Parenting Win

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My 12 year old is a planner and a lover of severe weather. He's ready for the bus with time to spare every day. He stresses out about being late. He harasses his sister to "get going so we won't be late". 

Guess what new skill he's mastered this week, in our 28 degree mornings without a garage???

He takes his extra 5 minutes and starts my car, turns on the defroster and seat warmers and scrapes the ice off the windshield!

And he LOVES it.

He’s learning a new skill, outside in the elements he loves, doing something for his family. I call that a win!

Bonus for him: If he has extra time, he tests the ice in various places and has a good time looking for icicles.

Where could you plug into your child’s strengths AND create a family win?

What Home Feels Like

As I reflect on 2016, one of the great things about our six weeks of travel last Fall was teaching my kids how to feel settled and safe emotionally, in their hearts, when we're unsettled physically. How to live from a suitcase. How to pack and unpack every day. How to make each space we slept in feel safe and homey. How to value what we have. How to play with and enjoy each other. How to notice similarities and differences in all the settings.

This year we've created more unsettledness in our physical surroundings. We're moving an hour away in stages and have things scattered in boxes here and there. We left our home of 8 years last month with clothes, books and things we cared most about. I brought the basics for the smaller rental house and the extra stuff won't follow us for awhile, perhaps not ever. My husband is transitioning more slowly, living at our previous home and readying it for resale. We're building a house a few minutes away from the rental, questioning how our family functions and what structures would support us best.

There's discomfort in the unsettledness, the not-knowing and all the newness. A month ago, making a fire in a woodstove was completely foreign to me. Fire burns stuff automatically, right? I thought. How hard could it be??? I'll tell you how hard--we froze our patooties off the first week! The woodstove in our rental is the primary source of heat. And I like heat. After much practice, some advice from friends and Youtube and some hands-on lessons with my husband, I'm a much better fire builder. Now the time I spend making a fire is like a meditation inviting awareness.

We have at least two more moves ahead of us this year. One to another temporary space, hopefully on our property, and one to the home we're building. Yet right now we feel settled at this home, in this space. The rental is cozy and filled with heart. The move feels right. Crazy, but right. Our new community reflects our values and we've benefited from the love and support of friends in the transition.

We're home.

We feel settled in our hearts.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "home" as "the social unit of a family living together" and "a familiar or usual setting". I believe our family is enhancing our social unit by teaching the spirit of "home", the settled, safe feeling that is a family living together and caring for each other in any setting, familiar or otherwise.


Yesterday I almost fell off my horse.

This is Captain.

He is a Morgan, about 15 hands, liver chestnut.

He's well-trained in dressage and will try his heart out for me. He's also anxious, always on the lookout for changes in his environment. He's taught me to ride in a zen state--very calm and relaxed, no extra movements, while still being the leader.

Up until now, I’ve ridden horses that needed a little extra motivation. I carried a whip and tapped them forward.

Not this guy. If you get a whip within 10 feet of him, he gets suspicious and his feet start to dance.

Yesterday we were working in a field and as we got closer to the woods, he got spooky. He wasn't paying attention to me as leader. It was obvious something was in the woods and he wasn't going to like going there.

I checked my position--I knew this might be a bumpy ride--I got deeper in the saddle, made sure my feet were secure in the stirrups then confidently asked him to go through the woods into the meadow despite his fear. He walked forward, eyeballs popping out of his head like he's watching a horror movie, ready for the next scary thing to leap out at him.

We both saw the deer at the same time. On other days we've walked within 10 feet of a deer or two, calmly taking in the scene. Not today. He was in Freak Out Mode. I could feel him gather himself up to bolt.

It was a sketchy 10 seconds that felt like a year!

His feet started moving sideways and his head was high, but he trusted me enough to come back down to earth. We rode by the deer a few minutes later, with Captain snorting and looking fearful.

Today I rehashed the scene with my riding coach. I wanted to learn some more tools.

What I heard was:

  • Soothe him

  • Tell him when he’s doing it right

  • Give him a job that requires brain power, like circling, leg yielding

  • Approach the scary thing from another direction

  • Encourage him

It seems he's always teaching me something.

Hey, this reminds me of parenting…

Celebrate the Solutions

I didn't start out knowing how to parent.

When my kids were loud, cranky, mad, sad--anything but happy, really, I made it about me. Some of my thoughts: Other parents are watching me and I've got to DO something, I'm not a good Mom, This sucks!, I have to control them, They're going to become horrible adults because I'm not doing this right.

I parented in ways that I'm not proud of (hell, I still have my moments!)...until I started trusting myself. Trusting that I could navigate parenting based on my core feelings--what I'm about to do or say--will it feel like love or like fear? Will it feel like nourishment or like poison in our relationship?

If what I'm about to do feels like poison, I'll regret it later. If what I'm about to do feels like nourishment, I'll celebrate it later. I'm becoming more aware of my choice points before I do or say something.

What I've learned is that I'm not here to teach my children how to behave. I'm here to teach myself to behave and then watch as my behavior trickles down to them.

My kids have just as much to teach me about being "in the moment" and enjoying life one giggle at a time as I have to teach them about values and ethics.

I used to yell "Stop hurting your brother!", with my face full of anger and judgment.

How much was I hurting my child as I said (OK, yelled) not to hurt others? What if, instead, I said nothing and hugged my child with compassion? Recognized that she's human and is doing the best with the tools she has (just like I am)? Realized that I'm expecting more of her than I am of myself? Later I could show her more tools; in that moment all she is asking for is love and connection.

Speaking of trickle down moments, last night my 10 year old and I were cuddling before bed. He asks if we can watch a TV show before bed. I say no, I'm really wanting to read my book and have quiet time.

He says, "What other solutions could we come up with? Could you read your book for 15 minutes and then we could watch a show?"

I melted.

How many times have I asked that question: "What other solutions can we come up with?"  while negotiating conflict in our family.

He was actually listening!

I celebrated for many reasons--he asked respectfully, he partnered with me, he modeled how I'd like to ask questions, he had another solution ready that might work for both of us, he was ready to accept my answer either way.

All good skills for a human being of any age to have.

What are YOU celebrating?

"Say you're SORRY!"

How many times have you overheard a parent snarl this?

The tone is angry, the underlying message is "Say you're sorry or ELSE" and it's really not about the child expressing regret anymore. It's about the parent feeling out of control or embarrassed or angry about the situation.

Even if she says sorry, is she, in that moment? I'm guessing not. I'd be scared if my parent was mad at me.

What ARE we teaching when we force an apology? To ignore feelings, to lie about reality (everybody knows the kid isn’t sorry!), to decide someone else knows more than our kids about their emotions.

Ouch. That’s not what I want to teach.

But what else can we do? How do kids develop empathy without forcing the "I'm sorry?"

Here’s an idea.

Try this--once they're calmed down, ask both kids how they're feeling and what would make them feel better about what just happened.

With my kids, sometimes that means a promise to not hurt each other or a silly high five or a video of their goofy faces together or drawing a comic together or even a traditional apology.

I'm generally amazed at the ideas they have for what will repair their relationships.

The kids get to practice checking in with each other and deciding what would feel good. They're negotiating, trading ideas, solving their own problems using their words and skills.