The EXTRA-ordinary is required

 

Want to add a little extra love to your day why not add whipped cream it! It’s my favorite way to add a little extra magic to the day. Who doesn’t love an extra dollop of whipped cream on their hot chocolate, strawberries or ice cream. Use your imagination here, whipped cream tops many things.

Another fun addition is to turn the whipped cream your child’s favorite color. Or the color of a special celebration, pink for Valentine’s, green for St. Patrick’s. One super secret fun way is to invite you child to make the whipped cream with you and hide that food coloring. Dip it in the bowl before the cream, or a few drops on the beaters and watch with delight as your child is amazed by the magic color changing whip cream.

I use whipped cream here as an example. The goals really is to simple turn the ordinary into EXTRA ordinary to up the love that is spilling out between you and your child.

Tie their laces

I could write a short novel on the troubles we have had with shoes in this house. They took a long time to feel good and when they did we wore them until they fell apart,  dreading the moment when they felt too small and a transition was required. For my oldest son his usual was crocs for the summer months and rubber boots (a specific brand) for the winter. Both styles were worn into the opposite season for longer than other folks because shoe transitions were hard.

So as you can imagine there was not a lot of time, practice or opportunity for the learning to tie laces. When they got older we did try some shoes that had the dreaded laces. And I always tied them without complaint (okay, I tried to always tie them without complaint I am human after all). When you are in a rush to get to playing with your friends the last thing on your mind is learning how to tie your laces. It’s not what one could or would call a teachable moment. This is a moment to show up with a dose of love and tie those laces. With the years and years of experience you have doing it you are going to be way faster and it’s truly hard to focus on learning something new when you have a burning need on the other side, to get going somewhere else. The loving thing to do to facilitate your child’s need in the moment is to willingly bend down and tie their laces.

This idea can be extended to include a lot of the little things we can do for our children throughout their growing up. It can be easy to buy into the idea that children are being lazy by asking for our help. Or that at some magic age decided by someone outside of your child they should be able to do these things on their own, without hesitation. I am here to assure you that your twenty-five year old son or daughter will not be driving across town to ask you to tie their shoelaces.

When our children turn to us and ask for help it is because they need help. That’s it. They are not trying to manipulate us. They are not spoiled. Truly, when our children turn to us and ask us to help them with something they can do for themselves, they are not being lazy, they are asking for a little extra love for reasons we probably can not see on the outside. I would much rather be that mom bending over and saying through my actions “I love you” than the one pushing her children away from her side with shaming comments about their age and ability.

I, even now with a teenaged son just shy of six feet tall,  willingly and happily bend down and ties his laces. Cause no matter how many times he ties them I am going to always have a few more years of experience on him.

Together, we do hard things

My TimeHop app reminds me again today that I left my homeland seven years ago. I think about letting the day pass without notice or celebration. I mean come on it’s been seven years at what point do you stop noticing. But then I remember why.

The first reason is obvious. I mean come on who doesn’t need a little extra cupcake in the busy-ness of being all grown up in a work focussed world. I know i am all for any excuse to shift my focus from obligation to celebration.

Next up the amount of courage it took for all of us to leap into a brand new far from home country is no less impressive seven years later. I know that is it true that in the moment of yes, none of us were super clear on what we were getting ourselves into. More so for the then five and seven year old who were coming along with us. I have held both of them in the years between then and now as they wept over statements like “Can we please move back now?” “I didn’t agree to this long,” and “I F***ing hate this place.”  Truth be told I myself have wondered the same thing more than once and found myself at loss for words when questioned. I have wept over my own grief as the dates have passed marking the time when each child has lived in the US longer than they have in Canada. And wondered if this will potentially stack up against me as their mom when they reflect back on their childhood. That’s a tough one to swallow, it wasn’t in my original game plan. So it’s not just the courage it took to say yes that we celebrate, it’s the courage we use each day to find the joy in a place that still feels unfamiliar a lot of the time. The courage it will always take to live too far away from family in a place that measures temperature in fahrenheit when all you’ll ever know is celsius.

At the same time we celebrate the depth of opportunity for learning, adventure, joy, connection and epic stories that our California living has gifted us. It has become our normal now. Too hot weather, not enough rain and constant pokes at our invisible accents, don’t disrupt us as much as they used to. We boast with great pride to each new person, with in the first few minutes of meeting, that we are indeed Canadian. Some may say we are far prouder Canadians living away from home. We celebrate how hard we have worked to keep roots, not only in the land but in the hearts of the family and friends we left behind. We celebrate the strength it still takes to reach out to build new friendships when we feel like the dear ones we already have might just be enough.

But the biggest thing we celebrate is our ability to do hard things together. The bond that brings us over and over again, from the edges of self despair back into the folds of our combined strength. The love that holds us up when anything threatens to tear us down. The promise to never leave a member behind but instead to rally together to lift each person to their highest potential. How we choose always to stand side by side holding hands, as we did seven year ago, to walk into the unknown buoyed by our combined power to do hard things.

Dance Break

 

When the mood gets dicey, the melt down is rest around the corner this has got to be one of the best ways to turn it all around. Whether it is you or a child, I recommend installing this in the everyday day of living this life. TAKE A DANCE BREAK.

You don’t need to have any special training or moves for this one. You just need to move to the music. We dance a great deal around here. Sometimes I do it to catch a laugh in the strangest of situations. Nothing stops a meltdown midway faster than mom dancing down the cereal aisle (worth noting that timing does matter on this one because not every melt down is conducive to the insertion of humor). Days on end of rain or cold or sickness can be transformed (if only for a few moments) by a stereo turned a couple notches too high and getting your groove on. At the end of a movie, there is most likely a song why not sweeten the transition by popping off the couch and shaking your booty. In the airport too long, listen somewhere there is music and always there is room for a little dance break.

One day my youngest son and I were at the hockey rink. He really does not like the hockey rink, so we danced there a lot. He looked at me and said “Mom it’s like we are the only ones who can hear the music.” It was true we were the only ones dancing. In front of strangers, to music they may have tuned out. In that moment I was so very connected to my child and what could make his heart smile without concern for those around me. It can be tough for me to let go and dance in front of strangers. But when I think about what I am showing my child, it makes it that much easier. I am helping him to see that marching to the beat of his own drummer feels good. And that  whenever  he finds himself in a place  he would rather not be there are ways to lighten the mood, with a dance break.

Even if you are at a stage in your life when you are not in the presence of children, I recommend throwing down the dance break when you need a little lift. I promise it will only feel uncomfortable for a moment or two before those happy hormones start hopping and you have slight interlude of happiness.

A Deepening Understanding of my Privilege

It feels like a long time since I have turned to these pages to share my passion for parenting. Since the election in November my understanding of the world around me has been turned on it’s head. There has been a lot of guilt to wade through, hours of education to be done and a whole lot of privilege to spread out for serious examination.

To think that the issues each person is fighting for today, under this new administration, are new is so deeply naive. Me showing up to the fight, that part is new. But the issues are not. People have been fighting a long time and I have been sitting in that place of blissful ignorance. I am owning that and it has been a tough hard bitter pill to swallow.  But it’s about damn time I got to swallowing it, moving on and rolling up my sleeves to dive in.

A huge part of this for me has been looking at my own privilege in a way I never have before. I would come to these pages to write with passion about the ways I think children should be treated, how we should parent from a place of partnership and throw down a whole lot of stories about how to go about doing that. Which is all so very nice in my white stay at home mom bubble of a fair world where we all have the same opportunity to do this. But that is just not true. We as mothers don’t all have the same opportunity to show up for our children in the ways we would like to. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe each and every child deserves all the love and respect I have written about over the years. I still stand behind my words. I see now clearly how covered in privilege they are which has be considering things in a whole new light.

I have know for years that being able to be home with the boys outside of the school system is a privilege. I likely would have argued that we gave up certain things to live as a single income family, which is true but does not take away the privileged piece of this. I was already ahead of the game by having a stable enough income to make this choice. I also did not have to worry what people would think about me out in the world with my children during school hours because of the color of my skin. I did not have to worry that folks would think my choice was harming my children because of the color of my skin.

But this goes deeper. My children can launch out into the world of work, college and choice from their homeschooled background with more doors open to them than can some of their peers simply because of the color of their skin. My sons will  be given a wider field of opportunities because of the color of their skin. It could be true that the unconventional schooling path will make for a door or two that closes on them but since ALL the doors were wide open because they happened to be born with white skin and a penis will make this almost unnoticeable to them. Begin able to consider an unconventional path to education was a privilege in and of itself. I didn’t have to consider how this would close more doors to them. I didn’t have to look at the world around them and choose school because it was a path most folks would respect and stood to open some doors that were closed to them because of the skin color they were born.

Understanding this privilege on this deeper level truly has left me a bit at a loss for words and unsure of how to move forward with my own work in the world. It has been for all these years about loving up these children with the best of our ability, undoing our own stories to show up for them over and over and over again without any foundation of understanding of all the steps up in the world I had giving me this pretty little pedestal from which to preach. Now that I can see where I am standing I need to re-evaluate what I am saying.

I think the answer comes, still in valuing the treasure that is each and every child in this world. The missing piece is how we come together and help each and every parent in the world become that parent for themselves. How do we join together to combine our resources so they can be distributed a little more evenly? So as you see here, I’ve only come up with questions which I suspect will be the basis for a slight direction change in my own journey as passionate parenting writer. I do hope you come along for the adventure.

The children are watching : on becoming an activist.

This space has been silent for a while. Something happened when the place in which I live elected a misogynistic, racist to be president. If you are reading this please don’t tell me that had nothing to do with why you voted for him. Because to vote for him you had to decide to look away and that those issues were not important to you. I am not saying you hold those values I am saying they weren’t deal breakers for you and that is terribly disappointing.

I was also wildly ignorant. Believing the media the played before my eyes assuring me this man would not become president. I looked away and listened to their well rehearsed denial that quoted sources that were flawed. I hid underneath the line “well I can’t vote anyways so this mess isn’t mine to deal with.” My privilege created a bubble that wrapped me up safely to believe that the world around had left racism, sexism, ableism and heteronormativity behind. I turned a blind eye to the pain, the struggle the fight that my peers of color deal with each and every day just trying to be in this world. I was ignorant. So very ignorant.

I woke up that night when the unthinkable played out on my television screen. I woke up to realize how uneducated I was. And that is where I have been ever since, educating myself. I am far from a full understanding or education. I only just figured out who my senators and representatives are. I’ve only scraped the surface of knowing what institutionalized racism is and all the ways it benefits me. My white privileged backpack is still full of things that need to be unpacked. But I am not waiting to be perfect at this before getting my boots on the ground and showing up for those much more vulnerable than myself. I am not sitting on my couch yelling at the TV about what is wrong any longer. I am instead going to local counsel meetings, I am talking to my neighbors I am LISTENING more than speaking to those who do not wear my same  privilege. I have left behind mainstream media to seek out alternative news sources. I am rallying with those in my community to further educate myself in how best to use the resources that I have unjustly earned. I committed to becoming as comfortable as I possible with DISCOMFORT. I have had 44 years to be comfortable, I will not let another pass with my head buried so deeply in this skin that was born upon my body.

We have children to protect. They are already far better than those gathering up to lead the United States right now. They were born free of any of these isms. I see it. In front of me everyday. The ease with which my children use new pronouns and ask as easily “what pronouns do you use,” as they do “what is your name?” I see it when they watch a television program or movie that I enjoyed as a child and say “whoa that’s pretty racist.” I see it in their willingness to learn, to questions to grow in their understanding. And I see it in how fiercely they stand behind their own knowing of how each child, each person has a right to the same privilege as every other person. And I remind myself that they are watching right now. They are watching our every move. It is not enough any longer for them to know that what is happening is wrong. They are eyes peeled on me looking to see what happens when a bully moves into the white house. When policies are tossed around that threaten to strip rights from their friends. They are with their eyes, ears and hearts watching to not only witness but to know what to do in the face of great injustice.

It is with that knowledge that I stand up. I add my voice louder than every to the call for justice for all. I educated myself in how to be the best white ally to my community of color that I can be. I become their truth seeking, activist, will not rest until ALL HUMAN beings receive the full respect and dignity that is our birth right, mama.

I wish I could throw down right here my golden plan but if you read a little above you will see I am still scrambling up hill to get all the information. I can sprinkle to the ground here a few resources that have gotten my feet moving toward a better future for all the children. I can beg of you to join me in this fight, in the ways that you can, to fix this mess so that we may be proud of the world we hand over to our children.

Resources (please send me one that you are standing behind so that this list can grow!)

Planned Parenthood – they need our help with the new administration planning to defund them and promising to limit women’s access to abortion and birth control, consider a monthly donation. You can also become a Defender which gets you direct action information on how to protect this resource.

Stand Up For Racial Justice – there are many local chapters that you can connect with for both direct action and education.

15 Books for Fighting for Justice in the Trump Era

We are his problem now – be a part of the direct action that will get in the way of the Trump agenda.

ACLU – they need our support. Stay informed. Consider a monthly donation

The Trevor Project – Founded in 1998 by the creators of the Academy Award®-winning short film TREVOR, The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24.

Learn how to have dialogue with those of differing opinions here. This is where we start to move the conversation forward.

37 days of activism – this is a course I recommend for all. It’s affordable and filled with true actions and education. It’s where I started.

This is only a beginning list. I am committed to coming back to it over and over again as my own education strengthens. Please send me your resources so we can build a more just tomorrow for all the humans.

Combating Holiday Chaos with Magic.

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Holiday stress can get pretty chaotic for a lot of folks. I try to stay out of the crazy and still find myself getting pulled into busyness and unrealistic expectations. So as a reminder to myself and anyone else out there who might need it, here are a few ways to add more magic and less chaos to the holiday season.

  1. Dance Party. Always with the dance party. Whether it is waiting in the line that goes to the back of the store to purchase the milk your ran out of. Or in the traffic that is building before you very eyes as you rush to wherever you need to be, the dance party is the solution. Turn up the tunes and dance like no one is watching!
  2. Lower all the expectations. Take some folks off your gift buying list not because you don’t love them but because you would rather sit at home and watch a movie with your family. Instead maybe grab a pen and put together a Love List for those folks. It’s the sort of gift that gives all year round. My friend Sherry of Simply Celebrate has amazing resources to kick off your love list making. Drop a few things off your “to bake” list or make the meals a tad less homemade. Costco sells some pretty nice mashed potatoes that simply need to be re-heated.
  3. See your CHILD not their behavior. I have talked about this before but I think it is so worth repeating. There is a lot going on for children at this time of year. There is anticipation, waiting, changes to routines etc etc that can lead to behaviors that might also seem out of the ordinary. Instead of reacting to the behavior react to the child, you know is right there, struggling as we all are, to keep their cool during this intense time of year.
  4. Involve your children in the planning. I know at first glance this might seem as something that could potentially add to the chaos but I promise is does add to the magic. At the start of each holiday season, I ask the family “what are the things we have to make sure we do this year?” This gives us a concrete list to go off of of the things that make the holidays special for US. It’s a list made by us and not some outside forces. It also kicks a whole bunch of things off of my over achiever mom to do list which is awesome.
  5. Change of scenery. When emotions are getting high and the world is promising to fall down on everyone in the next minute if something doesn’t change, be the social director who steps in right away with a scene change. Around here that usually means getting outside. I can’t just force folks outside, I have to have a game plan. Lately that can sound like “who wants to go for a Pokemon walk?” Or “Let’s go for hot chocolate at Starbucks.” In the past we have done scavenger hunts, geocaching adventures, leaf collecting and puddle jumping. Alternatively, a scene change could be throwing on a favorite movie, dusting off a board game or singing favorite Christmas carols. The idea is to jump in before the mood hits the fan and bring a little happy back into the mix.
  6. Stop. Drop. And connect. This is kind of a mix of everything with a little flare for the dramatic. Stop whatever is happening. Drop whatever you are holding (figuratively and literally). Find a way to connect with the child in front of you. For me this usually looks like a big ole awkwardly long hug. Or a joke. Or simply picking up a hand and holding on to it. Whatever it takes to turn the moment around and back to what we want as a family a peaceful, connected holiday season.

Perhaps you have some magic that is built into your holiday awesome. I would LOVE to hear from you to grow the list longer to combat this holiday chaos with a WHOLE lot of loving moments. You can leave a comment, send an email (shannon@breakingdaylight.org) or tweet your idea to rumomma and I will build the list as the ideas roll in.

Parenting is who I am

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On a recent road trip I fired up Shonda Rhymes book the Year of Yes on the stereo. Part way through the book she said something that made me start talking into my own recording device as a jumping off point for an idea that needed a little more of my attention. Her words “parenting is not a job it’s who we are.”  I had referred to parenting as my job on more than on occasion. Her assertion gave me pause for some serious reflection.

For many people a job is something that one regularly wants a break from. It’s laborious. It can suck from time to time. There is compensation for time and effort. Often their are complaints about hours, there can be overtime and maybe even sleepless nights. Co-workers can point out issues, you would rather not deal with. There is a chance for bonuses. There is a certain level of knowledge that is required to succeed in most cases. Writing these examples down I can most certainly drawn some parallels between parenting and the work force. I can understand how we as a world have come to consider parenting a job. However, jobs are often something we have to get through, struggle with, do when we’d rather not.

Alternatively, if I start to ask questions about who I am, the worlds that flow forward have a much more positive spin on them. I am kind, I am thoughtful, I am hard working, I am considerate, I am loving and the list goes on. The energy I bring to considering who I am as opposed to what job I do comes from a place much more grounded in the impact I hope to have in the world around me. It strips me back to my fundamental character and considers the values I hold dear..

When I turn this all around back to parenting I find myself nodding enthusiastically alongside Shonda. Yes, parenting is who I am. It is not what I do. It is who I am because it is wrapped up in my heart. It’s an action and response that comes from my core values. It is how I tend to the most fragile parts of who I am. This is not to say it isn’t challenging or exhausting or frustrating at many moments. It instead defines what I hold onto in those most desperate moments to pick me up again to meet myself with compassion in order to bring my best self forward.

Turning toward parenting as who I am and not a job I do affords me the freedom to be my best self at each turn of the journey. Responding to struggle with love because I want to be known as someone who can do hard things in the face of challenges. Choosing kindness because I want to be a trusted resource to those who are vulnerable. Providing compassion because I know at the heart of who I am that I want to be a hand up not a push down. Applying curiosity to all the situations that arrive because I want to be known as someone who could think way outside of the box to uncover the solution no one else considered that lifts each person to their highest potential. Persevering in the face of adversity over and over again to rise a stronger human being. Honestly, connecting with the humans in front of me to find the space between us that is our shared humanity. This, this list of who I am, is the parent I become when I see this one piece of my journey, as an extension of who I am and not a job I must do.

I didn’t know

I feel like the post reads well out loud. I’ve provide both a read aloud and the audio. 

Before becoming a mother I was keenly aware that I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  My husband and I talked about what if’s and maybes without committing to much since we had never been parents before and no one was selling a blueprint. We listened to other people’s advice with the sort of glazed over eyes one gets when there are no hooks upon which to hang the well meaning advice. And though I walked in eyes wide open to the fact that I had no idea what was about to unfold, I am certain I was clueless to how wide spread and long lasting my wobbly legs of inexperience would last.

Of all the advice I was handed no one warned me that these human beings charged to my care would break my heart in ways I never knew existed before our eyes met  for the first time. Or that I would sit behind bathroom doors weeping over spilled milk in order to gather the strength to clean it up while keeping their fragile sense of well being well constructed. Because, especially in the beginning, their wide innocent eyes would always be looking into me for their own sense of self worth. And that while I was sleepless, unshowered and floundering in this new role, I would have to deconstruct everything I knew about myself to rise a better human being so that I might pass a piece of that on to this new person I’d give my own life for. Or that my insides would be a constant demolition site of building after building destroyed in the search of solid ground.

I wasn’t prepared for my heart to beat in the outside world with the most delicate protection pretending to guard it. As monsters and disasters formed around each corner proving my own inability to every keep it safe from what promised to hurt it. In the beginning I though this courage would grow alongside their own independence. That some how my heart might find it’s way back inside the walls of my chest where the sturdy ribs would once again protect it. This was untrue. My courage is just as wobbly today though my delivery of belief in them has gotten better at masking the quiver in the words I share to support their wild adventuring.

I mistakenly thought my competence would grow alongside the years of practice being a parent. It might be the most humbling lesson of them all to realize just when I chomp down on my own sense of confidence life saddles up with a slap to the face that reminds me just how temporary it all truly is. Falling to my knees in near despair I see the sliver of hope that pulls me back. The temporariness of it all is the true beauty. It promises me a chance to choose over and over again just how I will show up. One moment does not guarantee the next and that is where I can pick up my own misplaced pieces and set them right in the eyes of these tender human beings.

I didn’t know I was capable of a love more fierce than exploding volcanos and tsunamis. Or that I would be able to use that love to send messages of worth deep into another human being simply by sitting side by side in the hard places of being a human being. Also that that love would be the reassurance we each fell back on over and over again when we misstepped along the mine field of living a fully emotional life with one another. And that this love would be loud, quiet, unpredictable, ever growing but most importantly always constant. Before their arrival I was under the impression that love was conditional. But this fierce love is mine to give them over and over again no matter what falls in the space between,  how deep the divide becomes or high the mountain, the love always arrives.