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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Too Perfect

I try to remember how important it is that our children know we make mistakes and that we aren't perfect. When they are teenagers this is no problem, we can't do anything right at that stage. :) When they are younger, though, we parents seem infallible and that can be pretty intimidating.

One evening my oldest son was lamenting about how he never does anything right and that he is always making mistakes. (He definitely inherited the perfectionist gene.) I gave him my line about expecting kids to make mistakes because that is how they learn and that everyone makes mistakes. This night he wasn't buying it and exclaimed that I never make mistakes. Overcoming the urge to burst into hysterical laughter, I thought to myself, "If he only knew." Then I realized he didn't know.

I asked him if he knew how many mistakes I had made that day. He replied, "None!" I proceeded to begin at my waking moments and list off every tiny little mistake I had made that day. Not getting out of bed right away, so I had to rush; not remembering if I put conditioner on my hair, so I had to redo it to make sure; forgetting my shoes upstairs; leaving my phone in the house, etc., etc. I went through the whole day describing all the small mistakes I had made and things I had forgotten. He was truly amazed and so was I!

We went on to talk about learning from those mistakes and taking steps to prevent them from happening again. We also focused on the importance of being gentle with ourselves when we do make mistakes. Calling ourselves names and expecting the worst only makes us feel worse. Learning from our mistakes, making changes, and apologizing when necessary help us to change those patterns.

It is critical for me to let my children know when I have made mistakes, to admit when I am wrong, and to apologize to them. They won't know how to do this if I don't show them and they'll continue to expect themselves to be perfect. High expectations are important, but the expectation of perfection can be destructive and paralyzing.

Many of us put on a really good show of having it all together and being perfect. It's easy to assume by just casually observing that we never make mistakes. I think we've learned to compensate and adjust, not making a big deal about our mistakes, and moving on.

My son and I came up with a little saying that we use now and again to remind us to be gentle with ourselves and others, "I am perfectly imperfect and that's perfectly fine." It helps on those hard days when nothing seems to be going right and is an important reminder to keep it all in perspective.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Pace Car

If I had to come up with my own metaphor, the pace car would not have been in my realm of thinking. It was, however, for my son. He told me the other day that I should call his brother the pace car. Having no idea what he was talking about I asked him why. He responded that his brother always wants everyone to follow him and that is what a pace car does. He hit the nail on the head with that one!

I was truly amazed by his insight and a bit concerned that his brother might find this insulting. We explored the topic a bit more and I realized this was the perfect metaphor for helping his brother to recognize a positive way to use his leadership skills. We noted that pace cars get everyone started and then move to the side so they can take responsibility for themselves. When someone is injured or in danger, the pace car comes back out to provide support. Then again, it moves to the side allowing the race to resume.

Later, I discussed this with big brother and he loved the idea. He felt it fit him and was thoughtful about the way a pace car allows the race to happen without having to manage everything. He happened to attend a birthday party yesterday and made sure to bring home a treat for each of us that was specific to who we are. When I noted that this was very thoughtful, he said, "That's what a pace car would do, wouldn't it?" I am hopeful this insightful metaphor will give him a more concrete image to hold onto as he navigates the ins and outs of his social world.

As I think about it more, parenting is much like being a pace car as well. Knowing when to lead and when to get out of the way is not always easy. Knowing we need to helps us to keep it in mind and hopefully recognize those revving engines signaling our time to pull aside.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The wisdom of children

In difficult times I am frequently struck by the wisdom of my children. They are often more in tune with the connections of the universe than we adults and are more willing to listen to their instincts and intuition.

One of my sons frequently states that he is psychic. I'm not even sure how he learned the term, but he always uses it in the correct context. Most of the time he brings up the topic independently and has often funny and often profound things to say.

One morning he came into the bathroom with me as we were getting ready for the day and announced to me that he was psychic. When I explored what this meant to him, he found it difficult to explain. He couldn't pinpoint exact types of information he was psychic about, but had a general sense that sometimes he knows things before they happen or knows information other people don't.

He then proceeded to tell me that in my next life I was going to be a bird. I was quite surprised by this information and asked him what kind. Without hesitation he turned to me and said, "A whooping crane." It was so lovely and funny and unexpected. Imagining myself as a future whooping crane soaring over the plains of Colorado is a lovely image and telling the story always makes me laugh.

Tonight he amazed me again with his insight and connectedness. We were talking about my aunt, who is very ill in the hospital. It has been a difficult few days not knowing what all was wrong and how sick she really is. He asked me directly if she was going to die. We have had many conversations about death over the years and especially this summer with several deaths in our family. I always tell my children that we are all going to die sometime, that it is part of life, but we do not know when our time to die is.

In response to my son's query I responded with my usual preface about death and stated that I didn't know what was going to happen with my aunt. His earnest reply , "Mom, I just don't feel in my heart that this is her time to die."

Having felt so untethered myself for a few days, his response grounded me in a way nothing else could. I encouraged him to hold that feeling in his heart and I plan to do the same.

Later in the evening I received word that my aunt had become more engaged with the people around her today and active in decisions about her care. She seems to be turning the corner for now and my little psychic knew it all along.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Climb back up, Mama!

We all have those days when we've reached the end of our rope and we think our bucket is empty. It's been tipped over, kicked in, and banged up beyond recognition and it seems all is lost for it's recovery. We think we got nothing left to give to anyone. We are sucked dry without an ounce of energy or kindness or love left to give. In these moments I always seem to hear the voice of Claire Huxtable saying, "I have nothing left to give!" with all the melodrama intact.

My tendency when I am so worn out is to be cranky...which is no fun for any of us. But if I take a moment to tell my children that I am exhausted and need help, they consistently rise to the occasion. They offer help, give me hugs, make sweet pictures, sing silly songs, tell jokes, or give me the few minutes of quiet or rest that I need. They fill my bucket with their kindness and wisdom, one drop at a time. Before I know it, I am once again able to function and get through whatever lies ahead. Their generosity and love constantly amazes me.

There is a quote I love by FDR - "When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on." At the age of three my youngest son came up with his own version that always brings a smile to my face and lightens my load. I was exasperated one afternoon and I complained, "I'm at the end of my rope!" My sweet boy responded earnestly, "Climb back up, Mama, climb back up!" The wisdom of a three year old. Phenomenal!

If we can all remember to climb back up (or at the very least hang on and ask for help) when we reach the end of our rope, we can make it through even the darkest days with the love of our children guiding us on.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dancing boys make my day

As our mundane morning routine was coming to an end today, my oldest son decided to show me his "favorite dance move." It resembled MC Hammer back in the day and gave me a good chuckle. Not to be outdone, son number two joined in the hip hop fest with his latest smooth moves. Then the real fun began...

(When I'm off teaching yoga on Tuesday nights, the boys have been enjoying America's Got Talent with Dad. Apparently, this is the inspiration for what I witnessed next.)

The boys began an improvised, synchronized dance routine. They slide across the floor, twisted, spun, engaged in robotic movements, and channeled the Temptations and the Jackson Five as they found their funk and rhythm. As I watched them my grin kept growing and the giggles from all of us filled the house.

After great applause for their effort, we laughed and hugged together and headed off for the rest of the day. So glad they didn't have to rush off to school yet because I might just have forgotten to enjoy the moment and swept them off to get ready. The image of their dancing kept me going through a cranky day at work.

Be here, now...this is always part of my yoga teaching. Just as salient, if not more so, in my parenting.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Starting them off with enthusiasm

I had the pleasure today of witnessing a rite of passage for many young preschoolers. They came in with their parents to meet their teachers, see their new classrooms, and begin their journey into the world of education. Parents and students alike took in all the sights and sounds of the school building, their eyes wide with wonder: classrooms full of blocks, books, sensory tables, crayons, paints, and more; hallways decorated with beautiful colors and pictures; the playground with hopscotch, climbing equipment, and slides; and all the other children and adults joining them on this day of adventure.

The parents I saw were eager to start their children off on the right foot. They were engaged, caring, and enthusiastic about this new experience for their child. Parents reading with their children, joining in the bead games and sensory table activities, touring their school with the hope of the future.

In turn the teachers met these families with excitement and a sense of opportunity. Greeting families, engaging children, and creating a supportive and positive learning environment.

A child's first experience in school can make all the difference in their success in school. That experience is guided by their parents and teachers who offer support, compassion, and enthusiasm. These little preschoolers are our future. May we guide them everyday with wisdom and respect I witnessed today.

I don't want to grow up!

Seven is a tricky age. Your still considered a "little kid", but you can do many things the "big kids" can do. It's fun to get adult attention and snuggle up like you did when you were littler, but you don't want mom or dad doing it all for you all the time!

What is a parent to do?

Staying tuned in to the needs of the moment is a huge key to navigating the tricky nature of seven year olds. Offering choices, independent options, scaffolding tasks to support the skills they have and teach the skills they need, being flexible, listening, watching, and keeping our own egos out of the mix leads to much greater success.

But what parent can do all that all the time when juggling siblings, laundry, dinner, dirty bathrooms, work, and everything else on your plate? None of us really. That's why I try to think of parenting as a practice. I will never achieve perfection, although I hope to experience (and notice) many perfect moments. I strive each day to be the best parent I can be and to support my children in being the best they can be. No day is every the same and there are always many mistakes along the way. Staying present and being gentle with myself (not always achieved) and gentle with my children (also not always achieved) are my goals each day.

What was your perfect parenting moment today? Recognize it, honor it, and carry it with you as you continue on your journey.