Let go of what you don’t need and marvel at the difference that 5 little ‘things’ can bring.
Looking back at the last 10 years of my life, my life as a mother, I could certainly pick out a few big, bold, ‘what the [email protected]# was I thinking’ moments that could lead to having my head drowned in a full bucket of ice cream out of sheer shame and disbelief (might I add that I’m so allergic to dairy that this could lead to my early demise). I’m talking about the type of ‘Things’ that as parents we think we should do to produce ‘Effective’ kids and belong to the ‘Effective’ parent club.
I shouldn’t blame myself for feeling this way when we are living in a culture that surrounds us with parenting quotes that look like the one here:
“Don’t worrry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” — Robert Fulghum
Quotes that could make any parent or caregiver paranoid for a few life times! I mean come on! Who publishes this stuff!!?? (oh, I just did). Certainly not a parent! Yes, the seed of knowledge embedded in this quote is sound enough. But, please don’t worry! Yes, the kids are watching! But the writer of this quote and much of what is out there on ‘good’ or ‘effective’ parenting assumes that they know what the kid is thinking!
Preposterous! No one knows! No one knows how each human mind is making sense of the million lines of information and stimulus that are reaching its sensing mechanisms! Especially in a forming brain of a child!
Here’s a familiar scenario of one of those WTFWIT that I was telling you about: I’m standing in the middle of the kitchen warming milk up in the middle of the afternoon for the new toddler’s nap, the older child sees me spill some milk and over react by using a few lines better fit for a conversation among sailors lost at sea, and the older kid is tainted FOR LIFE! Right?
No, chances are, the older kid was wondering why the clouds touch the blue of the afternoon sky ‘just so’ and why a toddler needs a nap and why he can’t go and live at the park and a million other why, why, why sentences forming in the depths of his amazing and growing perception of the world!
By all means, use common sense, love and connect with your child till there is no tomorrow, but don’t ‘worry’ about every single thing they see you do! Or every time they don’t listen or hear or respond at the rate that is deemed acceptable by adult standards. Otherwise you’ve started (or perhaps are helping to continue) a cult of perfection that causes way too much mystery and heartache over a life time.
Kids who grow up in a loving and nurturing home are forgiving! They are not going to hold you to every time you acted outside of what you demanded of them. They rather kick a ball or make a house out of couch cushions on a rainy day. Believe me I know.
I know, because, I’ve been holding on to my sailor talk for the past 10 years and my kids have never repeated my sentiments in public or at home. I should make something clear:
I NEVER use it AT THEM or any other human being for that matter.
The kids get my gist, they get my humor. They don’t copy my language. Look, maybe I just lucked out, I’m not suggesting you should use four letter words around your kids, and I only do it when I know it is absolutely called for; It’s just part of my turns of phrase, sometimes. Having divulged and hinted at my worst possible WTFWIT moments, now dear reader…I will lay out 5 simple, free and renewable things that every parent can benefit from.
Because I value your time, I’ve made them short and sweet, and have given some thought to their application at every stage of parenting, from new born to college graduate. I’ve writen them from the perspective of someone who is continually learning. These aren’t advice sets! They are ways or attitudes for growing and developing.
So, here are 5 effective things anyone can ‘own’ to raise pretty effective kids: Kids that have objectivly developed an inner core to make, create, and connect to the world at their own rate and with growing independence of mind. (Disclaimer: their fine state school education has had a lot do with this).
1. Give the “little moment thingy thing” a try
I realised a while back at music school that there are so many little wonderful secrets of life hidden in how we perceive and then interpret some thing, some idea, some sound, some person, some occupation, some activity, or some sense of ourselves.
“The gold is hidden in that fine moment between perceiving and interpreting.”
Sometimes during some activities such as parenting or trying or wanting to be effective, we rob ourselves of this hidden moment, even though it doesn’t cost anything and is the original renewable resource! “I think I’ll give this hidden treasure time between receiving information and responding a name,…any name…”. Then I can get accustomed to making use of it. Give it your own name, make pictures out of it, paper cutouts, anything that works for you and your kids. Give it a ‘birthday’ a ‘cake’. Don’t even let your imagination stop you!
Give it a pet stuffed toy. Get your kids involved in your imaginary world. Let them know you are learning and developing just as they are. Let them know that this “little moment thingy thing” is as precious as a butterfly or kitten, as adventurous as a kite and as fleeting, constant (it’ll return again and again) and colorful as a rainbow. Play their game, be a kid, FORCE YOURSELF IF YOU HAVE TO! This they will note. Of course they don’t know the difference between being a kid and just being! Remember this bit! (No research link required.)
2. Know your calling, define your job description
It’s true that parenting is one of those occupations in life that we only get one chance at. But at the same time we need to remind ourselves (or hire someone to remind us), that parenting is one of those few jobs that doesn’t have a fixed description nor a correct or perfect attainment. There are masses of suggested ‘best practice’ advised for being a parent: Books, journals, blogs, and even coaches, but even if we master the theory of the whole job before it starts, the reality remains that most if not all of the learning and practice happens IN PRACTICE!
Take the time every once in a while to define your job title, at least to yourself. “Enjoyer of very cute toes” is good enough. Anything that brings you more “here and now” and less “perfect and effective.”
If you have lucked out and received some portions in the form of the parenting bond (yes, sadly not all are so lucky…), let the care, love, attention and all the energy and enthusiasm that this natural bond of parenting has filled you with speak for it self. Have many ‘things’ come and go as part of the job description, form ‘core values’, but don’t allow “perfect” to ever creep its ugly head in.
The most important part of being a parent and a good way to break up with “perfect” once and for all is making sure you are parenting yourself too. It’s not about all this over invested ‘me time’ culture. Parenting yourself is something internally driven and more real; something you can only find out about after you’ve stopped to notice how impossible it really would be to be constantly in ‘parent mode’. Invent many ways to give yourself breaks without without jumping ship.
When all is good and calm, read on the toilet, sometimes.
Parenting is the most reflective job there is, for all parties involved. It’s symbiotic to the max. For the parent it is perhaps the most furtile landscape for cultivating emotional, psychological, mental and physical development. So, start with yourself! In many ways parenting is all about emracing the quiet of life amongst the ridiculously loud. Once I realised that my job subtitle as a parent was ‘growth and develpment facilitator-in-training’ and stuck imaginary ‘watch this space’ stickers all over my head, only then did my job as a parent start to make sense to me.
3. Listen with more than your ears
Parenting is where you take the time and bask in the pleasure of finding things out. Slow down, take your time. Take the time, and find out how many different ways you can just listen to them (and you) growing and discovering. Kinda sorta ZEN you know.
I’ve learnt from Aikido that there is nothing as powerful as looking together at the same direction, nothing more calming and empowering as making an effort to observe from the other person’s perspective. To lose balance and find equilibrium instead; a tiny step at a time.
Perhaps parenting is the most efficient ‘martial’ practice there is, there is a sure compassionate violence about how it can clean you out of all the shit you didn’t even realise you didn’t ever need.
Parenting is the only job that gives us an opportunity to refine ourselves in that way; again, this is all free and doesn’t cost anything, but a bit of Aikido practice can be useful.
4. Stop wanting, just be
Being perfect is nearly impossible in any arena and especially when it comes to a job as all-consuming as parenthood. Being effective and functional, on the other hand, is easily obtained and offers endless opportunities for elaboration. Again, there is no cost involved and the process is readily available to any parent who may aspire to reach for it.
It’s an ultimate paradoxical job if there ever was one! It’s ‘this’ it’s ‘that’ it’s ‘both’ it’s all these very complex and demanding ‘things’ all at the same time. And sometimes, I realize that it’s pure joy, play, honest reality and nothing less than the most challenging and rewarding part of my life.
Children grow and develop all the time and sometimes it feels it all happens faster than the speed of light. Best ‘thing’ to do is to just be.
Kids will not notice a non-renovated bathroom, a smallish apartment, a spotless car (unless they helped wash and vacuum it), a house that is smaller than their cousins’, the fact that one parent isn’t making as much money as before they existed. They won’t notice any of these things more than they will notice you just being. Not, all the time to the same level, that would equate to neurosis or near madness. But, kids might be able to sense that ‘thing’ that happens when you stop wanting.
Be warned, this isn’t nor should it be without a few challenges, you will need to find the desire to grow in knowing your direction and in becoming grounded.
5. Structure, Rhythm, Routine
They will and you will thrive on these! Again, simple, free, renewable and highly ‘essential 3’ oils for keeping the great engine of community, relatedness and development in check. No research citable, none needed. It’s simply sewn into our fabric as humans.
Enjoy your journey.
Originally published at medium.com