Conscious Parenting in the 21st Century

Last night, I attended a Mindful Parenting Seminar that is held monthly at my local favorite meditation center – the Insight Meditation Center.  It was led and wonderfully so by Bob Stahl who is a father to two sons, a mindfulness coach and author.   We started off the evening with a 30 minute meditation sitting; this was a perfect way for me to really be completely present for what was to come in the following talk by Bob and the interactive discussions he had us do in pairs.

We discussed how so often there is this tension as parents when our children are going through challenges in life to want to fix it immediately.  This could be as simple as offering a child in pain a piece of candy or helping them with homework that is really their work to do and learn from.  The very best thing we can do in moments where they are experiencing pain, tension or suffering is to just stop doing and really be with them.  Acknowledging their experience and not trying to make it go away with a distraction or instant fix.

What came from this deep discussion that as a conscious and mindful parent what our children and all of us as human beings want is simple.  We all want to be acknowledged, heard and loved.  We cannot tell our children life will be without pain or loss.  We cannot say with any certainty life will even be the same from one day to the next.   Life is all about change; from the time you take one breath to the next, something has changed.  We are all in a state of constant growth and evolution.

A beautiful example given of one young man going through the experience of his best friend’s father dying unexpectedly after an auto accident.  Several weeks later, the son came to his father and was sobbing.  It was the first time this 15 year old young man had witnessed death up close and personal.   The son was thinking about about what it would be like if his father were to die, or mother or other people he held dear.  Instead of trying to calm the boy or lessen his suffering, the father laid down next to him and just there to be a witness  for his son’s suffering and in time the father too began to cry.  What a blessing to feel your parent loves you enough to allow their own heart to crack wide open and feel the deep feelings life brings to us.

Yesterday before I went to the Mindful Parenting Class, Ariel and I had shared this wonderful 20 minute bonding.  When Ariel was little, we would play this game wherein my hand was the “tickle bug” and when she would give me the verbal green light, the tickle bug would dive in and give her a good tickling leaving us both giggling and laughing.  For whatever reason, Ariel decided yesterday was a good time to revisit that wonderful, simple way of playing.  So my tickle bug was resurrected and 20 minutes, we both laid side by side out of breath from laughing and giggling so much.  It was a simple thing but a moment we won’t soon forget as it brought us together in the now and we also got to remember the “us” of days gone by.

I realized that as parents, especially in this time of hurry, hurry, rush, rush, that sometimes the very best memories can be from something as simple as just being together, in the moment and having a good laugh.  That our children need our presence far more than any presents we might conjure out from the store.  Two words that sound the same but have far different meaning in the life of a child.

This has been brought home to me as I see Ariel who is now in 3rd grade becoming more independent and needing me less to navigate her days.  I find that shift bringing up two strong emotions for me.   The first feeling I have is that of pride and knowing I have done my job well as a mother that her sense of self and identity is blossoming.  Then the next layer of feeling is that of feeling like time is passing by too fast and that I want to push a pause button many days.  In these moments I know I am not being mindful but instead reminiscing about the past and thinking about the future; which has not happened yet.  So my task is to stop, take a breath and enjoy now with my girl.

The pace of life even with this mindfulness has changed a great deal since I was a child.  When I was Ariel’s age, we went to school and had minimal homework.  The afternoon was ours to run outside and see who was around to play with.  At back to school night the other night, the teachers were speaking of the change in the curriculum to start preparing students to work collaboratively with others and critical thinking for when she enters college and goes out into the working world.  Intellectually I understand these changes in education but there was also this part of my brain that wanted to speak up and say “but wait for all that, they are still in third grade!”

So it is my desire and my job to make sure that the time spent out of school has enough play, enough laughter and enough time doing other activities so Ariel can continue her journey uncovering who she is evolving to be as an adult.  It is a finely orchestrated dance I feel I do with her to expose her to enough of what the world has to offer so she is well rounded.  While also allowing us both the spaciousness of moments in time to do absolutely nothing, to lay on the grass and check out the clouds overhead or sit with one another and have a cup of tea.

It is so easy to get swept up in the trend to over schedule, to be in motion at all times.  For me and for our family I am consciously choosing not to do that.  I do not want to wake up five years from now and remember most of our hours together spent driving to and from activities wherein I was only there as an observer.  My girl is growing up fast and I want to relish this time with her.

 

The Seasons of Life

I participated in a wonderful Mindfulness Meditation Class this evening led by a dear friend of mine Alicia McLucas who is incredibly gifted in guiding others in really noticing what is going on in our minds, lives and hearts.

I went seeking some clarity on this sense of unrest I have been feeling as of late.  My daughter Ariel with whom we worked so hard these past three years at her prior school just finished her second week at her new school, a charter school for academically gifted children.  In the past, I have been a very active volunteer at her school.  At times putting in so many hours at the price of my own heath and well being.

My previous post was about my mid life musings on how I see myself evolving and yet I find I am in this space where I am leaving one part of my life behind but have not quite yet discovered, uncovered or let arise what is next in some areas of my life.

One thing I am noticing is that I do not feel the same call to volunteer at Ariel’s school to the level I used to do.  This awareness has not come without some serious discomfort internally for me.  I have gone from an academic environment where it was very difficult to get parents rallied to help to one where they are falling all over one another jockeying for who is on which committee.

Instead of being able to breathe and relax knowing that most of the heavy lifting appears to be covered, I find myself struggling with letting go that part of what used to be a big part of my identity.  While at the same time having a deep knowing that there are other things in my life calling for my attention and energy.

So as to the title of this blog post, I find myself in a new “season” in my life.  Where I felt for many years I was in what I deemed to be the Summer of life – bright, light and lots of energy.  Now I find when I get quiet and check within like tonight at meditation, I am what feels to be  the Fall of my life, quieter, more mindful, a bit slower and methodical.

I am not Super Women and I am finding I am very much okay with that.   At 53, while I have a very young spirit,  my body has let me know it has a finite amount of energy and my days defined amounts of time of activity and free time.   As life continues to move on and I see my girl growing up, I want to be very sure I do not get caught up with what can be what I observe a frenetic pace others keep with no time to just be.  That is said with no judgment of others as there were times wherein I was keeping that very busy pace.

I plan to choose carefully the activities I want to be a part of this school year.  I will be choosing things I am passionate about and those that I also know will create a positive impact for Ariel.  I am not in a space to want to head up committees or lead others, good grief as I shared with my younger sister today – it feels like some days it takes all my bandwidth to remember why I moved from one room to another.

When I sat in the stillness tonight I knew that for me, not exhausting myself by over scheduling my days is what I want to do now.  Ariel is growing up so fast and I don’t want to turn around one day and wish I had stopped moving so fast so I could be present more.   I can see the time already passing by.  I want to have energy for her,  my husband and what I call my inner circle of friends and family.

I am a caregiver by nature and like the school volunteering, I have at times helped others to the extent that I have gotten lost in the mix.  I have been working hard this past year to restore my health after some health challenges and recovery from multiple knee surgeries.  Doing things to increase my well being and recharge my energy.   I am really challenging myself not to get distracted with putting out so much energy to everyone else going forward that this healthy lifestyle I am creating suffers for it.

So for now, I am learning not to say yes immediately to requests.  I am practicing taking a breath and sleeping on requests of my time if they are going to be ongoing.  I am asking myself what will I have to give up if I say yes to a request of me.  Is it going to be good for me and my family in the long haul if I let it unfold in my mind’s eye?

So there will be more times going forward that I say no and that will be very new for me.  As I say no, I am also trying out a new boundary and that is not over explaining the no.  Respecting myself and my needs to just be able to be brief and say “thank you for asking but that is not something I can take on right now”.

As Ariel’s academic schedule becomes busier and the work load becomes heavier – I want to be her soft place to land at the end of the day.  I want to be her stillness in the noise.  I want to not be caught up in juggling other people’s stuff  so that my arms, ears and heart are  completely open and free to her when she needs me.

Some moments I find it hard not to be able to “do it all” when I am surrounded by what appears from the outside to be a group of other parents who are doing a lot of things.  But then I don’t know them well and I do not know what they are having to say no to in order to run from one thing to another.

It will take me many more hours on the meditation cushion to sort out many of the questions in my mind.  But I am becoming more clear that I want to do fewer activities and less distractions so that when I do something I can do it with all of my being and spirit.

 

 

Who Am I? One question, many answers and then more questions…

I have been asking the question Who Am I? for many years but more so in the past few years since turning 50.

I have come to the conclusion for me that how I might identify myself falls into three different categories for the most part. The first being the more obvious labels society and we put on ourselves.

For me this would be mother, adoptive mom, mid life mom, wife, daughter, sister, divorcee (yes in what seems like another life many years ago I was previously married), friend.

The next list would be things I do including being a Domestic Adoption Coach, photographer, school volunteer, writer, gourmet cook wannabe, truth seeker, spiritual student, gardener, YMCA regular, traveler, nature lover, music lover, dancer and the list goes on and on and gets added to daily, hourly.

Lastly would be the things that have happened to me in my life including survivor of infertility and pregnancy loss, survivor of other life’s painful lessons in childhood and beyond, daughter of divorced parents, a woman who lived through a drunk driver plowing into the back of my car, multiple knee surgery veteran etc.

But in the deepest part of my soul; do any of those descriptions, titles or events tell you (or me) who I really am?

I have studied mindfulness and spirituality for many years. I am a space in my life where I am taking that truth seeking to a deeper level.

If I am to be truly “in the moment”, then who I am changes with every breath I take and yes even in between the breaths.

I have also been pondering the wisdom of one of my spiritual mentors Byron Katie for a number of years. For me – one of my favorite Katie question is: “Who would you be without your story?”

So who would I be, now – in this moment if I were not attaching to the labels imposed on me by society (and self), not seeing myself as a compilation of the things I have done or the things that have happened to me?

For today, I will be honest and tell you I have many more questions than answers to that question. I am however learning to be more and more excited about the exploration of who I am, now – in this moment letting go of the past more and more and just being.

Today I heard something that really resonated with me and has stayed with me for hours. It is a philosophy/quote by a spiritual guru who goes by the name Mooji – “Intentions creates tension”.

Now this of course flies in the face of some of the whole belief that you can actually choose what you want to have in your life.  You create an intention, maybe put it down in writing or create a vision board and then create actions to manifest this desired outcome.

What if instead we just show up to life and let it happen. Become a quiet observer moment by moment to the unfolding of our lives and in extension ourselves.  So many things in my life now were much bigger, much better than anything I could have conjured up one day sitting at a desk creating “my intentions”.

If I am honest, I was never in control of anything in the first place.  How things turned out for me in my life was this glorious tapestry of events.  So if I wanted to erase all the “bad stuff” from my life – what if those threads in the tapestry were those that led me to the beauty, love and joy I am surrounded with now?

I am sitting with this idea for now.

The passing of time

My daughter just turned eight in late July and today we toured the new school will be starting on Monday.  This new school is for academically gifted children and Andy and I are so proud of all the hard work it took for her to test into and be accepted into this school.

I was first brought to thinking about the passing of time when the school called and needed a copy of her immunization records. This had me digging into the file cabinet into the file with my Ariel’s medical records.

Her birth records are in there, her early days of life documented and laid out in black and white. I was brought back to the first moments I held her in my arms eight years ago and remembering how full of joy I was and still am to have this ever so special young lady as my daughter.

Today in the car, I was talking to her about her growing up and going into third grade. She replies from the back seat “just wait Mom, you will turn around and then I will be fourteen”. Giggles on her end, gasps from me.

Time does indeed seem to be flying by, it truly does seem like just yesterday that she was a baby. Now she is going to a school where she will have a locker, multiple classrooms and studying subjects I can only hope my middle aged brain can keep up with!

In that moment in the car when Ariel reminded me how fast she is growing up, I sat for a few moments and took that reality in. I then told her I want to start a new after school routine this year.  After homework I want us to sit down together over cups of tea and make sure to sit and talk. No cell phones, no television, no computers. Just my beautiful girl and I.

I found out yesterday that a close friend of our family was just diagnosed with an especially nasty form of Alzheimer’s.  This beautiful woman has gone from a vibrant, active, very alive woman to someone who can no longer find the bathroom in their small home- these changes have happened over the span of a few months.

It reminds me that life is a gift and not a promise. To not let our family get so swept up in the busyness and business of life that we lose sight of what is important to us. And for this family – creating memories and spending time together are at the top of the list.

So come Monday morning, Andy and I will be walking our big girl into her new school and I have a feeling this year Mommy is gonna be more nervous and emotional than her girl. She is  just excited to be starting in a school that has LOTS of science and math – her two favorite subjects.

May we all take moments every day to stop, take a breath and remember what is most dear to us.

Knowing when to let go

I am having to learn some hard lessons about giving my daughter some breathing room and let her learn some things on her own.

A little background – Ariel has a mild neurological condition called Sensory Processing Disorder.  In layman’s terms for her it means that signals from her brain to her body can get jammed up in delivery.  For example she has always been super sensitive with clothing – no tags, no scratchy stuff and things have to be soft and comfy.

Additionally it has affected her in physical activity and we did a round of Occupational Therapy to help her get more comfortable with every day chores and stimuli like loud noises, crowds, new people etc without her getting on overload sensory wise.

So that brings us to now – I am really trying to get Ariel caught up on some physical activities and sports.  I know from my own experiences that having physical outlets is a big part of being healthy and also a great stress reducer.  Since she is transferring to a school next year for academically gifted kids, I want to arm her with good stress management skills.

Yesterday she took her first gymnastics class ever.  She is about to turn 8 in July and we had to withdraw from classes in the past as she would get dizzy doing somersaults or any activity that required her to flip around.  I was more nervous I think than Ariel was walking into that class.  I did explain to the teacher that she was just starting and for now could not do somersaults and why.

I watched from the sidelines and saw my girl working so very hard to do the basic movements – jumping up onto a platform, executing a full turn on a long trampoline, walking on the balance beam.  I saw her struggle and it took every single fiber of my being NOT to run in, grab all 63 pounds of her in my arms and go home.

But as the 50 minutes wore on, the serious face started to soften (on her as well as Mommy here) and a smile began to emerge.  She asked the teacher if she could try to walk the balance beam on tip toes and did it, landing on the mat at the end with a proud look of accomplishment.

So while it is not likely I have a future Olympic gymnast in the house, I need to step back and let Ariel decide what she can do and not do.  Let her communicate with her teacher and not jump in to help navigate the class for her.

In closing, holding on to Ariel has always been easy.  I love my girl with all my heart.  The path of beginning to let go and allow her to find her own way in the world is so, so much harder.  But I am going to be learning something every week at that gymnastics studio too by stepping back a bit.

Impermanance

I find myself very moved emotionally by a sermon this morning at my spiritual home – Palo Alto Unity Church.  We had a guest speaker Dr. Fred Luskin who is both a psychologist and the founder of the Forgiveness Project at Stanford University.

Fred spoke first of the subject frequently spoken of in the Buddhist faith of impermanence.  How things are always changing, shifting, growing, contracting.  Even as we take a breath it is different than the one prior to it.

As Ariel is about to “graduate” second grade and move to a new school in the Fall, I find myself struck by this concept of change.  If I am honest with myself, I have been more focused on the destination/end result of her testing into and being accepted into the new school.  I have yet to sit either with myself or with Ariel and process this transition about to come for her.

There is so much doing in school these days, so many tests that are more about API scores for the schools than personal achievement for the individual child.  It is for that reason and many others that we are teaching our child that all she has to do is show up, do her best and have some fun every day at school.

Fred went on to speak about the emotional life cycles of all human beings.  That we start off as beings who are totally dependent upon our caregivers for all things – food, shelter and love.  At some point we become able to provide those things for ourselves and for most – the journey to strive for prestige and material “stuff” begins.  Buying your first car, first home and a myriad of other belongings.

Then in the third stage of life which I find myself in – most of us are struck by the deep knowing that we have enough stuff and we seek to find our true purpose in the world.   We start to think about what our legacy will be when we are gone and how can we make a difference in the world.

For this mid life Mommy, this phase is a little trickier than for some other mid life people as I am still very much in the process of caring for my sweet daughter.  The dance of finding things outside our family I want to learn, acts of kindness to do for others and also care for our family can be at times very challenging.  I cannot say with any certainty that I have the balancing act yet sorted out.  But it is something I am thinking about and doing my best to manage.

And in closing, I find myself very much wanting to take moments to stop in the chaos of life and sit and just be more often.   Ariel is growing up so very fast, very much becoming her own person with her own thoughts and feelings.   It seems like just yesterday that I was holding her as a baby and now she is about to turn eight.

How do others feel about this topic of change and transition, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Age and Motherhood

In July my beloved daughter will turn eight 6 days after I turn fifty three. I walk around in denial most days about the age I am until our birthday month starts to loom and then I start to ponder my thoughts about being a mid life mother. I find myself still somewhat self conscious about thinking of or worrying about what others think when they see the two of us together. This stems first from of course the comments and questions asked if I am her mom or her grandma.

But really in my most spiritual heart of hearts – it is about me. Accepting that motherhood did not come easily or early in life for me. That the universe had lessons for me to learn before I was blessed with my beloved daughter. And for the willingness to take the time to learn what I needed to – I am all the better of a mother for it.

Saying the above – would I turn down a chance to be 40 again? Not a chance but I am slowly learning that wishing for something that will never happen is futile and my lesson now is to be the happiest, healthiest soon to be fifty three year old I can be.  In that end I have ramped up my workouts from walking on the treadmill to recent endeavors into Zumba classes.  For those who have not been to a class – it is a high intensity, non stop aerobics class set to Latin music with enough dance in it to keep me moving for an hour.  That I can get through that hour after six knee surgeries is a small miracle in and of itself!

Menopause anyone?

I watched an Oprah show I had saved in my DVR about aging, pre-menopause and menopause yesterday that I had taped a while ago.

I cried for about 20 minutes after I watched the show – seeing how much my hormonal imbalances had been affecting my well being and keeping me in this “numb”, not really present space for the years since peri-menopause started when I hit 45 and Ariel was about six months old. I feel like I have to some degree lost ten years of my life – 3 from infertility and treatment for it and then the past 7 from hormone imbalances which have caused a variety of problems including but not limited to depression, anxiety, irritability and lethargy and lack of the “self” I felt I was before this leg of the journey of my life.

I have actually tried to get help with my depleted hormone status and shot adrenal system from two doctors recommended to me and yet here I am – just starting a new relationship with a third doctor and gearing up to start a whole new partnership for my health and well being.

The trickier part of this is my reluctance to doing any synthetic hormone replacement after already assaulting my body earlier in my 40′s with six unsuccessful In Vitro cycles. As it is – those years of hormones now have me taking yearly ovarian cancer cancer screenings (which I was not previously at risk for) and closer scrutiny every year for breast cancer after a breast cancer scare (complete with surgical biopsy) several years ago – thankfully the mass was benign.

I feel frustrated, angry and tired from having had to do so much of the research and leg work to help myself while in this depleted space. At the same time, hopeful that the bio-identical hormones prescribed to me a month ago will finally balance my chemistry into some level of normalcy.  Life is too precious to be just walking through in a fog.

Being Still Before Moving Forward

The past four years since I started my business Parenting by Adoption and my work as an Open Adoption Coach, I worked hard to learn all I could stuff into this mid life brain about the process of open adoption.  I worked with another adoption professional that had been pivotal in our adoption.  I read oodles of books and information online about open adoption.  And then of course I was living an open adoption since our daughter was born in 2004.

All the while trying to also be highly involved in my daughter’s school as a volunteer, run a home, run my nature photography business and deal with the very real issues that come up as a mid life pre-menopausal Mommy.

I love what I do as a coach – getting to be a part of a new family forming.  Helping guide people through the process of open adoption, assisting others to be able to avoid some of the pitfalls we encountered in the early days of our adoption journey.   I love the creative aspect of co-creating adoption profiles.  As a photographer, I am a very visual person and helping to create a profile that reflects the couple (or single person) looking to adopt is very satisfying.

Then once in awhile, like now, I am being called to take a breath, look at my coaching and make sure what I am doing is in alignment with my own personal beliefs and passions.  So while I am still very excited to help others and will jump in as a coach if approached, I have taken the past few months as a sabbatical of sorts.  Time to organize my space, working on revamping my website and working on brochures for myself.

Most importantly allowing myself to rest and recharge so when I go back out there in the world in a more present way, I am all in.  I was running on fumes much of 2011 and I started to feel it very deeply by years end.

So for me, sometimes to move forward and take my life and my coaching to the next level – taking time to be still and breathe is a necessary step.  I would welcome replies as to your thoughts on this subject.

Happy New Year!

 

Kelli

Balancing Life

The issue of Life/Work/Play balance takes up a lot of my time.  Actually many days I feel I think about it so much, I would be better off just jumping in to one of the three areas and not over analyze the whole balancing act.

In truth I know many of us struggle to find that equilibrium we seek in our days and our lives.   What I am coming to learn again and again is that in order to have more of any of the three areas of my life show up, I have to be willing to let go of something else in order for that to be.

A prime example is that despite myself going through a particularly challenging time lately dealing with some minor but necessary medical issues, I was still trying to “do it all” in the rest of my life.  This trend was NOT working out at all for me or for those around me.  The lesson in that is I am being called to work on my challenge of asking for help.   But I have finally accepted I cannot do what I want to do in life without calling upon my own personal “village” to help me.  Whether that be a listening ear, help with Ariel if I need to go do some self care or someone to bounce ideas off of.

I chose the Cat in the Hat image above mindfully; while playful it is a very constant theme for me – trying to keep all the different balls in the air.  I am learning there are times where I either need to toss one of them to another person in my life or maybe just put one of those things I am juggling down for awhile to address something more pressing.
This will be something I will be working on for a long, long time and welcome any comments you may have on how you keep your own balance in life, parenting, work etc.