When hurrying through everyday life
Through the difficult moments
While making sense of the input of the world
As you stroll or while seated in silence
Find that space
Find your inner strength
For the world around you
From a foster home We were approved To adopt our cat Nobody knows where she came from When four months earlier She followed a bigger cat Into its home My cat teaches me to observe and learn her behaviour is her means of communication With patience and love We gradually gain Some of her trust She is as she is unapologetically and I admire her for that We think she likes us from a safe distance most of the time When she tries to come closer Fear often betrays her Making her jumpy and restless She knows her boundaries and so do we We back off Does she know her limitations too? My guess is no But observing her behavior being dictated by them Reminds me of my own And the work I constantly have to do She reminds me to be patient Towards myself and others To show the same kindness As I do towards my dear 'Kveslapus'
A friend and I were talking the other day about our sons who are the same age and soon will have to choose what kind of studies they want to do for high school. Here in Norway, they can choose to go the ‘regular’ pathway that can lead them to university, or they can choose to learn a profession and come out being able to work. The latter is, of course, less prestigious than acquiring a university degree, but a good option to those who either have a clear idea or know well their skills, or who are tired of so much theory at school and want to do more practical work throughout the three years of high school.
My husband and I believe that, if our son chooses to choose a profession oriented pathway, we will support him. She is of the idea that her son (and our son) should choose the pathway that allows them to go to university. She has good arguments, and I don’t disagree with her, but what triggered this post was what she said at some point:
‘I want my son to make choices that will allow him to do something with his life in a way that is as painless as possible.’
Or something like that. Her argument is that, if they choose the profession pathway, and they change their minds in some years and want to go to university, it might be too late for them to study for and pass the exams required for those who don’t follow the ‘regular’ pathway. Valid arguments.
Can we really prevent our kids from experiencing pain?, and maybe most importantly, should we prevent our kids from experiencing pain?
The answer, is of course neither yes nor no. It is our instinct and to a certain degree our duty as parents to protect our children as much as we can, but lately, I keep thinking that this well-meant attitude might harm our children more than help them, and what is more, will exhaust us, because lets face it, no matter how much I try to keep pain away from my kids, pain will reach them at some point. Pain is part of life.
How can we harm our children by protecting them from pain? Well, it is through the experience of pain that we learn resilience, patience and perseverance. It is through painful situations that we often grow because we are pushed to take a self-check, to evaluate our situation, to learn and move forward. Maybe the key is not to spend most of our time and energy preventing our kids from making mistakes, but rather create a relationship of trust so when they make mistakes, when life gets tough, they know they can get through it by their own strength, and/or get our support if they need it to gain the strength to stand up on their own feet again.
Don’t misunderstand me, I do want my son to make choices that allow him to live a happy and meaningful life, and I do say my opinion whenever he is about to make a choice, but I also try very hard to remind myself to let go of the need to control him. I have to accept that he needs to make his own choices and deal with the consequences. I just hope that the day he makes a mistake or a choice that brings pain to his life, we will be able to support him in a way that helps him reflect, grow and move on.
I see it as a teacher too. I am thankful that I teach in times where we have a lot of focus on students’ social and emotional well-being, but I also feel that sometimes we feel obliged to micro-mange them to avoid emotional distress. If football games during playtime get too rough, we ban them. Parents contact us often when their child has had a conflict with another child often with the expectation that we will ‘fix it’ without the kids being involved to ‘avoid the distress’ caused by heaving to deal with the situation.
Although I understand the intentions behind this kind of expectations, I think that kids need to experience all sorts of emotions and learn how to deal with them. Both their own emotions and other people’s emotions. Maybe instead of banning the football game, we can have the necessary conversations – over and over again – to help them reflect on what went right and what went wrong, and more importantly, how they can do better next time. We help the students better by creating the space for them to talk and find common ground, and understand how they feel and how their peers feel. Maybe sometimes kids need to find their own solutions without adult involvement.
If you’ve been around for more than twenty years, you would agree that in life, we go through phases, some phases are more painful than others, but often, the most painful ones bring also a lot of growth. I teach students between 13 and 16 years old, and many changes happen during those years. Some teenagers go through tough periods trying to figure out who they are and what they want. It is painful for them, and often even more for their parents. The parents that suffer the most are those who try very hard to steer their children into a specific direction believing that that is the right direction. Or being overly worried about their child’s confusion. What I often observe from the outside is that the kids that have been raised with a set of clear values, that have parents that are present and available, manage to go through and beyond phases of confusion and pain and grow from them. It requires patience, resilience and perseverance from both themselves and their parents.
Reflecting about this, I have made myself some mental guidelines as a mum and as a teacher that I try to follow:
- Walk the talk. Live my life as much in line as possible with what I believe in. Accept my mistakes and grow from them. Reflect with my children about them. I don’t need to pretend that I am perfect, or devoid from emotion.
- Be mindful of how I react when my children make a mistake. Try to show understanding and be open for discussion instead of being judgemental.
- When appropriate, share my views or opinion on something, explain why I think like I do, but make it clear that the choice is theirs (and hope for the best).
- Remember that each one of my kids is an individual with their own path to walk. Be supportive, be present, but not controlling.
- Help them go through difficult emotions. Explore and accept the pain to then let go and learn from it.
- Keep learning together with my kids how to better support them in their own path. After all, parenting is all about learning by doing.
My husband and I are what we would like to call low-maintenance. We enjoy holidays and special occasions, but we don’t feel like we need to make what we call a ‘big fuss’ out of them to enjoy our time. (I sometimes suspect it is more laziness than low-maintenance, but who cares as long as we both are happy?).
The challenge to this attitude came almost twelve years ago when our youngest daughter was born. She has high expectations, especially for birthdays, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Norway’s national day. I understand and I try to balance between complying to her wishes and keeping things to what I think is reasonable both when it comes to our economy, the environment and our energy.
During the last few years, as she is getting older, I am trying to be more sporty and supportive when she has big ideas trying to encourage her to take some of the responsibility to run them through. She doesn’t always only think about herself, she also plans how to surprise friends or her siblings for their birthdays, which I think is a nice way to show that she cares.
The interesting part is that, often the more I agree, the more she gets things her way the more she wants. As a mum, I am trying to figure out whether this is good or not. I don’t want to kill her personality, but at the same time, I feel I have to remind her about how important it is to focus on the positive and be thankful for what we have instead of focusing on what we feel we lack.
Like today, for example. It is Norway’s national day, and it is a BIG deal for children. Usually, there is a big parade downtown where all schools take part, and many celebrations with friends and family throughout the day. Because of the pandemic, the last two years, the parade has been cancelled for most students, and the celebrations have been restricted.
Traditionally, our little family eats dinner with a couple of friends and their son who are like part of our extended family, so my husband and I were happy we could keep this plan. My youngest had, of course, other plans. She decided to plan a picnic with her classmates, since it is allowed to meet outdoors in bigger groups if one keeps distance, especially if it is part of your daily cohort.
Yesterday evening, we baked cookies and muffins for the picnic, and this morning, I agreed to follow her to the park for a couple of hours. The weather was decent, and most of her classmates showed up. They played games, ate their lunch, and had what seemed like fun from where I was standing chatting with the other parents.
When it was time to leave, we all picked our stuff up, said goodbye and the girls and I walked to the bus stop. On the way, my youngest told me that one of her classmates had ice cream for breakfast, and that he is allowed to eat as many ice creams as he wants all day today. We have a daughter with PWS, so this kind of attitude towards food is not what we want to encourage at home. So, I said that I didn’t feel one needs to eat ten ice creams to have a good day. This was enough for her to be angry for the rest of the trip home and for a long while.
I must say that I find this very challenging, and I am working very hard with myself not to lecture her every time it happens. I feel that she knows what I stand for, she is allowed to disagree, but I can’t help but thinking that she is being ungrateful, and that my role as a mum is to teach her to be grateful.
Or, is it? One thing is her attitude, and the other is how I interpret it and transform it into my problem. “I have complied to this and that, and she’s still not satisfied?!”. Aha! The ego, comes through. I think. And I love it because this kind of situation teaches me over and over again what I can summarise into three main points:
- Be clear about what I stand for and act accordingly.
- Never do something with the attitude of ‘sacrifice’. Better say clearly ‘no’ and go through the unpleasant moment than to say ‘yes’ without meaning it and going into the martyr role when I don’t get a positive response for my ‘efforts’.
- Good enough is good enough and let other people’s expectations (even my sweet daughter’s) be their own problem.
The good thing is that, like many kids her age, after some time being back home and playing some board games before leaving for our dinner party, she had already forgotten her ‘disillusion’.
Before going to bed today, she said: It was a fun day mamma. I didn’t think it would be because of the pandemic, but it was.
My little cute teacher. Good lesson to remember as I am dreading a meeting tomorrow where I feel I will be confronted to the exact same problem. Expectations vs the reality of what I can provide. May I be wise enough to remember today while I’m in the middle of it.
PS I do talk with her from time to time about how we create the world around us by choosing where we want to focus our attention.
The Spring is here and with it comes the awe of nature waking up to life after a long Winter. I enjoy observing how days are getting longer and longer, feeling the warmth of the sun, the birdsongs, and seeing plants and trees growing leaves and flowers.
Spring always brings me so much joy, but the start of the season is always challenging for me. I don’t know why, but I often feel tired physically, mentally and emotionally, and it takes a lot of inner work to get myself through it without allowing this tiredness to push me into a negative space. It has taken me some years to understand this pattern and even more importantly, to accept it.
My theory is that I spend so much energy keeping up with life during the dark and cold Winter, that when the Spring comes, my body is exhausted. I tried this Winter to follow better the rhythm of the daylight and allow myself to rest more and do more indoor activities that inevitably require less energy such as sewing, knitting, reading, playing board games with my kids and watching movies. Still, the tiredness of the Spring did come along.
Spring is also a quite busy period for me. As a teacher, May is an intense month with many holidays sprinkled throughout the month, and although I do appreciate the breathing pause they bring, they also interrupt the rhythm of school life in what I see as one of the most critical periods of the school year as we should be wrapping up, doing our last assessments to start writing report cards, write the end-of-the-school-year student reports, and prepare for next school year. In addition, all clubs my kids are part of, want to mark the end of the school year with celebrations, and on top of all that we have the Norwegian national day and all the expectations around it. Fighting all this, my desire to be outdoors and enjoy the better weather.
So, even though the light and the milder weather call me to be more active, I am trying this year to work with my expectations and what my different roles require from me. Not an easy task, but I keep learning:
- Prioritise: I can’t have a hundred items on top of my priority list. Remind myself of what is important for me and make my list accordingly.
- Put some things aside both practically and mentally. I can’t do everything right now. Some things will have to wait. This is very connected to nr1.
- Keep my sadhana rock steady. At least twenty minutes of sitting in silence preferably preceded of some yoga asana.
- Say no when needed. This one is very though because I don’t want so seem rude nor disappoint anyone, but it is also very necessary.
- Good enough is good enough.
- Give myself time and space to feel tired, confused and frustrated but do not feed into the emotions. Time and space will always allows me to get some perspective and find a way to get through situations.
- Make choices based on what I know and the resources I have with clear intentions and trust that whatever happens will be for the best. I must confess that making choices is one of the most energy-draining activities for me, but I am learning to follow this little formula. Trust is an important ingredient to not spend too much energy on them.
- REST. Go to bed early, listen to my body and mind and take a break during the day when I need it. I often eat lunch with my students or in meetings, but when I can, I take a half hour break during my work day and go for a walk in the park, literally. Walking in nature always recenter me. When I get home, if my kids are at their respective activities or with their friends, I take a coffee break to rest my mind and body.
- Move outdoors. I have as a goal to walk at least 7km a day, some days I walk more, some days slightly less. The key is in using my legs as my means of transportation. I walk or ride my bike to and from work and to whatever errands I have during the day.