The gift of misplaced words

To my Son,

You gave me a gift today, little one, and I almost didn’t notice.

We had been grocery shopping, a necessity despite you not being yourself due to a headcold… or the wind… or your teeth coming through… or maybe just getting up on the wrong side of the bed.

And I asked you to be good and to focus at a time when those ideas made as much sense to you as saving fish from drowning. So you tried, with your mind elsewhere and your hands all over your brother who was NOT in the mood to be your human stress ball. I asked you calmly to give him space, once, twice, probably five or six times before I announced the loss of a privilege for not listening. I’d handled all this pretty well so far, I was calm and in control and explained things peacefully enough for you to completely ignore.

Then you lost it, and so did I.

We all have challenges, and one of yours is magnifying life’s stresses when you’re not at your best. So this loss of privilege, which really wasn’t so bad, seemed ENORMOUS to you in that moment. You melted down, and as you did you said some really awful things.

I should be used to your use of words as weapons, and remember how quickly they fall when the moment passes. I should remember that your attempts to hurt with them just mean that you’re hurting and you need to get it outside of you as quickly as you can to lessen the burn.

But we all have challenges, and one of mine is taking what is said at face value. So I got hurt along with you. I got loud along with you. And as you fought to get all your anger out I fought right on back. Not in the same way, of course, and to an outsider I probably handled it just fine… but the truth was I lost myself in those words of yours, and that wasn’t fine at all.

We drove home with both of us fuming and not much talking going on. After a while calm returned and we talked about the reasons why what you said wasn’t ok. That was true, it wasn’t, but neither was my response.

Most of us go around as adults thinking we’re doing pretty alright. We learn to play to our strengths and push our weaknesses aside or justify them. We make beautiful masks to wear for the world and they hide a myriad of faults.

And you, little boy, are particularly skilled at making my mask slip.

Taking words at face value is fine, it’s not a fault as such, but it misses a LOT. A lot that you deserve and that I do too. It reaches to other relationships and to my marriage. Responding to someone losing their cool and over reacting by losing my cool and over reacting… well, that doesn’t work.

Your gift to me today was reminding me of something I could do better. Reminding me that sad doesn’t always have tears, and hurt doesn’t always shrink back. Reminding me that small things to me can be huge things to someone else, and that grown up concepts and instructions sometimes don’t fit little people whose minds are in the clouds that day. You showed me that anger is not always about the one who receives it, but sometimes about just getting something out before it hurts you more, and that a moment and a deep breath can change everything.

I snuggled you in bed shortly before you went to sleep tonight and we talked about today. I reminded you that just as Dad and I talk to you about things you could do better you have every right to do the same to us, because we’re all learning no matter how old we are. I acknowledged your feelings from earlier than you’d hidden behind your anger, and asked you how I could have handled it better. I reminded you that just as you owe others respect they absolutely owe it right back. Your lip trembled as you told me how I could have handled it better, and I promised you I would try my hardest next time.

Growing up isn’t easy, and the truth is we never really stop. We will get it right together so much of the time and we will get it wrong an awful lot too. It’s all part of pulling off the mask I guess. And each time we’ll get to know ourselves a little more, become more patient, more kind, more humbled by this huge life thing we’re doing together. It’s just about being honest, really, and the trust that goes with it.

So thank you for your gift of misplaced words today little one, they made my mask slip perfectly.

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

To Have Shyness

In English they say you are something, as though your state at that moment defines you, you are thirsty, you are hungry, when in truth you’re not – they’re moments that pass, some delicious, some unpleasant, but you are so much more than any of them. In Italian and Spanish and probably many other languages I’m not wise enough to know they say you have thirst, you have hunger, right now, maybe not in an hour or a year or even tomorrow. It doesn’t define you, its just part of you in this very moment.

My little one has shyness. Eyes cast downwards in timid moments, stock still or running back to Mumma when it all gets too much, arms wide, crying that cry that seems to come straight from the baby still inside the walking talking little one.

And it’s frustrating sometimes. Because when it eases I see how beautifully he plays with other kids, I see the delight he takes in the interactions with others and the stories he tells us afterwards. So I put him out there – enough for all the scary bits to seem not so scary anymore, from the vantage point that feels most like home, be it mummas hip or just in the aura of someone who makes the world seem a little smaller.

Tonight, like so many nights, my boy ran around the house pushing his pink stroller, Peppa Pig tucked in neatly. He sang, he talked about his day, he made jokes, he played in the bath with me laughing so sweetly and freely that it made me soar. He talked to the stars, marvelled at a spider, tore around the house squealing with glee playing chasey and covered Daddy and I with kisses.

And I felt so intensely grateful for this little boy. This boy that has shyness right now. Because soon the world wont seem so big to him, people wont seem worth hiding from, my hip will seem too limiting, the urge to explore will get too much, he will chase others with that same gleeful squeal that he chases his family and they will be lucky enough to hear all the stories that bubble out of him.

I’m excited for him, for every one of those bits to come. I also feel blessed, because right now, when my shoulder is still a safe place to nuzzle into and when “Mumma” is still whispered like comfort, we know this boy, this fascinating little person, in a way that others don’t yet. Like a really amazing secret.  And in this moment, he is ours in a way that only the ones who have shyness are.

We have his jokes, his quirks, his funny faces that he pulls to make us laugh. We have the raw moments and the joyful moments and the moments of wild toddler abandon. Sometimes he lets others glimpse them too, before deciding that maybe our secret is best kept a little longer.

I am blessed to be the mother of a little boy who has shyness, just as I am to be the mother of a big boy who has none. As time passes they will have many other things, many other parts of themselves that wont define them any more than these ones do, they’ll just become pieces of the puzzle of who they are. For now I’ll just aim to be the one who has balance for them when they need it, and I’ll enjoy all the little moments that are ours to keep.

Sebastian

The things you teach me

My babies,

Before me you are growing every day. Now and again I go a week or so without noticing just how much, then I stroke your head or hold your hand and the weight of it is different in mine, your hair wilder, your fingers stronger as they entwine with my own, your sigh deeper as you lean in for a hug. I wish I could take a snapshot in those times, photos I could feel back to, to remember your scent, your lopsided grin or the oh too many kisses you assault me with while the housework mounts just outside of our moment.

I am struck by so much about this time, and even with this I know there is more I’ll find later, like a treasure hunt you set up every day without me knowing. There is wisdom and laughter in this and it’s right there for years to come when the deepening of my perspective makes it obvious to look back on.

There are many things I’m learning from you now, from both of you. I’m learning that you are my mirrors – much kinder, wiser and more honest than the ones under harsh lighting in the bathroom. I am learning to accept the flowers and sticky fingered cuddles and whispers of “you’re my princess” like gifts, and to cherish that view of myself through your wide eyes. I am humbled by that love, and try to tell you the same every day with actions and laughter as much as the words I whisper into your soft hair.

I am learning that your bad moments are just as much of a gift to me as your good ones. That the hard is just as good as the easy, even if it doesn’t feel as smooth at the time. As I teach you about life you teach me right back. You teach me not to lose myself in overwhelm if you scream in a tantrum, you teach me to be aware of each moment so I can piece your preferences together like a jigsaw, and that more often than not, your state is a reflection of my own. Even when it isn’t, me being in a place of ease and happiness relaxes you like a hug you probably wouldn’t want me to give you at the time.

I have learned that minds are naturally hungry, but are picky as the eaters they are attached to, and that information, properly prepared can be just as sweet as your favourite dish. You teach me that mischief is actually curiosity, ‘getting into things’ is actually exploration, and that looking me in the eye while you do what you shouldn’t is actually learning the arts of persuasion.

You teach me to be patient, even when I’m not.

I see every day from you that we learn what we love, so love is the thing most worth fostering because learning follows impossibly close behind without fail.

I am discovering that the magic I find in words may be hidden for you in patterns of lego or the great outdoors, so not to try to force my own magic on you, but rather follow, heart in my throat, hoping to catch a glimpse of what I can learn of yours.

I am discovering that good and bad, tired and relaxed, stressed and happy can and often do coexist in the same moment, but that we choose which one we see. This is such an important lesson that we’re teaching each other a little of it each day.

I am learning to stretch, with you, because of you and for you. And I am better for it.

That the best example I can give you is to be the best of who I am, which doesn’t mean being perfect, it means being wildly curious, joyful, playful and kind.

You show me the absurd in the world around us, and the fierceness in myself as I rise to protect you from anything less than you deserve. All the while we find the good together in places we often didn’t expect.

You are both so whole and fascinating before me, and I am relaxing into seeing you with the richness of now, rather than the hopes, pressures and fears of the future. I do not need to see the men in you in right now, that’s not my role, my role is to see the spark in you right now and let it light something of your future each day.

So thank you, little boys, for the muchness of all that you are.

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

The Paradox of Positive Thinking

We read a lot these days that our thoughts create our reality. I believe that. But I also believe that the positive thinking concept has got it a little backwards.

Our thoughts are born of feelings. They flow from where we’re at, a silent dialogue of the emotion that birthed them.

Moments of peace create peaceful thoughts, moments of joy, joyful imaginings and moments of anguish naturally give way to darker wanderings of mind.

Trying to change the natural flow of this dialogue while you’re amongst it is like standing in the rain and affirming that it’s sunny. It is wholly unauthentic to where you’re at.

Maybe, instead of pushing to think positively we should allow our minds to quiet for a moment instead. We should take a walk outside or a hot shower or drink a warm cup of tea and just breathe. Maybe we should meditate and watch our breath and let our feelings ease.

It’s from that place of ease that we come back to ourselves. We come back to the best of us, the place where we think better because our feelings naturally create the dialogue we were pushing for.

From that place of ease we can choose our thoughts authentically, or just explore where clarity takes them. This is allowing, and all you need is that moment of silence within yourself to make it happen.

Positive thinking naturally evolves from positive feelings. So next time you feel down take a breath – don’t struggle to get away from where you are. Just ease into a better feeling place however works for you… and see where that takes you.

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

More

We need to talk.

We really do. All of us. All the Mums and the Dads and the friends and the families. We need to talk to our kids, to the ones we love, the friends on Facebook that we rarely see, our neighbours and the strangers we get to know at the park.

We need to start talking about more. In between the chatter about the weather or our clothes or what we’re doing on the weekend – we need to talk beyond the conversation that fills the spaces.

Because there’s a lot going on in the world at the moment. There are bees dying in unprecedented numbers, killed by GMO’s and pesticides that are still being widely used and sold. The everyday diet that fills most of our supermarkets is contributing to huge numbers of preventable illnesses – and most of us know people who are being hurt by their habits. We are living a growing half-life captivated by electronic/social media – me too. I will humbly admit that I have a love hate relationship with my smart phone. There is both good and bad happening all around the world on a grand scale and the majority of it is not covered by the mainstream media.

There is so very much to talk about.

Around us at any moment there are people who are inspired, depressed, lonely, or filled with potential. And more often than not – we just don’t know it.

The other night my husband and I lay down together and talked. Really, really talked about all of it. All the good and the bad and the inspiring and the maddening. The stuff that people just seem not to get, or at least, not out loud. I marvel at how rarely conversations like this happen between us – all of us. Not the laying down on the bed kind, the baring the soul kind. We all have SO much to say. Don’t you get curious?

We get caught up sometimes in the political correctness of what shouldn’t be said. Don’t talk about religion, sex or politics, they say, even though these are major forces that shape our world.  It’s easier to stay on the surface, but we really can’t afford to anymore.

Right now, we really are at a turning point on this amazing planet of ours. There are enormities of environment, diet, morals, and ethics that are pivotal to the way our story will turn out. We need to start talking about them. We need to start questioning beliefs, traditions, ethics, actions and everything in between.

Our kid’s minds are forming before us – the minds that are shaping the future. What are we giving them? Are we remembering to talk about the big stuff, even when the small stuff takes less work? I forget. I bet you do too sometimes when life gets busy and in the way. But all it takes is a little. It just takes asking them questions, picking up a book for ideas if you need to. Create an open forum for their thoughts – a safe space to wonder aloud. The world needs more wondering. It needs more theories and wild ideas. It needs more rebels with causes and more of the sensitive ones who aren’t afraid to feel what others brush off.

It needs us. Right now. Today. To talk, more. Ask someone what they believe, ask them about their dreams, ask them about what makes them angry or happy or what truly excites them. Reach beyond the beer and footy talk or the housework and kids talk. It’s hard, but it’s also necessary.

The great ones in this world, the ones who have changed things and awoken others, beyond anything else, spoke from their truth, whatever it was. They talked about the big stuff even when others didn’t understand why. Their minds might not have been any greater than yours, or your husband’s or your child’s, they just stretched a little more.

After that talk with my husband I came away with a lot more to say. It woke something up in me and I wanted to roar. I almost did, then realized that roaring wasn’t the answer to anything. The world is full of loud, it’s full of opinions trying to outdo eachother – that’s not how change happens, it’s not how people wake up in the way that the world needs them to. They wake up through dialogues that spark something in them, through ideas that come at the right time, when their mind is ready to stretch a little more and perspectives are shifting. When they feel safe to ‘be’ a little more than they were a moment ago.

All it takes is a conversation to start the ripple going. So ask questions, open dialogues, don’t be afraid of stepping on toes. Just do it from a good place, a place of curiosity and openness. It may even be your perspectives that shift – and that might create a wonderful ripple indeed.

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

 

Let’s be honest….

I stuffed up today. Not in any remarkable way, just in one of those everyday parenting moments that we have a tendency not to notice until we look back on them later.

I overreacted to something and snapped at Bodhi in the process. He responded with harsh words and upset. In the heat of the moment I started to get annoyed… I started to say something back… then I stopped myself. I took a breath, sat down and opened my arms to him. I did what I try to do whenever I don’t get it quite right -  I owned it. “You know what?” I said, to my red-eyed, angry boy. “I can understand why you’re feeling frustrated right now. I messed up didn’t I? I didn’t handle that well, but I’ll try to do better next time. I’m sorry.” And my boy, like he so often does in these little everyday honesties, wrapped his arms around me and said “No, that wasn’t nice. But I’ll help you do it better next time. I really love you. Mum, do you think you could help me respond nicer too?”

Sometimes I sit down at the end of a day and I reflect back on what we did. I think back on the moments that worked and the ones we didn’t, and I find that every day, every single one, has both. Along with the moments we’re proud of come the ones that we aren’t. I’m facing the fact that they’re likely to stick around. But the thing that makes some days better is when I remember to be honest with my kids – to own my little stumbles, even as I help them with theirs.

Bodhi struggles with emotional maturity at times, but when someone else lays their own struggles before him he steps up in a way that never fails to surprise me. It might be me just “needing a minute” (after intense toddler wrangling or general madness) and little hands bringing me a cold glass of water and a kiss as he slips away to build some lego, or me saying “Sorry I rushed you kids, I should have gotten us ready earlier.” and him replying “That’s ok Mum, remember you can ask me to help next time.”

An old idea lingers that for our children to respect us we need to be in control all the time. The thing is, no one is, not you, not me, and not our beautiful kids.

I want my kids to respect me not because I’m perfect or always in control, but because I’m authentic and kind. I want them to know that they can trust me to own my mistakes as much as I expect them to own theirs and that my advice means something because I’ve earned my lessons along the way.  I want them to know that their advice is just as important.

Bodhi and I talk about a lot of things together. We talk about space, dinosaurs, lego or what’s happening around the world. We skip down the street together sometimes and have ‘evil laugh’ competitions in the kitchen. But we also talk about the bits we could have done better. I want him to know that the obligatory stuff ups don’t take away from all the good that makes us who we are.

I find that when I’m a truth teller my son is more inclined to be too.

Shaming children is slowly becoming a thing of the past, but we forget that if we hold onto guilt or shame they learn to do it to themselves.

Today I have done a lot of things right. So have my kids. And we have all, at one moment or another – been jerks. That’s ok, because we’ll do it better next time. And even when we don’t quite get there, we’ll respect and love each other for trying.

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

Seeing the same things differently

Yesterday I was flat. Flat for a whole number of reasons that I couldn’t quite place. I had to think about what was missing even as its absence gnawed at me.

Connection was missing, between myself and my husband, which came down to busyness and tiredness rather than lack of love.

Variety was missing, or at least I couldn’t find it under the piles of mess I was sure I’d cleaned up yesterday.

Exercise was missing, in amongst all that needed to be done, I felt sluggish, and that sluggishness kept propelling me towards chocolate.

Chocolate was, sadly, not missing.

I felt, when it really came down to it, that I was missing. Like I had misplaced myself somewhere amongst the “to do” list of every day, and the nightly preparation for it to start again.

You see, every day, mothers and fathers do something quite remarkable… they care about someone else more than themselves. They find themselves noticing things that their kids would like, preparing things to make them smile, finding things that will help them feel fulfilled. They hide wonder in every day and help their child find it.

There is so much joy in caring for others. SO MUCH. There is a gift of perspective in it, of patience, of belonging. It’s a role without comparison and it gives me immeasurable happiness. But sometimes, just sometimes, I miss the days when I was only looking after me.

When I would wake early to run on the beach and swim even in the winter, when I would have a clean house and car free of popcorn and stray socks, when I could safely pee without a toddler dismantling something in the next room, when my nights would be spent laughing with friends, lost in books or dancing the tango. When I had enough spare time to read textbooks just because, or to write endless emails in languages I didn’t quite understand.

I missed that me yesterday, because from where I was in my flatness the grass back then seemed so much greener.

Then late at night, with my babies in bed, I watched a clip called “This is Water”. It was about perspective. And I needed it. Because it reminded me that the ‘me’ I was missing that day, used to ache for everything I have now.

It reminded me how much I wanted this gorgeous family, this wonderful husband, this beautiful house. How much I wanted these messy, smelly dogs and the couches now piled with the washing of the people I love. It reminded me how much I wanted to grow and learn, and how I had learned more from these past five years of motherhood than I ever learned in a book or a yoga class.

The frustration at my son’s cranky mood faded, when I remembered how I had always thought I wasn’t a patient person. And here I was, being one, even when I’d rather not be.

I woke up this morning with the pile of washing still to fold, and the dishes still in the sink. My husband and I were still busy and my kids still did their best to push my buttons.

But I wasn’t missing anymore. I was back here in the thick of it. Frustrated and happy and inspired and wanting more. I’d made a decision to make more time for the things that mattered, but also not to worry so much about all the stuff that didn’t.

Because we’re like chameleons, all of us. We might not look the same as we did a week ago, or a year ago, or as we will in the future. We might not have the same things to say or the same group of friends, but that’s kind of the point. Because we change to fit in with where we are, without ever really changing at all. We are us, vibrant and whole, and able to take this day before us on with gusto.

It cannot make us less.

And every bit of ourselves we have given our children, every ounce of patience we have earned, every mess we have cleaned up as though this time it will actually STAY clean, has given us more perspective, more richness to the colours we can wear whenever the situation calls for them.

There is a story in every day, and every one has a moral, every one has a challenge, every one has humour and every single one has a happy ending hidden in there somewhere. Sometimes it’s easy to see, and sometimes you need to try a little harder… but you can. The days that have come before it have taught you how.tomorrow

When a picture says a thousand words…

We had a great day today, but in the late afternoon Bodhi was a bit… over it. I came into his room quietly and asked how he was feeling. He didn’t answer. “Can you show me?” I asked.

“Yes!” he replied… and did this.

 

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Point made, little one, point made.

The one you feed

“We need to talk.” The words came from my five year old, as he sat me down for what was obviously an important conversation. “Mum, when I’m being naughty if you tell me to stop, or you get mad, that doesn’t work. If I’m being bad, it’s because I’m feeling something that I can’t say. When you talk to me and I feel like that I can hear you, but I can’t listen.”

“How can I do it better?” I asked, humbled by his reminder.

“First you need to make me feel better. “ he said “Then I can do better.”

 

Most of us accept the idea of separation, that bad and good, madness and sanity, kindness and cruelty, anger and calm are all thoroughly divorced from one another, when they’re not, they’re really just sides of the same coin.

When I was 12 I read A Course in Miracles. It was one of many spiritual books I read at that time, from the Bible to the Qur’an, and a particular quote in it stayed with me more than anything else.

What is the same cannot be different, and what is one cannothave separate parts.”

We have gotten into the habit of war,  both globally and personally, from the war on drugs to the battle within ourselves for our own perfection. We tell our kids to be individuals, as we push them to be compliant, we fight for our marriages, rather than nurture them. We have gotten so used to oppressing the negative that we forget how natural the positive is when we allow.

My son had a meltdown last week in which the boy we love seemed to disappear. He was fury and pain and he screamed his anger and hurt out so loudly than our ears rang.  And stupidly, we got frustrated back. We responded to the anger, and tried to stop it, tried to push against it. Tried to fix this thing that was hard in an effort to make it better.

“First you need to make me feel better, then I can do better.”

My angry boy and my calm boy are one and the same. I can’t punish one without hurting the other, just as I can’t hate part of myself and love who I am at the same time.

The next day, and those since, I didn’t try to stop his bad behavior. I just tried to make him feel better. My goal, above all else, was to be kind, not in the way that made sense to me, but in the way that would nurture his spirit. He has not had a meltdown since. Every time his behavior has gone downhill I have asked myself why, and responded to that instead. In doing so, I’ve turned the coin to the side that feels better and acts better in turn. The bad behavior has dissolved as the need for it has disappeared.

Likewise the more I look at my flaws, the more I realize that they’re linked to what’s missing for me at that time.

The other day I threw a tub of ice cream at the floor in the overwhelm of a ridiculous moment. “Well that was pointless,” Bodhi said, his clarity returning at my show of stupidity. “Now you just need to clean it up.” Yes I did.

Ashamed, I thought that night about how to remedy that part of myself, how to stop myself becoming so overwhelmed again, and I realized that just like my son, I don’t need to fix the bad at all, I just need to nurture the good.

I inspired myself that night, by meditating and reading and resting.  When I did, more answers came than I’d even thought to ask for.

Within us, there is everything we ever hoped for or feared. Within our lover, our neighbour, our enemy – there is joy and misery, wholeness and lack, courage and fear. They exist in the contrast that makes us who we are, their very existence making their opposite possible.

They make up our humanity. And in the raw commonality they give us, we can find each other. We can help each other.

Every action that comes from love, every kindness, every joy we foster – they ALL count. Our true protest against war is a million demonstrations of love, our real war on drugs is a million encouragements of purpose, our true protest against violence is a million acknowledgements of hurt, our gift to our children is a million words and actions that affirm they matter.

And slowly, all those protests and wars, all those fights, all that pushing against, dissolve a little bit. It just comes down to being kind.

Because more often than not, a person who feels whole will pass that wholeness on. A person who feels good will be the best of themselves.

Today I’m not going to fight for my marriage, I’m going to bring joy to it to make it feel easier instead. I’m not going to see a misbehaving child, I’m going to see a need that needs meeting. I’m not going to see flaws in myself, I’m going to see opportunities for something wonderful.

I’m going to flip a coin, and I’m going to win.

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Questioning the labels

We have a habit of labeling. Maybe it goes with our inherent need to belong, or maybe we find instinctively that we bond better with a common good and common enemy.

We see it in religion, when even Christianity is segregated within itself, we see it in generations, when whole groups of people are put into boxes they don’t fit.

And we see it in parenting.

This week I have been reading about different styles of parenting. Of peaceful parenting, though it had many names. And my first reaction to this is joy that people are questioning, thinking, trying to do the best that they can for their families. But then I found that what a lot of people perceived as clarity was beginning to look quite black and white. And we need those shades of grey.

Apparently from a psychological perspective we get them about age twelve. That’s when black and whites such as “stealing is wrong” gain perspective and we think “stealing is wrong, unless a person has to steal medicine to save their child” and so on. Most of us keep those new found hues and they serve us well as we navigate the truths before us. Until labeling encourages us to suspend them for a while.

I think it’s really important to question society, what’s put before us and even our own beliefs.

I don’t believe in control crying, neurological research aside I can’t get my head around it. But there are times out there when a mother may be desperate, she may not have help or family support, her exhaustion may get in the way of her taking care of her baby or other children, put her driving or health at risk. There may be times when it’s absolutely right in that situation.

I don’t believe in smacking, but I have smacked. And every time I see it referred to as this horrible violence against children I wish that I could take a snapshot in time, of the few times I’ve done so, when nothing had reached my son, when he was so lost in a tantrum, so lost in the anguish of his own anger that everything I did would make it worse, even walk away. And those few times that in desperation I gave his hand or bottom a single smack and pop his spell was broken.  His anguish drained away in an instant. Then we hugged, we talked about it, he heard me. Because for my child, in those moments, that momentary tap was kinder than an hour of words or demonstration. I see people say that smacking teaches violence and from an adults perspective I absolutely 100% agree. But a child, more often than not, is in the moment and their perspective is different to ours, that’s how siblings fight but love each other just as fiercely a couple of moments later. I’m not suggesting you smack your child, not at all, just as I don’t plan to do so again, but I am suggesting that you don’t beat yourself up if you have. Just question it, like everything else.

I don’t believe in putting kids in situations that are likely to push their buttons – but sometimes I do, because life does. I read a comment the other day where a woman said something along the lines of “I thought my daughter was being naughty, then I realized that I had dropped the ball by talking on the phone. It was my fault not hers.”

See the thing is, sometimes life makes you wait – for a phone call or cookies to bake or something you want to buy, sometimes it makes you be quiet, sometimes you need to listen, sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do, sometimes you need to take a deep breath when you’re angry or you need to calm down when you’re sad.

I want to bless my kids with a life that involves them greatly and nurtures them as much as possible. But that life will involve phone calls, trips to the supermarket, waiting in line, cleaning up the toys and taking responsibility for themselves in that moment.

Peaceful parenting often focuses on our tone and language when we talk to our children. As it should, they’re extremely receptive to it. But I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that there are times that my child only hears me when I raise my voice. We laugh about it later, because it’s “Mummy being loud” but mummy has to be loud sometimes, because sometimes he’s being a dinosaur or a robot policeman and they don’t have very good listening ears.

Sometimes I snap at my son. Rarely, but I do. And though I try very hard not to, I’m not sorry. Because the times that it happens is when he has pushed and pushed and PUSHED, and my kind tone and language finally expires into a flustered snap. That snap is just as important to who he will become as the love we give him, because in life people respond to you how you treat them. And it’s much kinder to my beautiful boy for his Mum to occasionally bite, then explain why, than for him to believe that he has less of a duty to treat others with respect than they do him.

 Apparently we shouldn’t argue in front of our children, we should avoid being sad or angry in their presence.

When I was a child my parents tried not to argue in front of me. I’d feel something simmering between them all day, because kids are smart, they get that, then I’d hear hushed, angry voices from the living room while I lay in bed. My belly would twist in knots – what was this horrible secret that they were hiding from me? Those everyday disagreements, to me, became enormous. They became frightening because of their secrecy.

We try not to fight in front of our kids, but sometimes we do. And that’s ok. Because I want them to grow up knowing that conflict is alright sometimes. That love doesn’t diminish because of it. That it’s possible to disagree with someone, even for them to piss you right off, and to hug and make up five minutes later. I want them to see their parents say sorry too, and mean it. I want them to know that their family is safe in the calm and in the rough because it’s bigger than that.

Bodhi has seen me happy. A lot. He has seen me laugh and smile and joke around and dance a chicken dance in public to make him giggle. He has also seen me cry, real honest to God sadness that reaches the depth of my soul. And I’ve told him, in words that make sense to him, why. I’ve told him that it’s ok to feel sad sometimes, and it’s ok to cry. He has wrapped his arms around me and kissed it better. His sadness isn’t a scary thing to him, and neither is mine. I’m allowed to be strong for him and he’s allowed to be strong for me… or for a friend or a kid he doesn’t know at the park who needs someone to hug it out.

He has seen me angry. He’s seen Daniel angry too. And 99% of the time we’ve done a real good job of being angry. We’ve been the kind of angry we ask him to try. The kind where you take a deep breath and talk it out, or go for a walk or be alone until the fire eases. But he’s also seen me be angry badly (which equates to loudly in my case). He saw Daniel throw keys at a wall once. And we talked about it, and he got to tell us how we could do it better. He got to tell us how we should have handled it. And that let him be wise too. It let him know that everyone makes mistakes, so not to worry about his own.

Labels can bring people together, and I love that so many parents are coming together to peacefully parent their children. I love that old ways are being questioned and that compassion reins. But I just hope that we keep sight of those shades of grey in amongst it all, because they belong there just as much as anywhere else.

I hope that when we parent, we make it our philosophy above all else to be kind. To be kind to our babies, our kids, our partners and ourselves. They deserve it and so do we, because as long as we keep questioning and doing our best it’s ok not to be perfect.

As I peacefully parent, I’m also going to be at peace with that.

 

Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2012