Sunday, February 24, 2008

Balance in the present moment

I've been working really hard lately, trying to find that delicate balance between work, family, sleep, cooking, cleaning (which my husband asked if I've given up doing), homeschooling, tending to the cats, spending time journaling or reading a book now and then.  I realized that I was lacking balance, which became apparent after an especially demanding work week for me.  

So today, I took the day off.  I left my computer off until dinnertime and that is an amazing accomplishment for me.  I think the lines get much blurrier when working from home sometimes. When am I actually at work?  When am I home?  When is it family time?  When is it time to rest? It was so much easier when I went away to an office in so many ways.  I haven't worked much without my kids since my first born over 9 years ago and had only a brief time of working away from my oldest son when he was around 3.  It was only a few hours a week and I remember that time rather fondly.  It was just enough that I really missed him and was ready to come back.  But it gave me that time that was distinctly mine to be a grown-up- to drink a hot beverage without worrying about someone getting burned and perhaps have a complete thought without an interruption before 10PM.

I knew this past week had been too much, so I decided today was going to be a family day.  I ended up having some wonderful quality time with my 4 year-old son.   We played on the front porch with those little seeds that fall to the ground like a mini helicopter for the longest time.  I watched his face fill with joy and excitement as we raced our little helicopters to the ground.  He'd cackle as he let his fall from his hand way before anyone said, "Go!" and would rejoice in his triumph when his hit the ground first.  

It was through this encounter that I saw how much he was simply in the present moment.  He wasn't worrying about future events or chugging through events of the past.  He was simply right there watching the little helicopters make their flights with great anticipation, even though the races were over nearly as soon as they began.  Watching his face light up was one of the highlights of my day.

Tomorrow I am determined to keep checking in with myself and make sure that I am giving rapt attention to those little miracles that my children seem to see so much more easily.  I'm going to take lots of time to play and learn how to better set aside time to just simply be in the present moment with my family.  Everything else can wait.  Nothing is more important than my family.

I know it will take time to get the balance right, but intention is a very important part and I have that now.  And I am thankful to my son for reminding me how it is done.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A blogging we will go...

My cousin, Matt, suggested that I start a blog. So, here I am. I had no idea it was so easy to start. Almost too easy. Anybody can do this. Anybody. Five minutes ago, I was not a blogger and now I am. I've been thinking about this for months as if it was some sort of dental procedure I was trying to avoid, but it was painless.

So, I am a parent. A conscious parent, of sorts. I realized that so many people go into parenting and never really think about how they are parenting or what effect their decisions will have on their children today and in the future. Once I started really looking at all of the parenting information out there, I became really overwhelmed. This expert says one thing, while another says the exact opposite. Let your child cry. It helps strengthen their lungs. I cried it out and turned out just fine. (That, of course, may be subject to debate at another time) Another book may say to never let your child cry. And I'm a so-called expert. If I'm confused, how many other parents are confused, too?

As a former elementary school teacher, I saw clearly that the way many parents were parenting just wasn't working. The system I was working in as a teacher was relying on behavioral methods, or looking simply at the children's behaviors, then providing a consequence, punishment, or reward if we wanted to increase or decrease a behavior. It never really made sense to me and I saw many children's behavior get much worse with these types of interventions. But I didn't know what else to do.

I finally left education and went back to school to get my masters in Marriage and Family Therapy. I was going to study behavior and help those families find the answers. But college turned out to be somewhat of a disappointment as far as my classes went. They all emphasized glossing over the core issues to get clients in and out in a short number of sessions covered by most insurance plans. Not for me. I wanted to do much deeper work that would actually result in healing, not just put a band-aid on a gaping wound. I did, however, find many interesting journal articles to read which helped to deepen my understanding of what I wanted to do. I found myself drawn into the attachment and trauma literature by some invisible force and I knew the answers were here. But I still didn't know exactly what this kind of parenting was going to look like. How do you apply this information?

Fast forward several years and children later. I was volunteering for La Leche League and Attachment Parenting International, having discovered these fine organizations which respected the importance of the early parenting bond, helping parents to make those early connections with their own children. I was contacted by Heather Forbes, LCSW, who was writing a book that would later be called Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control: A Love-Based Approach to Helping Children with Severe Behaviors, and we met for lunch. I had no idea how much this meeting would change my life and answer those questions I had been seeking the answer to.

She shared with me her work with adoptive families and the love-based approach they were using with great success. She totally had my attention and I couldn't wait to hear more. I knew the information was valuable for all families, but I wasn't sure how to apply it yet.

Fast forward a couple of years and lots of practice applying this in my own home with my own family and things are looking very good from here, indeed. We had so many struggles with my son, even though I had "done everything right" from the beginning. He had had all that nurturing, co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding, holding care and we were still stuck. I didn't understand, even though I had studied it intensely, how trauma was really affecting us all. It wasn't until I went to the BCI Live Event that it all came together for me.

So, things aren't perfect here, but I'm okay with that. We aren't having hours of temper tantrums anymore and we have a much deeper understanding and appreciation for each other parenting from this place of love and respect than we ever did with consequences and love withdraw.

I'm putting this out into the world because I know that every family wants to raise healthy, high-functioning children who are loving, and families need tools, a greater understanding of their children that goes beyond the mainstream information out there, and the support to parent in a different, responsive way. With information, all parents have a chance to create families who are caring and loving no matter what things currently look like. And empowering families to make conscious decisions from the start is a huge part of the mission of The Consciously Parenting Project, as well as providing information for handling those times of disconnect when things aren't going as we'd like them to. Pre-conception to grandparenting, everyone can find support to parent from a conscious place and that is a beautiful thing.