Last week I had the honor of being interviewed by Pam Laricchia of living joyfully. She has put it all together as a wonderful podcast and I do hope you will click through and have a listen.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or tweet your idea to rumomma and I will build the list as the ideas roll in.
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 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.
As we sat watching hockey last night and discussing family travel plans, I said to my first born son “Oh that will fall on your birthday.” To which he responded “and then I’ll be 15.” It took the breath clear out of me. I know how old he is right now. I know how old he will be on his next birthday. But the speed of time and what it all means just winded me. Here is this human being who I have focussed the majority of my time and energy on reaching the sorts of ages and milestones where launching out in the the world is a very really before I know it thing.
The panic spread quickly from the pit of my stomach, to my throat and into my brain. That magical machine that does it’s best to send me into a whirlwind of self doubt. The dialogue sounded something like this “Have I done enough? Will he ever call when he leaves? did I break him? Of course you broke him. Should he have gone to school? Will he be able to do al the things he wants? Did I screw it all up?” And on and on and on.
Breath in. Breath out. Connect to something right now. Looking out from my panic stricken mind, I saw my fourteen year old son bouncing on a yoga ball while encouraging his favorite hockey team to put the puck in the net. His dad sat behind him and I to his side watching hockey together. This was all that was true. This which I could see. The rest was story old old story threatening to pull me into an imaginary world with a viewing audience of one. In the true right now all is awesome.
I can easily slip into a world of worry. It’s hard wired in my DNA. What I am working to remind myself each day, is that I can just as easily slip into the right now moment. The skill that works well for me is to take a breath and look around for something concrete in the environment. To really see it. Replacing future fears with a description of what is happening before my eyes. It’s not always pretty but it is tangible and full of choice. Choice about how I will react. Choice about what I will say. Choice about how I will remember. Choice between fear and love. This ability to drop into what I can describe in front of my eyes kicks in the unconditional love that has always flowed from me and pushes fear to the sidelines. Even if the fear stays, it’s on the sidelines and not running the show.
It’s true that no matter what I do my children will be a moment closer to launching in to the world with each click of the clock, whether I am paying attention or not. The holding on, the pausing of time, comes with the ability to see it all happen. To take that extra breath that pulls me out of fear and into the presence of love. Because as I have said before it is the love that matters most of all. The love that will be our forever bond. The love that will last beyond our years together. It’s up to me in each moment to choose love over fear in order to gather the most of this journey as a mother.
When Barak Obama was elected President in 2008 I stood in my living room with the boys and watched history being made. And I made the dangerous assumption that this was a signal that clearly racism was no longer a part of the world at all. It’s also true that in the moment because of where I had lived for my entire lifetime I had no idea about racism to begin with. It’s likely what helped me to make the sort of ignorant leap that I did that day, that things were over with. It was what let me with all my white skin not have to worry about that anymore.
Now after living in California for six years, I have had the wool pulled clear off of my eyes. Through the people I have met, the stories I have heard and what I have witnessed myself I have come to understand a completely different story. Please don’t get me wrong, I am quite juvenile in my understanding at this point. I am still undoing my own misunderstandings, seeing how ignorance has wound it’s way into my own thinking, my own actions and reactions and how privilege can put on some serious blinders. I am no where near expert on this topic, no where near, I have much work to do to learn and grown and understand. I do feel like I am awake now. And I can’t be that woman who stood in her living room that night and believed race issues where behind us. Because I have two human beings watching me closely, for some guidance in how to be in the world.
Two nights ago when a whole different kind of election result rolled in, these two human beings were still watching me. I had said from the comfort of my privilege more than once that if Donald Trump was elected I would flee the country and head back to my homeland. I said it with the kind of certainty that comes from knowing I would never have to follow through on that action. The media, my husband, all my FB friends convinced me into believing that this would NEVER happen. And so I could toss about threats like that. I could sit back in my comfort zone of “I’m not allowed to vote here,” and hide out waiting for the election to be over already. But then it began to happen. And while I drove with my youngest son having an anxiety attack in the back seat about Donald Trump becoming president something broke inside of me. I don’t even know if broke is the right word. Something inside of me shattered. And my own ignorance poured out in front of me. I knew I had to do better by my children. I had to step up and be a leader for them.
My journey as a mother has been committed to being the parent they need me to be. Looking to them for guidance as to what stories I need to rewrite so I can continue to show up with love and connection. For building them up so that they have the tools to go out into the world and make it a better place. I have used a lot of words along the way and some action for sure but in this moment of election results that shook a nation to it’s core, I realized I had a lot more work to do. It was time for my actions to speak louder than my words. So when my son asked me “are we moving back to Canada mom?” with both worry and confusion in his voice I explained, “I never should have said that. It was a selfish thing to say. I think the best thing we can do is stay here and work hard to help our friends who have ever right to be afraid. We are safe. We will continue to be safe under this new leadership. But I’m not confidant that is true for all the people we live alongside. So let’s find out how we can help.” I will be honest, I was surprised by how relieved he was with this answer.
In this unthinkable moment, I knew I had to step up and be a leader for my children. At a time when a country was electing someone who had, in the kindest description, been a bully and rewarded for it, I needed to show them a different sort of leadership. If my hope was for them to stand up for their friends in the face of adversity I was going to have to give them some examples of what that looked like. If I was going to hope that they would use their privilege to help others in life, I was going to have give them some concrete examples of what that looked like. Because it is true that my sons see what is wrong with the election results. They understand how woman have to work harder in this world. They have a solid knowledge base but I’m not sure they know what to do with all of that.
This was my lesson. To see that my words to date have served well but they are no longer enough. My sons are getting older. They need me to show them how to stand strong in the face of adversity. They need to know what action looks like when you stand up and use your voice to help those who have lost their’s. And that doesn’t come from packing up all your belongings and running away to keep your own self righteousness intact. It means standing boots on the ground and saying “I will fight for your rights, with all the privilege I have.” I don’t think there has been a moment in my life where I have felt so called to action, to be the leader for my children, in how to make the world a safe place for all the people. I know things now that I can’t un-know. And turning away feels like the action of a coward. I want courage for my children, for all the life ahead of them. So I put that courage in my own hands right now and lead them.
I am far from having all the answers of what that will look like in the coming weeks, months and years. I do know it starts now with small acts, each day, that they can witness in me. Yesterday, it looked like walking to neighbors homes who we had not spoken to in the three years of living here, with a bag of cookies and saying “Hi, I’m your neighbor and today felt like a good day to share a little kindness.” And you know what. My son who says “I don’t talk to strangers ever mom.” stood by my side at each of those houses, by choice. Today and for all the tomorrows, it will look like similar acts of small kindness, eye to eye contact, a smile, holding the door open, buying a stranger a cup of coffee. As well, I will continue to learn what is broken in a system that does not support all the people and use what I know to lead these young men forward. I will examine my own privilege and the shelter it has given me and how best to use that to insist on shelter for everyone. To show in actions, these young men, that courage beats fear every time and that LOVE aways wins over hate.