My cousin, mother of twin girls, sent me an illustration last week of Baby Sleep position from How to Be a Dad. It was one of those funny-because-it’s-too-true kind of funnies. And my 5 year old’s belly laughs were just a little too heartfelt if you ask me. There are more on the website. If you relate. Which something tells me you probably will! My personal favorite is Booby Trap with Snow Angel being my son’s fave. Which one hits most closely to home for you? Which one makes you laugh…until you cry?
Tag: slow family movement
I have realized lately that I love Valentines Day just about more than any other holiday. It brings together so many of the things that are so important to me – appreciation, crafts, letter writing, chocolate and all done in the name of love. What’s not to love?
I’m not talking the commercial celebration of it all – the guilt, the obligatory rose, the holy crap I don’t have a gift to give kind of feeling.
I’m talking the heart of it all. The sharing of the expression of love. The letting people know just how much they are appreciated and valued and loved. Truly loved. No other strings necessary or attached. Love is where the heart is. The heart is where the love is.
I’ve decided this year I am going to extend the holiday to be more than just a day. I’m going to stretch it into an entire season starting, well, starting now I guess. I have dug out the necessary paper, scissors and glue. I am clearing a place on our table which will be active for the next 3 weeks at least. We are going to make cards and we are going to write love letters to each other and to family members spread around the country.
If Christmas can be extended like it is, why not Valentines Day? Starting today I’m going to write one love letter a day in an effort to spread the love. I’m going to start with my own family under my own roof then I’m going to send them far and wide. And perhaps the beauty of love is, giving it is just as much fun as getting it. Gotta love that!
I get this reminder rather frequently these days. Right now I’m being walloped with it. Time flies.
My baby is turning 5. Wasn’t he just born? My oldest is looking at high schools. Didn’t she just learn how to read? My mom is thinking of selling her house because she’s 86 and a half and it’s a lot of house. Didn’t she just get it how she wants it? And my calendar is nearing it’s last page of the year. Wait. What?
So in these continuous messages I am trying to catch my breath. Really and truly trying to breathe through it all very thoughtfully, consciously, intentionally. I am slowing down at yellow lights rather than trying to rush ahead. I am turning off the phone in the evenings. I am looking my family members in the eye. And I am very mindfully giving lots and lots of heart to heart hugs. Every morning when I greet my family for the first time. Big hug. Throughout the day when we encounter each other in the kitchen, the livingroom, the back yard, big hugs. And at the end of the day before bed the goodnights are deep and thoughtful and we really, really look each other in the eye. There you are. I see you. You see me too.
Because as fast as everything seems to be going, one thing we’ve definitely got is now. Right now. So I want to make sure I show up.
Especially this last page of the calendar. Which can sometimes take on a life of its own.
Oh, there you are. I see you. You see me.
I have really been examining my listening skills lately. Realizing in that examination that often I am either distracted or I try to talk my kids and partner out of what they’re feeling or wanting or needing. Really. A little song, dance, explanation or solution to get them back to happy. Even when they don’t want a fix, I offer it. Even when they’re really just venting, I try to convince them that it’s not true what they’re experiencing or feeling. Even when they don’t need me to do anything but just be there and listen, I tend to talk, offer solutions and ideas. Sometimes on top of their own words. Too many words. Too much noise. Too much input.
I’ve always been a talker, that much is true. I even have a certificate from 8th grade proving it: MOST TALKATIVE. As if that wasn’t enough there is another one right behind it: CLASS CLOWN. A dangerous combination in the classroom has become even more treacherous in the home.
But I’m trying to change that.
Not that I’m going to get all quiet and serious. Hell no. But I am going to try to shut it a bit more when my family is talking. I am going to try to just let the good members of my family vent, share, talk, express and even ramble a little bit. (Is that a judgment? the ramble part?) It has taken me a long time to learn/realize that when they are talking, for the most part they’re not really seeking input. Rather they just want a sounding board. And with all of them, from the nearly 5 year old on up to the 45 year old partner, the more I let them talk, the more I listen, the more I learn and the more they eventually come to their own conclusions about what they want/need/feel. Without any help from their armchair psychologist/class clown of a mother/partner.
It’s kind of hard for me but in the end it’s really way easier. And it’s good for me to have a daily goal. And in the end too there are/will be far fewer arguments, hurt feelings, misunderstandings and the like. And there are/will be far more own conclusions and remedies for what is ailing them.
There are lots of words for it: empathic listening, active listening, responsive listening, reflective listening. And there are lots of amazing books on it and experts. But really, what it boils down to for me is presence to the people I’m with and the task at hand. In this case the people being family and the task being to just be there. Pure and simple.
Today I worked 12 hours away from the home. These past couple of weeks actually I’ve been taken away from the home for long stretches. Fortunately I have a good support team at home, including our newest 24 year old family member who is staying with us for a while which I won’t go too deeply into but I will say, if you ever get a chance to welcome in a 20-something family member into your home when you’ve got youngins in the house, you should LEAP at the chance. It is heaven for us all. But I digress, and I am back to being away for long times. And back to tonight.
Tonight I got home just before bed. And even though I hadn’t seen everyone all day, we found a little nugget of slow and connection and it was enough to make it so that the end of the night felt full up instead of drained. Really.
After bed prep and papers looked at and teeth brushed and the like we all just laid in the big bed together. Well, I say all, but really me and three of the four. And we talked. Shared our highs and lows and just sort of rolled around. Bedtime was a little later than usual but not much and by the time I tucked them all in, they were all feeling seen. And heard. And I was feeling connected – which I was not when I came into the house just before. And it wasn’t anything huge. Or earth shattering. It was really just a settling into where we were at that very moment in time. Together. In that bed. In that room. In this house. On this earth. That’s all.
And then that magical meditation on the side of the bed and goodnight kids.
Sometimes it just works. Sometimes we are able to find the connection in even the smallest of moments. Tonight was one of those nights. And for that I am oh so grateful.
I’ll take slow where I can get it.
We just looked at the calendar and realized it’s less than just over a week until school starts. WHAT??? Already??? It’s this time of year when I think homeschooling everyone might be kind of fun. I at least enjoy the idea that it’s an idea.
We’re trying to get our heads in the game as far as what it means to start up again with the 6:45 alarm and the homework and the lunches, but honestly, we usually opt for more of a baptism by fire. In some ways that works – especially as far as the rising early goes – but in some ways it sort of catches us off guard.
One thing we do every year is have a little back to school family party the night before. We state some high points of the summer. We all set some goals of things we want to have happen this school year, what we might want to learn or do. And we celebrate our life together as a family. If you have some things you do each year to make it breezy, I’d love to hear them!
Suz Lipman at Slow Family Online, a great site and resource for all things family, just posted a great list of ways to intentionalize the back to school process – for yourself and for your whole family. It’s a good one with lots of amazing tips. Check it out when you have a few minutes.
And if you’re going back to school here in Austin, be sure to check out our 4th annual Zilker Elementary Back to School Clothes Swap. Bring what you can. Take what you need. We’ll have clothes from infants to adults. As usual, we’ll have sewers and screen printers on hand to help you one-of-a-kind a fave garment picked from the piles. Come and swap and see what amazing ensembles you can put together for back to school!
Things change in summer. Bedtime hours vary. Schedules are more random. More books are read in a week than during a month of the school year. Even with our early rising for summer swim team, we don’t keep such an eye on bedtime because of the knowledge that a midday siesta is definitely a possibility. Life in general feels a little more spacious even when we are doing lots of things and seeing lots of people.
I think it’s partly the long hours of daylight that give us this spacious feeling. Or maybe it’s that we’re more in control of our unscheduled time because it doesn’t hold so much homework or so many meetings or fundraising obligations.
Maybe though it’s just an illusion. Which is fine with me, because illusion is part of reality anyway. And this illusion should serve me once school starts back again in fall and I can take on this same spacious feeling.
I’m curious how others feel in the summer. I’m wondering whether this feeling is sort of universal or whether its a fabrication of my own mindset. Is it just that I relax more in these days? Or is there actually more time and space allotted? How does your summer feel? Does your family operate differently in the summer than during the school year?
When a family splits, the trauma often reverberates for years, as family members struggle to adapt to a “new normal” of mom’s house, dad’s house, and new adult partners in the mix.
Austin writer Jennifer Newcomb Marine and her children’s stepmother,Carol Marine used their own experience around divorce and remarriage to write a book called Noone’s the Bitch; strengthening step families one mother/stepmother relationship at a time. If you are the mother or the step mother and you are seeking ways to create a bridge with the other woman in your child’s life, this book is definitely for you.
Starting this week, Jennifer is hosting a 6 week tele-conference, called Transformation Labs, for women seeking solutions for their own step-family relationships. Says Jennifer, “Creating a bridge enabled us to cobble the family nest back together again. It took time and sometimes we still go backwards, but we have created a foundation that is strong and durable. Now our kids have three adults in their lives who are on the same page, clucking and fretting over them, together. I know they feel loved. They have told me they feel heard.”
If you are in a stepfamily, or know someone who is, and want to learn how to build more connection into it all, check out the work of Jennifer and Carol.
We interrupt your summer to bring you this important bit of information…
I’m doing a little summer reading over here. Some light stuff you know. This one in my hand is called Stop Arguing with Your Kids: how to win the battle of wills by making your child feel heard. It’s got some great information in it and it is especially pertinent in our household as we segue from school to summer. It’s stuff we might have known but need a bit of a reminder on. Big transitions call for refreshing the toolbox.
The section I’m currently working on is chapter 2: The Five Steps of Responsive Listening. In quick review, here they are:
- At the first sign of an argument, check the impulse to argue back with your child and concentrate instead on listening to the child’s feelings.
- Invite your child’s thoughts, feelings, and wishes – without defending or disagreeing (and to this I add, without judging)
- Repeat the child’s position in your own words to show what you think he or she is thinking and feeling.
- Ask the child to correct your impression or elaborate on his or her point of view.
- Take time out to consider your decision – on minor matters by puasing before responding with our decision, or for more difficult situations by saying that you’ll talk more about it later.
Okay, now back to your summer. I wish you all a little peace in your own summer days. With less yelling and more enjoyable being. Together.
We schedule just about everything in our lives. We schedule work. And exercise. And social time. And doctor’s appointments. And sports. And parties. And volunteer time too. Look at most any family calendar and you will see all sorts of activities, events, appointments and obligations.
Often though we are hesitant to create this same intention for family life. Or we schedule it but then if something else comes up we bump family time to the side as if it will just happen on its own.
But it doesn’t always. It needs the same intention and attention that we give most every other aspect of our lives.
I usually remember this. Most often we try to keep one day each weekend just for time with each other. But sometimes we forget. And we get back on the bandwagon of thinking that family time will just happen without any thought at all.
And then a little reminder comes in some form or fashion. And I am grateful to put it on the calendar again.