Sunday, February 28, 2010

Our children: Loving what is!

Last week, I was working with a lovely client in my coaching practice and it was clear to me she was stuck on all the negative things her kids were doing. It’s hard to parent from that place, isn’t it? I asked her to recall a particular time when she was happy and fulfilled  with her kids in every way. As she moved into that space of remembering all the amazing things she knew to be true about her kids, she was moved to tears. Love is present when you are willing to tap into it!

How do you, as a parent participate in your children’s lives? How do you actually feel about your children? Do you wish they were somehow different? Do you resent what’s going on with them? Do you think they need “fixing”?

The longer I am on this parenting journey, I realize that as long as our kids are not hurting themselves or anyone else, they are likely to be in better shape than we think. Even when your kids drive you crazy, you are more likely to be raising a fine human being than a juvenile delinquent right now! I encourage this mom I was working with to begin to see that her kids came into this world whole, perfect and complete. It’s a powerful practice to allow everyone in our life a safe space to grow, respecting them for who they are, regardless of seeming “appearances” at any given time. This doesn’t mean that you relinquish your responsibility as parents: it means that you allow your kids to experience life, while providing them with guidelines, boundaries and consistency. You are the calm and cool parent your children need you to be!

Let’s give up the idea that our children are “broken” and need fixing: our children are growing and need support and guidance. And you are the best person for the job!
Remember: you don’t get the kids that you want; you get the kids that you NEED!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Where are you on your patience meter?

Has anyone told you "Patience is a virtue"...? I wonder why the saying is not something like: "keeping yourself from shipping your children to your in-laws is a virtue". I guess that is because one edge of "growth" for me has been developing patience, as a parent and with myself.

I have learned that one of the places where patience can really create a sacred space of connection is when someone comes to tell you something important to them: your best friend, your partner, your children. Taking the time to listen, patiently and openly truly pays off. Whether it is to your partner's tale about work or your child's story about how she messed up at piano lessons, waiting, rather than pushing things forward is the biggest gift your can offer the ones you love.

Sometimes, the only way for me to move into that space of patience is by taking what seems like a million deep breaths along with a gentle bite of my tongue. Today was one of those opportunities: my 8 year old daughter cried her eyes out to me as she shared how she had been left out from one of her classmates birthday parties. My first instinct was to try to comfort her and to make her feel better. It's hard to see your kid hurting. I chose to listen and empathize, to give words to her feelings. I held her next to me and told her how sorry I was that she had not being invited. I truly let her talk and didn't try to change the way she was feeling. I was patient! We sat there for a few minutes and when she was ready, she got up. Later, she told me how she can always tell me "her stuff" since I understand her because I am a "girl" too.

I am still learning how to enter into the experiment of waiting in the energy and space of love for the one I am listening to. I have a feeling I will have many more opportunities to practice these newly developed skills!

Is patience one of your strong points? How are you challenged in the "patience" department?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

She gets that from YOU!

Have you ever listen to your child speak and realize that you are listening to a “mini-version” of your spouse? Do you smile or cringe?

My husband and I are very, very different in so many ways. He is a first generation “German-American” while I am a transplant from the tropical lands of Central America. My parents were very involved in the education of all of us (3 girls) in a modern society that still had some vestige of machismo and chauvinism. My dad taught us girls to be self-sufficient and be able to take care of ourselves, always. My husband’s parents were concerned with surviving in what seemed like a hostile environment coming from small towns in Germany after WWII.

So, you get the picture. Here comes daughter who’s trying to figure her own way around this complicated world we live in. I am proud that since English is my second language, I have put great emphasis on her grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary and expressive skills. I have taught her my native Spanish and shared with her the beauty of my native Panama. I have taught her to cook, to knit, to bake but most of all, I have taught her the importance of compassion, generosity , empathy and acceptance.

My husband has taken care of other aspects of her upbringing, that are just as important: pride in her school work, the rewards of getting past the fear and trying something new, the incredible importance of play, what appropriate affection looks like, and the love for the arts.
When it comes to parenting this very inquisitive, savvy, eloquent, stubborn, sassy 8 year-old, we find ourselves in the land of conflict many times: eat everything in your plate vs. eat until your tummy is full, go to your room and sit on the bed doing nothing vs. go in your room and read a book until you are ready to talk respectfully; you eat what has been prepared vs. you can make yourself a healthy alternative; you do not talk back at all vs. I’ll am listening if you speak kindly.
We don’t disagree in front of her. We honor what the other one has decided on a specific situation and give her room to “complain” to the other parent, many times in an attempt to change the outcome of the discipline efforts. She NEVER finds that alternative a reality. But at least, she gets to give her feelings a voice without offending or disregarding the parent that gave the final word.
This morning, I heard our daughter say:  I don’t know what the hell that was about! She was referring to something that had happened on a new Wii game she was playing with her dad. Now, that’s my husband talking.  I can’t tell you how annoyed I was. Half of the time I feel I spend “translating” to our daughter my husband colloquial English: “that’s bad” actually means something is really cool. Someone “peels the shirt” means they take it off and so on.
Why can’t she repeat the things I tell her: People first, money second, things third (Suze Orman’s mantra). Or, “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit”. Or, “what matters is what’s on the inside”. Or yet, “Shake your bootie”.. Ok, it can’t all be appropriate!

As I am writing this in my office upstairs, I can hear them laughing hysterically downstairs. Our daughter has challenged him to a game of Wii and they are teasing each other about who is going to “smoke” who. She giggles and he laughs listening to her. She offers him a piece of her Valentine’s candy.  I hear her ask him what he wants her to make him for Valentine’s day. His answer is: make me…….. smile! And my heart melts for this man that I adore and who is more than half of who she is at any given time.

My grandma had many wise words of advice and one thing she always told me: Only marry the guy that if your children turned out just like him, you’d be Ok with that. You know what? I did.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The power of support for busy parents!

It takes a village to raise a child....
No question: Parents need support and lots of it.We all have heard how critical it is to have support when it comes to parenting. The toughest job in the world and we find ourselves some times feeling isolated. For many parents these days, family and friends just aren’t available, perhaps because of location, schedule issues or some other reasons. Luckily, there’s a growing list of groups and activities where parents can connect with one another!

The key is to be clear on your personal values and what your priorities are. I have enjoyed the friendship and support from my playgroup mommies on the 8 years we have been together. Although we don't agree on every single choice we make, we share a general similarity on our approaches as well as our priorities. That consensus has allowed us to trust each other with our kids because we know that we all want similar things for our families.

So, if you are feeling like you are all alone with the struggles that you face raising your children, reach out for a local group of moms who share similar interests and values: MOPS groups, library story time, Gymboree classes, regular park meetings. They are all good ways to start to connect and find like-minded souls that can enrich your journey through the wacky world of motherhood!

It takes a village... to make a parent!

Do you belong to a group of other parents? How did you find your group? What criteria did you use to determine if they were a good match for you and your family
I'd love to hear your thoughts!