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Archive for February, 2013

Goodbye February

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Wow. I know February is a short month, but it feels like eight days have passed since January, not twenty-eight.

Oddly, my month of parenting was not what I expected. I found that I had a really hard time focusing on my resolutions. What I seemed to notice was that when I focused on my January resolutions, the February ones just sort of fell into place. AHA! I really do have to take care of myself before I can be a good mother.

Now, before you go running away with that statement, I will say that “taking care of myself” does not mean disregarding any of J’s needs. I think some parents use this statement to justify doing things for themselves at their children’s expense, even if they mean well. I am still the adult here. I can hold my bladder for five minutes for J to finish breastfeeding without harming myself, and I really will be OK if J needs me to stay home one day instead of having lunch with a friend. That said though, I have learned that my needs are important, and that I am a much better parent when I take time for myself.

So, onto Naomi Aldort…

Through reading Raising Our Children Raising Ourselves and talking to moms I admire, I have realized that two main questions drive all my decision-making when it comes to parenting:

1.) How will this strengthen our connection?

2.) How does this make him feel right, welcome, and worthy?

Naomi seems to whole-heartedly support this stance. Like almost every book I have read on parenting, I really resonated with some of what Naomi suggested, and I skipped over the parts that didn’t sit well with me. Here’s a quick list of things I’ll remember and put to use (or remember to put to use):

1.) Empower. (The E in Naomi’s SALVE formula). I am not always responsible for “fixing” J’s problems. I am there to listen, and there to validate, but some problems don’t need “fixing”, and by attempting to fix his problems for him, I may be disempowering him. My job is to be present for him while he experiences strong emotions, and to follow his lead for what he needs from me. I learned another great phrase (from another wise Mama) yesterday – “Give me all your tears.” I want J to know I am strong and available and open to helping him fix his problem. This said, I will say that I still fix things on occasion, though… If I find that a small fix on my part saves a big struggle on his. I’m still evaluating this.

2.) Play power struggle games. If J is ever feeling too “controlled” by me or life, a “power struggle game” can be a great way to give J back some of that control in a “controlled” way. Ha. So, if J refuses to put on a shirt one day, I could turn it into a game, saying “OH NO! Julian won’t wear a shirt! What are we ever going to do?” as I chase him around with the shirt. The important part is to let him win. πŸ™‚

3.) Don’t add drama to reflection. When I’m validating J’s emotions, it’s important to maintain a calm, present energy. For example, an anxious statement such as “What’s wrong?! Are you hurt?!” can a.) lead J to pick up on my worry and cause him more upset than he was feeling before, and b.) discourage J from being open and honest with me about his feelings. He may then keep his hurt to himself, worried about how I will react. Instead of reacting anxiously, I can calmly say, “You seem sad.” And then later, after he’s calmed a bit, I might add, “You’re holding your elbow. Did you fall down?” Again, I want J to know that I’m a strong, calm presence.

4.) Apologize for actions, not feelings, and be clear. People often say things like, “I’m sorry you hurt yourself”, or “I’m sorry I’m upset today”, but are apologies really necessary in these instances? This sort of apology can confuse a child and take away your authentic power. I don’t have to be sorry I am upset, because everyone gets upset. If I yelled while I was upset though, I can say something like, “I yelled at you, and I wish I hadn’t.”

I have more, but I have a J who needs me a lot tonight, and March resolutions to think about, so I am cutting this short. Check back tomorrow for an intro to March, the month of rhythm!

Ah, I am called to embrace imperfection again.

I have learned that my needs are important.

I am thankful for Thursdays that are Fridays. (Husband took off work tomorrow).

Today J and I went to the mall. I only go about once a year. It takes me around a year to remember why I don’t go. We had fun for a while though. J loves to take photos in the photo booth.

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Studio space

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Tonight, I danced. And went on a run. My legs feel like jello, but my heart is happy.

I finished Naomi Aldort’s book yesterday, and my plan was to write a long post about it here tonight, but I’m just not up for it, so I’ll attempt to include what I was going to say in my February review tomorrow. It’s almost March!

I am still learning about balance. I’ve decided that it’s probably a life-long lesson.

I am thankful to have studio space to dance in.

Today was my Mama’s birthday, so sixty-two years ago today, my grandmother began her own tales of motherhood. Happy Birthday to the woman who made me me! πŸ™‚

J and I went to the park today to enjoy this gorgeous February weather, and trees were the fascination of the afternoon. J learned all about the difference between trunks, limbs, branches, and twigs.

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Home-ed Tuesday

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That’s right. Today, I received an award. In case you can’t see the picture properly, the award reads:

“2013 Incredible Mom awarded to Kate Davis In Recognition and Appreciation of your Awesomeness. We Love You!”

I have an awesome husband (and son). πŸ™‚ And I really needed the joy and laughter this brought me today. These past few weeks have been filled with long days. Some have been great, but many just seem to never end. I don’t know how you single moms do it! When Husband is eyebrow-deep in work and sleeping three hours a night, J and the animals and the house all seem to need me constantly. My priorities of course are a.) J, b.) The animals, and c.) The house, but the house itself could be a full-time job! I don’t want this post to be about me complaining though, because I actually had a great day (minus a few frustrations tonight)! So, end of rant.

This morning, J and I went to a home-ed group for the first time, and I fell in love. I had been meaning to check this group out for quite a while, and today (in the pouring rain) we finally made it there. I cannot even begin to describe how awesome it was. I had community on my mind yesterday, and the universe answered my call! There were about 20 kids there who ranged in age from 2-12, and they seemed like the sweetest, most confident, unique group of kids I’ve ever met. I could tell immediately that the parents there (both moms and dads) let their kids be themselves, and that felt like such a breath of fresh air. Some kids had mohawks, and some wore mismatched socks with sandals. There were a couple of kids with special needs, and a few who seemed decades older than they were in both intelligence and compassion. One mom was even drinking kefir from a mason jar. Folks, I may have just found my home!

The group meets once a week, and each week there’s a different topic. Today was art, and one of the moms led. She discussed different styles of art, and then told the kids about the materials she brought and the options for how to use them. Then (and here’s the kicker!), the kids were free to do whatever they wanted to do. Some kids dove deep into concentration, creating impressionistic paintings from still life, some glued confetti to paper while chatting to friends, and others performed handstands in the hall. It was utterly joyous to watch. And I actually got to talk to many of the parents there. They all seemed genuinely interested in getting to know J and me, and I could tell the group functioned more like a community than a network. J really enjoyed himself too. He took a while to warm up (like he always does in new situations), but I just let him lead, and in the end, he didn’t want to leave.

Let’s just say, I think we’ll be going back next week! It feels great to make what could be a big step toward my heart’s desire.

I continue to learn that the more I go with J and meet him where he is, the more smoothly life flows. I always know this intellectually, but I’m beginning to know it practically as well.

I am thankful for the possibility of community.

Today, while at the home-ed gathering, J discovered the hand-dryer in the bathroom. It was the first time he had been willing to try air-drying his hands, because automatic dryers normally frightened him. He was so excited and proud of himself for using it, and he even learned how to operate it on his own. Needless to say, we ended up spending about twenty minutes locked in the bathroom practicing. πŸ™‚

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Community.

So, I realize this is a subject I come back to again, and again, and again, but it’s on my mind today, so I’m following my bliss.

It’s funny, because although it’s easier to keep in touch with friends and family these days (due to cell phones, email, Facebook, etc.), I think it’s also harder to maintain a strong connection with any one person. People move around, get married, have kids, find new jobs, grow, change, and over-commit themselves. Family members are spread across the country (and world) from one another, and college roommates no longer live down the hall. Those who work outside the home may find that they are in contact with work ‘friends’ on a daily basis, and sure there’s still the occasional neighborhood potluck, or book club, or Torah study group, but let’s be honest – how many adults these days can say they belong to a real community or have a group of real friends?

I’m still trying to figure out how to define the word ‘friend’, because it seems that as one ages, the definition changes. Maybe it’s just that the definition has shifted with time in general, I’m not sure. Either way, here is the definition via Merriam-Webster:

Definition of FRIEND

1
a : one attached to another by affection or esteem
b : acquaintance
2
a : one that is not hostile
b : one that is of the same nation, party, or group
3
: one that favors or promotes something (as a charity)
4
: a favored companion
5
capitalized : a member of a Christian sect that stresses Inner Light, rejects sacraments and an ordained ministry, and opposes war β€”called also Quaker

I always find dictionary definitions interesting, and this is no exception. I think it’s really odd that “acquaintance” is listed as a definition of friend here, because to me, the terms stand for two completely different types of relationships. And “attached… by affection or esteem” is really interesting as well. I wonder how ‘esteem’ fits into the picture. And, where is love? Is ‘love’ just for family? Can one not love a friend?

My personal definition of friend is as follows:

1
: One who’s doorstep you can show up on at 2:00 in the morning unannounced, no questions asked (and vise versa).

Given this definition, I’m not sure how many friends I have these days, or if anyone else actually defines friend the same way I do, but hey. I am being me.

In general, I have found that it’s harder to make friends here in Raleigh than anywhere else I’ve ever lived. I’m not sure if this is because I’m getting older, or because people in Raleigh tend to over-commit themselves and already have circles, but Raleigh seems to be a city of networks. Don’t get me wrong, I know some amazing people, and I do have a few friends! But overall, I see people sparingly and in many different places. I definitely don’t have a “group” or “circle” of friends. And as much as I wish it weren’t the case sometimes, my heart still pines for a circle. A community.

I read a book recently by Wayne Muller, titled Sabbath, and in it, he describes the difference between “networks” and “communities” brilliantly. I wish I owned the book so I could quote him here, but I don’t. He argues that communities are dying and networks are taking over, and that this leaves many people feeling unfulfilled. Networks ask you to bring parts of yourself to the table, where as communities allow you to be who you are, flaws and bad days included. You don’t expect to go to your book group and talk about your digestive issues or to a la leche league meeting and discuss dog training. It’s just not what happens.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this here before or not, but I am on a quest to build a real community where I live, here in the Mordecai neighborhood of Raleigh, NC, and one of the ways I’m doing this is through “Soup Nite”.

Every Monday night, I make a big pot of soup and invite the entire community to come join my family for dinner. We have done this since October of last year, and so far it’s been really fun. We haven’t had a single no-show evening, and some weeks we get as many as 15 people huddled around our dinner table. More than that, most people in the community recognize it exists now, and I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from people who haven’t even been able to stop by yet. What does this mean? I’m not the only one who values community! There are others out there, even if they (like me) don’t yet know quite how to engage.

These days, I think I am finally learning to prepare. when it comes to household duties.

I am thankful for soup nights.

Today, Julian and I bundled up and went on a freezing run downtown. We stopped at Ace Hardware on our way to eat lunch with Alex (it feels weird to call him Husband here), and J had so much fun playing with all the toy trucks they have for sale there. When we got home, I hung a hook (that we bought at Ace) low on the wall by our coat hooks in the living room so that J would have a place he can hang his coat by himself.

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On self-awareness

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Sometimes it’s hard to remember that the goal of my happiness project isn’t to be happy all the time. No one is happy all the time, and I’ve learned that a lot of growth occurs in the space between happy moments. People who have high senses of well-being probably embrace sadness and struggle more readily. I’m beginning to learn from the down times, but it’s difficult to pull awareness out of tears. It’s not something that comes to me naturally, and because of that, it’s a quality I want to be sure J acquires at an early age. I thought to myself today – “What’s the most important quality to nurture in children?” – and I realized that, in my opinion, there are two:

1.) Curiosity/A love of learning

2.) Self-awareness

Obviously, they go hand in hand, but if a person grows up curious about the world and confidently aware of themselves, I don’t see how he or she could possibly fail to thrive. Even someone who grows up with faulty thought patterns and bad habits can overcome them as long as they have the interest to do so and the strength of character to persist.

I definitely have the interest, and I’m developing the strength. It’s just pesky perfectionism that gets in the way now. I’m still not sure where my all-or-nothing mentality came from, but it’s been rather hard to tone down.

I’m beginning to learn from the down times.

I am thankful that J loves animals and gets along with them so well.

Today was an oddly beautiful day, so we all took a walk to the park and Escazu (our favorite chocolate shop). J rode on Daddy’s shoulders most of the way there, and as he sat he absentmindedly massaged Daddy’s head. πŸ™‚

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Well, I did it!

Today was my “extreme day,” and I passed my test with flying colors. I think I might actually be back on track. The day really didn’t seem that “extreme” at all. When you stop to think about it, it’s amazing how subjective “reality” is. I woke up and decided I was going to be awesome today, and I was.

On that note, I’m off to watch some more TED talks with Husband. If you haven’t become addicted to TED yet, you might want to stay away. It’s dangerous.

I have learned that, sometimes, waking up and deciding you’re going to have a good day actually works.

I am thankful for Saturdays spent with family.

This morning I was telling Husband that I might have a dosa addiction. He responded with, “Well, it’s better than a cocaine addiction!” Julian then walked around the house saying, “It’s better than a cocaine addiction!” I haven’t laughed that hard in a while.

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Be real

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Happy Friday everyone! Today, I’m keeping it short.

First, an important realization:

When I’m feeling overwhelmed, negative, and/or a bit paralyzed by life, I generally have one of two phrases swimming through my mind – “I should” or “I have to.” I have mostly eliminated the word “should” from my spoken vocabulary, but I think it still creeps into my thoughts. More than that, I tend to possess an “I should” feeling when it come to daily tasks, even if there is no spoken or explicitly thought “should”. And let’s be honest, “I have to” is just my replacement for “I should”!

Second, I want to share with you a blog entry by Scott Noelle today. I know I’ve mentioned him before here, but if you haven’t checked him out yet, I suggest popping over to his site. He sends out a “Daily Groove” every day, and I always look forward to seeing it in my morning inbox. He and I must be on the same wavelength, because he always seems to write about topics that directly pertain to whatever I’m struggling with or working on at the time.

Today’s “Daily Groove”:

Be Real

Presumably, you want to be a respectful, creative, loving parent — and you’d rather not EVER be coercive with your child. Wonderful!

But what about those times when you’re just in a bad mood and don’t feel like being a super-parent? Must you sacrifice your authenticity, fake a smile, and go through the motions?

You can try, but it won’t work. Even if self-sacrifice “works” superficially, it leads to resentment or rage that eventually hurts everyone.

Here’s a twofold alternative: First, give yourself permission to be REAL. Stop trying to hide how you really feel. (Kids always know intuitively how their parents feel, anyway.)

Second — and most important — make a solemn commitment to take responsibility for your feelings. In other words, you won’t blame your child for how you feel. You won’t blame yourself, either, because true responsibility has nothing to do with blame.

Breakthroughs happen when you honor your “negative” emotions without making anyone wrong. And when you truly take responsibility for your feelings, being coercive doesn’t feel “real” at all.

Copyright (c) 2013 by Scott Noelle

I am learning that if I want to be a calm, centered mom, I also need to be a very hydrated mom.

I am thankful for Fridays and two-parent weekends.

Today, Julian took an extra long nap, and when he woke up, he was mumbling something and holding up three fingers. He’s been working on the three finger thing for a while (much harder than two or four, because of that pinky/ring finger separation!). Apparently, he figured it out in his sleep. Also, tonight he was very concerned with the idea of time and kept asking us to explain it in different ways. I suppose it’s a concept that will take years to grasp (and I love the way he lives without a clock!), but he is beginning to understand it.

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