Monthly Archives: November 2013

Extended Family Holiday Stress- Coping as a Gentle Parent

Spending time with family members over the holidays can be stressful for some parents that are choosing to raise their children differently from how they were raised or how their other family members are raising their children.

Some things that might help:

Have compassion for your parents and in-laws. They may feel that your choice to “do it differently” is a negative judgement on their own parenting choices that they made with their children. (It’s not that a different path was chosen because they ‘did it wrong’, a different path was chosen because you are a different parent than they were. And that’s okay. You grew up differently than they did. And your children will grow up differently than you did.) This goes doubly for anyone who is currently raising young children.  Not everyone understands that it’s okay for different people to make different choices for their families and you don’t have to convert everyone else in order to be making the right choice for YOUR family. “I love how you raised me and wouldn’t change anything, but this is how I enjoy parenting.” “I love how you raised your son, he’s an amazing man and I’m so thankful for everything he is. This is how we enjoy parenting, though.”

Understand that they are still your parents/your partners parents. They may still feel that it is their job to teach and to guide. It roughly translates to “I am older than you and feel like I have to give you wisdom and advice. I’ve never experienced what you are experiencing but it is my job as a parent to teach you about things. So here’s this thing I heard on this show or read on the internet that sort of fits what you’re going through. I didn’t spend too much time researching it because it’s not relevant to my life but it makes a lot of sense.” Some people don’t let go of things easily, either. Don’t let it make you feel like you are “doing things wrong”. You know the reasons you have made the decisions that you’ve made. You don’t need to change them because of different advice.

Some people love to give advice. Which is awesome if their advice works for you. If you’re a very different parent from them it’s okay to redirect the conversation to a different type of advice that you will find more useful. How to refinish furniture, where to buy a car, recipe planning ideas, what to look for in an accountant, what type of diaper works best at night. Once they figure out that there are certain areas that you LOVE their advice in they’ll gravitate more towards those areas and less towards trying to change things that you don’t want to change. “That sounds interesting.. Hey, while you’re giving advice I have really been meaning to ask you.. Your house is SO clean. What’s your secret?”

You CANNOT follow everyone’s advice. It’s impossible to be a consistent parent and follow 100% of all the advice that you will get. It’s okay to ignore the advice that doesn’t mesh with your parenting style. In fact it’s REQUIRED to do that. If you start trying to follow everyone’s advice you’ll be exclusively breastfeeding with bottles of soy-dairy formula while using CIO to rock your baby to sleep in a crib that’s in your bed in a car seat balanced on top of your drier with white noise silence playing loudly but quiet in a very dark room with a night light. It doesn’t work. One piece of advice that doesn’t fit is enough to create complete and utter chaos and unhappiness. Choose the advice that you follow wisely and discard the advice that doesn’t work. “I’ll need to think about that and how it would fit in with what we’re doing.”

It’s okay to listen to your child first and everyone else second. Listen to what your child needs both through what they say and what their body language is telling you. It’s a great chance to teach your child to peaceably advocate for themselves and their autonomy and health. “Oh it’s so sweet that Gramma is offering you a cookie, maybe you can say ‘thank you gramma! I need to eat dinner first, I’ll LOVE the cookie later!'”  or “Oh look! It’s Auntie Susan. I think she’d like a hug. Hmm? Not yet? I think he’s saying ‘I’m sorry Auntie Susan, I don’t know you well enough to give you a hug hello. Let’s play together and I will probably give you the biggest hugs later‘.” Your child doesn’t have to be rude to not hug Auntie Susan, but he also doesn’t need to be forced to hug Auntie Susan.  “Ooh look! It’s Auntie Susan. She’s asking if she can hold you. Oh. I think you want to get to know her a little bit first. That’s okay. Let’s go over here and you guys can have a chat and when you’re ready she can hold you.”

Your job is your child’s parent. Your most important job right now is to be your child’s parent and to protect, care for, and teach your child. This doesn’t get suspended just because it’s a holiday. It’s okay to evaluate each situation and make sure that it will allow you to meet your child’s needs. Family gatherings are full of learning experiences and opportunities for your child to interact and learn about family and traditions.

Remember your toolkit. Before you walk into the gathering remind yourself of what your tools will be. What stresses you out when you visit with family and friends over the holidays? How do you help yourself and your children get through things with less stress? Having a plan for dealing with things helps make things go more smoothly.

I AM Bigger than You. (Big Like a Mountain in a Hurricane)

Dear Kids,

One of the phrases I hear a little too often for my liking is “I’m bigger than you” and “show them that you’re bigger than they are”. That’s one of those things that can get inside your head and make you behave rather poorly.

I AM bigger than you. Big like a mountain in a hurricane. I’m big enough to understand that nothing you do will hurt me, and that I need to be careful not to hurt you. I’m big enough to stay calm in the face of bad behavior and the big feelings of a little person whose brain is still developing. I’m big enough to not throw an adult sized tantrum while trying to teach you to control the feelings that make you throw tantrums of your own.

I’m not ‘bigger than you’ in a way that makes it so I have to scare you more than you scare me.

I’m big enough to remember that oceans don’t scream at the fish.
I’m big enough to remember that fields don’t yell at deer.
I’m big enough to remember that I don’t need to yell at you.

As long as I am bigger than you I will be mindful of my size and how feeling small makes little people try and puff up like blowfish.

I don’t need to puff up. I need to sit down. To wait for your calm to come back.

You’re so small, there’s no reason for me to try and be bigger than I am. I don’t need to jump around and thump my chest.

I can see that you’re upset. I can shrink down to your size so you don’t have to try and puff up to mine. I don’t need to dominate you. I need to teach you that when there’s a problem we talk about it quietly and we listen and we try to fix things.

Yes. I am bigger than you. I’ve got more self control. I’ve got years of strength to pull from, and all the pounds of my full-grown frame. I’m big enough to catch you when you come slamming into me a wall of fury and upset. I’m big enough to hold you close while you cry about the things that hurt you. I’m big enough to understand that the scale at which you view things is the scale of your own experiences and that you will experience more as you grow.

I’m big enough to understand that I don’t need to make you smaller than you already are. I need to help you grow to be big like I am. And that takes time.

I’m big enough to wait while you grow.

<3 Mama

The Fight

Upset. Two inches tall. I’ve got words for this situation that I learned in seeing my parents talk to each other, and in reading books and watching movies. In seeing other people fight.

But I don’t want to fight. I don’t want to play out a script.

He’s upset too. He goes quiet when he’s angry. Strong and silent. His breathing pattern changes. He squares his shoulders.  Friend. He’s my friend. Love. He’s my love. Mate. Partner.

Simple tiny things that two people fight big fights over. Loud words. Slamming doors. Threats of endings. The desire to break things. To hurt each other with louder and angrier statements that are no less of a blow than if we were to resort to flinging our hands at each other.

So blessed we are that he and I have never fallen into that pattern to break. In truth we haven’t really figured out how to fight at all. We haven’t followed a script. Our disagreements have become quieter, more open. Heavy things that weigh on us rather than things that throw us into a fury.

I don’t want to fight. I want to speak of the things that I feel when certain other things happen. I want him to listen and to speak of the things that he feels. And for both of us to gracefully accept that we are speaking the truth from a vulnerable and open place.

But I never learned those words. I never learned to understand what it is that is making me hurt so bad over some small and innocent thing.

Scale. We’re seldom upset to the scale of the thing that’s wrong. It runs deeper. Down inside of us in that place that makes our bodies numb and our heads hot as we panic, anger, sadden, cry, withdraw, cling to or defend.

Other words are there that can play out a scene. I should be ANGRY and LIVID for RIGHTEOUS reasons of entitlement. I feel that there. He should be angry too. And SHOUTING and BEING BIG.

I want to yell because I feel two inches tall and loudness and anger puff me up like a blowfish to intimidate the threat. Threat. My mate. My partner. Threat? No. Just no..

I’m upset. I’m sad. I’m angry. I don’t know why because this little thing that we’re bickering over is so tiny.

It’s so tiny that he should be able to let it go. It’s so tiny that I should be able to let it go.

But neither of us really have the script for that.

It’s one that he and I have to invent each and every time. A script of listening, of understanding, of trying harder to hear than to speak. A script of backing down from the anger. Of speaking quietly and openly. Of being vulnerable. Of trust. Of wanting to understand the other person, not break them down and build them back into what we want.

Yes. When we fight we try and work on trust. We try to trust better, to trust bigger, to trust more deeply than we’ve been able to do so far. We try to trust that the other person isn’t following some script where they will hurt us without caring. We try to trust that the other person isn’t trying to control us, to use us, to change us into something that we’d never consent to be.

There’s an amazing intimacy in having a quiet and unhappy conversation without all those walls we’ve been taught to throw up around us.