Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sweet Spot

I was reading this today and it caused me to reevaluate.

I have been trying to live in JOY lately, and often, not always, succeed. You see, 2 weeks from tomorrow the kids and I will be getting on an airplane with one way tickets to CO. Back home. My heart is joyful, my brain is frazzled and I am getting a little twitchy from the stress.

We are buying a house (that I have never seen) enrolling kids in school (that I have never visited) and living in limbo while Matt finishes up stuff here and we start life there and...oh my.

Jamison is getting his molars, all 4 of them. My normally crappy sleeper is worse, if that was even possible. I lovely little neighbor girls has a little issue with lice (and a much bigger issue of a broken family and being shuttled from home to home, but that is a different post) and so my little girls have been repeatedly combed and groomed to prevent the infestation from spreading. I am attempting to pack up a family of 6. Notice I say "attempting".

And yet our summer has been delightfully low key. Days spent splashing in the $5 kiddie pool in the back yard, riding bikes, going out for ice cream, swinging in the hammock, walking to the park, play dates with friends.

I must say I am particularly enjoying the ages of my girls. While not quite as big as those in the bloggers post, they are so fun. Yesterday Eliana made everyone brownies for a spa day they had. She painted her sisters finger nails and poured there drinks. Last night we all cuddled in bed and she read the story to her sisters.

Addilyn's fabulous sense of humor has grown delightfully, she is the first to get a joke and laugh at a passing comment. She can see the humor in life and I love it. She is beautifully brown from the summer sun and still crawls up in my lap to snuggle. She is starting to read and can't wait for kindergarten.

If you want to hear how things really are, just ask a 3 year old. Honesty pours out of Boo-Bellies mouth with abandon. She is so funny without trying. Hugely expressive (to the point of melodrama) and so much fun. Still little enough to be my baby girl, but big enough to hold her own with the sisters.

Jamison, half the time I want to tape him in the corner to keep him from destroying the house and himself and the other part of the day I just want to sit and watch him explore. Wild abandon doesn't quite capture the spirit of this little dude. He is communicating and moving. Yesterday he spent a good 10 minutes trying to convince the kitten to ride the bike.

Sweet spot.

It would be so easy to be too busy to really enjoy my kids, but I know they will grow so quickly and I will miss this. Jamison is my last baby and i don't want to wish away his littleness. Eliana is blazing the trail and I want to be available for that too. I am so blessed if I only choose to stop and see.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Critical thinking

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook today. It spoke to my heart.

When I am really doing good,when life has a rhythm and I am not feeling overwhelmed and undermanned, we have a pretty stellar bed time routine. It starts with a clean up time, followed by a bath or shower, jammies on and everyone collects on the couch with bowls of popcorn and we read a story together. Up stairs we go, teeth are brushed and into bed. But that isn't all. The last part is my favorite. We lay together in bed and say the best thing and worst things about our day, we name the things we are thankful for and then I tell each child a moment in the day that I was proud of them.

I would love to say that last part was one of those conscious choices I made to be a good parent, but I would be full of crap. It all started one night that followed a day where I felt like all I did was harp on my kids. I felt like a terrible mom. They felt picked on and sad. I didn't want to end the day that way so I told them things that had made me proud.

The shift in the room was amazing.

Sullen, grumpy children lit up from the inside, there faces flushed and they smiled. I kissed them goodnight and left the room. I felt worse. It was so rare that I compliment my girls, authentically noticing some thing kind or brave or giving that they did, that it felt like a "special thing" to them. Parenting FAIL.

I read an article written by two marriage counselors whose marriage hit a rocky place (irony?!) they realized that they spent many interactions being critical of each other. They decided to do a test. The committed to not be critical for one month. They catch? The other person got to be the judge of weather or not you were criticizing. If they made it the entire day BOTH not being critical, they put a smiley face on the calendar. It revolutionized their marriage. At first, once they chose to be aware,  they felt like they had nothing to say to each other. Then they got better at phrasing requests without critique and negativity. Soon it became second nature. It made them stop and think before they spoke.

This shouldn't be a revolutionary concept but somehow it is. The bible talks about this, speaking truth in LOVE, but for some reason we seem to gloss over the fact that love includes respect and kindness. We also seem to believe that children don't get to be treated as well as adults because they are littler and "not in charge".

Even neuroscience knows better. A child's brain that feels safe and secure is better able to connect and process information. A child who feels like their parent is not operating from a place of joy ("I happy to be me, here, with you") starts to put up walls, their brain chemistry changes as their brain floods with costisol (the stress hormone) and they go into a fight or flight state of mind. A brain in this state is intent on self protection, not learning or correctly processing information. When we are overly critical of our kids, we actually KEEP THEM from improving!

My children are not perfect and neither am I. They will need course correction on occasion. Not being critical has nothing to do with false praise or not disciplining. It is a state of being that is concisely kind, that speaks truth surrounded with love and grace and acceptance of the person while guiding the behavior.

My natural bent is to be sharp tongued. I wait for the day when I feel like I have really got this parenting thing nailed. It hasn't come yet. I am renewing my commitment to parent from a place of joy, I will work to be affirming, kind and compassionate. And on the days I royally screw up, I will ask for forgiveness and remember that tomorrow is another day.

My same friend posted this quote, which I love:

"It is an invalid argument to say you treat your children harshly to "prepare them for the real world". Childhood is not a holding pattern waiting for "real life" to begin. Your children are living in the real world now. Punishments and coercion don't teach them to toughen up in case some stranger down the road treats them thusly, it teaches them that punishment and coercion can be expected from the people who love them most.

Just because someone somewhere down the road will treat your child harshly is no reason to treat them harshly yourself. Instead, build them up. Show them how to peacefully interact so they will reject violence, so they will not accept coercion or mistreatment from others in their lives.

Just because someone somewhere down the road will treat your child harshly is no reason to treat them harshly yourself. Instead, build them up. Show them how to peacefully interact so they will reject violence, so they will not accept coercion or mistreatment from others in their lives.
Just because someone somewhere down the road will treat your child harshly is no reason to treat them harshly yourself. Instead, build them up. Show them how to peacefully interact so they will reject violence, so they will not accept coercion or mistreatment from others in their lives.

Just because someone somewhere down the road will treat your child harshly is no reason to treat them harshly yourself. Instead, build them up. Show them how to peacefully interact so they will reject violence, so they will not accept coercion or mistreatment from others in their lives."