Saturday, September 5, 2015

Seasonal letting go

Sometimes I get caught up in not wanting to let go of something because if I let go, then I have lost it somehow. Like it was mine to *have*. And yet, like with the seasons, I have a hard time letting go and also a hard time remembering that they return. Every year. Without fail. Things about them change (how 'bout that Seattle summer, huh?), but not too much usually (okay, you can argue Global Warming/Weirding).
My point is that I'm sensing the need to make letting go of and looking forward to a part of the process. It's not merely arrival and departure, it's appreciation and reflection.

What brings me joy is watching the seasons change. I love the new school year, the smell of pumpkin and cider, I love the dampening of sound when it snows and the cinnamon and pine smells, I am elated at the sight of the first bud and how the flowers have their own natural timing of blooming, and the drippy peach juice of summer and early dawn sunlight.

What bums me out is when I don't take time to appreciate those things. They are mere moments, but if I wait too long (as is often the case) to appreciate them, then I feel I have lost them, and then the resistance to letting go is strengthened. But what if Fall was only those brief moments of cider sips, pumpkin pie, and leaves changing? And I set aside time to pause while I reflected? And what if Winter was one snowfall, on one night in the woods, drinking one cup of hot chocolate, listening to (one part of) Harry Potter on audiobook? And what if Spring was a walk through the Volunteer Park Conservatory or a Garden tour and one bouquet of lilacs? And Summer was one peach, one dawn-breaking walk, one outdoor pool trip?

Why am I trying to cram in a lifetime of memories into each moment, as if it's the last (well, I can think of unhealthy reasons why, but I digress)? And can one Fall be about pumpkin picking and the next Fall be about cider pressing? Does every Fall have to be about ALL of it? The answer is that I've tried the trying to get all things into one season, to no avail. I think I keep making all my memories cumulative and then I compare 35 years of memories of Fall into one, barely three-month, season. Every year. Yikes. I'm pretty sure I didn't do every special thing, every single season.

That's my focus this Fall. I want to slow down and try to only appreciate a few moments, not ALL the moments and see if that changes anything. One Pumpkin Spice Latte, one breath of woodstove smoke on a walk, and maybe a pumpkin pie. There's always next year.

Monday, August 10, 2015

We can't compare...

I've seen and read countless articles about the comparison of working stay at home parents and working out of the home parents.
Some of the articles are satirically funny (or try to be) and others are straight up slicing and dicing critical of one way or another.
Parents who work are socially flogged for not spending enough time with their kid (and we don't know *why* they are working, do we?), parents who stay at home are stressed out and overworked and despise being seen as not working just as hard as out of home parents.

But even as I write this I can't for the life of me pick out one example of parents I know who fall 100% on one side or another. And that tells me something. There aren't sides. There are perspectives.

I know stay at home parents who have blissfully easy children, who do what they say most of the time and who nap regularly, and I know folks who are raising a flock, gaggle, (murder?) of kids who are sapping the life out of them. Sometimes to the point of divorce, illness, and scary other options. I know working parents who are struggling to stay sane, who figured out that finding professionals to help them care for (and raise!) their kids was BEST for their kids and themselves. Most of the people I know did different things at different stages of their children's growing up, to flex to what their family needs.

I don't know any parent who doesn't struggle with what their parenting looks like.

Read that again.

Whether it's how they spend their time, money, resources, or what they do, say, seems that we're all writing (and sadly, reading) a lot of articles about the ways we're parenting and how other people feel about that.

I'm one of the folks that takes offense that someone has pigeon-holed me based on how I spend my time parenting. Just because I'm at work, doesn't mean I'm not parenting, honestly.

I hear other co-workers flexing their time, talking to their kids on the phone, leaving work early for Dr. appointments and school achievements, and taking sabbaticals to spend more time with their families. You can't tell me that a parent's heart stops beating for their kids when they come to work. I know it's not true. They are still concerned, stressed, strategizing, planning, and loving while they are 'away'.

But here's what I know: the more I talk to people, the more I explain, the more I realize that I need to be talking to myself.

What are my issues with my parenting? What are my issues with how much time I spend with my kid? How am I dealing with my stress (do I even register that I am stressed?)? Who are my allies? Who are the friends and family that can ignore my dirty carpet and my occasional lateness and understand that I am attempting a really intense experiment on being human? Do I talk to my kid (no matter how young!) and try to make the moments count or explain when I'm not able to bend to every whim?

I have been known to be defensive to a voice that only exists in my head. No one has come up to my face (I dare 'em) and told me I'm not working hard at parenting by being at work. Walk a mile in these scuffed up, 3 year old shoes, my friend.

So if no *real* person is accusing me, then what am I responding to?

We are so quick to project our own demons out and then write crazy articles about it. And then a bunch of people "like" our thoughts or comments or they respond with criticism. I guess I don't see how this is helping the culture of parenting and child-rearing.

I tell new parents who are sleep-deprived and out of their minds (sometimes literally) that in the end, your family is the microcosm of the culture around you. I have awesome friends and family, who I believe don't judge me and if they do and they ask me, we'll have a real conversation about our choices. I don't need to be validated anymore (I go to therapy for that) and it has helped me enjoy my time with my family.

The most important people I need to communicate with about my parenting choices is my family. They are the people I am working for. Always. They tell me (directly or indirectly) what is working. We listen to each other. I leave work early for them. I wake up at ungodly hours for them. I go to work everyday so that we can pay down our debt, afford healthcare and groceries, and not cry myself to sleep at night. That's good amazing parenting in my book.

And finally, it's none of my business how other folks see themselves. If they are trying desperately trying to tell me that they work as hard as I do, I suspect that they are talking to themselves. I never said they didn't. I know articles are generalizing but that seems to be hurting us more than helping us. I know there's NOT ONE THING that can be compared between how my family works and how other families work. So when an article of a stay at home parent wants to tell me how much more stressful their job is, I can't read it. We can't compare our experiences, our stresses, our resiliency, our resources or our communities. So why even write those articles? What are we really asking for? Someone to see us (likely)? Someone to validate our choices? Public consideration? Then let's talk about it THAT way. Let's ask questions, let's lift ourselves up (by sharing amazing personal stories of how we are living life!), and let's assume we're doing the best we can (even if we don't agree with what "best" is).

To adapt Ghandi's famous quote, let's actually be the village we want in the world.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Layers of letting go

If you've been following along, or if you know me personally, you know that I am not exactly the cleanest person. You also know that the messes of little hands, feet and mouths give me a sort of anxiety that I can't explain (or just find hard to admit).
It was getting to the point where I would simply not sit down with K at mealtimes, lest his oatmeal-covered hands grab me in that "I'm two and I want to touch you and cause you great anxiety!" way. And witnessing his hands grazing every part of his clothing, the table, our couch, etc. was actually really stressing me out. Not cool for anyone.

I was taking these deep breaths (audible), and closing my eyes, attempting to remain somewhat calm and nearly succeeding a fraction of the time. The other times I would become pretty rageful. Yep, that's me. Getting mad at a two year old for doing what two year olds do. Ack.

So I took it to a professional.

I mentioned that I was having these intensely strong feelings regarding mess and the disrespect of (my) belongings. I would always be telling K to be careful and gentle and to not mess stuff up. Don't rip pages. Don't step on that. Don't pull that. Don't. Don't. Don't.
That's a lot of rules for a two year old. And frankly, because I know my kid, I was anticipating his every move and pre-emptively trying to curb the behavior. The natural, normal behavior. Big Sigh.
My therapist suggested that when I felt the feelings to just take a breath (and no, not the huge dramatic ones I had been taking...).

This didn't really work.

What's more, is that I was actually feeling really upset with myself, knowing that we do not have ANY furniture that can't be replaced, we don't have extremely nice, museum-quality things to break, and it was just oatmeal..not permanent marker or raw beet juice. What was my problem? Did I think I was going to have a perfectly clean kid? What gave me that idea? (All that white couch advertising)

So now I'm angry with K and angrier with me for being angry at K (yikes!). This is not going well.

After several weeks of sort of touching on this and then not wanting to get into it in therapy, I had a session where I started out saying I know I need to deal with it. So we probed. I got into those memories of my childhood where I didn't feel my space was respected. I didn't have a clean room as a child. I didn't feel seen. I didn't really feel like my family knew the real me. That may not actually be the case, I'll remind you, but it may have just been how I felt. Or maybe they did see me and didn't know what to do with me. That's a distinct possibility.

I imagine that when a child doesn't feel seen, heard, known, etc. that that child does a sort of self-parenting. Wherein they become introspective (literally: characterized by introspection, the act or process of looking into oneself.) I think I actually took over the seeing, hearing, and knowing of me from my parents. Well, with one gone and another raising three other children and navigating a world without her spouse, I get it. But back then, I didn't get it, so I did a lot of self-soothing. After traumatic events, kids often have a higher self step in for the self-preservation moments. That higher self worked overtime to help me cope with both child sexual abuse and loss of a parent. I was doing a lot of self-care and coping.

And I realized that I've been doing it for over 30 years, and doing it the same way the whole time. I'm territorial. With people, food, space, attention, etc. I want my fair share. All. the. time.


So ever since I have started parenting myself, I have done this protective stuff...even when the threat of these things went all the way away. I have never starved. I have never been forgotten (like in that deep soul way, that kids fear). I have a whole house and several rooms for JUST my stuff. So what gives? Why am I still parenting myself this way? Why do I still fear these needs not being met? The simplest answer is because I just never looked at it very deeply before. It's worked for so long, why rock the boat? I mean, I know myself *really* well and that has really served me. 

When I travel, (those that have had the pleasure/nightmare of this experience can well attest) I am all about controlling the things I am protective about. I want to make sure that we are eating enough. That we are sleeping enough. That we aren't working too hard, getting lost, standing out, being forgotten, making people angry, losing our well-deserved seat in the shade, etc. In a primal way I have lost my shit when any of these things were threatened. Like a small, scared child.

There's a new kid in town that needs parenting.

Oh. You mean, a child (that I made, by the way...he's not a surprise!) who simply needs care (since he hasn't been old enough yet to do the self-care thing...). Right. That makes sense. It then dawns on me that when I see my actual kid make a mess, I am witnessing a child ignore the care I (this benevolent parent) am trying to provide. Keeping things clean meant I wouldn't lose my precious belongings to lack of care. Not wasting food meant that I would be able to eat my fill. My child doesn't think about wasting because HE THINKS THERE IS PLENTY. 

Holy shit. 

He isn't afraid of things breaking, because he doesn't know "not having." Tears well up as I write this, because somewhere inside of me I can touch on the part that thinks if I take care of it (my dad? my body? my brain?) I'll get to keep it (perfect/alive/healthy/innocent) forever. So I better teach that crazy lesson to my kid. And my kid better listen. There it is again. It's like a sibling is looking at my kid and saying, "Hey you! If you think you can come in here, make a mess, disrespect this parent, waste shit, and take over, you have another thing coming!" My inner child is basically having sibling rivalry with my actual child. So this is what having two looks like. But the thing is I'm no longer a child. 

Bless my inner kid. She has fought hard for a long time. She is my anxiety, my control, my rationale, my risk-aversion. She has played it safe, she has helped me survive my own possibly fatal or very harmful (some stats say that suicide after child sexual abuse is much higher in teens) life. She has kept me away from situations that are statistically common among people like me. That little warrior has even constructed a world for me where I feel somewhat normal and at times, I even forget I ever had anything bad happen to me. She has done all of that. She has helped me not feel too resentful. She has helped me have a sense of humor and she has been my resiliency. Or at least, she has partnered with my higher self to maintain resiliency. She's done good. Damn good.

Here's the kicker:

Wh-what?!? Another child, out to displace my inner child in the self-care realm? 

Another shock to my system.

I am a full-fledged adult, with skills, therapeutic professionals, a bank account, and a loving community of other adults. I do not need to keep parenting myself in this outdated way. I don't need to compete with my child. I don't need to force him to learn about waste, mess, respect, etc. I just need to help him get needs met so he doesn't have to parent himself because I'm too self-involved to help. I don't mean that I can't care for myself...or that caring for myself is bad (self-involved is simply that...), it's just that I need to update the software. Self-care looks different now for me as an adult. I need adult time. I need creative time. I need to feel useful. So I need to do those things. I don't have to worry about food and space. And now I can help K learn about being seen, heard, fed, understood, etc. 

This whole realization blew. my. mind. I sort of don't know how to do much else, other than care for these basic needs and this inner child has been running the show for a long time. She hasn't let me pursue big dreams because of the threat that I may become broke and have no food all of a sudden. Or, if I do pursue my dreams, she may be worried that no one will understand me/her/us. Or that if I do become successful, I will stand out TOO much, and possibly get hurt. 

But now I feel that letting go urge comin' on...I need to lay that inner kid, that amazing child warrior, to rest. She needs to be fired from keeping my needs met (cause the adult me can do that now). She needs to become softer, more playful, happier. She needs her life childhood back. The one she gave up to keep me alive. Bless that little girl, at 5 or 6, that kept my shit together for so long. 

I don't want to parent my kid from my trauma or the desire to avoid trauma. I see how that ends up. Not well. I want to be on my kid's journey, sensing that there IS enough. Strangely, he has no problem with my big dreams. He's not afraid of me becoming successful. He doesn't care one iota at this point. He just wants a parent to see him, play with him, know him. That's my job. I get to do that. I'm able to do that. And maybe if he doesn't have to be his own warrior, he can have time and space to be who he really is, and to fulfill his purpose. That's my hope anyway.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The tuning fork that is my child

I use this metaphor often. When you flick a tuning fork (that's the technical term, right?), and other tuning forks are nearby, they hum too.

When we're talking about a simple tuning fork, then cool. When we apply the metaphor to our toddler and track our own mama (parent) emotions, then I hate this metaphor. I hate it because it's really true for me right now.

So here's the deal: My lovely, sweet, empathic/empathetic (which one is correct?), brilliant (if I do say so myself) toddler is swearing. Not in a "you don't know what this word means so it's funny" sort of way, either. Like he says, when he gets INSANELY angry, which seems like every other moment, "You Fukid [sic] Mama. You stupid Mama." Yes, It's true. At first it was sort of funny. About three times. And now, since he says it EVERY time he's mad, it's not only way old, but it's actually starting to hurt my feelings. Yes, even though I am an adult, with seemingly tougher skin, this is *hurting* my feelings. What can I say, I feel everything.

It's also an ego thing...when he says it in front of people/strangers I am more upset because I don't want people to think I let my kid say that to me. I hear that people kibosh that in their kids all the time. They simply "shut it down," they tell me. Well, no kiboshing is helping. K says it even when we clearly explain how he can use it (in his room, alone to himself). He also immediately apologizes for it but that's not good enough for us.

I have heard, from MANY people, that if I ignore it, then it (my son's foul language) will magically go away. My intuition says that not only will it not go away, but it's actually important to look directly at it, and NOT ignore it. Well-meaning Parenting Advice, you've failed me again (why do I keep listening??!!)

I have tried all the methods (telling him to go to his room to say that word, telling him it hurts my feelings, telling him that I will not tolerate it, ignoring him and taking a breath/walking away, etc.). But back to the tuning fork thing...

What if he's not the one who's angry, but he's the one who can correctly "tune in" to the feelings around us/me? What if *I* am the one who's angry? What if I am the one who's saying "Fukid [sic] Mama?" If you can, for a split-second, suspend the cultural norm of laughing off bad language and really follow me into this place (I know, it can be scary, but you're not alone, 'cause I'm here too), then when our kids, who haven't been around long enough to really grasp the anger which we see displayed in their behavior, get mad, maybe they are tuning us in to anger that's palpable in our daily lives that we've been ignoring. Or maybe they are externalizing how we are energetically talking to ourselves! So K says "You stupid, mama" and what would it be like if I saw myself telling MYSELF that I was stupid?

This isn't really far-fetched, to be honest. I am angry. And many times I do NOT allow myself the time and space to feel it. Not the way my kid does, anyway. Sure, I try to channel it and redirect it and many times ignore it (hey, isn't that the advice I've been given regarding my kid's bad behavior??), but what if instead, I stared right at it and felt it? Like really let it sink in that I am super angry about stuff? What if I really sat with the fact that I am mean to myself, especially when things feel out of control? Ugh. Then what? There's an awesome prayer that I say 2-3x day that starts like this:

God, grant me the serenity
To Accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

What always chokes me up is not the accepting part, but the courage to change the things I can. Because I *can* change a lot about what's making me angry and how I treat myself. I can change my food, the way I relate to folks, my physical space, my sleep, how I drive, what I watch, what I listen to, what I wear, what I read, and more. I can also "use my words" more. For me, that means more writing, more expressing, more communicating clearly. I tell my son when he's angry that all he has to do is ask kindly for what he wants...well, if I demonstrated that more, then maybe he would too. Ha. I've got me there.

I'm *not* an angry person, I tell myself. I am generally optimistic if you talk to me at parties or get-togethers. But what about the stuff I don't share? What about the fact that I am angry on a daily basis at the state of my home, the state of my health, the state of my creativity, the way in which I treat myself, how others treat me, the way I behave on the road, (I could go on, but you get the idea).

What if my kid is simply, and quite innocently, showing me how out of control I feel? To be honest, if he was participating in Playback Theater, then he would be pretty accurate. I feel INSANELY out of control. And yes, I want my avocados to taste a certain way, I want a book to be written a certain way, I want my food properly salted, I want *only* the songs I want to play on the radio. So is my kid sooooo out of line for losing it every time things don't go his way? How am I teaching him (and me) how to live in a world that doesn't go exactly the way I want all the time?

Moreso, when I ignore it/him or when I try to compromise with him (which really means saying no to what he wants exactly) what am I really teaching? What am I saying to my kid? "You can't always get what you want..." Is that what I mean? What alternatives am I offering? What does he (or what do I) really want, anyway?

Like usual, I don't have the amazing answers. But I know I can't ignore it. I know that I need to work on my anger (even if it's not in front of K, it seeps from me like radioactive waste). I know that when I am not right within, it would be weird to expect him to be right within, since he really is tuned in to me/us. I hate saying this (this, being that I need to work on MORE), because I think I am working on PLENTY (thank you very much) but to be honest, this is what I signed up for. I wanted having a family and a partnership to really bring this (important) stuff into focus. I need the screaming in my face, I guess, to move me to change. I don't really like that it has to be that way, but apparently, that's how I motivate.

I don't know what exactly I can do with K and his language directly. I don't know if polishing in one spot (my life) will make it shine in another spot (his life). I need to turn that over, of course. When I can say that I am dealing with my bigger anger stuff, then I can look at him and see what's ailing him more clearly. But until then, he's probably going to be showing me a lot of the stuff I haven't wanted to look at. I feel compassion for him, but I also know that he's here for a reason too and once I can release him from reflecting me, then he can move on to his own work.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

When it's time to let go, what then?

My sister just called to give me the update on my 94 year old Grandma's health. Not good. As the details of hospitals and end of life are filling the airwaves, I flash to my childhood memories...there's too many trying to hog the spotlight...the time we delivered day-old baked goods from the grocery store to the food banks around town...the time my amazing Grandma made a bridesmaid's dress in an afternoon...all the moments we played as a band of cousins in my grandparents' tiny house and she let us wear her jewelry, her makeup, her outdated dress-up clothes, the time she traveled with my six-person family to Israel for over a month when I was just 3 years old...and of course there are the little snippets that barely capture a length of time and flash like slideshow gone haywire, image after image after image...I can barely place the images in space and time but somehow they completely conjure the essence of my Grandmother. I can taste the Certs mints (do they make those anymore?) and smell her house filled with the mix of baked macaroni and cheese and fresh cookies. I can feel the faucets of the sink in her bathroom, and smell the soap of my childhood. I feel the 40 year old shag carpet under my toes and the dip of the couch from being worn down in the same place, where she would clip coupons, read her Reader's Digest, and knit all the sweaters for various grand and great-grandkids.
My grandpa passed several years ago and honestly, I am surprised my Grandma has lived this long. Her mom and aunts lived into their nineties and 100s. Long lives all around.

I mourned the loss of her when she started to forget us. I didn't lose her, though. I mean, I have had a really long and full life with my grandma. She has met my 2 year old son. She has told me stories of my dad. My sense of loss is not collapsed with my sense of simple sadness. Or maybe gratitude? I've had such loving moments with my grandma. And she has filled my heart with a sense of self that I could not get from anyone else. She has loved me in all my awkward, rough, scared, distant, confused, probably disrespectful, beautiful, lost, angry, proud phases. She has been to my graduations, my birthdays, my no-big-deals and not one time made any less or more of the moment. When I bounced around colleges for nine years, she didn't once harass me about it. She said I was just fine the way I was without finishing college.
She told me about Scotland and her travels to Europe. She kept my dad alive for me when I wasn't ready to let him go by telling me stories about how he was with her. I loved to hear that she missed my dad, because that missing made it okay for me to feel it too. And sometimes her missing of him was sadder and I wanted to keep him alive for her, too.
She took pictures at every event, always getting doubles so she could give them away to us. The pictures were just honest captures of our regular lives, but I love them candid and real.

I haven't been to see her in a couple years. I can't bare to see a person that isn't my grandma anymore. I did the same with my grandpa, and I have no regrets. I am a visual person and I want to keep the last image of her in my mind. I want to see her huge if whatever she's looking at was the most amazing thing. She emodied awe.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The other milestones

Our culture has a lot of milestones, but I am frequently challenged with the milestones presented to me in stores, online, and between friends. First words, steps, foods, etc. are important, yes. But what about first stitches? First urgent care visit? First traumatic experience for mama (well, after the birth experience, of course!)?

What do we do with those milestones (other than flip out and cry and get more protective and cautious)? Who do we tell? Who celebrates our survival when it happens? Who helps us reflect on the process of growing up (of both kid and parent)?

K got his first set of stitches (I need to be realistic with the idea that this may not be the last experience of stitches....ugh) on Thursday. I am thankful for his teachers who had the foresight to tell me to pick him up early and get his split chin checked out. I probably would've let it scab over, resulting in a huge scar.

We went to urgent care and it looked like he was going to need FOUR stitches! What? My kid? But isn't getting stitches hereditary (admittedly, my brain wasn't functioning properly when I had this thought)? I never had stitches and I was so careful, why was my kid even here? We're tougher than this! We can handle a little cut, etc.

Seriously. I was freaking out I think.

I picked up K, he had napped, and we waited to connect with Papa before heading to the doctor. I guess I was a bit scared too. Stitches wasn't something I could do myself. I'd never seen it done. I didn't know what to expect and couldn't help K either.

We got there and immediately K started telling the intake rep what happened (and anyone else who made eye contact). Then he ran to look at the fish in the lobby. Good, get his mind off of what's about to happen.

Then we went into the room to be seen and after about three different people came and went, we started the procedure. He got some light numbing (just for kids, they told me) and then we were told to hold him still. This involved, one PA, one nurse, one papa, one mama, and one grandma. Wow. Immediately K said, "All done. Ouchee." Crap. This is the part where one second felt like a million years and I had to watch this phys. assistant try to stitch K's chin while he's narrating his experience ("I'm stuck! Help me mama! Hold me mama! Ouchee!") and I am trying to hold his tiny hand, which felt infinitely smaller than it had moments before, and not flip out. At one point I got light-headed and having not previously been sqeamish, I didn't grasp what I was actually feeling (hot, dizzy, distant, etc.). They nurse asked someone to bring ice water (and I realized it was for me) and I sat down for a moment. But then K yelled, "Mama, hold me, hold me, hold me, I'm stuck!" and I leapt up again to grab his hand, pushing aside any feelings of weakness or inability to handle this.

The entire time J is lying down, holding K's arms and legs, while the nurse is holding K's head still (strong kid though, because all of us couldn't hold him still!), and my mom is helping hold other moving parts.

The traumatic event finally ended and K just said, "See the fishes now?" My mind was like, "What? What fish?" Oh, right, the fish in the waiting room! He just wanted to get back there. He didn't run screaming out of the room, but just wanted to see the fish. J and I were basically in shock and we followed K out to hopefully save him the shock we were experiencing. Once fish were seen, we were off to dinner. We were about to get in the car and I realized that I we didn't get any discharge papers or pay a copay or whatever else we needed to do. That's when I realized that I was in shock and this was a traumatic experience for me.

I hadn't gotten anything for my heart. There was no follow-up about being able to drive or taking a moment to stabilize before operating a vehicle. There was just action, action, action.
After a meal, we finally calmed a little but I had been experiencing these really helpless feelings around K getting stitches and me not being able to help him (and really, I was one of the ones holding  him down!) while he hurt. That's intense, if you haven't felt that before.

He's bonked his head before and then resiliently rebounded into action in mere seconds. This just felt profoundly different that a kid bonk. And I needed to tell the story over and over so that I could get some healing too (a technique a friend of mine explains here). K just wants to show the wound, talk about the fish and the bandaid covering it, and move on. I want hugs, pats on the back for surviving, and knowing glances about how tough it can be to be a mom/parent sometimes. J had his own trauma, too and that was the thing that got me. All three of us had this experience but created different aspects for ourselves. And even though it was a routine thing for the folks at urgent care, it was like this deeply moving thing for us as parents and yet, there was no ceremony to go through celebrating our survival.

How many other experiences are there like this one? In a lifetime, there are countless.

As parents there will be countless ways we will feel like we are holding our kid down (or not coming to their aid) when it's all for his/her good and we won't be able to talk about that until later...and that is uncomfortable for me. My kid will inevitably have to go through his life without me giving him all the answers, preventing all the hurt, and will also include me looking like I am doing the transgression to him personally. The thought makes me nauseous. Because I CHOSE to have a child. I chose to bring a child up and that includes these inevitable moments. And we're also considering having another child where these experiences will exponentially increase! WHAT?

So yeah, I am just now coming out of the shock of that.

In a spiritual way, it also has recently come to me that God/Spirit has to endure these moments as well. Sometimes I need to be hurt a certain way to give me a certain experience and God/Spirit really can't swoop down and save me from the hurt. I need to experience my own resiliency. I need to survive a scar. I need to learn how to get stronger. What heartache that would cause a parent of that magnitude. Thank goodness I don't consider God/Spirit to be too much like a human.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Having compassion for 2 year olds...

So K is 2 years old and almost 5 months. We can easily round up to a solid 2.5 years old, development-wise. Meaning he's is IN IT. And as his parents, so are we.

Yesterday, there were some strong feelings (I'm not naming names) about not getting a Clif bar (and really, it was about going to the store, which he thinks is a ritual and I can't say it's not...:S) and then there was some mean things said about not going to the library (I know, really? was I preventing my book-obsessed kid from going to the horrible library AND denying him a Clif bar?? What kind of monster am I? Oh, one who has some boundaries and limitations and can't go to the library or go to the store to quiet a screaming child...but I digress) and it was a rough ride home.

When we got in the house we needed to cool down and take a breath.

Sometimes my husband and I have just resulted to shrugging and raising our eyebrows as a parenting method that loosely translates into, "I have no fucking clue what just happened, but I think some growing and developing is going on and I really don't know how to help him!" I actually feel like I "lose" my kid while he derails and it's heart-breaking to watch him go...and I really can't hold on to him. In fact, the thing I feel that would most help him is this unbreakable hug where I basically use my brute force to keep him from flailing (like a parental straight-jacket). Ah, of course I think that would has for so long, right?...all the strapping him in, holding him close, swaddling, etc. It has worked for a long time...

But upon reflection, I realize that no, that won't work anymore, sadly. He'll separate from me regardless of the intensity of my hugging. That's the nature of our relationship. So how can I make it easier? How can I just stay present while he derails?

One way to do it, is to just literally stay present and have compassion (the "co-" part is key!). Silent, engaged, listening, eye contact, grounded energy, staying there. People will do this thing OVER AND OVER until the moment of our death (the final separation in the physical sense) and we better start practicing it (if we haven't already been).

I can also hold space (or ask for a bigger entity to hold space) while he flails. In a way, I am flailing too. I am also experiencing this separation, right? As an adult, with more awareness, of course, but it's still scary. How do I know he's ready? How can I tell him it's okay? How can I tell him that I am still *here* when we are both obviously feeling this huge difference/shift in our relationship? I don't know, but a bigger presence in the world (God, Mother Nature, the Universe, etc) knows. And so I can (and try to) trust that.

Other than those things (and variations of those things) there isn't much else I can do. I really need to keep clear about that. I cannot really make it easier. It's hard. Just like my parents couldn't help me handle my hormones as a teenager (ugh, what a mess!). I will just not be able to do some things to help. No amount of therapy or books or awesome parenting tricks will work. Separation is the combination of destruction and creation in the SAME moment! It's hard for me and I'm an adult, so it MUST be much harder for this little person who hasn't really had to do it a lot yet.

So in the end, what I am going on about is growing my ability and capability to be compassionate. K is not doing this TO me. He's unable to talk about why and how this is happening and the best thing I can do is to be firm, kind, and present (and maybe toughen up my own skin a bit?). We'll make it through. Billions of people have done it for millions of years. It's survivable. And a little compassion goes a long way...


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