Friday, July 25, 2014

What if I stopped paddling down the river and just floated

I was talking to a co-worker today about the fact that one of the BEST things I can do for myself and the world is to be a good (not even great, she said) parent to my kid. That was a little stunning to me. What can I do to be a good parent?

Luckily, the voice of spirit/intuition piped in and said, "You're already a good parent."

But what am I *doing* to be a good parent?

I am staying present. Even when it's hard. And my almost two year old is screaming/commanding me to make his oatmeal warmer or cooler or demanding to stay on the potty for 15+ minutes ("No! No leave! Still peein'!"). I keep looking for moments to get more present. I keep exploring his lack of control and matching it up with mine.

I had a bolt of lightning idea.

What if I saw his screams, hits, demands, commands, and frothing freak outs as moments of cultural and ancestral healing and I let my stuck stuff be awoken and released as he was freely expressing himself?

Stay with me. Here's what I mean:

So as someone who loves control (because of my out of control childhood), I see what my kid is doing. He is riding a big wave of experience. His life is a flowing river. There are eddies, there are rocks that threaten to overturn his boat of experience, there are branches he can catch and there are calm, quiet spots where he can kick back. At any moment, he is participating in that experience of River of Life. I did that too, once, I'm sure of it.

But then I got older and started looking at the river before getting in, and I calculated, observed, and ultimately decided that the river just looked too unpredictable to get in. Ever again. Ack. I forwent the calm, ease-ful parts of the river because I couldn't predict and prepare for the parts I couldn't handle. No thanks! So the flow in my life kinda went away, I guess. I started only wanting to interact with what I could control. That seemed easier.

And years later, I now have this amazing child, repeating this human pattern of riding down the river and I guess my idea is that when he has a freakout, that I can awaken a freakout that I still have (much deeper down), too. It would be scary and weird if I frothed at the mouth because something didn't go my way...but K gets to do that because he's only two. Why not send my freakout down the river with him? It's not his burden, I don't have to utter a word, I can just witness his letting go and his refusals and his demands as the innocence that they are, and reclaim my own.

The beauty is that he doesn't want to get out of the river. He still wants to keep going. After a frothing freakout, he's been known to, seconds later, wrap his arms around me and sweetly request a gorilla ride. Cheeks still tear-stained, his big heart has allowed both a rage-ful upset and a calm, happy desire to hang out in the same five minute moment. What brilliance! What Divine design!

I can't (and won't) promise any zen moments of acceptance at the rage, hitting, frothing, etc. from here on out. But I can see that maybe he's healing a long history of fears and wanting control and regret at getting out of the River of Life too soon.

I don't know exactly, in every moment, how to teach (or if I can teach) K how to deal with life. But I'm cluing into the fact that maybe I don't have to. And maybe he's really teaching me.

I'm dying to get back in that river...it looks like a fun ride.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Transition in life

I'm down in San Francisco for a close friend's wedding. We were able to stay in our friends' apartment in the city and we've taken over their kitchen, prepping food for the reception.

We've left K with the grandparents at home because as much as we'd love to have him be cute in front of people, we would not enjoy having him melt down in front of those same people. Soon enough, he'll be able to enjoy the concept of big parties, but not yet.

So we have some time and space to think about this time and this transition for our friends.

Traditionally (like, *really* traditionally), the father would "give away" the bride to the groom. I haven't seen a lot of weddings lately where that still happens. But here's the thing: I feel like I am "giving away" my friend to her fiance. Not that I possessed her at all, but I guess I had the thought that, yeah, my friend has a new best friend and while I can remain close to her, I'm no longer a face she sees regularly and we don't talk on the phone that much anymore.

And this wedding means that a ceremony is taking place where two people are agreeing to transition into being the other person's person. And in effect, I'm also agreeing to it too. Not that I have a choice, but I'm witnessing and letting go of my friend in a way.

I wrote a toast for the couple and what came out was that I now understood that my errand-running days were now over with my friend. They'd been over effectively since she moved away (10 years ago!), but now it's official. We probably wouldn't be running errands together again. I know it's a weird thing to think about letting go of, but that was a thing we used to love doing together.

And it's not like our friendship is over, but it reminds me how letting go is a constant process for me (well, for everyone...) and it doesn't need to be big stuff like death or divorce. It can be small too. Like when your child grows out of a shirt that he/she has worn for a while and is beloved...you have a letting go process there too.

This is how we can make peace with this though. If we let go with claw marks then it's always gonna feel like things are being ripped away. But if we are looking for the smaller letting go moments, and we realize that it doesn't have to be devastating, then we can start to be okay with the process in general. Not that we won't be sad or even broken up about something, but it won't cause severe damage, if we aren't shocked by the natural experience of loss and letting go.

This relates to parenting because I'm experiencing the letting go almost daily now. I don't think I would've thought that would be the case, but paying attention does that. When K mispronounces a word, I now think immediately not just how cute it is, but how one day, he'll eventually say the word "correctly" and I will miss the mispronunciation. So I soak up that moment, that word, that way his mouth forms to utter that sound because, like blowing a dandelion puff, pretty soon that moment will be gone forever. The beauty is in the breathe...the blowing away of the seeds...and that is always temporary...

I digress. But not by much. Getting used to letting go is key for me. Sure, I might cry at the various educational transitions, and milestones, but maybe I won't as much, because it won't be shocking or it won't be foreign. I'll have had some practice. And maybe the practice of letting go with my child, will allow me to be less devastated when I need to let go of things unrelated to my kid.

I'm aiming that weddings, moves, transitions in friendships, etc. will be more graceful experiences because I'll have more practice.


Monday, June 30, 2014

Polite society

My 22 month old child likes butter. He likes it in a way that seems shocking to me. Until I read, in many online forums, about the other toddlers who eat sticks of butter. Sticks. More than just the one time.

I've been resisting this butter-eating because we don't do that "in polite society."

In an email (I write him emails because I have to be honest about my poor scrapbooking skills) I wrote K that his butter cravings were insane and that people don't eat butter like that in polite society. And then I wrote, "Who am I kidding? We're not in polite society."

So it got me thinking about all the things I resist because "normal" people don't do them. I also thought about all the things that have come to me while needing to solve a problem, that no one told me about, but that were GREAT ideas and far from normal (getting on a trampoline at 1am, to bounce out K's insane gas, or putting him in the tub to relax him enough to fart, so he could go back to sleep, or asking him telepathically what he needs from me and getting a very helpful/true answer, etc). If I was still holding on to the idea pipe dream that I, or my family, will become normal anytime soon, I should now officially let go of that.

Polite society is a place where my grandma lived. In her world she needed to keep up appearances, be everyone's friend, or at least not be seen as rude, uneducated, or uncultured.

Honestly, I think that caused some suffering. How many times have I acted in ways that were really about image management and not wanting people to think I was 1) a heathen, 2) an irresponsible mother, or 3) uneducated? I'm still fairly new at this, but I've probably done (or not done) countless things because of the way it looked to others. Polite society, as it were. What people likely won't see, or won't immediately give me/us credit for is that our kid is engaged with us. Yes, he is himself, engaging, but we are also responsive. We work hard to listen to, and work on, the things we don't understand for whatever reasons.

I guess it's unacceptable to me to write things off just because of development ("It's just a phase," or "Toddlers just do 'x'.") or age or culture or whatever else. I am trying hard to listen to and witness K with compassion. I research, ask other parents, pay closer attention to K's motivations, actions and timing, ask his teachers, ask my own parents and siblings about how I was, and listen to my intuition. Polite society, be damned.

This butter thing was a lesson to me to keep paying attention to my kid. Sure, he is typical in many regards, but much of the time he does things that I can't find easily in books and online (which makes sense, looking back at my pregnancy). I was that way, too, as a kid. I'm still kinda that way. And no, I don't often mix well with polite society, so rather than shove myself and my family into that confining "polite society" of my grandma's era, I'd rather co-create a society where love and compassion rules the day.

In the case of the Butter Resistance, I eased up. I bought K some special, organic butter that's just for him and we had a little moment, mama and babe, enjoying the letting go together.

NOTE: Since buying him his OWN butter ration, and offering it up easily with every meal/food item, strangely, he has said 'no.' It was like the allowing was really what he needed. Funny, that.


You know what it's like to be a mom...

You get busy. You have a to-do list that can't possibly be written down, much less managed. You have at least one child that needs/demands almost, if not, all of your attention. Haircuts, massages, toothbrushing, showers, girls' (guys') nights, reading whole paragraphs of books, and nutrition go by the wayside. Just part of the deal, right?

Wrong.

Really wrong.

I'm not saying you're wrong. Or your methods are wrong. (God forbid you think I know what's best for you). But a dear friend of mine basically said that her self-care (and we're talking health care, not pedicures) wasn't a priority in her day because she was a busy, working mom.

Hold the phone. I admit, I got a little unnerved that my friend thought that there wasn't enough time in the day for her to get to urgent care and look into her medical issue. Not at her, but at the culture around her (and us) that supports that belief. She wasn't told outright that she couldn't go get her issue checked out. No, that would've incited a mamaRiot. But it was the unspoken part, about how moms just get busy and "you know how it is...no time to go to the doctor."

Here's what made me have some strong feelings...

1) That "having no time to go to the doctor" was sorta like "no time for a haircut."
2) That I didn't know my friend even needed any help in this area (could I have come over and watched her kids while she went to the doctor?).
3) That taking time out during the day at work wasn't really a cultural norm at her work and I'm assuming she believed that she was so indispensable that she couldn't take an hour to find out about her health, because it put her reputation (and possibly, eventually, her job) at risk.
4) And that I might be doing something similar, maybe not with physical health, but with mental health.

This is important. Really important. As parents, we are a part of the culture that supports these thoughts. That being too busy (raising a family and working) means we don't get our needs met.
This is, in my not very humble opinion, what leads to depression, increased medicating of parents, addiction, divorce, and a bunch of other woes. At least it's a contributing factor.

I work VERY hard on identifying my needs (surprise! They sort of changed when I had a baby and now I need to get to know them all over again!), talking with my husband about my needs (even if they can't be solved, addressed, or understood), and then diligently getting support for them.

I recognize that is privileged. My aforementioned friend may not have time to reflect on all of that. Her spouse may be just as busy and so not able to help her identify those needs, either.

But I also don't want to start agreeing that yes, motherhood trumps self-care. Don't hate me when I tell you, it doesn't. I love being a mom. I sometimes eat less because my kid ends up wanting most of my food and all of his too. I'm not immune to sacrifice. But I also don't want that to stay the norm. I want to point it out, even if it can't change, because it's not healthy for us as a culture. And it's not just for the wealthy. Working parents can't just say that because they work, their self-care goes away sometimes.

I am learning that when my husband works at night, which contributes to our family, I give up his time for the money he makes. Every week we discuss whether it will be better to have him home, or get the cash. That's a horrible choice to have to make daily, but we do it because some days, I need him with me, caring for our son. I need his support. I'll go without food (or less food) if it means that we have a night together as a family. That's how I care for myself. I have learned that there are hard choices I HAVE to make to get my needs met. Money vs. spousal support is not like giving up a new car for college tuition. I need both money AND spousal support, so I need to think about what I need more of sometimes.

My point is just that. Self-care isn't only bubble baths and dinner out with friends. I want to be a loud (and maybe a bit belligerent) voice that says that yes, we make choices, but also, yes we need to take care of ourselves. If a job won't value you for taking care of yourself, that tells me something. If a spouse won't let you take a night off (or two) a week, for your mental sanity, that speaks volumes. If we're all about the village raising our children, then we need to work on our village and be available to each other to get stuff done so neither we, nor our kids, suffer.

I'll end with the fact that I am grateful that my friends and family have been really helpful in this arena. Sometimes I am plagued by feeling like a social burden, with my active and sometimes destructive kid. But I keep asking to come over and crash dinner parties and potlucks because I do need adult friends and board games after K goes to sleep, and food that isn't bread or pasta and not made by me.

I want to be that support for others in my village too.

Learning collaboration

K goes to Montessori. I went to Montessori. As did my three siblings, my spouse, and a bunch of my friends.
For the toddler-aged group at K's school there's a focus on both independence and learning to ask others (not just the guides) for help.
There's a lot of buzz around making our kids more independent, so they don't need us so much and so they can do things on their own. Because all kids start out as heavily-dependent babies, I totally understand the desire for independence as quickly as possible.
What I am not yet able to do myself is teach collaboration at a young age (other than by example, and admittedly, it's a tough one for me, even as an adult). Yes, it doesn't make sense to collaborate regarding holding a glass oneself, in order to drink. But, short of the very basic things one needs to do oneself, collaboration is often a natural inclination in many kids.

Our culture really focuses on being independent. Move out of your parents house, get a job, go through college, get married, figure stuff out, live a good enough life. But my experience of all of those things was pretty much closer to a nightmare (getting married wasn't, but finding a spouse was!) than an easy checklist of things to do. I had no idea what I was doing almost all of the time. I was a horrible dater, I couldn't stay in college, I was completely unemployable, I figured nothing out, and I spent too much money for a life that wasn't exactly what I wanted, and it was lucky that I got anywhere.

In my late 20s, I started to learn what it was like to stop being so independent and to start collaborating and helping others with their visions, asking for help with mine, and strengthening my resources in human capital. I got a few lessons here and there in various places and programs, but ultimately, it was a lot of "figuring it out," and I wish I had done more work on learning to collaborate earlier in my life.

My parents didn't model collaboration, either. I never saw them relying on anyone. It wasn't that they didn't want to, but I guess they didn't need to. So I thought I shouldn't need to either.

Enter parenthood.

Yikes. If there was ever a time to get a crash course in collaborating and asking for help, it's right when it dawns on you that now you really can't do it all by yourself anymore.  Going on day five of no shower, trying to make a meal with only 2 ingredients in your house (and mustard and tortillas do not a meal make) to feed yourself and your baby, and losing your mind with all the details you can't keep straight, is enough to drive someone insane. We need help!

But many parents I talk to won't ask for help. Maybe they'll rely on some family here and there, but they don't really develop the collaborative muscles that I believe become more and more necessary as a family grows. I'm using 'help' and 'collaborate' interchangeably on purpose. It's common to think of help as related to neediness. But collaboration is where two or more folks work TOGETHER. Ah. So yes, I need collaboration in raising my kid and not just from my spouse.

It's hard to let go of my independence, I admit it. I don't always want to make five phone calls to folks asking advice on teething, potty training, biting, or child care. I want to read a quick book and nail it the first time. I also don't want to ask for help if I'm feeling lonely or hungry or maxed out. I don't want to burden anyone with that, or detect judgment, or worse, feel helpless/needy. I want to be optimistic and force that optimism to carry me through all sorts of trials and eventually wash up on the shore of "doing better today." And then smile at all the other (probably suffering) parents doing the same.

Recently though, when I have shared my struggle, I notice different things than what I imagined I'd feel. I notice willingness, ease, fun, connection, love, and strength. Oh, so that's what collaboration is all about! I was mistakenly under the impression that it was admitting failure at independence!

I hope that K is seeing all of that. That we are collaborating with people. That we give and take. That we also struggle a bit with what it can look like to others, too. That ultimately, it's easier and more fun to share the load. And that it shouldn't take massive catastrophe to do the sharing (it usually does...). It also brings out gifts and talents that may otherwise lay dormant. Independence isn't the ultimate goal. Interdependence is far more expansive and allows a much bigger view of the world and all it can offer.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Idealism

My life is a spiral. I've been able to see similar events, at various times in my life, look different simply because of a different perspective (time, experience, wisdom, help, etc.). That's cool.

I just watched a documentary called: TINY. It was interesting to me because I have enjoyed the concept of compact living for a LONG time. I saw an RV with a washing machine inside once, as a kid, and I thought, "What? People LIVE like this? Cool!"

I like train life, plane life, the cabs on trucks, motor homes, etc. I even liked dorm life. The essentials, creatively accounted for, in a small space. It makes me a little hot and bothered, honestly. I studied industrial design probably because of this.

This video basically encapsulates all that I love about it. Living lean and creatively, without feeling like I "can't afford" it. That's the thing. I know I could live in a hut, like 2/3 of the world does (mostly involuntarily--but check out Shiguru Ban), but that's not really what I crave or find appealing. I just like the design concept of each feature having three uses, flexibility of space, and reflecting a desire for ecological care in housing, without compromise of the important things needs.

I have lived (well, 'spent time' is more respectful, I think) in a variety of small and simple ways. From huts in Africa to abandoned cement buildings in Honduras, to people-crammed homes in Israel, to simple caravans in Scotland, I have enjoyed the pared-down homes that I have been welcomed into.

I enjoyed not having boxes of stuff everywhere. I have loved not needing additional space for things I am saving (why do we want to save things? Why do I, more importantly...another post...). I liked a cleaning session only lasting minutes, instead of hours. I have loved the smiling (or even not smiling) faces of people I love spending time with. I have loved the homes filled with music, delicious food smells, fresh rain and freshly picked food (from feet away!).

I guess I have always wanted a more simple life, filled with what matters and most of the time that seems to include a much smaller house (but to be fair, in most of the above places, it also involves much larger common/shared spaces and nicer weather, or an easier time being outside).

I also am thinking about our financial freedom and that would ultimately include other freedoms like the ability to travel, work in remote locations, afford college for kids if they wanted, and generally be as generous as we want to be. Those are big things to me/us.

Here's the but...

I romanticize a life with less. A lot. Is it chicken or egg? Would living small create a calmer kid, or do we have the amazing sleeping kid we have because we don't live small (because he can sleep soundlessly far away from us, and frankly so can we!)? Does having the space we crave bring us closer or would living in a small space create an even closer relationship? Would living closer to people make us engage more, or has living farther away from the people we love forced us to learn to engage as intentionally as we can, so that we can have the community we crave? I think about this a lot.

And maybe living small, for us at least, is an experience we will have later, when our kids are older and can contribute to the decision intentionally (so we're not forcing them to live in a way counter to their personalities and therefore creating unnecessary stress for all) .

I came to this because a part of me, right now, wants space. Lots of space. As an empathetic extrovert, it can be hard to tear myself away from people because I love them (as a group and as individuals) so much. Heartbreakingly so. And I need downtime from them (like I learned K does as well). Even in my own home of extroverts. Living in 100 square feet would be too challenging. And frankly, loud and hard to escape. Which I like to do sometimes.

I've been reading about Minimalism and many folks say it isn't about deprivation, it's about living with less than you have right now...oh! I can do *that*. I unconsciously spread out in my house because empty space is challenging. But can I simplify more? You bet. Can I focus on the aforementioned smiling faces, delicious smells, and room to breathe and get rid of the stuff that isn't serving me? Hell yeah. Can I live happily and comfortably in a house half the size? YES! Minimalism isn't about no possessions or concrete floors in Soho Lofts. It's subjective. I can do that.

It's been hard to let go of a lot of my ideals of parenting. That's been a running theme during my journey so far. I am getting to know the person I actually am, rather than clutching so tightly to the person I think I want (and should) be. In addition to that, I am learning to allow my kid to be the way HE is, even though many times it has clashed so harshly with my ideals. There's that definite part of me that wants to push through and really force my ideals onto K. I have to admit that, lest you think I can and do gracefully accept all that has changed in my life and shown up in my kid. We throw things away that I'd never throw away before. We eat things I didn't want to eat. We stayed in disposables. We have two cars...the list of things I have let go of, ideal-wise, is long and a bit depressing. I have to make the silver lining of letting go of those ideals be that I am now more open to what is actually in front of me. And it allows me to find gifts I may not have found in simply holding tightly to my ideals. Sometimes giving up my eco-warrior status is heart-breaking and what makes up for it (sort of) is that my compassion for others (and myself) has widened. I need to believe that's how it works. Instead of a kid who just follows along (or is forced to follow along) on my path, I have a kid on his own path. That's cool, too.

Letting go of things, ideals, parts of me, beliefs, etc., has been an interesting process...and mostly it involves a "forever" kind of letting go. But for now, this letting go of living really small, can be revisited at another time. Maybe when the kids are grown. Maybe when we become a traveling troupe. Maybe when we've let go of more things and beliefs.







Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Am I an a**hole if...?

Hey peeps, sorry it's been a while since I've written. With an active talker/walker life and time is a bit different. I guess is always going to be like that from now on...

While K chats in his crib (I'm just not ready to make it a toddler bed yet, no matter how many developmental stages he's experiencing), I sit and think about the last few mama/parent conversations I've had with newly preggie mamas and experienced/old hat parents. It's amazing.
I imagine the oral traditions of yore to be around fires,  caves, and down by the river, full of symbology and mythology. And yet, our current oral traditions have morphed into youtube videos, blog posts, content articles online, texts, and phone calls. But a lot of crazy myths are still being propagated.

One woman I'm in a group with asked bluntly if she was an asshole for wanting to go back to work after maternity leave, even if she didn't need to. A newly pregnant friend of mine didn't want people to think she and her pregnancy were public domain and wanted to talk about something other than babies and parenting at parties. Another friend had misgivings about putting her kid in daycare because she was worried about people thinking she was letting "someone else raise her kid."

Ugh. Sometimes I end up yelling and spewing saliva in agitation because these myths, these straight-up mean judgments, rob us of being who we are. They (these decisions and actions) imply that we aren't paying attention or thinking things through. Really?

If I decide to put my kid in care before five years old, and you assume it's because I'm lazy, you are totally missing my point, my essence, and of course, who my kid is. Also, I had the realization recently, because my 20 month old IS in the care of others for half the day, that because I am sharing time with him, with others, that they get to be blessed by his gifts now too. Call me arrogant if you want, but if you met my kid, you too might see the beauty that is the world in him. And it's not because of me, I know. He's brilliant because he's a child of Spirit. I'm just a caretaker at the moment. Just another perspective on putting your child in daycare. And to be honest, I really like the people who have K half day. They are people I'd want to be around my kid anyway.

Same goes for going back to work. I went back to work, and then decided that I wanted a bit more time with K, but not 24/7 (we need more jobs that are part time but well-paid for new moms!). So I work at home with a flexible schedule so that I am available, but I do not pretend to be able to hang out with my son easily all day, every day. There are those who can do this and I'm so glad it works for them. But I'm not 'less than' because I can't or don't want to. I'm not a worse person or a worse mom. I don't like that a mom who stays at home is considered brave while I, who wants to work, is not brave? What an interesting way to discount my worth, by categorizing who's better and braver and whatever else we think (via our culture). A mom who cares for her kid at home just is. It's awesome, yes, but no less awesome than a mom who works. Both moms are showing their kid different parts of them. And I want to applaud that, rather than judge who's better.

I had this experience the other day: I was working on my coaching business, writing a book, and doing my work at home stuff. It was a flow day, where everything was coming out awesome, I felt good, I felt energetic, and aligned. K was sleeping and gave me a solid two and a half hours to work uninterrupted. Bliss. When I heard his first wake up chirps, my heart skipped a beat and I quickly finished up on the computer and went to go get him. And as I walked to his room, I felt so grateful that I was able to work, to feel fulfilled by that work, and to then be emotionally and energetically available to K when he got up from his nap. Win. He got a free and clear mama, who took time to do the work that fueled her, so that she could be present.

What better gift is there for a child? Had I ignored my desire to work and listen to my calling, I would be a grumpy, unsatisfied, and frustrated mama. I have been that mama. I've been maxed out and unappreciated and then came home to be available and 'on,' but with no time in the middle to get my needs met. And I need to meet my own needs before I can be fully available to my kid. It's a fact of life for me.

And regarding the friend who's pregnant and now everyone thinks they can say stuff to her without thinking about it first, a similar thing is true. Let's try to not lump ALL PREGNANT WOMEN into one giant category and then regale them with horror birth stories, warnings, finger-wagging, boring conversations they've probably had 30 times already, and assumptions about who they are. Let's pretend, just for a moment, that they still have hobbies, dreams, thoughts other than, "I have a baby in my belly," and they don't all love being pregnant 24/7. I've met maybe three people who enjoyed pregnancy and I've known hundreds (thousands?) of pregnant women.

Pregnant women (and new dads too) cross a threshold when a child enters their world and they become transformed (regardless of their knowledge or acceptance of that fact, by the way) and that transformation isn't just into parenthood, or out of couplehood. It's so profound, I don't even have words for it (yet!). My point is this, who you think you know, may have just become an entirely different person overnight. We should honor that. Celebrate that. Hold that. Hold them. It's crazy scary and not just because they are new parents with another person to be responsible for, but because, before all of our eyes, they changed! That's insane! So be nice, be gentle, be open and available. See them in their new light. They will be grateful.

This ends today's musings. Any comments? I'd love to know what you think!




Kalev

Kalev
My favorite baby

My inspiration

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