Tag: slow parenting

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Resistance is futile.

Our refrigerator door has a feature in which a tight seal is activated each time you close the door. Once you shut it, it takes a few seconds, maybe 3 or 4, for the seal to loosen enough to open the door again. So if you  try immediately, it is difficult to pull. There is resistance.

It used to bug me this feature. I occasionally even exclaimed out loud a rather inappropriate epithet, followed by a frustrated sigh. To a refrigerator door. For a delay of possibly 2 seconds of time.

Then one day when all was calm and the seal had activated as I was putting away groceries, I just stood there, hand on the handle, and took a big deep belly breath. In, down, out. In the time it took to take that breath, the seal released its vulcan grip, and I easily, effortlessly opened the door. AND had the benefits that a deep breath can bring.

Simple as that. What was frustration, was now benefit. What was blood-pressure-raising, was now calming. And at the risk of sounding all spiritually haughty, what was resistance, was now empowerment.

All day I looked for more chances to turn frustration around. And I didn’t have to look too far. Each time I came across the little things that aggravate like red lights and toothpaste on the counter and socks on the living room floor, I froze. And took a breath. The things that are so momentary and so minuscule really, but became monumental in the way I let them impact me. And all day I used those frustrations as a reminder to take a deep breath.

Now it’s my sometimes mantra. FREEZE! Take a breath. Feel better.

Because really, though I long to remember these mantras of mine ALL the time, I am human and it is only sometimes I am wise.

I am grateful when I do remember, and even a tiny bit grateful for these little frustrations now that I know I can use them to my advantage.

Because believe me, living in a house with 4 other humans,  those little frustrations aren’t going anywhere and I am breathing deeply all day long. When I am not shouting inappropriate epithets that is.

 

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We are about to move. From one part of Austin to another. While I’m not thrilled about the move itself, I am thrilled that our world is about to shrink. Significantly.

Between the 5 of us currently we are commuting a collective 8 hours of drive time. Some of that is on the city bus. Some of that is in the car. Some on foot. While we live central, and I work from home, our schools are north and south and so we travel to all of it. That’s a lot of time spent getting to and from where we need to be. And that’s on a normal day. That’s not a day when there’s a back to school night or booster meeting or any such thing. That’s just daily drive time. And in growing Austin, daily drive time seems to compound monthly.

So, as I said, we’re moving. And where we’re going we’ll all be walking or biking to where we need to be. In fact, the youngest’s commute from our back gate will be shorter than it currently is to walk from where we park to his classroom. The older 3 will bike just over a mile to their respective schools. And I’ll be standing in the yard waving goodbye.

Here’s what I think I’m going to gain…

  1. More sleep each morning
  2. Less road angst
  3. Less arguing about who gets shot-gun
  4. Less chance of car accident
  5. More time in general
  6. More ease
  7. Less crankiness

What’s funny is this schedule we’re on now was fine for us. Until it wasn’t. Which leads me back to one of the basic tenets of Slow Family Living, the question, “Is this working for us?” It was. Then it wasn’t. And when it wasn’t? We made a change.

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Midway through our last full week of school I came upon some photos from the beginning of the school year. Seriously? That much physical change has occurred in all four of my (not so) little people? Faces went from kid to teen. Bodies stretched out a few inches. Hair grew. Shapes shifted. And that’s just  their external selves. On every level, physical, mental, and emotional, the expansion, if laid out in graph form would be off the charts. From not knowing to knowing. From strangers to friends. From uncertain to certain and vice-versa too. As if I, their mother, connected to but outside of their being-ness, could even begin to fathom the changes brought on by these past 9 months. Like a gestation of a whole new being.

We are ready for summer on many levels, and for the break from the routine. We look forward to turning off our alarm clocks or at least setting them to a more humane time. We are ready for a pause from the onslaught of information and from the hustle and bustle that is the scene of the school year – socially, academically, mentally, physically.

In these last couple of weeks of school, I’m going to make an attempt to mark the here and now as a keepsake. Because even though I think I’ll always remember us as we are in this very moment, apparently, based on the shock I felt looking back to September, that’s not true.  Who we are keeps changing, morphing, growing, expanding and it’s hard to see where we were in the face of the present day.

I’m going to create a ritual that will capture this particular moment, knowing that we will never be right here right now ever again. And knowing too that it’s fun to reflect and collect our year’s souvenirs for posterity’s sake. My goal these next few weeks, whether one-on-one, or as a group, is to inquire with my children about their year. Because here’s what I want to know…

  • What were your highlights of this school year?
  • What do you know now that you didn’t know going in?
  • What was hard?
  • What was easy?
  • What are you appreciating about your own sweet life?
  • What do you love?
  • What were the highs?
  • And what were the lows? Knowing too, in retrospect, that even the lows have brought their own rewards.

Then I’ll tuck it away. And we’ll have ourselves a summer. Full of expansion in its own right and of a totally different variety. And maybe I’ll be reminded with a passing glimpse, to do this periodically, to look back on the recent past with the lens that only hindsight can provide. And years from now, when all are gone, we’ll have a snapshot of all of these successive particular moments in time.

Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned, in parenthood, in personhood, is that no year, ever, is at all like the last. We just continuously expand into our own truest selves. And while I can’t stop time, I can capture a little piece of it as a small souvenir.

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Seems hard to believe, but according to a poll of 4 students that I know, there are only 21 school days left in the school year. Really. 21.

With a few big events behind us, like the Austin Maker Faire, a few house guests and getting our house on the market, I am ready for some solidly intentional days.  I want to make sure that events, practices and obligations created are events, practices and obligations desired.

My goals for these next few weeks…

  • Each day do my own work first.
  • Ponder each invitation before saying yes. Be they meetings, parties, or other. Not always easy for me, especially when faced with so many exciting things!
  • Schedule in spaciousness.
  • Put family time on the calendar.
  • Play outside more. And really just play more in general.
  • Turn my phone off at random intervals.
  • Schedule a couple of “spend nothing days” each week. Not even for the money but for the freedom from consuming. And the freedom from the many demands for impromptu spending.
  • Write a note to my children’s teachers telling them how much I appreciate their love and devotion.
  • Do one creative thing everyday.
  • Eat outside more.
  • Find a way to celebrate a school year completed by each and every one of my children.
This time of year, things seem to speed up a bit, so I’m going to be attentive to really slowing it all way down.

 

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Aren’t my Children Marvelous?!

The other day I was walking with a friend. We were going on and on about all the marvelous things happening around us and all the marvelous places we had been that week and all the marvelous people we had met.  And it dawned on me, that that feeling I was having of being so completely blown away by the pure beauty of all these things, was exactly the parenting tool I needed to put in my toolbox.

I needed to marvel at my children.

Not in the bragging way that the title of this blog post suggests. Not in the oh wow they’ve won an honors award or  created a prosthetic hand for science fair or even passed all their classes. But in the way of just simply marveling. In the true sense of the word based on the  definition I found…

marvel. verb. 
1. to wonder at (usually followed by a clause as object): I marvel that you were able to succeed against such odds.
2. to wonder or be curious about (usually followed by a clause as object): A child marvels that the stars can be.
Everyday I wonder about these amazing beings of mine. All four them. So unique and yet so much the same.  Their own selves since the moment they were born and yet so much a part of me and each other.
Everyday I am curious about their existence. Wow. I made you in my body and now, here you are, learning to read, drive, do a handstand, write a paper, swim for miles, photoshop, even text, and ollie the 8 stair at the skatepark after a thousand attempts that I could not bear to watch.
Even the traits of theirs that make me blow a fuse,  like when they argue their point incessantly, or choose to stay up until 3 am because they were watching a movie they love or talking into the wee hours with friends, even those things are to be marveled at, when I can step away for a moment, and stop raging and really ponder what it is they’re doing. They’re defending their position, fighting for their desire, fulfilling a passion and creating deep, passionate connection.  And though the immediate result might be a fight, or a tired, cranky day, and though I might want to flip off said child in the moment, like Kelly Corrigan so astutely noted in her memoir,  in the big picture it’s all marvelous. Truly. A trait, a person, an act to marvel.
So today, and everyday, and maybe especially when I’m pissed, I’m going to try to remember to marvel at my children.
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Drama around you…

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YOUR Extraordinary Family Life

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?

Bernadette + Carrie summer, 2013

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We All Like Different Things

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: 

  1. Everyone has a little more space to do the things they need to do.
  2. I get a tiny dose of one on one with each child at wake up time and at the table.
  3. There is less conflict because everyone isn’t trying to get to the same place at the same moment in time.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

 

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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.

 

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