Tag Archives: Parenting

Parenting Forward

CLEANHOUSE

I recently met with a student who was having a hard time reconciling her mother’s instinct with the pressures from family and friends to parent in a more socially acceptable way.  We had a long, heartfelt talk, and here are some of the “heart-lights” we had that I want to share with you.

If nothing else, remember that you alone are responsible for your child.  You have to live with them, you alone will bear the joy and the guilt of all your decisions. Acknowledging and accepting that, know that trusting your instinct is right and worthy.

Parenting with the end goal in mind looks different than parenting decisions made for immediate behavior modification.  Yelling when it’s not an emergency, hitting, slapping, intimidation, etc., will probably get your child to stop doing what they are doing or get them to do what you want them to do against their will. Taking the time to think about why you are seeing this behavior, asking ourselves if there is a way to change their focus or solve a problem takes time…and if your child is having a full-blown public nuclear meltdown, it may activate our own issues with “being a good/bad parent” or attracting attention, or our stories about acceptance and rejection.

It can be so hard to parent what I call the “long way” when your child is acting out. It is much easier to bargain, bribe, or force the outcome that is easiest in the short term.  Going the long way means letting them cry or tantrum in public, taking the time to ask questions and listen to your child, try to figure out exactly what they need or find a solution, and then patiently see it through so that interactions are loving and peaceful. It may mean changing our plans and trying again another day.

Speaking specifically to the times when our children get loud, the goal of parent intervention is to stop the tears or the tantrum.  We have stories deeply ingrained in our culture about parents who can’t control their children, and therein lies one of the problems. It is a mindful decision to treat them as little humans with their own set of feelings and desires, instead of chattel to control or do our will.

In my mind, the first thing we can examine as a culture is this idea of needing to control children.  Why not start with changing the paradigm? Instead of “children that behave” why not shift the focus to “adults that can make decisions”? It means acknowledging that children are human beings that are going to need to learn to navigate life, with all its ups and downs.

When we start to parent with the idea that our children need to be equipped to be whole, loving, and capable humans when they leave our home, it may drastically change the reasons why we chose to do or not to do when the time comes to teach them the lessons that come with the situations that challenge them.  With that mind, it gives us permission to parent them per what we feel is best for them. Each child is ready for different milestones at different times.

Here are some of the different areas of disagreement with heart-led parenting versus socially-based parenting that came up in our discussion.

Sleep:
Some children are ready to sleep on their own before they are a year old, other children need the warmth and comfort of a parent or sibling into early childhood or the elementary years. Would it help you to know that in other cultures, they consider our practice of tucking children in to sleep by themselves is considered neglectful and sad for the child? Read THIS article or THIS article by Dr. James McKenna on The Natural Child Project site, and THIS one on Fatherly.com (warning: the title is a bit abrasive).

Breastfeeding:
Oh the places you could go with this topic.  Here is the information on the side of extended breastfeeding if that is your choice…

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children are breastfed at least until 6 months old, and to continue breastfeeding after that point – link HERE.

Drs. Melissa Bartick and Arnold Reinhold published a STUDY in March 2010 with these findings: If 90% of new mothers in the USA were breastfed just to the six-month mark, it would save $13 billion in healthcare and other costs – read more about that HERE

The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until a child is two years old…really!! Read their statement HERE

So there are three huge pros in your corner if you want to breastfeed, and continue past the 12-month “normal”.  I hope you are encouraged to follow your own rhythm when it comes to breastfeeding your Sweet Pea.

Food:
This is the age of mindful eating. We know there are inflammatory foods (list HERE), we know the benefits of probiotics (links HERE and HERE), we know that when offered healthy food,  children will eat it (read THIS fascinating study).  It is okay to trust that if you consistently put healthy choices in front of your child, they will not starve, and they will eat healthy food.

So what if you don’t eat out at fast food restaurants, or it takes you five minutes to place your child’s order at a restaurant? You alone are your child’s advocate until they know what is good for them and know how to place their own order.  And you will be so proud of seeing their healthy food choices and their awesome physical health when you see how they compare to their peers.  They will spend more time in the classroom and less time in the doctor’s office when they eat healthy, whole food.  It is worth it!!

Behavior modification:
Another loaded discussion.  I would invite you to trust your mama bear instinct here.  Also, try to address your own hang-ups about being a “good” parent and/or giving and receiving love.

This came roaring to a head for us when Otter was three years old.  She went through this phase of hitting me when she was angry…and one day when I was tired and worn down and I couldn’t believe what came out of my mouth, “When you hit me, it makes me feel like you don’t love me.”  That came from a deep and old place, a story that I had from my past. It validated why I do not want to hit our children, and made me even more dedicated to the theory of “gentle parenting”.

Here are some of my favorite parenting resources for you to explore:

Laura Markham – aha! parenting – gentle parenting resource

Janet Lansbury – gentle parenting resource

L.R. Knost – Little Hearts – gentle parenting resource

Positive Discipline – great ideas to help set boundaries and keep them without intimidation

Five Love Languages – discover what moves your family members, and then love them the way that speaks to their heart

 

What are your thoughts?  What are other areas you feel heart-led about and you find hard to talk about or outright disagreements with your family or friends?

 

TT Dear Dance Mom

Thoughtful Thursday: Dance Drama

As we enter a new season of dance, I feel compelled to write a little something about the drama that plays out after every audition season.  And believe me when I tell you that I have had to bite my tongue and sit on my hands…because I do not want to be one of “those” parents. So this is a reminder for me, and hopefully if even one parent who finds themselves getting wrapped up in their children’s activities can get a little peace of mind, then my intention with this post is fulfilled.

I see this every dance season: (mostly) mothers who are comparing notes as they receive their children’s schedules, complaining to the other mothers, asking their children why someone is in a class and they are not, going to the studio directors and asking after their children and their placement.

Number one: Your children have no idea why other dancers are the classes they are in.  Leave them alone.  Dance at it’s most primal element is an expression of emotion (joy when you are a child)…so let them revel in the joy of dancing.

Number two: When you hound the teachers, you become one of “those” moms. Do you really want to be one of “those” moms?

Number three: This is not about you. If you enrolled your children in dance classes to fulfill one of your childhood ambitions, then you are doing both of you a disservice. Children who feel pressured to do something will probably do one of two things: quit when they are ready to claim a little independence; or if they stay in it to keep you happy they may suffer the ill effects of stress: illness, injury, depression. What is this childhood ambition of yours really worth?

 

Here is the thing: if your child went through an audition process to be placed, their instructor saw them.  They see where they are today, and if you have history with the school, then likely, they have seen them the last 2-3 years.

Leave the schedule be. Even mindful teachers sometimes overlook children through the audition process, and when that happens then they will move your child into the correct placement. That is the key: THEY do it.  “They” as in the teacher, and “they” as in the child. You stay on the “cool parents” list, and your child has the joy of accomplishment as their progress is recognized and they on their own merit, get to move up to the next level.  When the child moves up on their own merit, they are not the kid whose mother got them in the class (people talk…both parents and children).  When a child does the work and gets promoted on their ability, the child knows they earned it themselves. Hence, the opportunity for a huge milestone on their journey to build self-esteem.

This is what it all comes down to in my book: either you trust your child’s instructors, or you don’t.  If you trust them, then deep down you can come to the realization that maybe your expectations for your child do not match their abilities “for now”. If you feel like the teachers are not doing their job or are not judging your child fairly, then by all means find another dance school that is a better fit for your family.

Bear in mind that “for now” doesn’t mean forever, it doesn’t mean for always…just for now.  Even though it digs at me sometimes, I have to go back to my mantra: I would rather see my child in the front line of a lower-level class, instead of pushing them up to the next level where they are relegated to the back line and lower self-esteem because they can’t quite keep up just yet.

I am not suggesting that you do not allow your child to goal-set.  Here is an idea if there is a class in which your child would like to participate, or you want them in.  Instead of appealing to the teacher to admit them, ask the teacher what the child needs to work on to be promoted to that next level. Then, if your child wants to, bring them in to the school a few minutes earlier so that they can work on those skills before classes start. I have seen other families hire some of the senior students help coach…that works, too, as long as it’s a child-led desire to do the extra classes to improve.

We have also seen our children flourish when they perform solos or small group numbers.  It allows them to receive more individualized instruction. In addition, a mindful teacher will choreograph a routine that plays to the child’s strengths while also putting in some sequences that challenge them to grow.

So trust the process, mama and papa. If you want your child to love dancing, then take them to class, feed them well, ensure they get plenty of sleep, keep them in shoes that fit, and enjoy watching them grow in the art of dancing. For grow they will, in their skills and their love for dance.

For tips on finding a good school, click HERE.

P.S. This is the cool part…when you leave your kids and their teachers alone, and you just sit on your hands and close your mouth because you trust the teachers and your trust their process…amazing things can happen.  One wish: your child becomes an amazing artist who is poetry in motion.

We had the honor of watching a very cool and collected Puma win not one, not two, but five national first place awards at the Dance Masters of America National Convention. Two for her solo, two for her duo with Night Owl, and one with her small group. She is a child who was “passed over” year after year as other children around her age were advanced. I trusted the process and stayed the course, trusting that her instructors are amazing, caring and capable people, and that they would move her when she was ready. Our beautiful, self-confident child reaped the rewards of HER hard work and dedication because SHE cared and did if from a self-drive to succeed. So very proud of her. For my part, thankful for the wisdom that comes with maturity. Because God knows that it took a lot for me to be still.

 

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Fessin’ Up

I want to take a minute to make something very clear because two people have made comments along the same thread in the same week.

My base belief is that those of us who choose to function in society are doing the best we can with what we have.  I try not to judge myself against others because the other thought I remind myself is that no one is perfect. We are all disorganized somewhere, and some are just better at hiding it than others. 

I am writing today as a reminder: When you look at someone, try not to assume that they have it all together or judge yourself for not doing enough…because unless people “fess up” like I am about to do, then they may look like they are, “doing it all”. In reality they are just getting along as best they can like everyone else.

Comment 1: “You had time to make dinner for all your kids?”
Because mama saw me at the dance studio with our little IKEA bento boxes at the studio, which our kiddos take because we hate buying fast food.

Answer: Our nannies cook. I make sandwiches and cut fruits and vegetables. When the nannies pack the boxes, there are meals in them. When I pack the boxes, there is *cold* nutritious food in them.

Comment 2: “How are you doing? Because you give, give, give and I want to make sure you are taking care of you.”
From a friend of the family we see on a weekly basis and who we interact with professionally in our birth classes. He sees what I do on social media and all the events we host/attend.

Answer: I am doing great. You know why? Because my amazing husband works his a** off for our family, and we make the choices that allow us to afford 2 **amazing** nannies that do all the cooking and the laundry, or at least 95% of it. Which frees up my brain and my time to do everything I love to do, which is give to our family by homeschooling, and to our community by teaching classes and promoting or attending events that support pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and the family.

AND AND AND all our children are out of diapers AND they are all potty trained. It’s hard to understand just how momentous that is until you see a mom up to her eyeballs in babies and toddlers (that of course she loves very much, just like I loved our children so very much when we were in that stage). “No diapers, no accidents” is such a huge new milestone I am finally embracing; instead of grieving the fact that I will never birth again.

So even though I put on a good front, I have a huge amount of support that makes it all work…pretty well on most days.  If I am tired, I get snappy; if I am sad I cry, just like every other human parent out in the world.  Since we’re doing true confessions here…sometimes it gets worse than that. I had a meltdown in a parking lot last May and I was reminded of my humanity again in February of this year.

Just like many of you, I have days when I am completely overwhelmed, and I have days when I am filled with joy…sometimes in the same day. What is amazing is that as our children grow, they are helping more and that makes it all worth it. They are starting to take ownership for their part in making our family run smoothly, and they are funny and giving and helpful. They are also putting us through growing pains again as we are approaching the teen years. I love it all and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 There is one more thing I want to add: aside from all the earthly support and help that I have, I have an awesome God.  He lights every step of my journey on a daily basis.  I have lived through dark days when I tried to run away from my faith. Then I was welcomed joyfully back and have walked with the Holy Spirit in my heart every day since then.  I am by no means perfect, however I know that I am loved. That makes it all worthwhile and so very doable.

Photo Credit: Tunc Tezel
https://goo.gl/OIB1Ys

Monday Musings: Living

If you have been following along the blog for a while, you know that 2016 was a huge year of shift for us.  We sold our two homes – both of which we loved – in preparation for a possible move across the country.  We also lost many family and friends as they moved on to the next journey after life.

Just when we thought we were through the woods of all this shift, another beloved mother in our circle passed away suddenly in December. I am still not clear if it was a stroke event or a heart attack – what ever it was, it was enough to invite her to move on – and she did, leaving behind a husband and four children.

I am devastated for her child that is Night Owl’s age – she was the surprise baby after their three older children had basically made them empty-nesters.  And also for her three older children that will now go through all their adult “firsts” without their mother, to say nothing of her husband who is now going to have to find his new normal as well. It is so much to process…and yet I realize that they are not alone and someone, somewhere, is holding vigil tonight for a beloved soul that will pass along before all the goodbye’s have been said.

This woman’s passing hit especially close to home since she was the same age as my beloved husband. I came home from her services and told Daddy Bruss that the first order of business in 2017 is for him to have a complete physical and catch up on any tests that he hasn’t had in a while and/or yet that are suggested for people his age.  I also realized that it’s time for me to admit that I am practically in my mid-40’s  and it’s time for me to take me own advice.

Her passing also made me recommit to my intention to Live Life Today.  There are things that are important and things that really don’t matter.  It has made me really motivated to get rid of the junk and clutter that we accumulate because There Is No Time To Waste on Small Stuff.

My new intention for our homeschool day is to only do “things” until noon, and then have lunch and go out and have experiences with our children.  I don’t know if we are going to finish our curriculum as I had planned before I had these revelations, quite frankly I don’t think I care anymore.  As long as the Sweet Peas do math, read, write, make music and dance every day I think we are going to meet the rest of any requirements on field trips.

I watched THIS TED Talk tonight and it is right on point to where I am in my life. Thankfully my revelations arrived through the course of reflection over all the grief we experienced as a family last year, and not a highly stressful experience like this speaker lived through.

Since deciding that my ultimate goal is being the best parent I am capable of being, I have not felt a huge struggle with the yelling.  I close my eyes, I take deep breaths, I remember Lisa Reinhardt’s voice guiding us “to be” at the pace of melting chocolate, and I count until I can open my eyes and answer calmly.

Quite frankly, if I die tomorrow, I have a very clear picture of what I want my children to remember, and it’s not Crazy Mama.  We all sent her on a long vacation.  I hope that the intention to be Peaceful Mama is strong enough this time to leave her there a good, long time.

Peaceful Mama has huge hopes and dreams. I want them to remember a mother who showed up for them.  I want them to remember that my deepest desire is for them is to find their passion in life and pursue it.  I want them to remember that my love for them was deeper than the oceans and I hope they will use it to soar higher than the stars, because I believe in their greatness and ability to do anything with their talents that they set their mind to achieving.  I want them to remember that I am one of their biggest fans and that they are very, very loved.

I want them to know that their father and I conceived them in love, brought them into the world in love, and that they are loved in such a way that nothing can separate them from us.  We will always strive do whatever is in our power to help them learn, grow, explore and invite them to take risks so that they can learn who they are meant to be and what their God-given gift is to use for the benefit of others.  I want them to remember that we made choices in our personal life to facilitate the pursuit of our dreams, and that creativity and helping others is an honorable pursuit.

If the way I live my life in whatever time I have left conveys this to them, then my work on this earth is complete. It’s so easy to take time for granted and put things off because There Are Things To Do.  The bottom line is that there will always be Things To Do.  The time to be in relationship is limited.

I don’t know how much time I have left, so I am doing a lot more snuggling and saying more I love you’s than I used to.  I continue to remind myself of their love languages so that they receive the love in actions as well as in words.  Much of my desire to speak more and do more as it relates to my passion for birth and breastfeeding and the childbearing year has taken a back seat to my desire to be someone they remember fondly and with love.

So now I am signing off to have a late night snuggle with none other than Night Owl.  Good night.  Wishing you all a day full of love <3

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Thoughtful Thursday: Sorting Through

As we continue to unpack, I dread the fact that we still have LOTS of boxes in our garage. On top of all those boxes, we have LOTS MORE boxes in storage.

It’s stuff.  Literally just stuff. Holiday decorations. Cherished baby items and favorite outfits from when our sweet peas were little.  Toys.  And papers. And old artwork. All of it reminding me that we have too much, I keep too much. I have so much to release.  Especially: books!!!

As I was moving things around today to clear some space in the garage, I found a laundry basket full of books…and I have to face the fact that there is literally no more shelf space for them.  (I cannot buy another bookcase!! Where would I put it?!?!)

We are bursting at the seams in our home – I don’t want to bring anything else inside.  Right now, everything has a spot. Nothing is piled up or so full that I can’t easily put it away in the right place…but there are still boxes.

So now I have to decide: am I going to let things go? Or am I going to insist on holding on?

It almost feels like a metaphor for our children. As we are in the midst of the 64-day span in which we celebrate the birthdays of our 3 younger sweet peas, I am struck by the fact that they are *really* all growing up.  Our “baby” is turning five this year…she is in kindergarten!!  We are only six years away from our oldest going off to college…and she is making noises about wanting to try out for a performing arts school next year.  I hear a rustle in our little nest…

They are all stretching their wings and getting ready to fly.  It makes me take inventory of what we are teaching them…will they be equipped? Will they have the confidence to spread their wings? Will they know how to do critical thinking?  Will they have the courage to do what is right instead of doing that which is most convenient or gratifying?  Sometimes those things intersect; and when they don’t, will they be able to live with their choices?

So here I sit…wondering.  Wondering what will become of the pile of boxes.  Wondering how our sweet peas will grow.  I hope and pray that they will grow and mature in their faith and self-esteem, knowing that they are loved.

Letting go…holding on…the art of living a meaningful life. The inspiration continues to choose and lead with love. My filter is the question, “Am I living love right now?” If I am, we go onwards. If I am not, it’s time to adjust an attitude, a voice, a tone…and live with love, nurture with love, grow with love; trusting that the end result is going to be greater than I can imagine.

 

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Monday Musings: On Parenting

“Being a parent is not about what you give up to have a child, but what you have gained from having one.”

Bruss and I just completed our 24th and 25th Bradley ™ series over the weekend. What a wonderful and exciting time for all of our students as many of them embark on parenthood for the very first time!!

For the last segment of our final class in the series, we each share our thoughts on “being mom” and “being dad”. Here are some things we share with our students about what is gained from becoming a parent:

1.) Your greatest teacher.
Each child that joins your family is unique, individual, and will require you to parent them in a particular way. If you take the time to watch them and listen to them, they will share some amazing insights and open your mind in ways that you never knew were possible. We aim to parent them in such way that honors them as smaller humans capable of experiencing and expressing their thoughts and emotions.

Their statements, actions, and questions allow us to be constantly evolving as parents. We have learned so much about ourselves, and how to be individual parents to each child, just by following their cues.

2.) The opportunity to be curious.
One of the best pieces of advice I received as a newlywed was from the mother of adopted children. She stated that her children were free of pressure to “be this” or “do that” because she and her husband had no way of imposing their expectations on them based purely on genetics. I resolved then and there to allow our children the same opportunity to be themselves, even though we are genetically related. Hence the curiosity: what is their talent, their gift, their calling??  Our statement to them is that we hope to help them find their calling, whatever it may be, and then support them 110% in their pursuit of their passions so that they can glorify God in their way with their gifts.

3.) The opportunity to play.
There are some places that are great to revisit as parents: the floor and the park. We take the opportunity to sit on the floor with our kiddos and play with our children. Not all the time, and not for their entire playtime, just when it works out. If it’s a super-busy day and our children want to play, I will say yes, for “x” minutes I can stop what I am doing and play with you.

We can also visit the park and play with our children. Maybe we won’t get on all the features of a playset; we do however push them on the swings or run around a little with them. And when we can, we do clamber up after them on the ladders and slide down the slides – it’s all in good fun.

4.) The opportunity to become a better version of yourself.
Being a parent is so much this. We try not to fall into old patterns that we learned from our own experience as children. Instead, we see the opportunity to decide what kind of parent we want to be, and do that. Whether it’s trying something new to set a good example, to being brave in situations you would usually avoid, to basic things like yelling less and laughing more, there are ways we can strive to be a better person every day.

5.) The truest love you will ever know.
One of my favorite movie moments is from the film, “Maleficent”. After sixteen years of protecting and growing to love the child, it is Maleficent’s kiss that breaks the curse she spoke to Sleeping Beauty.

The love I have for our children is fierce, protecting and caring. It wants to hold them tight and at the same time give the wings they need to fly. I hope that despite all the mistakes I have made and will make as a parent, our children will know that they are loved. The moments I treasure are the contented sighs in their sleep, their sleepy faces in my arms, the little hands reaching for mine when we are out for reassurance and safety, the spontaneous laughter around the kitchen table when we have “a moment” …those little moments make my heart swell to bursting.

While I love my husband to pieces, it is different to love and adult and to love a child. He is my lover, they are my beloveds. I am grateful for the opportunity to love them all.

 

So those are five things I feel I have gained from the opportunity to be a parent – how about you? What is something you have gained from having children?

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Doing it all…or not.

I am so honored to have been invited to do a homeschool mom feature on the Homegrown Adventures blog – I am so inspired by that mama on a weekly basis! While I work on completing the interview questions Irina sent me, one in particular really stood out.

Her question that really got me thinking, and I want to write about it today…”How do you do it all?”

My answer is…I don’t.

Number 1: My husband is incredibly supportive of the homeschool journey. Although he isn’t doing any instruction (yet!), he gets the value of what we are providing our children, as well as the importance of activities outside of our home. He makes it possible for us to offer our children individualized instruction, while also providing them with the opportunity to interact with larger peer groups.

Number 2: We are blessed with outside help. The only thing I really have to do in our school day is teach our children. We have ladies that come in 4x/week for a few hours to help with the housework and meals. The days they are not at our home, our Sweet Peas are old enough to help out now. They take turns helping to prepare meals and clean the kitchen, and we have a chore system that works when we use it – LOL.

Number 3: My daily priorities are flexible, and evolving!! This has been a learning curve for me – actually relinquishing the standard of “doing it all” and taking more of a “wait and see” attitude. My “all” meant that I tried to instruct our children and do every activity every day, keep up with all the groups I was in, establish myself as a blogger, and also take the lead in event organization…it was too much. Crazy Mama was showing up far too often. Suffice it to say I do not like her. She yells too much and she forgets that the people in front of her are children. She is also a very short-tempered wife – none of us like her very much.

Once I adjusted my expectations, Peaceful Mama was free to show up and remain present. I took a day to myself to make a list of what was really important to me. No surprise: my family came out on top.

As far as the school day, I had to decide what my absolutes were…what did I **have** to get done every day in order for our children to progress in their learning and growth? And then, what was the fluff…the subjects that are nice to have in our schedule, yet no one is going to fall completely behind if we do not do not complete them every day? And, beyond that, recognizing that we homeschool…so we can be flexible. If it didn’t get done today, we can catch up later in the week.

The best thing I learned to do a few years ago was to plan “catch-up” weeks into the year. I also schedule “reading weeks” every five weeks. A “reading week” means that all our children have to do is keep up the math and reading schedule…everything else takes a break. It is nice to have a week with less pressure and more playtime – it helps keep the focus consistent throughout the whole year, instead of taking 2-3 week breaks because we are all brain-fried, and then taking another week or so to ramp back up to our full schedule. Our consistency has been hugely improved since I adjusted my expectations for our school days.

What about the rest of the day? Ideally, schooling is only 6 hours per day for the five children I homeschool. Sleeping, so that I can make room for Peaceful Mama, is my top priority. Next, I try to prepare our school day before our Sweet Peas wake up. If we can start early, we finish early. They get to play and I can take care of emails and writing/editing during the day so that I am not up late at night.

The third part of that was figuring out that I don’t have what it takes to be a top blogger. I am not willing to “bleed on the page”, so to speak, and reveal all my dirty secrets and/or private life on the internet, I don’t have the time or energy to court sponsors and deal with the paperwork/taxes, nor will I spend the time it takes to interact with a large audience because our children hate it when I am on the phone or computer instead of interacting with them. Besides, it’s part of practicing what I preach. If I am limiting them to two hours a day of screen time, then during their waking hours, I want to hold myself to the same standards. Releasing that freed me from the pressure of “I have to post daily”. So what if I miss a day when I usually post?? No one is going to complain about it…so no big deal.

And finally, I made the decision to step back from so many birth groups. I have the desire to be at every meeting every month, and attend groups in other areas so that I can stay connected and be a force for change in the birth community. I had to come to terms with stepping back…realizing and accepting that the world is not going to end if I missed a meeting. Yes, I do miss seeing some of my favorite people. However, being present for our children is my strongest desire: they are only in our homes for such a short period when you consider the length of a lifetime.

I stopped attending one group altogether, and adjusted my expectations so that I didn’t fret about missing a meeting here or there. What a huge relief it was to focus on attending only two consistently, and then leave the others to a “wait and see” outcome. If all the stars line up for me to attend, I go…if not, then I don’t and I enjoy the time with our Sweet Peas.

Since our children are onto a new season of greater independence, I am able to do volunteer work again. They attend classes for two-hour stretches; they don’t particularly care if I am sitting outside the door waiting for them. Their father is able to do it, so he does. Doing volunteer work fills my cup just as much as attending birth-related groups, and I can do that without the Sweet Peas feeling like I am cheating them on time when I go out at night.

Now comes the task of compacting all of these sentiments into a shorter answer for Irina’s blog feature. For today, I figured that writing it out and sharing my journey with our crew of faithful readers was a good first step to finding a shorter answer.

I do want to take a minute to thank all of you that are regular readers. It has happened a couple of times…just when I think about giving it all up, one of you will send me an email that encourages me…so here I am – still – three years later for our family blog. I appreciate those of you that take the time to read and interact…it’s great to know I am not writing into the great void. Thank you.

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On the threshold

Puma will be turning 11 in January.  Since her 10th birthday last year, she has claimed the title “tween” since she is between the single digit birthdays and her first teenage birthday…and last night, we saw the first inklings of that age.

“You are not the boss of me.”

How to answer that statement, that really wasn’t a question – or was it? Was it a challenge to prove it one way or the other? Or was it the first statement of independence as she claims her right to find her own way in the world?

My answer yesterday was reflexive, “Actually, as your mother, I am still the boss of you.” Followed by the reasons why what she wanted was not going happen (stay up all night to fill the house with Christmas decorations). She said this in front of her siblings, and I had to defend my authority, right?!?

However, as I sat with that statement overnight, it occurred to me that there are other ways to handle that statement in the future.  For really, the whole goal of our parenting philosophy has been to raise self-assured, compassionate and self-realized individuals.

We strive to treat our children as human beings, not mimics or pets who are bound to obey without question. While we try to behave in a way to earn their respect, we try to avoid the “boss”role. Speaking for myself, I strive to be a compassionate parent to serve as a tour guide through the life lessons they must learn to be competent adults.

What was going on last night? She wanted to have the house ready for the season because Christmas is her favorite holiday. She wanted to have it ready as a surprise for Busy Bee. And she doesn’t like it when things don’t happen the way she had planned.

To her, all the joy of the day was forgotten because her one goal to have the house decorated was unfulfilled. Forget the fun she had playing outside as she and her siblings helped Daddy with the garage. Forget the help she gave me, just the two of us enjoying some quiet time in the kitchen while everyone else was outside. Forget the fun she had running around after dinner playing games with her siblings. Her day was terrible because Christmas decorations were incomplete.

So then, a better response to that statement would be something like, “You are right – at the end of the day, only you are the boss of you. And we hope that you will make choices that preserve your health and your happiness.  Would you say that staying up all night to impress someone, when it will compromise your sleep and your immune system, is a good use of your time? Or maybe, we can make a checklist, and be diligent about completing it every day so that by the end of the week, the house looks the way you want it to, and we all stay as healthy as possible this season?”

If only life had a “redo” button.  Since it does not, I will take some time this morning to honor her feelings, make that list, and get started on it as soon as today’s school day is complete. Thank God our children are resilient, and that we are blessed with another day with them to be their guide, their North Star on life’s journey.

As I close today, I ask you to remember a family in your prayers who lost their North Star yesterday. Ella Bowen was a beloved dance mom at our childrens’ dance school. From what has been shared on social media, it seems that the other driver was under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Such a tragic loss of a beautiful human being, who leaves behind a husband and two beautiful daughters. Hold them in your thoughts and prayers as they find a new normal without her by their side.

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Caring and Not Caring

I have been taking our children to some kind of class or activity for eight years now. I am a competitive person, so it takes *a lot* of restraint and intentional letting-go for me to accept that our children may not be the best in that setting.

I had to realize, accept and internalize early on in this journey called “parenting” that how well our children did or did not do/perform in their current activity (or compared to their peers) was not a reflection on me or my parenting. It was a reflection of who and where they are *right now*, and my role as their North Star is to simply guide them.

I learned to ask questions like, “What did you learn? What did you enjoy? What was hard? What do you think about that?” I had to learn these questions because my natural inclination is to want to correct, teach, and ensure that they would do better next time.

I had to learn to shut off that inclination and realize that is the way I am, not the way our children are. They are sponges – experiencing, learning, and growing. I realized over time that it was slightly ridiculous and unrealistic to expect a child with little to no training to easily succeed at the activity. If they wanted to improve, then we would be available to help. If they are just in it for the fun and they are having fun…encourage them anyway.

There are things that have been hard along the way. As a former dancer who worked hard to improve, and who loved the technicalities as well as the expression of the art form, it has been hard not to be too hard on our children, all of whom are dancing.

I expect pointed toes, sharp spotting, expression from the top of the head through the finger tips and (pointed) toes, and joy!! I had to learn to calm down: I was projecting my grown up abilities and expectations on CHILDREN!!! Hello, lightbulb moment!

I had to learn to laugh when one of our kiddos went off-stage the wrong way 5 out of 6 performances. I didn’t yell at him, because it wasn’t a big deal. If the dance director didn’t say anything, why should I? As long as he is projecting joy on stage, he is doing his job as a performer.

I had to learn to shut off my critic when our oldest delved into the world of solo competition last year. She has teachers who she respects that are willing to guide and coach her. My role as her mother is to love her, support her by driving her to extra practices, and encourage her to listen to her teachers. My biggest job: to teach her to enjoy the journey. At the end of the day, the journey is about much more than winning or losing. What does she want to improve? What did she learn? What did she enjoy? What was the highlight of the event? What does she want to remember forever and tell her own children about?

It has been hard to watch Puma get passed over for several years. I kept hearing one of her teachers tell me that she was always tired and lethargic in class.  Shame on me for not connecting the dots. It was no surprise that once the ulcerative colitis was under control, she started eating more, and hence having the energy to not just keep up, but start to excel in her classes.

I can’t say for sure that is the reason why she started to get noticed. I do know for sure that she is starting to care about what her dancing looks like.  Whatever it is, she is putting more effort into dancing.

So all those years of marking time, and driving her to dance class, and tuition at the dance studio is starting to show. She is little by little moving up.  Little by little she is being selected for performance numbers. I have to try not to get to excited, because that’s counterproductive to my efforts to not get invested for my own edification. If she has any talent, that is God’s gift to her. If she is succeeding, that is a direct result of her own hard work and effort in her classes. It is not about me.

I wish there were words to comfort the parents who are watching their own children get passed over. It stinks – I know first hand how it feels. It’s hard not to be a little irritated with the teachers who aren’t seeing the potential in a child, especially when several of their classmates are chosen, and you know darn well they share similar skill levels.

As former professionals in our chosen fields (Me: dance, Bruss: baseball), our philosophy is that being passed over is an invitation to work harder.  So if a parent wants to “do something” about it, now it’s time to do some fact-finding…

I am going to suggest something similar to what I tell our childbirth students: choose a “provider” that you trust. In this case, a team, teacher, or organization that you know to be trustworthy, reliable, and that above all, keeps the child’s best interest in mind. If you believe that you are in the best place for your child to learn and grow, then ask to have a conversation with the coach/teacher.

When you go talk to the coach/teacher, try to leave your feelings at the door. Focus on the facts and try to keep the emotion out of it by asking questions like: How is my child doing on a scale of 1-10? How did you give them that rating? What are you looking for when you select “teams” or “groups”? What skills is my child accomplishing? What areas do they need to work on in order to have a better chance at being selected next time?

It also means checking in with the child: what do they think? Does it matter to them to be selected? If it does, share what you learned from your fact-finding conversation with the coach/teacher. If it doesn’t matter to them, then ask them what they enjoy about what they are doing, and what makes them happy about it.

Then, support them! If they want to work harder, help them carve out practice time and/or tutoring in the skills they want to acquire. Point out progress so that even if they don’t get picked again, they can still be proud of the growth they achieved.

If recognition in an activity isn’t a priority for them, ensure that it stays fun for them, because joy is such a crucial part of good health. Doing something they love keeps the stress levels low and the child happy. At the end of the day, is there anything more important than capturing joy in childhood?

Thankfully in Puma’s situation, I didn’t have to have these conversations with the teachers at the dance school because I do trust that the teachers are objective and fair. When Puma made comments about wanting to be included in the performance groups, I asked her what she wanted to do about it.  And then I watched her put her actions behind her words.

I think the best thing we did for Puma as she starting competing last year was giving her the option for an out.  One of our family mottos is, “Be safe! Have fun!” Both Bruss and I told her repeatedly that if at any point, practicing and/or competing stopped being safe or fun, she could stop and that was okay with us.

As it turns out, she has a little competitive streak herself, and she cared.  We figured out extra rehearsals that worked in our schedule, she reminded me in plenty of time to take her, and every once in a while she asked for help from her old dancer mom.

Before every event, I asked her what she had learned going into the event, what had improved since she started, and what she wanted to enjoy at the event. I tried so hard to stress that it wasn’t about winning – it was about the journey and the growth.

As our boys play soccer for a second season this fall, we are trying to do the same thing. Night Owl is extremely competitive and takes it very hard when his team loses. We are helping him channel all that extra energy into sportsmanship after a game, and improvement during practice times. Charger is a “go with the flow” kind of guy: he just loves running, kicking, and playing on a team: the score doesn’t matter to him.

And so it goes…more surrender to the process, their personality, and the journey. So much like birth, in so many ways.

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Becoming a line rider

Riding a bicycle with my child brings out the mama bear in me. I love that Puma wants to be active, and that she is motivated to ride the three-mile round trip to go to neighborhood market.  On my own, it would not be something I would even consider!

She likes to go in the morning when people are going to work and taking children to school. Realistically, morning rides make the most sense in our desert climate. But still!! There are enough cars on the road to make me nervous.  It’s interesting that the desire to honor healthy habits in our children makes me a little more brave.

I didn’t think twice about riding on the line of the bike lane, making people move around me in order to protect my child. And then it hit me – oh my gosh!! Maybe that’s why those annoying bikers ride the line: they are just claiming a little more space on the road.

Now I was one of “those annoying riders”, and I was not planning on moving over.  I am kind of sorry that it took living the experience to understand why people might do what they do.  

It was a good lesson on living with more compassion. I have no idea why people who ride bicycles seem to take up so much of the bike lane, or maybe take over parts of the road.  Next time, instead of rolling my eyes, I’ll slow down a little, give them space, and say a little prayer for their safety.

It’s also a good reminder that I can extend compassion into all areas of interacting with others.  We never know what is going on behind the scenes of their facade, so instead of judging or commenting, deep breaths are the order of the day.