We take it for granted that although we often feel like hitting someone else (or biting scratching or throwing a tantrum) that we are able to override this primitive drive and behave like an at least semi-civilized human being (well, most of the time anyway). We assume that this is a normal ability that everyone of all ages shares, and we therefore expect everyone else to make good use of it. Including our kids. But the physiological truth of the matter runs a little bit deeper…
Imagine that one day you wake up and get dressed and your partner takes you by the hand pops you in the car and, instead of dropping you at work, the car takes off and flies to Mars. You're already confused, right, as you were expecting to go somewhere familiar.
When you get there he helps you out if the car leads you to a group of Martians and other women and turns around and leaves. You look around and everyone seems to know everyone else and they're all busying themselves about. You don't know why you're there, where to go if you need the toilet, how long you'll be there, what there is to eat, what behaviour is appropriate or not.
How do you think you would feel? Scared? Angry? Confused? Tearful? Panicked? All of the above?
“I hate you I hate you I hate you” We’ve all heard that one and most of us can simply laugh it off and know that within an hour it will be all love again. We know that part of parenting involves bearing the brunt of our kids’ bad moods and lack of emotional maturity. And children need to know that it is safe to express these strong emotions without you or the world falling apart.
But what about when you do something or make a difficult decision and your child turns around and says “You don’t love me”. That’s a slightly more difficult pill to swallow. Particularly when all we’ve done since the day they were born is pour every inch of love possible in our beings into them.
We ask our kids a lot of questions in the course of a regular week. How was school? What did you do? Have you brushed your teeth? How was your outing? Have you done your homework? Who did you play with? What are you eating? Why aren’t you eating? How was the party?
I’m not really a fan of asking kids lots of questions at all. Asking questions can show that we don’t trust our children. It doesn’t respect their right to tell only what they feel like telling or not to elaborate until they’ve processed something themselves. It can feel like interrogation. It can seem intrusive. It directs conversations in ways that often miss the depth and essence of what a child has to tell us.
Then again, our kids tend to ask us a lot of questions as well. We’ve already talked about why we shouldn’t necessarily answer them. Maybe I’ll put out a memo to kids not to answer their parents’ questions too!
So I realize I won’t get you to stop asking questions completely, but there is one question that you absolutely need to banish from your list. And that question is…
Meditation can be a life saving tool for parents (usually it’s the child’s life that it saves!), but what parent on the planet has time to sit down on a mountaintop and ohm for hours every day? Ok, I’m a freak, I’ll admit – I did actually meditate for 40 minutes twice a day when my kids were little. It helped. A lot. But I’m not crazy enough to suggest that you all do that too.
No, since then I’ve learned a lot about meditation and how you can get the benefits of this in a lot less time and in a much more manageable way. You already have more than enough to squeeze into the limited hours of life.
So I’m going to go in two directions here – I’m going to give you some tips on the typical shut-eye sit-and-do-nothing type of meditation for those of you who do find 20 or even 5 minutes in your day to do this; and then I’m going to show you how you don’t need to do that and you can still get all the benefits.
Mostly, when we think about the meaning of life, we are thinking in broad terms of overarching material success or fame. We think of the great literary achievements of Herman Charles Bosman or JK Rowling. We think of the political and humanitarian strides of Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King Jr. We think of the scientific advancements of Albert Einstein or Marie Curie. Or the sporting breakthroughs of Steffi Graf and Roger Bannister.
But for the vast majority of us, this will not be the case. It is easy, then, to assume the meaninglessness of existence; Depression being a natural response to feeling like you are just not making it in this life.
It can feel overwhelming when we look out at the world and see the chaos out there. There is so much that needs fixing. So many people who need help. So much pollution. Where to begin?
We all want to leave the world better than when we found it. We all want to ensure that our children inherit a habitat that we would be proud of. But as just one person or family what difference can we possibly make?
"If you think you are too small to make a difference try spending the night with a mosquito." - African Proverb
When I first had kids I thought it was important to answer them when they asked a question. So when they hit the “why?” stage (and mine were close together so they were both doing it at the same time) I was answering upward of 50 questions every hour almost every hour of the day.
One day as we were going for a walk they asked me why all the dogs in the neighbourhood barked as we went past. I told them that the dogs are protecting their property and think we might be burglars. To which my 3 year old replied, “You're not a burglar you're the answer lady!”
We put so much pressure on ourselves to be good parents. We try to give our kids loving stable homes, send them to good schools, be patient when they freak out, feed them the right foods, set up fun play dates, buffer their emotions, help them achieve their goals, and a multitude of other daily tasks and thoughts to do with their wellbeing and overall levels of happiness. Because that is what good parents do.
The truth? You are not a good parent.
Did you know that in the languages of Sweden, Norway and Finland, where they experience long snow-filled winters, there are as many as 180 snow and ice related words. That’s a lot of ways to talk about something we just call, well, snow and ice. Imagine how differently snow would appear to you if you had so many ways to describe it rather than just cold, wet and white!
Now think about how much richer your child’s emotional life would be if they could describe what they were feeling with more words than just happy, sad and mad.