Do you have dreams for your children? What nature of character would you like to see them acquire? Children learn what's important to us and what we value by living with us and observing the outward expressions of our character. They remember, imitate, and recreate these ways of being in the world. When I intentionally take time to learn ways of being that are rooted in compassionate self-understanding I am also taking an important step in an unfolding process that supports my children to know themselves.
I remember experiencing the beauty of this with one of my grandsons when he was two-years-old. My three grandchildren were visiting, Rylan and I had a fun and busy morning with them. We put together puzzles, read and told stories, shared pretend play in the play-room, and observed Uncle Rylan's frog, Mr. Ed.
When I noticed lunchtime was drawing near, I brought out the color books and crayons and asked, "Would anyone like to color while Grammy works in the...
Do you ever feel afraid at night? I know I have, and as a child it was a variety of things at night that I was afraid of. It can be different for everyone.
I remember when Rylan told me about his fears in the night. He said, ”I just get so scared! If I wake up and you aren't there I think you are dead!"
"I'm hearing just how scared you feel when you wake up and think I'm dead because you can't see me," I reflected, "you really like it when you know I'm okay and you aren't alone?" I guessed.
"Yeah," Rylan's eyes widened as he continued, "but I get so scared my stomach hurts and it terrifies me! I want it to stop and I don't know what to do."
"So you feel so scared your stomach hurts and it's terrifying? You really want it to stop; yet don't know what to do? I'm guessing you might like some support and new tools maybe?" I reflected with an empathy guess.
Rylan nodded and leaned towards me slightly. Taking in his...
Have you ever woken up early in the morning with a million thoughts racing through your head? And each thought is telling you what you should be doing, or better yet, telling you what you should already have done? Well, I remember when that was my experience one morning!
I was telling myself, "You need to get up now, before Rylan wakes up, so you can write your newsletter?" "Hurry, before you run out of time!" "You were supposed to already have published your newsletter, hurry up!" "And don't forget to update your website." "Remember to create those new seminars while you are at it." "You really need to spend time connecting with the horses at least three times a week." "You ought to spend more time with your friend before she leaves." "Don't forget to plant seeds in the green house today." As the thoughts sped up I had the sensation that a balloon was about to burst within my chest.
I recognized my familiar thought-life and paused deliberately. I took a deep cleansing...
Do you remember what you thought about parenting when you were a young adult? Did you have an opinion about what makes a "good parent" or how kids "should" be raised? Did you have any ideas that were different from the way you were brought up? I remember saying, as a young expectant mother, "I'm never going to yell at my kids, I'm going to listen to them and pay attention to them. I'm going to be a good mother." Needless to say, I have experienced surprise at my own behavior when I have reacted more harshly than I ever thought I would to my children. How could this happen when I said I would never behave this way?
My fierce love for my children has always been a focal point throughout my life; the intensity of this strong emotion has been an anchor for me to the high-road state of mind. By high-road I am referring to our ability to have choice about how we act and our ability to choose our long-term goals for our children's well-being over short-term goals like quiet or ease. This...
Have you ever felt really happy to see someone and felt knocked off-balance by their response? Do the needs for predictability and a sense of care in relationships come up in your day-to-day life? These are very familiar needs for me, along with wanting to live with a sense of congruence and ability to make meaning in the midst of those 'off-balance' moments.
I have been pondering how we are interconnected, and intentionally seeking a way to have solid grounding in my life, for resiliency, wanting to be present in such a way that I am creating meaning and finding purpose in each moment, especially as a parent. Because when I am able to perceive, make sense of, and respond to my child's needs, I am co-creating with him an internal working model of safety and security he can rely on.
I remember noticing my son was eating and sleeping a lot while going through a really big growth spurt. My guess was it was a really big stimulus for him, and I imagined that his nerve endings...
Have you ever been knocked off balance by the unexpected happening? I know I have! Let me share a story with you. I remember several years when my son, Rylan, came tearing up the back steps and into the house, wide- eyed and breathless. I noticed his shirt and pants were wet in places. "What's going on? Are you okay?" I asked as I reached toward him.
He crouched away as he sank onto the floor and the words tumbled out, "I was just playing with my squirt gun and took it over to Jim's where he was watering his plants outside. When I squirted it towards him, he said, 'you might not want to do that or something like this might happen,' and then he sprayed me with the hose! It was really hard, and I didn't call him a f--r but I flipped him off and now I'm scared he hates me and will get me! Dad saw it all and said we have to go talk with him before we can leave, and I'm scared!"
"Where is your Dad? He was there with you and saw it all happen?" I asked, trying to make sense of...
What do you want in a given moment? Do you know? Do you consciously consider what you want on a moment-to-moment basis? Or do you just tell people what you don't want? This is a concept my son and I worked with for some time about 10-years ago.
Knowing what you want requires your prefrontal cortex to be available so you can imagine and dream. If you function from a state of fear/anxiety, your emotional alarm system tends to hijack your ability to stay regulated and present; you might easily get knocked off balance by the occurrence of things you don't want to happen.
I remember when my older son's family came over for a barbeque at our home to celebrate my birthday. This was during the time we were in the process of moving to the Spokane area. It was such fun to play with my grandchildren while my older son barbequed my favorite food, and to visit with my daughter-in-law. My most special gift was that Richard, my husband, was able to be here too.
When the weekend...
Transitioning - this word sounds like a fairly simple thing to do; to transition from one place to another place, from doing one task to another task, to even just move from one focus to another focus. Yet how often do we acknowledge just how many skills it takes us human beings to complete a transition? Transitioning, especially with ease, requires multiple skills working in unison. Without self-regulation, our internal systems may become overwhelmed, and we can lose our ability to be present even to ourselves. Often our implicit experiences (nonverbal memories that form below the level of our conscious awareness and form our expectations of the world) hijack us into familiar "fight, fight, or freeze" reactions, rather than supporting us to show up in congruence with our deeply held values.
I have observed that when my son is hijacked, his implicit template automatically triggers his emotional alarm system into the fight response, and my alarm system oftentimes responds by...
Does your family intentionally play together? How do you invite family members to join you? Is it possible to both remain engaged in play and be connected emotionally when others tip over into fear or rage? This is an area I looked for support to understand when my son was younger, especially in partnership with my spouse.
When my husband, my son & I participate in a weekend play workshop in Portland, Oregon, Kri, the organizer of the workshop invited us to join in the Play After Play* experience. I was thrilled!
At the Play after Play Theater, the husband-and-wife acting team, Marc Otto and Melanya Helene, performed a 20-minute show based on a folk tale, with just a few props and traditional songs.
"The play will begin, and then the play will end," Melanya said. "That is the time for wild applause."
Then came the "after" part of Play after Play: playtime.
My family gathered with other families filled with anticipation around the tumbling mats where...
What does "Play" look like? When someone invites you, "Want to play?" how do you respond? For me, play opens up possibilities, and yet, when my son has tipped over into stress, terror, or overwhelm, I can find myself flooded with a sense of disconnection, fear and shame. Then, I’m closed off to the possibility of play.
Receiving empathy support and learning about the brain has helped me to live more solidly in congruence with my values: remaining open, curious, and understanding, more consistency when parenting. Yet, even then, I have sensed there was something missing. I have longed for a dis-confirming experience where my heart remains open and present regardless of environmental factors.
I had a breakthrough years ago, when my empathy buddy invited me to a weekend play workshop in Portland. I felt amazed and thrilled, it was just what I had been longing for! At the time I was filled with gleeful anticipation. The weekend gave me a first-hand visceral experience...