Updated: Jul 6, 2020
It was a Monday during the pandemic and all the house was asleep.
There was not a sound but the chirping of the birds in the early morning sunrise
"Wake UUUU-uuuup, beautiful Ima!" (mom in Hebrew)
There was my spritely squirrel all ready to go, completely awake. Note that she did not, however, try to wake up her equally tired and sleeping Aba (dad in Hebrew).
Now, I am NOT an early riser. For 14 years I had to wake up at 5:15am every morning to get to my classrooms on time and as a mother who has worked to build a more forgiving schedule, I do not enjoy being woken up. Even when so sweetly.
But then something magical happened. And I am pretty sure it was because of all of the foundational work that had come before.
Here's the sequence of events:
She noticed that her beautiful Ima was indeed NOT ready to wake up. So she plopped her huge pile of friends and blanket on our bed and kissed me on the cheek saying, "it's ok, baby...yes, it's ok sweet one..."
I began to grumble something to the ring of "Lula, Ima and Aba are very tired and still want to sleep a little bit. Do you want to cuddle?" and prepare for the inevitable "nooooo!!!!" when she added, "well, I understand. So you can keep sleeping because I have an apple that was already washed in my snack box!" Jump, knee on stomach, sweet kiss, cuddle, "oh! And I can read in that little chair too!"
CHEERS for the snack box and children who can open the fridge by themselves! (the latter being something I had sometimes cursed in the past.) And oh GLORY for the little reading and meditation nook in our bedroom.
So I got to actually turn over and refocus on the birds. I got to sleep MORE after my child had already woken!!! All while listening to the sweetest of little feet that ran to the kitchen and back, and then proceeded to set up her very own pile of books next to her morning snack. After that, she ran to her toy rotation and built a barn and yard with magnatiles.
And then for the following blissful hour, my husband and I got to slowly wake up, cuddle, and even read our own books in bed!
It was quite a triumph, and turned into a really loving morning filled with pancakes and fun.
But what this magical little moment made me realize even more so was the amazing gift of providing our children with examples of stillness:
If she had only watched us ask for what we need and explain exactly why before rolling over in bed, that would have been enough.
If she had only watched us cuddle, learning by example how to share simple moments of love, that would have been enough.
If she had only experienced the freedom of safety and responsibility that comes when we trust our toddlers to sometimes fend for themselves, that would have been enough.
If she had only experienced the stillness of a mindful morning and learned how to cherish each moment, that would have been enough.
If she had only witnessed each of her parents diving hungrily into their books, learning by example how nourishing the written word is, that would have been enough.
If she had only learned play independence and the joy of imaginative play with loose parts, that would have been enough.
And in that moment, we were also given a precious gift: the knowledge that sometimes doing nothing as parents is enough. Even more than enough.
In the scarcity culture we build around ourselves that is always, mercilessly telling us that we are not enough, that what we are doing and what we are thinking is not enough, that we will never be enough, the power of a simple morning where, in my experience, I stated my needs and had my needs met. My child was able to empathize and meet my needs. She was able to be self supportive and shame resilient. That is because in our house, at least, I am done with parenting from a place of guilt or fear or worry. I am done with hiding what I really need. I am way into showing my hurt, revealing my pain, stating when I need a break or when I feel weak or tired. I try to bear my soul and show up as I am every day. So because of that, she is learning the same.
And THAT is what's up.
So I wanted to share some of the hard-earned lessons in my own parenting that I have thought a lot about, especially recently:
LESSON ONE: Make fewer goals, try to accomplish less, and celebrate more.
Ahh, the superhero complex, boy do I know it well. What I have discovered is that the age old adage of less is more is absolutely true and oh so hard. But what was real in the classroom and is still true in my motherhood as well as quarantine life is that I have a tendency to try to tweeze out every precious minute of time alone to get things done and then instead of doing just that...I fall apart.
So now every time I feel the tendency creeping up to overload my workday or my special work time, I remind myself to be kind to myself.
Some ways I do this:
every time I know I will have an opportunity to work I write for myself only 1-3 manageable, bite-size goals that I KNOW I will accomplish
sometimes those goals are so small, like respond to one e-mail
sometimes those goals have nothing to do with my work and are about self care, like taking a 30 minute break
I don't have mandates or a schedule, instead go with the flow
And then I celebrate! I celebrate what was. I tap into gratitude. Sometimes I jump around the room and repeat an empowering incantation like
EVERY DAY IN EVERY WAY I ACCEPT AND SHARE THE WEALTH, MONEY IS ABUNDANT, LOVE AND PEACE WITHIN AND I AM IN PERFECT HEALTH!
Yes, I look hokey. Yes, it's sometimes even silly. But it feels oh. so. good.
And I also purposefully slow myself down. These days I am working in timed increments - 25min get things done followed by 5min of self love. Sometimes the self love is a cuddle. Other times it's that dance above. And sometimes it is a meditation or even a longer nap.
But the idea is to break up the frenzy with the light. Move our bodies. Go outside. Play with our kids.
And know that the work will get done even BETTER and more productively if we sandwich it with love.
LESSON TWO: Fight without blame, hear without shame, and take more pauses
I am in the process of noticing my triggers. Just in noticing we have won half the battle. Once we have done this, we are then able to hear and fight without the blame and shame. We are able to give space for the things others need. We are able to hear these needs without hearing the guilt or shame tape. Or at least without letting it run us.
It's all about observing ourselves from our higher selves.
Here is how I've been doing this lately:
In neutral times, I think of a trigger. Sometimes it is something that's just occurred and other times it is from long ago.
I write it down. I draw it out. I tell the story.
I notice how the telling of the trigger plays out in my body. Do I feel heat? Tingles? Tense? An increased heartbeat?
Then later, whenever I have the same body reaction I tap into it with curiosity.
I ask why I'm feeling this way and I remain curious.
Then I allow myself to hear my tape. Whenever the tape is self bashing, the "you should'ves" and "why didn't I's" I accept it and don't allow it to drive.
Once I've done that, I am then able to change the shoulda to a coulda. I am able to give myself a high five. I can treat myself as I would a good friend.
I'm starting to get better at this. It's hard work, sometimes emotionally exhausting, but it's already led to softer, simpler living. I am able to be more patient with my child. I no longer have the same triggers with my partner. I keep waiting for them and am so blown away when they don't come! I still get stuck in my "gotta get EVERYTHING done NOOOOOOWWWWW!" tape every now and then but it's being replaced more and more with the good stuff of self love.
See every accident or mistake as an opportunity
Today my daughter ran into the house during a money date I was having with my husband announcing "I'm not here but I have to pee!" and then of course a few seconds later "I peed on the floor and on the carpet and on my pants!" HOW did she do that?? But guess what, it made us pause and recollect. And it led to an exponentially cleaner bathroom floor than we have had in a long time!
There are what I like to call "happy accidents" in every negatively-tagged occurrence.
Our fruit fly infestation = a cleaner and more organized kitchen YES!
I already shared about the pee incident. YES!
My daughter spilled milk while pouring herself cereal, she got to learn how to properly wipe it up. YES and YES for next time!
And here's a big one (and the hardest!): when I mess up, I get to name it to my child and use it as an opportunity to model shame resilience.
So try to see how the cracks let the light in, as Brene would say. Try to see the happy in the accident.
Look your loved ones in the eye, ask full questions, wait and listen for full answers
Every day, especially during this pandemic, I've had a daily morning and evening check-in ritual with my daughter. I simply ask her how she's doing and she knows that she will get five minutes of undivided, uninterrupted attention. Because she's 3, sometimes I guide her with "tell me more" and "how does that feel" and "when ______ happens, that must feel embarrassing/scary/disappointing...is this true?" These phrases are an opportunity to model emotionally balanced thought processes and ways to approach situations. They also highlight and extend emotional vocabulary.
But what is most important in these moments are the wait time. The holding of space. Being in the love. She is learning that her thoughts and needs matter and that any emotion on the spectrum is OK. And after repeated modeling of this kind of experience, I get to enjoy the same treatment from her.
I also have been taking the time to look my husband in his beautiful blue eyes. To smile. To hold. And to appreciate. Then I turn around and look myself in my own beautiful blue eyes. Sometimes I also hug myself.
This stuff might feel granola crunchy. It might not speak to you at all. I get it. I used to be a skeptical armored up NYer once myself. But believe me, when we try this simplicity thing out, this slow living becomes contagious. We reap the benefits of TIME for self love. Time for self exploration. Time to just be. And time to see and hear our loved ones with generosity and wholeheartedness.
And if that is not the reason we have chosen to build families, to hold that connection and nurture it so that it grows, then what is?
So live slow, my dears. Live slow and grateful. And see how much loving time it brings.
If you would like to know more about how I help parents carve out a nourishing morning routine or want more information about my coaching services and Four Phase Methodology towards a Joyous Parenthood, visit here!
Sivanne Lieber is a parenthood coach and consultant for parents and caregivers of the soft years, ages 0-5 and beyond. She works with families to find the confident, calm, connected parenthood they deserve.
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