Some of you may shaking your heads now, thinking, "Man, I thought she was going to give me the ANSWER! She tricked me with that title!" It's true, I don't have the answer to how to make kids do what we want them to do, or to ensure that they grow up to be happy and successful. But I think that those "goals" are missing the mark, so stick around, I promise it's worth it.
With my #1 and my Big 3 + Peace in place, here's what I've got figured out:
1) That "I don't know" is a perfectly acceptable thing to say in almost any situation. (Just saying this alone often opens the door to new ideas and possibilities from multiple people. Believing we always have the right answer actually closes a lot of opportunities for growth, new ideas, and input from others down.)
2) That if I don't know what to do, then WAITING is a perfect thing to do.
3) That admitting that I was wrong is more than ok - it's healthy for my kids to hear and see that even their beloved mama isn't perfect. Then they know it's ok when they make mistakes too.
4) That my kids learn to apologize when I apologize to them.
5) That although Peace is what I strive for in my life, that doesn't mean my life will always be Peaceful - and that's ok too.
6) That learning, growing, and changing is part of life - whether you are a child or a "grown-up". (Being an adult doesn't mean we know everything. Actually, the best grown ups are the ones who are learning the most from the kids. Kids know all the good stuff - play, laugh, have fun learning!)
7) That changing your mind may actually be the most sensible thing to do. (Another thing that kids are really good at. My son can say "no" and 30 seconds later change his mind - no stigma attached to the decision at all.)
8) That the choppy waters are actually part of The Flow. It's better to put on my life preserver and ride it out than try to fight my way back upstream to the calmer waters - especially when there is a tranquil pool waiting for me just downstream if I would let go.
9) That my parenting path is actually about me, not my kids. So I better get my sh*t together to clear the way for them.
10) When everyone's freaking out and Peaceful is the LAST word you would use to describe the scene, taking deep breaths (sometimes with a mantra that involves loving words), admitting, "I don't know what to do" (while keeping everyone safe if that needs to be done), waiting for the most intense waves of emotions to pass through and over everyone, then reconnecting physically and by talking (when all parties are ready) is the best thing I can do.
Because we all know that no one is perfect. So why would a PARENT be any different? Stop holding yourself up to impossible expectations. Love who you are and know what your strengths are. Use them. Know what your weaknesses are too, so you can work on them, find other people to complement them, and you can communicate honestly about them. And stop blaming "the system" for what you're unhappy about. DO SOMETHING if you're not satisfied with the way things are. If you and your kids aren't feeling connected, find ways to fix it. No one can tell you what's the best way for your relationship.
That's it. My recipe for my life. I bet yours is a little different but that we share a lot of the same ingredients. Maybe mine has some vodka or sangria in it and tomorrow I'll wake up and realize that I really am drunk. ;-)
At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.
- Lao Tzu
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Attachment Parenting International Teleseminar
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Relaxation Meditation (audio) — Amy Phoenix — lifetime access!!
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Newbie’s Guide to Positive Parenting — Becky Eanes
The Newbie’s Guide to Positive Parenting is an introduction to the philosophy of positive parenting.
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Poetry of a Hobo Mama, The First Three Years — Lauren Wayne
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This mini-toolkit helps you recreate the whole family’s experience with food. No more fighting at dinnertime. No more forcing or bribing. No more worrying about your child’s ability to make good choices. You’ll have the tools necessary to begin to release control, lean into Trust, and make mealtime a joyful and fun experience. But it starts with your own relationship with food. It includes:
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This set includes the Dr. Marcy Audio Coaching Session "Speaking to Your Child's Subconscious" and companion eBooklet, A Unique 7-Step Parenting Tool: Sleep Talking.
Throughout my recent talks all over the world, what were SO many people interested in learning about? After hearing about the power of prenatal imprints, they wanted to know what parents could do when things didn't go so smoothly in pregnancy, birth or around conception. I make it clear that repair & healing are ALWAYS possible at ANY age, and mentioned an somewhat out-of-the-box approach I've developed over my years of coaching parents -- which includes talking to your child in his or her sleep.
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Guest Post: Laura Schuerwegen Author of Mommy Overwhelm, A Holistic Approach to Parental Stress and Depression
Today I'm really excited to feature Laura Schuerwgen of Authentic Parenting. One of my most popular posts was about strategies for feeling better when depressed. It is a topic that everyone can relate to. Modern mothers seem to be suffering from overwhelm and depression at unprecedented rates (and there are various theories for this - of course I have my own!) Theories matter little when you are in the midst of depression though. We need something that helps us get to a better place.
Laura is one of the authors featured in the Mindful Parenting eBundle Sale. I'm excited to delve into all the resources myself, but her book is the one that gave me the final push I needed to commit to buying. Here is her story on overcoming postpartum depression. All eBundle links in this post are my affiliate links.
When I got pregnant with my son, our second child, I experienced a constant emotional storm. From being down to depressed to overwhelmed. I know pregnancy should be seen as a last-minute catalyst to clear any issue you still have before the baby arrived, but I couldn't manage to get out of the negative spiral.
The birth of my son did not go as planned and he & I ended up in the hospital, which further depleted my mood. The experience left me unable to bond with him and shook up our entire family. Another move was the final drop and I found myself being constantly overwhelmed and incapable of dealing with the daily parenting issues.
I didn't know what was wrong, but I knew something had to change. I was not the parent I wanted for my children, not the kind of wife I wanted to be and, frankly, not the person I am supposed to be.
A friend online told me she thought I had a post natal depression and all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place.
This was something I could cure!
As an aspiring naturopath, I dug into my herbal and nutrition resources, I searched the internet high and low for help and I was able to cure this depression in just about two months.
I tentatively started writing about my depression on my blog and was amazed at the responses. I was shocked to see how many other parents were suffering the same pains and despair.
I wrote Mommy Overwhelm to offer a stepping stone for all parents who find themselves in this situation and are desperate to find a way to get out. The book will give you lots of resources to cure your depression and fight your stress. With a big variety of options, you are sure to find an approach that works for you.
Belgian born author and aspiring naturopath Laura Schuerwegen healed from a longstanding depression after the birth of her second child. She is an avid supporter of children’s rights and natural parenting practices and writes about these topics at Authentic Parenting.
For the past seven years, she has been living with her ever growing family in Sub-Saharan Africa. Connect with Laura on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.
Mommy Overwhelm is a step-stone guide for parents who want to overcome daily overwhelm, stress and depression. In this book, Laura draws from her own experience overcoming a longstanding depression to hand you the tools to heal. From strengthening foods and herbs to exercises and activities, this guide will kick-start your journey to happier, balanced parenting.
The Mindful Parenting eBundle Sale is the first opportunity to get your eyes on this new eBook! The eBook is 27 pages and valued at $2.99 by itself. The eBundle includes Mommy Overwhelm plus 21 other parenting resources!
Click on the picture to head over to read about all 22 resources in the Mindful Parenting eBundle. The sale is only going through tomorrow (June 10th) so don't wait any longer!
What is the biggest hurdle you had to overcome as a parent? Myself. There were my ideas of what good parenting looked like, and my idea of what a good child looked like, and my fears of what others will think. There was my guilt over the inevitable mistakes, and there was anxiety over "messing it up" or "running out of time" to make things "right". And then there was my own pride and the unwillingness to admit when something I love, believe in, and that makes up the fabric of my being and allows me to thrive was not in fact what worked for this unique individual before me.Click on this picture to learn more about Tara's resource and the 22 others in the Mindful Parenting eBundle.
What is the best parenting advice you've ever received?
Listen. Listen to him (but listen deeper than the words he uses). Listen to myself (and work to be aware of where my words and actions and reactions are coming from). Only by quieting what I think I know or think I hear and really listening deeper can I ever hope to meet both our needs in a way that respects each of us and our individual needs. It means slowing down. It means assuming I don't really know anything. It means not formulating my own response while he is talking, but really tuning in with the desire to understand this person.
What is the worst parenting advice you've ever received?
"He needs to know who is in charge." I interpreted that how many parents do - "I need to be in control." But what I see now is that while he does very much need to know I have it handled, and needs to trust me to meet his needs and care for us and keep things grounded and stable, that is very different from control. Finding that sweet spot between guidance and steadiness and someone he can trust, and respect, relationship, and trust for him is a daily practice.
If you could give just one piece of information to a parent, what would it be?
You don't know jack. ;) And as soon as you think you do, Life will up the ante on you. Cultivate the "beginner's mind" and be willing to always be taught or surprised, because you will be anyway.
What would you like your children to look back and remember about your parenting style?
I hope my son remembers how imperfect I am and sees and understands the love required to practice a constant putting aside of own's one ego and control to learn how to give and receive love better. Of everything I hope I'm doing right, I really have no guarantee how it will serve him in his own future, so I simply hope he learns that the point is a willingness to be open to what Life challenges him to learn.
What is the biggest challenge parents face these days?
The same as years past: our own willingness to learn how to love another individual for who they are and not who we want them to be. We can see this with a face of "internet dangers" or a costume of "sexuality" but it all comes down to the same thing - every experience in our lives together will stretch us to set aside our own reactions and connect deeply with the person in front of us in order to come together and seek the resolution or solution to Life's experiences.
What do you do personally to stay grounded and centered?
I practice Digging Deep. I meditate. I go for walks or to yoga. I listen to podcasts. I circle with others who are opening their hearts to awareness. I breathe. I take naps. I read. I observe and observe and observe. The more I can step back and observe the more I can step in and respond.
How do you approach interacting with families who make different parenting choices?
This has been an evolution for me. I use to avoid them, and surround myself with nearly identical families. And this was necessary for a time. But more and more I'm finding the desire to let go of the labels and the judgments and the assumptions, and work to meet people where they are. It goes back to that idea that I really don't know anything about anything. The longer I parent the humbler I become and the more I can meet myself and my own family and others with loving kindness and acceptance. And this has shown me to lead to the most wonderful connections in the most unforeseen ways.
This mini-toolkit helps you recreate the whole family’s experience with food. No more fighting at dinnertime. No more forcing or bribing. No more worrying about your child’s ability to make good choices. You’ll have the tools necessary to begin to release control, lean into Trust, and make mealtime a joyful and fun experience. But it starts with your own relationship with food. It includes:
Today we were outside and the kids were riding their bikes. (Marisol just learned to ride without training wheels yesterday! On my birthday - what a sweet present.) Anyways, Marisol was down by the basketball court which is a ways away from the playground. It rained on and off today and it had started sprinkling, so Gerry was running into the house. As mothers of multiple children often are, I was being pulled in more than one direction. I shouted to Gerry that I had to go get Marisol.
I walked towards the basketball court, not in any particular hurry because I knew Gerry was ok getting into the house. Marisol was starting to ride towards me by now and as she got closer I could see/hear that she was upset.
"Mommy, mommy! That nanny says that I can't ride on the basketball court because it is raining!" She gestured in the direction of a little boy and a woman who were hurriedly walking away.
I reassured Marisol that of course she could keep riding and that it wasn't up to the nanny. It only took me a few seconds to surmise what had happened. The nanny wanted to go home (it was probably lunch time for them anyways) and the rain was the perfect reason to get out of there. But the boy probably protested - especially since Marisol was still out there - and so she told him that Marisol had to go in too.
"She said you were calling me!" Marisol added. Hmmm besides calling to Gerry, I'm pretty sure I didn't. I explained to Marisol what I thought had happened and made sure she understood. I also told her that it's fine to be out in the rain - we wouldn't melt! I told her how I used to work out in the rain on the golf-course - in fact we weren't allowed to quit unless there was lightning! Rain-gear-it-up and keep on workin'!
But this whole incident made me think of all the little "white lies" adults tell kids all the time. Usually we think that they are harmless. But instead of being direct about matters - "It's time for us to eat lunch now" or "*I* don't like getting wet!" we make things up to convince kids that they have to do what we want. (Sometimes we don't even think we are making them up - maybe the only option in this nanny's eyes was getting out of the rain! But I enjoyed seeing my kids in their raincoats and using their cute umbrellas today. ;-)
Another scene flashed through my mind. I'm sitting with a good friend on her bed while our kids splash in her huge bathtub in the next room. The kids wanted something (more water? bubbles? a cup or toy?? I can't remember) and my friend very honestly said, "I don't want to get up, I'm feeling lazy!"
I remember thinking how refreshing that was! And I try to do that with my kids too. Of course I try to meet their needs and help them most of the time - but I'm also getting better at saying, "I'm tired" or "I want to do this first" or "I *don't* want to do that" too. Sometimes I still end up doing things. Sometimes they wait. Sometimes we compromise. But I find that the honesty is really essential in our relationship. And the older kids get and the more you are respectful of their desires, the more able they are to be respectful of yours. (Gerry still has a ways to go in this regard, but I know he'll get there! Marisol amazes me all the time with her empathy.)
Today is my birthday. Since becoming a mother myself, the meaning of my birthday has shifted significantly. Instead of being just about *me* it is as much about my mother - What she went through to bring me into the world - How her world shifted that day - and, How my birth marked the start of her journey as a mother.
My heart has been achy lately. It feels bruised. And strangely enough it's a good feeling - like the bitter-sweetness of dark chocolate. Looking at my kids and seeing all the ways they are growing and changing every day is an incredible experience. Love flares and spreads like wild fire through my body, electrifying my muscles with energy that can hardly be contained. And I imagine that my mom feels that for me, and it is a little strange to think about.
It's a tricky business navigating this parenting gig. And mostly we can figure it out on our own. But sometimes it is helpful to find guides - people that have already been down a path we are just starting out on, or dare devils - people who like to seek thrills and try new things before the rest of us - or poets - people who can put into words what most of only feel in our bones.
I've often thought how silly it seems that we have extensive courses helping women learn about "natural" childbirth - I mean wouldn't that confuse a woman from a tribal culture? Why do we need hours and hours of classes to learn about something that our bodies are made to do? The answer, of course, is that we have become disconnected.
The same is true about parenting. Ideally, we don't need books or classes to help us be our best selves and parents. But the world we live in is not ideal. It's busy and stressful; it's the age of over-information and super-speedy convenience; it's hyper-connected and disconnected all at once.
So yes, we can figure things out on our own. But I know from personal experience that sometimes we can get where we want to be a little faster and with a little more ease if we accept help or wisdom in some form. What we don't need is "experts". No, we need loving, compassionate, imperfect humans to share with us their experiences and what has worked for them. This is the way we can help each other.
I've been advertising this eBundle sale pretty hard-core this past week. Some of you may be sick of hearing about it, and if that's the case you can just stop reading now. But I jumped on board with this because I believe fully in what all of these amazing women are about. I've been following many of them for a long time now, so I know where their hearts are and what their intentions are. And they line up perfectly with mine. I've seen in my own life that when I give myself permission to show that I value myself, my children and husband, and our relationships, by spending money on a product that excites or intrigues me, I am never disappointed. I always learn and grow; our lives always benefit.
This blog post is my birthday gift to myself. I'd love for you to check out the resources in the Mindful Parenting eBundle and share it with others. Consider it a gift to me. There is so much soul-soothing, heart-warming, practical wisdom in these resources. Give yourself and your family a gift today. As the man trying to sell Mike and I that Honda Pilot years ago said (over and over), "You deserve it." :-)
This is a guest post written by Teresa Graham Brett of Parenting for Social Change. Teresa's words are powerful and, as warning, possibly triggering, as they force us to look at what love really is and if we truly received love in our own homes. It can be very difficult for people to face these questions head on and be very truthful with themselves. But although the process may be painful, the rewards are great for those willing to consider these ideas. The message of Self Love is again a common thread in her message. I've been following Teresa for over a year now and absolutely love and resonate with her message. Please take a deep breath, center yourself, and read her transformative essay, "I Never Learned How to Love Children".
I Never Learned How to Love Children
In her book, All About Love: New Visions, bell hooks wrote this paragraph that has stayed with me for some time. I've written about it before, but for some reason I was drawn back to want to write about it again.
The first time I wrote something, I merely touched the surface of my feelings and the way it challenged me. This time, I finally got to the core of some truth, even if it took me a while to get there.
An overwhelming majority of us come from dysfunctional families in which we were taught we were not okay, where we were shamed, verbally and/or physically abused, and emotionally neglected even as we were also taught to believe that we were loved. For most folks it is just too threatening to embrace a definition of love that would no longer enable us to see love as present in our families. Too many of us cling to a notion of love that either makes abuse acceptable or at least makes it seem that whatever happened was not that bad. ~bell hooks
I've read this portion of the book many, many times.
And I struggle even now with it.
Even as I wrote this, I kept typing and deleting as I desperately tried to find the words to express my thoughts and feelings, thoughts and feelings that need to come to the surface.
I took a break from trying to write and washed some dishes. I cooked a bit and noticed the ways I was feeling annoyed and short-tempered with my family. It was still sitting with me.
But then the truth hit me in a flash. It brings tears to my eyes as I write it.
The truth is I know very little about loving children.
And here's why...
I never learned how to love children without control.
I never learned how to love children without conditions.
I never learned how to love children and not make them responsible for my happiness.
I never learned how to love children without expecting them to "do better next time."
I never learned how to love children for just being who they are, not for what they do.
I never learned how to love children without wanting to change something about them.
As both a child and now as a parent. I have to admit that the ways that I learned about loving children were distorted by power, control, and fear. The same things that influence our broader culture are reflected in our homes, the homes where we are supposed to learn what love is.
Until we live in a culture that not only respects but also upholds basic civil rights for children, most children will not know love. Love is as love does, and it is our responsibility to give children love. When we love children we acknowledge by our every action that they are not property, that they have rights--that we respect and uphold their rights. Without justice there can be no love. ~bell hooks
I have come to realize that because I did not learn how to love children, I struggle with acknowledging by my every action their fundamental human rights.
I could beat myself up for not being the parent I want to be, for falling short of this ideal vision of what it means to love.
And I have certainly done this.
I have been in a place of feeling shame or guilt for treating the children in my life less than lovingly, for abusing their trust and treating them with disrespect. And when I've been in that place, too often I get stuck.
Instead, I can be responsible for facing the internal barriers I have to being loving and decide that I have the capacity to transform my relationships with the children in my life.
And in the process of learning a new vision of love, I have to learn how to love myself.
Because we did not receive in childhood the unconditional love we needed, we have to learn how to give it to ourselves.
The process of acknowledging in our every action the right of children to be treated with respect and dignity cannot come if we do not treat ourselves the same way.
Like many people, I turned the way I was treated as a child inward and learned "lessons" about myself that I carried into adulthood and parenthood.
I learned that I must use power and control internally, with myself, in order to get the results I think I should have.
I learned that I couldn't love myself without conditions.
I learned that happiness had to found outside of me.
I learned that I always had to expect myself to "do better next time," that whatever I did just wasn't quite enough.
I learned that I couldn't love myself for just being me; and, the measure of my worth comes from what I do.
These are all lessons that I am unlearning.
As we all unlearn the lessons we took in during childhood, we have to learn new ways of loving children AND loving ourselves.
We all need to rid ourselves of misguided notions about self-love. We need to stop fearfully equating it with self-centeredness and selfishness. Self-love is the foundation of our loving practice. Without it, our other efforts to love fail. Giving ourselves love we provide our inner being with the opportunity to have the unconditional love we may have always longed to receive from someone else…. When we give this precious gift to ourselves, we are able to reach out to others from a place of fulfillment and not from a place of lack. ~bell hooks
We have the capacity to face our fears and liberate ourselves from what we learned in the past.
Writing my truth today frees me to acknowledge where I have come and forge a new path. It helps me to connect to the ways I already have learned to be loving.
And most of all, when I act less than loving to the children who share my life, it allows me to be responsible for my actions, and still give myself the unconditional love that will increase my capacity to love others in direct proportion to the love I give myself.
Teresa's book Parenting for Social Change is included in the Mindful Parenting eBundle sale (click this link to see more information on the other resources included!). Her book alone normally sells for between $8-$15, and is included in this bundle with 21 other resources for only $24.95!
The sale is only through June 10th, so take advantage of it while it lasts!
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.