“When we set children against one another in contests – from spelling bees to awards assemblies to science “fairs” (that are really contests), from dodge ball to honor rolls to prizes for the best painting or the most books read – we teach them to confuse excellence with winning, as if the only way to do something well is to outdo others. We encourage them to measure their own value in terms of how many people they’ve beaten, which is not exactly a path to mental health. We invite them to see their peers not as potential friends or collaborators but as obstacles to their own success. (Quite predictably, researchers have found that the results of competition often include aggression, cheating, envy of winners, contempt for losers, and a suspicious posture toward just about everyone.) Finally, we lead children to regard whatever they’re doing as a means to an end: The point isn’t to paint or read or design a science experiment, but to win. The act of painting, reading, or designing is thereby devalued in the child’s mind.

Alfie Kohn, The Myth of the Spoiled Child, Chapter 4

competition

“So yes. It had flaws, but what does that matter when it comes to matters of the heart? We love what we love. Reason does not enter into it. In many ways, unwise love is the truest love. Anyone can love a thing because. That’s as easy as putting a penny in your pocket. But to love something despite. To know the flaws and love them too. That is rare and pure and perfect.” – Patrick Rothfuss, A Wise Man’s Fear

loving despite

Posted in family life, musings, quotes

presence

“Asher picked out a rocket Popsicle while I parked the bike and looked for a spot in the sun, eventually setting on a rainbow-colored, oversized hammock. We climbed in and lay next to each other, his head cradled in the nook of my arm, and we swung slowly, gazing up at the giant sycamore trees, new green leaves silhouetted against the blue sky. It was the first time in recent memory that I’d stopped moving, thinking, planning, working, or teaching and done nothing but be in that moment. A moment, I might add, in which Asher stopped talking about Minecraft and Plants Versus Zombies. Instead, as we lay there gently swaying, we talked about spring. And homeschooling. And beauty. And peace and contentedness. And how nature can be a kind of religion. And how important it is to notice and appreciate. And about how sticky hands get when Popsicle juice drips on them.

“[…] When we’re not living in presence, we miss the little things – the bright spots that are there, even when we have to search hard to find them. The tiny growth spurts. The moments of brilliance. The sparks of joy. To experience these things we have to fully be here, open and present.” – Debbie Reber, Differently Wired

It’s tempting for me to be always immersed in my phone, or a book, or a coloring sheet, or even just my to-do list for the day. But I’ve noticed that when I actively engage with my children, when I am present in their games and conversation (even if I am just observing while making dinner or cleaning), their imagination is sparked, their reactions are more positive, their responses are more mature, and their smiles are brighter.

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(Also, they tend to be much more accepting of time apart if our time together is truly a time of connection and presence, which allows me to have more space for deeper renewal and refreshment when I need it.)

It isn’t just me, the parent, who benefits when I choose to be present – my children benefit as well. My presence assures them of my love. It demonstrates that they are worthy of authentic attention and connection. It gives them confidence in the value of their ideas. It gives them the opportunity to learn from any experience and wisdom I may have.

And it is in all the moments, silly and stressful, happy and hard, that a deep and lasting relationship can grow between us. If I choose to be mentally elsewhere for those moments, I choose to stunt rather than nurture that relationship. But if I choose to be present, I am choosing to water and fertilize that relationship, and to weed out all the other trivial things that compete with my children for my attention, emotional energy, and time.

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Being present means playing peek-a-boo with Aubade when she hides her face in her hands.

Being present means talking in a baby voice for hours because the mommy animals in the house want me to be their baby elephant.

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Being present means getting to cheer Limerick on when he chases a ball around the pool and finally manages to grab it, instead of staying oblivious to his persistence and success.

Being present means laughing when Rondel jumps into the pool and totally soaks me with the splash, instead of perceiving it as an interruption of my more important business.

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Being present means noticing how Limerick observes and investigates the world around him, constantly soaking up knowledge with his thirsty pattern-loving mind.

And most of all, being present means mutual openness, a sharing of happiness, and a fostering of love. Yes, I need space and time alone – but when I am with my kids, I am going to try to be fully present as much as possible.


If you liked the quote from Differently Wired, read my brief review of the book here and check back in June for the giveaway!

Also, check here for a list of some awesome pre-order bonuses you can receive for no additional cost if you order the book before June 12th!

“So far we’ve talked about getting out of our limited thinking and envisioning how we’d design our ideal day if we knew we would be successful. We explored letting go of our own emotional baggage, recognizing them our personal triggers have been provoked, and committing to parenting our children from a place of possibility instead of fear. But for this last Tilt, I want to talk explicitly about fully leaning in to the power of our personal choice and using it as a foundation for creating what our child needs. Because the truth is, what our child needs may not exist yet. But why should that stop us?” – Debbie Reber, Differently Wired


If you liked the quote from Differently Wired, read my brief review of the book here and check back in June for the giveaway!

why should that stop us?

Posted in family life, musings, quotes

wonder

Watching my children play, I am reminded of the wonder and beauty of small and simple things. There is enough joy in a glass of milk to send a three year old dancing around the kitchen; there is enough beauty in a well-done coloring page to keep a distractible, active four year old still and entranced watching it happen; there is enough passion in a stuffed animal to occupy the full attention and imagination of the one year old who walk around snuggling and protecting it. Continue reading “wonder”

“Bravery is a muscle, but instead of building it through exercise, we strengthen it with each brave act we do, big or small, parent related or not.

“Bravery isn’t a limited resource, and it’s also something we all have within us.”

Debbie Reber, Differently Wired, Tilt 6: Parent From a Place of Possibility Instead of Fear.


If you liked the quote from Differently Wired, read my brief review of the book here and check back in June for the giveaway!

bravery

Posted in musings, quotes

letting go

My therapist used to tell me, “it isn’t your business what other people think of you.” I’m still not sure I completely agree with her, since what other people think can occasionally have fairly large consequences on a practical level (promotions at work, for example) – but in general it’s correct. I’m entitled to my beliefs and opinions, and other people are entitled to theirs. Someone else might think I’m antisocial or making poor parenting choices because I want to homeschool; I might think someone is arrogant and disconnected from local community because they are a snowbird. But if I choose to live my life based on the thoughts of others about me and my decisions, I’ll be miserable (just like all those snowbirds would be, sweltering here all summer without the communities they grew up in, or being shut in all winter there because they can’t shovel themselves out anymore).

I have to let it go. Continue reading “letting go”