Rose and I are walking home, hand in hand, when she asks, “Does everything have a shadow?”
Rose: Not pigment.
Rose: Pigment. You know, the hard, flat stuff on the ground.
Rose: Oh, right.
I laugh and squeeze her hand, thinking, Thank goodness for the gift of the youngest child. First two bottom adult teeth crashing up like the plate tectonics of her gums. Starfish hands all filled with squish. Words squeezing out fast with soft, unarticulated edges. (Her voice on the phone is simply a squeaky blast). Always willing to grab a hand of mine rooting around her busy fingers.
Rose announces, when our cat has a sneezing fit, “Bee’s been bless-youing a lot.” Bless-youing. She said it again, I note as if a fairy just flew by, ephemeral and magic. Last weekend at a swimming pond she wrapped a stranger’s dog in her own towel, because it was “shivering.” She waves at the decrepit, bone-protruding neighborhood deer we call Old lady. “Do you think she sees me wave?” Rose asks earnestly. What can I say? Suddenly, it seems my job is not only to prepare her for some unknown future, but to preserve the fragile seed of innocence within.
Rose turned seven last week. Seven.
Under the crab apple, May 2014
The other night Rose woke up moaning and crying out for me. Her knees hurt. I rubbed arnica into the knobby shells of her kneecaps and brought her to our big bed where she tossed and turned. She asked to go back to her bed. She called for me again. I brought her to the kitchen table and we had a snack together at midnight. “I’m sorry your knees hurt,” I told her over yogurt and bananas. “You’ve been taking good care of me,” she replied. At that moment I felt something alive spring from our hearts and grow together, reminding me of how we can always find each other.
Rose and I are growing up together, her shaping me at least as much as I shape her. She is not an “easy” child, and you know what? It doesn’t matter. What matters is how I respond. She isn’t here to fulfill my notions of a perfect family; she’s here to both become herself and realize that ones self is a changing parade of conditions. My parenting prayer lately has been, “let me be a mountain of love and firm boundaries.” It’s like meditating – my mind wanders 44 times in 10 minutes, but the response is clear: bring my attention back to the breath. My breathtakingly lucky days with children contain 44 moments that are excruciatingly hard, but the response is clear: come back to love and firm boundaries. And if I fail? Try again. And again.
One of Rose’s birthday presents from me and Dan was to foster kittens. Our first fosteree, Emily, is here!
Yesterday, riding in the car with Col, Rose and their friend, the friend said to Col, “You’re NINE? You’re so small, you’re smaller than me, and I’m seven!” There was a sharp frozen pause before Rose turned to the friend, pointed out the window and said, “Look, there’s the carnival! Do you like the carnival? Are you going? What’s your favorite ride? Do you like the games? They cost five dollars, my mom says that’s too much for crappy prizes.” It could have been a coincidence, but I believe Rose was loading her friend’s mind with questions until any notion of her brother’s smallness was erased.
Birthday party by Junction Creek. Eating s’mores with HOMEMADE MARSHMALLOWS. Yes, I did. And I’d do it again, with a fair amount of complaining.
Still in the car, I turn up the Wings song, Maybe, I’m Amazed, singing along to words that are as true as they get. Baby, I’m amazed at the way you love me all the time.
“What does he say?” Rose asks.
“Baby, I’m amazed…”
“Baby, I’m a waste?”
“BABY, I’M AMAZED.”
“Why is he amazed?”
“Because it’s amazing to be loved.”
The two pound bok choi bomb
We’re hosting an Open Garden, June 1st 10am – 12pm.
* Stroll around at your leisure and/or get your questions answered.
* See what we’re already harvesting in quantity (arugula, lettuce, kale, spinach, chard, bok choi, radishes, parsley, cilantro, rhubarb) AKA every adult family member is required to eat a large salad daily.
* Check out the backyard chicken operation.
* See what we start from seed indoors and what we direct-sow.
* Compost tours.
* Learn how we have fruit already set on tomatoes (growing outside) without any grow lights or extra heat.
* Take a trip down into the root cellar.
* Learn which weeds we eat and which we pull.
* See how much fruit, vegetables and herbal medicine can be pumped out of 1/8 acre in town.
* See how we work with the challenges of this elevation (hot days, cold nights, quick season, general aridity).
* See how we take advantage of microclimates within one property.
* Enjoy the beautiful chaos.
Sunday, June 1st 10am-12pm (come anytime within these two hours)
Suggested donation: $5/family
E-mail me for directions sanjuandrive(at)frontier(dot)net
Col and I are walking down the hard-packed trail, bits of spring pushing up through dry oak leaves. I am answering his two-part question. First: when were you embarrassed as a child? Second: when were you not embarrassed as a child?
Scrapbooks of embarrassing moments fling open in my mind (Hello elementary school! Hello entire life!) when Col sees the snake—greenish brown like the very colors of a Colorado spring—crossing the trail.
He grabs my arm and says, in italics, “this is very, very special.”
We pledge not to move, to outlast the snake while it effortlessly impersonates a statue – a statue flicking its red forked tongue. “That gardener snake is smelling us,” Col shares from his collection of 9-year old wisdom. “It’s a garter snake,” I correct him, regretting it a nanosecond later, wondering how I became stodgy spokesperson of the “accuracy at all costs” club.
The snake slithers off the trail, showing us, with its forever-belly, the exact contours of the land before it dives under a pink boulder.
I almost didn’t come here with Col today. Rose has horse camp every Friday, and I could easily deposit Col with a friend and begin bailing out the sinking raft of work deadlines. Also, asking Col and I to both define “hike,” is like trying to find common ground between Elton John and Mitt Romney. Col trolls along at the pace of say, an entomologist seeking out a rare species of ant, then spontaneously plops down to build a rock replica of Washington D.C. I like to get my middle-aged heart-rate revved up. But, unlike much of Congress, we’re wild about each other.
I’m not sure what from our Friday hikes will sift through the sensory onslaught called “life,” and lodge in the scaffolding of Col’s memories. And really, it doesn’t matter. The mother in me likes to code “significant family moments” like a neurotic medical biller, comforting myself with the proof that We Did Cool and Meaningful Stuff! As a Family!
Dan and I spend long, fraught evenings dissecting our children’s educational paths (How do we encourage engagement with learning? Times tables! Ack!) and budding character (How do we help kids take responsibility for their actions?), while our kids simply board the family bus, eyes shiny and trusting. Someday they’ll be shocked to learn that adulthood isn’t synonymous with certitude.
And today, much as it might feel good to plow deeper into the fields of my to-do list, much as Col would not dock me “motherhood points” for dropping him with a friend, I am really here for myself.
I’m here to assure Col that my childhood contained embarrassing moments too, and to listen to his uncensored thoughts while still granted access. I’m here to notice what snags his attention today: a heart-shaped rock, a purple leaf, the pair of ravens playing in the wind currents.
Col is too young to understand the currency of memories, how they keep you company as you age. Nor does he know about the clenching muscle of the heart that wants to grasp the ungraspable, to preserve the ephemeral, to slow down the fast march of childhood. No, he—and most children—simply live it, as carefree as the ravens that swoop low to check us out.
We take this same hike every Friday. We notice which plants have grown since we were last here. We go to the same creek and shore up our Washington D.C. rock sculptures. We haven’t seen the snake again, but we walk past the large pink boulder with its secret hole, and we remember how we stood there in the spring sun, together, with no particular agenda other than to watch life unfold in the present moment.
We are driving home from our Mother’s Day trip to our favorite wild hot springs. We’re happy and exhausted, muscles noodly, hair reeking of earthy minerals. We’re listening to Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits on cassette; Col is trying to decode the meaning behind the song Mrs Robinson, alarmed about this line: Most of all you’ve got to hide it from the kids. The clouds are low and dark, dropping a springy mountain mix of hail, snow and rain. Rose is moaning about how nothing went right for her today.
“Nothing, huh?” Dan asks her.
“Nothing,” Rose replies, drawing out this two-syllable word into a sad melody.
We stopped at a super fun park in Dolores on the way home and Rose is mad that we had to leave before she was ready. This disappointment is getting watered by her own tears, sprouting grafted limbs of every other slight of the day.
“And we didn’t get to go to the Absolute Bakery and get a treat and then those other people showed up at the hot springs and I didn’t like that and then I had to leave the park and I never get to go to that park and it’s the funnest park and I didn’t even want to go to those hot springs, I wanted to go to the Pagosa Hot Springs.” (Pronounced: Pagosa Hot Spring-ing-ing-ings”).
Rose has a specific whine-cry, a precise auditory note designed to pluck the strings of my nervous system like an aggressive and psychotic banjo player. It is a sound so jarring, so deeply disturbing that every cell in my body shrieks: do anything necessary to stop that!
Instead, I breathe.
I let Art Garfunkel’s honey voice fill me and then I wade into Rose’s world, armed with layers of empathy.
“Oh honey, what a hard day. You could have played at that park for hours. That is the funnest park! And we didn’t even get treats at the bakery. We always stop there. You love their yummy treats.”
Rose’s whine-cry gets louder.
Trust the process. Breathe. Trust the process.
I don’t mention that we left the park because snow was pounding in on a fierce wind, nor that I made her and Col hot chocolate in travel mugs, knowing the bakery would be closed.
Rose dials up the backseat noise. Claws grip my shoulders.
“That was such a bummer to leave that park,” Dan says. “You’re probably bored with all the Durango parks, and that park is so new and exciting. You could have played for hours.”
He doesn’t mention that he spent 30 minutes chasing Rose up and down the castle stairs, through the equipment, her shrieking with delight. We make no promises to go back another time, nor offer solutions to fix the sadness.
Rose continues to bellow.
“You weren’t ready to leave, but the rest of us were. That feels crappy. Did you love that tire swing so much?”
Rose says, through sniffles, “If I lived in Dolores, I’d have my birthday parties there.”
“For sure,” Dan murmurs.
“Absolutely,” I chime in.
I can feel that the soft fingers of empathy are beginning to massage her wounds.
We empathize with how surprising it was to have others show up at the hot springs, the warm, bubbly pool we’ve always had to ourselves. We acknowledge that she had wanted to go to Pagosa Hot Springs, but had allowed me to choose on Mother’s Day. Another let down.
We don’t mention that she was doing naked springy ecstatic cartwheels in the snow, or that expectations bring suffering, or that these wild hot springs are a great gift that we don’t own or control.
It takes a full half hour for Rose to decelerate out of her disappointment. And even then, it’s a shaky victory, a small jump up the ladder of emotional well-being. For the last half hour of the car ride she and Col play a game in the backseat which brings her alternately to laughter and tears. It is no exaggeration to say I drive that last stretch praying for strength, focusing on my breath, singing along with S & G a little over-enthusiastically, and mustering trust to follow my intuition not to interfere with their game, partially because I am so wrung out, I’m worried that if I open my mouth something ugly will fly out.
After we get home, unpack, shower, and start dinner, Rose flings her small toweled body at Dan and me, and cries, “I love you both so much!”
That night, I lay in bed with Dan and realize three things I am grateful for:
- As much as it took my nervous system a full two hours to shake off the half hour of keening and whining, looking back, I feel great about our day. I have no hangover of regret. There’ve been enough times where I escalate Rose’s sadness by trying to distract her out of it, talk her out of it, or enact some unrelated consequence to get the noise to stop, all of which makes her cry louder, harder and longer. Despite the discomfort of that stretch in the car, I am pleased that I didn’t make it worse. To go to bed free and clear of regret feels wonderful.
- As Natalie noted at the recent workshop, Building an Emotionally Safe Space, when one child receives empathy, it calms everyone in the room (or the car). Not only did all the empathy traveling from front seat to back seat help Col relax, it worked like a boomerang. Dan’s empathy for Rose came right back at me like a hug, like encouragement, mobilizing my next launch of compassionate words for Rose.
- I no longer believe that kids can be “taught” gratitude, i.e. letting them express their disappointment doesn’t create entitled children who can’t be happy for what they have. We all feel disappointment every day. Denying those feelings buries them deeper; acknowledging them allows them to dissipate. I believe the best way to help kids feel gratitude is to model your own gratitude for this wild, messy, imperfect and beloved world.
ps: hope your Mother’s Day was full of love and all the deep breaths needed.
I saw a house wren zipping around the rabbit brush yesterday, brown-suited, lively, and back from its Mexican winter. And I got it like a smack to the head: spring is the return of life!
Dan’s been feeling up baby apricots swelling under just-dropped blossoms, and making me beam when he compliments the peas inching up along their fencing. Amazing things are happening…like the whole biomass of every leafing tree! The fruit trees are out of control, bursting into bloom like the floral manifestation of their own joy.
I was on a walk with my parents when Dan called to report a single white-winged dove lurking in our yard. “Only five reported sightings in La Plata County,” he told me, his voice all italics. These rare sightings are explained by birds having been “blown off course,” which conjures something magical, lucky, and inexplicable — much the same way I found myself alone and new in La Plata County 19 years ago.
Another face of Rocky Mountain spring.
This sighting, naturally, has inspired the daily playing of the gorgeous Emmy Lou Harris song, Blackhawk and the White Winged Dove, which is a huge improvement over the freaking Frozen soundtrack as interpreted by a 6-year old who knows 20% of the words. Plus, who can resist a 6-year old singing about punch clocks, muscatel and aching hearts.
On the homestead:
:: After a seasonal hiatus, Dan is back working on the shed/writing studio/art studio/playhouse. Maybe there’s some feminist ethic decrying the panting after a man pounding nails into a 45 degree slope, but apparently it’s lost on me.
:: Greens popping in the cold frames.
:: Luckily there are plenty of weedy decoys to lure chickens away from the lettuce, spinach and arugula.
:: Did I tell you I manifested a garden apprentice? She moved in downstairs and reminds me of myself at 24, which is to say passionate and just a little anxious about dropping off what seemed like her expected career trajectory. Having her around is making me 25% more lazy, soft and grateful. Also, I can call her after blundering out of the house in the morning and ask her to do all the garden chores I neglected and she’s all “thank you – what a peaceful and grounding way to start the day.” Plus she homeschooled herself for high school. Plus she knows how to talk to 40-year olds and 6-year olds. Plus this tattoo:
(Planting 160 onions together). Her tattoo: this being human is a guest house. From The Rumi poem that you should go read right now.
:: Col got an opportunity to ride in a 2-seater airplane last weekend, 2-seater as in him and the pilot. They cruised over town, and after I extracted my heart from my belly, I got extremely excited for him.
He’s in a booster so he can see out the window, which made the whole thing slightly more cute than terrifying.
:: At the dandelion festival last weekend, Col and his homeschool co-op sold lemonade and the herbal salve they made to raise money to buy trees to combat climate change.
:: Meanwhile, Rose and her friend Fawn sold baked goods and spent every cent they made (as they made it) to buy flea market shoes, purses and clothes.
:: While we were at the Dandelion Festival, Dan was hiking and found this elk antler “way in there.”
The crazy thing is Dan has three other antlers that match it perfectly (two of which have been cemented into the root cellar roof for 2 years, which is nuttier, knowing that he can transpose the precise shape of those antlers onto the one he just found). He’s pretty sure they’re from the same genetic stock, i.e. fathers and sons and grandfathers. I asked Dan if he found these four matching antlers in the same general area, and he whips out a piece of paper, draws a map of the precise place he found each one. For contrast, sometimes he forgets how old he is.
:: In other Dan news, his roadkill-karma luck has been outrageous. (A side benefit from his job, which has no actual benefits, is that he drives all over the region early in the morning, the better to spot roadkill). He’s been putting whole deer shoulders in the root cellar to age for a few weeks, then rubbing them in bacon fat and salt and roasting them in the oven. We’re getting seriously spoiled.
:: A man in his den (or his, er, corner of the room that he shares with a sister).
Lets get all the children on this haunting working class anthem:
With all the springy love,
a lot as in…everything.
photo by Rick Scibelli Jr.
- The single tulip that Rose extracted from my parents’ bouquet. Which goes to show, if you don’t ask for what you want…
- There is never no one stapled to my body (which I will miss tremendously someday).
- The placement of the toilet in the center of our house, which I still haven’t made peace with after 12 years.
- The continuous rotation of undies and whatnots on the drying rack.
- Where is Dan? Doing something productive, likely.
- Fresh Mancos deer roadkill backstraps trimmed and ready for the grill (amounting to three deer transported home in Dan’s company work truck. Shhh.)
- Stuff and love, everywhere and lots of it.
I’m not sure what I used to do for fun, but right now I’m pretty ecstatic over the current egg reintroduction trials. (Apologies to the friends I’ve bored recounting all the eggs I’ve been eating…soft boiled, scrambled, fried, in mayonnaise).
I’m introducing foods back into my diet and it’s just like when your kids were babies and you’d spoonfeed them one single new food which never before existed in their gustatory universe. You’d watch their tastebuds discover peaches, and then wait three nervous days for any reactions. (Actually, it was only sort of like that with Col. By five months Rose was completely offended at not being offered everything we were eating, so when all the books said: at 6 months you can introduce rice cereal! Rose was already onto lentil curry and grilled elk steak).
I am feeling so good, and also so good about finally feeling good. You know what I mean? It’s like I’ve been walking in the dark for over seven months, placing one shaky foot in front of the other, falling a lot, waving away conventional medicine’s offer for a flashlight, and then one day the lights come on and there is healing and also a whole hell of a lot of eggs…and tomatoes…and even small amounts of rice. Susheeeeee!
Sometimes I count the months I’ve been at this, and the foods that have dropped off my “in” list, and other times this just feels like the way I eat. Next up to test on my reintroduction campaign are all the weeds in my garden that I love to eat (dandelion, amaranth, lamb’s quarters, purslane) but are maybe riddled with the oxalates I’ve been off of for many months. And then, green chiles, chocolate, and then booze, because even I am a little sick of digging deeper to find my grounded center on a chaotic afternoon, when a glass of wine would work just as well.
The funny thing is that I never expected to feel so great about simply feeling normal. It’s like this quote from Thich Nhat Hahn, “When we have a toothache, we know that not having a toothache is happiness. But later, when we don’t have a toothache, we don’t treasure our non-toothache.”
(I am considering a new practice of celebrating all the ailments I don’t have).
There’s a lot that currently remains a mystery, partially because auto-immune disorders are little understood and because I’ve been pasting together my own care with the help of Hottie healer voodoo, my new PhD in internet researcholgy and a lot of blind faith.
And I’m sorry to be so vague about the details, but come over for a cup of coffee (with raw cream and coconut oil) and I’ll tell you all about it. We’ll have some eggs together.
Spring is drawing itself out in that slow delicious way, giving, retreating, yielding, offering itself for the winter-chilled dog of you to roll around in. And just when you’re belly up in dandelions, imbibing sun like it’s a multivitamin in which you’ve been deficient, in blows the stinging wind, like a memo from the Don’t Get Too Comfortable Dep’t of Spring.
Inside, Col can be found at lego-headquarters, where all central operations take place. Snap snap snap. Rose is on the couch, strumming a guitar and exploring the art of believing in your own talent. I am in the kitchen (which, in an 800 sf house is 5 steps away – or in Rose’s case: one cartwheel), wrangling something out of the food processor and into a jar.
Rose: What should I sing now?
Col: Running horses.
Rose: That’s one of my worst.
Col: I know.
Rose: (singing, improvisationally) Horses running faster than the speed of sound. Horses runnnnnnnning.
Dan comes home from work and tells me, “I met the new guy downstairs, Doobie.” This makes me laugh inappropriately hard, because the new guy’s name is actually Dooley, and because Dan is unfazed to think our new downstairs tenant named himself after a joint.
He’s reading to her, not that I’m insanely excited and touched by it or anything.
Outside, everything is coming out, greening up, revealing itself. The house sparrows who’ve taken over the bluebird box are rearing yet another clutch of invasive young; the pine siskins have returned to our feeders, an exclusive, populous club of grey-suits flashed with yellow. We watch expectantly for the evening grosbeaks, who are somewhere in the Southwest, closer by the day.
I’m planting some things too late (carrots, radishes) and others too early (cauliflower, turnips). For the sixteenth year in a row, I stand in my spring-green yard with a shovel, pre-calloused hands, and a smidge of hope, knocked out by the realization that gardening is a metaphor for everything. Everything. Muddling through the soil, yanking weeds and adding compost is like tending my own overgrown, unruly mind. The way the grass spears up everywhere I don’t want it, yet comes in sparse where I do is like the agricultural manifestation of my own aging body. In gardening, we plan, plant, water, tend, trust, all the while getting schooled by the unknown, the uncontrollable, just like this beloved life.
Col’s homeschool co-op is learning about flight. Col’s knowledge of planes currently outstrips mine, which is a weird and exciting moment in parenting. But I still know more about birds, for now, so I taught the small people about the universe’s most efficient flying machines. I wonder how much longer I can get all bug-eyed and OMG-voiced without seeming cheesy to the kids when I explain about how birds’ reproductive organs shrink 1000x in size before they migrate, or how birds navigate by stars. I am truly humbled, pondering a bird’s birdness.
We did fly some paper airplanes on our “Flight” day.
Rose: Col, now do you want me to play, The Lion Streaks Tonight?
I hope you’re feeling the coming outness of spring.
p.s. The workshop, Creating an Emotionally Safe Space, is this weekend. Yippee! It’s filling up. Please e-mail me if you’d like to come. Also, there are two spaces left for childcare. And, sliding scale available.
p.p.s Are you finding that new updates from the 6512 and gowing Facebook Page aren’t showing up in your feed? Try this: Go to the 6512 Facebook page, click “Like,” (thank you!), or if you already did, “Liked” (also, thank you!) and then check “Get Notifications” from the dropdown menu.
p.p.p.s Have you read, The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd? Beautiful historical fiction about a wealthy slave-owner turned abolitionist.
p.p.p.p.s Has anyone made the sunflower butter? I’ve now made, with the same general recipe, peanut butter and pumpkin seed butter. So good.
1. Sing out: dinner’s ready! Wonder how it is that Rose was needlingly hungry for past hour though now is overtaken by singular need to shove stiff, angular limbs of Barbies into tiny garments. Sigh loudly and passive-aggressively.
2. Notice that everyone has a slightly different plate of food. Recall recent conversation between houseful of 7 kids, each stating the precise way they did and didn’t like eggs cooked, as opinionated as small congresspeople. Wonder if this is American phenomenon.
3. Watch how kids maintain place at the table with one butt cheek in chair, knees up and down like knobby accordions, feet searching for land. Breathe deeply. Try to focus on taste sensation of elk sausage, roasted every vegetable.
4. Try for-real to listen to Col’s explanation of how jet engines are like…what is he talking about? Batteries? Solar powered commuter planes? Wonder if he’s actual genius or totally off his rocker.
5. Feel wave of gratitude towards Dan who says gently to Rose, “I really want to hear what you have to say, but right now I’m listening to your brother. One way to know you’ll get my full attention is to see how I’m giving that to Col when he speaks.” Also, feel wave of self-congratulations, certain Dan’s learned kind, patient style from me.
6. Wonder how dinners will be when kids have left home. Feel slight longing followed by terror.
7. Slice up avocados for all, except Col, who would rather eat liver and mushrooms, who actually likes liver and mushrooms. Wonder what will happen if the global marketplace breaks down and we can no longer purchase $1 avocados.
8. Check clock. One hour until bedtime. Feel relief, then guilt about relief. Relief wins, even as I know that a powerful wave of nostalgia/guilt/love/longing/satisfaction about raising kids will hit once they’re sleeping.
9. Feel just the tiniest bit still hungry.
10. Assemble ingredients for paleo cookie dough, wondering if it would still taste good if I remembered what a brownie tasted like.
10. Sit back at table. Spoon cookie dough into mouth. Feel Rose’s feet in lap. Col still monologuing about jet engines. Notice how bright his eyes are. Decide that passion trumps accuracy, at least when you’re nine. Feel benevolent and grateful for these people, this life.
Paleo Cookie Dough
(disclosure: I’ve never actually followed a recipe with this cookie dough and it’s always perfect).
1/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 1/2 TBSP sunflower seed butter (or any nut butter)
1 TBSP coconut oil (room temp – softened)
sprinkle of salt
small handful of raisins (or dried cranberries, or go crazy and add chocolate chips)
plenty of imagination
This is not to be baked. Mix and eat with a spoon.
I actually need someone to make this and report back on whether I am kitchen genius or off my rocker.
We’re in the car, returning from celebrating the Jewish holiday, Purim, at Temple Har Shalom. We’ve had a fun night, including participating in the rowdy re-enactment of the Purim story and being served a lovely catered dinner. The sky darkens and the kids clutch new toys won at the Purim carnival.
“The one part I didn’t like?” announces Rose without provocation, “is that I didn’t get more cookies.”
A small, cramped place in my brain lights up in silent accusation: After all that fun you’re dwelling on the cookies you didn’t eat?
From the moment we arrived, a table of traditional Purim cookies, called Hamentashen, were available. We told our kids they could choose one cookie after dinner. There are things, as parents, that we’re loose and easy with; cookies before dinner are not one of them.
Dan speaks up. “That must’ve been hard to see kids grabbing cookies all night. All those cookies just sitting there! And you had to wait. That feels unfair!”
“Yeah,” Rosie replies with the buoyancy of a newly inflated balloon. She returns to wriggling the rubber worms won at the beanbag toss. Hamentashen cookies become the proverbial hatchet, buried.
Somewhere down the bumpy road of parenthood, we’ve been duped into believing we can manage our children’s difficult emotions by telling them how to feel. “Shhh, you’re okay,” we whisper when they’re howling after a fall. “You’re lucky you got one cookie!” we insist. “It’s not a big deal, you have hundreds more,” we say when a beloved pink bead rolls down the sewer grate.
Telling your child not to fret while fat tears sail down their cheeks is like speaking to them from behind a glass wall. The excellent and logical soliloquy on why cookies are special treats is lost on a child who’s gripped in disappointment.
The good news is that if you apply empathy (which is simply non-judgmental listening without problem-solving or lecturing) like a bandage to a wound, the child feels heard, understood, and not bullied into defending their position. (Trouble will escalate if your child becomes invested in defending their feelings). You don’t have to believe or not believe that being denied unlimited cookies warrants disappointment. You simply acknowledge and allow your child’s feelings. And feelings don’t last forever. When your child eventually moves from the primitive brain of “emotional stuckness” back into executive function, she can consider a rational explanation regarding your position on sugar before dinner.
I’m just a little extremely excited that my friends and mentors, Natalie Christensen and Nathan McTague, are coming to Durango to offer their nationwide workshop, Building an Emotionally Safe Space. Here, you will learn the latest brain science to understand how emotional processing affects children. They say, “Everything we want for our children, students, and families hinges on healthy emotional processing and the development of optimal neuro-emotional habits.”
This means that although it feels like we want compliance now damnit! what we really want is children who choose to cooperate (at least the majority of the time) because a two-way street of respect has been forged that doesn’t rely on bribes, threats or rewards.
As I practice “peaceful parenting” I can feel my muscles of patience strengthen, and the space of my own pause before reacting, lengthen. (And sometimes Dan and I rescue each other in the nick of time). This prevents me from saying something I’ll regret, and helps me see my child as needing support and encouragement, rather than needing to be wrestled into submission. This truly is a practice, one which I appreciate the opportunity to deepen. See you at the workshop!
What: Building an Emotionally Safe Space
When: Saturday, April 19th, 2-4:30
Where: Rocky Mountain Retreat Center, 848 East 3rd Ave. Durango
Who: Natalie Christensen, certified Positive Discipline Teacher, and Nathan McTague, Certified Life Coach and Positive Discipline Teacher
To Sign Up: Call 970-903-0672 or e-mail: sanjuandrive(at)frontier(dot)net
$30/person; $40/parenting team
Limited childcare available ($10/child)
This workshop looks at the latest brain science to understand how emotional processing affects children. We dive into the “ins and outs” of empathy and how to use it effectively to help children manage emotional upheaval and move into their “upper brain” where faculties like reason, logic, critical thinking, self-awareness, cooperation, and eventually empathy itself become accessible. We also share strategies for creating a home or class environment that fosters children’s complete comfort in sharing and moving through feelings. Everything we want for our children, students, and families hinges on healthy emotional processing and the development of optimal neuro-emotional habits. This course will get you there!
easy comprehensible steps
thorough, take-home outline and resources
3 comprehensive charts for quick and easy reference
research that supports the information
helpful, clear graphics
question and answer time
the after-school meltdown/reconnecting after school