Tag Archives: reflection

Scrimmage

We’ve often observed our kids, who are now 17 and 20, going through seasons of growth and coping, and we’ve used different kinds of language to describe the experience: mood swings, expansion and contraction, equilibrium and disequalibrium. Anghelika describes the way a child can feel stretched and challenged in uncomfortable ways by a world that seems too big, and then soon after can come to a place of feeling more comfortable ‘in their skin’. When children are being challenged and stretched, it can be hard times for families.

We have been through innumerable such cycles with our children. We’ve suffered through the tense times when our child seems to hate everything, wants no help, chooses to be alone. These are terrible times, because, of course, she can’t be alone—she lives with you. And she can’t really go without help, because she’s dependent. And when someone you live with hates everything, that’s kind of a downer, because you’re going to be collateral damage. We found these times really hard, and we celebrated the return to equilibrium. As we learned a bit about how these things worked, we began to ‘tolerate’ the down times because we knew that better times were coming. But what if we were missing an opportunity to celebrate the hard times too?

After twenty years of parenting we can say that family is a lifestyle of challenge and change. Family is not a formula to master, or a parenting book to finish, or some season to get through. It’s life: we change our children and they change us. In our experience, families (our own included) tend to get labeled … as healthy or unhealthy, functional or dysfunctional. But looking back, no family qualifies exclusively for a single prize. Family is not a race where you either win or you don’t. It’s a scrimmage, where every player gets a little better by the end of the day … and gets a few bruises to help them remember the day’s work.

We might have been too quick to wish our way past the bad-mood days. We might have taken them too personally, as a sign of our faulty parenting, or of a child’s rebellion against our ideals. Even when we recognized that it wasn’t about us, we might have looked forward to a child ‘getting over it’ so we could be a “happy family” again. But we are starting to recognize that families are not supposed to be … anything really. They are not validated by the amount of happiness enjoyed by its members, or by any other ideal. They are a place where life happens, and that means whatever we bring to the party, that’s the life we are going to have, and the family that we are. And if we can accept that family is not some ideal that we have to achieve, but is the very mechanism by which we will grow together, then we may embrace the struggles as the way we all, parents and children alike, get better at living this life. To look at it another way, family holds us together when we might otherwise drift apart in trying times: it’s a mechanism of love.

If we could go back and give our younger selves advice, we’d say, for every lesson you think you need to teach your child, there is probably a lesson or two you need to learn yourself, so slow down and don’t be in such a hurry to fix the problem of the day. A child in distress, in rebellion, or in a bad mood, is not an obstacle on your path to a perfect family. On the contrary: this is what families are perfect for. Responding in love and patience when one of us is in danger of falling away.

 

This post originally appeared on the Parenting on the Peninsula Blog

Time To Reflect

[Originally posted on the Parenting on The Peninsula Blog, where Anghelika and I will be blogging every Monday!]

Parents don’t have time. Everybody knows it. Singles and DINK*s know that when their friends produce offspring, the relationship is going to change: kids become the dominant concern in young families, and that’s the way it should be. There simply isn’t time for all that we did before we had little people in the home. But it isn’t only relationships outside the family that suffer when we become parents; our own parenting is threatened by lack of time.

We are going to risk the suggestion that busy parents add one more thing to the schedule: time to reflect. That’s right: add a little nothing. Clear some time in the schedule to just think. Without thoughtful reflection on the choices we make as parents, it’s easy to fall for parenting fads, bow to academic peer pressure, or simply fail to choose anything at all.

Parenting is no place for passivity. It’s no fun looking back on your child’s first 15 years of life and wishing you’d thought something through more. We need to find time to process what we want for our kids, and for our families. We don’t want to scare anyone: children are resilient … every parent makes good and bad choices, and children have a great capacity to survive our not-always-great parenting. But since our choices are important for the formation of our children and family, we have to give ourselves time to reflect on them. Think you can’t slow down enough to think? It’s easier to make a slight change in our schedule now than it is to undo a decision years after it was made.

What does it mean to reflect? It may look like external processing with other parents, teachers or friends. This can be enormously encouraging as we learn new perspectives and get support for the challenges we are facing today. Opportunities abound for this kind of reflection at parent ed. events at schools, conversations on the playground, or over a coffee. Take the opportunities that present themselves!

If it’s easier for you to process things internally, then all it takes is a quiet moment. It doesn’t take much. Let’s try it ….

Let’s say it took you 5 minutes to read this post. Now, instead of jumping to the next site on the web, or the next thing on your mind, just pause for a few minutes and let these ideas sink in. In fact, whenever you make time to read a post on your favorite blog, practice taking equal time to reflect on it. This may slow you down a bit; you may not get through as much as usual. But by giving yourself time to reflect, you will find that some ideas will stick better than others, and your choices will become more confident.

Where do you carve out time to reflect on your parenting plan? Who are your go-to dialog partners? What pressing concern could you share with a friend over coffee today?

*Double Income No Kids!