The traps of parenthood

I’m a relatively new mom all things considered.  My daughter is about to turn 4, but I feel like I’ve learned a life’s worth of lessons with her so far.  Her presence has shown me so many limiting ways of being that I was operating from.  Now that I’ve plunged myself into this journey of self-awareness and awakening to the truth of who I am, I’m seeing more and more how many of those limiting behaviors I still have and I’m seeing more how others are similarly trapped (or more or less so, depending on where they are).

Early on, when Zara was less than 1, I often found myself complaining about her lack of sleep, her lack of doing what I wanted, when I wanted.  It was all around me too, all of us young mothers, complaining to one another, and there were many books out there to support the complaints, such as “how to get your baby to sleep,” “how to whisper to your baby the way this person does,” and the list is endless.  I could have stood at the parenting section for hours and not really known where to start.  It kind of felt like I was being given a chance to start over.  Instead of carrying my life forward from my old ways of being and my old job, where we would work and then complain, work and then complain, I was given the most precious gift of all, a beautiful baby girl with a wise soul, deep eyes and an open heart, who showed me with her presence and her reactions to my behavior and my unconscious energetic rebukes, what I was really doing.  She was giving me a chance to try again, to see if there really was another way to operate, instead of from defense, blame, victimhood and what about me-hood, she was showing me what my actions were doing to her and she was looking at me with those wise eyes, almost as if to say, “I know you can do this, really I do.”

I’ve since come a long way.  In fact, sometimes I’m not even sure I’m the same person who was angry at our little precious one (9 months old is one time I remember) for not going to sleep, and then deciding that if she wasn’t going to go to sleep, then I would turn on the TV and just watch it.  I’ve been learning how to forgive myself lately and whenever those memories of my unconscious behaviors come up and I start to blame myself and feel guilty, I’m learning to be kind to myself and stop, close my eyes and put my hands on my heart and say, “I forgive myself,” out loud.  It feels really good.  I really didn’t know any better, I really was doing the best I could have, and sometimes when I forgive myself audibly like that, I get goose bumps and I know that it’s true, that I’ve really forgiven myself and I’ve chosen self-love over self-beating-up like I used to.

I'm so grateful for Zara and all I've learned from her and the opportunities I've had to go within since she joined us.
I’m so grateful for Zara and all I’ve learned from her and the opportunities I’ve had to go within since she joined us.

I offer some suggestions to those who are/were like me, who are/were trapped in unconscious patterns of relating to the world and to their children, so that they may see that there are options and alternatives instead of just following along.  I offer them from my heart, from my experience, because I think we all want to do the best for our children and we often hate it when we hear those harsh words come out of our mouths or feel ourselves pulling away from our beauties, or even exploding at them.  We’ve all done it and I feel like we can all unite together in this, instead of hiding in shame and learn from one another and most importantly, learn from our children.  We all remember being the child who was yelled at, who was shamed, who was hit or threatened with abuse, we all remember those feelings, let’s assist one another in stopping the unconscious patterns and let’s start honoring ourselves and our children.

Some things that have helped me:

  • Notice how you talk to yourself when you are around your children.  Is there a constant stream of “you little brat, I’m going to make you do this, how could you do this to me, we only have 5 minutes left, what do you mean you have to pee, you just threw your food on the floor, are you (insert swear word here) kidding me?”  From my experience and from reading Eckhart Tolle’s books, all we have to do is notice it to pull out of it.  Sometimes I’ve noticed it so strongly and I have to completely stop what I am doing and lie down and breathe, or I may do something absolutely silly (which was not like me early on) and run around the house 3 times (I learned that from the book “Adventures in Gentle Discipline”) or sing a song.  I do my best not to give up my power to the thoughts in my head, which are not me in the first place.
  • Notice yourself criticizing your children, either directly or behind their backs (especially when they are in hearing range, actually, it’s best to avoid it completely, they’ll sense it anyway).  Children hear and notice everything.  If you are supportive in front of them and then turn around and roll your eyes or slump over in exhaustion so your friends can see (I’ve seen this), they will feel it and notice it.  We are not masters of deception as parents, children are masters of detection, I especially remember this from my childhood.  Ask yourself why you feel like you need to complain about your child, what purpose does it serve?  Does it help people to like you, does it help you to feel like you fit in that way?  I wonder if all parents like to hear others complain about their children and what would happen if one of us parents started saying, “actually it really bothers me to hear you criticize your child, please don’t share those negative comments with me.  I will always support you in finding constructive ways to deal with your situation, but no criticism please.”  I think I may give it a try.  Actually, I’ve already done it and it’s worked!
  • Think about the things you were told as a child: you are fat, you are so useless, you are so stupid, you can’t do anything, you’ve dropped that again, what’s wrong with you, I hate it when you do that to me, etc.  It won’t take long to think about them, because they are stored inside us, in our subconscious minds, like a little program we learned as children, waiting to play over and over again.  Consider what program you want running in your child and speak from there.  For more information about children and their subconscious minds and the beliefs about the self that get stored there, you can check out Bruce Lipton’s, “the Biology of Belief.”  That book was such an intense wake up call for me.  Children even have different types of brain waves until they are 6, and that is so they can soak up as much about the world as possible, including beliefs about the self, and they get those mainly from their parents.  Consider what types of things you say to your child!
  • If your child is always resisting what you are saying, consider why.  From an early age (6 weeks) we followed “diaper free baby”, so that meant we would assist our daughter to pee in a potty, toilet or sink, instead of in her diapers.  It meant that we were in tune with her, noticing her body movements as signals for when she had to go, etc.  It was a really cool process and I’m glad we did it, we didn’t have to wash as many diapers and it meant we didn’t really have to potty train our daughter because she understood what her body needed to do and into where, from a very early age.  I remember putting her on the potty at certain points, maybe when she was 8 months and she would stand up and look at herself in the mirror (I had my hands under her arm pits and the potty was on the counter, so you can picture it!) and she would sing and bounce and marvel at herself.  I felt myself getting so frustrated that she wouldn’t do what I wanted.  I had such strong memories of my father being frustrated at me like that and I could feel the frustration in my entire body.  I tried to “get” her to go, but of course it didn’t work.  None of us like to be forced!!  I read “Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting” and my life and parenting turned right around.  I was mindful and aware of when I was forcing and I was able to pull back and centre myself and sure enough, there was less force, less control and less battles because I had adjusted how I was approaching my parenting.
  • Instead of blame and anger, consider stopping, breathing, getting some fresh air and realizing and knowing that your child is not out to get you, but is there to highlight that which you haven’t wanted to see for a long time:)  Consider thanking your child and moving on from a fresh place.  I’ve had a lot of help in my “moving on” and “letting go” because in my experience of life, it has never been as easy as just saying it and it being done.  I’ve learned about mindful parenting, I’ve learned about gentle discipline, unconditional parenting, making time for myself (still working on that one), allowing myself to say no and meaning it and it being okay, and I’ve also learned about healing and letting go with an energy coach/healer/guide that I see quite regularly, and through techniques my husband has learned on his own path of reclaiming his life (reconnective healing and heartmath, http://www.healandevolve.ca).  I’ve also learned that yoga, nature walks with my family and friends and dancing are very therapeutic and enjoyable for me.

I think there are traps in parenthood and I think they are there for a wonderful reason, just as our children chose us for a wonderful reason, to help us see the truth of who we are and so that we may honor and love them and allow them to flourish and shine the way they intended when they came to this beautiful planet.

These are pictures of me that Zara took.  I was doing "I Am Happy, I Am Good" (please see www.playingfromtheheartkidsconnect.com for info, it's a Radiant Child Yoga song), and she was cracking me up because she was coaching me along to do it with more emphasis and feeling.  It was a riot.  I've come a long, long way.  I'm really proud of me.
These are pictures of me that Zara took. I was doing “I Am Happy, I Am Good” (please see http://www.playingfromtheheartkidsconnect.com for info, it’s a Radiant Child Yoga song), and she was cracking me up because she was coaching me along to do it with more emphasis and feeling. It was a riot. I’ve come a long, long way. I’m really proud of me.

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How To Talk To Kids

I’m 32.  I remember being a kid and wanting to be treated with respect and I wanted to be a part of the adult conversations.  I didn’t feel like I was a kid who couldn’t be part of the adult world!

I am reminded of this when I go out in the world with our three year old daughter and I hear some of the bizarre ways that people speak to her. I wonder if most of us forget what it is like to be a kid?  Do we forget that we didn’t like mean tricks, or when people tried to fool us or demean us or treat us like we didn’t know anything, or tell us that we were just selfish by nature instead of beautiful beings of light here to enlighten the world?   Did we forget that we don’t need to treat children as separate little beings who don’t know anything!!  That is exactly what we didn’t appreciate as little ones!

Here are some examples of what people have said to our daughter:

-“Oh that’s a nice hat, can I have it?  Can you give it to me so I can take it home?”

-“That’s a great teddy, I’m going to take it home with me, okay?”

-“You’d better be good while you are in here, you’d better be good,” (she was relaxing beautifully in a kid’s chair in a spa, and she had just told me she was feeling as light as a star!)

Here is how our daughter has responded, in the same order:

-“No.”

-“No.”

“I don’t like it when you talk to me like that.”

I was and am SOOOO PROUD of her.  Not to make this about me though.  She is teaching the world about how to talk to kids each time she does that, she is saying, “hey, respect please, don’t fool me and get me to give you my things, and don’t manipulate me and tell me how to act in a spa when I am a paying customer and am quietly enjoying myself!  How about you have a conversation with me because I am capable of that, despite my young age.”   In fact, an older gentleman so appreciated speaking to her one day when we were in line at the cash, that he bought her a chocolate bar, and she had just turned 3 a week before that!  I wrote about it in an older post, “Taking Candy From a Stranger.”

She is so inspiring!  She is helping me to see that I don’t need to fear speaking up for myself, that I don’t need to fear what may happen if she speaks up for herself and that I don’t need to worry about what people think of her or me.  Enough is enough, as she often says.  Let’s honor the children!  We were once children!   Let’s remember the truth of ourselves as people!

Thank you to Zara, our three our old beauty, our teacher and inspiration.

Give Kids Back Their Power!

I was so excited about what happened this afternoon!!  Our family has been learning to take back our power from the world, from circumstances, from scenarios, from people, from everything!  It has been so beautiful and so empowering.  I will explain through the example of what happened at our home earlier today.

My husband Robbin and my daughter Zara (3) were going to go to the park this afternoon and Robbin encouraged Zara to go upstairs to get some socks because it’s cold.  Zara said, “if you don’t get me socks, I won’t go to the park.”  I couldn’t believe it.  We so rarely speak to her or around her like that, but she had heard it before, so she kept it inside and used it right back.  I had first read about teaching children about the reasons for things instead of giving them consequences for why they should do it or removing the privilege in a fantastic parenting book called Gentle Discipline.  The book encourages parents to use logic and reasoning when explaining things to their children instead of just saying, “because I said so,” or “if you don’t do this, you won’t get this,” for example.  Very rarely, I have said to Zara, “okay, well I’ve explained that it’s cold out, so if you’re not going to wear your coat, we won’t go,” (which I totally support when necessary!) and she used it right back at us this afternoon.  After Zara said that, Robbin and I looked at each other, wondering what to say and then out of my mouth came,

“Well Zara, instead of making this about Daddy, why don’t you decide what you want to do.  If you want to go to the park, go get your socks. If you don’t want to go to the park, then don’t, it’s okay either way, but by making it so Daddy has to go get the socks, you’ve given up your power to Daddy going to get them, so do what you want to do instead.”

It was beautiful.  Zara heard me, she left the room, went up the stairs and got her socks and was jumping up and down with excitement to go to the park!!

We can all do this, not just with our children but for ourselves!  Instead of leaving our happiness up to someone else, we can stop, take back the responsibility for our own lives and live for ourselves, and voila, you’ve taken back your power from the world and the circumstances you find yourself in.  I am so grateful for this journey of reclaiming my life and actually living my life instead of being a victim to my life and all its circumstances!

How Green Eggs and Ham helped my parenting

From randomhouse.com

I first read Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss several months ago with my 3 year old daughter.  I remember reading it and being struck by how grumpy the character is who won’t eat the green eggs and ham, and how cheerful Sam I Am is, the one who keeps saying, “would you like them here or there, or with a goat?  on a boat?”

I think this book is brilliant.  It is exactly representative of how we don’t have to let our mood and well-being depend on others.  Here is this cute little character who is cheerful throughout the entire book, despite the resistance and almost rudeness of the other taller, fluffy character.

It really hit me one day that this book is so useful for parenting.  I was in the kitchen, preparing some food for my daughter which is always tricky.  I asked her if she would like some food x, and she said no, so I asked her if she would like food y, and she said no.  I felt myself slouch forward and I said, “oh,” and that was the end of it.  I kind of deflated.  Then I said to myself, “hey that little Sam I Am never lets it bother him that the grumpy guy won’t eat, so maybe I can be creative like him.”  So I tried offering her the food in a more wild and fun way, and it made me feel great!  I wasn’t giving up my power or my well-being to her food choices!  I could still get her some food that she would probably eat and I could enjoy myself at the same time!  It became fun and silly to offer her all kinds of wacky combinations of foods in wacky locations.  How about that.  Thank you sincerely Dr. Seuss.  You helped me to see I had a choice!

How I took attachment parenting too far

Before you are a parent, it’s easy to judge, to watch parents, and think that you could do such a better job.  We have all done it.  When you are a parent, you reel, you think, wow, how could this be so hard, how could I be so unprepared for this?  Why didn’t anyone tell me that this little being would open me up so much, that I would be so filled with love for him/her and with pain from my own childhood, all at the same time?  Even if they had told me, you wonder, would you have listened, would it have sunk in?

I was so ready to love a child, that much I knew, but that was the extent of it.  After Zara was born in early 2009, I felt so much love for her, I was soooo happy, I wanted to love her, honor her, squeeze her and kiss her and I wanted to have a chance to do it right.  I thought to myself, maybe I can do this better than my parents, better than other people, maybe I can really do this.  Ha, I used to be so judgmental, even in loving my own child, I had to compare it to others.  I am so happy to continue to pull out of that consciousness that encircles our planet, the judgement, the need to be better, the need to compare, it’s getting easier just to be me, thank goodness.

After Zara was born, there were times when she wouldn’t sleep.  I watched others with babies that slept, so I thought I must have been doing it wrong.  I tried and tried and tried, unaware that trying was what might have been making it harder; trying to be perfect, trying to help her so she never cried, so she would never feel alone like I so remembered feeling.  After a lot of trying and crying, I started reading more and more parenting books.  I read about Attachment Parenting, principles of which include:

-co-sleeping, baby-wearing, breast-feeding and extended breast-feeding, not controlling your child, but rather giving them permission to be themselves, not forcing your child, but guiding them, baby-led weaning, gentle discipline, unconditional parenting, mindful parenting, etc.

I read so many books and I joined an awesome local Attachment Parenting group where I met like-minded people!!  Whenever Zara would nap, she needed to be in my arms, so through reading those books, I was able to accept that she needed to be in my arms to nap (or else she would wake up), so I accepted that for 2-ish hours a day, I would be sitting on the bed, reading.  I took advantage of that time and I read.  I filled myself up with all of these ways to honor my daughter in ways that I never knew possible.  I armed myself with those principles and they became my bible….

I have met so many beautiful parents who are attachment parenting (AP), doing what they feel is best for their child.  It is truly exciting to see so many parents who just aren’t willing to let their kids cry themselves to sleep, or to be let alone in their rooms to cry until they can “calm down.”  There are many more of us who are aware of what we experienced as children and who are trying to do better for their children.  I think the irony is that in the trying, we end up doing the exact opposite of our parents, and then there we are, right at the other extreme, and really, is that any better?  Maybe if I share my story a bit it will help to explain what I went through and what I see other people doing.

I decided that I was going to use every single principle from those books I read: we would limit praise, we would get creative to help Zara transition, we would co-sleep, I would breastfeed until she was ready to wean, she would never be left to cry it out by herself (I had tried that a couple of times in my most desperate moments and I felt like I was a tiny baby again, crying by myself, feeling like I was dying inside, so thankfully it didn’t last more than 3-4 times), we would follow her lead, we would give her lots of leeway, I would carry her in a baby carrier or baby backpack, I would limit how much I would leave her because it was always hard on both of us when I left, etc.   Again, I used all of those principles as my bible, if something happened, I would scan my mental list of attachment parenting tools and I would use the gentle approaches to help us.  Is that wrong, is it a bad thing?  No not necessarily.  It really helped us, but it was extreme and I will elaborate.

It got to the point where it was like Zara was controlling us.  I was so desperate for her to feel loved and appreciated, that I gave myself up. I used all of those tools from the attachment parenting books and I used them to my detriment, even to Zara’s detriment.  I never gave myself permission to say no to her, I did everything I could all the time to say yes.  I thought it was horrible if she cried, so I did dances so she wouldn’t cry.  I tried to keep her happy at all costs.  I sacrificed my well-being, the well-being of our family and my relationship with my husband even, just to employ those principles.  It was like I had read those books through the eyes of a 2 year old hurt me, and I vowed to follow them no matter what, even when I was suffering inside from using those AP principles.  I remember so many incidents where I was using some tools, thinking I was “doing so well”, because I was doing what I had read, but somewhere inside I knew I had gone too far. I even judged other parents for not AP parenting, and I remember judging other AP parents for not being AP enough.

It wasn’t until I got really sick and couldn’t eat anything any more, that I started to see it.  The naturopath I saw told me, “you are reactive parenting,” and I remember being shocked, horrified. What, I thought, how could I be reactive parenting, I’m an AP parent!!  But she was right.  I was viewing my daughter’s life through the eyes of all those hurt inner children who I was still carrying inside and I was reacting to the past hurts I had experienced, from a place of “there is no f&*^king way I’m doing that to Zara.”  And there it was.  I was reactive parenting.  Wow. What a good call!!  Hahaha, it was hard to hear, but it was exactly what I needed to hear, and that comment started me on my path to my soul, to my awakening from the depths of unconsciousness, to the awareness and the place I am in now, more connected to myself, more aware, more balanced than I ever thought possible.

So now, I ask myself, am I still off balance, are there more ways I can come more to the middle, to be living and parenting from my heart and not from the hurts?  I have come so far, I am so proud of myself, so proud of my daughter for how far she has come as I have opened up my heart and let go of the hurt that kept me so deeply locked in protection mode and so proud of my husband for doing the same work, so we can each be free and be a more cohesive and happy and balanced family unit. I am so happy that I am working to get to this balanced place, so I’m not carrying around as much anger towards my parents, instead I can love them and honor them and really and truly know that I am just like them, doing the best I can, through different paths, not one path being better or any more worthy than another. It is truly a different life for me and for my family and I am feeling so blessed and loved.

I can always come closer to the middle, to a more balanced place and I am exceptionally committed to that, to living my true life, instead of one that is chosen for me by emotions, judgement and fear.  No longer.

I ask you, are you at one of the extremes with your parenting?  Can you be honest with yourself and take baby steps to come back to the middle?  I send you love and support as you love yourself and your family and take a look.

With love,

Bradlee

Using the love to find calm

I am grateful for much in my life!  So much has happened in the past year and it’s difficult to comprehend sometimes just how different I am.  I am different, but I guess I’m just getting back to who I really am, instead of living from all the fear, guilt, helplessness and everything else that I grew to know as the true me.

It really is super exciting for me to learn about the real me, my true self and to learn about how to live from my heart, from my truth, so that I don’t get caught and lost like I had in the past.  One of my favorite things to do is to breathe into my heart and bring in all the light and love from the sun, from the universe, from my higher self and breathe it down into my body and feel it.  I love feeling my body start to tingle, to recognize that I am connecting to it, that I am in a sense coming home to live here, in my body, instead of being scattered all around.  I really love feeling the calm and the beauty inside when this happens, I am starting to use that feeling as a guide, that when I’m not feeling it, I’d better stop and breathe and come back to me.  I don’t remember every time, but it is getting easier and it makes such a difference!

I had a beautiful opportunity the other day to teach this to a little girl who was distracted, uncomfortable and in pain.  She had just participated in the kids class that I teach called Playing From the Heart: Kids Connect (www.playingfromtheheartkidsconnect.com) and we had shared a picnic together and then we were all playing at the park.  She was upset about her hands and her mom was trying to get her to rinse them off in the splash pad because they were full of sand.  She seemed quite agitated and she couldn’t quite hear her mom, she was too upset about it all.  The girl was close to me so I asked her if she had a “bobo” on her hand because that would be quite uncomfortable with sand in it.  She stopped and looked at me and was calm for a moment, then they went back to trying to rinse it off.  She ran away.  When she came back, she was standing right in front of me.  I asked her if she could pretend like she was holding a fruit in her hand like we did in the class (for more information about the fruit meditation we did, please check out my other website at the following link!: http://playingfromtheheartkidsconnect.com/2012/07/22/using-the-fruit-meditation-at-home/).

from: http://www.thelivingvision.com/blog/?m=200808

She cupped her hands around the imaginary fruit.  I let her know that all the love she sent to the fruit, she could now send to her hands to bring the love and calm to her hands so she could feel more comfortable.  She seemed ready to do it, so I asked her if I could help her too and she agreed.  So she held her hands together and I put mine around hers without touching them.  I closed my eyes and sent all my love to my hands and then out to her hands. I could totally feel it going out and over to her hands, it was super awesome, super loving, super beautiful.  I opened my eyes and asked her if she could feel that and she had an interesting look on her face, so I kept doing it and then I knew it was time to stop, so I did.  Her mom was right there and I explained to her that we were doing the fruit meditation and sending the love to our hands to ease her daughter’s discomfort.  I looked at her daughter and asked her again if she felt better, if she had felt the love and she loudly breathed out and she had these huge shivers, and she did that a couple of times.  It was super cool, she looked so calm, so incredulous and so happy all at once.  It was such a gift for me to be able to offer that to her because in the past, I have been so closed off and so scared of uncomfortable situations.   She stood around me for a minute and then it was time for her to go and she left.  I was sitting there smiling so much, so excited to be in a place where I can pass on these tools that I have had to learn for myself to be comfortable again.

Thank you to that little girl for that beautiful opportunity!

A visit from Green Tara

My daughter and I went to a Buddhist meditation centre in Ottawa two weekends ago for a kids class called Dharma for Kids (http://www.meditateinottawa.org/).  Our family is on this path of opening and healing and living our true lives and I thought it might be interesting and possibly useful for us (thanks to my friend Tonya for mentioning it to me).

The class was comfortable and not overpacked with material, it was nice.  We learned that there are many different buddhas and that they each have a different purpose.  We were taught about Green Tara, and how she is the buddha who is ready to come to protect and comfort those who call for her assistance.  Our teacher, Ananda Kelly, was explaining that as long as you believe in her, she will come to you.  (This image is from: http://www.fpmt-osel.org/gallery/tara.htm).  You can see in the picture that Green Tara’s right foot is uncrossed, it is because she is always ready to come and assist.  You can also distinguish Green Tara because there is always an element about her that is green.

I was super intrigued.  Ananda taught us a chant we can use to call for Green Tara and she taught us how to chant it. The words are, “Oṃ Tāre Tuttāre Ture Soha.”  It is so beautiful and so powerful.  Zara and I really enjoyed chanting it during the class and we have done it since that time.  I have found versions on the internet from searches but none are the same as the way I now have it in my heart from Ananda’s teachings.  If this is of interest to you, you can certainly search around and you will know when you have found the version that is right for you.  I feel like I’ve just learned something new and I’m super at the beginning of understanding it.  I feel called to learn more about her and possibly others, so I will share as I discover:)

The other day, Zara and I were at the beach and she was quite upset after leaving the water, her skin was irritated from the sand and she really just needed some comfort because she was off in some way.  I asked her if we could chant to Green Tara, if that would be comforting, since I know she really enjoys the chant and so do I.  So we tried it and she calmed instantly and it felt really good for me as well, very peaceful, very smooth.  I helped Zara to get all the sand off and then we went to put her dress on and she said, “Mommy stop, look at that.”  I stopped and looked down and there was a green beetle on Zara’s towel.  I said, “Wow, is that Green Tara, wow Zara that is awesome!”  She picked it up and Zara agreed that it was Green Tara and she held her and looked at her for a minute.  I felt blessed, supported and so awestruck all at once.  I realized that I was never really alone, if things were hard, I have other resources other than connecting to my heart to feel the love and to feel strong again, there is outside support that is ready for me.  I now feel that the combination of the two is even stronger for me, and it’s really exciting.  It’s pretty exciting that now I can chant, which calms me and then have the support of a being who I really don’t understand yet, but who is willing to come because I put it out there from my heart and I believed in the possibility of her.