When I told a co-worker I was going to a parenting conference, he said “but your kids are fine?” And while I took that as a compliment, I knew there was more work for me to do. I signed up to attend the Evolve conference, in New York City, back in August not knowing anyone else that was attending. Travelling hundreds of miles to spend an entire weekend with a room full of strangers is not something I normally do, but for some reason I felt like this was the right thing for me.
In the weeks leading up to the conference I connected with multiple people who would be attending through Facebook groups, instant message and via phone so at least when the weekend came I knew a few names and faces I could look out for. Have you ever had the experience of forming relationships with people you have never met in person? It’s somewhat of a surreal experience. On the first night, people were greeting each other with heart felt hugs and squeals of joy. To borrow a quote from of one of my fellow attendees, “It feels like a school reunion or fraternity/sorority homecoming”. It completely set the vibe for the weekend. The conference brought together parents, educators, therapists, coaches, moms, dads and grandparents from all over the world (people came from as far away as Hong Kong, Japan and Brazil). Everyone was so excited to be there. They were friendly, open and supportive. And though we may have all been strangers when we walked in the door, once we were in the ballroom there was a feeling of community, shared experience and genuine caring.
Dr. Shefali led most of the sessions but also shared the stage with other authors, motivational speakers and leading experts on ADHD and self-care. It’s hard to choose which highlights to share with you because there were so many a-ha moments for me.
I’ll start with the power of presence. There are so many layers to this concept. During the conference, they asked that we turn our phone on mute and put them away so that we would not be distracted. This was easy for some people, while others struggled. It was so nice to be able to give your full attention to the speakers and not by yanked out of the moment by a text message. Giving our full attention to one thing for hours at a time is something we don’t do very often, but in this case, it enhanced the experience of the conference.
Another layer to the power of presence we discussed is how our children just want to spend time with us. How many times during the day, or week, do we just sit and give our children our undivided attention? No cell phones, no worrying about what is next on the schedule or what else needs to be done, just one-on-one time with no expectations. If you struggle with this, one suggestion was to set “office hours” for being a parent. During those office hours, the focus is one what your child needs from you in that moment, no other work is allowed. It’s as if you are releasing yourself from multi-tasking and accepting the fact that those things will need to be done at a different time.
The power of presence means that you are doing the best that you can in that moment. Often, in hindsight, we wish our reaction had been different or that we had handled a situation differently. The best thing we can do is recognize that and make a commitment to doing better next time. When that next time comes around, we have a new perspective to draw from and can act differently.
On Saturday afternoon, the day ended with Elena Brower, a yoga teacher and author. At this point in the day, we had been sitting for about five hours. Our heads were full from a day of inspiring words, stories and sharing. Needless to say, like our children after a long day, we were starting to get a little restless. She walked out onto the stage and began speaking in a calm and soothing voice. She had us stand up and led us in a few simple stretches. Instantly my muscles felt more relaxed. Her tranquil voice talked about putting ourselves first as parents so that our children have an example. She suggested we are the “joy center” and if we embrace that role it will radiate to the rest of the family. She then had us all close our eyes. It was at that point I noticed the audience (over 350 people) had become completely still. The only sound was the occasional rumble of the subway in the distance, aside from that, you could hear a pin drop. She had literally set the tone and the audience responded. Later that night I was talking with some of the attendees about that moment. We related it to what happens when you lose your voice and are forced to speak in a whisper. Everyone else begins to whisper around you, your kids become angels. We forget how powerful our presence is in impacting all those around us.
There are so many other things I want to share with you from Evolve but they will have to wait until the next post, as this one is long enough and my presence is being requested elsewhere.
Not sure how to focus your presence because you are constantly being pulled in too many directions? Let’s set up time to talk, direct message or email me at balancedheartcoaching.com and we’ll set up time this week.
One of the advantages of starting school at the end of July is that our kids get a two week break in October. We were fortunate enough this year to plan a family vacation and get away for a few days (something that all of us really needed). It quickly became evident that “vacation” meant a lot of different things to each of us. My husband wanted to relax and not have to worry about work. My son, who’s 8, wanted to go go go, explore and know what are we doing next. My 12-year-old daughter was pretty happy anywhere as long as her iPad was nearby. And me, I just wanted to have fun and enjoy our time together.
It’s easy for me to forget that in my head I have things all planned out, yet I don’t always share all those details with everyone else. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one, we all had our ideas of how things were going to go and we just assumed that since we were all on vacation together, we all had the same ideas. Our vacation plans included a trip to the beach and a couple local amusement parks. It’s easy to forget as parents that each of these events are a big deal to a child who doesn’t get to do them often. I’ve been to the beach hundreds of times, but I consciously had to remind myself that my son had not, so when it was time to go, in spite of all the countdowns and warnings, he still was not ready to leave. I had to remember that amusement parks are big, with so many choices it can be overwhelming. And that once you get there, after so much hype and excitement that waiting in a line for a ride can seem like the worst thing in the world.
Fortunately, we had a great time and the meltdowns were few and far between. I saw other parents in the park dealing with similar disappointments over treasures that were not purchased and felt reassured I was not alone. What saved me was continuing to check in with myself and recognizing those moments my blood was starting to boil. I had to remind myself that the kids were overwhelmed. That they were out of their element and trying their best to go with the flow, even if they really didn’t understand what that meant. Most important it was letting it go after the moment happened, not holding on to the emotion and letting it ruin the rest of the day. It wasn’t always easy. But in releasing those tense moments, it created space for new moments of pure fun – the rush of a rollercoaster, the giddiness of playing in the waves and the unexpected hug. Simple reminders of why we were here in the first place.
Are meltdowns getting you down? Email me at balancedheartcoaching.com and we’ll set up a time to chat.
After you have been in school for twelve years you graduate. You’ve learned the basics (and a little more) and at some level you are “done”. You are ready to go to college and/or start your professional life.
I wonder who decided that twelve years of school was the right amount? If twelve years was picked because it represented the time needed to achieve some level of mastery, then does that mean I am ready to graduate from parenting? You see, on Monday I will celebrate the end of my twelfth year of being a parent and by no means am I feeling any sort of mastery, much less the ability to graduate.
For me the first few years of parenthood felt like one of those dreams where you know you have to take a test but you haven’t studied, or gone to class, or even know where the classroom is. One of those dreams where you wander around campus, lost in a mild panic, wondering what are you going to do? In the early years of parenting I was often lost in a fog of minimal sleep. I was focused on learning the basics of how to feed, clothe and bathe this little being. We muddled through and figured it out because we had to. We took advice from family and friends. We read the occasional article about sleep patterns and picky eaters, but at the end of the day it was about survival. If we all survived, it was a successful day.
Then in the seventh or eighth year, much like middle school, I began to realize there is a social aspect to this “parent school”. My child began to express more and more of their personality, which added a new level of complexity to basic needs we had just spent years mastering. At this point I started realize it’s about more than making sure they eat, sleep and play. Now we had to explain, discuss, negotiate and disagree. Like most middle-schoolers, I was awkward and at the same time head strong enough to think that I knew best and could figure all this out on my own.
It wasn’t until I reached “parent high school” that I realized I could no longer rely just on my own instinct and knowledge. I needed a tutor. They say when the student is ready they will find their teacher. Luckily for me, I found many teachers in the form of books and interviews. My relationship with my children began to transform. But what struck me the most was, why don’t people talk about this? Why do we all assume that as parents we have to have things all figured out on our own? At work, training classes help you to improve your skills to stay ahead, what if we viewed parenting the same way?
Twelve years ago, I never could have imagined this amazing journey I was about to embark upon. It has been a journey in every sense of the word, but has always been fueled by a love that is beyond words. No, it is not graduation day for me because graduation implies a level of being done. If anything, I’ve realized I will never be done and that is ok.
Are you at the point where you need a "parent tutor"? Email me at balancedheartcoaching.com and we’ll set up a time to chat.
Since last week’s blog was about connection, it is only fitting that this week’s topic is about separation. At some point as a parent you are faced with a situation where you will have to leave your child with someone else. There will be tears, sadness and it will seem like forever until you are reunited…..and that is just how the parent feels.
Typically, when we think about separation anxiety we think about the child. We think about the tears, tantrums and the vice-like grip they have on your leg making it impossible to leave. It is understandable why the child does not want you to leave, it represents change in their routine or change in the norm of what they have become accustomed to. However, children are single-threaded. What I mean by that is that once they have adjusted to the “new” environment they are completely in that new moment. This is evident when you come to pick your child up. You may have left them crying for you, but now they do not want to leave because they are enjoying the situation they are in.
I could write pages and pages about separation anxiety from the perspective of the child, but what about from the perspective of the parent? There are books and articles written about how to help your toddler cope, but what about you? Chances are you experience similar emotions, tears and possibly tantruming back in your car that you don’t want to go to work. But there is one special feeling reserved only for parents – GUILT.
Separation anxiety for the parent is often deeply rooted in feelings of guilt. It’s as if before leaving the hospital with our newborn baby, we sign a subconscious contract that we will never allow our child to leave our side. Never leave our side? In such black and white terms, it sounds a little extreme right?
Earlier this week, my husband was feeling some of this guilt while packing for a business trip. He and I have had this conversation many times before with each of us being on each side of the conversation. We have always supported each other with the confirmation that these trips are only a couple of days. In the grand scheme of years, they are minimal. There will be opportunities when he returns to spend quality time with the kids. They will pick right back up where they left off. They will have exciting stories to share with him and he with them. This is real life. It’s mobile and ever-changing and learning to go with that flow is one of the most important lessons we can ever teach our children.
Our children are only young for a few years and we should truly cherish, enjoy and make the most of that time. It is also during this time we are providing them with an example of what it means to be an adult. Sometimes that means going away for a few days to honor your commitment to your work in order to earn money for your family. Sometimes it means giving yourself a break from it all to recharge your battery, whether on a weekend girls trip or an afternoon at the spa. This is all just a normal part of life, so yourself a favor and leave the guilt at home. The time we spend with our kids is matters, but the time we spend away from them matters too.
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.