Love MoRe

This is your letter of permission to go ahead and simply love your children.

Put down those expectations that are ingrained in someone else’s idea of what it means to be successful in the world and stare a few moments longer into the precious eyes of the child who stands before you.

Instead of asking how their day was inquire about what lights their passion, what made them smile today and what was one place they would like a do over.

Institute a random dance party in the middle of the grocery store in the second before a melt down threatens to take you all to a place you’d rather not visit. It’s okay if everyone turns and looks at you cause you’re making memories and we could all use more of the happy sort in this lifetime.

Say I love you over and over again not just in words but in the foods you put before them at dinner time or the extra marshmallow on the hot chocolate.

Listen more and talk less with the sort of full attention you pay to the most important conversations you have because they are just that the most important moments of truly getting to know who your child is out there in the world.

Touch more in cuddles and tickles and wrestling matches. Especially the bigger ones who are making their way farther out in the world so they can always remember your arms are a safe haven.

Undo the places where you were done wrong by, so you don’t accidentally pass them along to the most precious person you’ve had the honor to know in this world.

Laugh from the bottom of your belly side by side on the couch watching the movie you swore had no value but your child was dying to see. Hold in the breath that longs to pull it apart and choose instead to see it through the eyes of wonder that are your child’s.

Yes, each day, find one, just one simple way to love more, that being that is your child. It’s life’s most precious work. I promise.

 

Hold that space

My oldest son is changing at what most days feels like warp speed. I am holding on with barely a fingernail to the cliff. Just yesterday I was throwing a woe is me pity party in my head (and not out loud cause I have at least learned that much). It all sounded something like this ..

“Oh my god I’ve screwed it all up.”

“He doesn’t want to share with me.”

“He’s completely peer oriented.”

“How the fuck did he get so rude?”

And on and on went this internal dialogue that is all caught up in my own time at that age, the people I had around me and the demons who regularly lurk at the edges of my confidence.

I know my go to pattern is to withdraw love. I can actually feel it happening in the moment. And for whatever reason in my irrational mind this feels like a reasonable thing to do when dealing with someone who’s size is the same as mine. It is easy to jump to a place where I treat him like a full adult. But he’s not there yet. And this is my practice right now. To love more.

My tween (dipping his toes dangerously close to being a teen) lashing out at me is NO more about me then when his toddler self would throw a temper tantrum. It’s a cue that he is overwhelmed. And the best thing I can do is hold the space with him.

Heart Strings

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I just finished an Attack on Titan marathon. A show I never would have watched left to my own devices but a young person in my life said “mom will you watch just one episode to see if you like it?” Cuddled under the blankets side by side in my bed I knew  I would watch every last episode.

“I’m so glad someone in our family will understand my references.”

“Who’s your favorite character?”

“What do you think that means?” all poured out of him as we played “one more episode” after just one more until we were finished.

He’d seen it all before and knew exactly what was coming. He wouldn’t share the tiniest clue with me. Even when I guessed what would happen next he was straight faced. “You’ll just have to wait and see.”His enthusiasm grew with each cliff hanger. Diligently removing my phone from my hand so I wouldn’t miss a single detail.

It’s easy for me to get lost in the doing of laundry, making of meals sort of tasks for the ones I love. But truly all that is ever required is for me to show up with my full attention to the things that pull their heart strings.

 

Catching the passing time

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As I type this the house is completely still and quiet. I can hear the song birds outside. And it is 10:48 am. When my boys were younger for many years I could not imagine this moment, where I was the first awake with a stretch of time before me to do with as I please. Things have changed quickly over the past months. I have time. I have the ability to leave the house alone for short periods. My response is not what I imagined it would be back in those baby, toddler, little boys tending years. I sort of want to wake them up to play with me. The tables of turned.

I do remember how un-useful it was for me in those early years to hear someone offer up the sort of advice that said exactly what I am feeling to be true now. I wound’t listen in fact I tuned them out. And I try to remember that now when I encounter a sleep deprived mama who feels so caught  up in giving to little people that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Cause really what we are all looking for is someone to simply sit by our side and hear our story to shorten the space between you and I.

So this is my story right now. In the blink of an eye I have two children in double digits and I am not sure my heart can handle the idea that from this moment forward all they are going to do is move farther and farther away from me. It’s put a lot of stuff in to perspective. It’s why the blog may be a little dusty. Cause I am longing to soak up every request for cuddles, snacks and games played together. I am researching super cool things to do that might appeal to young boys, I am steeping myself in game language and culture so that I might have something to add to the conversation and YES I am seeking out youtube videos that might have not been seen yet to add to the mix. While simultaneously standing in the background of people wanting to try being in the world with a bit less mom.

It’s understanding how to be needed in an I am available even when you are not interacting with me sort of thing. I am present and ready to kick in to high gear, even when you are fully okay on your own. It’s such a different availability to the hands on physicalness of the younger children. And I will admit that I likely drop what ever I am doing to engage with my older children now faster then I did when they were little. The endlessness of the days back then made it possible for me to know there would likely be another moment to play hockey outside, just around the corner. But now with endings happening faster then I can catch my breath at, I know that this actually might be the last invitation into the particular activity.

I forgot to notice some endings and I am hoping to catch a few more. Cause if I knew it was the last time he would jump in to the shower with me, I would have paid more attention to the intimacy of that moment. To the space between us. If I had known it would be his last hockey game, I would have taken more photos, documented what he looked like, what we said and in some way marked that ending with some flair instead of letting it pass unnoticed.

So in my quiet morning moments, while I fight the urge to wake them to play with me, I am gathering steam to be present in this new dynamic so that I may mark, if only in my heart space, the preciousness of this time passing now that the days feel shorter.

Renee’s story

 

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I met Renee’s family and admired them from afar before I took up the courage to swing by on a road trip and have a sleepover. We were instant forever friends all of us. I adore what she has to say here and so left it all just the way she answered it. 

 

 

 

1) What lead you down the path of gentle, connected parenting ?

My ears. The first time I heard my babies cry it touched something primal in me. Suddenly all I wanted was to protect and care for these little creatures and all my ideas, opinions, and plans flew out the window.
Even now, 13 years later, listening more and talking less is a big part of how I stay connected.

2) Why have you stayed committed to the process? And what strategies do you have that pull you back to the centre when life or stress creeps in?

I’m stubborn.
I wanted the kinds of relationships I saw other unschooling parents having with their kids.
What I’ve done to stay connected is : pause, breathe, listen, laugh, find community.
Pause physically sometimes but also mentally. Check my thoughts- are they helpful? Rational? Am I using “have to”? Is this life or death?
Breathe- this literally slows my heart rate down and relaxes my thinking.
Listen- if we have conflict I try to shut up and really hear them. If I can understand their perspective I am better at coming up with useful solutions that work for them. Or often listening allows them the space they need to work out their own solutions.
I also go to therapy. Most of my fears and issues are just that: MINE.
I laugh at myself often.
And I found a great group of people who parent like I do so when I’m having trouble I can call on them to help me get perspective. Also reading daily at Sandra Dodd’s Always Learning yahoo group. (https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/AlwaysLearning/info)

3) What is one piece of encouragement you would offer to a parent first starting on the journey toward a more gentle, peaceful relationship with their child(ren)

Do it. It’s so worth it. I have the most amazing relationships with my kids, they are my best friends along with my spouse. Speaking of, parenting this way has spilled over into my marriage, improving it in ways I never could have imagined.

4) What do you dream of for your child(ren)?

My hope for them is that they create a peaceful fulfilling life. I hope they find other people to build their passions with who are as compassionate, connected, interesting and interested as they are.
I hope they find as much joy doing whatever they choose in their lives as I have found in being their parent.

 

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“We were laying on the beach at sunset. Xander had this idea that we could watch the sunset twice by first watching it laying flat on our bellies and then jumping up to watch it again while standing.”

Making memories not punishments

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He was only just four and so very proud of his ability to write his name. So he had taken a sharpie and sprawled his name across the front hood of our gold saturn wagon. I walked out on the front porch and my jaw dropped. Immediately racing to places like “I just lost any resale I had on this car” followed by bubbling anger.

“Hey dude did you write your name on the front of the car?”

“I think that was Kinny,” sensing my disapproval perhaps.

There were many directions the next steps could have gone in.  First up I needed to get to a calmer place. I needed to be able to see my child and remember his intent. It is easy in this world we live in to quickly slip into the place where my child has done something to me. That he stepped toward the car marker in hand to maliciously deface our car branding it forever to ensure we never were able to sell it. However,  when I remembered he was four and fully unaware that some markers were permanent I could reframe my next step.

“Buddy, we don’t write on the car. ” Keeping it simple so he understands. And I took responsibility to gather up all permanent markers and put them up high.

Now we had the issue of the marker on my car. So I looked up ways to remove marker from various surfaces and low and behold I found toothpaste was exactly what we needed. So together we squirted toothpaste on the car grabbed some toothbrushes and within no time and with tons of laughter we had removed his name from the hood of the car.

There was no shame. No guilt. No anger thrown his way.  It was a chance to learn a few new things while keeping our relationship 100 percent in tact.  Seven years later and he can still tell you toothpaste removes permanent marker from most surfaces, handy tip to have.

My Story

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When I was pregnant I built the most delicious nest for my first born child. It was a jungle room complete with vines covering the entire ceiling. His Gramps bought him a top of the line crib and I placed it right next to the window. I imagined he would spend hours peaking out at the world from under the matching blanket covers. And then I met my son.

From the beginning he was my guide. He slept next to me because it was warmer and cozier and much much safer then a crib in the next room. I felt this when I placed him there and he looked to me with a tear stricken face. He napped snuggled up in a sling close to my body. And he nursed when he wanted, not on the schedule well meaning folks encouraged me to put him on. My heart knew then, that I would need to break some rules that I had always known, in order to be the mom he needed. He was the first, his brother confirmed and strengthened this truth.

This path, of attachment, of peacefulness has stayed mine for the simple reason that nothing else made sense. There was never a time, when imposing rules or applying discipline appeared more important than, loving and nurturing what was unfolding in front of me. Yes, there have been moments and times where a path might of looked greener then my own, but always I could find my way back. For me, having a foundation of intention and a tool box of breath deeply, listen more and talk less is how I have regained my footing, on those rougher days.

When I meet others starting or curious about throwing caution to the wind, embracing more love and less discipline, I say, trust, in your heart and what it knows to be true for your children, for you. Be patient with all the parts of you and of them, that need healing and find  that one person who can hold your hand along the way. In real life, virtually, through a phone, at least one person, who knows the pitfalls and can see you there and simply lift you up, back to where you were headed.

Now, as tweens and tees are upon us, I see these same fresh to the world faces, looking to me to be there. To be that anchor they need, as they stretch out further and confirm who they know they are and this anchor tethers us no matter the distance. It’s this, this evidence of intact relationship that is my most treasured part of the journey so far.

And as I gather my own wishes, for my children, it’s simple, that they, for all the ages and stages, may love exactly who they are.

Staying close

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Every challenge we face with our child is a chance to move closer together or farther apart.

My son had a rough evening. For his privacy I won’t be sharing the details. It was a hard thing to witness as his mother. He is far to big for me to contain him like I used to when the world got rough around him. And he’s independent enough to not necessarily want me to try and contain him.

Emerging from child to teenager is a most challenging process. To see the world through these eyes of understanding that show just have close and far away pure independence is.  To see how little control you have over the bigger elements of life, the money you have access to, the location of where you live, your ability to get to the places you long to visit.

Their understanding of how the world works is maturing at an accelerated rate, while their emotional maturity is desperate to be in the same place. It’s a torture really. I remember.

Not to mention there are all those new hormones that are showing up on unpredictable days at rates and doses 100 percent outside of their control!

When all of these things arrive with a side of sleeplessness or life emotions that on a regular day are challenging the world can feel like a most unfair and dismal place to be in.

I know this as an adult and have created a long list of coping mechanisms over the years to help myself out. While also failing miserably at moving past these days with any sense of grace or composure. So it makes sense that my child, first experiencing all of this would need some time, some space and an overflowing bucket of patience.

It is natural as his mom that I want to fix it, make it go away. Truth be told that is simply because I don’t want to feel this uncomfortable anymore so if he could just speed things along so I can return to calmer ground, I would prefer that. Reality though, it’s his process and I need to step aside and deal with my own shit on my own time.

When I take away my child’s power to express his emotions, I push myself out of his world. I send the message that there is something wrong with him. That he is in need of fixing or at the very least that he is getting in the way of my life.

When I step back and create a safe space for his process to unfold, I remain in his inner circle. The trusting place where he is free to show up exactly how he is and express the most frightening of thoughts that are inevitably going to pass through his mind.

When I listen without judgement, I embrace all the parts of his emerging self.  I believe in him all of him. I witness, without words, the unfolding of the pieces he struggles with. I send the message, with my silence and compassion, that he is surrounded with love. Especially, in the scary places. This opens the door for all of these emotions to MOVE. To find their way out. There is no shame. Only emotions, feelings of the hugest sort finding their way through to a place that eventually makes sense (or simple calms down enough to be manageable).

It’s not easy. I write this after two glasses of wine, 8 hours of sleep and recovered cuddles with a boy who thanked me for loving him “even when I make it hard.” But there truly is no other option because with each challenge, I want our relationship to strengthen not weaken. And that can only happen, if I listen more, talk less and embrace every part of this complex human being unfolding in front of me.

From intention or circumstance

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Patti Digh was the first person, to open my eyes to the idea of living from a place of intention or as a reaction to the circumstances in my life. It quickly spilled over into my understanding of my journey as a mother.

Am I parenting from a place of intention or as a reaction to set of circumstances that are in front of me. Yesterday I found my son head down on his desk in front of his xbox, tears hanging on his words. I asked what was up. He started to yell and point and say things that did not compute for me. I reacted from a place of circumstance and met his angry words with just as much frustration as he was feeling. We were both wound up in fury of miscommunication, hurling useless information at one another and spiraling further and further away from any sort of solution.

In a breath, I found my way back to intention. My intention as a mother is to hold the space of peace for my children when the world around them gets wobbly and they can’t figure out which way is up. To be their constant. Their support. Their unconditional place. That looks like a lot less talking and way more listening. And patience. So much patience for the storm to move. The solution never comes in the heat of the storm. It comes in the calm that I know from experience always comes after.

For me this means having a clear foundation of what that intention is. So that when circumstance blows through the door and knocks me on my ass, I have a foundation to land on. So that even if I have a brief moment of dancing with circumstance,  intention will cut in before the chorus carries me away.

When the boys were young we sat down and created a family vision statement. They were little and it was fun and loose and mostly just a playful way to find out what each person was seeing as our way to be together. I took our words and played with them, tried out a few sentence structures and finally we decided on this “to unite in our commitment to love each other unconditionally.” This got painted in sparkly letters on piece of canvas and has hung on the wall wherever we live. As a visual reminder of our intention as a family.

There is much more to it then just that sentence. But that visual reminder helps me to find those strands of connection, respect, relationship, love and peace that are my intentions, my foundation in how I choose to be as the parent of these precious human beings who I share space and time with. Especially in the moments when circumstance is tall and ugly and begging to take control of our entire experience.

The deeper meaning that rolls out of a commitment to parent with intention is a message that says, over and over again, you my dear child are much more important than any stress ball that may tumble between us. Your sense of self means more then any moment of frustration that might push us to the edges our anger. Our relationship matters to me, more then mistakes and misunderstanding. Yes, my child, this unconditional love is yours to have in your weakest and your strongest moments and everything else in between.

How you show up matters

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We weren’t out of the rink three steps when he told me, “I was wrong about coach. He is not a good coach at all. He’s an **s.”

I was a little bit expecting this but secretly holding my breath that he had not noticed. The weekend previous we had a different coach on the bench and the boys really responded to him. We had the best game of our season. The parents were involved. There was a real sense of team. It was exhilarating. And we hoped that coach would hear about this from his son and take a page out of this young mans book to keep inspiring the team.

After this weeks practice our coach said to the team, “I asked, Joe (for the sake of this post), to coach you guys this past weekend so he could get through to you. To tell you the same thing I have been telling you all season.”

That is the moment I knew my son’s opinion of his coach was about to change. Because this man was lying to them. He asked someone to coach for the weekend cause he was out of town and no one else on the team had the proper forms signed to take over for the day. And what Joe shared with the boys was nothing like what coach was doing.

My son went onto share that at this last game, coach said to the bench, “you are impossible to coach.”

At this point I might have lost my cool.

Let’s step back and get a wider look at what is happening here. There is a locker room full, twice a week, of young boys who like to play hockey. They show up. Never once has anyone of them been rude, defiant or unwilling to take direction. Each game and practice I witness a bunch of boys giving the best they have in the moment. No one looks to coach and tells him he can not to do his job. They take what he says and work with it, in the way their 11 and 12 year old selves can.

After the game coached by Joe, I went up to him and said “thank you for showing up for these boys. You could really tell you paid attention to them and knew what they needed to hear and how to talk to them.”

His response, “Of course, these are my players and I love them.”

Joe helps out with practices on a rotating schedule as part of our program. I weld up knowing he was that committed to these boys. And it showed in how the boys played for him. He believed in them. He challenged them. He showed up.

Now I know that coach is parent volunteer and brings with him the weight of balancing a busy life. I understand that. What I don’t understand is why he agreed if he wasn’t willing to show up for these boys.

My son said to me, “I know my coach last year wasn’t very good. But at least he wanted to be there. He was enthusiastic. Coach this year, you can tell he doesn’t want to be there and is not having fun.”

It is true. He carries a burdened energy with him each time he walks in the room. I had been hoping my son would not notice. That he would make it to the end of the year without feeling, what it’s like to be a burden to someone. But he did not. He picked up on it and I heard the weight of it in his voice.

Belittling and shaming children does not work to motivate them. In fact, all it does it beat them down. This is obvious in the locker room. Where after practice you could have heard a pin drop. No one was talking to each other. They were feeling the weight of being a burden not capable of being coached. Heck, even as a parent, I was silent. Which is likely a good thing because all that could have come out of my mouth at the time was anger and I know you can’t change a mind by tossing at  it just what your begging of it to stop doing.

This is an example to me, of how we as the adults in children’s life, have infinite opportunities to lift them up or put them down. How each moment the energy we carry into a room has the chance to say, you are a burden to me, or I’m happy to see you. As well, to be examples of what it means to really show up for someone. To leave what is bothering you at the door and show up to what is going on right now between you and that person.

I don’t imagine coach wants to be saying over and over with his words and language, you suck and I don’t wanna be here. But as a product of what he has come to know in the world, he is doing that week after week, day after day. And it makes me think of all the children in the world, on ball field, ice rinks and in classrooms that are hearing this very same message much more then they are hearing, you are awesome and I am so glad to know you, just as you are. Imagine with me just for a second, a world, where this is what our future generation hears, more then anything else. I don’t mean in the empty praise sense of it all. I mean in the my heart is full of you and I really do see you here in this world, as you are, figuring it out, mistake making, tantrum throwing, hearth breaking and I still with all of me presence think you are awesome. And because of that I really want to be here for the entire journey with you.

It might feel like a big job. A big job to change the minds of all the coaches, teachers, mentors, heck adults out there in the big world. But if we begin, at home, with the people we are gifted with, the ripple will happen. Cause we will be the coaches, the mentors, the voices that make up what they hear most. It is what will give our children the courage to go out in the world, confident in their sense of self and capable of making a difference by showing up with the enthusiasm of Joe.