Posts tagged ‘family’

December 13, 2011

The Gift of Nurture

This week’s gift is one that I know all of you amazing mamma’s out there give to others- generously, beautifully, wonderously- every single day of your existence. You are the goddesses of nurture. Holding your families in nearly every thought with love, concern, appreciation and understanding. Or at least that’s your intention and your touchstone- what you come back to even when life feels hectic, out of control, too much ….. and well, normal.

Nurture is also what we do. Giving hugs. Making meals. Showing our kids how- when they want to try something new or do what we can do. Patching up boo-boo’s with compassion, validation and a kiss. And being present with their heartaches… also, with compassion and validation. And knowing when a hug or a kiss won’t be helpful.

But we often do not nurture ourselves. We forget to do the things that make us feel loved and supported. We don’t keep ourselves in our loving, appreciative, understanding thoughts. Sure it feels wonderful to have someone else nurture you in some way- making a favorite meal, providing you with a clean bathtub and a warm towel, giving you a hug after you slip in the dog slobber on the tile floor and land hard- but we can provide ourselves with the same. (Okay, maybe not a hug, but a chance to rest or that hot bath after the last one…)

I challenge you to come up with a list of 3 ways you can nurture yourself this week, starting now. I have a friend who has filled a jar with pomegranate seeds, to be treasured at will. I like to do yoga or meditate outside. Or go to a beautiful natural spot and just breathe in the beauty. Take a walk, or a run. Just be alone. Nap. Borrow any of these, come up with your own and report back in the comments! For bonus points, tell me what you’ve appreciated about yourself today.

Know someone who could use the gift of nurture? Share the love using the links below….

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November 21, 2011

I Refuse to Survive the Holidays

Every year around this time I start noticing the magazine articles, tv talk show blurbs, and even blog posts about “how to survive the holidays”. While I know these can be incredibly helpful when you don’t know how to deal with your rude Aunt Marge or have backed yourself into a corner by saying yes to every event invitation that comes your way- complete with requisite cooking and gifting tasks (“gifts must be handmade” says the invite- oh yes, that sounds cool- until you realize you need to not only figure out what you can make, but actually make it, by next week.)…. this year every one of these tips has me both laughing and groaning. Putting “the holidays” and “survival” in the same sentence brings up images of harried women on a remote island, trying to forage and craft a “lovely traditional holiday” while competing in immunity challenges and plotting votes to exile their tribe sisters. The idea of “surviving” the upcoming holidays just seems equally absurd to me.

I have survived the holidays. Worn out, sick, grumpy and making up ugly holiday stories about how I can never do enough and my efforts are always thwarted or aren’t appreciated. No more. I plan to CELEBRATE! I will grab hold of joy and wave it boldly through the streets. I will appreciate everything around me and be delighted. Small things. Big things. Giving in delight and doing what is fun. Survive the holidays? No thanks. I think I’ll have fun and celebrate instead.

How? By refusing to do things that don’t feel good and running with what does. I’ve ordered Thanksgiving dinner. On Black Friday, I might go out – not to shop- but to observe the absurdity of it all and smile at everyone I see. Funnier than reality tv. My kids and I will snip paper snowflakes and cover things in glitter. It will be ephemeral and euphoric (or not ;-D, then I’ll stop). Impromptu holiday movie parties, with appropriately themed snacks featuring the 4 food groups- candy, candy canes, candy corn and syrup. Because it’s fun. I’ll plan a day to wrap gifts, because I love creating beautiful packages, complete with holiday chick flicks. I will take my daughter to do her holiday shopping- she’s so excited to do it. Perhaps we’ll make a day of it. And that’s probably it. No pressure. No obligations. No trying to be Martha Stewart or Mrs. S. Claus or June Cleaver or Molly Weasley (I mean, the woman has a wand. No muggle should even attempt that one!) Likely I’ll strike several of these things from the list. And I’ll do it gleefully. And joyously. And while singing out whatever tune strikes my fancy… whether it’s Deck the Halls, Caught in a Mosh or Blah, Blah, Blah. Because I’m celebrating…. life and love and light and everything. And celebrating feels good. If not, it’s not celebration.

So, what about you? How will you ditch survival and celebrate?

Lesley

ps. Somehow I feel like I’m missing out on that whole plotting thing…. but hey, I bet I can find some kind of joyous plotting to do…. hmmm….

February 4, 2011

Immersed in life…

I suppose one could say that I’ve been neglecting my blogging duties, however what has been happening here is life.  Nothing more, nothing less. My word of the year is immerse, and as much as I enjoy spending hours writing, editing and posting (and writing, and writing, and writing some more) for the past few weeks I’ve been immersed in living.  Big, beautiful, satisfying, delicious life.  I’ve been snuggling with my kids, helping them figure out games, reading to them, and having all kinds of interesting discussions.  I’ve been spending whatever time I can with my husband- between our jobs time together has been limited, and we’re connecting more knowing that once he is settled in his new job he will be less preoccupied with work while at home.  I’ve been working.  I’ve been gardening- enjoying the feeling of being rooted to the earth with open skies above me.  I’ve been cooking and experimenting with my own recipes for vegetables and daydreaming about how I’ll use the ones from my gardens this summer.  And I’ve been coaching, being endlessly inspired by the amazing people my clients and friends are- and in awe of how universal our struggles are and how perfectly the work we’re all doing meshes together to create this tapestry that is living and being human. 

Life is full, and I’m soaking it in.  Today, as it’s very chilly and wet, I’ll build a fire that my family can gather around.   We’ll have pizza and smores- or roast hot dogs over the fire.  My girls will jump on the mini-trampoline I brought down from the attic this morning.  We’ll read some stories, watch something on the tv (who knows? something from the dvr, or a movie, or someone will play a Lego game or Ocarina of Time).  I’ll snuggle up with my nearly 11yo and we’ll hang out and talk and perhaps we’ll be spurred on to new adventures- as the old new adventures seem to have lost their appeal.  Perhaps we’ll study Japanese together and laugh at our attempts to speak it correctly.  Or string together nonsense sentences of words we learn because they’re fun to put together.

In other words, we’ll be living. 

Enjoy your weekend, everyone.  I know I will.

Lesley

January 21, 2011

Illusions

I’m recycling an old post of mine from an email list this week- edited slightly to make some kind of  sense separate from the conversation.  I’m just tired and decided that rest is my priority at the moment.  And I sort of like this piece of writing.  My apologies if you’ve seen it before, and many thanks to anyone I was paraphrasing in the original (much much love to my shiny peeps!).  Have a lovely, restful, joyful, wonderful week everyone!

For years I have been trying to find the way to truly feel and embrace and embody the kind of parent I have wanted to be.  But knowing something and living it are two very different things.  I struggled, I strived, I read, I thought- and I think I know what was missing through all of it.  *I* was missing.  I think a lot of Moms who are drawn to gentle, connected parenting are those who are “pleasers” by nature or circumstance.  We want everyone in our lives, particularly those we love, to be happy.  We want to support their happiness, we want to help fulfill their needs, but we forget that we also have needs and desires and sometimes want support for our own happiness. 

 In the mainstream this so often turns into a rigid “I need to have my needs met, to hell with yours” (and I have seen this approach taken on by parents who began with the intention to be kind, gentle, loving and connected and then burnt out because they’ve ignored their own needs for so long).  This is often aimed at children, particularly infants, but it permeates interactions with everyone in their lives.  I think for those of us who have chose NOT to take that route, it so often results in carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders.  Often this leads to a sort of under the radar blaming energy- the martyr role- which creates a repeating cycle.

 It really was only in the past few years that I realized that it is not my job, or purpose in life, to make the people I love happy.  As it’s quite literally impossible to MAKE someone happy- happiness is entirely an inside job.  This puts pressure on everyone.  (if my job is to make you happy, your job is to be happy, NOW DO YOUR JOB!) Then it becomes a blame/guilt/shame cycle.  I have finally learned that to support and uplift and be there for those I love does not mean “make them happy”- and I think many moms in this cycle misinterpret the idea of connected, supportive parenting in this way. 

 To support and uplift and be there for those I love means I create a foundation.  I am strong and clear and loving and kind.  And to do that, I need to make sure MY needs are met.  Back to what I said before- this does not mean “I have needs, screw yours”- it means that to be of any use to anyone, to be able to serve our children and the world in the best way we can (which does not mean “making them happy”) we need to be well cared for- and we need to do this ourselves. 

 We need to be happy and be gentle with ourselves, get enough sleep and physical activity and nourishment (both the physical and dare I say “spiritual” kind).  We need to nurture our own connection to our wise selves- not to the exclusion of others, but to the benefit of others.  The love we send out to the world is diminished if we are not already saturated in it ourselves- self-love, self-care.  It’s like the concrete that creates a strong foundation for a building- it allows us to then support and uplift those we choose to carry with us. 

 Maybe those of us who are strongly left brained are more prone to this – not automatically connecting these things, because they exist in the more feeling realm? (I consider myself strongly integrated brain-wise- but usually my initial processing, my default processing is left brained- logical and linear)  We carry the weight (sometimes quite literally- or at least in my case- and I think there’s a huge connection between these revelations and the healing path I am on now- I am both literally and figuratively letting go of the weight that’s holding me down *updated note- I did begin a personal wellness journal blog this week, which can be found here)- and it’s not something you can learn, I think, from a “thinking place”- it’s a “feeling place” thing. 

 And it does come down to honoring and accepting, recognizing and feeling what you are feeling- walking away from those mental constructs we create because we’re so AFRAID of what those feelings might do to us- that they might be too much.  I used to think I was flawed because I couldn’t just “get over it”.  And that’s pretty much the opposite of validation.  Not validating our own feelings makes it awfully challenging, if not impossible to validate anyone else’s.  And when you’re busy trying to “get over it” the kids’ joy and silliness can’t even reach you- the self-invalidation is like an invisible wall- like an awful version of casting a “protego” charm around yourself and living inside it- separated from everyone and everything else by an invisible force field.  Sure, nothing can hurt you, but nothing can touch you either. 

 I’ve known for a while I was one of those people- one of the “try-ers”- but have been at a loss how to get out from under that cloud, that weight, the burden of Atlas- which is something like “Hey, I’m barely avoiding being crushed over here- I’m okay with it, really- I’m smiling- but please don’t be unhappy because then this will actually crush me as I try to help you”.  I’ve had to make a significant investment in myself- to heal, to trust, to rest, to feel.  And hey, it turns out that the world I was carrying around- it was a movie prop- an illusion- it was pretty darned heavy, but I was never actually in danger of being crushed- just seemed that way.

p.s. can you find the teenager in the photo? 

January 5, 2011

Immerse: to engage wholly or deeply, to devote (oneself) fully

One of my intentions this year is to post weekly to this blog.  To support this intention I’m joining in the WordPress Post a Week 2001 challenge.  I’m taking this as an opportunity to more fully practice imperfection as well as to, of course, immerse myself in this process.

From the depths,

Lesley

I want to more fully define this term and what it means here.  The title above is not a strict definition.  It’s cobbled together from several I found online, as well as from my own thoughts- as is everything that follows.  Immerse is my word of the year for 2011, (link) and it has become a key element in the focus of my work (yep, there it is in the tagline).  Right now I’m completely in love with this word and it’s implications in living a life without limits, a life where I am here and completely devoted to being present, digging in, and bringing my whole self to my actions.  It makes my heart beat faster and I start smiling uncontrollably when I think about it.

 On one level, immersion is about throwing myself completely into whatever I’m doing in the moment- whether that’s writing, playing with my children, eating dinner or taking a nap.  It’s like presence and mindfulness, but in a very physical way.  Being immersed is very difficult when you’re up in your mind thinking about being mindful.  Being immersed engages all the senses and opens up a 360° awareness of what is around you. 

 But to immerse does not simply mean this.  I’m a bit of a word geek- so as I was looking up the definition I was curious about it’s history.  It comes from middle english meaning “embedded deeply” coming from latin roots that mean something like “to merge into”.  To immerse, for me, means to merge into the life you are creating for yourself.   It also means merging your *self* back into your life.  A few years ago I was living my life simply going through the motions.  I was physically there and in action- but my *self* was elsewhere.  I’ve rejoined my life, but I’ve learned how it becomes easy to simply being functioning on auto-pilot and allowing the delicious parts of life to drift away.  Immersion is the act of reuniting the self into a whole and remaining whole.  Being deeply and fully involved in your life in every way.

 Immerse means to surround yourself completely in your hopes, dreams, ideas and the actions you are taking to bring them to life.  You can do this within your work, your art, your family, your relationships.  You can also do this within your self; making sure that you have everything you need to be fully present.  This means delicious, nourishing food, joyful movement, deep rest, creative expression, uplifting connection with others and quiet insightful time for connecting with yourself. 

 Immerse: to engage wholly or deeply, to devote yourself fully.  Today I am choosing to immerse myself in my family, my work, my creativity, and in my well-being.  There is joy in simply devoting yourself fully and engaging deeply.  Where will you immerse yourself?

December 3, 2010

Joy: the most important ingredient

This week I’d like to send you over to my friend Scott Noelle’s website to read his Thanksgiving message (then come back!).  It was particularly timely for me last week, as I spent a part of Thanksgiving day feeling anything but thankful.  My 10yo was screaming, my 6yo was attempting to create havoc in response, my 15yo walked in and began making snarky commentary, my dh was cleaning violently, and I was thinking (among other things that I’d rather not mention) that I’d be lucky to ever get around to cooking the meal that I didn’t really want to cook in the first place.  Glad I didn’t invite you to dinner?  Indeed, life here is not always sunshine, unicorns and rainbows.  However, by the end of the day all was well.  We had a pretty nice Thanksgiving.  I hope those of you who celebrated Thanksgiving had one that was just as nice, though perhaps with a bit less drama.

 Here in the U.S., we’ve officially kicked off the winter holiday season.  Some people enjoy this time, others don’t, but it seems to me that being overstressed, overbooked, overindulged and overwhelmed from late November into the New Year is almost a cliché.  We have fond memories of holidays past when we were happy and relaxed, joyfully anticipating visiting with people we love, eating delicious foods, giving and receiving surprises from one another.  Then we do everything we can to try to recreate these past experiences.  Sometimes it even works!  But the efforts involved also seem to create the stress, full schedules, poor self-care and overwhelm.  It’s like we’re caught in a system of intermittent positive reinforcement- continuing to do things we don’t enjoy out of hope that we’ll have moments we do enjoy.  Kind of crazy isn’t it?

 So, this year I’ve decided that I want to live an actual season of joy.  You can join me if you like.  Every tradition, commitment, or obligation I come across as I move through the next month will be evaluated with the following questions-

 Do I want to do this? Why?

 Last Thursday, I didn’t much feel like making a Thanksgiving dinner.  I had it planned.  I had all the food here in the kitchen.  But I was feeling pretty burnt out on cooking in general and with tensions running high the last thing I thought I wanted to do was make an elaborate meal.  And around here, more than a main dish and a side dish is an elaborate meal.  But I’ve learned from some incredibly wise people that I have the ability to change my attitude about a situation, and that my attitude generally sets the tone for my entire family.  So, I retreated to my bedroom and began to examine my feelings about everything that was happening and my contributions to the stress. 

 I’m going to step aside here to mention this is not a “blame myself” moment.  I am very aware that I am not responsible for the feelings or actions of my family members.  I also know that blaming is not transformative.  Blame, whether aimed at yourself or others, keeps things stuck right where they are.  I also know that there is nothing I can change except what is within myself, and know that when I take responsibility for my contributions to a situation- my confrontational statements to my husband and my lack of willingness to stop and listen to my older daughter’s frustration and my younger daughter’s distress- I can look at whatever painful thoughts fueled those actions and decide whether or not those thoughts are serving me.

 In my examination of my thoughts,  I eventually came back to “Do I want to do this?” and “Why?”.  After considering for a bit, I decided that since we needed to eat *something*, and this meal was planned and required fairly little preparation (comparative to a usual Turkey Day feast) that I actually wanted to go ahead and cook it.  I truly had been looking forward to the meal.  I also realized that mostly I was doing this big meal because it is TRADITIONAL and something I’ve enjoyed in the past.  But the fact is, I’ve never actually enjoyed preparing a large meal alone- what I’ve enjoyed is preparing a delicious dish or two (usually in advance) and spending a day in the company of people I love.  Frantically cleaning in order to be able to cook a meal I wasn’t truly interested in cooking was separating me from the loved ones who were right here in my home and I was preventing myself from connecting with them in a meaningful way because I was focused on “having a nice Thanksgiving”- which in reality was just the outward trappings of our usual traditions. 

 To wrap up what turns into a very boring story- I made dinner.  My husband made the mashed potatoes.  My 6yo got very excited about the meal and decided to set the table.  We ended the day with pie, courtesy of Mrs. Smith and Marie Callender, and laughter.  I ended up feeling love and gratitude for my family, and for the knowledge that joy is the most important ingredient in any holiday. 

 So, as we move into the December holiday season I am not dreading any activity that is to come- but I know that if I find myself in a place of dread I am free to decide- “Do I want to do this?”  And ask myself “Why?”.

 And next Thanksgiving, I might just make reservations.

 Feel free to add your experiences in the comments! 

 Joyfully yours,

Lesley

October 8, 2010

A bit about living the family life you want…

I’ve been experiencing some interesting shifts in my life over the past few weeks.  I’ve taken on a couple of new roles- my first job in 11 years (seriously) and beginning the Martha Beck Life Coach Training program.  The job is simply the result of leaving nursing school and realizing that I’m going to have to pay my student loans soon.  I work in a bookstore and it’s kind of fun and I get a good discount.  It’s a total “kid in a candy store” experience.  Coach training? I’m not sure I can entirely explain that bit of brilliant insanity.  Or at least the story is too long, but regardless of explanation, I *LOVE* it.  I can officially call myself a Martha Beck Coach in Training.  And it officially feels really funny to do that.  I will be looking for guinea pigs  clients soon and will be offering some free coaching, so keep your eyes out for an announcement.  I’ve found life coaching to be a very powerful transformative tool- transformative in the sense that one’s deepest self is honored and given voice.  Moving on…

 Maybe it’s the effect of reading all of Martha Beck’s coaching books in quick succession, or immersing myself in the training materials and classes, or that my life and entire extended family has been shaken soundly by the loss of a much loved family member, or that I’ve taken a job with varying hours so that I need to be more fluid with my regular schedule of activities (or, or, or…AND?)- but I’ve been experiencing the sort of soul deep tiredness I can only recall feeling during early pregnancy.  No, I’m definitely not growing a baby.  But I think I’m growing something new.  New awareness, new connectedness, new possibilities.  It is this soul deep tiredness that resulted in the lack of a post last week- and why this post is not going to be my usual planned,  thought out, and edited until I can live with it sort of thing. 

 What I want to write about in this moment is the power of simply showing up and doing what needs to be done.  Doing the things that ultimately create the life you want, even when in the moment you are feeling utter exhaustion, mild aversion, or even stark indifference, is one way to honor your self and your intentions.  Right now it’s tempting to go back to bed, even though it’s 1pm and I have to go to work in a few hours.  But it is also my strong intention to write and I haven’t done much writing in the past 2 weeks.  It is time to get back to it (says my essential self), so here I am.  Not doing it well, but I’m doing it.  I’m respecting my intention and giving myself the opportunity to be who I want to be. 

 So, how else can I apply this to my life?  And how can you apply this to your own?  And where does this fit in with living among others, and particularly living with our children?  For me this starts with my intention- who I want to be, the life I want to live, and how I want to feel.  Personally I have some strong intentions when it comes to how I live with my family.  I intend to have deep connections, to be supportive and loving, and to embrace every member of my family for exactly who they are.  The thing is, I can intend these ideals as much as I like, however if I do not follow through with the actions that embody these intentions, I’m not likely to have the experience that I intend.  The exact specific actions to live these intentions may sometimes be unclear- as five distinct individuals, each member of my family connects in a different way and feels supported and loved in different ways- but there are some general, across the boards ways of learning about one another.  The ones that are coming to mind at the moment are receptive listening, open ended questions, and simply doing things together. 

 I’ll be bluntly honest and admit that I don’t always feel up to doing things together and that when I’m tired I’m exceptionally challenged in the area of listening or even tolerating sound of any kind.  It’s a sensory issue- when I’m tired any auditory stimulation bores into my brain like a drill.  I’m breathing deeply right now as my daughter is in the next room humming loudly.  I value her free expression and I’m perfectly free to grab a pair of earplugs or shut the door.  I’m choosing to enjoy her enthusiasm.  My head is buzzing, but I feel wonderful in that I’m living my intention- I am embracing her bigness and her noisiness as she feels happy.  Wait a minute- I want to go give her a hug.  Okay, done. Are there other ways I could respect both her expression and my own limitations?  Sure there are.  But at this moment I’m choosing my intention over my momentary desire to close the door, climb in bed and put a pillow over my head.  At other times I might simply let the kids know I need a nap and take one.  But at this moment I’m also following my intention by continuing to write. 

 Earlier this week, I was feeling the same way and the kids wanted to play some games.  We played.  We talked about strategy and problem solving as these ideas came up.  We moved on to other games and watched a movie together- which got us talking about history and communication and how people interact.  I was tired, but I was also living my intention.  We connected deeply and I got to know who my children are at this point in  time.  It changes, flows and shifts so frequently.  I supported their desire to connect and do some fun activities.  Am I sorry I didn’t get more sleep?  No, not at all.  I was relaxed and fairly at rest the whole time.  It was good for me- by connecting with my children and connecting with my intention for our lives together I also connected to my own essential self. 

 I’m not going to clean this up and end it neatly, or even really edit it at all (if you hadn’t already guessed by the very unpolished title)…. I’ll just ask a couple questions.  Where are you, today, in this moment, choosing a momentary desire over a deeper intention?  And how might your life be different if you chose to live your intention instead?

September 22, 2010

Family Life from the Right Side of the Brain

Personal note- Today someone I love left the world, and unfortunately I am left wondering if any one of us *really* knew him or connected with him as his essential self.  Being *known* by someone is one of the greatest things we can experience in life, and I’d like to encourage everyone-  connect to your own truth, connect to your children for exactly who they are, and take the time to really see those you love, let them be known to you, and celebrate their unique being.  –  In sadness and love, Lesley

I don’t think I’m wrong in stating that most parents have, at one time or another, had questions about family life or parenting.  Of course, when we have these questions we look for answers by asking them of ourselves, or we ask our families and friends, or we ask the “experts”- or buy their books, anyway.  And many times, we don’t find the answers we seek.  This is because we are unique individuals.  Our children are unique individuals.   Our combination of unique adult individuals and unique smaller, less experienced individuals is in itself unique.  It’s also because, even if we were largely the same (and even with all that uniqueness, in some ways we are the same) there is no one right way for every family.  We can get advice from a variety of sources, but no individual family that is not yours has the answers that fit your family. 

 So, is there another way to approach this?  Yes.  There are thousands, millions, infinite ways to find answers to your questions.  Many of them come down to knowing your own family.  Knowing each individual family member and how he interacts with each other individual.  This all sounds very clinical, like you might sit down with an observation form and take notes, then take all these notes and sit and plan out what might work best.  I suppose you could, but then where is the joy?  This is where the right side of the brain comes in. 

 I think most of you probably have a general idea of what the whole right brain/ left brain thing is about.  It has been established that the left sides of our brains are largely responsible for logical thought, analysis, and orderly processing- the left brain tends to apply known concepts to the unknown in order to make sense of them.  The right sides of our brains are largely responsible for creative thought and making connections between seemingly unrelated information. The right brain takes things as they are and doesn’t so much worry about making sense of them.  While both sides of the brain work together in an integrated whole, we tend to think in an either dominantly left brained or right brained way.  Most people tend to be left brain dominant.  Whether this is human nature or it is related to our culture placing higher value on left brained thinking and action, I don’t know.  What I do know is that we can find new perspective on things by making a conscious choice to look at them from the right brained perspective. 

 So, how is this done?  There is a very commonly known art book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards, that outlines an approach to using the right brain to create more accurate drawings.  The premise is that when we draw something from our usual left brained perspective, we draw it from our preconceived notion and concept of what that thing looks like.  The example my 7th grade art teacher used (and perhaps this is directly from the book- I haven’t read it, or at least not recently or thoroughly) was a face.  When people go to draw a face they generally start with a circle, representing a head.  Then they fill in the facial features based on what their brains recall about faces- the eyes are near the top, the nose below them and in between, the mouth under the nose.  This usually results in what my art teacher called “a pumpkin head”.  It’s not a drawing of an actual face, but of our left brained concept of one.  The book goes on with various methods of circumventing this left brained dominance to clearly see what is in front of us and actually draw what we see instead of our left brain’s mental concept of the object we’re drawing.  We can use the same idea in looking at our children and our families.

 We often have mental constructs of what children should be like and what our family life should look like.  These left brained constructs are very visual and rules oriented, as well as being results oriented.  This is where most parenting advice comes from.  You want your children to grow up to be this way, so parent them this way.  This has never been satisfying to me because it tends to suck the soul out of our lives, our interactions, and to some degree, our selves and our children’s selves.  Remember that whole thing about unique human beings?  Our uniqueness is where our joy, our happiness, our brilliance and radiance come from.  To find what’s right for us, we can’t take ourselves out of the equation (and here I mean collectively as a family, however, much of my work at this time is related to keeping our own individual selves in our equations).  We can truly see the uniqueness, the radiance, the brilliance and the joy of those around us by taking a right brained observer perspective.

 To do this, find a time when your family is home and all doing what they do, whether together or separate.  I suggest you start by taking a few minutes to clear your mind.  I use a brief sort of meditation to do this, closing my eyes and seeing the emptiness behind them, focusing on my breath and feeling my full presence throughout my body.  This gets you out of left brain analysis mode and into a more feeling, non-analytical, place.  Then take a look at your children, your partner, yourself, and your lives together.  Pretend you’ve never met these people, they are total strangers, and look at them without analysis or judgment, as if you are entirely new to the world and have no concept of what people do and how they interact.  Simply see what is in front of you.  See facial expressions, body movement, watch and listen to interactions, see what they are doing and how they are responding physically and emotionally to what they are doing, or to what others are doing.  Who are these people?  Why are they doing what they are doing? Just let this view of your family as strangers sink in and try to hold off on analysis for a little while. 

 Once this view integrates into your mind a little bit, check in with yourself.  Were you surprised by what you saw?  Did you notice anything new that you hadn’t noticed before? Are there, just maybe, things you were seeing through a filter of your own thinking that aren’t at all what you thought they were?

 This is a practice that, once you become accustomed to it, allows you to step away from your usual preconceived notions.  It is a way of seeing, from your right brain, things you may have missed from your usual left brained approach. It can become incredibly useful in the moment. When a family member is struggling with something, and maybe this family member is yourself, you can often see that either the problem isn’t the whole problem, or that it is.  There are times when spilled milk is the culmination of a series of tiny or gargantuan personal disasters that has pushed one to their limit.  And there are other times when someone just really wanted a freakin’ glass of milk, and that glass was the last of the carton.  The right brained perspective can show you the difference, which allows you to see more clearly and find a helpful response.  Response creates connection, which can uplift everyone.

 Give it a try!

September 9, 2010

The absolute greatest thing we have to offer our children

Believe it or not, I have a teenage son who will choose to hug me in public simply because he wants a hug from his mom.  (Don’t ask him to show this off – that will make him very uncomfortable- but watch us and you’ll see that it’s true).  As difficult as it is to say this without playing my personal copy of “Who Do You Think You Are? & Other Greatest Hits of Your Inner Critic”, I have to admit that I’m a pretty darned good mom.  I know this because my kids tell me so.  Regularly.  Without prompting and not necessarily because they want something.  They’re generally happy people and given the opportunity to radically change things in their lives (which they have at all times), they choose the life we live now. You’d think that I have this mom thing down.  That I live, every second of every day, knowing exactly the right thing to do and feeling that if every parent could just find what we have, do things the way we do them, that there would be peace in the world and we’d reach the apex of human potential (or some stuff like that).  Yeah, um, not quite.

 Honestly, I don’t think that it’s possible to never have doubt, to always do the exact right thing, or that there is one way for every parent in the world to create a life of joy, peace and love with their children.  In my actual experience, it takes intention.  It takes commitment.  It takes awareness.  It takes mistakes, lots of them.  It takes the actions of love.

 The shocking fact of the matter is that I have days when I find it difficult to actively love my children.  Don’t get me wrong, I always love them in the sense that everyone loves their own children.  I truly believe that all parents, along every part of the parenting spectrum, LOVE their children.  What I mean by saying “actively” love my child, is to love that child in the sense of seeing the needs at the root of this small, inexperienced person’s actions and addressing these needs regardless of behavior, and regardless of how inconvenient addressing these needs may be to me in the moment.  I mean that I’ve found it difficult to actively love my children in the sense of knowing that my children are often most in need when they are acting in ways that push my buttons- when they are whining or yelling or stomping, when they are breaking things or attempting to hurt others, and even when they are imploding and turning their anger and frustration inward, against themselves.  Yes, this is attachment parenting 101 stuff that I *know* to be true and that I’m not here to argue or defend.  There have been times I have failed miserably- by denying these truths, by being unwilling to inconvenience myself, by being unable to overcome the stuff that comes up when my buttons are pushed.  There are also times I have failed because I wasn’t paying attention, was refusing to listen to my intuition, or because I was not seeing my child clearly. 

 Mostly, the root of these failures comes down to one thing. 

 It is impossible to give something you don’t have for yourself. 

 My deepest goal as a parent is for my children to remain whole- to reach adulthood as fully themselves as they were the day they were born, as complete human beings who, at the time, were entirely dependent on me and highly lacking in skills and experience. It is inevitable that these complete human beings will become less dependent, that they will gain skills and experience as they go through life.  It is not inevitable that they lose their trust in themselves, their ability to love unconditionally, their connection with their own deepest joy, and their inner radiance and brilliance.

 For many years I *tried* to be the parent I choose to be.  I tried to trust in them and support their trust in themselves.  I tried to love them unconditionally, to be an example of unconditional love.  I tried to support their connection to their deepest joys.  And I watched as on many occasions, my own actions or words dimmed their inner radiance and I didn’t recognize their brilliance in each moment.  I say “tried” because the fact is that I didn’t trust myself.  I wasn’t able to love unconditionally because I never allowed myself to experience unconditional love.  I was disconnected from many of my own deepest joys, in spite of the fact that my children’s very existence is one of them.  And the fact is that my own inner radiance had become nearly unreachable and I couldn’t see any brilliance whatsoever. 

 Luckily, I have come back to myself.  It has been my own unique path, but it did take the intention to find my own happiness, to feel loved and supported, and to trust myself.  It has taken commitment to these intentions as well as choosing in each day and each moment to keep or renew these commitments.  It has taken awareness of when I am moving away from my intention or have gone to place I no longer want to be, so that I can renew my commitment at these times.  I make mistakes and keep making them, which is why that awareness is so important.  But most of all I am taking actions of love- treating myself like I have value, like my needs matter, and as if *I* am my most important resource in my being my children’s mom.  Because I am. 

 And so are you.

 As parents, having the clarity of knowing who we are is what allows us to, at times, set our other priorities aside to attend to the needs of our children.  It is also what allows us to work through the times when we don’t have an immediate solution to a challenge.  It allows us to look for the “and” instead of the “or” when it may appear as if our own needs and those of our children are in conflict.  And it allows us to see our children’s truth and brilliance and radiance even if they are struggling to do so, to support them in connecting with their deepest joy and to love them unconditionally.  Which is why I believe that the absolute greatest thing we can offer our children is to be our own unique whole selves, and from this perspective, be their unique whole loving parents.

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