When in doubt… don’t.

Ever since Christmas, my husband and I have been having fairly indepth conversations about our business and our strategy for this year. These chats always include an investigation into the meaning of life and our “purpose” (if there is one). Most recently we have examined the desire for “success” and what is meant by that term in our culture. This has led me to examine how even parents have to “succeed” and what this looks like and the impact on our children.

At its most basic, we spend time not working in the best interest of our children, but in the best interest of how we “look” as parents. This is a fairly repulsive idea, and perhaps some of you are denying that you do this. It is ok, I can admit to it. As a fairly simple example, my daughter is pretty much a tomboy and chooses to dress herself on a regular basis, which does not make for a visually pleasant outcome. I have negotiated with (read: manipulated) her to change what she is wearing so that she looks half decent. Who am I doing that for? Obviously, me. Wouldn’t it be more useful to allow her to continue to express her independence and individuality? Yes, is the answer.

Being a successful parent can also mean ensuring that your children attend all the “right” events. Are they booked in to swimming lessons, the local football, cricket, dance classes, karate, tennis or whatever else is accepted or expected socially? I have decided that my children are only going to do those things that they show an avid interest in and to be honest, I don’t have any preferences as to what that might be. My son is showing an aptitude for dancing so I am currently encouraging that and letting him know what is available. Meanwhile my gorgeous girl is fixated on karate.

Spending time thinking about how I am doing as a parent and what other people think of me or my children, really is time that could be much better spent focussing on loving them, compassion for others and just having a good time together. All this talk of “success” in relation to our business has made it easy for me to conclude that life is all about the relationships we have with each other.  How much compassion and love we give ourselves and others, what difference we make in each moment.

Where else do we have such an opportunity to make a difference if not in the way we raise our children, the values we instill in them, in the love that we give them. Be great at it and enjoy yourself.

Let go

This blog site isn’t going as I had planned or as stated in my intention to the right hand side over there. All I can say is, oh well. And this is the topic for today’s article.

The BIGGEST improvement I have made as a parent and a person, is to let go of my attachment to my desires. Do not be fooled into believing that this means being dispassionate, it is rather a sense of accepting and allowing. It is the most liberating thing in my life. Now there is a grand statement for you.

As a parent, we have countless ‘desires’ all day long. The desire for our child to hurry up and get their shoes on so we can get out of the door on time for school. The desire to be able to write a blog article without being interrupted. The desire to have an uninterrupted conversation with a friend. A desire for our child to eat their dinner, get their teeth brushed, get their clothes on without nagging, be nice, use their manners, be helpful rather than having a screaming tantrum in the middle of the supermarket, and so it goes on.

I haven’t had one of those overnight transformations, rather it has been building over the last year or so. I am slowly increasing the number of times in a day that I STOP and turn my focus to the emotion that is building within me, and label it as my friend ‘frustration’. I then ask myself, what difference is one minute going to make to getting to school on time?  I can slow myself down and ask my child nicely to move a little quicker in getting his shoes on.  I feel better because I haven’t yelled. He feels better because he hasn’t been yelled at, and we only get to school one minute later than hoped. The other added benefit, is the increase in peaceful feelings that arise because I have taken a moment to return to an observation state rather than being “in” the emotion.

Letting go and allowing things to be as they are rather than get so attached to having things be a particular way, has helped me in many areas of my life. I have always been pretty accepting of others, but now I have a real sense of allowing others to walk their journey. I can make comment or observation on how others are choosing to live, but not attach judgment to those observations – rather see them with interest.

I am more readily able to see how truly magnificent my life is and the small amount of suffering that I endure – most of which is self inflicted, let’s be honest.

Allowing creates happiness and peace and we all just want to be happy, right?

Lengthening the fuse

There has been so much rattling around my head of late and also plenty of varying emotions.  I must have looked a little ordinary the other day because an older lady at the supermarket said to me, “oh, the last couple of weeks of school holidays, they are really tough! Good luck.”

WOW. Either I had been firmly instructing my children on how to behave, or perhaps I had that air of someone who could lose their cool any second, just watch out.  Either way, I thought, she is right! For us down south, we have had our long, summer, school holiday break and it is nearing a close.  I am finding that my children, who are not used to spending quite that many hours together, are getting snitchy at each other and I am forever having to negotiate some outburst or another. On top of that, I am a bit of a mean mother, and haven’t provided every day packed full of excitement, but have been encouraging them to entertain themselves. This has had varied success but I am sincerely hoping they will thank me for it later in life…….(could be dreaming).

This has led to the realisation that the spit-fire temper that I had as child has not really disappeared as I had thought. It is not even that far from the surface at times, so I have been working to lengthen my fuse.

Tough gig that one.  If something is burnt, black and falling to pieces, it is pretty hard to put it back together. But that is what I have been attempting to do.

This morning I read a lovely Wayne Dyer quote, “BE the peace and harmony you desire”. Gorgeous. Lets just be that peace and harmony shall we – can someone tell my children?

Actually, it did help me as it reminded me that I have a choice in every moment to be calm. It is just about finding the right techniques to blow out the flame that has ignited the fuse. I vowed that this week I would read the chapter in Buddhism for Mothers on anger and send out some help via this blog. It is Thursday and I am still waiting to find the time…..  Will definitely post some techniques on fuse lengthening when I get a chance.

Make a choice right now, be the peace and harmony you desire. And with a little Seinfield laugh, shout it out – Serenity NOW! 🙂

What space are you playing in?

Well, have I had some personal growth over the last two days! Sunday morning I woke up full of the joy of life. You know what I mean, you wake up feeling happy and amazed at how fantastic your life is and excited by what the day will bring. It was one of those magic days where I managed to go for a relaxing run, play with the kids, do some jobs around the house and in the garden and just thoroughly enjoyed the lifestyle my hubbie and I have created.

I was patient and kind to my children, reveled in my husband’s joy of watching his favourite sport on television, and nothing was a problem. No dramas, no tension, no annoyance – none of those so called negative emotions. And, gladly, I took the opportunity to enjoy every moment.

Don’t worry all of you who are about to throw up with the cherry-ripe sweet, perfection of it all, the bubble is about to burst!

Monday morning, I woke up CRANKY! I mean, really feral. Just unhappy with everything and with such a short fuse. Frustrated by the kids not listening, annoyed at trying to get things organised and just not “winning”, if you know what I mean.  Everyone seemed to be making demands of me and I couldn’t get anything done. After giving into my anger and frustration for a while, I stopped and thought about the difference from the previous morning.

What was the difference? I had the same amount of sleep (which we all know is a big mood changer if you don’t get enough!), I had eaten well both days, nothing had changed that I was aware of, so what was it? It is all about your state of mind and space you are playing in. I had a good look at the thoughts that were roaming through my mind and my reactions to situations. They were much more negative and “me” focussed. All about me not getting my way. As my mother always says, “we are all two year olds, it is just a thin veneer”. So, I realised, I was just having a tantrum. And I was letting my mind continue to brood on the negativity.

This brought the poignant realisation that it is much easier to be a calm, gorgeous, caring parent when your head space is one of happiness and peace. When you are challenged emotionally, and are able to step back and label those emotions rather than allow yourself to be consumed by them, then you become an amazing parent. I drew on some of the techniques that Sarah Napthali discusses in her book as well as the strategies I have learnt through my qualifications in NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) and started to manage my emotional state. I labelled the emotions as they arose, I considered my internal thoughts, I enacted a dumping strategy (or five) and took time to do some things that bring my joy.

It took time, patience and an awful lot of non-judgement but I am happy to say that by the end of the day, I was playing in a much better space. Where are you playing today?

Don’t do what I do, do what I say

It has been an interesting couple of weeks post-Christmas. We have been fortunate enough to have lots of family time and even an escape to a holiday house for a week on the beach. Just divine. I have had time to do more reading, pondering and open brilliant conversations with my hubbie. That means lots of blogs to come….

One of the many ideas that I have cemented this holiday season is how ridiculous it is for us to expect our children not to do as we do, but do as we say. As a parent, I think it becomes obvious that a large part of how children learn is through copying and flat out parroting – combined with repetition. To expect them to be able to discern which of our behaviour to copy and which is “not ok” is quite exceptional. I know that we all have ‘genius’ children, but this could be taking it a little far….

I have reflected on some of those moments, for example, when I use the word “frickin” because I am really angry, rather than the other f word, just to hear my six year old repeat it back (and my four year old laugh whole heartedly). Of course I explain to them it is wrong, but that isn’t really good enough, is it? So – I have stopped swearing, even pretend swearing like “froot loop”. Help me!

Taking this further I have explored many occasions when it is ok for me to do something but not ok for them and why this is the case.What I have discovered, is being a great role model is the best way for me to instill the values I want to see in my children, rather than demanding for no good reason (other than I said so) that they should ‘do’ differently to me. It also helps me to be a better person.  The joy of it all is that I hear my voice coming out of their mouths, my sense of humour, and my feelings about others. Who wouldn’t want this to be of the best quality that it can be?

Latest ponderings

It has taken me a while to work up the courage to put fingers to keyboard. I imagined that I would be able to write some quirky, funny story about the hilarious things my children had done and my equally hilarious reactions to them.  But life here has been the usual combination of overwhelming demands mixed with absolute delights.

Since I set up this blog, I have sewn kangaroo costumes for the school concert (my son didn’t realise that I owned a sewing machine – he was most impressed!), attended the Child Care Committee Christmas party as outgoing President (read here: so it was my right to make an overly long and onerous speech to a captive audience), instigated the re-vamp of the company website (with help of course), organised the work Christmas Party (sensational event) and kept the household running like a well oiled machine (or perhaps a gritty roller like the ones you see making the new roads).  Quite a feat. Throughout these activities I pondered my ability to undertake the actions I had promised in this blog.  It also made me think about ALL those parents out there, and perhaps most often, mums, who are juggling all of the myriad of activities associated with our family life.

No wonder we need to find the space to contemplate our thoughts, actions and reactions but how do we make that time? I believe my mother used to take that time when she went to the bathroom – perhaps that is too much information! I am finding, that through the ideas in Sarah Napthali’s books, that the best time for me to make time for myself within my own mind, is when I am emptying the dishwasher, hanging the washing on the line, making the morning lunches.  It is in these moments, when I can be nowhere else but undertaking these menial albeit critical tasks, that I can take a moment to reflect on my inner thoughts.  I take the time to get a gauge on my current emotional state and consider what lies ahead of me so I can be mindful of the demands of upcoming situations.

Of late I have been amazed by the repetitiveness of my thoughts. The recurring patterns that just aren’t useful or inspiring. Wondering whether my kitchen drawers are organised well enough, what the children will think of me when they are older, whether I have forgotten something for school and the like. As I said, not particularly useful or inspiring….  I am sure I am not alone, in fact, a few of my friends have admitted to thinking similarly odd things.  Our well known ‘monkey mind’ that jumps from tree to tree not settling anywhere long enough to realise that all the jumping is achieving nothing.

It has also been incredibly useful to gauge my emotional state.  Am I feeling uptight already and it is only 7am? Do I feel relaxed and comfortable ready for what the day will bring?  Am I harbouring any anger or resentment towards my husband or family that will cause me to have a short fuse so therefore needs to be resolved? There is such a large difference in my emotional state and my ability to control it depending on how much sleep I have had, what I have eaten, and whether I have had time to go for a run.

Based on my emotional state I can then assess the day for likely situations that will cause me to either get some time to relax and release or make me more uptight and likely to result in something unpleasant. This means that I also have to rate the states of my husband and children as well in order to get a view of the bigger picture. If the kids are already tired and I am not at my best, then I have to choose very carefully how much I try to get done.

Obviously, I spend too much time inside my head. That is what I love about running – just me, my shoes, my ipod & the pavement. Peace. Non-attachment.

I fundamentally believe that it is critically important to be mindful of our thoughts as we do get what we focus on. We have to ensure that we are not critical of those thoughts and learn not to take them so seriously but allow some of them to pass through as clouds across a sky.

Set let’s get started

My first blog will be a quick one.  It is a thank you to two people.  Firstly, Sarah Napthali who I have never met but dearly love her writing.  I stumbled across her second book, Buddhism for Mothers With Lingering Questions at my naturopath’s shop and immediately had them order her first book for me.  I am now reading her third book, ‘Buddhism for Mothers with School Age Children’ and loving it!  Her work is beautiful because it is honest, upfront and almost any parent can relate to it, including my husband.  So thank you for taking the time to write and share – keep ’em coming.

The second person to thank is the wonderful Samantha Bell.  She introduced me to social media, aka Twitter, and I thought that I would find something on Buddhism for Mothers, when I didn’t, I started to wonder whether I could do something.  Sam was quick to provide her support and encouragement.  The basis of all things for her is “if you are passionate and love it, then just do it”.  We both believe in Open Space principles – the right people will come, at the right time and whatever happens is the only thing that could happen which really helps when considering writing a blog.

So I put this blog out to the universe (or more precisely the internet) and let’s see what we can create.  Not sure when you will read my first “experience” but according to my plan, it will be about parenting mindfully.

Love to hear from you!