Being Seen

The complexity of the playground is not just for when you were a child! Unfortunately, the intricacies of our social structure continue on forever, even when we are parents sizing each other up across the heads of our children.

The school that my son attends is really lovely and I don’t have any particular issues with the other mums but I do have to accept that there is still a sense of social hierarchy and appropriateness. We aren’t all socially ept or always socially ept and accepting that as a starting point has been very beneficial for me. Interpret that to mean forgiving myself when I am unable to focus on a conversation because I am too busy working out where my younger child has gone or whether I will be able to ask that other mum whether her son wants to come for a play date.

Recently I was reading Buddhism for Mothers of Schoolchildren by Sarah Napthali, in particular, the section on “The Need to be Seen”. It resonated for me, not for any conscious need that I have personally ‘to be seen’, but because I realised that by actually ‘seeing’ others in the school yard as you drop off and pick up your children, you meet a need within them. And by meeting this need you create a space of shared experiences and connectedness that perhaps helps us all feel a little less self conscious.

I remember when I studied Psychology, I found the idea of “normalising” to be really obvious. That is, when someone expresses an issue you discuss how normal that feeling or situation is and highlight the universal experience. Although we are all unique and special, most of our experiences are not. This helps the other person to feel comfortable expressing their feelings and then to feel ok about what is happening for them.

So it is with “being seen”. In that moment when you lock eyes with another person and smile, you are giving a little nod to their inner self, their inner voices, their experiences, and saying “I am so with you, honey!”.

After all, we are all in this together. Right?

Mindfulness

It has been interesting to watch just how mindful myself and my husband are with the children. I am absolutely sure that all of us do not pay enough attention to our children. I noticed a number of times when my kids had to say either mum or dad five or more times before we responded.  On the flip side, it is rare for me to get a response from my children without calling out for them more than once!

But for a child, what are they learning or taking on when we don’t respond to them as soon as we can? Will they perhaps give up on asking us questions? Do they start to feel that what they have to say is not really valued? I wonder…

I adore Twitter and the lovely community that I have developed there, but it does take me away from my children from time to time and not in a good way.  This could be true of many past times that we have such as watching sports, reading books and magazines, surfing the net for good recipes and the like.

As a mum who also runs a business, I have learnt the value in dividing my day into segments where I focus on particular activities. This includes assigning clear times for my children, my work, my housework, fitness and social time (oh, and my marriage). Like all good mothers, I have to be flexible and know that my days never go to plan. Like right now! Better get back to the children – they are fascinated with my typing and I had better be mindful of them.

What choices are you making in this moment for your relationship with your children?

Feel your heart swell

Unfortunately, my running blog hasn’t been established as yet, so I am going to have to blog this post here…. I am too fired up to actually manage to find the time to write it and then have nowhere to post it.

So, what am I fired up about right now? Right now, I am reveling in that wonderful feeling that comes from having watched an inspiring video. A running video.

But it doesn’t have to be a running video, or any kind of sport for that matter. You know the videos I am talking about. Those videos that have you captivated. The music is perfect, the story resonates with your soul, and evokes feelings in you that make your heart swell. For some of us, our eyes tear up, our throats tighten, and we are totally focused on what we are seeing, there is nothing else that could possibly distract us from completely dissolving ourselves into what we are vicariously experiencing.

This week, for me, it was the Boston Marathon and Josh Cox of Powerbar pacing one of the runners, Geoff, to his first sub-3 hour marathon. What was it that got me? It was my ability to be able to relate to the desire for a specific time and to want to achieve something that has eluded you for so long but you just know inside yourself that you can do it.

It was the shot of the “group” running for 2:50. You can hear Josh saying, “this is the group”, and it takes you to your place in a race. You might not know the other runners around you, but you start to label them. “Pink shirt & pony tail girl”, “Guy in the red Nike shorts”, or whatever feature you decide to define about them. A group of you start to pace together and this creates a bond out of thin air. You find yourself looking out for your “group” as you go through the drink stations. You hope that no one drops back. You find yourself saying some words to the girl in front who starts to drop her pace, doing what you can to inspire her even though your own legs are calling for a stop.

We don’t “race” each other, we race “together”.

I was also touched by some of the things that Josh had to say, like “your heart will get you through”. He is so right. When your legs are heavy and your lungs are hurting, it isn’t just your head that gets you through, but your heart. Your love for running, your love for achieving personal goals, your love for the freedom and space – whatever it is for you.

But in the end, feel your heart swell and just know, it is all about love.

The importance of being selfish

I have noticed that I have become a little more selfish than I used to be… And all for good reason.

As parents we often put the needs of our children before our own. This is a remarkable part of biology that we are so hard wired to respond to every demand of our child starting with those little “mew” sounds they make in the first few days. Now that my children are getting older I am starting to think about the impact of my actions on their development.

I was recently reading in Buddhism for Mothers of School Children (Sarah Napthali) the importance of allowing your children to experience discomfort. This resonated with me. How will our children grow up to face the challenges that life throw at them if they have had no experience of the smaller sufferings that can happen on a day to day basis.

Let’s think about the simple examples in our lives. Heading out to the supermarket with your newborn and toddler which turns into a recipe for disaster. Quickly ducking out to do something forgetting that rain has been forecast and getting soaking wet. Carrying heavy shopping bags and a child through the local shopping centre until your arms ache. Flat tire on your car. Phone stops working. Laptop battery runs out in the middle of an important conference. On it goes including those incidents that leave you worn out and frazzled. Now, you made it through all that discomfort, but how do you think your children will fair?

My children are getting older and I can now see the importance of them developing emotional and physical resilience. No longer am I jumping at their every request and I am making sure that my husband doesn’t either. I consider all the little decisions during the day which may enable them to learn how to manage themselves and take responsibility for what they do. It is a tough process as my hard wiring kicks in, but really, parenthood is ALL about guilt, so what is a little more when I know that it is for the greater good?

So what exactly am I doing? Well, I allow my children to be “bored” and find their own entertainment. I make my children carry their bags to and from school and kinder. I give them the space to work out their own fights – so long as no one gets hurt (too badly). I let them walk in the rain, get wet feet in the puddles, wear themselves out completely, climb too high in the trees, ride their scooters beyond tired. And many other simple things. Pushing them when they have had enough to just keep on going is slowly helping them to experience tiredness in their bodies and know how to manage it. By developing their own strategies for dealing with each other during play time means they are better when with their friends.

It is slowly all coming together and I am finding I am less emotionally caught up (read: roller coaster has flatten out) and I have more time for other things which make me a better mother.

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.