Sunday, May 23, 2010

"Please stay, mom."

Things have been so busy the past few weeks.  I'm just amazed that it is already nearly June and school is going to be out for the year!  This has been a precious year for my two boys- Josh has been in a half day Kindergarten program at our local Waldorf school where he has been playing and learning in other ways.  He hasn't learned to read and I'm happy about that.  He has learned to jump rope, cross the monkey bars forward and backward, climb trees, set the table, and retell a story.  His vocabulary has expanded and his love of school is palpable.  My older son moved to the school in October.  It was a more challenging transition for him, but he has really blossomed in this class.  He has found his artistic side and really enjoys all of the outside playtime they get.  He has taken more responsibility for himself and his projects.  I'm very proud of both of them!

This weekend was a big deal at our house.  My husband took both the boys camping with the Cub Scouts and both of my boys have "crossed over" to a new status in scouts.  My older son became a Boy Scout yesterday, after earning his Arrow of Light.  And Josh, who will be in first grade next year, crossed over into Cub Scouts as a Tiger.  I came to watch the ceremony after I spent the morning doing a workshop, so I hadn't seen them since the previous afternoon. 

Pride welled up as I watched my boys both take their steps across the bridge.  How did this all happen?  How did they both get so big?  How is it possible that my babies are, well, no longer babies?  It has been quite a journey for us and I really feel like I was graduating, too.  This is a new phase of life.

The park was closing at 8PM, so I was planning to leave before that happened.  I bent over to each of my boys to let them know that I was heading out.  I wasn't planning to spend the night and thought I should go before I was locked in!  My 6 year old kissed me goodbye and skipped off to play.  My 11 year old stopped me and said, "Don't go.  Please stay, mom."

I thought about the gate and the long list of things I still needed to get done that night, including some time to just spend by myself relaxing after my day of working.  I was really looking forward to some down time.  But he was asking me to stay.  How long was that going to go on in his life?  How many times in the future was that going to happen?  I can't say, but I just know that it was happening now.  And it was really special. 

I started working on how I would be able to leave the park and asked a little more about how long he wanted me to stay.  I was working it out and feeling good about it.  A few minutes later, he came up and said, "It's OK if you have to go."  I asked if he wanted me to stay and he said, "Yes."  I looked him in the eyes and said, "Zack, if you want me to stay, then there is no other place more important for me to be.  I would love to stay."

I could see him visibly relax.  This is true.  There is nothing more important than being with him now.  Everything else can wait.  And it did.  True, it was more work to leave later.  I had trouble with the locked gate, but even as I worked to figure it out, I was so glad that I had taken the time to just be with him.  There is nothing more important than relationship.  Nothing. 

There will always be a to do list.  There will always be something else that can distract us or take us out of the present moment.  But these times with our children are precious and we can never turn back the hands of time.  Seize the moment and connect.  Let your children know they are as special as they really are through your actions, not just your words. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Critical Importance of Community

Two weeks ago, I traveled to Tennessee to support my older son as he competed in a Pentathlon. Trying to make the trip affordable (and doable), I invited another mother from my son's 5th grade class to ride along with me and my 6 year old. I figured that she would be able to hand him the apple I brought when he wanted a snack when I was driving or watch him when I went into the bathroom. We could get to know each other and I would have some company on the 12 hour drive. I didn't expect the level of support that I received, so it got me thinking again about the topic of community and support.

What is community? Perhaps community is the idea that we are not alone in all of this, especially parenting.  We're designed to be in relationship, to reach out to one another, and to work together.  I often think, somewhat longingly, to the idealized villages where everyone works together, where chores are done in community, and it is not a world where each family is alone with one person doing most of the work of organizing the family.  (Of course, the reality of that world is that they need to do those things to survive... but it is something to consider.  How can we bring that kind of community and support into our lives here and now?)

What does it mean to support one another? The realization that I was experiencing support struck me when I realized that she had exceeded my expectations. So what were my unconscious expectations? As I reflected on this questions, I realized that support, to me, means that you're not physically alone. There are other people nearby, perhaps sharing expenses or helping out when asked. But I didn't realize I don't expect others to just jump in- to see what needs to be done and do it with a kind, loving heart.  It was quite an eye-opening moment for me!

I think most of us have challenges with asking for help. We've learned since early childhood that we're supposed to do by ourselves. Most of us haven't had the idea of community modeled for us, like my friend clearly had. How do we create that which we didn't know even existed?

I think it takes having experiences where we feel what it is like. We need to find those people in our lives who can bring this into our awareness so that we can even know (and feel) the possibilities. When I give homework in my on-line classes, asking parents to ask someone else for help with the children or household tasks- since we all need a community- most people come back the next week only having given it a little thought, without taking action. When I ask them to do something nice for another family, they usually manage to do it. We've learned since early childhood that we need to please others, without taking care of ourselves or asking for what we need.

So when my friend volunteered to get up and take my son to breakfast so that I could sleep after the long drive, I was blown away. She played with him, named his feet (Blah Blah is his right foot and Blah Blito is his left foot), and created an adorable caped man with her finger and a paper towel in the car. I watched her pour in the energy she had on reserve into my child the way I used to do when I was a nanny or babysitting for other people's children.

We all need people like that in our lives. Thanks for the reminder, Patricia!

What are your experiences creating community?  Have you had experiences where someone went over and above your expectations?  I'd love to hear about it!

(And if you're looking for an opportunity to experience what it is like to be supported by other like-minded parents, don't miss our retreat coming this fall on the Carnival Inspiration, sailing out of Tampa, FL Sept 30!)