Day Four, Part One: Twenty Days Toward Being A More Mindful Mother

 

(Interestingly, I have not changed this original post as much as did the other posts in this series so far except to add some information.  Some topics are just tried and true, I think.)

 

(The original disclaimer to this post also still stands:  this post is directed toward day-to-day marital issues, not marital issues where physical or emotional abuse is taking place.)

 

Yes, we are back to one of my favorite soapbox issues: your relationship with your spouse, partner or significant other (and to my single mommies, I am sorry that this post today probably won’t have a lot of challenging information for you! :))

 

As mindful parents and as homeschooling parents, what happens between the adults in the household is vitally important.  The Gesell Institute book “Your Eight-Year-Old” talks about how the eight-year-old is acutely interested and aware of the quality of the relationships of the adults in the house and is watching intensely. I would say this starts well before the age of eight! You are modeling for your children what a healthy relationship looks like, the roles of not only a mother and a father but of a husband and a wife. What are you modeling for your children?

 

Please, please think about what your home will look like in twenty years when your children are gone and you and your husband are left alone together. What will your relationship look like? I have a friend who asked that question of me, but also added:  “And how can you prepare for that day now?”

 

What a great question!  What are we doing as wives, partners, helpmeets to make our relationship with the adult of the family strong?  How is this relationship the rock upon which parenting and homeschooling is built?  And if it is not the rock, why not?  Has it fallen into a state of familiar inattention and is it last on the list?

 

How can we grow together in love?

 

Many of you know I am a proponent of an early bedtime for children past infancy and nap stages so Mom and Dad can have time for their relationship at night. I know that does not resonate with everyone out there, but I am throwing it out there again because I have seen it work personally with quite a few parents in my area. Just being able to have some time to finish sentences together and be, well, adults, often seems to put a spark back into the relationship.

 

Some parents do arrange dates for lunch, coffee, or dinner and take along a sling-able baby or a toddler who would be distressed by the separation but leave the older children at home with a trusted relative or friend. For some families this works well.

 

Other families choose to have dates “in” and have books, games, movies, take -out food or a romantic dinner ready to go after the kids fall asleep. This is another very viable alternative.

 

Intimacy can be a difficult subject to discuss, but I personally believe that physical intimacy is very important to the spousal relationship. Many men will open up to emotional intimacy after the physical intimacy has been fulfilled. Physical intimacy can be emotionally fulfilling for them. Women tend to want the emotional intimacy first. Work together in these areas to make things fulfilling for both of you!

 

Other important areas toward improving marital intimacy includes having respect for your husband. Does he never,ever  do anything right?  Do  you talk about him negatively in front of your children?  Many of the men I speak with about marriage and family less tell me that respect is such a hot button subject for them.  Karol Ladd in her book, “The Power of a Positive Mother” writes on page 193 (and I LOVE this!): “Our kids pick up on the kindness and respect we show to other people, beginning in our own homes. When we speak with respect to our husbands, our kids learn how to speak with respect to one another.” Don’t you all love that, or is it just me?!

 

Often as an attached parent, it is easy to put your children ahead of your marriage (and indeed many times this HAS to be the case for infants, older infants and even toddlers who need help at bedtime and such – these early years won’t last forever!). However, once you have multiple children, one can only put the marriage on the back burner for so long before I think one has to come back to a balance that includes the adults’ relationship in the house. 

 

Here are some oldie but goodie posts I have written regarding challenges in marriage and working toward better relationships in the home:

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/07/27/more-on-marriage-how-do-you-work-with-the-differences/

 

The Stages of Marriage here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/03/19/inspirations-from-tapestries-the-stages-of-marriage/

 

Here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/17/using-your-first-year-of-parenting-to-fall-deeper-in-love-with-your-spouse/

 

And here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/08/parenting-as-partners/

 

 

This topic of focusing on your spouse is important, so very important!  Perhaps today you can meditate on ways to communicate better, consider the needs of the whole family (not only the children!) and your role not only as a mother and as a homeschooling mother/teacher, but your role as wife as well.

 

Many blessings and much love,

Carrie

Day Three, Part Two: Twenty Days Toward Being A More Mindful Mother

 

How we as mothers hold our feelings steady impacts our family….Feelings can be like waves of emotion, but positive feelings can also have a quality of raying out  to envelop those around us…

 

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An action such as the meditative drawing of running forms before bed can help demonstrate joy and positivity, ever moving from us toward our families…

 

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Ever striving, always working on our own attitudes…

 

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Many Blessings this Holy Week,

Carrie

Day Three, Part One: Twenty Days Toward Being A More Mindful Mother

 

Originally, this post was about positivity.  I wanted to update this  with a bit about meeting ourselves, those around us, and especially our children with love and with delight, pleasure and humor, and yes, with a certain positivity.

 

Kim John Payne writes eloquently about the “soul fever” the children of today are experiencing.  HIs recent article published by The Huffington Post about “soul fever” is here:  http://www.runyt.com/2012/03/12/kim-john-payne-why-the-ritalin-debate-is-asking-the-wrong-question-healing-our-kids-soul-fever-with-simplicity/

 

I was thinking about us, as adults, and the concept of “soul fever.”  Continue reading

Part Two of Day Two: Twenty Days Toward Being A More Mindful Mother

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Forgiveness is part of the human journey; I meet so many people who are so upset that they might be wrong and that they might not be perfect.

 

Yet, making mistakes, asking forgiveness from others and forgiving ourselves is what shapes our souls.

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It changes us and leaves marks on us.

It exposes our flaws for what they are….

 

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And hopefully leads us to balance;  not perfection and not “doing it right.”

 

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Changing forms in clay is an exercise in the will, just as living life often is.  I have made a lot of mistakes in life.  This used to upset me, but the older I get the more I can see the mistakes for what they are, the help that they are, the learning I obtain from those mistakes.

 

I am grateful.

 

Many blessings in your modeling work,

Carrie

Day Two: Twenty Days Toward Being A More Mindful Mother

 

2011-01-10 at 02-04-39

 

(Photograph courtesy of Samantha Fogg of work+play positive dog training  at http://workplaydogs.com/)

I love this photograph because it reminds me that beautiful things are still happening in some of nature’s most quiet and dark seasons; just as sometimes we personally have to go through dark periods to come out into new growth. Part of the process of creating your family often leads to acknowledging things you would like to do differently; things you would like to be better, and opportunities for a positive and beautiful new beginning.

 

In the process of acknowledging what you would like to change or do differently, I hope you take the time to see all the things that you do right.  I also hope you forgive yourself for any unrealistic expectations that you were harboring about parenting and family life or homeschooling.  I hear from so many mother who seem to be disappointed in themselves.

 

I think forgiveness is a huge part of a mindful path in parenting and in homeschooling. I have written some posts on guilt and forgiveness in the past that  I would like to share with you here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/27/forgiving-ourselves/ and here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/22/waldorf-guilt/ and here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/02/14/is-it-too-late/.

 

Self-forgiveness is often a process where one has to accept and forgive themselves for being HUMAN and not perfect. It is part of life to be “not perfect”, to be authentic and real, flaws and all.  We keep striving, and most of all, we start doing and trying.  It is not enough to read it in a book, or to gather and collect information..you must jump in and start in order to capture your own will and affect real and meaningful change.

 

So I ask you tonight……

What are your wounds that require self-forgiveness?

How do you acknowledge disappointment, loss?

How can your inner work help you in the journey of self-forgiveness?

 

Parenting is not perfection, it is a journey. Your child is not a psychological extension of you. I hear parents worry all the time that their child will grow up and resent the choices they have made; that Waldorf homeschooling will not be “enough” and that the child will blame them when they are in college and realize not every single thing was covered for them in their homeschooling education, etc.

 

Huh.

 

I don’t know about you, but I attended one of the best public school systems in New York. I have gone on to college to earn two degrees, and there were many subjects and ideas that were not covered in my public school career. If I knew everything coming out of high school, why would I need or want to go on to college? And then there were some things I learned in high school that made so much more sense in college –precalculus and physics come to mind!

 

There is always going to be some website or person who espouses the horrors of some parenting decision you have made –whether that is extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, homeschooling, Waldorf homeschooling. We are all different people, and I think it is okay that people have different views. Our views also change over time. Part of being human means that we continue to develop until the day we pass from this earth.  We learn and we grow.  I find comfort in that, and I hope you do as well.  Sometimes knowing you are doing the very best you can Right Now In This Moment is plain powerful confidence!

 

We can still be confident even if we are not perfect. We still have more years of living than our children, we can still strive to be listeners, to be patient, to communicate without sarcasm or blame. We can exude a quiet confidence and strength in parenting even without perfection.

 

Forgive yourself, be easy with yourself, and most of all love yourself. I believe in a Creator, and in the Creator’s eyes, you are His Beloved!

 

Blessings and love,

Carrie

Day One, Part Two: Twenty Days Toward Being A More Mindful Mother

 

It takes time and space to develop; much like the time and space it takes to create a beautiful fluid painting.  The possibilities are endless; mindful consideration is called for.

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We look at all the elements that create family life and work in an effort to blend them together:

Roaring, racing red that gives us form:

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Shy, quiet blue that moves outward and permeates the home and family:

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Extroverted, excited yellow, spiraling ever outward bringing fun and joy, the polarities of different things bringing balance to the family:

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Until a beautiful, mindful family culture is created where individuals can unfold and grow…including the adults of the family.

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Take a few moments this week to bring some fluidity and creativity into your life, into this business of parenting and creating a family life.  I can’t wait to see what you all come up with.

Much love,
Carrie

Day One, Part One: Twenty Days Toward Being A More Mindful Mother

Creating a family life can be daunting:  such a huge responsibility, and this wavering between too many resources and not enough as we try to work with the things no one seems to talk about.  From all my work with parents, sometimes I can feel the emotions mothers experience  drawn in space almost like the four  temperaments.   Perhaps there is the dark side of isolation and sadness like the melancholic,  the fiery choleric need for order and doing (and maybe anger and frustration as things don’t line up to our plans and expectations), the deep phlegmatic ponderings in nature and spirituality, and the sanguine joy and fun of play and creating beauty.

However, all of these emotions also have a polarity.  Isolation and sadness can give way toward helping others and ennobling them through our own dark experiences; the need for order through domination can also become leadership and delegation and setting priorities, the ponderings can give way to action, the fun and joy of creating can give way to stillness to  just see and observe.

The pieces I see missing from mothers  is this scattered sense of too much information and too much time gathering information and not enough doing.  The practical piece, that willing and doing, just has to be there.  I don’t know about you, but I am tired at night from the sheer doing of it all.

So, without further ado, let’s dive into Day Number One: Inner Work.

Please have a notebook and a piece of paper and ponder the following: Continue reading

Putting It All Together: Day 20 of 20 Days Toward Being A More Mindful Mother

Wow, we are at 20 days!  I want to thank all of you who read this series and worked with some of these things in your own homes and families.  I am curious to hear feedback from you all as to what you observed, learned or felt.

A reader from the UK writes how she worked with this series of posts, and I thought it was a brilliant idea myself :):

“Here is what I have decided to do:
I have been printing out each day to use the following morning in my quiet time, when my brain is at its best (!) I got behind on this with my family being sick & ended up with my print outs here there & everywhere, so have decided to wait until you have finished the series, Carrie, then have the pages all spiral bound & work through it, day by day. I am going to include lots of blank sheets at the end of each day, for my own notes. I think this is something I could do every year or so. What a wonderful resource. Thank you Carrie”

Thanks for the idea, Lynn!

One way that I personally pull all of the different elements together that were mentioned in these posts is through my  daily inner work, prayer and meditation on each child.  I think of these areas and try to ascertain if each child is receiving what they need at this time, what they need so they can be uplifted, what areas are challenging for this child.

I know many of you who read this blog do not homeschool or use Waldorf education.  However, I do find for our family that the curriculum of Waldorf education really does dovetail with all of the developmental stages and expectations mentioned in this series and really assists me in helping my children.

Many blessings to you all!  I would love to hear your experiences and what was valuable to you.

Peace,

Carrie

Tools for Gentle Discipline: Day Number 19 of 20 Days Toward Being A More Mindful Mother

This series is almost done!  I can’t believe it, can you all? Hopefully you gained a few insights, a little inspiration, to carry you forward in your parenting. 

Today we are going to talk about a difficult topic for many of us:  the use of gentle discipline.  Children need to function in this world, with other people.  The question becomes how we gently bring them into ways that will assist them in connecting with other people, how to teach them compassion and how to be kind, and what behaviors are accepted in our society.

One of the main things that seems difficult for many parents these days is setting boundaries in a gentle manner.  It seems difficult for many parents to see their child as separate from themselves.  Your child is not you!  They have different feelings about things than you, different ways of looking at things…and it is up to you, the parent, to help guide your child.

Do you have boundaries for yourself?  If you personally do not have any boundaries, it is going to be difficult for you to teach your children to have boundaries in a gentle way.  The culmination of all of the twelve senses in Waldorf parenting and education is the Sense of Individuality, of I and Thou.  This does not fully develop until the later teen and early twenties, but the foundation of this sense is being laid with your children right now.  And this is a sense that many children need assistance with; some children are crawling on top of their parents’ heads (I have literally seen this), some children are so far away and distant.  This is an area with the explosion of sensory processing disorders in children that we are seeing more and  more difficulties with.

If we set boundaries, how do we do it gently?  Children under the age of 7 do not need direct consciousness brought to the occasion, (although six-year-olds can do with more direct statements), but here are some other tools:

  1. Humor
  2. Rhythm
  3. Finding the need beneath the behavior (without asking your three or four year old – you really can probably figure out if they are hungry or tired)!
  4. Structuring your environment
  5. Modeling what you want your child to imitate
  6. Movement of the body
  7. Fantasy and imagination and pictorial imagery when you speak to your child
  8. “Time- in”   – see this post:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/20/why-should-i-consider-time-in-instead/
  9. Singing and verses
  10. Doing things together
  11. Being right near your child and assisting what needs to be done
  12. Having a space to draw, throw a ball, etc. to diffuse emotion
  13. Plenty of outside time (yes, this is a disciplinary tool!)
  14. Distraction!
  15. Looking for the positive intent behind your child’s behavior
  16. Finding the good to praise
  17. Holding your child and loving them
  18. Filling up the child’s “love language” or emotional bank account before things go crazy!

I am sure many of you can think of so many things to add to this list!

Use your quiet confidence as to what is right in gentle strength,

Carrie

The Power of Patience: Day Number 18 of 20 Days Toward Being A More Mindful Parent

Some days patience is hard to come by.  It is not always easy to remember that we most likely have to do things with our children 500 times calmly to “make them stick”.  It is easy to get frustrated, and in our worst moments to imagine and envision that our children would be better off in school, better off with the neighbor down the street, better off with anyone but us as their parent!

Take a deep breath. I firmly believe that your children have picked you to be their parent.  Your children are right where they are supposed to be.  You are working hard on becoming more mindful, on understanding normal developmental stages, on having realistic expectations, on setting the tone in your home.

Baby steps.  Be content with the baby steps.  Becoming a peaceful, mindful parent does not happen overnight.  It does not mean that you will never get angry again.  It does not mean you will never parent in a moment in a way you may regret later on.  We are human, we are not robots!

What it does mean though is that you have an ideal, you have a framework, you have a goal in mind and when you or your family are off-track, you look to that framework to get back on-track.

Patience is important in this process of raising children. Patience with them as they develop.  Patience with them as they go through challenging developmental stages or as you work with your child to help shape and guide some of his or her  more challenging character qualities.  Patience as you work with yourself and your own shortcomings.

My personal suggestions for developing patience include the following:

Realizing that the behavior of a child under the age of 7 does not have to change your behavior toward the negative.  That is an awful lot of power to give to a small child!   Be patient enough to be the one able to hold the course, set the tone, be the wall and hold the space.  They are three, four, five, six and you have many more years of living than they do!

But by the same token, be patient enough to have flexibility and not rigidity.  Steiner felt children were here as our teachers.  Be patient enough to take a deep breath in the moment and ask what is yours to learn here.

Be patient enough for silence, for waiting, for your child to create an idea.  Give less words and movement a moment to work!

Be patient with your spouse. You are modeling this for your children to see.  Love one another and show your child this wonderful relationship.

Be patient for allowing time for things to take effect.  If you are working on new things with your children in your home, it may take time to get it flowing smoothly.

Lots of love,

Carrie