Let Me Tell You Your Mission (In Case You Forgot)

One thing a friend of mine and I were talking about recently is that there is room in the adult world for all kinds of people with all their various quirks and personalities and temperaments.  The diversity of people is such a beautiful thing, and I know I am so grateful that different people want to do different jobs than I would want to do; that different people have different strengths and abilities; that different people even look different and live differently because I find so much beauty in all the varying cultures and faces of the world.  I love it!

So why do people act as if our sole parenting mission, and yes, especially in the middle and upper classes, is for our children to get into a good college and be on a college track?  I am not saying that education is not important.  It is important, but how can we balance this in a healthy way?

Having our teens stress themselves out to the point of having psychosomatic illnesses and fearing for the future and not wanting to grow up because being a teen is already stressful enough (so how stressful must adulthood be?) is not helping this generation.  ANXIETY has now taken over depression as something teenagers are dealing with.  According to this article in the NY Times, 62 percent of undergrads are reporting “overwhelming anxiety.”  There has been a doubling of hospital admissions for suicidal teenagers.  

So, exactly what happens when the push, push for the “good college” is acheived?  What happens in real life outside of this?  My point is that people (and teenagers) are made of more than just their academic portfolio.  There is space in the adult world for many people with their many likes and dislikes and interests and passions. In fact, the adult world probably needs you especially, teenager who is different.

So, parents,  let me tell you your mission in case you have forgotten.  You are here to support your teen and to help guide them.  If you see them putting such pressure on themselves to perform, how can you step in and help them? What will they really need in the adult world to meet their definition of success?  Is their definition of success even healthy? One of the many points in the NY Times article above is that parents are not always driving the anxiety of these teenagers anymore by pushing them, but that instead the teens are internalizing the anxiety themselves and pushing themselves relentlessly.  Health and social relationships are, to me, more important and deserve even more time than academic work.  

You cannot live their life for them.  You are here to help your teen unfold and be who they are going to be.

Life is messy.  Being a teen is messy .  Be supportive and be kind, because you may not know much of what your teen is dealing with at all.

When people ask me about my parenting and goals for my children, I essentially say I want them to be healthy and helpful human beings.  Human beings who are good and loyal friends and family members who will help others.  Human beings who are ethical and who do not divide their public and private lives.  Human beings who can relax and have fun, and yes, make a contribution to something greater than themselves and support themselves.  That is an exciting parenting mission.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

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Raising Children With Integrity

It seems to me there is an epidemic right now in American society of narcissitic males in my age group.  I have heard from many women dealing with this, and it is very sad how this is affecting families.  (If you are unsure what this is, try this article; it is a personality disorder that begins very early in life, cannot be diagnosed until adulthood, and is very difficult to treat).  Somehow, though, I started making the leap from narcissism to  – well, what makes a good human being?  How do I want my son or daughter to act in a relationship when they have their own families?   These traits, of course, are not exactly opposite narcissism another since narcissism is a psychological order and I am talking in generalities about raising children who can function in relationships.

However, I think much of this boils down to integrity.  I have seen so many relationships ripped apart by not just self-centeredness (which is different from narcissism) but by a complete lack of integrity; public lives are not at all the same as what is going on in private; the partner and family are not first.  I think what is most difficult about this is the model it sets for children; children generally know something is going on when things don’t match up.

So in order to teach integrity, one must live in integrity.  What does this mean?

I think it means several things:

Merging your personal and private lives.  Don’t act in such a way or be into things in your private life that you would be completely embarrassed and upset if your children found out.  Be consistent across the arenas and roles of your life.  That is part of having a moral character.  Having a conscious and understanding of what you are doing when it is vastly different from one role to another helps you correct this and stop.

Believe in people, help people, build people up. If you live in a family  with other people, it is not just about you.  Self-centeredness is not a good trait on the job or in the family.  We expect adolescents to be self-centered, not forty-year-olds.  Be equitable and fair in how you deal with people and teach your children to do the same.

Be accountable – apologize first, admit when you are wrong, try to make amends. Love people enough to build bridges with those you can (and I am not talking about toxic relationships here.  For these people, I think it is important for our children to see us as we model boundaries).   Hold your children accountable in how they treat you, other members of the family, themselves, and in relationships outside the home.  Accountability in relationships and respect in relationships go hand in hand.

Follow through – If your word means anything, you will follow through on what you say and what you believe and your children will do the same.

Be honest and loyal, and teach your children not just how to not be a bully, but how to empathize with people and feel what they are feeling.  Part of integrity requires emotional intelligence, and again, thinking about others and being a good communicator. Relationships sometimes dissolve, not over bullying, but over one party not being able to read the other and respond to that.    Teaching children how to deal with conflict in a productive manner is so important.

Believe in the positive; look for the helpers and  any good things in the tragedies of the world.

Blessings,
Carrie

Standing Tall

In a world of beautiful Facebook and Instagram posts, it is not always easy to admit when we struggle with our children.  Actually, it is fairly easy to admit about struggling with a little person and their inability to nap, or late potty training, or  high energy.  I find we can even talk and laugh about the 8-14 year old set; the talking back and sassiness; the energy and then the dip in energy.  However, it is not always as easy to talk about the mid- to- late teenaged years and all the things the teenagers are dealing with.  Stress.  Depression. Suicide attempts.  Alcohol and drug addiction.   Overdosing.  Eating disorders.  Other mental health disorders.  Rage.  Date rape.  Violence from a dating partner.  Still dealing with the aftermath of parental divorce.   There are so many challenges to face, and parents are facing them with their children in love.

Several weeks ago,in a town not too far from us, there was a beautiful young lady who committed suicide.  I don’t know the story behind it, but I feel so deeply for not only her, but for her parents in this horrific tragedy.    I cannot imagine what they are going through; perhaps it is such a  lonely time being in the aftermath, but perhaps also there was loneliness in parenting leading up to this event. I can imagine that and think about that.   The things that go on in the mid to late teenaged years, (unlike potty training mishaps or picky eating or even tweenish talking back and asking for advice on all kinds of  parent forums), seems private and underground.  This is partly out of respect for the beautiful and sometimes oh so fragile human being blossoming before parents’ eyes, but also partly because it is an era of happy social media selfies where major issues don’t have much of a place.

Even if a family is not dealing with catastrophic issues, there can be a sort of  low-lying pressure surrounding  these years...a competitive game of sorts.  At least among the middle to upper class families that I observe, even in the homeschooling community,  I think it can be a race in a stream–of-consciousness way, like a James Joyce novel:  how many sports and how good are you and will you play in college and get a scholarship in college and how many AP Courses and Honors courses are you taking and where will you go to college and what will you do and how late can you stay up doing homework because I have to stay up until 2 to get everything done and how many places do you volunteer because you know that will look good on a college application and what do you mean you haven’t visited 12 or 14 colleges yet I mean you are a junior now and are you dual enrolling and why not and how about finishing college before you are 18 and what sort of career will you have and are you sure you can get work in that field…..

My hope for bringing this up is actually  not to be depressing, but instead to be hopeful. There can be a lot of funny and beautiful moments in the mid to late teenaged years.  There can be so many opportunities for connection, so long as you don’t let them  constantly bury themselves in a video game or on a phone. Insist they come to the lake with you or go out with the family for a walk or spend time with their siblings.  Help them get involved with things that matter to them and yes, I think there is truth in keeping them somewhat busy if they have that temperament and personality ( or letting them be if they don’t have that personality!)  Help balance them, know when to push and when to let go, but most of all, just love them.  The mid to late teenaged years are a hard time. Love will see them through.

Most of all, and this perhaps sounds a bit odd to those not in this stage of life yet with children, but this time is for you.  Find your beautiful tribe of mother friends who will support you and love you and take you to tea and dinner so you can talk and be together.  At this point, it really doesn’t matter anymore if your children and the children of your mother friends get along.  You are so far past play dates.  These relationships and this love is for you!

If you have a spouse or partner, lean into that person.  Love that person.  Be together, and be the wall and rock that the storm of teenage can bounce off of. Stand tall and stand proud. Find yourself again, because your teenagers need to see you as a person and see what you stand for.  Be that for them in the midst of the low and high pressure points of these years. 

And most of all, don’t be afraid to get help and to ask for professional support.  In so many of these cases, I have friends who said getting help was wonderful.  They wished they hadn’t waited until things snowballed further along.  Get help and get it now.  Involve the whole family and see what beauty and strength and courage can come out of these  harder situations.

To all of you standing tall with the struggles of your mid to late teens, I see you.  I am so glad today’s generation of teenagers has parents just like you.  Stand tall and fly high for these young people.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

Vibrant Life! (Or, Get Out Of Your Own Way!)

I have been talking to so many people lately who are experiencing tremendous growth.  They are building businesses, creating new loving relationships, experiencing an increased level of intimacy with their partners and children and more!  It is very exciting, and so inspiring!

Yet, there is a certain group of people I hear from.  For lack of a better word, they are stuck.  I understand stuck; I had a fairly fallow period last year where I felt stuck for awhile.  However, sometimes stuck can mean  years  in something that is like a never-ending cycle that the person  can’t  seem get out of.  Of course, bad things can always, always happen to good people!  However, we always have a chance for growth in how we respond, and by being open we are to change and growth.  And I have found in talking with mothers and spouses and young adults, that this cycle often has identifiable patterns, if only one could see them.

We can always ask ourselves, “What area of my life am I “stuck” in right now?”  We can look for substantial patterns by reviewing our own biography – where were our major life events, and when?  Were the big things external or internal?  Was I  a mover and a shaker or did things just happen passively to me?    What were my reactions to things?  My reaction to stressful things?

Identifying that we are stuck, (and I think most of us have been there at one point or another, again,  I know I have!)  is only part of the battle.  The other part of it is DOING something about it. And this is where I find most people have trouble.  Because whether or not they want to admit it, there is some kind of pay-off to being stuck in the same patterns and cycles over and over.  Maybe it is easier to withdraw rather than stand up.  Maybe it is easier to not choose intimacy and vulnerability.  Sometimes just being comfortable and not having to risk anything is enough of a pay-off.  Sometimes being rigid is protective.  I don’t know what the pay-off is for any particular reason; that is something that they must discover within themselves.

If we can identify patterns in our life, where we are stuck, and what our pay-off is, I think then we have a chance at changing.  And in order to change, we have to be more open and more flexible than ever before.  Some people are just not flexible or ready for growth. This step can take time. Sometimes this step can take the help of a really good counselor or other mental health care professional.  Because if we are willing to grow, then we can think in the possibilities and in the positive mindset of growth.  The most amazing things can and do happen!

Once we are open and ready for change, we can set goals, and then break those goals down.  We may  have to think in the smallest of steps.  For example, what one step could I take today toward this goal that is now broken down into smaller steps?  What are the few things I can do each day to make that one step happen?    Realistically, what do I need to make the smallest of steps happen? Do I need support from a friend? Therapy?  More money coming in?  To free up time?  To change my priorities?  To put myself out into the world in a vulnerable position and accept that?

Don’t be stuck; get out of your own way and make your beautiful life happen.  You have it in you!  The possibilities are before you. ❤

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Special thanks to my good friends S. and N. for many discussions on this topic!!

Combat Your Emotions: Sustainable Parenting

Perhaps one of the most incredible lessons we come up against as parents are the emotions that parenting withdraws from US.  Fear, anger, worry, jealousy – all of these emotions are real and we must deal with them in order to be the best parent we can.  Different stages of child development, different stages of adult development, and where we are in this process of dealing with our own internal emotions all mix together, and if we do it right, we become a parent who has  a sustainable parenting style.

While I actually don’t consider emotions such as fear or anger negative, the older I become, the more it hits me over and over that having these emotions and attaching to these emotions is just not sustainable in parenting.  For me, being able to acknowledge the emotion or feeling and then being able to let it go without feeling the need to act upon it has been freeing.  It is okay to feel sad, angry, upset, fearful in parenting.  We all go through it.  However, instead of falling into these emotions (and falling apart) and burning up our physical and energetic levels, we must instead use clarity of thinking as a great balancer.

Children do things that are annoying.  That is just a fact.  Children do things, that through no fault of their own, trigger our own emotional baggage.  Thinking things through instead of just reacting become a lifeline that we can hang on to!  Some of my favorite ways to combat my own emotions and calm down include taking everyone outside; going for a walk myself; making sure I have eaten something and have been sleeping (and getting help if I have not); breathing in the moment and knowing I can come back to something that is not a life or death situation; letting go of my emotions and try to remember what developmental level my child is in and where I am.

What things help you be a sustainable parent?

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

it isn’t even sustainable for an evening. I don’t like conflict; I get a stomachache and I don’t feel well.  The whole house is unhappy.  What works better for me is to figure out long-term boundaries; to be able to think in the moment the best way to handle a tired and screaming child or a snarky teenager that doesn’t involve anger.  Because the minute I allow anger into that scenario, nothing goes well.  Anger, if we let it, can

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Amazing Birthday

Above my head the stars do shine

Each star is like a flame,

And one is mine, that o’er me shone

When to this earth I came.

Upon this Earth my step is firm,

The stones are ‘neath my feet

I see the birds and beasts and flowers,

And loving people greet.

And every year the day returns

When my star shineth bright,

And I receive within my heart

The glory of its light.

-from “Waldorf Education:  A Family Guide”, page 130

Birthdays  in the Waldorf tradition for small children often involve a cape and a crown, lovely homemade cupcakes that are not too sugary, wishes from others for the development of character traits or the simple things in life, simple gifts of unusual stones, shells, flower petals.  It may involve a story of the child’s birth.  As the years go by, the cape and crown and simple gifts may recede, but the sentiments remain the same.

Today is my birthday, and I find it is an amazing day full of gratitude.  I am so grateful for all the things I learned in the last year, even the hard things!  I am grateful to be here for yet another birthday (47 today!), and grateful my husband has celebrated 29 birthdays with me.

Being in the late 40’s is empowering.  The crisis of 35-42 is gone, and I find these late 40s  on the cusp of a new cycle to be one of imagination, newness, warmth, and confidence.  I am so looking forward to this year and to 49 next year – the beginning of a new seven year cycle of 49-56 which I hope will bring more fun, more adaptability and humor.  My husband expressed to me this morning that life is a journey and how we enjoy the ride together.  This may sound like a cliche, but not at our age.  There are so many new possibilities to be open to, and the ability to grow and change together.  I have ideas just flowing into my head lately, and hope to be able to make at least a small part of them reality!

I hope when you have your birthday, you remind yourself of your own special energy, your own special thing that you bring to this short walk on earth, the wonderful gifts that you bring, and all the possibilities that life has for you.  It should be no less special to have  birthday when we are fifty  than when we are four.  Let us not forget!

Many blessings to you, my friends, and thank you for reading here.

Carrie

Rest As A Task For The Waldorf Homeschooling Parent

There is an interesting article entitled, “Sleep As A Task Of Waldorf Education,” by Peter Loebell available here. If we view sleep as an essential component not only of education, but as a way to gain inspiration and intuition from the spiritual realms, how much more vital is sleep and rest for the homeschooling parent who is not only parenting 24/7 but teaching multiple main lesson blocks to children of different ages?

The three ways this article discusses engaging children in the curriculum in order for it to carry positively applies to us as teachers as well.  The three conditions are:

  1.  Use of creative tasks that require symmetry and sense that the child, (or we), want to “finish.”  This implies, that we, as teachers, should be finding time for our own artistic pursuits – music (singing and instrumental), form drawing, drawing, painting, sculpture, movement, and having an impulse to finish things.    The article mentions: “The active urge to finish incomplete forms stimulates the body of formative energy to pulsate further during sleep. The child has, through this, the tendency to finish what was begun so that through the night a permanent ability can be attained from the practiced activity.”
  2. Engaging both the physical body and the life-forces of the body through an outer activity such as eurythmy.  We often don’t have eurythmy at home, but we do have physical activities as part of rhythm, and we do have use of the word and gesture through poetry with movement.  These things can be carried into sleep and help form the next day’s energy.
  3. Lastly, we teach ourselves when we are preparing for a lesson and we carry this into how we present things to our children. ” If we do not stimulate the children to their own physical activity during a lesson, then there is a third aspect to consider. We must stimulate the deliberate, understanding perception of the children when we teach from a phenomenological science experiment or describe a historical event in such a manner that they direct their full attention to the lesson content so that they are constantly coming to conclusions.”  This is also why we often have a day that invokes “feeling” work (artistic work in a Main Lesson) and another day for the formation of concepts, the academic work.  The work we do with our children can inherently be restful to ourselves so long as we are not rushed.  If we have many children who need main lessons, we combine as much as possible, and then we can also choose to offer  main lessons three to four days a week so we have no more than 2-3 main lessons on a day.  Many mothers say they cannot teach more than two main lessons; I personally know many mothers, including myself, who have to teach three main lessons.  It is doable, but only with rest as a priority.  I do not think teaching more than three main lessons would be doable for anyone; and many could not teach three separate lessons, so combining down to two lessons would be the best way to do this if possible. If you would like ideas about combining main lesson blocks for grades, please email me at admin@theparentingpassageway.com

Joy, creativity, learning, and rest are all interwoven.  We chose to bring the artistic component into our own inner work and lives in order to become better teachers and better human beings.

Blessings,
Carrie