January 31, 2017 § Leave a comment
Funny how some days can sneak up on you. Today for instance, I am missing home. I am missing home, but not just home – I am also yearning for special moments I once enjoyed. I miss inviting a good friend over for tea and chatting while our children play, laughing at the mischief they create together, always with one eye watchful for potential toddler tumbles. I miss spa pedicures and special dinners with my mom and sister, relaxing into the ease that family brings. I miss the house I rocked my babies in, and the beautiful views of sunrises it offers.
You wouldn’t think I would be missing home today, a rare sunny day during a Pacific NorthWest winter, but here I am. Alexa is playing the Lumineers and the song Nobody Knows comes on. It speaks of how hard it is to say goodbye, and how you don’t really realize how hard till you try. It speaks of journeys, and the road home, and how love keeps us going. It recommends to live the day doing what you can, ‘cause nobody knows how the story ends.
So here I am, writing, and doing what I can. I have interspersed my obligations of the day with tasks that bring me joy so as not to slip too deep into a sadness. As I am watchful of my self-care today, in some funny way I begin to sense a heavy ribbon of gratitude woven through all that I feel. I embrace the sweet memories created with loved ones in a place I call home, and I feel grateful for each beautiful experience. More than grateful, I feel enriched.
Each time I look at my teenage son, about to turn fourteen and already taller than me and wearing his Daddy’s shoes, even though he no longer says “Daddy”, I marvel at the light speed with which he has grown. My first born, I recall holding him in my arms and can even still remember his newborn smell. My eyes well up as I realize how far away those days are from where I stand now, and I pray the experience will be echo’d when I hold my future grandchildren one day.
With each wave of temptation to sink into what I am missing, I strive to see what is right in my world. A smile comes to my face as I recall with great clarity dreaming of this exact day. It was during a decade of pregnancies and nursing, up several times a night and rarely ever experiencing a moment to myself for all the demands of my young children. I remember imagining a day when my children would have more independence and not cling to me for every need. I emphatically wondered how far away that day was and how I would fare on the journey to get there.
I recall once, during my early high school years, one of my friends was unexpectedly scolded by her mother for repeatedly wishing for the coming weekend, barely able to contain her excitement about the planned activities. I found it remarkable that she would be scolded for such excitement until her mother explained that she was wishing her life away, and suggested she enjoy where she was at right now. Wise words commonly heard today, but not often heard in the early nineties.
As I close, I resolve to return to the present and embrace the gifts of the here and now. With a beautiful Namaste, I express my gratitude for the walk through cherished memories of my past and open my heart to how I want to feel today.
May 6, 2016 § Leave a comment
If you are a mom, there is a good chance you have a very full definition of this term already in your head, and its resonance is why you are reading this now. It’s different for every mom, and as Mother’s Day approaches, I feel it deserves some real estate on my blog. Also because my kids were complaining about having nothing to put in their lunch this morning and mismatched socks on their feet because I had no time for groceries or laundry this week. My response was less about empathy, and more about weariness.
I saw a Facebook post the other day outlining What Moms Really Want on Mother’s Day. It included:
- sleeping in
- to pee uninterrupted
- somebody else to cook
- a clean house.
I read that and heavily exhaled. Yes, so true. And then it hit me. Isn’t it crazy that none of those things involve celebrating our children or spouse? Enter Mom Fatigue.
We love our children. We love them so much we compete with every other mom in the PTSA to show what good moms we are. Some days I imagine we are all greyhounds, chasing that artificial hare speeding around the track, and I think to myself, who picked the hare, and how fast it goes? Who decides that pace?
I see moms every day struggling with “not good enough” self-doubt, forever questioning how they could have done something better, been more organized, or how they missed a detail. Even on the good days, all it takes is one FB post or one Pinterest reference to send you into a tailspin of what you “should” be doing.
The word “should” just might be the most destructively–charged word in the English language.
I found reprieve this week in an exercise from Sanaya Roman’s book “Living With Joy”. In it, she offers:
“You may have been taught that being busy creates self-worth”.
(notice how there is no judgement in that statement? It just offers an idea for you to consider and decide if it aligns with your experience)
From this book, I learned to differentiate between Personality-driven activity (all the shoulds, and obligations we have created in our life) and Soul-driven activity – those activities done with your higher purpose in mind.
Weigh that for a minute in your mind, and as you do, gently walk yourself through your schedule today. For each activity, consider how it makes you feel and how it relates to your higher purpose? Keep in mind that your ego will try to step in and begin justifying your choices to help you feel better, but follow your intuition. Do you feel resistance and negative emotions in response to the activity, or do you feel excited about it, like it is aligned with your true nature?
And I hear what you are thinking…”Well that’s a neat exercise, but I can’t just drop my obligations cause they don’t feel good, I’ve made a commitment to them!” Right?
If you discover activity in your day that is creating resistance and negative emotion, it doesn’t mean you have to drop it. This new awareness is gifting you with choice. Perhaps the choice is to drop it, but more practically, maybe the choice is to shift your perception of it. Reach for a better feeling thought about the situation. Consider it from a different angle or perspective and see if there is a lens through which you can see the activity in a way that better aligns with your inner purpose.
For example, when I tried this for myself the other day, I lay in bed after hitting the snooze and walked myself through the planned activities of my upcoming day, applying the lens of Personality-driven vs Soul-driven. It was going very well at first, until I got snagged on washing the dishes (the ones I have left for several days). Hmm, I don’t love doing dishes and there is no way scraping day-old food off a frying pan is part of my higher purpose! The job still needed to be done, and seeing how it’s unlikely I will get a butler for Mother’s day, I chose to look at it from another angle. How do I feel when the dishes are clean, put away and available to me when I wish to use them? Way better than I feel when I go to make dinner and can’t find a clean pan anywhere in the drawer. I reached for the better feeling thought – the one that fills me up when things are where they are supposed to be when I need them. I also love the way the kitchen looks when it is clean. It brings me joy to see a clean kitchen, and living with joy is most definitely part of my higher purpose.
“You may have many reasons why you cannot change your life right now. If you do not begin to create reasons why you can, change will always be a future thought, and you will not be on the path of joy”.
You have a choice to live joyfully*! Learn not to be trapped by your own creations. Everyone around you will thank you for it, and feel liberated to do the same!
Wishing you a joyful Mother’s Day!
*If you need a little nudge on how to live more joyfully, see below for an exercise from Sanaya Roman’s book, “Living With Joy”.
- List seven things that you love to do, that feel joyful when you do them, and that you haven’t done in the last several months. They may be anything – lying in the sun, taking a trip, getting a massage, accomplishing a goal, exercising, reading a book.
- Beside each of these seven things, list what stops you from doing it – something either inside (such as your feelings) or outside (someone or something, such as lack of money, that keeps you from it).
- Take two or three things on your list that hold the most joy for you, and think of one step you can take toward each to bring it into your life.
- Mark your calendar with a date and a time that you will bring each of these joyful activities into your life.
April 19, 2016 § Leave a comment
Every parent knows well the rule of thumb that you must be disciplined with antibiotics. You administer them one time, effectively, and deliver the full dose. Fearful consequences have been drilled into every parent’s head that if you are not precise in following this rule, the result is that the germs will become used to the antibiotics and no longer respond to their impact.
It dawned upon me today that reminding your kids to do stuff works the same way!
We recently re-started our kids piano lessons. They went on hiatus when we moved across the country and took back burner to the many other items on our list required to get settled in (find a doctor, dentist, school, etc.). Through a friend’s referral, we landed a fantastic piano teacher. The kids love him and we love that he comes to the house – everybody wins. Except my kids don’t practice.
What good are lessons without the daily practice – nada. So I nag, and I remind, and offer conditions. Everything you’d find in the What-Not-To-Do Parenting Manual (there isn’t one manual actually, there are loads, but you get my point). Even so, in the absence of a better solution, here we are.
As I tried to coax my two younger children out of the sprinkler on this unusually warm spring day, and into the hottest room in the house to practice their piano, I could hardly blame them for resisting. I reminded them several times, but it had no real intention behind it, and like the germs that have become immune to the antibiotics, my words had no effect.
Then the epiphany came. It’s like antibiotics. If I am constantly asking for the same thing over and over, the kids never know when action is truly required. They also learn no self-management for themselves. When they need to do something, it needs to be delivered one time, strong and true and with a full dose, just like antiobiotics!
It was one of those moments when you wonder how you got this far into parenting without realizing sooner what seems so obvious now. The metaphor of me standing on a mountain top proclaiming the news quickly fills my brain….”And my voice will be like antiobiotics!”
February 24, 2016 § 1 Comment
Family Meeting 4:30 today, at the table.
Really it was a Mom-and-kids meeting because Dad was in Barcelona for work, but as they say, timing is everything. These are the words my kids saw written in window marker on our kitchen window when they came home from school today.
Flashback to earlier this morning when we were a spectacle of unpreparedness and harsh words flying down to the bus stop in the car cause we were too late to walk, lacing up shoes and pulling on jackets as they hopped on one foot, granola bar in hand, up the stairs of the school bus. Exhale.
How did this even happen? It’s the same routine every morning getting ready for school, and they’ve been doing it for years, so how did we get to this point? It’s not every day like this, but when it’s bad, it’s awful. Something’s gotta change.
So this is how the meeting went down. I spoke, while they drank hot chocolate and coloured (so they could sit still long enough to listen, well mostly listen, we had several tangents where I had to bring them back to the initial discussion).
Mom: This morning was yucky. For all of us. I’m sure you didn’t appreciate my behaviour any more than I appreciated yours. I don’t feel it is necessary to re-hash everything that happened, because it’s really the same stuff that goes down all the time, but that is precisely why I wish to talk to you right now. That type of behaviour, from either of us, should not be the norm. While it’s normal to get off balance every once in a while, what happened this morning should not be the expectation. There is no joy in that. And we should always strive for joy. And the quickest way to get there is by love.
It is true that we all have triggers. Things that spur us into a strong emotion. Buttons that get pressed in us that elicit a much larger response than would be expected: a sudden burst of emotion, sometimes you aren’t even sure where it came from, but there it is. You will find there is inner work you can do to release these triggers, but for now, let us agree that they exist and learn how to best support each other when we recognize them happening.
The answer to that, is bravery. It comes from a place of love, but ultimately it is bravery.
As a child your age, when my own mother was triggered, I did not understand what it was, let alone how to support her in it. Bravery is easier when you understand a situation. So I’m going to explain to you what is happening when I get triggered, in the hopes that you all can be brave enough to call me on it when it happens, rather than absorbing the negative energy yourself, or throwing it back at me, which as we saw this morning, leads to no good either.
You see, when someone is triggered, the emotion feels so much larger than anything else, so it’s difficult to see the forest for the trees. Are you familiar with that expression? It means that if someone is on top of a mountain looking down, it is easier to spot where there is a forest, what its boundaries are, and how big or small it is. For someone standing inside the forest, there are so many trees in the way that they cannot see how big or small it is, or where it ends and begins. It becomes very helpful to get out of the forest, if that person on the mountain calls down to them and says, “Hey, you’re in a forest! But if you go in that direction, you can find your way out”. The person in the forest can then make their way out of the forest.
Does that make sense to you guys? Any comments or questions so far?
So my question to you is, are you brave enough to call me on my triggers? When Mommy is caught up in a whirlwind of emotion, will you please call to me from your mountain of different perspective, and let me know I’m in a forest?
And when you are in a triggered state, full of powerful emotions, will you receive my words when I call you on it, and tell you that you are in a forest?
If we can all try our best to be brave forest rangers, perhaps we can better support each other through our weakest moments, and we can all get on to more joyful moments?
I closed the meeting with a right hand in air promise to be brave and receptive as the moment may call for it, to treat our family members the way we ourselves would wish to be treated, and to lead with love whenever we are able.
Onward Brave Forest Rangers!
March 23, 2015 § Leave a comment
So we recently had a conundrum in our family:
My family likes to eat delicious meals. I don’t like to cook.
As I explained to my husband, the source of my aversion to cooking is the perfect storm of:
1) I don’t enjoy cooking. Perhaps I might if it was by preferred choice and only on occasion when I was feeling adventurous. But the tedious obligation of preparing something new every night makes me want to run for the hills. My inner psychologist tells me my aversion stems from my formative years watching a working mother juggle family meals with a busy work day, but you can’t blame your mother for everything, right?
2) I am not especially good at it. I seem to have misplaced that element of my DNA that naturally inclines me to blend spices and to intuitively know proper temperatures and cooking times. My grandmother has it. My mother has it. Where is the research proving that trait skips every third generation?
3) I can rarely please everyone. The feedback is hardly inspiring when someone is always complaining about what I have produced. The odds simply don’t fall in my favour with a family of six, four of which are children with oscillating preferences. It’s a miracle I can keep all their favourite foods straight, let alone keep track of them when they take a sharp turn: “You used to love tuna melts, what happened?”
So those are my excuses explanations.
Anyways, back to the conundrum. Recently all of this came bubbling to the surface, resulting in a family meeting and a new system for supper delivery. My husband stated in an I-don’t-know-why-its-so-difficult sort of tone, that he and his siblings used to take turns cooking dinner, each one having their designated night to cook. Eureka!
I quickly began the math. Seven nights in a week: One for each kid, one for Dad, one for Mom, and one for eating out.
<cue the operatic hallelujah and heavenly spotlight>
The kids were thrilled. “We get to choose and make supper?!”. The only ground rules were that it needs to be reasonably healthy, and the supper choices need to be made on Sunday nights so I only have to grocery shop once per week.
And so it began.
Night one: my 5 year old chose spaghetti. Fairly straightforward, even went quite smoothly! Daddy was at work late but he prefers low carb meals anyway, so everyone was happy.
Night two: my 7 year old chose shepherd’s pie. A little more work for mom supervising, but many teachable moments and maternal visions of his future wife thanking me for showing him how to cook.
Night three: my 12 year old chooses his favourite, chocolate chip banana pancakes. And the waters start to get rocky. Healthy choice? Mmm, pushing the envelope. Also,his brother has given up chocolate for Lent and refuses any other flavour of pancake. The situation is precarious in its precedent-setting potential. Are we allowed to opt-out if we don’t like what is served for supper? So the negotiations begin and we are able to stabilize the rocking boat, landing on a non-chocolate chip option for his brother and adding a third clause to the ground rules that there is no opting-out of dinner: you eat what is served.
Night four: my 10 year old chooses panzerottis. Again, a little higher supervision requirement than what I was hoping for, but balanced by own gastro-inclinations (I love panzerotti).
Night five: my husband makes grilled cheese for part of our group, while I enjoy pizza with my eldest during his birthday party (fair enough, I thought, given that I also put together fruit and veggie trays for the party)
Night Six: I prepare chicken legs and vegetables. While it was not greeted with the same enthusiasm as chocolate chip pancakes or panzerottis, there was minimal griping.
Night seven: leftovers.
Not bad for our inaugural week, but as we head into week two, the boat has started rocking again.
Tonight my 5 year old selected omelettes, which is only favourable to ¼ of the kids. Can you guess which one? She took the blows all in stride as her siblings griped and complained about having to eat omelettes, desperately suggesting any other alternative they could come up with to avoid having to eat what was on their plates.
As I began to defend her to her siblings and encourage them towards kindness in their comments about her efforts, I realize that she is skipping away from the table unscathed, content with her newly mastered culinary skills, and her full belly.
And she has delivered her own teachable moment. To me.
March 2, 2015 § 1 Comment
“To the outside world, we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other’s hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time.” – Clara Ortega
Today the little girl who lives next door to us asked me why we stopped at four children and didn’t have more. A little disarming coming from a 9 year old “only child”, and surrounded by my kids, sure made me think before I answered. I had fleeting flashbacks to points between my pregnancies when people would ask if we planned to have more children (such an intimate question but no one really gets that), to which my husband and I would always respond, if we continue to be blessed with healthy, happy children, we will continue to have more. That of course stopped at four, when the number of children then matched the collective number of hands between my husband and I.
Truth is, I come from a fairly small family. My mother was an only child, and my father one of two, so even the number of cousins was limited. When my husband and I were contemplating round three, I got a bit fearful looking at the statistics, and asked him “Shouldn’t we stop while we are ahead? We have two beautiful, healthy children”, to which he responded in his confident wisdom, “That is WHY we should continue, because we make beautiful, healthy children!”. I’m forever grateful to have a partner in life who talks me out of my fear.
Now, as I see our children play and connect, I witness the beauty and intimacy written in the truth above:
“To the outside world, we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were.”
I think of my grandparents, who each had loads of siblings and have attended many of their funerals. They do not see a frail, aged body, devoid of spirit, cushioned in satin and surrounded by floral condolences. They see a life-long friend and confidant. Someone who knew not just their past but their origin, where they came from and what they looked like at every stage of growing up. No matter how many friends they made along the way, none of them can match that list of qualities.
I see my children oscillate with each other, sometimes playing with one sibling one day and another sibling the next day, or switching it up mid-day depending on the activity. Then there are the days that they all play together. And that is a beautiful thing. Sometimes very loud, but there is beauty in it. And in their adult years, around the Thanksgiving dinner table, they will laugh and remember funny stories, embarrassing moments incurred along the way, discoveries, and revelations among their varied perspectives.
And their personalities, they are captivating to watch emerge. To have evolved so differently under the same parenting, environment, and genes, just fascinating. I get so excited at their futures, where they go, what they will do, whom they will choose, the journey each will take. I find myself smiling, imagining weddings, grandchildren, travelling adventures, wherever the road takes them.
After I finish writing this, I will prepare for sleep, but not before I check on each child, asleep in their bed, in their most innocent and peaceful state. And I will be overwhelmed with both love and gratitude, resisting the urge to scoop them into my arms and shower them with kisses, snuggling their small bodies and breathing in their scent.
One day, a long time from now I will be away from them, but something in the air will remind me of that scent, and it will take me back, bringing a smile to my face, knowing I am blessed.
And I will live outside the touch of time.
April 4, 2014 § 1 Comment
I ran into a friend at a coffee shop recently, who commented on the busyness of my schedule, exclaiming that she didn’t know how I did it all. I always find it ironic when I hear these words, because I often feel the same way about the person with whom I am speaking, which quickly led me to the conclusion that all parents are busy, and we all find a way to do it! Falling into the trap that most of us seem to, I quickly discounted any element of praise and insisted that I simply have mastered “the illusion” that it is all getting done.
Contemplating it afterwards, I thought about how fantastic it would be if we all shared our “tricks” of getting it all done. You know, the ones that we’d rarely admit to, except to our closest friends, for fear of being criticized as a poor parent. So I am wading out into those judgement-filled waters, and offering you two time-tested tricks from my own parenting bag of tricks:
Contrary to popular judgements, TV really is a terrific babysitter in a pinch. I have used this solution countless times when needing a shower, taking a phone call, or securing a much-needed, sanity-saving time out for myself. Most frequently however, I use this twice a day at bus time. We live at the end of a very long driveway. Despite repeated requests for the school bus to come to the house, alas, we have to catch it at the end of the laneway like everyone else. In the nicer weather, the kids love riding their bikes or skipping down the laneway taking in the warm breezes and bright sunshine. In fouler weather however, of which we have had more than our share this winter, I drive them. It has always been the case, however, that I have had younger non-school age children with me at home while the older children go off to school. Instead of struggling though the tug of war to get a young, uninterested and decidedly strong-headed child to bundle up in their outerwear and get into the car, I turn to the warm, entertaining and immobilizing effects of a trusted friend: Samsung. Convenient, centrally located, and always available!
At an event I was at last week with a collection of mothers, we were discussing the undeniable effectiveness of bribery as a parenting tool. Some were quick to point out that their tool is actually called “motivation”, but I have yet to successfully distinguish the two. And if it weren’t already self-evident in the successful completion of toy clean-up each night before bed (or no bedtime snack!), one could also consider the number one technique my children have learned to use on each other when they can’t get their sibling to do what they want: “Please, please, please, I’ll give you my best Pokeman card! No? How about the remaining candy in the loot bag I got last week? Alright deal.” While I don’t recommend this parenting technique for influencing moral decision-making in our children, it does work like a charm to keep the daily operations flowing smoothly.
And here is one more: despite everything that has happened, or will happen, you are a good parent. So steer away from the duality of deciding if your decisions were good or bad, right or wrong, and instead assess your instincts, rely on your gut, and realize what you are doing is always what you think best for your children given the scenario. Well done, my friend!