I just found this little nugget tucked away in some of my writing.
The world around us does not regularly offer support to meeting our children’s needs on a regular and immediate basis. Honestly, it might stretch in the opposite direction, to some how convince us that interacting with our child over and over again in a way that meets there needs is some how spoiling them. But for something to spoil, to turn truly rotten, it needs to be neglected. Just think of that piece of fruit rolled under the backseat of the car, unattended to for days on end and you’ll understand what I am getting at. Things that are showered with love and affection do not become spoiled they grow, in both strength and understanding of love and compassion. Which is why your relationship with your child matters most. It matters more than math, unpaid bills, dinner and that text that just came in.
So today, I hope you can find a way, to build up that love bank by taking an extra breath to meet your child eye to eye, heart to heart to take on whatever the world has placed in front of you.
A few years ago I got the beautiful opportunity to meet this fabulous woman Sherry, who is making all sorts of magic in the world. One of the spectacular things she brought into my life was the creation of love lists. You can check her and her work out at simplycelebrate.net (and really you should go there).
I am here today to encourage you today to bring some love list making and gifting into your everyday being with the sweet humans you are living alongside. Who doesn’t want to wake up to breakfast with a short list of the top five things you are loving about them in that moment? Or tucking into bed for the night to find a slip of paper under the pillow that lists three reasons for loving them.
Here is one thing my family gets up to. When we are finished visiting friends or family we take sticky notes and hide them throughout the house exclaiming the things we will love and miss most about the folks we have been visiting. This idea can be turned around to do at home as well. Your child goes to their computer screen and their is a tiny love note from you to them. A sticky note on the toilet seat with a good morning wake up love message.
And I will tell you this stuff spreads. Because I woke up one morning to find my entire computer covered in heart shaped sticky notes. Wanting to persevere the awesome I opened up my laptop to see my little love bomber had thought of my next move and also decorated that space. The awesome of spreading love is contagious.
In our busy life of doing it’s easy to forget love can be an action item and not just a feeling. Of course you know you are carrying that crazy big LOVE inside of you a love list lets some of that out into the world so those you love most can get in on the action of feeling all that fabulousness.
Not a single one of us is perfect. Not a single one of us knows everything. And not a single one of us is getting through this lifetime without making a whole lot of mistakes. Admitting you are wrong to your children when you make a mistake or get a fact wrong, goes a long way to sharing the power with as opposed to holding power over.
I don’t know about you but I really like to be right. I was raised in a house where you were laughed at and made fun of when you got things wrong. So I hold tight to my sense of rightness. However, this journey of parenting has really humbled me. The world of the internet means my children often come across facts, tidbits and information that counters what I know to be true. And sometimes I am dead wrong about the things I thought to be true. Engaging from the place of “Wow, I had no idea. How did you figure that out?“ opens the doors to conversations that can expand on knowledge, redirect understanding and open minds. Shutting it down with, “That’s wrong” only does that SHUTS IT DOWN, for both of you. ‘
As well, our children are going to go out into a world of opinions and ideas without us. And I want my child to be able to hold down a healthy debate, stand up for what they believe to be true and consider new information. This here is my chance to model that for them. In doing so I am also saying to them nonverbally you matter and I love you.
Pulling this off for me means paying attention, listen a little bit more than a speak and having the sort of open heart that’s okay with being wrong and owning that. What might you be wrong about today and how will it open up a conversation with your child?
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.
EU063: Gentle Parenting with Shannon Loucks
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.