I mentioned to David last night that we somehow leveled up in the parenting world. Language has settled in, values have taken root… These things have produced consistent messages to the kids that are starting to see anchors like time around the table and nods of agreement.
There was a while where one of us would process a kid and the other would get defensive. I bet that is common in blending families. If I zoom’d in on one of his biologicals, it would naturally feel like it was in comparison to one of my biologicals. At this point, if I am correct, we have both bitched enough about all five kids and praised enough about each of the five kids to have balanced out and earned each other’s trust that it is not like we were determining who are our “project children”.
Truly – they are all projects.
In my retirement, my bandwidth can get quickly sucked up in the parenting world and what all we need to address. It results, as mentioned before, in a lot of conversation with David about ideas and what we should try and what I envision for us in a year. It also results in a lot of hands on deep diving with each kid. And it is really not efficient to live like that.
Not only do I believe in the fact that at some point you have to stop talking about it and just do the things you think are so important. But it really isn’t practical to coach each kid one on one. Teachers, sports coaches, music teachers and therapists are – for example – great ways to outsource this, even if you don’t have a bajillion kids like we do. Said another way….
I remember thinking I broke Ellen at some point when she was 7 or 8. That somehow my parenting or her dad’s was so screwed up that we had turned this wonderful sweet adventurous girl into a headstrong pain in the ass.
In my regular bemoaning that I ruined my child and now had this selfish, pre-occupied, non-empathetic little girl, I conveniently recognized all of those same traits in myself. :-/
OH. How helpful, I realized in my yoga, we are able to recognize things in others because they are in us.
OH. How helpful, I can’t open Ellen’s brain and re-wire and jump into her memories and change however or wherever she learned this behavior.
I can. I can. I can model and reinforce. Model. Model. Model.
I am going through notebooks (which is literally and figuratively the story of my life) and it has been pretty wild to read entries from 2019: gearing up toward engagement, gearing up toward 2020, so blind to the reality the world can change dramatically. Amongst all the plans and lists and travel notes was this entry of 6 bullet points I had written as advice for myself:
- Stand openly
- Hide nothing
- Refuse to defend oneself
- Feel their pain
- Understand needs
- Vulnerability brings healing
In this season of motherhood, I find this list perfect.
One of the prayers I have for the kids is that they all let down their defenses. Not necessarily with each other as there is not any fighting in the house or anything like that. But there is a general guard up that quickly interprets “direction” into “discipline” or interprets guidance as limitation. It’s kind of interesting. They feel in trouble or stuck and excuse themselves, make shit up and or quickly interject what they want before hearing what they want was already on the way. Like. They are “jumpy”.
I think, for me, I have to remember the change they all went through and the ways they are growing and being stretched academically and socially during the pandemic. That’s hard stuff.
I think, for me, remembering to get on eye level and inquire lovingly to their real need is essential to continually grow the trust we all have in each other. I don’t need to explain they didn’t need to explain it. I just listen, reassure and follow through. Take it on the chin. Let them think it was their idea in a way.
Living with nothing to hide – being an honest, friendly expression – makes us safe as parents. Not explaining things or offering reasons, just “Yes, and I love you” and “No, and I love you” will suffice.
And even “standing openly” is applicable now as I see my motherhood as an act of generosity. Giving and being compassionate and patient and helpful. Letting the “work” of it all be a side note and letting the “service” of it all be a lifestyle and a calling.
And with all of this, like I was saying to a friend today regarding marriage, being subtle and letting body language and tone of voice be warm and safe is clutch. Building people up and encouraging them, knowing what it feels like to not be having a great day and so therefore not being a contributing factor to theirs.
Using a calming touch and stepping aside for time for yourself are as powerful as being the non critical recipient of another’s vulnerability.
“Blessed be the know it all” is not in scripture anywhere. Man, how I hope we all stop having reasons for everything.
I am not going to spend a lot of time proofing or editing this post. I just wanted to offer an entry real quick as I read through this notebook and find this 2019 advice super relevant to my current day.
Every day I remember I am the Queen and that I make the rules for my life, I grow more something (nicer? compassionate? gentler?) towards the grind of the day, towards the expectant demands of children.
It’s not that it is easy and it is not that I have been nailing it. (Hence why I welcomed these 6 bullets into my flow….) But I do recognize a difference in mothering over time and it has something to do with these things. For sure.