out on a walk: where mist gives rise to clear-seeing

where mist 4

where mist 2

where mist 3

where mist + view from the dock's end 1

where mist + view from the dock's end 4

where mist gives rise to clear-seeing

On “Guerrilla Learning” ~ Grace Llewellyn & Amy Silver

Guerrilla Learning is coloring outside the lines, finding the shortest direction between two points, moving directly toward goals, doing the best you can with what you’ve got to work with now, making what you want for your kids and what they want for themselves as real as you can, asking people for specific kinds of help, getting out of theory land and into the trenches, realizing that schools could take centuries to significantly improve (or to get out of the way altogether) and that meanwhile your children are barreling through childhood…

Cover of "Guerrilla Learning: How to Give...In a nutshell, Guerrilla Learning means taking responsibility for your own education.And Guerrilla Learning is relaxing—knowing that you’ve made a lot of mistakes as a parent (and an educator) and that you’ll make a lot more, and that that’s okay—your kids are resilient; it’s not all up to you, and life will provide.

For young people, that includes thinking clearly and seriously about one’s own goals, interests, and values—then acting accordingly.

For parents, it means supporting your child in doing so.

It might mean giving your child a kind of freedom that may seem risky or even crazy at first.

And it also means continuing your own involvement in the world of ideas and culture, continuing to read, to think, to discuss, and to create–and being a walking, talking invitation to your kids to do the same.

Of Related Interest:

Raising Smart Girls Blog

An Unschooling Life

holy mood swings: my toddler the teenager!

Let me first state that I do not subscribe to the common expectation that a toddler’s transition to the age of two will be terrible!

Even at the height of my son’s spontaneous emotional swirl-nados, I steadfastly refuse to be trapped by what I see is a trite label and myopic view in child development that doesn’t foster deep, compassionate understanding.  Yes, there will be tantrums! Frequent and at times seemingly relentless. But there are far too many magical moments (and, in general, enough madness) in parenthood to flat-out condemn this developmental phase as a requisite breath-holding, loin-girding battle of the wills.

What these natural growing pains require are deep breaths, gentle words, easy smiles, open arms, sympathetic hearts and creative minds. The magic is revealed when we greet the madness with such mindfulness and, whenever possible, humor.

Hiding out!
No, I not doing that, Mommy!

“No” and its variants are running neck-and-neck with “Mommy” as the utterance we hear most frequently.  Be it emphatic and loud, soft and sweet, plaintive or matter-of-fact, our growing list of the ways in which K expresses his resistance—er, preference—currently includes:

      • No, thank you.
      • Nope.
      • Not doing/Not going…
      • Not yet.
      • Uh-uh.
      • And, once: No way, José!  (for which I take total responsibility)

Not all of these “no” moments are cause for alarm.  Many, I must admit, are hysterical to me—and I get so tickled that I can hardly suppress my laughter!  In those laughable cases, my mate and I typically find it easy to redirect K’s attention and energy.  If his persistence cannot be ignored, we are not above negotiating with Altoids (our newest useful tool) to allay potential meltdowns and encourage cooperation from our mint-crazed kid.

But I mindfully gauge my response to each situation (namely, turning away if I’m particularly giggly) so as not to invalidate K’s feelings. When I notice that he’s beginning to struggle with his emotions, I ask whether he needs help, a hug or both.  Any of those are effective in the easiest scenarios.

Of course, we parents wouldn’t stretch and grow into our wise and skillful selves if we only had the easy.  In the toughest moments K’s alter, The No-Bot, emerges to unequivocally and inconsolably refuse all aid!

Now  comes the deep breathing…and, I give K the space to work it all out:  He’ll clomp upstairs and fling himself onto the bed, hiding under the covers whenever I check in. Or, run off to pout in a corner or shut himself in a closet or the bathroom. Yes, all of these dramatic gestures from a child on the cusp of two years old!

Even in the midst of this I remain amused and amazed by how well this child of mine knows his own mind and fearlessly expresses it.  Most important, I recognize and respect that K is a little person who doesn’t yet know what to do with all these big new feelings and ideas blooming inside.  It’s not necessary, helpful or appropriate to exhaust myself by demanding his obedience. As a connected parent, I understand that when children don’t “feel right” they have difficulty demonstrating the behavior we deem “acting right” and learning to manage feelings is a slow and gradual practice (for kids and adults alike).

This wide open perspective serves us both: K learns that he can freely and safely experience a full range of natural emotion such as frustration (the most common because he can’t do or have something), anger, discomfort, fear or confusion without punishment.  I not only foster trust and compassionate communication between us, but also exercise patience and conserve energy. I model  the calm behavior and, slowly and gradually, nurture those seeds of calm in him.

So I wait nearby, quietly assuring him that I understand and am ready to help, to hold, to hug.

Then that moment of intensity passes.  K settles into my arms.  I rock him and sing the calm down song until his breath comes smooth and steady. (Ah, the magic of songs and education-based kids’ programming that can be used as empowerment tools for parents and their little ones. Another jewel for magic + mindfulness: Anh’s Anger.)

Now I know he’s ready to listen. I replay the scenario and translate his feelings into simple words: you wanted to do this, mommy said that, you felt mad…and so on.  Sometimes, I take him to stand before the mirror so he can see how his feelings look.  I tell him that it’s okay, that he’s growing and learning, and still needs help from mommy and daddy.

I look into K’s eyes and say, “Gimme your nose!”  Giggling, we rub our noses together in an Eskimo kiss. Into this simple, loving gesture I breathe my willingness to receive all his no’s with mindfulness.  K’s transient outburst is already forgotten. Centered and at ease once more, he zips off to the next new experience. 

on the madness in motherhood

Cackling, with laughter to keep the tears at bay.

“From cool to chaos” — whirlwind-tornado-tsunami — in a split second.

MESSY

 …sticky, stinky, sloppy, smushy and sometimes…

STRANGELY GLORIOUS

 …to be freed from the insistent call to order

from shelves, drawers, closets and containers.

LIFE

…spilling

…out:

ALL VIBRANT.  LOUD.  REAL. 

Wailing

Pouting

Shrieking

Bellowing:

HERE, HERE, HERE!

NOW…NOW…NOW!

NONONONO!

And then, sighing:

OKAY? OKAY. OKAY!

YES…YES…YES.

And now:

Laughing.  Softly.  Deeply.  Easily.  Always.

{Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.}

dude, where’s your dad?!

Without question, I’m my kid’s best friend right now.

“Here, Mommy!”…He insists, stuffing a car (or five) in my hand.
“Whatchu doing, Mommy?”…He inquires, looking into my eyes while sitting on my lap.
“Where are you, Mommy?”…He shouts, moments after I’ve told him I’m heading to the next room.
“Mommy-Mami-Ami-Ami-Ami-Ami!”…He chants when he needs me and no one else will do.

Even while writing this, K has wedged himself between me and the laptop—checking in now and again for cuddle time.

In these moments, I recall the word samatha  (Pali/Sanskrit for “calm-abiding“) and the practice I’ve adopted to touch that quality: stopping. breathing. looking. listening.

So I accept the cars.  I explain what I’m doing (talking to you, drinking coffee, reading a book).  I report my location.  I respond to his moment of distress as soon as it is possible and reassure him with hugs, kisses and my full attention that I am here for him.

Then from that place of calm, I can laugh and remind K that he does in fact have a father…who is often waiting nearby with arms wide open to receive him.

mindfulness + motherhood: counting breaths

Learning to spend one LESS breath doing something that doesn’t serve me and learning to spend one breath MORE being fully present to experiences that support me.

 

[originally posted 3 Oct 2011;  dharma yoga arts on FB]