A huge part of my parenting journey has been realizing that my children are their own people, very much separate from me. I recently discovered Teresa Graham Brett and Parenting for Social Change, and she even tries not to use "my" when referring to her children. As much as possible she calls them by name or refers to them as the children in her life, etc. It probably sounds strange to many or extreme but I understand and respect why she is doing it. It is a powerful reminder that the children that we are lucky enough to parent are *not us*. They will not make the same choices as us, or have the same beliefs as us, or see the world the same way as we do all the time. And that is ok, actually even better than ok, that is a wonderful truth that contributes the beautiful diversity of our world.
The word "proud" has also been on my radar lately for similar reasons. When we say we are proud of someone, including our kids, it is making their accomplishments or characteristics about us and how we are feeling rather than them. They *made* us "proud" by something they did or said.
I'm not sure I'm explaining this well and am having a hard time putting it into words. Telling our kids that we are proud of them is similar to a reward, taking away from the intrinsic value and motivation they have that naturally comes from doing things that feel right and good. It takes the ownership and focus off of them and shifts it towards us, even if in a slight and seemingly insignificant way.
Now, to be clear I'm not saying that I never feel that feeling that wells up inside of us when we see our children do something loving for someone else, or when they master a new skill, or any other awesome act we witness in the children in our lives - not at all! And of course we want to let them know that we are feeling a very powerful, positive emotion when we see these things happen. We want to connect and to let them know that we *see* them. But I do believe that it is good to examine our own motives and the words we use to describe our feelings so our children can own their experiences.
So with that in mind I have thought of at least three new ways to tell Marisol (and Gerry) how I feel when I see them growing into such beautiful people... I feel impressed, inspired, and most of all In love.
Can you think of other ways to describe that feeling we normally think of as "proud"?
Today I started to feel overwhelmed by all the "things" I want to get "done". We are heading up to Rochester for Thanksgiving and we are all very excited about the trip and being with our family. Between preparations for the trip and then Christmas coming soon after that I start to feel like my head is going to spin off. I get stressed and grumpy and can be unpleasant to be around (which happens every year and is ironic because I love this time of year)! So I took a deep breath and reminded myself what's really important. Maybe I won't remember everything that I want to for our road-trip, but it will be fine. And a thought entered my head that really helped, "Time is an illusion". Really all there is, is right now and what we choose to do with it. We feel like we don't have "enough" time, but there is no such thing! If something is important to us we will get it done, it just might not be right this instant. When I can remember this I feel much calmer and can decide what I need or want to do in this exact moment. It's not something I've always been good at - there have been so many times that I felt like I was running around trying to get 50 things done at one time and making little progress on any of them. But I'm getting better at it. It helps make me a better mom, wife, and person.
It's what all those cheesy sayings about living in the present are about. But they are *true*. We really *don't* know what tomorrow is going to bring so we need to make the most of every moment we have here and with our loved ones.
I've found letting go of this illusion of "not having enough time" is very freeing and empowering. It helps clear my mind and make better decisions, even if that decision is to lie down on the couch and cuddle with my daughter while she watches a show. Because sometimes that is what we both need at that moment, even when the to-do lost is a mile long.
The second illusion, which I can't do justice to in this brief post, is control. I've been thinking about this for years now - especially in regards to parenting and all relationships. Really and truly there is very little, almost *nothing*, we can control - except ourselves. Our thoughts, our reactions, our behaviors - you get the idea. I know it's kind of obvious, and I'm finding that a lot of my thoughts seem kind of like, "duh!" lately. However, even though they are simple they are not always easy to live out, which can cause unecessary unhappiness and conflict.
I love Tara Wagner, aka The Organic Sister. Check out her website here: The Organic Sister. I joined her Organic Tribe and have been loving the calls twice a month. On our last call she talked about what she calls the Algebra of Life. It was basically the same thing - we can only control ourselves and what we put in. And *that* will determine what we get out of it.
Reminds me of another one of my favorite quotes: "Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how
you respond to it." Lou Holtz
So as we enter this holiday season, which can be fun, overwhelming, busy, stressful, inspiring, tiring, exhilarating, exhausting, depressing, uplifting, and many other things... I am going to try and remember that time and control are illusions. When holiday cards, shopping, cooking or cleaning threaten to cloud my brain into a stupor I will try to take a deep breath and be present.
I'm also checking out this free gift from a fellow Hypnobabies instructor. Janet Field is a hypnotherapist and she created these hypnosis tracks to help people have a calm, peaceful holiday season. Sounds wonderful to me!
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!
So Weebly misses me. How do I know? Because they sent me an email and everything! Here's the start of it:
It's been 6 days, 1 hour, 30 minutes and 39 seconds since you last logged in, and we're starting to get really
We were just getting to know each other. You created 1 site, 6 pages, dragged on 30 elements, and then...
I feel so loved :-)
Anyways, it's not for lack of ideas that I haven't been writing. No, my brain pretty much goes non-stop. Even though I'm getting better at just "being" in the moment and not thinking *quite* as much. But really that is just it - I'm trying to be with the kids and actually *do* more for them and myself. I feel like I finally have a grasp on what is really, truly important in my life and what values I want to guide me, so I'm ready to LIVE!
It's pretty remarkable really, I feel like I've been kind of hibernating or cacooning for a long time - I have been READING so much for the past 4 years. Sometimes it would feel overwhelming or tiring or... a lot of other things. And don't get me wrong - I was living for the past 4 years - they were absolutely awesome. But I had a lot of internal growth and struggles going on that took a lot of energy. (A huge factor of course in my mental clarity and energy level, of course has to do with our kiddos getting bigger. I realize this... and yet, I do feel it is more than just that.)
So my biggest goal is to really *be* with my kids and also to start doing more things for us and myself - get back into some kind of exercise routine, trying to cook more and get a healthier food trend going around here.
So now my problem has shifted - from thinking and reading too much, to wanting to do too much in one day! Seriously, I feel like the possibilities are quite endless. Which is good - I'm not bored, I'm not feeling apathetic or uninspired. *But* since my first priority is the kids I am figuring out how to balance things. How to be there for them and support them and also do things that feed my spirit. Today was actually pretty good. Marisol is on a "Zula Patrol" kick which she watches on the computer. It is full of math concepts! So the past couple of days I have sat and watched a few episodes with her, then made a game up with her inspired by the show, made sure she had food throughout the day, all the while doing some house tending, playing with Gerry (he's been asking for books the past couple of days, it's a new fun thing!), organizing, and today I broke out the dumbells and did some stretching and exercises. Then we made it outside for the last hour of daylight and the kids ran around with their neighborhood friends. It was the kind of day that doesn't look like much, but the moments all added up to something quite satisfying for me. Even the grumpy moments - because Marisol not only noticed mine, but apologized for hers.
I'm kicking it up a notch. Trying to live by the Nike slogan. Enough thinking - now -> JUST DO IT! So I will be posting here because I am still so excited about "Together Walking" it will just not be an every day kind of thing... ok Weebly? ;-)
There have been few other things in my life that make feel like I'm just barely hanging on or getting by like parenthood! It's a wild ride. One moment I'm high on life and feeling like super-woman and the next I've crashed and have that feeling of just clinging to a ledge of... sanity? order? by my fingernails. I've come to appreciate it is just kind of how life feels right now and to not judge it as a bad thing. It's also why I am feeling more and more that staying really present in the moment is the only way to be. That and keeping a "big-picture" perspective make it less overwhelming.
Even so, it's tempting not to look forward to the next big thing, the next high, next vacation - which for me usually means family time. In two and a half weeks we are making the trek to Rochester for Thanksgiving and I know it will be here in a flash. So till then we are trying to keep on living, loving, and learning together. I have a lot of ideas swirling that are potential posts, but I'm trying to be patient and realize that time for that will present itself without me pushing or stressing about it. The kids and rest for me are my priorities at the moment.
Something that is becoming very clear to me is that when I am worried about others judging me I am often judging them! An easy example is church. Children's behavior at church is often challenging - being quiet and still are not high on most children's agendas! I am constantly pushed out of my comfort zone when we attend mass with Marisol and Gerry. What behavior is acceptable and what is not? When do we take them out and when is it ok for them to stay? Marisol was twirling this past week towards the end of mass. We were in the back area of our parish, not actually in the sanctuary. She wasn't being loud. But I was still uncomfortable. She is 5 - is that too old for that kind of behavior? Should we have tried to re-direct her? Mike was fine with what she was doing. Right before we went up for communion I saw a little boy starting to imitate Marisol - he was clearly younger, maybe 3 years old. His mom gave him a stern look and beckoned him to come to her. Oh boy I thought, here we go being the "bad influences" or the "permissive parents". I "knew" she was thinking we should have stopped Marisol or some other thing. Meanwhile, I'm thinking, "She's not bothering anyone and neither is your son, what's the big deal?" Whoops! So quickly we go from judged to judging!
I have struggled over the years with the idea of "judging". For a long time I thought we should NOT judge others ever. For one, you never know what another person is experiencing, what their past has been like etc. I felt like, "You don't judge me, and I won't judge you". Then I got to a point where I felt like ALL people judge, it is part of being human, but it is how you express or don't express the judgment that is important. An easy example of this for me is in regards to benign things like picking a baby's name. Everyone's opinion of what is a "good" name is different - but that doesn't mean you have to share with your best friend that you think the name they picked out is awful! Ok, well that may be more of an opinion than a judgement (are they different?) but you get the idea. It's kind of like, "Go ahead judge me, and I'll judge you, let's just keep it to ourselves!" Kind of a "be nice" ideal.
So where do I stand now? Somewhere in between I guess. As I stated in my "Obligatory Disclaimer" I do believe there are better and worse choices in life. Who can argue with that? And by choosing what we feel is best we *are* making a judgement. However, I also feel like it is very important to be very careful of "judging" people in specific circumstances, especially people we may see out and about but whom we know very little about (ie at church, the grocery store, the playground). Who knows what that person has been through or what they are struggling with in that moment? I love this story of this woman moving from judgement to compassion and how it totally changed the situation. That is what I am striving for. And one of the best ways I can do that is by not judging myself too harshly, by living by my own principles the best I can, by being forgiving of myself and others, and by treating every situation with compassion and an open heart. It feels kinder and more authentic than either of my previous stances. Not easy to achieve but I'm trying!
Part of my hesitation in sharing my family's choices is that I do NOT desire to hurt others in any way. Especially my closest family and friends. But because many of our choices fly right in the face on "conventional wisdom", there is often a very natural defensive response in others. This includes my own parents. My mother is one of the most supportive, loving people I know and actually was the first to suggest to me that I should think about homeschooling. My initial response when she said that was, "What?? That's crazy, we are a FAMILY of public school teachers... school was good enough for me... I believe in public education..." etc. etc. Kind of ironic and funny to look back on now. My mom and I talk EVERY day. Really, it is rare that we miss a day. She has loved and supported me, my husband, and our children through our journey that has included unconventional decisions regarding sleep, food, TV watching, going outside, having playdates and many other things. Even when she has doubts, even when she saw me exhausted and discouraged, and her grandchildren making choices she wasn't sure of, she was always a safe place for me to explore new ideas, express myself, and talk through challenges. Even though she was the one to initially to voice the idea of homeschooling, when I began to explore the idea of Unschooling, it was new to her. My dad definitely does not agree with me on all parenting issues (discipline and homeschooling come to mind) but he continues to love and support us fiercely. I know that it can be difficult for them sometimes to see choices we are making and not feel like it is a direct judgement of choices they made for my sister and I as they parented us.
This is true for anyone facing a new idea or way of doing things. BUT we also have choices about how we react. Will we take a new idea as an attack on ourselves? Will we dismiss the new idea without really exloring it? Or can we look at the idea, really look, without taking offense and fighting back. Then after examination we are free to choose - choose what makes sense or might work for us. Free to strengthen our own convictions or do more research. Free to ask questions or share our own experiences from a place of love.
It's not easy. I know because *I* am defensive and feel the need to defend *my* choices. So I'm trying to move beyond that and hope to have people join me in walking on that journey.
I get daily inspiration here. This particular post explains a little why things have become simpler and easier for me. I have found "how I want to be" - the big ideas or principles that I hope guide my family daily are Peace and Learning. In my opinion these are best attained through partnership. So that is my starting point. Not every person's or family's starting point will be the same as mine/ours. But I hope that by sharing a different perspective more people can begin to clarify for themselves what is truly important in their lives. That is my intention - to share - not judge, to inspire - not disparage. Hopefully I will be successful at least some of the time and get better at it too!
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.