Tag: Slow Family
I’m about to get in the car on a chilly, rainy day to drive about 1000 miles with my brother and my four kiddos to visit another brother and his wife. I am excited about being there. Excited about being in the snow of Colorado and hanging out with family and having a Thanksgiving in the mountains. Yay team! We’re going on a road trip!
We are no stranger to the road trip. We logged about 5000 miles this summer heading to the east coast from Texas. I love a road trip. But admittedly, most of my road trips have been summer journeys with long hours of daylight and open windows and stopping to rest in the grass on the side of the road. This time around? Things will be a little different and the mountains of down coats are a sure sign of that. And I realized this winter/cold/mountain road trip was giving me a little pause.
I was not really nervous about the drive, as we’ll just be doing interstate the whole way. (unlike our summer travels!) I was nervous about being in the car with everyone in those long hours of closed in darkness. I was anticipating some things that weren’t really all that appealing; like arguments over who would sit where and noise level complaints from a certain introvert teen, and really, just a general dissatisfaction of it all which I fully anticipated falling into face first.
So last night, when I was talking to my pal Carrie Contey, she asked me, as she is wont to do, “So, what are your intentions for the trip?”
Apparently, unconsiously, my intentions were to have a fight-filled journey and be faced with a certain level of dissatisfaction.
So I pondered. Hmm. What DO I want? What ARE my intentions? I knew I’d have a blast once we got there, but getting there was another story.
And I decided to set a whole new CONSCIOUS intention instead. I want to have fun. Enjoy the journey. See the sights. Laugh and be playful. I want to create rather than react.
I’ll do that by anticipating that all will actually be good. And if there is some fighting and some dissatisfaction, I’ll try to see it without falling into it. And I’ll try to embrace the beingness of each person there in the car, INCLUDING MYSELF!
I’m going to anticipate goodness. And I know that by putting that lens on things, we’ll all have a much better time.
I’m going to seriously activate my re-set button. And realize that sometimes all it takes to shift things around is a conscious decision to do so.
And remember that I don’t have to go to every fight I’m invited to. Whether in the car on a dark, snowy mountain or anywhere else.
My intention is to have fun.
It was several years ago that Carrie Contey and I came up with the idea for Slow Family Living, after a workshop we did together. Though she handed the Slow Family reins to me a few years back, we still collaborate on many projects and on life in general. It is an inspired/inspiring web of new ideas.
Just recently we worked together on a web conference Carrie has organized with En*theos called YOUR Extraordinary Family Life, in which she has called together 15 amazing folks in the fields of parenting, human development, psychology, neuroscience, holistic nutrition, slow living and personal growth. And I am one of them! When I say amazing I’m talking about people like Dr. Dan Siegel, Peggy O’Mara, Larry Cohen, Lenore Skenazy, Renee Trudeau and so many more. Needless to say I am HONORED to be counted among these incredible minds. I loved doing the interview with Carrie about Slow Family Living and I can’t wait to tune into to hear what all the others have to say!
The conference runs initially November 4-7th and then will be available online after that. It’s free if you sign up now. So might I recommend that you take a couple of minutes and go do that?
The saying, “We all like different things” has been posted on our refrigerator for years now. I penned it one frustrating evening when every familial argument seemed to be one member trying to convince another that their perspective, likes, dislikes, tastes or ideas were correct, while the other person’s were then obviously incorrect. Each person then thinking that if others weren’t in agreement with their choices, words, thoughts, paths, decisions, then they were obviously being insulted. Not that the sign has ended such discussions, but now I can merely point to the sign that says it all: WE ALL LIKE DIFFERENT THINGS. Plain and simple.
My own mother used to say a similar thing in Latin… De Gustibus non es des putantum, which meant, “there is no accounting for taste,” or, in other words, “please stop arguing already.” Over the years it got shortened and we would say, after a lengthy, ahem, dialogue, “that’s a De Gustibus.” (forgive my Latin here, not sure if that’s how it’s spelled)
It is human nature I suppose that convincing one another of our perspective is sport. Or hobby. Or way to wile away the time. At least in the families I’ve lived in so far.
This mantra of mine has come to encompass much more than just a settling of arguments; I also refer to it when pondering what will work for each person. Take, for example, our morning routine: 6 people, getting up, dressed, fed, gathered and out the door all in a timely fashion and so, I must remember my mantra…
We all like different things. We all like different things. We all like different things.
And we all have different needs.
One child can be up, dressed, eaten, ready in 15 minutes. Another needs a long lay about time, but not too long, or he starts thinking perhaps he’d rather stay home then head out to school. Another is a slow, slow waker who likes a long, hot shower to open her eyes, freshen her mind, and get her head on right in order to greet the world. I have finally realized my snooze button gets me nowhere and so, I have become an instant waker. More out of necessity than desire. Though I’ve tried to kick my night owl tendencies, it will never be in my nature to get up before the sun.
So finally, after so many years of trying to get everyone up at once, and trying to get everyone to fall into the same routine, and trying to put all my variously shaped pegs into one round hole, finally we have created a staggered start that seems to really work.
Rather than everyone up at once, it’s one at a time. Rather than all of us eating breakfast together, which was nice in my head but not always in actuality, there is a rotation which looks more like a relay than a shot-gun start.
In addition to everyone getting the start they need, there are benefits I never dreamed of from this new way of doing things:
- Everyone has a little more space to do the things they need to do.
- I get a tiny dose of one on one with each child at wake up time and at the table.
- There is less conflict because everyone isn’t trying to get to the same place at the same moment in time.
- By meeting everyone where they are, everyone is able to tap in a little more into what they need and want. A valuable life skill for sure.
- Though in my head it’s always so important to do things as a family, I am able to remember the importance of seeing each person as an individual and remembering that we all need/want/like different things.
About 22 years ago or so, I sent a postcard to my now-husband, then boy-I-had-met-on-a-trip-to-Chicago. He didn’t have a phone in his artist’s studio/warehouse where he was living but wasn’t supposed to be inhabiting. So I sent him a postcard telling him the flight I was taking from Newark, NJ to Austin, TX had a 3+ hour layover and I thought maybe, since he was not only a starving artist but also a cab driver, just maybe he could pop in and say hello. I mailed it without knowing whether he got it or not.
As we taxiied up to the gate I had kind of forgotten, well not really forgotten but kind put out of my mind, that he might actually show up. I got off the plane and there he was, his beautiful face, standing at the end of the chute with a big smile and this sweet leather beret he would wear when he drove the cab. We spent the next 3 hours talking, making out, having a drink, talking and dreaming about a future together.
I always think of that 3 hour layover as the tipping point in our relationship. The day we actually decided that we really liked each other. A lot. And the day we pondered how we coule make it work so that we could be together. A few months later, he came down to Texas and now, 4 children later, here we are.
So why am I telling you all this? Because it’s 9/11 and I think of all the changes that have happened to our existence since then and one of them is how we go to the airport. See, if it had been after 9/11 we wouldn’t have had the opportunity for that chance encounter. He couldn’t have come to the gate. We couldn’t have rendezvoused for a few hours planning out the next 20 years of our life together. And I probably wouldn’t have reached out because meeting up outside the gate would have felt like a lot of work and planning without phones. (oh yeah, no cell phones then either.) And it might have felt like an imposssibility. Plus, that feeling, of seeing him at the end of the gateway? Come on! That was like seeing heaven!
There was a certain fearlessness that accompanied the time before 9/11. I wish we could have that feeling back. And maybe we can. That feeling of trust. A friend posted this today on her Facebook wall…
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” — Mother Teresa
Let’s get that back. That feeling. Of trust in humankind.
Oh, and could we maybe spend the billions of dollars we now spend on warfare on something else?
I’ve been reading “Free to Be You and Me” these past few weeks with my 6 year old. I found it on the shelves of my childhood home. It’s a great book originally published in 1974 by Marlo Thomas and friends. It’s got stories, artwork, songs, poetry and theatrical pieces all about life and the pursuit of happiness and being one’s most complete self.
In the back there is an afterword by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. It’s great information for kids and adults alike and especially for families who are trying to find ways to live the life they really want to live.
“I’ve often thought there ought to be a manual to hand to little kids, telling them what kind of plante they’re on, why they don’t fall off it, how mcuh time they’ve probably got here, how to avoid poison ivy, and so on. I tried to write one once. It was called Welcome to Earth. But I got stuck on explaining why we don’t fall off the planet. Gravity is just a word. It doesn’t explain anything. If I could get past gravity, I’d tell them how we reproduce, how long we’ve beenhere, apparently, and a little bit about evolution. And one thing I would really like to tell them about is cultural relativity. I didn’t learn until I was in college about all the other cultures, and I should have leanred that in the first grade. A first grader should understand that his or her culture isn’t a rational invention; that there are thousands of other cultures and they all work pretty well; that all cultures function on faith rather than truth; that there are lots of alternatives to our own society. Cultural relativity is defensible and attractive. It’s also a source of hope. It means we don’t have to continue this way if we don’t like it.” Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
As I read it I realized that what he’s saying is one of the tenets of Slow Family Living; that we don’t have to do it just one way. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr is right when he says, we don’t have to continue this way if it’s not working. There are so many ways that family life can work. Find the way that works for you. The way that brings you the most joy and lifelong connection possible.
Remember as a kid when you’d say “I’m bored” to your mom. My mom’s response was always, “Read a book. Write a letter. Write a book. Read a letter.” And we’d sigh a big annoyed sigh, kick the floor then be on our way.
To my own kids I say this same thing or “bored is as bored does” or I offer up a list of serving suggestions.
Yesterday, I was working. My husband was home and offered an outing to the resident 6 and 10 year olds. The 6 year old went. The 10 year old declined. As my husband left he uttered the words that I’m sure the 10 year old didn’t want to hear but the words I would have uttered also, “No screen time!” Ah, foiled again.
She stayed home anyway. For a lazy summer morning at home with her 13 year old brother still sleeping. No screen time. Now what? She called me at work. “What am I gonna do? I’m bored. There’s nothing to do.”
I of course offered a list of ideas, all of them rejected without even the slightest consideration. When will I learn that the statement of “I’m bored” isn’t exactly looking for solutions of the D.I.Y variety. Rather it usually wants some sort of action. Like a trip to the cold springs or a friend’s or anywhere that wasn’t home. After a couple of minutes of rejected suggestions I reminded her to check her list of “boredom busters” she had made at the end of the school year, said goodbye and hung up, leaving her to her boredom.
When I got home there the most colorful paper dolls on the kitchen table that I had ever seen. In her bored state she sat down with markers and blank paper and just started coloring wildly – filling the paper in completely. Then she folded it up and cut it into the classic paper dolls. She made a few. They were lovely.
Had I been there to intercept her boredom, or had my husband allowed her verboten mid-day screen time, this project would never had come to fruition. It wouldn’t even have popped into her head. But instead, her bored state opened the gate to her own creativity. She didn’t need me. Or my suggestions. Or to be whisked away to something else. She just needed to be allowed to get bored.
It’s hard to remember when our kids are bored that we don’t need to rescue them, rather we can just let them be bored. And see what beautiful place their boredom will take them.
Here in our house, the last day of school was exciting of course. We were all thrilled to be finished up with ridiculously early alarm clocks and lunches and homework and all the other stuff that accompanies a school year. It’s fine for a while, but by the time you reach the end, it is a veritable drag to the finish. Tupperware starts cracking, notebooks begin unraveling, and even our psyches hit the breaking point. I’m never sure whether we reach that point because we know we’re near the end, or whether we’re near the end because we’re reaching that point.
Here in our house the last day of school was absolutely crazy too. Tempers were flaring. Little infractions were seen as major affronts. Siblings were at each other. People were even making declarations of not wanting to go to Grandma’s together! Which if you knew the glory of Grandma’s, you’d understand the magnitude of such a statement. And my behavior was really no better. And I thought to myself, “oh man, there’s something wrong with us.” Seriously.
My friend Carrie, she who is witness to a lot of my parenting, called it off-gassing, which by definition is the emission of especially noxious gasses. That description gave me great comfort. And with that in mind I entered back into the fray.
When I shared the story of our awful last day with a mama-of-3 friend of mine, she grabbed my shoulder and exalted, ”US TOO! ME TOO! AWFUL! FIGHTING! CRAZY!!” And she too thought, “wow there must be something wrong with my little family as a unit and surely they’ll never rise out of this yucky, sibling fighting-filled state.
The next day things were a little better. Flare ups yes but not like that crazy last day where all seemed completely hopeless.
And I realized that transition from full on school to full on at home is a biggie. And that giant school’s-out-for-summer exhale is not to be taken lightly. And with each extra person in the house, that exhale will be even bigger still because each one bounces off all the others, around and around and around, until it finds a safe place to land.
So I gave myself a break. And I told my friend Kami that I would share this because we both thought others might want to know that this behavior isn’t indicative of something being wrong with your kids or your parenting or your family as a whole, rather just a little school’s-out-off-gassing. Which is normal. And can be remedied by some downtime, a few trips to the library, and soaks in some cool, clear water.
Randomly I put various parenting techniques into renewed and intensive practice. Like any new skill or habit, I figure if I really focus on something intently and intentionally for 7 days or so, it’ll just become part of my repertoire.
This week I’m practicing my pivot.
It’s pretty easy in theory. And when I use it, it really helps me out of whatever pent up jam I’m in – be it mad or overwhelmed or resentful or whatever. And it allows me to move on to feeling more good and less bad and get more of what I need and want.
Let’s say, hypothetically speaking of course, we’re all getting home from an outing. As we emerge from the car, everyone runs off, leaving me with all the stuff to carry in from the car. (Remember, HYPOTHETICAL!) So I’m mad. And resentful. Because I want them to help without being asked. (Which they do sometimes just not this “hypothetical” time) I can linger in the mad, and yell at them to come back, using a less than stellar tone. Or…
I can pause. Take a breath. And pivot. Turning in the emotional direction I want to go. Seriously, just like that.
Then I can call them back. With a nicer voice. Leaving the resentment in the dust.
What I usually get in return is nicer, easier, calmer. Instead of people coming back all mad because I’m all mad which then spirals into a big mess of madness which just takes on a life of its own. (Again, hypothetical of course.)
From my pivoted state, I am not asking for anything different than I was, but I’m asking from a completely different state of being. And hence, with a completely different voice. Which feels better to me and to everyone around me.
You can use it for lots of things, big and small. With family and insurance company representatives. It’s about shifting how you feel. Making the decision to feel differently than you do. In that very moment of time.
For big things you can take all night long to pivot. Just make the decision as you’re drifting off to sleep that when you wake up you’re going to feel different. You’re going to feel better. You’re going to approach whatever or whoever it is from a more positive feeling place and take it from there.
I’ve got some more practicing to do on this one without a doubt. But one thing I know, when I do it, especially at home, I get way more of what I need.
And when I forget, then it’s time to implement the do-over. That might be my practice for next week.
The other day as I got off the bus, I spotted a sweet young couple sitting at a sidewalk cafe. One on each side of a teeny new baby, maybe 2 or 3 months old. They were holding hands over the top of the car seat with one hand and touching her with the other. It was the picture perfect scene of a new family falling in love with each other. Fatigued but satisfied and sort of in amazement at this little life between them.
As I walked by I smiled and said “Aren’t you a sweet and beautiful picture!” And my heart opened up to take it all in and to marvel at the perfection, the appreciation, the simplicity and the unfathomable love of it all.
As I walked the rest of the way home I could feel the effects of that sighting on my psyche. Bliss. Joy. Happiness and deep love for mankind. And I realized, that same feeling I had when I glimpsed that little family, that was how I would greet my own sweet little family too when I walked in the door. I would see them with that wide open heart. And I would comment to each and everyone of them how sweet and beautiful they were.
I laughed to myself and wondered aloud why I would do it any other way??!! (And I think at this point any passers by were wondering what I was on or up to.)
So many times on my way home my head starts spinning with logistics: who is going where, who needs what, what will supper be, what moods are people in, is there bread for lunches tomorrow and on and on. And instead, for that moment, I was going to let all that stuff go in the name of feeling the big, deep love. The logistics would wait. Because really, wondering whether there was bread wasn’t going to make bread appear or disappear.
So when I got home, there they all were, in the livingroom, at the table, on the couch, on the floor and I looked at each and every one of them, as individuals and as an entity, and I said, “Aren’t you a sweet, beautiful picture!”
Simple as that*. And my heart opened up a little wider still.
*If this sounds ridiculously simple, it’s because it really and truly is!