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Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

Just when I was wondering what I was going to write about next, Little Bird handed me a lulu.  We were driving in the car to her tumbling class, and here’s how it went down:

LB:  Mommy, some people can’t see very well.

Me:  Mmm-hmmm.

LB:  And some people can’t walk very well.  And some people can’t hear very well, right?

Me:  Yes, that’s right.  We are all different.  (pause while I’m trying to think what to say next.)  What do you think about that?

LB:  I like it!

Me (internal sigh of relief):  Yeah!  It would be really boring if we were all the same, wouldn’t it?

LB: Yes.

Me (seeing teachable moment):  God loves us all, Little Bird.

LB (without missing a beat): God loves to shake his little booty!

Me:  Laughing.

Now, I’m not crazy about the fact that she has already, at 3 1/2 years old, internalized the idea that God is exclusively male.   But I love the image that sprang into my mind when she said this — an old white man, with a long white beard, shaking his booty and having a great time doing the cosmic dance.  It might look something like Mr. Natural:

Mr. Natural (comics)

It expresses something fundamental about the nature of God that I, for one, want to connect with more fully:  God is joyfully exuberant, God loves to move around and shake things up, God is loose.

Once upon a time, after a painfully introverted and lonely adolescence, I found that kind of joy, through dance.  I was a new student at U.C. Berkeley, living off-campus in a private home, and was overwhelmed with the hugeness of the place.  In desperation, I applied to live in one of the student cooperatives around campus.

Of course, the student coops are run and operated by students, so they tended to be wild and woolly places.  You would think that shy, sheltered me would wilt in such a place, but instead I thrived.  I had found my people — quirky, intelligent, off-beat, and funny.  And the parties!  Hoo, mama.  That was where I finally loosened up, let go, and learned how to dance.

I moved,  I shimmied, I shook my little booty.  There was no self-consciousness, no thinking involved at all — just sheer joy in movement.  I have never felt so free in my life.  I was pouring out energy, a waterfall of sheer joyfulness shared with all those around me, who were also dancing with abandon.

This self-giving, ever-moving quality of God is well-described by the fancy Greek theological term perichoresis.  First used by the Church Fathers, the term refers to the mutual indwelling and intersecting of the three persons of the Trinity: God the Father/Mother (sorry, I just had to); God the Son; and God the Holy Spirit.

I love Episcopal priest Cynthia Bourgeault’s take on this concept in her book The Wisdom Jesus:

The Trinity, understood in a wisdom sense, is really an icon of self-emptying love. The three persons go round and round like buckets on a watermill, constantly overspilling into one another. And as they do so, the mill turns and the energy of love becomes manifest and accessible. The Cappadocians called this complete intercirculation of love perichoresis, which literally means ‘the dance around.’ Their wonderful and profound insight is that God reveals his own innermost nature through a continuous round dance of self-emptying (p. 72).

Well, my college dancing days are long over.  And I’ll be honest: time has hardened me.  Fear, disappointment, and maybe just the passing of time have formed a brittle shell around my heart that sometimes seems impossible to crack.  It’s hard to admit, but there it is.

The challenge is to keep my heart open to change and possibility and love.  The challenge is to stay loose.

Fortunately, Little Bird and My Guy have come into my life to help me.  Life is fresh and new for Little Bird, and her heart is wide open.  My heart, in turn, is unable to resist her.  She dances and I dance with her, and we spill love into each others’ buckets.

As for My Guy, by nature he is predisposed to enjoy change, rather than resist it (like me).  When he is not being a rocket scientist, he loves weird activities like conscious dance, going to drum circles and sweat lodges, and communing with our backyard on his shamanic journeys.  His predilection to try new things invariably pulls me along, and I am forced to look at life in different ways, and to stay open.  What a nut.  God, I love him.

We are not perfect — we get annoyed with each other, frustrated and resentful.  Just this morning in a fit of pique I threw a roll of toilet paper at My Guy.  Well, not directly at his face, but definitely in his general direction.  We are human beings, not God.  But God is within us and around us, and we overspill into each other, giving and receiving in turn, making the energy of love palpably “manifest and accessible.”

How is the energy of love manifest and accessible in your life?

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Little Bird is not what you would call a “restful” child.  She stopped taking naps around age two, and the concept of quiet time has never caught on with her.  She craves constant attention.  She sings, chatters, and asks questions nonstop all day long.  On the rare occasion when she runs out of things to say, she blows loud and juicy raspberries.

I wouldn’t change her a jot, and it is pretty darn draining to my quiet, introverted self.  It’s probably number one on my list of top ten things that are hard about parenting:  insufficient amounts of quiet to keep me sane.  So I am writing this post to help me remind myself of simple things that can help me find some inner quiet, even when external quiet is not an option.

Here are a few:

Look at a Peaceful Image

Take a look at this:

Stillness

This image makes me think of Jesus, going off to one of his “lonely places,” to be present with God in silence.  It immediately and wordlessly takes me to a place of inner stillness where thoughts cease, and there is simply a spacious awareness of being.

Take One Conscious Breath

For one breath, be fully conscious.  Close your eyes, and be aware of the breath coming in through your nostrils and entering your lungs.  Feel your abdomen rise, then fall.  Don’t try to change your breath or control what is happening.  Simply be present to your breath and attend to what is happening in your body at that moment.  In that moment, as Eckhart Tolle says, “you are aware of awareness.”  If you like it, do it again.  And again.

Try doing this at odd moments during the day, and see if it makes a difference in your quality of life and state of mind.

Slow Down . . . Way Down

Just as an experiment, try doing something really, really slowly, and see what happens.  For example, I was taking my pooch, Sonny Brown, for a walk one day.  He was dawdling as usual, and I was getting really impatient to be back in the house doing all the things on my to do list.  Like they were so important.

I got fed up with the hamster in my brain, turning his wheel over and over the same thoughts, so as an experiment, I slowed down my steps to a snail’s pace.  I noticed each movement of my foot as the heel landed on the ground to when the ball pushed off again.  And, as I slowed down, time also slowed down.  I became aware of all the beauty that was around me: the plants, flowers, sky and earth; the miracle that was my body; my friend dog walking beside me.  It was as if I could suddenly hear on a deeper level of my being all that the plants and the natural world were saying to me.

You can do this anytime:  while washing the dishes, slicing carrots for dinner, cleaning the house.  All of life can become a spiritual practice.

Take a Dose of Vitamin Nature

Stop what you are doing, and go outside.  Look at a tree, or a flower, or the clouds in the sky.  Even if it is only for a second, really see it — without thought, without judgment, without labeling.  In our modern world, we tend to be starved for connection with nature, and not even realize it.  And it’s not the amount of time you spend in nature, it’s the quality of time that is so important.  You can be in the most beautiful place in the world, but if you are not present to it, you might as well be in a padded cell.

Connect with the larger natural world around you, and your soul will expand.

Listen to Something Really Beautiful

I’m not sure that this takes me to a place of stillness, but I couldn’t resist sharing this YouTube video of K.D. Lang singing Leonard Cohen’s song “Hallelujah” at the Juno Awards.  It is six minutes of transcendent beauty:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_NpxTWbovE

What do you do to find stillness in the midst of your everyday life?  Please share.

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One of several versions of the painting "...

Image via Wikipedia

“I’m so tired my face feels weird.”  I actually said this to my mommy group the other day, after a night of maybe 2-3 hours sleep.  And my face did feel weird — can eyes actually feel hollow?  Mine did.

Like I said — weird.

It got me to thinking about the different kinds of fatigue I have experienced since Little Bird came along.  Here are a few:

  •  “Zombie Effect”: caused by straight-on massive sleep deprivation due to infancy, illness, nightmares, etc.;
  • “Mommy Ears”: a state of sensitized hearing, such that the slightest noise results in extended sleeplessness;
  • “Frayed Nerve Syndrome”: brought on by the regular auditory onslaught of whining, screaming, and crying;
  • “Total Brain Collapse”: results from excess amounts of responsibility for extended periods (partner absence is usually involved here);
  • “Extreme Elmo Exhaustion”: no explanation necessary for parents of toddlers.

Fatigue is one of the shadow sides of being a parent.  Some days — many days — I’m just too tired even to think, much less be nurturing, playful and consistent in discipline vis-a-vis the adorable moppet who is sapping whatever meager portion of strength, energy and youth I once had.

But I’m not bitter about it.

It’s just that nobody warned me.  All you see in the magazines are glowing, dewy-faced portraits of the 40-plus celebrity moms who are just Over the Moon about their little addition.  Everything in our culture celebrates the cult of momhood, with nary a sideways glance at the sometimes significant downsides to this role.  Let’s face it, parenthood is a mixed bag.

It helps to laugh.  And that’s why my mommy group is essential to my self-care.  Over coffee and tea, we complain, laugh, and sometimes cry as well.  We try to be real with ourselves and with each other.  If we’re having a hard time, we say so.

So to my fellow moms there as well as moms and dads elsewhere, I offer you this ditty, based on “There Are 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” (with apologies to Paul Simon):

The problem is all inside your bed
She said to me
The answer is easy if you
Stop and count your sheep
I’d like to help you in your struggle
To get sleep
There must be fifty ways
To feel exhausted.

She said it’s really not my habit
To think of you
Or your needs, which
are just irrelevant too
But I’ll repeat it many times
Until you come unglued
There must be fifty ways
To feel exhausted
Fifty ways to feel exhausted

[CHORUS:]
You just throw up your snack, Jack
Get real sick, Nick
Let go of the toy, Roy
Now listen to me
Stop making a fuss, Gus
Would you please just hush
Go learn how to pee, Lee
In your little potty

She said it peeves me so
To see you in such pain
I wish there was something I could do
So you would play with me again
I said I appreciate that
And would you please explain
Why you won’t let me rest

She said why don’t we both
Just stay awake tonight
And I believe in the morning
You will fall apart, all right
And then she hit me
And I realized she probably was right
There must be fifty ways
To feel exhausted
Fifty ways to feel exhausted

[CHORUS]

Ugh, that’s horrible.  I must really be tired.

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Centering prayer meditation and temper tantrums don’t normally go together, but sometimes, they do.  This is my story, and I swear it’s true:

Here’s What Little Bird Did

Little Bird had her very first public temper tantrum this week.  We were at a local kid’s museum, where they stamp your hand on admission.  Although she adores stamps, when I went to get her, she did the two-year-old thing:  “NO!!” and ran away in the store.  The guy said it was okay if she didn’t have a stamp, so I just let it go.

Naturally, she wandered back around, wondering why I wasn’t chasing her to give her a stamp.  Here’s how the exchange went:

“Mama, I ready for my stamp.”

“It’s okay, you don’t have to have a stamp.”

“I want a stamp!”

“I’m sorry, honey, but it’s too late for a stamp now.  You can’t have one.”

And that’s when all hell broke loose.

She had always pulled back from the brink before in public, but not this time.  She went the whole nine yards — screaming, crying, flinging herself on the ground, kicking.  I gotta give the kid credit; she gave it her all.

Now, those super-moms who home-school their six kids while blogging regularly and selling artisanal organic free-range hemp cookies on the side could deal with this in their sleep.  But I’m a first-time mom with no experience.  The one burning question in my mind was, “WHAT DO I DO NOW?”

Here’s What I Did

She was in a public walkway, so I tried to pick her up and move her out of the way.  She went limp and slid to the ground, kicking and screaming.  I looked around, saw the other moms looking at us, and . . . decided not to care.  Hey, if they haven’t dealt with it yet, they soon will.

Since I couldn’t pick her up, I said, “I’m walking away.”  She immediately leaped up and grabbed onto my leg, still screaming.  With her clinging to my leg, I hobbled, Quasimoto-like, over to some tables outside where it was quiet.

I unpacked the snacks I had brought, and then I was simply present with Little Bird while the emotional storm passed through her.  I didn’t feel particularly bothered by the screaming or the difficult feelings.  After a while, she climbed on my lap and kept crying.  And a while after that, she said, “Mama, I want a snack,” and started to eat.  We talked about the stamp and why I didn’t let her have it.  And then we went on about the business of enjoying our day and having fun.

How Centering Prayer Helped

Okay, so here’s the deal.  If this had happened before I started practicing centering prayer, I would have become unhinged.  My nervous system would have zapped out and bad things would have happened.

However, after ten years of practicing centering prayer, apparently some stillness has seeped over into my daily life.  I’m certainly not this calm all the time!  However, in this particular situation, I dropped into a zone of quiet that I have come to recognize as the presence of the Infinite.   Only one thing mattered to me: being a non-anxious, non-reactive presence for Little Bird while she worked through the emotions raging inside her.  My drama didn’t become her drama.  And that made all the difference.

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