Earlier this week I received the following text:
Yo estoy aqui
(I am here)
The text was a check-in from my daughter who had just finished her second day in Spanish class. It made me laugh that she felt the need to translate for me. (Is it possible I never told her that I took Spanish from 2nd – 11th grade?) Regardless, she was excited to share what she had learned and I knew this was probably the first of many Spanish texts I would receive.
Yes, it’s only July and school started for us already. (Our district is modified year round, so our summers are seven weeks and then we get three two-week breaks throughout the year.) For my daughter this week was the start of Junior High, taking the bus to school, switching classes and an entirely new social dynamic. We’ve talked a little about her classes, teachers and other students, but like most pre-teens the actual details were minimal.
After dinner Friday night, I was on my computer catching up on a few things. She came into the room where I was and started playing Minecraft (something she rarely does without coercion from her younger brother). As she was playing she started to explain to me what she was looking for and what she would build once she had gathered the correct materials. I set aside what I had been doing to watch her play (something I never do). As she played she described to me what she was doing and why. I asked a few questions but mostly just listened. She was having so much fun, it was contagious. As she finished the game, she started telling me about her math class. She described in animated detail who sat where, said what, did what, then did that, made this face – “Mom, can you believe they did that?” I asked a few questions here and there, but mostly sat and listened. It was the detail I had been hoping to hear all week, coming at the most unexpected time.
In her book The Awakened Family, Dr. Shefali talks about meeting your child where they are in that moment, in the “as is”. She explains:
“What does it mean to accept life “as is”? It means to notice that every moment holds the potential for both the good and the bad, the happy and the sorrowful, pain as well as pleasure………This ability to be flexible in the dance of life is lacking in so many of us adults. Our categorizing minds don’t allows us to engage life as it presents itself to us. We simply don’t know how to shift and change with the tides of life as children intuitively do……If only we were able to embrace life for what it is, instead of how good or bad it makes us look or feel, we would ease into its unpredictability with greater grace.”
There are so many layers to this topic that we couldn’t possibly discuss all of them in this short blog post. But if we look at it in the simplest view possible, how many of us get stuck in our “categorizing minds”? I had been trying all week to get my daughter to open up about school. I tried when we first got home, at the dinner table and before school in the morning. Those were the times in my “categorizing mind” when we were supposed to talk about our day and what had happened, however in each instance I received a minimal response. However, when I set everything else aside and just sat with her, she began to open up. She had my attention in a way that had no expectations, no predetermined outcome. It was almost as if in that moment she heard me say “Yo estoy aqui. (I am here.)” and that was all she needed to share the details of her day.
This one quote only scratches the surface of the insights and knowledge Dr. Shefali shares in The Awakened Family. If you want to learn more, our online book club starts tomorrow! Check the Balanced Heart Moms Facebook page for details.
Wow, they are big. That was my first thought as we walked up to the field and saw the other team warming up. There was no way that these boys were the same age as our team. Our team sat on the bleachers, trying to find some shade before taking the field, watching the other team warm up. The look on their faces said it all. They were intimidated. They were playing the game out inside their heads and already anticipating defeat. This was not going to be easy for any of us – players, coaches, parents and fans all felt the tension in the air.
Have you ever tried to explain that little voice in your head to your child? It’s not an easy conversation. Trying to explain that you can decide when to listen to the voice and when to ignore it is a discussion that’s hard for most adults, much less an eight-year-old. I often wonder at what age does that little voice start? It’s one of those things that seems like it’s always been there. You can’t turn it off. The commentary is constant and endless - maybe that is the reason we so often assume the voice is right… Then when we assume the voice is right, it’s easy to believe the game is over before the first pitch has even been thrown. In this context and as a parent, it’s easy to see the flaw in this thinking. We tell the kids to go out, play hard and do their best. We tell them they can’t be defeated before the game has even started. But do we take our own advice? When we are in a situation we believe is unchangeable or beyond our control, do we quit before we give ourselves a chance to start?
Unfortunately it wasn't meant to be for our team that night, but they went out there, tried hard and made some great plays. It won't be a game they'll soon forget, but hopefully it will be one that they will learn from for years to come.
*Online book club starts 7/31, when we will begin discussing The Awakened Family by Shefali Tsabary. Check the Balanced Heart Moms Facebook page for details.
When your children are 8 and 11 it’s hard to let a new trend or fad go by without being right in the middle of it. And so despite the fact that it was over 110 degrees outside, the kids and I were walking around the neighborhood this week looking for creatures while playing Pokemon Go. Chances are you have seen people playing the game (or maybe will even admit you are playing yourself). It’s hard to miss groups of kids walking down the street, cell phones or iPad in hand, stopping suddenly in the middle of the block to stare at their phone and catch something.
The game certainly has its positive points – it’s getting people out of the house and walking around. In fact, to make it to the next level, you have to walk a certain distance before you get the chance to level up. The game gives people a common ground to talk about – neighbors I’ve never talked to engaged in conversations with us as we walked around. It’s too bad it’s so hot here right now, otherwise it would have the power to draw even more people out of their houses.
Sometimes it takes a game to remind us of the things that really matter. Go outside. Take a walk. Look closely at your surroundings - you may have walked the same route dozens of times before, but there may be a special treasure, a flower or a bird’s song, that you’ve never noticed. Talk to people around you. Share your experience. Have a conversation. Connect. Oh, and if you find a Lightening Pikachu, let me know :-) .
Earlier this week I was excited to share with all of you a “working parent” breakthrough I had last weekend. As a working parent, summer is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because it usually means the nights are a little more relaxed without the constant nag of homework and driving to and from activities. A curse because the guilt sets in that you can’t be home and have to find a summer camp to fit your schedule.
The summer camp we typically go to requires you to sign up by the day and is capped at a certain number of attendees. In 6 summers this has never been a problem, but this year they are hitting capacity faster than ever before. When I went to sign up, I found that many of the days I needed were unavailable. I checked a second and third option to no avail. My heart started to race and I got that anxious feeling inside. What was I going to do? The list of gripes began in my head. We have no family here to help us out. How ridiculous is this camp to not be able to accommodate all the children who need to attend? But then I stopped. No, I’m not going to do this. I can’t change the camp rules, but I can change my reaction, my priorities and my schedule. In changing my reaction, I realized I also need to let go of the feelings of anger and frustration. This is how it was. When I shifted my perception of the situation, everything changed in an instant.
Later in the week, I listened to Dr. Shefali talk about her new book The Awakened Family and she quoted the following passage from page 17:
“Our tendency when we feel helpless or anxious is to control these feelings by lashing out at other, in this case at our children. In psychological terms, we refer to this as “projecting” our pain onto another, so that it looks like the other is the cause of our pain.”
I could totally relate! So many times before when my carefully orchestrated “plans” fell through, my emotions would get the best of me and I would inadvertently project them on my kids. But with the camp situation I didn’t do that! It was an ah-ha moment for me and I was so excited to share it with you today…….
But then I saw a post that a friend of a friend was a victim of domestic violence.
In another post an 11-month old lost her daddy, a man she’ll never really know, while her mom is left to raise her on her own without the companionship of the man she thought would be by her side forever.
And in yet another post, my former classmates expressed their fear for the future of their young sons.
In addition to those personal posts were the headlines…….
After all of these excruciatingly painful moments this week, I felt like my personal ah-ha was so small and insignificant. How can I possibly “complain” about the minor inconvenience of not having childcare for a handful of days and celebrate the fact that I handled it without losing my mind? I have a job, a healthy family, a supportive spouse, a house and wonderful neighbors surrounding me. There are so many bigger issues. There are so many other things that are causing others raw, unimaginable pain.
In light of all these other unbelievable, unfathomable events, how is what I am sharing even significant?
Years ago, I would have reacted differently to my lack of childcare. It would have stressed me out in a way that everyone around me would have felt it. I would have vented to anyone who would listen about how poorly run the childcare system is that they couldn’t accurately forecast their demand. With each person I told and retold the story to, I would have just kept adding fuel to the fire. In my mind I would have felt justified for my frustration and that anger would have simmered inside of me. On the days where I was forced to change my work schedule I would have started the day angry and stressed for having to change my plans. My feelings would have reflected off of me and been felt by everyone around me, not only my coworkers, but likely my children as well. My children might then have felt guilty, that it was their fault…….but this week I avoided all of that. I never have to wonder how it really would have made my kids feel.
But again I come back to, how is what I’m sharing significant? I spent a lot of time thinking about this before I sat down to write. After some thought, I realized my contribution is as a parent to other parents. I write this blog every week because parenting is hard. What I didn’t know when I became a parent was how much it would force me to grow. What I’ve discovered along the way is that you can’t “fix” your kids without giving yourself a long hard look in the mirror. Who we are matters. Who we are has a direct influence on who we allow our children to be. What we do matters. How we love matters. How we show love matters. And I can’t think of any better place for that to start but in our homes. I know that my little blog is not going to change the world. But just maybe it will change a little bit about how you parent your child. And who knows, maybe they will be the ones to change the world.
P.S. Can you relate to this post? Let's schedule a time to talk. We'll go through what's throwing you off balance and figure out the best steps for you to regain your footing. Comment below or email me at email@example.com to get started!
Children begin to exercise their independence at a very young age. When they are only a few months old, they start to test their boundaries. They experiment to see what things they can do for themselves like grabbing a toy, sitting up on their own and clapping their hands. As parents, and surrounding adults, we cheer and applaud, which of course encourages them to stretch those muscles farther to see what else they can do on their own. When they stumble and fall we are right beside them. We pick them off, dust them off and encourage them to try again. If they are ever hesitant, they look our way for a reassuring smile and that’s all it takes for them to keep going. We are proud parents as we watch them develop and grow, knowing at this age they will always come running back into our open arms. Children are dependently independent.
When it comes to raising a child, everyone has an opinion and most of the time, everyone wants to share that opinion with you. A small child is like a magnet, especially the grocery store, to strangers offering you advice they believe you cannot live without. As if that were not enough, you can go online and get advice from social media or millions of other “resources” available on the web. Advice and help are everywhere.
In my work with parents I’ve seen two scenarios. The first is the parent who takes everyone’s advice. This parent is so open to advice that they readily change course with every new study that comes from a trusted friend, family member or news source. The other scenario involves the parent who believes they don’t need help and/or no one can tell them something they don’t already know. This same group also includes the parent who is afraid to ask for advice because they feel like they should already “know” how to parent.
If you think about it, advice is a funny thing – too much and you can be swimming in a sea of cluttered confusion, unsure of which direction to go. While on the other hand, too little advice and you are swimming in a sea of resolute isolation, possibly confident your way is the right way, but there is no lifeboat in sight if you need help. In both instances you are swimming in an environment that is far from ideal.
We were not meant to go through this life on our own. We are given a family to support us, a personality to make friends and a community of neighbors to surround us. People are social beings. We are meant to help each other and offer advice, especially in situations where one person has already experienced what the other is going through.
I don’t think we ever outgrow being dependently independent. No matter how old we get, having a parent/spouse/friend on the sidelines cheering for you, ready to pick you up and dust you off as you stretch your muscles of independence is vital. The accomplishment is all your own, but having the support of those around you, is priceless.
Comment below or mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and share your thoughts one what it means to you to be dependently independent.
I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.