From where are, and where we’ve come, we are all connected, here, on level ground.
I read an article today on Elephant Journal, of which I’ve linked below. The author is a mum of a young girl, who while endeavoring to support fellow parents and children, came into her own moment of awakening recently. This gained insight not only opened her eyes, but reaffirmed much of her intention to parent gently, with respect, and in reverence of the little person in her care.
It’s not too often I come across a truly kindred spirit in the world of parenting, living with children, nonviolence, empathic connection, etc., but when I do, the smile doesn’t leave my face for days. Today, Shonnie Lavender has brought me such a smile, and my gratitude is spilling out.
Recently, with my pregnancy, the continued work on the house renovations, travel, holiday events and activities, and the general sense of such “a lot”, we’ve had more of a challenge remaining connected than is the usual flow. Life is about change, movement, growth, expansion, and experiencing. Sometimes we get caught up in the whirlwind of all of it and forget to choose our actions and reactions thoughtfully and with intent to benefit. This article speaks to this for me, as well as reaffirms the beauty and value of revering our little ones, and their incredible journey of childhood.
“Mentally, it’s much easier to parent by merely replicating what we experienced as children. It’s what we know and it comes “naturally” to us. But I’m not content to do things because they’re easy. I intend to build a relationship that is mutually-respectful, no matter what. A year after I first discovered my habit of usurping my daughter’s power, my belief in my own superiority still shows up on occasion. Whenever I notice that I’ve treated my daughter’s authoritative voice as less valid than my own, I look for ways to restore the balance of power in our relationship.
When I wrote vows to my daughter a few weeks after she was born, I promised to take a conscious path as her mother. I committed to do what I could to allow her to stay in touch with her true self, to trust herself and to live as she was meant to live, not just the way I thought she should live.”
We educate our daughter independently, in a manner that is driven by her curiosity and interests. This method works beautifully because it inspires, encourages, and ignites her (and us), it also requires relevance be at the root of our activities, which means her mind is ready to receive and expand.
This is what learning looks like in our home
Yesterday, for whatever reason, instead of flowing with her, I screwed up everything. Instead of observing, I became utterly blind and unaware. Instead of listening, I only heard my voice. Instead of noticing and being, I demanded and shoved. Instead of a joy filled opportunity with her, where her intellect is ablaze, her inexperience a delight, her growth a wonder, and her little Self is safe, I came down like a wrecking ball and smashed her-in the name of accomplishing an agenda I apparently had, which I went on about through force (forcing). Something in me was very off yesterday….
I’m not afraid of her progress being insufficient, not worried by external judgment, and not unimpressed in the least with what she can and cannot do, does and does not yet know. On the contrary, I’m continually impressed, continually in awe, and consistently filled with joy at the wonder of how her mind and body develop. How she directs this development, how she flows and determines her fluidity, is something I revel at observing and having the privilege of being a part. None of that was at play yesterday, and the real trouble here is that I am uncertain what was at play within me – it was a reckless reaction, and one that I regret deeply. The entire experience was a mess, a distorted and negative malformation of what is usually a beautiful, complex, intriguing, and fluid expansion that she and I share together.
My daughter is 8 and academically, with few exceptions, functions at about a year/grade 6 (11-12 years of age). She carries conversations with educated adults, at her initiation, that leave them (and us) with an obvious reverence in their smile, along with an expression of captivation and satisfaction. She resolves things for other kids, invents her own solutions, and is a confident and capable, peaceful little spirit. She does not struggle to keep up with her peers, does not find academic growth challenging, does not have issues with self esteem, and does generally interact positively with all of us, except when her mama flattens all that. I don’t know why I was so intent on her cooperation and delivering of results yesterday, as we worked through a new mathematical concept that was clearly not one her natural development has so far opened a door. I thought it was a simple concept, and in one sense, she did too, but the connection wasn’t an organic one for her, and my pushing of it was the worst possible thing I could have done to support her.
So, today as I write this lament, I am re-awakening; I remember now my purpose, my intent, my work. I am reminded of the value of non-violence, of gentleness, of empathic connection, of listening. I know all too well how awful it feels to have someone force learning upon a little soul – which never results in learning; I experienced it over and over as a child. Yesterday, my little one, broken in spirit, had tears dripping from her eyes because of my recklessness. Instead of flowing with her, I snapped and threw TNT into her stream. I suppose I can find an explanation or two for my behavior, but doing so would harm even more than I have already succeeded at damaging. So, I will leave all justifications where they lie, and instead pick up today with eyes and ears open, and hope that she will grant me grace and forgiveness.
And when she is ready, the concept we tried to sort through yesterday will come, without force or expectation, but instead a natural clarity, in gentleness.
This is my baby, thriving in her accomplishment, learning with every single step and breath
“One of the most profound human interactions is the offering and accepting of apologies. Apologies have the power to heal humiliations and grudges, remove the desire for vengeance, and generate forgiveness on the part of the offended parties. For the offender they can diminish the fear of retaliation and relieve the guilt and shame that can grip the mind with a persistence and tenacity that are hard to ignore. The result of that apology process, ideally, is the reconciliation and restoration of broken relationships.”
We were discussing the frequency with which we hear parents directing their children to issue apologies when some social injustice has occurred. To many, it’s mandatory “good parenting” to require one’s child to utter an “I’m sorry” whenever it seems appropriate. To me, however, requiring an apology of a child or another adult, that being an omission of responsibility and existence of remorse, falls into the category of damaging and simply continues a legacy of superficial disconnectedness. Empathy generates something quite beautiful, something quite genuine and far reaching. This is what we base our decision to not require, or even suggest our child offer an apology, regardless of the situation.
What does it mean to make amends?
What is reparation?
When a response of simple regret is a matter of polite social interaction, can its authenticity be clearly seen?
How can we, as parents, demonstrate these valuable concepts authentically, so that our children, first, experience the benefit of their effect?
How can we provide a pattern worthy of our children’s observance, one that leads to authentic relating, compassion, empathy, and reconnection?
Let’s take a moment and look at the history behind the phrase, “I’m sorry”.
Originally, “sorry” came from “sore” (Middle English, pre 900)
feeling regret, compunction, sympathy, pity, etc.: to be sorry to leave one’s friends; to be sorry for a remark; to be sorry for someone in trouble.
regrettable or deplorable; unfortunate; tragic: a sorry situation; to come to a sorry end.
sorrowful, grieved, or sad: Was she sorry when her brother died?
associated with sorrow; suggestive of grief or suffering; melancholy; dismal.
(used interjectionally as a conventional apology or expression of regret): Sorry, you’re misinformed. Did I bump you? Sorry.
The Dalai Lama has much to say on forgiveness, as well as the responsibility we have of owning our actions and offering recompense. It is said that something he has offered, included in the 18 Rules of Living, concerns offering apology when appropriate.
7. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it. And do not let your pride get in the way of taking those steps. Apologize, taking full responsibility. That will speak for your character more strongly than the action of making the mistake in the first place.
There is a site entitled Emotional Competency, which discusses the art and beauty of the apology at length. Below is an excerpt:
A genuine apology provides so much benefit with so little cost, it is surprising and unfortunate it is not more common. The decision to apologize is a tug-of-war between stubborn pride and guilt. Since guilt is authentic, and stubborn pride is not, it seems best to get on with the apology. Making a sincere apology is an act of courage, not a sign of weakness. Many people are reluctant to apologize because they fear either humiliation or retaliation. This is unfortunate because most genuine apologies elicit gratitude as the response. Failing to apologize can be a costly dominance contest that prolongs bad feelings in a relationship that could have been easily avoided or foreshortened.
We have made the decision as a family to not instruct, encourage, or expect apologies from one another, but to instead request them when one feels it would result in reconnection and reparation, personally. We have also made the decision to not offer apologies for the actions of another, nor to expect another to offer an apology, regardless of whether the situation appears to warrant such. If, as an adult, I see a situation occur and I feel compelled to off my acknowledgement of the other person’s difficulty, I will do so.
In simple terms:
I will not instruct my child to offer an apology, I will not bring upon her a sense of shame.
I will not apologize for my child’s actions, that is her right to handle her situation as she sees best.
I will be observant and aware of my child’s interactions with others, and if a situation arises in which I feel compelled to offer my acknowledge and/or empathy for another child/person’s experience, I will offer them my authentic awareness and acknowledgement. My child is likely to witness this interchange, and I choose to communicate my own expressions in such a way that upholds my child, never diminishes my child, and maintains a path, in a positive environment, to give my child the opportunity to make amends if they make that choice.
Finally, if interested – I appreciate some of what Patricia has said here:
The Meaning of ‘I’m Sorry’
JUNE 6, 2011
What exactly do we mean when we say “I’m sorry”? It can be an apology (”oops I didn’t mean to do that”), a regret (”I should have done that.”), an excuse (”not my department”) or an expression of empathy (”I empathize with your pain, suffering, situation, and don’t pretend to have a way to ‘fix’ it so I’ll just be present with you”).
Recently, I have experienced “I’m sorry” as more of an excuse to lessen the punishment and/or as a promise that that they will not do something again such as I’m sorry…I yelled at my employee, stole from the organization, continue to act inappropriately etc. (you get the picture). The unfortunate thing is that people are saying “I’m sorry” without meaning it. Like “I love you” it is important when said genuinely, but prone to overuse leading to cheapening of meaning.
What has happened to individuals saying it to mean what it originally meant: I’m pained by the sadness/grief/trouble that I created. My actions/behaviors will change to reflect how authentic I am with this apology. An apology is not only a potentially powerful act, but it can be a powerful tool when used appropriately. This power can help with settling conflict and moving forward. By contrast, a botched apology can exacerbate the conflict and become itself the subject of conflict.
I have an issue with Barbie. Now, if we manufactured barbies that looked like actual humans, of all different shapes and sizes, I’d be much more interested in my daughter having them to play with. There was a time in my childhood when, in my innocence, I thought surely I’d grow up to look just like one of my favorite Barbies, and that I’d find a man to connect with that looked just like Ken. My daughter has exactly three barbie like dolls: Merida (Brave), Tiana (Frog), and Anna (Frozen). The bodies are all the same, though at least skin and hair and eyes are different. I know one can order custom poured dolls from Jakks, but has anyone found a source out there for male and female human replicas that we could provide for her, as she seems interested lately.
Delving deeper… the logic behind my rant and search
As I matured, I realized that my preference for the male physique sort of wandered a bit from the proverbial Ken, but somewhere deep in there, I still thought I should look like Barbie. At 12 years old, I was 86lbs and 4’11” and was convinced I’d shoot up a foot (or almost) and somehow only gain 15-20lbs, while developing bouncing, softball sized breasts, not developing an ass, and somehow my powerful soccer legs would suddenly resemble pencils. At 13, I increased my height to 5’1″ and instead of gaining that 15-20lbs, puberty hit and well, I gained 40.. putting me at 125-135lbs at 5’1″. I wasn’t fat, my muscles grew with me, as did my ass, but the breasts, not so much. BUT I FELT FAT, and as I HAD AN ASS, was told by the only boy I thought I wanted anything to do with (a fellow soccer fiend), that my ass was fat. Oh, if only he’d kept his mouth shut, the naive idiot. Who knows, maybe after growing up, he still prefers an ass made of only bone – to each their own I guess.
I grew a lot when I was pregnant, out and up. I’m 5’3″ish now, and I don’t know what I weigh anymore because it changes so often that I only pay attention if I start to feel sluggish for days at a time. I imagine I’m somewhere around 120lbs, which according to the THEY, qualifies me as overweight. I wear a size zero. Maybe a one on bloated days. I am not overweight, I am healthy. My breasts fill an A – so I attained SuperBounce Ball status, not softball… And when my milk came in, they still barely filled a B, and I don’t have to wear a bra unless I want to.
I still have an ass. I still have powerful legs that are not spindles, and a powerful back and upper body and ribcage that requires me to look for bras in the all too commonly needed 38A (everyone is this size, that’s why I can’t ever find any I say). My butt looks like that Barbie on the right.. not the left. So do my thighs. My calves don’t fit into most jeans because the muscle is too pronounced. Oh, and I have stretch marks on my stomach and thighs from growing a healthy human, nurturing and sustaining the life of that little human and, gasp, being a grown woman.
I don’t want my daughter to think she SHOULD look like anything other than exactly what she looks like, at any point in her life. I want her to know that she is beautiful and to care that she is healthy and vibrant and thriving.
I can prevent a lot of incoming messages via the media for a while still, and I can gently discourage Barbie and the like, with explanations that my kid can somewhat grasp at her age.
I can build her up and infuse her with esteem and positive self image.
And I’d like to be able to give her the option of imaginative play with human replicas. http://www.takepart.com/article/2013/07/03/barbie-nickolay-lamm
The image shown below is floating around FB. The obvious topic is gender based behavioral conditioning imposed by society’s stereotypes, and I imagine that is what the majority of the conversations surrounding the image/message will be about.
When I saw this, and read through the captions, I was able to simply go through the first three paragraphs, with what might be considered appropriate acknowledgement and compassion, but then when I reached the final paragraph, my perspective shifted greatly.
The final statement reads as follows: “What does it say about society when a group of adults could stand to take a lesson in humanity from a class of preschoolers?”
It says, if they listen with humility and are open to growth, that they are wise.
There is great value and worth in adults paying attention and restoring the gentleness and wisdom in acceptance and equal value in one another that children are often inherently given to (before they are conditioned by adults to think otherwise). Young children are no less intelligent or inferior in any way to an adult. We can, if we open our eyes and our minds, learn great things from one another. Universally.
A significant aspect of the concept of truly admiring and acknowledging our children, while in their childhood, is to inherently and intuitively know that children are wise, and able to offer perspective that often reaches far beyond and is much more thorough than adults often find themselves capable of. Why is this? I think it comes from simplicity found within a child’s mind, untainted, unconditioned, unscarred. My ultimate aspiration is to raise my daughter without conditioning her, tainting her, or influencing her to associate anything negative with that which is neutral. I hope to help her develop her discernment. Her ability to see clearly and discern what is beneficial from what isn’t is already very apparent and is demonstrated in her actions, words, and body language.
A child who has not yet been influenced to think otherwise, will see every creature as valuable, equal of worth, and worthy of acknowledgement and consideration. Children see differences because their minds are attuned to seeking out patterns. However, those differences are simply differences, that serve to assist the mind in categorization and recognition, not bigotry.
I received a comment from a reader today that relayed their concern over how shielded and protected our ‘parenting’ approach might seem to be. The concern was primarily that providing such a regulated environment for a young child could be a disservice in that the child would be rendered unprepared when the harshness of reality came knocking on their door.
I wanted to address this reader’s genuine concern because it is one that I am presented with frequently from those who do not have the benefit of seeing what it’s like to spend “A Day in the Life of… Us”. 🙂
The gist of the comment offered is as follows:
“…in an ideal world, no child would ever feel any stress, but the world is far from ideal… I am worried, you seem to be obsessed with making everything just wonderful for them. Not that there is anything wrong with that as such, but I am a bit worried about how you will react when something terrible happens to them, that you cannot do anything about? Say when a boyfriend/girlfriend dumps them, or a pet/relative/friend dies.
Children are naturally resilient, they have to be as they have to learn that bad things sometimes happen that cannot be avoided…. I am NOT saying that suffering is good… But perhaps some gentle adversity as they grow up might help them to withstand something really bad when life sometimes really hurts?…”
I very much appreciate opportunities to talk with others who can see why the approach my partner and I have chosen to employ in creating the environment for our daughter’s childhood can be so wonderful and beneficial, while questioning whether it is realistic.Many have inquired, and some have outright informed us that our refusal to punish, and refusal to diminish, will lead to a child that is full of her own importance, doesn’t care about others, and doesn’t think authority is anything worth considering submitting to. We run into similar concerns when others discover how we educate our children. Our curiosity driven, child-led environment, unconcerned with expectations or requirements to be part of the “norm” really seems to rattle some people. Our focus is in the full development of the whole human, without expectation of a set timeline or specific outcome. Cheerfully, every once in a while we run into those who genuinely understand the benefit of a peaceful, respect giving, upholding home that honors one another as equals, and reveres our children’s childhoods, yet they still worry children from these homes won’t be able to cope in the ‘real world’.
There is a simple quote, reiterated and slightly shifted from one person to the next, but the idea is that rather than accept that which is not beneficial to life and living things, and force the mind to learn to cope and manage, insteaddemonstrate through one’s own behaviors and choices, a reality that abandons that which harms, and reinforces that which is universally beneficial. ~ In other words, be the change instead of the victim of circumstance: go and create the world we want to live in.
Granted, this way of thinking is one that is full of ability, proactive thought, action, and empowerment. It isn’t for those who feel they have no real capacity to impact the world around them. Well, maybe it should be for them the most, but such a way of thinking has to be developed. In our home, I think we choose to live the way we want life to be, as much as we can. In our case, it is an intentional and conscious choice much of the time, but I think maybe it’s become sort of second nature because living with these truths for us is what provides harmony and peace, where otherwise difficulty and negative experiences would overwhelm and take us under.
Recently, and throughout our history as a species, some humans have known intuitively that it is harmful to cause a newly formed mind to cope with that which surpasses the presence of connections necessary to support such experiences. Those that don’t seem to have an inherent sense of this concept have observed and chosen to become educated in understanding that the human child’s mind is “under development” and that causing it to deal with experiences it is not yet equipped to grasp causes development that is inevitably malformed as a result of the cocktail of negative chemicals overwhelming the neurological environment in which the connections are forged.
– There are many articles that discuss this understanding, and I want to encourage you to educate yourself if you are interested.
One thing that many adults do not seem to realize, especially in Academia, is that children by nature do not need many of the “lessons” we give them, but would gain and develop so much more thoroughly and effectively if we got out of the way and let them explore, discover, and adapt in their own time and space. This method is espeially successful if we walk along side them, providing them insight and security on their journey of developing Self. One example that is relevant in our home currently is the concept of bigotry and racism, as well as religious discrimination and indoctrination. My 6 year old has no concept of there even being anything out there when it comes to humans of a different skin color, gender, or class, any more than she does of a dog having white, black, brown, tan, red or yellow fur. In fact, she has so little awareness of anything negative along these lines (our differences) that any time we have seen her exposed to retellings related to any of these concepts, she simply responds to the ideas of cruelty, injustice, and inequality; she has no concept of there being an external human rational for the harmful behaviors.
Slavery, oppression, punishment, torture, war… These things are not something we prefer to have her exposed to yet, but much like religion, it’s inevitable it will come NOT on our timeline, a timeline dictated by her demonstrating she has attained an emotional and intellectual development to be able to think through things without a resulting negative or damaging impact on her whole perspective of her world. And so, when they come before she is able to really grasp them in a beneficial manner, we sort through them the best we can, offering encouragement to her to ask questions and think out loud as much as she feels like doing so. We don’t say much in these instances, we absorb her experience and do our best to get out of the way of her thoughts, and allow her to form these most valuable connections in a safe environment.
My hope is to encourage adults to recognize that children are constantly observing and absorbing everything around them, and the input stream is a continual source of information their minds use to form thoughts and responses that shape their existence and who they are.
In our home, our focus is harmony and security, respect and consideration, integrity and gentleness. We all have difficult days, moods that are just not helpful to self or others, and struggles, but when we demonstrate concern for one another, a concern that comes from a genuine appreciation and mutual, equal value, those emotional struggles (often a result of physical or logistical challenges) become opportunities to grow and gain, instead of feeling defeated or ineffective and powerless. When shame, guilt, manipulation, and false consequence are not part of the equation, in their place can be honor, integrity, compassion, empathy, consideration, and kindness.
So, how does this work? How do we know it will work?
Well, we’ve seen the outcome to some degree already in our own home as well as others, but honestly what it comes down to is trust. It takes a rooted and renewable trust… Trust in the process, trust in the science, trust in the knowledge, and trust in the child and their mind’s natural course of development. It takes trusting that they will gain and obtain throughout their life all that they specifically need to live their life, not that which is necessary to live the life of others.
If a child is allowed to obtain in his or her childhood that which they will naturally absorb and integrate into their being, these experiences will shape their mind in such a way that it will cause them to have what they need to navigate their existence, from the first moments of consciousness to the last. Again, knowing this, trusting this, and getting out of the way to allow the natural course of this development to occur is something that doesn’t come to many of us easily. We worry because of what we have been through and how our minds have managed those experiences – we are tainted, and justifiably so. The deepest challenge is to override our own mental conditioning (sometimes at a very deep and integral level) and not allow our own challenges to become those of our children. Instead, we work to empower them to build their own world, and build a world where benefit and compassion are far more common than self serving and violence.
To address the specific concerns of the original comment, and to tie in the concept of “trusting the process”, I will share a bit about what my 6 year old specifically (only discussing her life here, not any other children that have been a part of our home) has experienced and sorted through so far in her 6 years with us. None of these experiences were manufactured by us intentionally, each of them has forced us all to grow, and quite some percentage of them we did our best to shield her from the full blow of because her mind is not yet developed enough to be able to manage them in a way that causes her healthy growth.
At two years of age, my daughter was required to adapt to losing her big sister while simultaneously being moved to a new home, which for months was in a state of transition and change (literally, location change – new surroundings). Her father and I remained the only constant, along with her dog and some of her most important possessions. The result? Monsters… They came to our house, lurking around every corner it seemed. We watched a little girl, previously unafraid of anything and totally calm and secure, suddenly exhibit great fear, dread, threat, and anger.
After a few weeks of this, her father devised a solution. He walked along side her through that which she had to face (in spite of our efforts to protect her from having to cope with things beyond her developmental abilities). He walked along with her, and when she saw those monsters start coming for them, she told her Papa and, after getting the full descriptive run down of each one from his little girl, he simply ate them. With peanut butter, ketchup, mustard, cheese, and salt and pepper on top. Eventually, she decided she could do the job sometimes herself when her Papa was not available… that happened about the same time we made a very hard decision and chose a home to stabilize us in, even though a good option had yet to present itself.
At four years of age, our daughter was exposed to the idea of us adopting a sibling for her and bringing an addition to our family. She experienced the whole process, from interviews, to exams, to training, to our private conversations. It took 18 months, but finally a young boy joined us. 6 weeks later, after we had all started to attach, especially our daughter, we had to disrupt the adoption and could no longer be a home for this boy. The primary reason? Somehow, in spite of the highly involved social workers and their expertise, they missed something crucial: this boy was entirely not capable of being in a family with another child, especially one younger than he. Not only were his behaviors threatening and his volatility damaging to our daughter and to our home, but him having to witness our positive and supportive, gentle treatment of our daughter (which was a stark contrast to his own experiences through his childhood) caused him so much pain, and at such a deep level, that the exposure was determined harmful to him (and to us). The adoption was canceled. And so, my then 5 year old had, at that point, had effectively lost two siblings, one that had been there since her birth, and one that had come from great intention, effort, and hopefulness.
Simultaneously, my daughter was presented with another intriguing challenge: her father was diagnosed with a stage 4 Melanoma, unknown initially whether it had spread to his Lymphatic system, unknown whether it could be resolved, unknown whether it would (or ever might) return, or if his life might be in jeopardy. She watched as we grieved, as fear consumed us, as we denied, raged, ran, scheduled exams and surgeries, and went through an emotionally charged experience such that our union was ripped apart and our life as we knew it was literally smashed to pieces. She watched while we did our very best to not allow fear to fill her mind, and did our very best to keep the full extent of the concern from becoming her burden to bear.
She then watched us rebuild, return, restore, and renew. She’s still watching this process.
Now, at 6, she is contemplating the impending loss of her Nana, her canine companion that has been by her side from the moment she was born in our bedroom. This sweet soul, and member of our family, still tries desperately to play with her 6 year old charge, in spite of a lack of mobility and loss of sensory function. We are all here, supporting and loving her, as she finishes her time with us and makes her way to her place of rest.
In the last 5 months, I have become pregnant twice, and twice have been presented with a situation where for one reason or another, the pregnancy did not continue beyond barely knowing about it. My daughter was aware each time, as symptoms were impossible to cover – she is empathic, as well as empathetic… she knew something was up when Mama stopped playing with her while simultaneously renovating our house. (Yes, I am renovating our entire house, myself, on top of everything. This is why the choice I mentioned to “stabilize” in a home, in effort to put an end to the monsters, was such a challenging one. Three years later, I’m about 70% done with the renovations that were supposed to be cosmetic and have become everything from structural to plumbing and electrical, to finishing, and without a reliable pool of professionals or local materials source to rely upon). We still are not entirely certain of the full reach of these losses for our family, particularly our 6 year old. However, signs that it impacted her more negatively than we desperately hoped against, appear now and then, mostly in the form of her stating she doesn’t think she’ll “ever have a sibling because there is no way for her to have one that seems to work”. She’s now resorted to sometimes informing us she doesn’t ever want a sibling, while other days begging for one, and still other days being outright angry with us for yet having provided her a brother or sister (that is still a part of our family anyway).
Along the way, my daughter has grappled with unkind children, children who have been abused and therefore harm others, unkind adults who diminish, witnessed children and animals being poorly treated, attempted to understand the benefit of the relinquishment of her fish, the death of family members, and most recently the continued absence of her father, as he struggles to balance work with living. You know that move I mentioned we chose to make a few years back? We made that choice out of necessity for career reasons, in order to provide us with a quality of life we thought to be impossible without the relocation and career shift. That very decision now renders me a single parent most of the time, and my child and her father, as well as he and I, find ourselves scrambling to make the most of every single second we have together because there are so few (not to mention the additional awareness of the fragility of life that greatly impacts this desire for togetherness).
So, now my daughter, at 6 and half years earthside, is intimately observing the strain and stress her parents are experiencing, facing her own grief and continued dread of her father’s absence, trying to grasp and deal with the impending death of her cherished canine companion, and somehow stave off resentment in the shadow of the loneliness the absence of a sibling has cast, as we work to better our life. So much for protecting her from having to cope with anything before she is really ready.
Or maybe not…
She now observes and absorbs our actions and conversations as we once again open our minds and commence our search, and resume our journey. For now, we are generating the life we want to live, instead of living the circumstances that . She is now taking her own steps, no longer being in our arms all the time, and we are all walking side by side, together, arm in arm.
This is real life.
**** When we force children to cope, we cause defensive and non-productive mental connections to be made. The neurological science that explains this phenomenon is actually very clear and simple to grasp. In the place of children having to figure out how to cope, instead we walk along with them through what comes, and protect them from that which is more complex than they’ve developed neurological processes to comprehend. In so doing, we allow them the natural environment necessary for their minds to make the connections in a timeline and course of development that doesn’t harm or cause fear or threat. When those positive and effective connections solidify, instead of a defensive, protective response generated by a replaying of threat and negative chemicals being released in the body, the mind provides a proactive and beneficial alternative. That alternative empowers our children to seek positive options, and advance and improve their world. The result is an empowered mind that will change our world in ways that lead to universal benefit.
I stand, before the Deep,
Her rhythm, my solace.
Each moment, comes next as the last.
Anticipated and satisfied.
Each inhalation unique, but known.
Arms out, receiving her breath,
Absorbing her pulse, as powerful as my own.
Each surge welcomed, as those that have come,
Their nourishing already begun.
Her voice, silent, immense
Final and continuous.
So melodic her song.
And in this connectedness, with each beat
I am, and know, I will remain.
In acknowledgement and appreciation, my mind bows.
I am absorbed.
Such a simple sentence, yet so profound, it has permanently changed me.
Punishment is retaliation.
Discipline is a choice from within, rooted in integrity, awareness, and purpose.
Management of self and one’s emotions is necessary to provide a stable, reliable, harmonic environment for relationship and the beneficial growth of children’s minds.
Sometimes we just need to look at our world through their viewing portal… What a generation of empathic, aware, and respected humans we could grow.
I will begin a series on the value of guidance vs consequence delivering/punishing (what our society so often labels, “discipline), including punishment vs simple result over the coming weeks. I have not had the ability to devote the amount of time and focus here that I have hoped this past year, but with a bit of luck, our conversations will inspire and much thought will follow.
Welcoming a year of blessing, benefit, and reverence.