The Battlefield of The Mind: Anger and Parenting

If we create a battlefield in our mind against our children, then all is lost.  By battlefield, I mean the minute we begin thinking, “My child is doing this on purpose!”  “My child is out to get me and make me miserable!”  “My child knew what they were doing and planned this!”  “My child is just wanting to push each and every one of the buttons I have!”   Keep reading to find out the implications of what I mean by that!

Mamas, I have been there and done that and I would like to share something with you that I have learned:  If we create a us versus them mentality in our mind and in our attitude before we even open our mouths, then we have lost.

We have lost the opportunity to warmly hold the space for our children, we have lost the moment to guide in peaceful energy the behavior we would like our child to show, we have lost the connection between us and our child.

For those of you who follow this blog who believe that childhood development unfolds according to seven-year cycles, the things we think in the moment of anger are then not even logical according to this framework!  To a Waldorf parent, a child under the age of 7 does not view themselves as even separate yet; they cannot at this point “do” something to “you”  because that separation from you does not yet exist.  To a Waldorf parent, a child under the age of 7 is truly not logical, does not pre-meditate and pre-plan.  Yes, they do test boundaries.  But it is most likely more spur of the moment rather than pre-planned!

For those of you who follow this blog who are attachment parenting, to you I would say that one of the foundations of loving guidance is putting respect and empathy at the core of your parenting.  Look at the situation and your child’s needs through  your more experienced life lenses ( and no, you do not have to use words to ASK them all this!  You are the wonderful, smart, intelligent adult who can figure this out without asking them!)  What did they need in that moment where they were doing something different than what you expected or wanted?  Did they need food, a break, something to do, guidance as to what was acceptable in the house or not, your attention, sleep?

And most  importantly, once this occurs and we are feeling angry, can we step back and find our needs underneath the anger?  Why are we so darned angry anyway?  Maybe we need respect, peace, quiet, a chance to sit down?

Can you take a breath and change the scenery?  Can the child make restitution, make a “healing action” to make the situation right again after everyone has calmed down?  Restitution is a very important part of parenting.  It shows the child that we all can make mistakes, but it is what we do with the mistake that is most important.

Most of all, no guilt trips on the child.  They don’t understand the extent of the emotions you are feeling, they really don’t understand all the words you are using, and all they feel is your anger.  Less words, more breathing, more warmth, more action toward the positive.

For you to meditate on is this concept of POSITIVE INTENT.  What could possibly be the positive intent behind this situation, behind this interaction?  Can I see it this way?

Because if you continue to play out the battlefield in your mind, the last person standing will be you with all the children around you out of the connection in the game.

Enjoy your children, find the joy.  You can do this!

Love,

Carrie

The Adjunct to “Did You See This” ?

I have gotten some private emails and such, apparently this post has hit a lot of raw nerves.  First of all, I would like to give all of you struggling with these issues empathy.  Some of you have grown children and you are worried that perhaps people judge your parenting skills by the state your adult children are now living in.  Some of you worry for your child’s safety. Some of you have taken over care and responsibility for your grandchildren.  I too, was raised by grandparents with involvement from my father and uncle.  I probably understand more than you think about this.

Please give yourself a break and be easy with yourself.  There are no guarantees for how children “turn out”.  It is a fallacy in our society, especially that for mothers, that if we provide our child undivided material goods, unlimited opportunities, that if we are the “perfect” mother our children will turn out just fine.  This is a fallacy, but it should also not be an excuse to bow out of parenting in the best way we know how.

I believe the skyrocketing rates of  childhood ADHD, depression, alcohol and drug abuse are definitely related to not only parenting but also the position we assign children in our society.  Many people have told me out right there is no way there would have more than one or two children with the often unspoken message that children are a liability in this society- a cause of worry, a cause of stress and doubting yourself as a human being and who would want that?  Motherhood is the invisible job that no one seems to value anymore, yet it is the most important one to be able to provide peace and stability in your home to the best of your ability.  The work of motherhood should be well supported and encouraged for the future of our children and our country.

Children are a joy and a blessing.  I strongly feel the work and education of attachment parenting and Waldorf for the early years is at least the best hope we have at this time to stem the tide of all the problems we are seeing now in teenagers and young adults.

Thanks for all your comments and thoughts, keep ‘em coming.

Just a few thoughts from my little corner of the world.

Forgiving Ourselves

How do you work within the  context of parenting with the concept of forgiving yourself?  Some mothers have very carefree, sunny personalities and don’t dwell on things so much, but I know many mothers who are trying to be “the perfect mother”; feeling  overwhelmed and then are mad at themselves when they don’t live up to their own self-imposed standards.  When they are being authentic and real, they admit to me they find it hard to forgive themselves and their behavior.  I especially see this as mothers try to change some parenting skill that was inherited from they way they were parented and they “slip-up”.  I also see this quite a bit in homeschooling mothers; mothers who want to do more “of a Waldorf-inpsired homeschool” and are currently more unschooling  than doing Waldorf or using some kind of a homeschooling “curriculum package” instead of creating their own lesson plans, or in mothers where life has derailed their current homeschooling plans.  The opportunities to feel bad about oneself abounds!

For the past two years, I have made my inner work and parenting focus this simple phrase:   “I will be easy with myself.”  The Thanksgiving holidays heading into Advent into the 12 days of Christmas are always a meditative, contemplative drawing-in time for me, and this year I am also starting to work with the idea of “letting go” (more about that in a separate post), in addition to being easy with myself.

If you are feeling guilty about the way you have parented in the past, a situation that involved you not handling things they way you wanted to, if you are feeling guilty about the state of your homeschooling adventure at this point because other things in life are  taking center stage at this moment; please take a deep breath.

Feeling guilty is not always undesirable – it can point out ways to change for the better at times.  However, what I see in so many mothers is just feeling too guilty, all the time, over everything and anything.  Please stop modeling this for your children, especially your daughters!  Trust yourself, your intuition and trust in your authenticity. No, we cannot use this as an excuse for not  doing what is right in our lives,our families and our homeschool, but we can decide that instead of dwelling on the negative things, instead of dwelling on the things in reality that did not meet our expectations or ideas, we can move forward and come up with positive solutions that will help everyone involved.  We can look at enlisting  help and changing what is going on within the family.  We can look at using our own inner work to work with these feelings instead of unleashing them on our children and spouses.  We can look and find the support of other mothers.   We can also look at acceptance.  My husband sometimes will say, “It just is what it is.”  And sometimes that is just enough.

Take the time to examine your own beliefs – do you believe you should never say “no” to anyone, do you think a mother should be able to give of herself continuously and endlessly without any help from anyone else, do you feel everything must be done “perfectly” or it is not worth doing, do you feel your best is never good enough? Do you think you should be working within your home seven days a week without a break?  Do you feel you are so busy with your family you have no time or place to connect to your own children, your own spouse and encouraging friends?

You live in your home with your family; you do not live FOR your home and your family.  Think about what you need and how to get there!  And be easy with yourself while you do it!  Is your home a place of peace, and joy?  (At least most of the time??!!)  Or is it a place of stress and upset?

There is a wonderful book called, “The Hidden Feelings of Motherhood :  Coping with Stress, Depression and Burn-out,” by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett.  In the epilogue of this book, she points out several things you can do to make things better for yourself and your family.  The number one thing on her list is to focus on the things that are actually going well, and that if you can identify even just one strength, one thing that is going right,  you can  use that and build on that.  She also talks about the need for self-care, the importance of eating well, getting to exercise and yes, even getting to relax.  Are you doing this for yourself at all?   She also talks about the need for mothers to laugh, and I so agree with this!  So many of the mothers I  meet just seem unhappy, sad, overwhelmed, depressed, and joy-less.  Make a promise to yourself to start trying to bring humor and joy back into your life.  Kendall-Tackett has lots of other things to suggest, such as ways to re-vitalize your sense of humor, and  her important recommendation of finding support through a mothering mentor. 

From a Waldorf perspective, I think working within your own inner work on your feelings, needs and expectation is vital.  It is the most important part of your homeschooling experience with your children.  If  your homeschooling experience is joyless and not alive, your children will have difficulty not only in absorbing the material and learning, but also in seeing the joy within your homeschool!   Barbara Dewey wrote a great article about this in her most recent newsletter, entitled, “Are Your Child’s Eyes Shining? Are Yours?”  You can find it here: http://www.waldorfwithoutwalls.com/newsletter/44/

Vimala McClure writes in the neat little book, “The Tao of Motherhood,” the following:  “A wise parent recognizes her failings and accepts what is.  There is room in life for remorse, and for forgiveness.  There is room in our heart for ourselves, and for one another.”  Lovely words.

Mothers have been mothering since time began.  What we do is the most important thing on earth, but more important than even doing everything right and trying to meet the impossible standard of providing “the perfect childhood” where there can be no such thing is to provide your children the  model of what to do when the pieces don’t fit together or fall apart.  Show them how one can focus on the strengths and be optimistic.  Show them how one can say, “So glad that is over now!”  Show them how to move on, make things right.  Show them that parents can take care of themselves and be partners together and still have enough love and energy for everyone in the household because that is how families work.

Meditation, meditative rhythmical activity such as Tai Chi or yoga or even walking, prayer, taking a day of rest each week can all go a long way toward helping us to forgive ourselves for just being human.  Be the best mother you can be, but accept and love yourself where you are in your journey and in your path.

Just a few thoughts from my little corner of the world.

How Much Is Enough?

I recently heard about a mother who felt resentful about “having” to give up her corporate job in order to stay home full-time with her two small children.  She was giving them “150 percent” of her time and energy, and was contemplating returning to the outside work force full-time.  She characterized her husband as “loving, but uninvolved.”

Hhhhhmmm.

Homemaking and parenting can be rather daunting tasks for many women.  Many mothers transitioning from working outside the home to staying find it difficult because their time, and even their bodies and their personal space, no longer seems to be their own anymore.  It all is shared with their small children.  This is part of the sacrifice of parenting.  Sacrifice is a thing that is not popular among many parents today in general, but necessary.

However, I am certain that devoting “150 percent” of ourselves directly to solely and only our children is not a wise idea.  Much like the child who has everything done for him or her, who is always told what to play and how to play it, who continues to be treated like a 2 year old when they are now 7, this is detrimental.

The idea of a mother giving 150 percent of themselves to her children, at least to me, brings up the notion that they must be hovering, micromanaging, and list-making the daily lives of  her children.  Parenting is different than working outside the home.  We cannot approach our lives and the creation of peace at home the way we approach a meeting in a boardroom. 

A dear friend once pointed out to me that being home is difficult because of lack of immediate gratification.  In other words, a three year old is not going to say to you, “Gee, mom thanks for trying to model how to be a good human being today. I am so glad you showed me how to be calm under stress when I was screaming, I saw how you folded that laundry and will try it soon as well!”  This can be wildly different than working outside the home.  The results of our work as homemakers often cannot be seen for years until our children are out on their own and raising their own families.  Too many times it seems that a parent is looking for that immediate gratification of parenting in seeing immediate results – behavioral or achievement- from their small children.  Children, for lack of a better term or analogy, are a long-term project that does not always require direct hovering, but rather occasional stirring and a presence in the kitchen.

Children have the need for your presence.  It is not okay to take your interests and exclude your children from your totality of life, or to hurt their rhythm and well-being under the guise of your own interests, but everyone certainly needs something that they can call their own.  Many parents work this around their child’s nap or bedtime schedule. It is okay for an older toddler and preschooler to see your interests, and also to see the things you do around the house that does not directly involve them, but that makes your home a wonderful place for all.  Many mothers who love to sew or garden report that this comes out in their children’s play and what they want to try in their free time.  This is healthy and wonderful.

Another healthy and wonderful thing that children also need to see is a mother-father relationship that is intimate, respectful and loving.  Parents who spend time together provide a sense of security and stability so important for the child to see and take into their subconsciousness for their own future relationships.

Many mothers I meet who stay at home do it all.  Their husbands never have the children alone, without the mother, at any time on a consistent basis.  This is a shame and prevents a child from developing a relationship with the father that does not include the mother’s thumbprint.  One mother wailed to me, “Well, he doesn’t do it the way I do it!!”  Um, exactly the point.  A child needs both a mother and father, and thank goodness we are different. 

And this leads to an interesting Other Observation.  What other trusting, caring, loving adults does your child consistently spend time with?  A small child under the age of 7 needs his mother or a loving, kind father to act as a “filter” for the events of daily life.  However, in some cultures it is interesting that it is not just the mother or father acting as a filter but an entire extended family whom the child spends time with daily. 

I had an interesting experience not too long ago.  I have many, many Hispanic friends whom I love.  One of my dear friends was having a birthday party for her little girl who was turning three years old.  Her mother was handling much of the party and I observed several times when her little girl wanted or needed something and was always interested to see that nine times out of ten a close family friend or relative would take care of what the little girl needed or wanted before my friend could even get there.  And nor did she try to get there all the time.  At one point, her little girl fell, and her mother calmly saw that her best friend helped the little girl up, smoothed the little girls’ dress and fixed the little girl’s hair.  My friend went over after all this was done and gave her daughter a hug, but she felt safe in knowing all of the wonderful adults in the room would take care of this small child as if she were their own. These family members and friends were people the child saw on a daily or almost daily basis.  And they did care for this child as if she were their own, and reacted with an almost group consciousness to situations. 

How very different from the American experience were many time a child will only be satisfied in their mother’s lap or arms.  I am not saying this is bad at all, my children have been that way, but it is certainly very different than the “village” mentality taking place across much of the world.  I am in contact with friends from many different Central and South American countries, Iran, Germany, the Netherlands, China, France and several African nations who can attest to this truth!

“But Carrie,” you say.  “I have no one.  My family lives far away, my parents are crazy and I don’t really involve them in my child’s daily life.  See, no one but me.”

I know this is a Waldorf-related blog so we don’t watch any movies at all :), but have you all seen the Ben Stiller movie “Meet the Parents”?  In this movie, there is an entire (very funny) line about “The Circle of Trust”.  So let me borrow that for a moment. Who is in your own Circle of Trust?  Some mothers honestly don’t trust Dads with their small children.  Is that you?  Who is in your child’s Circle of Trust?  Do you have a friend?  A mother whose parenting you admire and could trust?  Could you start by cultivating a close relationship that your child could see and perhaps over time you and your child would come to see this other mother as part of your community?  It just a thought, it takes an effort to find people whom you trust, who parent similar to you and share your values, but it is worth the effort.

A child over the age of 7 still needs you deeply and needs your help in “filtering” situations, especially things above routine and simple.  But your over 7 child, and certainly your child over 9,  needs safe situations with people you love and trust to practice this important life skill – being able to be connected to people outside of you, and to experience that good things happen with caring adults.  Are there elderly neighbors, a teacher of an outside class your child is taking, other mothers,  whom you trust?  We want our children to feel safe in the world and to have them know that other people are good and kind besides just their own immediate family.

Consider how you feel about things such as the loving adult relationships your child has with other family members and friends.  Think about how you feel responsibilities and privileges should change over time for your child within your family.  Think, ponder and meditate on what you “do for” your child every day, and what your child sees you do for the child’s siblings, yourself, your spouse and your home.

Perhaps the mother who is giving “150 percent” to her children would benefit from some inner work focusing not only on the spiritual side of homemaking that maybe remains hidden within her “to-do” list, but also on letting her children soften and relax into being themselves and  what role she and other trusted adults are playing.  Perhaps then, instead of being a resented chore, parenting would become the wonderful part of life it is meant to be, a means for not only raising moral human beings but a tool for self-growth, self-discovery and contentment.

Just a few thoughts from my little corner of the world.