Happy Anniversary to My Husband

JanFeb 09 087

Happy 21 years of our first date!  I love you even  more now, after 21 years, than then.  Thank you for sticking by my side for all these years and for growing with me.    There  is something about those 21 years and growing together as we have traveled this journey of college twice for me, your Master’s degree program, three dogs plus numerous foster dogs, pregnancy, attachment parenting of two beautiful children and now awaiting a third!, moving five times, military life and ex-military life, career changes, different interests, Waldorf  homeschooling – and the adventure continues.

You are a man of the highest integrity and you make me laugh.  Have a wonderful day knowing how much I love you.

Enough PDA for you, honey?? :)

Carrie

More On Marriage: How Do You Work With The Differences?

Many mothers complain that their husbands are so lazy and so incompetent (which, to be fair, seems many times to be true!) but then these same mothers also wonder why their children are disrespectful to both parents.  Whew.  Many mothers also seem disappointed in their sons,  and what they perceive as such large differences between sons and daughters where the daughters seem more well-mannered/more intelligent/ etc than their sons.    Sometimes the differences between genders seems almost insurmountable in the home!  Small children are absorbing these impressions, how we talk to one another, the non-verbal communication, and really do understand the heart of how we feel in our own homes about one another.

Let’s tackle first things first.   Have you all noticed that many men do seem to be rather confused as to what their role is in this day and age?  It seems as if many of them wonder should their role be to work and make money or should it be to be sensitive and loving and able to care for the children?  Some men do seem to handle these roles well, but some do not……  Or is it that none of the roles “fit” and Dad ends up  just unhappy (and then it seems that some  Dads try to escape their own unhappiness through addictive or controlling  behaviors).  In this way, Dad is clearly not the head of the household in any way, shape or form and almost removes himself from family life.  It is Mom holding everything together.

Let me be clear, I am not condoning addictive behavior.  I am not condoning spouses who verbally or physically abuse their wives or children.  I am not writing this to make those who are going through a separation or  divorce feel guilty.  And although I did mention addiction issues above, really I am talking in this post  more about “normal” marriages where things are not going quite as well as one wishes.

To start with, let’s call a spade a spade.  A man is not a woman, and if woman expect a man to behave as a woman that is not understanding the differences!   Besides the obvious differences in physical appearance, weight, weight of the brain, ways the brain works, there are obvious social differences between men and women.  In my church, we have been doing a study of a biblical marriage based on the movie “Fireproof” (Has anyone seen that movie??).   According to my pastor, there was a study done through Harvard University that cited a man speaks, on average, 10, 000 words a day.  A woman speaks, on average, 25, 000 words a day.  (So, in my mind, a man has probably used up many of his words at work before he even comes home, LOL).  A different study cited that women stated they felt having at least a half an hour to forty-five minutes to talk with their partner was ideal.  Men felt about 10 to 15 minutes – a WEEK!- would be sufficient.  So there are some obvious differences!    However, perhaps there are ways to talk with your spouse or partner and at least come to an understanding of what each of you needs to be happy.

What does one do when Dad is not acting as the head of what is going on in the family?  I talk a lot on this blog of how many times the tone of the home needs to begin with the mother, how we are the light of the family, how we set a peaceful tone, how we model what is to be done with the children, etc.  But the truth is that there are two of us involved in making a baby, and there are two of us involved in parenting and two different perspectives to consider.  Mothers often get very upset when fathers do not do things the way they do, but are we the same people? No, of course not, so why would we do things the same way?   Have we shut Dad out by not letting him do anything because it is not “right”?  Have we belittled his efforts in front of our children? 

And what do we do when Dad is not really  participating in household life at all?  (And again, this is NOT about Dads who are fighting addiction issues.  This is more about the normal ups and downs of marriage that we all go through).

I wonder several things:

  • I wonder if mothers can meditate and clarify what they specifically need from their husbands and can these mothers make a specific request that would be responded to by their husbands?  Not just the whole “everything is terrible” but something small and specific to start.
  • Secondly, I wonder about what the husbands need and how those needs are being met in the home.  Men very frequently operate based upon a code of respect.  Is the home a place of nagging, a place where things are falling apart, a place where the man is not the champion of the home?  What would happen if the husband was treated as if he was the champion of the home and respected?  Would that change anything at all (it might not, I am just throwing it out there).   What can you do this week to make your husband feel respected in his own home? 
  • Third, I wonder about family mission statements.  Have you all sat down and figured out a mission statement for your family – which would include what is important to ALL of you.  There is a popular post on this blog regarding writing a mission statement for your family here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/08/creating-a-family-mission-statement/
  • Many times counseling is extremely important for getting through the stage where you are both stuck because otherwise the same patterns play over and over and over.  One type of counseling  I am aware of  is this one: http://gettingtheloveyouwant.com/ called Imago Therapy. 
  • I also wonder if the man has any physical things going on that is impacting his health, his mental health.  What kind of friends does he have?  Does he have any strong models for fathering at all?
  • I wonder if  resentment is taking over in a marriage, can one start just by loving one’s spouse (again, NOT talking about abusive or addictive situations here!).  There is a very old saying that love is a verb.  Sometimes we don’t feel “loving” but as we do actions that show love and respect for the other person, then that “feeling” starts to grow again. 

Fathers do need to re-claim their place within the home.  It is important for a wife to show her husband respect, but it is equally important for a husband and father to show not only respect to his wife, but love.  It is important for a husband to create  a space where his wife feels safe.  Is this happening for you, what would this look like for you and what would you need to make this happen?

One small example I can think of this is where many fathers I have seen  will take their children aside when they are being disrespectful to  their mothers and simply say, “ I cannot and will not have you speak in that manner to the woman I love.”  This carries powerful weight to a child and suggests to the child the importance of this sacred marital relationship. 

My husband has said to me that there are no perfect wives and no perfect husbands (and therefore no perfect marriages!).  However, I hope that if you are at the point of resentment in your marriage, you could both go to counseling, you could both talk, you could both love and forgive each other through this and re-build on your marriage off the foundation that already exists  (and again, this is NOT to make those who are going through or who have gone through a separation and/or divorce feel guilty!).  So many important and wonderful things exist in this sacred marital union that cannot be fulfilled other places – the physical intimacy that is truly emotional intimacy, the communication and partnership that exists between two people committed for the family – it is worth fighting for, isn’t it? It is worth some effort, and it takes some effort, outside of parenting and homeschooling to make this happen. 

Marriage is a powerful and sacred connection.  All of us want to be loved for a lifetime, and I hope in the “busy-ness” of parenting and homeschooling, that both husbands and wives can stop and cherish the wonderful partnership that they  have together.

Much love,

Carrie

Creating A Family Mission Statement

My husband and I are in the process of writing a mission statement, has anyone out there ever done that?  It is a truly interesting process, and for those of you who are interested, I thought I would outline some steps regarding creating a family mission statement of your own.

First of all, sit down with your spouse or significant other and talk to them about this.  Discuss with each other the fundamentals of life, such as:  What are the attitudes in our family regarding money?  What do we feel the place or importance of education is in our family?  How does our family regard religion or spirituality, and how does this play into our everyday lives?  What is the role of activities outside of our family?  Is the environment extremely important to us and how do we reflect that?  Is helping other people or participating in our neighborhood, church or synagogue, or community essential?  For those of you who are parents, do you have a view of childhood development or loving guidance that really plays center stage in your daily life?

It is an eye-opening experience to have these conversations with your significant other!  It can also take a long time, and this is not a step to be rushed.  Really talk about these things, and think about them and ponder them. What is most important to you both as you shape your family? 

Then talk to the other adults in your house if you have extended family living with you.  Some sources say to then sit down with your children  with the value statements you and your partner came up with and see what they have to say.  Some mothers I have spoken with talk about how you can ask your children for adjectives that they would use to describe the family, what the children think  is most important to mother and father, what they think about their family. 

I think this step could be quite head-oriented and somewhat difficult to grasp for the under –nine crowd.  Perhaps something better for you and your partner may be  to set your mission statement as you together create your family environment (and then change the mission statement to include your children’s ideas as they grow and mature, of course!)  So I guess the inclusion of children, for me personally , would really  have to depend on the ages and maturity  of the children involved.  Some older children may have valuable input, or at least a specific idea or example of something where you could tie this to a bigger value for your mission statement, whereas a three or four year old probably will just parrot whatever  their big brother or sister has to say!  I know this is not a popular view nowadays, in the age of democratic and consensual family living, but I thought I would throw it out there that you really are in charge of setting the tone for your own home first and foremost!  As always, take what resonates from my writings and ideas and adapt it to your own family.

However you decide to do this process, you would then write down the value statements or ideas that family members come up with in sentences, as many sentences as you need.  You could then see if any similarities exist among the value statements where you could group them under one heading so to speak.  For example, “health” to you may include physical health, spirituality practices, alternative health care, eating styles and communication styles, breastfeeding and attachment parenting.  

For older children some families provide follow-up sentences to each value sentence that explains how this value would be implemented – for example, if living simply is a strong value, perhaps examples of follow-up statements would include buying used whenever possible, considering the reduction of packaging in purchasing decisions, treating the earth kindly, involvement in environmental justice kinds of activities, etc.

Once you have your family’s mission statement you can put it somewhere and frame it for easy reference – do not just tuck it away in a drawer!  This should be the touchstone of discerning what is essential for you and your family.  It should help you determine what you will participate in and what you won’t, and how you will live. 

Mission statements are living documents that need to updated as your family members grow and mature; set regular dates to review, revise, re-frame your thoughts.

Perhaps all or part of this process may appeal to you and your family; please leave a comment in the comment section below !

Peaceful family living to you and yours,

Carrie

Kindness In Your Home

I personally think most people are convinced that kindness is what they want for themselves, for their families and for their homes, but they are not sure what steps to take to ensure kindness prevails even in the most pressured situations of being in the trenches of parenting, mothering, marriage and life.

Let’s delve a little deeper into the how-to’s of kindness. First, we need to know exactly what kindness is:

The Definition of Kindness:

Kindness, as listed in Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, is defined as:

1 Affectionate, loving

2A. Of a sympathetic nature: disposed to be helpful and solicitous

2B. Of a gentle nature

3. Agreeable

As you can see, many times kindness is equated with being helpful or helping someone else. In some religious and spiritual traditions, the notion of doing “charitable acts” is directly correlated with the above definitions of kindness! Kindness, then, is an action that one commits to each and every day!

Mary Ann Kerwin, one of La Leche League’s co-founders had this to say about parenting in The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, “Our children teach us much more than we realize. Being a mother has taught me patience, perseverance, self-discipline, and hard work. “(page 170, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding). Kindness, as we can see from the definitions above, also involves the development of being helpful, patient and loving. Part of parenting is perhaps working at becoming a kinder person!

Why Start in Our Homes?

We start in our own homes because we set a tone for our household whether we do it consciously or unconsciously. We start in our own homes because the people we love the most are right there in front of us. We start in our own homes as part of the quiet revolution that good parenting is going to make as a mark upon the next generation of our country’s leaders, innovators and creators. We start because we want our home to be a place of warmth and love and joy for our family and friends. And most of all, we start in our own homes because we want to be the change we want to see in the world. Kindness is a wonderful place to start in setting the tone for our homes.

 

How Do I Do It?

1. Start with Yourself

If we all agree that kindness can be a foundation for “charitable action” throughout the day, a commitment that we must get up and make each and every day, then we can all conjure up that phrase, “Charity begins at home.” This is essential: that home and with ourselves are where we begin. We can only control our own actions; we must start there.

Here are some quotes to inspire you:

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding points out on page 256 that, “As the baby-child grows, he will need guidance, instruction, and sometimes correction to learn the ways of our world. If the foundation of secure love was laid when he was a baby, and if he sees his parents as kind, polite, and considerate people, he will try to imitate them, because he wants to act in ways that please them (most of the time).”

In the book Peaceful Parents, Peaceful Kids, author Naomi Drew says, “When we take steps in our daily lives to get along with others, work out conflicts, listen when people speak, communicate respectfully, let go of anger, and respect differences, we affect the world in a positive way. Starting gradually, with ourselves and with the people we are close to, our relationships begin to improve, causing a ripple effect. Before long, we see that by living the skills of peacemaking, we make a positive difference in our own lives and the lives of every person we touch.”

Here are some tips for the road:

· Slow down: As much as you can, slow down. Evaluate how many activities you and your family are participating in. How many times a week do you eat dinner together? Play together?

· Think about a family mission statement: We can slow down by defining our very most important priorities, and realize this may mean giving something up. Naomi Drew asks us to ask ourselves, “What do you believe are the most important things you can do for and with your children in the time you have with them?” “What memories do you want to create for your children?” “What do you want to be able to say about yourself as a parent twenty years from now?” “How do you want your children to view their childhood twenty years from now?”

This is very much akin to writing a personal and family mission statement where you and your partner can really sit down and think, “For us, for our family, what does kindness look like in our home?” This is very much akin to writing a personal and family mission statement where you and your partner can really sit down and think, “For us, for our family, what does kindness look like in our home?” Is it no labeling kinds of words? Is it never raising your voice? Is it being able to be speak kindly even in the face of everyone being a yelling mess? Is is being able to see your spouse or child’s point of view during conflict? Who does your acts of kindness extend to- your animals, the plants on your land, your neighbors? Writing a family mission statement can be a eye-opening experience – it can be surprising to find out what your spouse or partner or children really thinks is incredibly important for the family. Writing a family mission statement can also help you and your family tie your shared values in one place for all to see and refer to

 

· Focus on the positive aspects of your role as a homemaker and a parent. Try to do this at least ten minutes a day after your children go to sleep or before they wake up. Most of us have no trouble finding our negative traits as parents or the negative things we bring to the role in which we are setting the tone in our homes. Think about your positive qualities, write them down if you have to!

· Balance of all the Needs of All Family Members: Attachment Parenting talks a bit about balance as one of their Eight Ideals. This is something important to consider – what do you need to be the best parent possible? Are you having physical problems that are affecting your patience and gentleness? Do you need to talk to someone about your life’s journey up to this point in order to heal and be a better parent?

Author Naomi Drew says in Peaceful Parents, Peaceful Kids: “Think of your own life. What can you subtract to restore greater balance? What can you add to be kinder to yourself? Remember, being kind to yourself is neither selfish nor frivolous, quite the contrary. Being kind to yourself feeds the well from which you give to others. Acts of kindness toward yourself are necessities that will enable you to be more loving, compassionate, and available to the people you care about the most.” Can you calmly sit down and discuss this with your partner about what both of you need to be kinder people and come up with a plan to make it happen?

· Think about re-framing your thoughts. “Self-control is mind control,” says author Becky Bailey of the book Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline. “It is being aware of your own thoughts and feelings. By having this awareness, you become the director of your behavior. Lack of self-control turns your life over to other people, events and things as you careen through life on remote control.” Remember, self-discipline on your part means you can teach this to your child; you cannot teach skills you do not possess. More than anything, kindness in the home is a practice.

· Figure out what your irritation points are so you can be in charge of them and they won’t be in charge of you! Is that you are not a morning person and you cannot stand it when you get up and the children start fighting before you have a cup of coffee? Is it your own mother? Is it running errands? What really gets under your skin and how can you come up with a plan to help alleviate the situation? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over and expecting a different result, right? Change your strategy to change your result!

· Most of all, remember that you are in charge of YOU. You can change and be the parent and partner you want to be, because you will gain control of yourself first, and be responsible for your own thoughts and actions, and model this for your children. Your family lives what they see in YOU.

Start with your partner or spouse

· Understand the stages of adulthood and marriage: The first thing to realize is that while children go through developmental stages, so do marriages and so do adults. Growing and maturing does not stop at age 21! We hear much talk about “mid-life” crises, but there are whole bodies of works devoted to talking about the cycles of adulthood. Reading and understanding about these cycles may benefit you and your partner with new understanding and compassion for the other person and the most complex of all relationships, marriage.

· Also understand what type of family you are forming – according to Barbara Coloroso’s book “Kids Are Worth It!” this includes the brickwall, jellyfish A and B and the backbone family. There are also other models of family out there, including Linda Budd’s model in the book “Living With the Active Alert Child.” Knowing what kind of family you came from , what your partner came from, and what kind of family you are forming now can help you as you forge a kinder and more peaceful path.

· Re-evaluate your view of conflict. Having a relationship with no conflict at all is not realistic and avoids an opportunity to see the benefits that conflict provides.

· Practice using kind words in your home and making your home a place where you focus on the positive that you see. Practice saying kind things to others as well as yourself – be a good model by showing that you honor yourself!

· Instead of statements that address someone’s character, use statements that describe what you see and how you feel about it. Naomi Drew writes, “When we start from “I”, we take ownership of our feelings and perceptions. “You” places blame on the other person and makes them the brunt of our feelings. “You” puts the other person on the defensive; “I” opens communication.”

· You may investigate Non Violent Communication as a framework takes this even a step further.

· Eliminate sarcasm from your home; when you use sarcasm with your spouse your children see it and hear it.

· Just as you would assume positive intent behind the behavior of your child, assume positive intent for your spouse or partner.

· Model and be “a light” for your family: One wise mother told me on the subject of spouses, “Model what you want to see, but do not nag. Nagging causes rifts and defensive mechanisms and accomplishes nothing.”

· Learn how to handle anger. Can you walk away and regain control? Can you be calm when things are crazy? Can you speak calmly to your partner or spouse about what is bothering you and work it out? Can you be calm as your partner gets upset?

Start with your children

· A very important part of parenting is knowing and understanding childhood development, and what typically happens at what age.

· Understand your child’s specific temperament. Make a sincere effort to accept your child for who they are at every age.

· Avoid labeling your child, even if it is with a label you think is kind.

· You can set clear standards of behavior for your children, but for them to know, you need to decide what those standards are and you need to know how to guide your child toward those standards in a loving way.

Something to inspire you on this subject: “Bear in mind that to say children are equally deserving of dignity and respect does not have to mean that the relationship itself is of equal power. As a parent, you have a broader view and more life experience to draw from, and these are assets you bring to the child as his adult caretaker. You also bear more responsibility for choices surrounding your child than he does.” (Adventures in Gentle Discipline, page 11).

The question is, can you set the limit with kindness? Without lecturing, over-explaining or defending yourself, being hostile if your child resists? Can you be matter of fact and have peace about the limit you are setting?

There are many times where explanations just don’t work, particularly for a younger child who does not have logical thought yet as part of their developmental maturation .

Nancy Samalin also brings up another reason why sometimes explanations do not work as she writes in her book, “Loving Your Child Is Not Enough: Positive Discipline That Works”, “Why don’t explanations work? Because we often give children explanations in an attempt to change their minds and make them agree with us. We hope they’ll buy the explanation and not be angry with us. But after a thousand explanations, children still want what they want as much as they wanted it before. And we just have to deal with not giving them what they want.”

In other words, if we are not careful a detailed explanation is just a justification for our demand.

· Re-evaluate and re-commit to gentle discipline.

Okay, quick!  When I say the phrase, “Gentle Discipline” what comes into your mind – the first thing? No censoring!  For many of us, gentle discipline equates with permissiveness and the thought of a Kids Gone Wild Video!  For others of us, gentle discipline equates with being the parent, who, for lack of better phrasing, is the “valium parent” –you know, the parent who never raises their voice, the parent who is always calm and composed.  “Okay, you just pierced your little brother’s nose with a screwdriver in the garage?  Okaaaay, maybe next time you should ask before you do that!”

Maybe some of us are sad when we hear this phrase, because we would like to not be yelling at our children, or hitting our children, but we are not sure what other tools we have in our toolbox to use.

What if I told you I see gentle discipline in a completely different light?

Many parents equate discipline to punishment.  My Webster’s Dictionary defines discipline some other ways, including as “instruction”; “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character”.  I love the idea of discipline being a way to guide or lead a child.  There are consequences to the behaviors we choose as individuals, but many times we punish children for being in a developmentally normal state.

Eda LeShan, in her wonderful article, “Please Don’t Hit Your Kids”, published in Mothering Magazine in Spring of 1996, writes:  “We actually tend to hit children who are behaving normally.  A two year old bites because he doesn’t yet know better ways to deal with problems.  A five year old steals crayons at school because five is too young to control the impulse to take what she wants when she wants it.  A 10 year old lies about having joined some friends in teasing a newcomer at school, since at this age it’s normal to want social approval more than fairness.  It takes many years to learn self-restraint.  This is not a crime.  And making children feel guilty and bad doesn’t solve the problem.  What is called for is help in making retribution, having adults explain why such behavior must be overcome.”

Guiding with loving firmness.  THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, page 257 states: “Discipline is a much maligned word, often associated with punishment and deprivation. Yet discipline actually refers to the guidance which we as parents lovingly give our children to help them do the right things for the right reasons- to help them grow into secure, happy, and loving persons able to step out in to the world with confidence in their own ability to succeed in whatever they set out to do.”

So, there is another oft-maligned word that  I believe needs to be attached to the idea of discipline as a way to guide a child – and that word is AUTHORITY.  Authority is a word that leaves a bad taste in many parents’ mouths.  “Authority?  We don’t need any of that here!  Our home is not a police state!”

Well, when I looked up authority in my Webster’s Dictionary, it said that authority is “a citation from a book or file used in defense or support”, “a decision taken as a precedent”, or finally, “power to influence or command thought, opinion or behavior.”   Influencing my child’s behavior is part of my job as a parent, but I felt it did not get across everything I wanted to say in this situation.  Then I noticed that authority and the word a few entries above, authentic, share the same root.  The dictionary says that authentic is “authoritative” and “worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to fact of reality: TRUSTWORTHY.”

So, perhaps you could view your path in gentle discipline as a way to authentically guide your child.  You, as a trustworthy, authoritative guide.

Truly AUTHENTIC LEADERSHIP.

· Using gentle discipline methods and thinking of discipline as guiding and teaching can be helpful in setting a tone for your home that is kind.

“Gentle discipline means, quite simply, placing empathy and respect at the very center of your parenting.”  (Adventures in Gentle Discipline, page 3).

Here is a recap of some of the tools you can use in gentle discipline:

1. Humor – Lots of parents take parenting very seriously.  But you can still think about humor, think about not taking it all quite so seriously.  There are many situations where humor can save the day.  Humor helps de-escalate things and also models for your child a positive way to look at the sunny side of things and a way to deal with a stressful or frustrating situation.

Many parents say, Save your big reactions for the big things in life! I agree, but in order to do this, you must know what is BIG in your family and to you.  This goes back to the first things we talked about, starting with yourself and your spouse or partner to think about what is BIG for you and your family. Then you will know where to use humor, where to be serious, and what things really matter!

2.  Distraction – this is a viable tool for all children under 7, and even children that are 7 or 8  can still be fairly distractible.  However, this takes creativity in the heat of the moment to think of an appropriate distraction.  Distraction is not a bribe; it is a way to change to scene to your advantage.

Distraction can also show itself by changing the environment.  Some children just need to be outside when they are upset!

3.  Hugs and kisses and being held – solves lots of things without a lot of words. Sometimes you do not need to say much of anything to your child; just holding them lets them know you are there for them.

4. Use of the word “may”  – as in, “Little Johnny, you may bring your plate to the counter for me.  Thank you!”  Be sincere, and this word works well as you set the tone for your own home. Some parents love this, some parents hate this.

6. Limited choices, less words or no words at all –Try just helping your child get into their coat while you sing a song that you usually sing when you go outside.  Try just handing your child their toothbrush after their bath instead of a whole book about the necessity of dental hygiene.  Children under the age of 7 generally do not do well with verbal words alone; they need your warm and gentle physical presence to follow through on what needs to happen.

7.  Consider the value of time-in. Some families have a place where adults and children can sit together until they all calm down, some mothers just have their child sit near them while they do some sort of rhythmical work.

8.  Ignoring – yup, you heard me right.  The Gesell Institute books routinely recommend turning a blind eye to some of your child’s behaviors if it is not hurting others or themselves (or just driving you plain crazy!).

9.  Physical follow-through – If you say something to a small child, you should expect to have to physically help them follow through.  You should expect to have to physically hold an upset child if they need it.  The physicality of life with a small child is always there – hugs, kisses, a lap to sit on and help to do things as needed.  The child’s respect and dignity always needs to be respected, so you need to be calm and gentle when you are following through, but please remember a young child under 7 is probably not going to function well on verbal directives alone.

10.  FREEZE!  One of the best tools in parenting is learning to take that quick pause in your mind’s eye and ask yourself if what you are about to do is going to help your child be the adult they were meant to be; is it going to escalate or de-escalate the situation, is it going to teach your child something or is it just a moment of anger for you that will pass?

· Understanding anger in parenting and how to deal with it is very important. Vimala McClure, in the book, “The Tao of Motherhood,” has this to say about anger in parenting:

“When you feel angry with your child, know that something rational must be done. State your feelings honestly, then withdraw to process your own emotions and make a plan.

Striking out, either physically or emotionally, may succeed in getting through to the child, but it will also plant the seeds of guilt. Guilt is followed by resentment and bitterness. A victory can therefore end in failure. Too many victories and you will witness the death of your child’s trust.”

You can use “I statements” and talk about how you feel at that moment, you can leave the area for a moment (which is very difficult I think with children under the age of 7), you can make amends when the storm is done. You can “erase” what happened, and start over together.

And besides learning how to deal with our own anger, we must teach our children how to “cool-off.” Some families have a “cool-off” corner where everyone can sit together, some families encourage children to draw their feelings out or do something physical to release the anger. Every family is different and find what works for each individual child through trial and error.

· A rhythm to your day can be your friend, especially when you have small children under the age of 7. If every day has different awake, meal, snack, nap and bedtimes, it can become frustrating when everyone is falling apart, yet you feel like you have not gotten anything done and everyone needed to eat 10 minutes ago. Or conversely, if you have so tight a schedule, then the minute your child doesn’t want to hurry or wants to stop and play, this can be stressful. Try to find the happy medium!

· Learn How to Let Go – Nancy Samalin writes in her book, “Loving Your Child Is Not Enough: Positive Discipline That Works”: “We readily accept the fact of physical separation but often we forget that a child is not a psychological extension of ourselves, not our possession, not merely a reflection of us.”

As children mature and grow, we have to be willing to let them have more choices and to make mistakes. Nancy Samalin writes, “Our reluctance to let go of our children’s emerging identities comes from our need to have children do things our way, not theirs. If we let them make their own choices, we run the risk of being embarrassed or feeling helpless when they make mistakes. It can be frightening to let a child face the consequences of her own decisions. But in the end she will learn more from the experience of living with her choices than from our nagging, intervening or rescuing.”

Some of this also goes back to knowing and understanding developmental stages. Natural consequences should not be a punishment for a small child (ie, my child who is three does not want to wear a coat in Winter, so I will leave the coat at home – is that a natural consequence or a punishment?) but yet a teenager may need opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them. It also goes back to deciding the heart of what is important for you and your family.

Nancy Samalin points out that we can often be hardest on the child who reminds us of ourselves. The less personally you can take the behavior, the more kind you can be. I always say to new mothers of toddlers, It starts off that it is a “good” day if your toddler doesn’t melt down and cry or scream; in later parenting it becomes a good day if you held it together through the melt down or the crying or the screaming. With a child that is older, over seven, you can try to listen more and solve the problem less.

What Happens When Things Are Not Going Well? (Or, The I Really Can’t Do This):

If you are feeling overwhelmed by what you perceive as the negative in your family or in your parenting, the question really becomes what do we do? Here are a few thoughts:

We can try.  We set the tone in our home whether we set it unconsciously or consciously. Each day, each moment, we can try to set the tone in our home toward our ideal.  It is never too late to change, to try, to stop in the middle of a sentence and do something different.  It is never to late to take your child and love them. 

We can forgive ourselves for not being perfect.  We are not perfect, we are human.  We all fall short at times.  We can be kind to ourselves and show our children how to have grace when we make a mistake. 

We can get help. We can ask for help from our family, our friends, our neighbors. We can get counseling, we can go to support groups like La Leche League or Attachment Parenting International and get support for our parenting, we can talk to the spiritual leaders who speak to our hearts.  We can investigate if our physical health is impacting our minds, our patience.  Many medical professionals are available to help. 

We can take it easy.  Maybe this is the day we just need to relax and recharge.

We can focus on bedtime and catch some precious moments to ourselves after the children go to sleep and use that to meditate, pray or engage in spiritual work.

We can do our best to go to sleep; I am convinced many of the challenges mothers are facing could be helped if mothers would go to bed and get some rest.  We so often feel we have to satisfy everyone’s needs but our own; our own sleep is paramount to do this!

It is important you can show your family about how to recover from a mistake, a you that shows them we can still do things wrong and make it right, a you that is resilient in the face of life.

 

Kindness within your home is a process, a journey and a practice. You can form relationships for support from other like-minded parents, you can always also talk to your local La Leche League Leader, Attatchment Parenting International Leader or supportive mental health professionals who can help you brainstorm different ideas regarding kindness and peacemaking in your home. As always, take what works for you and your family from these ideas.

Peaceful Parenting,

Carrie

Inspirations from Tapestries: The Stages of Marriage

There have been several posts about marriage and nurturing your partner on this blog that you can search and see for background regarding marriage, attachment parenting, and homeschooling.  Here is one that comes to mind: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/08/parenting-as-partners/  as well as this one:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/17/using-your-first-year-of-parenting-to-fall-deeper-in-love-with-your-spouse/

This is a topic I feel is so important because unfortunately, many of the homeschooling mothers I know appear to  feel overwhelmed, seem to feel unsatisfied with their partner’s contribution to family life, and just are not enjoying time with their partner/spouse because they feel their basic needs are not being met within their closest relationships.

Maybe Betty Staley can help us unravel some of the mysteries surrounding the life cycle of a relationship. 

She writes, “Just as each individual passes through cycles, so does a relationship.  During each stage of a relationship we have particular needs and ways of solving problems.  There are three basic elements to consider when we speak about relationship-stages.  First, the individuality of each person.  Second, the phase of life each person is in.  Third, the  stage the relationship has reached.  In addition to these three aspects, cultural and historical expectations and the environment are also strong influences.”

The stages of relationships per Tapestries:

  • The first stage of a relationship is when two people are attracted to one another, “they are in a soul stage where feeling life predominates (21-28 years) no matter how old they are.” (page 75).
  • After the relationship settle down to routine, the couple enters the soul phase where THINKING predominates (28-35 years, but again it does not matter how old the people in the relationship are).  Each person looks at the other more objectively, and each may question the relationship itself.  This can be a point where many relationships fall apart and break up.
  • If the couple survives this phase, the next phase is the soul phase where CONSCIOUSNESS or AWARENESS predominates (corresponding to the ages 35-42, but remember, it does not matter how old the people in the relationship are), where each individual in the relationship begins to look at themselves and their partners more objectively.  During this time, hopefully each person can have not only a sense of realism about their partner’s strengths and weaknesses, but also love their partner with some of the passion from the feeling stage and see the person’s high self.

Betty Staley points out on page 76 that if a couple is older than their twenties when the relationship begins, the earlier phases representing the twenties will be passed through quickly to get to the stage of life the couple is in.

In other words, if a couple’s relationship starts when they are 35, the relationship will pass quickly through the feeling stage and the soul phase where thinking predominates to the soul phase where consciousness or awareness predominates.

She talks about couples where there  is an age difference and how each person in the relationship will demonstrate not only aspects of the seven-year cycle they are in, but also aspects of the seven-year cycles their partner is in.  She discusses that the combination of  having two partners from two different age groups can bring support into the relationship as whoever is older and in the next seven-year cycle can provide better patience, understanding, (depending upon the maturity of the person, of course).

If you are a couple where both of you are in the same seven-year cycle, this can be a source of unity and support because you are going through the same things (although I would add here that I think men and women often experience different intensifications of aspects of the same seven year cycle, so it may not be exactly the same), but it can also be difficult because neither person can step outside the relationship and look at it from a broader perspective, and neither may have completely developed greater understanding or patience.

My husband and I have been married for almost 17 years and we were both in our early twenties (I was 21) when we married.  I truly believe that  at least from my personal experience and from watching the couples around us that these cycles of a relationship are dead-on.

Of course, the trick is to survive the stages!  Can you identify where your relationship is according to Tapestries?

Understanding where you and your partner are in relationship to the seven year cycles throughout the lifespan on top of understanding the cycles of a relationship can be of great help….

We will look at a summary of each of the seven year phases for the adult in our next post.

Thanks for reading,

Carrie

The Necessity of Mothering and Fathering

Awhile ago, I was at a party and one of my neighbors was talking about how her 15 –year –old son called home day and asked if he and his friends could stop at Taco Mac.  It was 6:35 and they were supposed to be leaving to go somewhere as a family at 6:45.  She was kind of going back and forth with the 15 –year- old for a few minutes when her husband just looked at his watch, calculated how far away the Taco Mac was and the time, took the phone out of her hands and said “6:45” and hung up.  And we all laughed because is that not the difference sometimes between mothering and fathering? I have heard a Master Waldorf  person say (maybe Betty Staley??)  in an audio tape boys only want to know 3 things – who is in charge, what are the rules, and what happens if I break the rules and girls want to know about quality of their relationships – they will cheat on a test, for example, to keep a friend.  So perhaps these difference persist throughout the years.

So I guess I use these examples to say, yes,  I think there is a place for mothering and fathering.  There is a place for a mother  to model how you do things with your child,  for your husband to see, but there is also a place for your husband to develop his own relationship with his own child.  That being said, I know the Gesell Institute books say many children will not have much to do with dad until they are 5 or so.  I think this depends on the family and the child’s personality as well as  if the mother works and dad takes care of the kids without mom around – they sort of have to develop some kind of relationship then.  I have seen many families where the mother stays at home and the father NEVER has the children without the mother on any kind of a regular basis, so when the mother does leave the children with the father without her, all parties have a harder time.  I have also seen many mothers who made their husbands feel incompetent when he attempted to take care of the children, and basically did not “let” the dad take care of the children .  Therefore, the children almost looked at dad as he was or certainly must be incompetent.  This is not ideal, because there is a place for mothering and fathering, and there is also a need of the child to see the adults in the household having Authentic Leadership.  If you need help as to what Authentic Leadership may look like, please refer to this post I wrote:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/16/gentle-discipl…tic-leadershipgentle-discipline-as-authentic-leadership/

Lifeways”  has a chapter on “The Father as Full Parent” – in this case, a dad who is a single dad and  raising his child. He talks about how parental love surrounds the child with a protective cloak of caring (an image you hear a lot about in Waldorf) to provide soul-warmth for a child (also an image you hear a lot about) and how this protection turns into mediation –“standing between the child and the world in such a way as to strengthen him in facing its joys and hardships” and how this is different than over-protection.   He says that to  “find that right combination of firmness and gentleness is surely a struggle for every parent.”  I hear many mothers say that with their partners instead of providing guidance through a  side-ways approach to a situation that involves fantasy and movement for a child under the age of 7,   it can turn into words that are harsher and more direct.  However, tunless physical or emotional abuse is happening, perhaps this is not the place for a mother and wife to nag; it may instead be a place to model, to demonstrate and to let the dads work on softening themselves and their relationship with their small child.  This is truly work.  Sometimes different things trigger different things in  people, so knowing what really upsets your partner in parenting can also be  a large assistance.  Sometimes I personally do need my husband to step in as he can cut to the chase many times better than me – and sometimes he can show that great skill in fathering in a redirecting way that does involve fantasy and movement, which is great to see.  And sometimes I need to balance him out the way he balances me out!  The joy of partnership!

But I digress – back to the Lifeways book – the chapter goes on to talk about the anecdote to this  sort of problem, and also the base of relationship with children, would be to “have tremendous fun” together.   What is the tone in your home right now?  What are you all doing for fun as a family together?  Do you do fun things every week together?  Do you love one another and have joy in your household?  This is important, because everyone has a need to feel easy within their own home, to feel relaxed, to feel loved, and to feel as if family is a refuge from the outside world.

In the beginning, I recounted a story from my neighbor and her husband, and after the above story, he said to me, “The boys and I have a lot of fun together and that helps carry the times when I do need to be stricter and they need to tow the line.”  Fun and love is what carries it, especially for children under the age of 7.  The author of the fathering chapter in the “Lifeways” book says, “I am learning that parenthood is a path of service and sacrifice, but is also a powerful stimulus to one’s own self-development.  It continually shatters my complacency; and for that I am continually grateful.”  Isn’t this such a powerful statement about parenting?  It changes your life.

Another thought for mothers would be to be very direct and specific as to what you want, when you and your husband sit down to talk without your small children present.  My husband tells me all the time, “Even after almost 17 years of marriage I cannot read your mind, please tell me what you want me to do around the house and I will do it, but do not expect me to know.” Ah, true words.   

Men who work outside the home often have a frustrating and fast-paced life to deal with.  In this vein, it was not always a good day at work when I worked outside the home, and neither is every day at home.  To me, though, being home is about the process of finding yourself, finding your Authentic Leadership, being able to create peace in your home.  It beats working outside the home any day to just have the opportunity to create a sacred space for my family. 

Just a few thoughts from my little world.

The Value of Being A Stay At Home Mother

I started a few thoughts on this subject at Donna Simmons’ paid subscription discussion forum,  the Waldorf At Home forum.  Donna posed the question of what the true, real or hidden value of being a mother is and it really got me thinking. (To join in on the discussion please see  http://www.waldorf-at-home.com/forums/ ).

To me,  the utmost value that a stay at home mother can provide is first of all the ability to create peace within herself, her spouse and her children and then to bring that peace into all the areas in which the mother and family  impacts society.  Stay at home mothers provide a bulk of the volunteer force for schools, religious organizations, and other service organizations, so hopefully we become a model for peace within our own homes and within our own communities.  So many people live their lives and in their homes without ever thinking about the soul of that home – how does your home feel when you are in it?  How does your family feel? Is it a warm, relaxed, pleasant place where the respect and the dignity of all are honored or is it a place of strife, tension, and yelling?

Mothers ask me all the time how they can attain this invisible positive aura within their homes, and I always say the same thing:  It starts within you.  You cannot change your children or your spouse.  All you can do is be consistent and go inward and start with yourself.  (Assuming your spouse is not  physically or verbally abusive; in these cases I cannot presume to say that only modeling will help!)……..However, if your spouse  is unsure of how to  become a de-escalator of situations and attain peace, it may take time to see changes, but the home will become a more peaceful place as you model and create this magic within your own space.  The other two things I can highly suggest is to work on everyone in the family finding a sense of humor about things and I can advocate you contact the local NonViolent Communication Group in your area – see www.cnvc.org for further details regarding better communication skills between you and your partner.

I think the second thing that we show society, hopefully, is how to live in harmony with daily, weekly and yearly rhythms; how to really have a rhythmical manner within the flow of time.  The art of daily work, of being able to be productive with our hands, for really having and showing gratitude, for being able to live simply, for being able to slow down to really prepare for holidays and festivals in a meaningful way is becoming a lost art in our society.  Hopefully we can be a model for demonstrating ways to celebrate the beauty and reverence in daily life, in ordinary tasks,  besides the more celebratory occasions.

The third important thing I think we do is to show mothers that childhood can have a slower pace than what our society is currently making it and pushing it to be and that this is of benefit to the child and to society.  Many mothers I speak to today lament the early push on academics, they lament the lack of outside time their children are participating in due to their children getting home from school and having to do homework, they lament the lack of imaginative play within their children, but yet they shrug their shoulders and continue on.  “What are you going to do?” they say, as if this progress toward the rapidity of childhood and the speeding up of childhood is something that is normal and cannot be avoided.  Perhaps we can be the light that shows others how a slower childhood has benefits for the health of our children for the long run.

To all my stay at home mothers out there, I applaud the light you are shining into the darkness of the world in this season and in this time.  Blessings to you all for  your work.

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

Using Your First Year of Parenting to Fall Deeper In Love With Your Spouse

 

Transitioning to being new parents in addition to remaining lovers and friends can be challenging.  It is difficult to anticipate all the changes a new baby will bring to your lives as a couple and as a  family.  Many new parents have admitted to me that they felt more than a little bewildered by the amount of time caring for  an infant requires, how being a new parent affected the sexuality of their relationship, and how they often felt they and their spouse misunderstood one another, and how distant at times they felt from their spouse.   Some parents confessed to me at some of the three in the morning sleep-deprived feedings, they just wanted to be as far away as possible from the other parent because they were driving each other crazy!

Most parents go into their first pregnancy and having children because they have a deep love for one another and wanted to add to their family.  So, given all the challenges mentioned above, is it still  possible to maintain your deep connection to and love for your spouse in the first year of parenting?  I think it is possible, but it does take some time and consideration.

Beth Muscov wrote an article for La Leche League’s NEW BEGINNINGS magazine entitled, “Surviving the First Year of Parenthood While Growing Deeper in Love.”  This wonderful article was published in March-April 2000 and can be viewed through this link:  http://www.llli.org/NB/NBMarApr00p36.html .  In the article, the author writes about how many family therapists use Systems Theory in their practice and how part of Systems Theory includes the idea of an equilibrium point in relationships.  She points out how the first thing many couples do when that equilibrium is disturbed is to try to go back to the way things were before the change and how this may not always produce the desired result or it may create additional stress for one or both parents.  And besides, once, you have an infant in the house there is no going back!

The article points out that one simple tool new parents can use to help is the use of  normalizing statements.  Normalizing statements, to me, are almost “rationalizing” statements (uh, statements you would make if you were not so sleep deprived and could make sense and be rational?)  The article points out a few of these, such as “ Emotional ups and downs during the first year of parenting are completely normal”.  You can view more of these normalizing statements at the link above. 

I think normalizing statements in some ways are a good start, but in some ways, this is a coping mechanism that perhaps hides what is underneath the feelings of isolation, separation from one’s spouse, frustration or being overwhelmed that can happen during that first year of parenting.

I offer this to you:  a series of questions for you to ponder; because as usual it all starts with you and your inner work. You are now the mother of the home, the keeper of the home and the person who will bring peace into your home.  So here are some questions and some thoughts:

How do you feel about being a mother?  How do you feel about being a wife on top of being a mother?  If you have taken some time during pregnancy to ponder this (see the three part series on this blog entitled, “Pregnancy is Preparation for the Soul”),  and believe in this idea of being called into motherhood, as motherhood being a very important thing that you were made to do and called to do, then this can help carry you through some of the rockier moments in parenting a newborn.

The more difficult part for many women is to make that transition from being a mommy to being focused on their spouse, to being able to be absorbed in the intimacy of the spousal relationship emotionally or physically once again.  How do you feel about having an intimate relationship with your husband and your baby?  What would this look like?  Have you discussed this with your spouse?

Dr. William Sears in The Baby Book, mentions this:  “Your husband can sense when you are physically connected to him but mentally connected to your baby.  He does not expect you to be thinking primarily of him during breastfeeding; should you be thinking about your baby during lovemaking?”  He goes on to point out these are normal feelings for a new mother.  I would gently add that a baby is small only once, and that getting to be able to balance motherhood and being part of a couple takes time to adjust to, and practice.

How much do you understand about newborn babies and how newborn babies are?  How much help is Dad with the newborn baby and how will Dad and the baby connect?  All of you out there will smile when I tell you I remember thinking when I was pregnant with my first  that having a newborn baby wouldn’t be easy, but really, how hard could it be?  The baby would sleep a lot and there would be some kind of rhythm to it, right?  I would have time to keep the house clean, cook meals and probably work out as well!

Um, yeah.  In reality, my first baby was a baby who nursed about every hour or so, who needed to be held much of the time, who was not very content out of arms.  The reality of parenthood did not meet my expectations.  There were many things I had read in books, but none of it really sunk in until I had spent time with my own newborn and we learned about one another.  Every baby is different, and no matter how many babies you have, you still  have to learn each other.  Newborns require much time and care in order to achieve that connection and the feeling of one-ness that a newborn baby and a mother can have.  In our society, too many mothers are missing the opportunity to fall deeply in love with their baby and also the opportunity of deepening their relationship with their spouse through the love they have for their whole new family.  Too often in our society we are willing to put the needs of being a couple above the needs of a young baby.

Many mothers who are planning to solely breastfeed ask about when they can feed the baby a bottle so the dad has “be connected to the baby.”  This may be what happens in your family and what you choose as a family, but something else to consider is that if the dad can take care of and support the mother while she takes care of the baby, if he can cook and clean while the mother is consumed taking care of the baby, this is being connected to the baby through the baby’s natural habitat – the mother. More about this in the paragraph below.

How do we balance our needs as a couple with the needs of a breastfeeding baby?  Babies have intense needs connected to the mother.  The mother is the baby’s natural habitat, an idea originated and developed further in the book, “Breastfeeding Made Simple :Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers” by Nancy Mohrbacher and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett.  A baby and a mother, if given a chance, often feel and function as one unit in the early years.  This is normal.  Fathers can do lots of things in the postpartum period and in the early months of the baby’s life, but they cannot breastfeed.  However, as mentioned above, fathers can get involved with their baby in plenty of other ways from diapering to bringing the baby to the mother to nurse to supporting the mother with meals or in housework or care of older children.  Mothers and fathers can use this time to connect more deeply if they plan it out right.

There is no doubt that a baby is a baby only for a short while, and many parents accept that this is a season in their marriage that involves putting the baby first.  Dr. William Sears, in his book The Baby Book, writes; “For three or four months after childbirth (and sometimes not really until weaning) most wives do  no have the energy for a high level of intimacy both as a mother and a mate.”  He adds, “Dads, appreciate that a new mother is biologically programmed to nurture her baby.  You are not being displaced by the baby, but some of your wife’s energies previously directed toward you are temporarily redirected toward your baby.  This is a time primarily to parent and secondarily to mate, and ideally a time to find opportunity and energy for both.”  He talks about how wives need to be treated in the postpartum stage in a progression similar to courtship, but he also points out that men experience no hormonal shift in parenting a new baby such as women experience and therefore men still need to hear they are needed and wanted as well.

How do we balance our needs as a couple with the needs of an older baby, toddler or preschooler?  As the baby grows and settles into a more rhythmic pattern, perhaps then there will be time for sitting together , and even finishing sentences!  With an older child, it does become okay to say that mommy and daddy need some time together and the child can play.  Many parents work hard to have at least one night a week where they focus on each other after the children are asleep.  Even if your child only stays asleep for an hour or so after they initially go to bed, this is still usable time for your needs as a couple.

How do we combine the roles of parenting with the roles of being friends and lovers to one another?  Like everything else in life, both of you have to put effort forth.  It does take commitment and planning to be friends and lovers throughout the parenting years.  Do not let yourselves drift apart, but build each other up.  Assure your husband what he means to you, and tell him what you need. You may be surprised what happens!

What does emotional intimacy mean to you?  It has been said that men use physical intimacy to feel close to their spouse, but women have to have the emotional intimacy in order to get to the physical intimacy part.  What is true for you?  Can emotional intimacy include just saying “I really love you and miss spending time with you”?  Have you talked about this with your spouse? 

What about physical intimacy?  How do you think parenting affects this?  Does co-sleeping affect this?  Many couples still find times and places to be intimate, even with co-sleeping and multiple children!  There can be romance even while parenting!

And most importantly, how do you communicate with one another?  Respect for one another’s feelings and needs are so important during times of change and finding a place in new roles within the family.  Finding time to communicate is important – sometimes with attachment parenting one feels that the baby or children are always there and it is difficult to find the time to talk about things…Yet this is imperative!

And HOW we say things makes such a difference!In the book “How to Listen So Kids Will Talk and Talk So Kids Will Listen”, Faber and Mazlish discuss an office situation and the responses to this situation by seven different friends. From this scenario, they detail ways we can respond to one another, including: Denial of the other person’s feelings, being philosophical about the other person’s situation, giving advice, asking questions, defending the situation/accusing the person to whom you are speaking, pitying the other person, giving out amateur psychoanalysis, blaming and accusing, name calling, giving threats, commanding, lecturing and moralizing, giving warnings, responding with martydom statements, providing comparisons, or sarcasm.  (This is from pages 51-56, Faber and Mazlish’s How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk).  See this book for other examples and details!

Whew!  Imagine if we lived in a world and had relationships where we could have authentic communication.  So, if all of the above is ineffective communication that just puts up blocks in our efforts to be authentic with one another, what IS effective communication?  Effective communication is compassionate communication, and here are some tools to get you started! Faber and Mazlish suggest the following ways of communicating in their book: describing a problem in neutral terms, giving information in neutral terms, talking about your own feelings and needs and I would add asking what your spouse’s (the other person’s) feelings and needs are.

NonViolent Communication (see www,cnvc.org for more information) includes the following steps to compassionately communicating:

  1. Observation – the CONCRETE actions we are observing that are affecting our well-being
  2. Feelings – How we FEEL in relation to what we are observing
  3. Needs – The needs, values, desires that are creating our feelings
  4. Request – The concrete actions we REQUEST in order to enrich our lives, understanding that a request is different than a demand.

Hopefully by communicating in an authentic style, we can grow deeper in love during the early years of parenting and have a marriage that lasts and stands the test of time. 

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

Parenting As Partners

Today’s post is more for the mothers in the audience.  I just finished reading Master Waldorf Teacher Jack Petrash’s “Navigating the Terrain of Childhood.” It is a lovely book in which he equates childhood development to driving across the United States and seeing the sights and provides many insights. In the chapter entitled, “The Challenge of Driving – Together and Alone,” he writes: “Both marriage and parenting are transformational undertakings. To successfully grow and work together, it is essential that we remain open to learning. In particular, we have to be willing to learn from our spouse. Contained in their perspective is a point of view that completes and enhances our own.”

Yes, this is the challenging thing about parenting, is it not? When there are two of you, you both have to parent like it!  One cannot make all the decisions unilaterally, decisions within a household need to be made as a team and with a bigger focus in mind.  Once you have been involved in parenting long enough, there probably will be instances where you feel regretful about the way one thing or another was handled (either the way you handled it or the way your partner handled it).  The important thing is to learn from your mistakes and go on – the children do go on, they really do a much better job of it than we do!

One thing I can offer is to be as compassionate and easy with yourself and your partner as possible.  We so often expect “perfect parenting” out of ourselves and our loved ones, often with the notion that if we do everything right, then our children will “turn out right”. Yet there are essential differences between mothering and fathering, between men and women, and a child reaps a truly positive advantage by being exposed to both.

Yet, there are often challenges for fathering just as there are in mothering. Fathers often do not have the same support network we have developed, they often have less moments and occasions of interactions with the children than we do and therefore the situation may be newer to them, they often have not read as much and obsessed as much as we do!  On top of it, they have work stress, commuting stress, and switching gears from office politics toward dealing with wee ones can be tough. They themselves may be the only dad they know parenting the way they do – which may bother them (or not). When I remember all the things my spouse is dealing with that I am not, it helps me to see he needs me to also consider him. His needs and feelings are also valid and while we so often put our children first, our spouses cannot be last. Knowing your husband’s temperament is also a huge help. For example, when his need for peace is not being met, is it likely he will take it in stride or is it likely he will yell? Is he a person that is passionate and highly reactive to things or does he see the world calmly and evenly?  How was he parented as a child? Who are his role models for fathering? Does he have any?

Knowing these things about each other can help sustain an alliance of sound parenting as partners. While hopefully you both are on the same page about the big things, there should be a difference between the way you handle something and your husband handles something because you are different people. Some parents sit down and write parenting mission statements. Some parents talk about the qualities they hope to see in their grown-up children and use that to guide their decision-making in the childhood years. If you have adjusted your rhythm to having your small children in bed early, then you hopefully have the time to talk to your partner regarding your children and discuss issues and challenges ahead of time so you are both a little more prepared and can act as a united force within your home. Perhaps you can map out how to respond to things gently and with love, with humor. Perhaps you can just spend time together and put love, time and tenderness into your Marital Bank Account. If you put nothing into your marriage, your partner may be reacting to that issue even more than to whatever behavior your child is currently exhibiting! Parents who are true partners, lovers and friends have a much better chance of being on the same disciplinary page than those spouses who never see each other and never have time to talk. There are stages of development in a marriage, just like the stages of development our children go through. Just as we would never leave our small children to figure out everything on their own, we should not leave our marriage to just “be” with no thought or investment.

This sounds so old-fashioned, but taking care of your husband is really important.  If your husband feels like he is always last on the family list, he may feel unloved and grouchy and this can come out within family interactions.  Our hormones change with pregnancy and breastfeeding; a man’s hormones do not drastically change with advent into fatherhood and so the way they handle life and situations can be the same as it always was with no relaxing hormonal influence!

Pointing out all the things your spouse does right helps too – I love the creative way you handled that with the kids!  I wouldn’t have thought of that!  And be sincere and mean the good things, the positive things and focus on those. I think most dads who are involved do want to do things right, so to speak, and love to hear when something they have done has met the needs for the whole family.   And quite frankly, (I am thinking especially of high needs children here), some children just require more from both parents, and it can be difficult when the dads have to actually do a lot of the parenting and be consistently creative and compassionate.  They are being stretched and made to grow as fathers and human beings.  I think in those cases, for both parents to look at the children while they are asleep and see how truly small and innocent they are is helpful.  Part of being human is we try, and we all make mistakes, but hopefully we try again and again to help guide our children and our ourselves along this journey.

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