Embracing Authentic Children

It has been said that childhood is a series of letting go.  We should be able to trust in the process and see most young people  really becoming able to care for themselves, their surroundings, articulate their goals and launch themselves into that celebration of independence and authenticity to themselves around the end of  the high school years if not before. However, in order for that to actually happen, we need to impart our knowledge and wisdom to our children, embrace them for who they are and what path they are on (freedom of authenticity), let them make mistakes, be there to support and guide – but also get out of their way.  You have lived your life.  Now let them live theirs.

This may seem such a strange notion.  After all, no one loves the idea of personal responsibility and independence than North Americans.  We have built an entire culture around this idea of independence, and often I feel in our society push tiny children to become independent in hopes of reaching this functional adulthood sometime in the high school or  college -aged years.  Why would we need thoughts on letting our children make their own mistakes and handling that?   Why wouldn’t everyone want their children to be their authentic selves and respect this in their child?

This seems so common sense, and yet, I see more and more parents having trouble letting go.  They are tracking their children all over their college campuses with apps.  They are stepping in and helping their child clean up mistakes that are no way the parent’s to hold.  They say they respect their authentic child’s dreams, the different from them individuality of their child – except when it doesn’t coincide with the dreams they held for their child.

I think we often forget several things along the way:

Our life and our ideas of what constitutes a satisfactory life are not their life and ideas.

Sometimes in order to find ourselves, we had to leave our family for a little bit.  Again, maybe this a completely Western idea, but I often think of myself. I would have been a totally different person if I hadn’t left my home state and had the life experiences I have had. For some people, maybe it’s about not pursuing the family business or marrying who our family thought we should marry or whatever the situation is.  Often it takes a little time being away from the family in order to find oneself as an individual without the family impression of who we are being our only self-picture.

And we often forget sort of the opposite thing in a rush to actualize the real and authentic self as a young person:  that we need others and that what we do has a ripple effect through us, our family and friends, our community.  We are all connected, and family is often (not always) a connection.

I think part of learning how to do this begins right in education and in parenting – showing our children over and over how important the details are but how we also need to be able to see the big picture and the connections that span across people, communities, fields of study.  In the end, we need to impart wisdom, let go, let our children find their very authentic selves, and feel safe in their identity.

Children, teens, and young adults need acceptance and  a safe harbor to paddle back to.  But the reality is, if we are paving a gentle path for them, if we are not letting them go, if we persist in putting them in the same category they were when they were 12 and now they are 24, we are doing them a disservice.  Embrace the beauty of your authentic, growing, changing, beautiful child growing up and living their own functional life.  It’s their turn.

Blessings and love,
carrie

Hello, September!

September used to be one of my favorite months when I lived up north because it felt like fall and school was starting. It felt like so many new beginnings!  I have lived in the south for 27 years now, and September here doesn’t quite feel the same to me since school starts at the beginning of August.  However, many of you may be starting school tomorrow, and I wish you a wonderful year of learning ahead.

The one thing that does hold true to me no matter where I live is that this is the time of coming up to Michaelmas, which is a major holiday for us both in church and in Waldorf Education.  In the book “All Year Round,” the authors write, “It is a time of drawing strength, and the meteor showers and the season of Michaelmas comes upon us to remind us we have the power to slay and subdue dragons.” I can’t wait to delve further into Michaelmas crafting and reading.

Here are the things that we are celebrating this month:

  • September 2– Labor Day
  • September 8 – The Nativity of St. Mary, the Theotokos
  • September 14 – Holy Cross Day
  • September 29 – The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels

Ideas for Celebration:

Labor Day – I would  love to find a parade for Labor Day, but these seem to be most common in the northeastern part of the United States and not particularly where I live.  Perhaps you can seek one out where you live though!

The Nativity of St. Mary and for Holy Cross Day, for us, are days primarily for celebrating in church and through prayer and  literature.  There are some lovely books about St. Mary and St. Helena for Holy Cross Day as well.

The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels is of course a big feast day in the church and also in Michaelmas in Waldorf Education.

Ideas for the Home:

  • The seasonal table is transitioning to yellows with dried flowers, seed pods, bunches of oats or wheat or corn that are dried, cornucopias, nuts, acorns, leaves and little “helicopters.”
  • I am going through and taking stock of fall and winter clothes and purging what we do not need.
  • Fall menu planning – a time of chili, soup, stew, warming dishes – see below for some of my ideas under Self Care.
  • Crafting – I have some autumn crafting ideas on my Pinterest board, but I think I am going to start with Michaelmas crafts  and autumn lanterns for our school room.

Ideas for Celebrating this Month with Littles:

Ideas for Celebrating this Month With Older Children:

Ideas for Celebrating this Month With Teens:

  • Find great theater, museum, and festival events to attend
  • Longer hiking, camping, and backpacking trips
  • Bake and cook fall dishes
  • Work on fall organizing and cleaning
  • Stargazing
  • Find new activities outside the home that your teen will adore
  • Find  new knitting, crocheting, sewing, woodworking and woodcarving ideas to try

Self-Care:

I am working hard on healthy food that can be made quickly in an Instapot or CrockPot. My main ideas:

  • Breakfast- oven baked oatmeal, InstaPot orange cranberry oatmeal, avocado eggs, coconut flour pancakes, lemon chia seed muffins, scrambled eggs with spinach, green smoothies
  • Lunches – chicken club wraps, baked potatoes with toppings, taco mac and cheese in the InstaPot, salad bowls, cobb salad, vegetable soup, collard greens and sweet potatoes
  • Dinners – orange salmon, pulled pork tacos, herb chicken (whole in the InstaPot), sheet pan dinners, stir fry dinners, breakfast for dinner

Still exercising!

Date nights with my husband – we enjoy being together without our children, and pour a lot into those around us, so it is nice to recharge together. ❤

School Life!

Our senior:  We are busy finishing up transcripts so she can apply to college.  All of her classes are outside the home this year because I didn’t want to re-learn physics and calculus and she also wanted to take AP English and AP History and I didn’t want to go through getting college board approval for those courses.  So, less work for me other than the transcripts and helping. ❤  We are still counted as homeschoolers by our state, but I don’t feel like I am doing much.  Senior year is the time of transitions and letting them fly!

Our 9th grader:  Wanted to go to high school, so she is attending a hybrid high school that has a modified schedule.  Again, we are still counted as homeschoolers by our state, but I am not really doing the main teaching, just homework help.

Our 4th grader:  Is off to a great start with a traditional fourth grade Waldorf year.  We have spent the last three weeks reviewing math, deepening measurement concepts, doing lots of movement, reading, spelling, and poetry.  Our next block up is Local Geography, which is always a fun block.

Me:  Still plugging away at my clinical doctorate and physical therapy pelvic floor certification.  Also busy studying lactation things since I have been an IBCLC since 2009 but you have to retake the boards every ten years, so that is coming up!

Tell me what you are looking forward to in September!

Blessings,
Carrie

What I Have Learned In 18 Years of Parenting

Our daughter turned 18 today!  It is an amazing time to watch so much unfold in her life!  I was thinking yesterday about being a parent for 18 years.  It has been quite a journey of self-discovery for me as a parent and person and a joy to discover who this other person is and to help guide that.

Parenting, in some ways, is a crazy job.  I mean, if I worked at a corporate job for 18 years, I would be at some fantastic senior level and would have it all down pat with  my  vast wisdom and knowledge from the things I have seen over the years.

Parenting isn’t really like that.  That is because every stage that your first child goes through, it’s the first time for you as a parent (whether that child  is 6 or 16 or 26) or if you are going through  the years with subsequent children it is bound to be completely different as all children are amazing individuals with incredible paths and journeys of their own.

However, I do think there are a few things I have taken away in 18 years of doing this that can encourage anyone –

  1.  You have got this!  It is easy to think when you are in the trenches that you are doing everything wrong, perhaps a cute monkey could do a better job raising your child at this moment, you aren’t sure you are doing the right thing…. and yet, for the most part for most children, stages pass and things even out, the things you worried so much about faded away.
  2. Plan for play and  fun!  I think if we can agree that most of the time things work out, and we provide balance, play and fun is something that children often need.  The world is much more highly stressful and structured with adult-led activities for children than it was even when we started out 18 years ago, and I think all children, teens, and adults need play. Play  as a family also helps build up a good memory bank so when things are hard or stressful, you have good connections to fall back on which opens up communication.
  3. There is no gift to children like time and attentive presence. The days are long, but the years are short, as the saying goes.  We all do the best we can do with this within the confines of our personalities, our own financial situations, etc., but providing time and a listening ear can go a long way!
  4. Balance is a key thing to help along.  Most children cannot provide balance to themselves as a developmental task, so it is our job as parents to guide things through our own modeling, through the use of rhythm in our home, through providing work as a balance to play, and to nurture responsibilty that comes with freedom.
  5. Every child is an individual, but every child is also a generalist.  By that I mean that I truly believe every child can learn to express themselves through the arts, to learn how to move their body best within their capacities, and to become someone who is kind, compassionate, and who can emotionally relate to others.  Yes, children and teens may find interests and passions in life, but being a generalist is a great foundation for life.
  6. Stability helps, but sometimes life just throws things at you.   We can teach our children to be resilient, and I don’t think we should be protecting our children from failure or from making mistakes or from learning mistakes.  Mistakes are life, and so are curveballs.  Instead, teaching a positive attitude and how to adapt becomes really important, along with boundaries and how those can help us build the life we want, even when things don’t go the way we wanted.

My top suggestions for those of you just starting out on your parenting journey:

Books and the Internet are helpful, but probably what is most helpful is to build up your own in person, in real life community (even if you meet them over the Internet first LOL).  My close friends have saved me so many times with their laughter, support, encouragement, love, gift of their time.  Every parent deserves that!

Start saving for college or trade school right away. This is so much more valuable than any baby shower gift.  Even if it is a small amount, it really helps in launching young adults out into the world.  Every little bit helps!  (Sorry, college applications on the brain!)

Enjoy parenting !  Sometimes you won’t enjoy every part of it, and some parents enjoy some stages more than other stages.  That doesn’t make you a bad parent, it makes you human.

And most of all, try to spend some time nurturing yourself and your close relationships in the midst of the busy in whatever way that means for you!  It’s hard to let things go for 18 years and then  try to get it all back!

Lots of love to you all, celebrating this happy day!

Carrie

Investment

Investment:  the act of devoting time, effort, or energy to a particular undertaking with the expectation of a worthwhile result.

I was thinking about this the other day – the way we invest in our children.  Did you ever think of parenting in that way?  What you spend your time on with  your children matters, because you are investing in them.

Perhaps the harder part of parenting, though, is waiting for our investment to grow, and wondering  along the way what constitutes a “worthwhile result.”  Maybe a “worthwhile result” might not be seen until our children are off and on their own as functioning adults? Or, if our children and teens are having trouble  does that mean our investment wasn’t worthy?  Parenting is so hard in that way – so many years invested, so much time, and yet perhaps no clear idea of our impact on our children’s lives until they are out and on their own. It seems a long time to wait!

I want to encourage you today that everything you are doing for your children to guide them, model for them, teach them, talk to them with compassion and to show them how to be compassionate in the world are true success stories in every moment. Show them the wonder of life and its goodness.  Show them where and how to make a difference in themselves and the world.  Show them how to listen and be still and to learn to do what is right for them and how to respect others.    We don’t have to wait until our children are grown to see the powerful impact we have as parents on our children’s lives.  Instead, we live it every day and in the moments we are together!

So, keep on with all the beautiful things you do to teach and guide and listen.  Your time is worth this investment!  You get your child once, and while the days are long, the years are short.

You might be thinking, well, I don’t think I have invested my time well.    I can’t get that time back, and I am so sad.  Life got in the way or I didn’t know how to invest my time in my children or I was so wounded by my own life I couldn’t do much more than what I was doing to survive…..  I want to encourage you as well. You can begin today.  Sometimes starting with  rhythms around your mealtimes and bedtimes is very helpful.  You might think that sounds like a tiny place to start, but I find we cannot model and talk about the big things if we cannot follow through on the little things that make up an ordinary day.  A meal prepared by all, eaten all together with a blessing or inspirational verse, can set the stage for the deepest of conversations and the most intimate gathering of hearts.

If you are wrestling with big teenagers with big issues, you have to start somewhere.  If there are truly big issues, sometimes you might need a big change or  large jolt to the system – my favorite vehicle for that is actually to change the environment and go tent camping and hiking.  There is something about being out in the woods, away from the constant interrupting of modern life, and the hours in a nature landscape of chirping birds and buzzing insects that helps a teenager to connect and talk.

Don’t give up!   It is a long but worthy road to travel!    I would love to hear where you are at in your family life.  Leave me a comment below!

Many blessings and much love,
Carrie

 

 

Book Study: Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles – Chapter 2

“The best antidote to U.S. teenagers’ major health problems – bad habits such as drinking, smoking, promiscuity – turns out to be a close connection with caring parents.” – The Journal of the Medical Association

This is a great quote I think, and it reminds all of us when we lose the forest for the trees why we try to do what we do.  Parenting and being in the trenches is exhausting!  The cajoling to reach normal things in the day for littles – going to the bathroom, brushing teeth, washing hair leads into  juggling homework, dealing with friends for older children and into navigating high school, driving, employment, romantic relationships and more for teenagers.  How can we do it?

I think the answer is in the title of this chapter, Chapter Two:  “The Decision to Connect.”  If we perceive the child as an obstacle to getting something done, something accomplished – then we may be sorely disappointed.  If our goal is to connect with our child in the process of life and in doing all the life things along the way, then we have a much better chance of success.

Chapter Two starts off with a great observation from children jumping rope.  The author writes, ” When we’re in those tugs of war with our kids, it’s much easier to see those struggles as opportunity once we realize we have the same options the kids across the street did.  We always have control of our end of the rope!  We can decide that this is the time to hang on tight, stand firm, and insist, “In our family this is the rule!”  Other times we may decide to step in and work with our child, enjoying together what we couldn’t do alone.  And then there are occasions when we realize it is time to let go of our end of the rope, to hand the whole thing over to our child, and say, “You’re ready.  Take it. You can make this decision.  You can handle it on your own.”

How do we know which of these tactics to use? I think some of it has to do with the size of decisions to be made, and the age of the child. and what our vision is for their adult life. How are we making them functional adults?  The author talks about Stephen Covey’s adage of “Begin with the end in mind.” She gives the example of sitting  with a three year old at bedtime, and people say don’t start that!  However, do you want your teens to see you as someone who makes time for them, who can answer their questions, who can be trusted and help them?  Think about the significant adults in your life who helped you (and those who didn’t) – what were their characteristics?

This does NOT mean we don’t have limits.  When I was a young parent, I think I had a picture of doing all the things so my children would feel close and connected.  I now think what children need to know is family is a partnership of respect, trust and communication between all parties.  Emotional coaching and teaching our children is about meeting their needs – of course!  It is about being responsive and senstive to them!  But it is also is about teaching them through being supportive and encouraging to meet the things that must happen, that need to happen.   How do we emotionally coach a child versus intimidating them?  Building relationships, and building a emotional coach type of parenting style is a process. You will mess it up along the way!  You may go back to less desirable behaviors.  Keep moving forward.  

One way to keep moving forward is to keep track of the developmental phase your child is in- what common things come up?  What has come up for your child?  What are potential strategies you could use to guide this while still connecting?  Who is YOUR support team?  I find many American mothers at least are functioning with NO support team.  No family really, if they have a partner they are gone for long hours, no neighbors per say.  You need a web of support.  Who can be in your pocket?  Who can you call when you are ready to melt down?

Can you identify what your child is feeling and why?  They may not be able to articulate it.  Most feelings have a need behind them.  What’s the need and what’s the best way, including the health of  you and the rest of the family, to address it?  This is partly why I am such a big proponent of rhythm for children – having the same rhythm really decreased the amount of decision making and stress.  If the bedtime order is always the same, there is less protesting and fighting.

Start with the little things–  there is a list on page 34, but here are my favorites from that list:

  • Don’t invalidate. Even if it doesn’t make sense, it can be important to your child, especially littles.  They don’t always make sense; they are little.
  • Take time to listen.
  • Assist but don’t take over
  • State things calmly.

There are great tips in this chapter!  I hope you all are enjoying this book.  When I first read this book, a long time ago, it seemed so much to take in but 18 years into parenting it seems pretty logical – so I think I am proof that we can grow and internalize these behaviors.  You can do it!  If you need help, and want to talk, I have some coaching sessions available by phone if you email me at admin@theparentingpassageway.com

Lots of love,
Carrie

Book Study: Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles

We are kicking off our new book study on Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles:  Winning for a Lifetime.”  Some of you may be familiar with Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s book, “Raising Your Spirited Child,” but this book is just as wonderful and I think applicable across a wide range of ages and stages. So grab a copy of the book and follow along!  Also, check out IG and FB @theparentingpassageway for tips/reminders each week based off some of the ideas in each chapter so we can all have winning families and be the parents we want to be!

I love how Mary Kurcinka writes, ” On the surface power struggles look like a tug of war.  Parents and kids pitted against one another.  Opposing forces pulling in different directions.  Two individuals at odds with each other, both determined to win!  The trouble is that if you win by simply outmuscling your child, you still feel lousy.  There’s little pleasure in victory when your child is left distressed and angry.  If you lose, it’s even worse.  When kind of a parent can’t even get a child to brush her teeth or finish her homework? Power struggles are frustrating.”

What a great summary of how things really go!  Who hasn’t feel angry or frustrated as a parent?

The reality is that a power struggle is like the tip of an iceburg.  Below the surface, every power struggle is about feelings and needs.  And feelings and needs encompass both parties involved.  Recognizing emotions and building relationships by responding to emotion is a way to deal with power struggles, because power struggles aren’t really about winning or losing.  

“Every power struggle offers you the opportunity to connect with your child or to disconnect.” (page 4)  If we can connect with our children, we can help our children and ourselves  cooperate, get along with each other – and play for the same team.  If we can become more emotionally intelligent, then our ability to manage our own intensity and our own triggers increases.

You can have a more harmonious home; emotional coaching is the key.  Seek first to understand and then be understood.

More to come on this wonderful book!

Blessings,
Carrie

Book Study: Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles

We are kicking off our new book study on Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles:  Winning for a Lifetime.”  Some of you may be familiar with Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s book, “Raising Your Spirited Child,” but this book is just as wonderful and I think applicable across a wide range of ages and stages. So grab a copy of the book and follow along!  Also, check out IG and FB @theparentingpassageway for tips/reminders each week based off some of the ideas in each chapter so we can all have winning families and be the parents we want to be!

The authors states in the “Greetings!” section that she saw families that were winning and gives examples of the parent who could scoop up a toddler headed for a meltdown and totally change the direction, the parents who can just raise an eyebrow and their child actually stops doing what the parent asked them not to do, parents and teenagers living together happily.  So what’s the secret for the rest of us?  Part of what she discovered, outside of love, was the idea of emotional intelligence.  There is a great sentence on page  xiv:

People who are emotionally intelligent are able to use their knowledge of emotions to nurture their most important relationships, and to build the connections that lead them to want to work together.

Read that again.  So does that mean if things are not going well, or if we have a spirited child, or a troubled teenager, that we aren’t emotionally intelligent?  Not necessarily; after all, things happen.  Life happens.  Sometimes we are just tired in the trenches.  But, it could also mean maybe we need a reminder or a tune-up to use our emotional intelligence to build a family team, to connect.  Perhaps we need a reminder to use this to help OUR CHILDREN learn to recognize their own emotions and take care of their own emotions if they are old enough – just like we teach them to take care of their physical bodies. 

But in order to do this, we have to be able to take care of our OWN strong emotions.  And I think many of us never learned how.  I think that’s why as an American society in particular, we see domestic violence/intimate partner violence, why we have an opioid epidemic, why people drink a lot after work, why people stuff their emotions down.    And part of dealing with our strong emotions involves some things many people try to avoid:

  • being vulnerable with others
  • building up a tight-knit support community (family members or not!  I think today most people say their support is NOT their extended family but chosen family)
  • learning to communicative in a way that is not passive-aggressive or full of sarcasm or put-downs, but in a way that says in a heartfelt way, this is what I need, this is what I hear you saying, can you recognize me and how can we work together
  • self-care – if we are completely exhausted, constantly on the go, never eating good food or drinking enough or exercising or taking care of our spiritual life, how can we hope to have enough to give our children or to be able to teach our children?

Just a few of my thoughts off these brief pages.  So grab your copy of the book, and look forward to diving into Chapter 1 on Monday!

Blessings,
carrie