The first time we made an extra bubbles bubble bath was quite by accident. We had moved into a new home and the tub had JETS. This was new to us. We’d played with them at a hotel once but never with the freedom of our very own tub. One night the boys were enjoying a normal bubble bath when they called out to have the jets turned out. I turned the nob and much to their delight the bubbles around them began to grow bigger and bigger until they it was only their heads poking out above the bubble cloud.
I do remember thinking what a mess this could make and reaching my hand toward the the dial. As a mom of two young boys there always seemed to be more mess than there was time. But as I listened to the two of them laugh from deep in their bellies I knew this letting the bubbles grow was worth it. I could almost see them years later remembering back to those big bubble baths they used to have when they were both able to fit in a tub together (and honestly were willing to bath together.) The time passes quickly and already when I look back it’s never once the clean up part of the moment that I remember. It’s always the joy, the laughter with hope that they might one day remember to say yes to someone who’s looking to have a big adventure no matter what mess it might bring.
I find it hard not to get all wound up in the bounty of emotions that seem ever present at this time of year. I love where I am while wishing with every fiber in me that I was somewhere else. I adore the people who surround me and ache for those I can no longer wrap my arms around. I”m certain this will be the best year yet while scheming on ways to teleport back to that one in 2006, where it most definitely was the best of them all. I look forward to sleeping a few extra hours on the the big morning while secretly wishing an over exuberant younger brother will burst into my room jump on my bed at the butt crack of down and shout “wake up wake up it’s Christmas!” I celebrate that I will pile teenagers into the car and spend the day chasing waves while pining for a time when little boys put Santa hats on and wrapped and unwrapped their own toys for days in advance prepping for the big reveal. On yes, these shorter days beg for the kind of reflections that stir up the old to mingle with the new begging me to drop into the messiness of it all in order to capture this fleeting moment before it too becomes a mix of distant memories.
I’ve been in a couple of situations lately that have left me with some food for thought. I often walk around in the world with a pretty solid confidence in the choices we have made in regards to the boys education. When people ask me what grade they are in or where they go to school I asnwer with “oh they don’t go to school.” Which 99 percent of the time is followed up with “Oh you homeschool.” I smile and nod and leave it at that most of the time because explaining the nuance of what we are up to is more than most casual interactions call for. In my mind these random people walk away still with an image of my boys in their mind. Naive of me. Yes quite possible. I’ve lived in a rather sheltered bubble for a good portion of my life. Recently though I’ve had some deeper conversations where people have shared with me more about what hearing those words does in their mind. And it’s left me questioning and exploring the labels I so easily attach to other people and what misintrepetation about them I may be carrying about in the world.
In the first instance, I was in an environment that was created for conversation of the honest, open and potoentially vulnerable sort. One woman revealed she was under the impression that everyone who homeschooled was doing so under religious influence. Another admitting to believing those who are homeschooled lack the skills required to interact with their peer group and the world at large. In the other instance a woman approached me with curiosity. She wanted more information on homeschooling in the teen years and I launched into a ten minute explanation of what it is we do to support learning day in and day out in our home. At the end she said “ever since I met your boys and they seemed so well adjusted and happy I’ve been curious about how you did that while homeschooling.” I know she was curious and her intent was well meaning but it still made me wonder what she thought about my children before meeting them. I do wish I’d been quick enough to ask that question.
With this new information pulling at the edges of my mind I am going out into the world with a more cautious approach to how I take a label and apply it to any one person. Wanting to take a step further to ask the follow up question of “and what does that mean to you?” so that I might not walk away thinking I know something about an individual based on a social construct built outside of their individuality.
He sits across the table from me poking at his brother’s side. He’s six feet tall, with facial hair and deep tones in his voice. Yet, there in that breath I see the toddler, teasing his brother into frustration.
He brushes his brother’s hand away with a smile and a chuckle. He isn’t as easily irritated by his antics as he might have been even a year ago. He knows his tricks so well.
The moment is over quickly. Moving on to the shopping list. With gratitude for the sort of noticing of how time both passes and pauses outside of my control. But the noticing is mine to command.
For as long as I have known this boy, he has stood at the oceans edge and taunted it to come get him. With a hint of glee in his voice he has called her out over and over again. The ocean has answered with more than her share of soaked pant legs. This has never stopped him from returning again to the shores to call those waves out to come and get him. To try their best to wrap around his ankles, pull up to his knees and fill his soul. He has posed as a ninja pulling his power from the ocean itself. It’s not within his ability to stand at the ocean’s edge and not see the temptress before him. He disappears in those moments. To a place I can’t necessarily see. It belongs to him and to the ocean. As time marches forward and much about him changes, I am filled to see these old ways emerging. And also to notice, quite possibly for the first time, he walked away with dry pant legs. I am not sure what this means for the future. But I know he noticed to. In his swagger of confidence as he strolled back to the car announcing he would not need to ride home in his underwear this time.
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.
This past weekend was an amazing whirlwind of awesome for our family. Being able to take both of the boys to do things that were on their dream lists was epic. Seeing both of them stretch beyond their comfort zones to do these things was pure magic. Being able to witness it all is what this journey is made of. It was all super duper happy making, life affirming awesome all over the place. One of the biggest lesson that came out of it was a text exchange with a friend.
I was sending the sorts of snapchats a mom likes to share with her friends. The sort where you show your kids being all brave and awesome in the world. My dear friend Helen was replying back with huge enthusiasm for what we were up to. She was reminding me how life affirming this all was (this was the weekend of my Father’s Death day nine years earlier and it all seemed so fitting). And then she was sharing her own feelings as big as mine while simply being at home present will her own family.
It can be easy for me to feel the gratitude for the big out in the world moments that have all my senses on high alert. I remember we are alive and being in the world. It can be harder with dishes in the sink and the other sorts of everyday business that threaten to pull me away from gratitude. Yet, it’s still always there, the magic I mean. It’s not just there when we are at Harry Potter world (pun intended) it’s with me all of the days with these human beings who are my children. It’s all about choosing to notice.
It’s that little everyday reminder that parenting is not my job, it is at the heart of who I am. When I live that story I see what is before me as an opportunity to be my fullest most complete self and not as task that needs to be checked off a to do list. I have the opportunity to ground into my value system and interact and react from that place. When being a mother is who I am and not what I do, I operate from words like kind, loving, attentive. I show up for them with an attitude of gratitude for the chance to be who they need me to be. Which has got to be the key to taking the big magic and winding it’s way through the fibers of the everyday living together. What magic will you uncover in this ordinary day.
This ride of being my children’s mother never stops blowing my mind. It was never my job to teach them only to show up and witness what they had in store for me.
Standing on the floor of the Hollywood Palladium squished on all sides by people I had never met, my neighbo’rs beer pouring down my leg, my left foot stuck to something on the floor, my nasal passage assaulted by other people’s body odor, sweat in all the places, I was farther outside of my comfort zone than I would ever choose for myself. My mind looked for exit routes. I could flee and find a better place, with less people and meet up with him once the show was over. I could suggest, gently that maybe we had seen enough and step away to the fresh air of the outside world. Somewhere in me though I heard this tiny voice reminding me “this worry is not his” and “this fear is not his” mostly, “this discomfort is not his.” I focussed my attention on what was truthfully in front of me. My son. Fully present to the moment, experiencing a dream come true. Yes, he would bend in the way that indicates the fatigue of standing on a concrete floor for hours but only for a second before he was swept up in the music again, bouncing off the floor, singing out the lyrics.
Pausing to get comfortable with my own discomfort brought me clear into the moment. Yes, all my senses were alive standing at full attention. There was music literally pulsing through my entire body. The band just started playing their new title “Still Breathing” and I felt as though it was the first time I had really heard the lyrics. I was doing just that I was still breathing through the wreckage of my own fears, I was standing their still breathing and it was a small miracle. Tears stung my eyes as the lyrics carried on. Without pause the music moved into the song “Minority” upending any sense of control I had been holding onto. With snot and tears joining the sweat pouring out of me, my mind saw it all in a flash. The four year old him in his one piece blue pajamas with a badminton jacket in his hands singing this very song everywhere he went. My brother arriving with a bass in hand on his fifth birthday because being Mike Dirnt was the most important thing for my son that year. The bands that were formed over and over again to showcase his talents. His first attempts at making music on his own. His now skill at listening to and recreating all the songs the band put out. Each moment that had lead up until now to make this a possibility. I knew then, that it will always be the depths of my gratitude at being his mother that will carry me through the places that threaten to break me.
I remember back to the beginning of this parenting journey coming across QTIP, which stands for quick taking it personally. This little reminder was used to gently nudge me away from some of the struggles I was having with my children and I have to say it is so important for me to remember these days. As my boys are getting older they are trying out new ideas, new concepts and even new ways of being in the world and since I have the trusted role of mom, I get to be by their side for the good the bad and the ugly. And if I wish to remain a trusted confidant I need to practice QTIP on the regular.
Where I find this particular piece most challenging is when the boys find the courage to point out the moments when I am stepping away from the intention of how I want to parent and falling in to reactions to circumstance. I can easily, when these comments are made, slip into my knee jerk patterned response of defensiveness. However, I have witnessed, more than once, how this reaction lands on my child. The shoulders shrink, the body closes up and I can almost see the wounds of my words on their inside worlds, the trust between us dissolving. Yep, I can apologize but this doesn’t take the words away. It begins to build the bridge back to trust but I really do prefer when I can take that extra second to breath deeply, QTIP and react from a place of unconditional love, to keep our trust and closeness intact.
The reminder for me, again and agin, is the best thing I can do in the moment when I feel that defensive protective self come out is to see the child before me and come toward them with a reaction that is held in love, respect and connection. To take the extra moment to breath in the breath that takes me out of whatever story I am running and puts me into the unconditional love that is my child’s birth right.
Our children are human beings doing the best they can with the resources available to them to get their needs met. I am the safest most trust worthy resource and so I get gifted with the chance to witness all of their unfolding. I am also human and flawed and when my child notices me slipping out of intention and into circumstance the only true reaction is, “thank you of noticing and bringing me back to my right mind.” Because really what my child is saying, in the best way they know how in that moment is, “hey mom I’ve been paying attention all along and I know who you really want to be.” Imagine that for a moment. All these years of paying attention to who my children are, witnessing and showing up for them, has lead them to have the confidence to do the very same for me. This is the foundation for years, beyond childhood of connection, truth, respect and love, oh so much love. And that friends is all this mama could ever dream of. So bring on your observations you beautiful human beings, mama’s heart is open and ready to listen.