I loved so much what Flo had to say that I simply left it all here, interview style. I know her words will both touch and inspire you on your own journey.
1) What lead you down the path of gentle, connected parenting?
Falling in love with my newborn led the way. Biology proved stronger than any other influence, any preconceived ideas, any parenting book. The endorphins that enveloped me as I bonded with my baby banished the possibility of any other way from my mind. I couldn’t envision ever hurting this sweet, amazing gift and wanted to prepare myself to ensure a joy-filled relationship. As I listened to her, she needed a lot of physical touch, to know that I was there for her, with her. Our physical bond grew alongside our emotional bond and the more time we spent together led to a deeper connection and encouraged me that I was on the right path. Once I saw what a good thing I had with gentleness, compassion, flexibility and partnership, a more conventional approach held no appeal. I’ve remained committed to connection as my primary parenting approach.
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 see my children blossoming. They are bright, enthusiastic, friendly, caring, helpful, and confident. We aren’t perfect but I can see how grounded and happy my daughters are, convincing me that this process works. I feel relaxed and content which is a significant touchstone for me. When I’m feeling doubtful or worried, then I know it’s time to analyze that a bit and discover what I’m missing. Usually I’m over-reacting or being influenced by a stress outside of parenting. Yes, life creeps in and yes, I worry sometimes if one day I’ll wonder where I went wrong or that my kids will wish I had done something differently. (That will happen anyway, I believe, because it’s what we all do.)
Two opposing strategies help me gain clarity: I slow down or I distract myself. Slowing down looks like clearing the calendar, committing to two or more days at home with nothing planned. Scheduling no more than one activity a day so I’m not juggling too much. Doing one thing at a time instead of trying to multi-task. I wash my dishes in soapy water instead of using the dishwasher so I am forced to stand still and focus. It’s easy to spin out of control, especially if I am busy or frantic or worried. Stopping and giving myself space and time to regain my footing can typically clear away my doubts and fears.
When I find myself in angst I want to figure out the problem, stat. Hyper-focusing on an issue and problem solving can be a rabbit-hole and lead to more concern. Analysis can be paralysis and this is when I know distraction is important. As a parent, I sometimes want to fix everything or make it all better but that’s not possible. By turning my attention away, I can let it go. In those moments, I finish a project or begin a new one. I grab my camera and am amazed at how much time passes while the issue slides away. I queue up movies. I cook meals with many ingredients that require time and attention. When my mind is re-calibrated, I can see that my kids are okay and I am, too.
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)
Don’t get ahead of yourself. We like to believe that we can prepare for tomorrow but it’s more important to permit today to happen. Life is how you spend each moment, it’s not a destination. Each little thing piles one upon another as one day rolls into the next, the years into decades. If you want a happy, connected relationship, you’ll find it in the happy, connected things you do with and for your child right now. It isn’t something at which you arrive or twist into being through tough love. A solid future for your child isn’t developed through imagination and unwarranted concern.
This morning I was lying next to my sleeping twelve-year-old, remembering how little she once was. Then I tried to imagine what she would look like, be like in five years and I started to worry. Was I doing a good job here? What if this, what if that? I couldn’t imagine what she might look like taller, more developed, with her life more her own. So I reminded myself that I shouldn’t try to know that because it’s futile. I can’t know anymore than I could have looked at her toddler face and seen her as she is today. Time changes us all and when it brings us to five years from now, that’s where we’ll be. But for today, I have a girl by my side and all is well.
Don’t borrow worry from the future. Invest in happiness today. It compounds with interest.
5) What do you dream of for your child(ren)?
My dream for my children is that they know themselves so well that they live out their own dreams. In a world where possibilities are expanding as quickly as our technology, I want space and time for my children to explore the options that excite them the most. The path of a well-lived life is carved and worn by the deepest expressions of our spirits, our talents and our loves. I dream that my daughters eschew the expectations of others so they can fully and deeply encounter themselves as they grow and reach out into the world around them. Being oneself is the greatest satisfaction I could ever hope they have.
Flo Gascon is a wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend. Among and in-between, she’s authored Keep Your Cool: How to Stop Yelling, Spanking & Punishing, is a family portrait photographer and creator of the Wide Sky Days family events. Alongside romping with her girls on sandy beaches and wrangling reproducing sticky notes, she takes notice, drinks tea and makes dreamy plans as if she has many lifetimes yet to live. Because there is so much life to love that once surely won’t be enough. She blogs at http://flogascon.com. Her book Keep Your Cool: How to Stop Yelling, Spanking & Punishing: What to do instead is available on Amazon.