Lost iPhone, Renewed Commitment

My husband misplaced my phone this weekend.  He was juggling a toddler, a bag full of what-toddlers-need and trying to get to an Easter party with his dad’s group.  My first reaction when I heard that it was gone was to blame, yell or ‘teach’ him how to stay more organized so this never happens again.  Never mind the fact that a few weeks earlier I put a library book on the roof and drove off, only to remember when my two-year-old asked what happened to said book.

Then, while staying silent and breathing I started to use the work I have been doing in regards to Nonviolent Communication and taking responsibility for my emotions.  There was nothing helpful I had to offer.  No way I could make it better or make him feel less upset.  What I needed to do was let him feel how he felt (this is pretty novel for me, in the past I probably would have wanted him to get over it while simultaneously growing more irritated at him for letting it happen). My job was to figure out how I was really feeling and then manage myself appropriately.

As minutes passed and I kept breathing and thinking I realized that maybe this was not the tragedy it seemed. In some ways I felt relieved.  It was a reminder that I use my phone WAY TOO MUCH, despite the fact that I don’t want my son to be over exposed to technology.  I am modeling a “one hand on the phone, one eye on the person I am speaking to” mentality that is completely opposite from what I believe in. I was sad about the loss of un-uploaded photos and video but other than that perhaps this was a time for me to reflect.  Re-prioritize.

If I had acted on my initial frustration and anger I never would have felt anything more.  Or if I did it probably would have taken hours or days to come to it and only after causing unnecessary hurt. Instead I was able to really look at why I was so upset (because “What would I DO without my phone?!” ) and what that really meant.

I have a new phone now…I am a small bit poorer for it.  I was able to save ALL of the un-uploaded photos and video! (Here’s to syncing your iPhone regularly!) With it I have a new plan for its use: While at school I will only use it when I am not with Collin.  At home I will check it every few hours or so and then put it away.  I will only respond to calls or texts, not sit around facebooking or google searching for no reason.  That’s the plan, now lets hope this lesson stays downloaded long after the memory of losing it is gone.

Cheers to a bit less technology and a lot more interaction in our lives,

Melissa

Simple Sunday- The Rhythm of Family

Some weeks we’ve got it, and some weeks we don’t.  By “it” I mean a rhythm to our family life.  I don’t just mean our routine because by necessity we follow a similar routine every weekday.  Get up, make lunches, get dressed, get out the door to school (me and Collin) or work (Dadda).  Then get home, cook, eat, bath and bed.

Our rhythm is that intangible synchronicity where we are all moving together comfortably.  We are working together to keep the house clean, food on the table and laundry folded.  It is when we all feel like we are able to get what we need and give what others are asking for.

Not that we expect perfection (okay, maybe I do sometimes but I am WORKING ON IT!) It doesn’t mean we don’t have goals or issues to work through.  It means that at the end of the day we are okay with what was left undone and happy with what was accomplished. It’s the steady drum beat of family life, calm and welcoming.  When the rhythm is missing its more like an alternative band at practice, you never know if you’re about to hear a lilting ballad or an all-out screaming anthem.  In short, without our rhythm life seems more stressful and less fulfilling.

As mothers we come to learn early on that “If Mamma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”.  Whether we like it or not how we feel, act and participate in our family has a large effect on the family ‘vibe’.  Through my beginning study on Nonviolent Communication I have come to realize that when I am disconnected from the rhythm of my family it is because I am not getting my needs met.  In truth this is often because I have no clue what my *real* needs are.  If I am overcome by disorder in the house I don’t always recognize that, instead it may come out as frustration with my husband for not picking up enough.  If I need a break for some me time, I may instead lose my patience with Collin.

I can’t force my husband to do anything he doesn’t want to do (and really he does so, so much already) and I can’t control the fact that my two-year-old is, in fact, acting like a two-year-old.  What I do have control over is how I speak to them and if I take enough time to center myself and feel what my true needs really are.  As mammas we all will have moments when we let things go for too long without checking in with ourselves.  We need to take inventory of where our emotions are coming from in order to give ourselves back the power to control how we react to our feelings.

I know I can help our family’s rhythm to keep humming along by recognizing what is bothering me and doing something about it.  I have found it freeing to say to my self, “Self, you feel like you want more order in the house right now, how can we accomplish this? By organizing that pile of papers?” Then I can choose if I really want to organize those papers right now, put it on a list or let it go.  I can let go of trying to control others as I may have done in the past (“Babe will you puh-leeze organize those papers? and um..do it now?”)

Having space to make our own choices and recognize what we all need  helps us all work better as a team.  In the hopes of helping us all (even the littlest among us) to recognize, verbalize and learn about our feelings and needs I have posted the following two lists on our refrigerator.

 Thanks to the Center for Nonviolent Communication

Nonviolent Communication Needs List 

NVC Feelings list

I know we’ll continue to come in and out of rhythm, have good weeks and bad weeks.  Part of getting back into the rhythm is just allowing yourself to be a little off sometimes and then jumping back in.

Thanks for reading! Heres to a great week 🙂

 Melissa

Truth be told..

I have a hard time telling the truth. To my son. In my heart I want to be honest and clear with him. I want to help him to prepare for what is to come or to honestly express the emotions he is handling. When the going gets tough though I always find myself in an internal battle. The logical side of me trying to smack some sense into the emotional side.

You see my emotional side still believes that I can protect him from all hurt. Isn’t that what we really all want to do anyway? Deep down every parent would love to make their child’s life an easy ride full of excitement, fulfilled promises and friendly interactions. We all know this isn’t life though. From the very beginning our tiny ones have to deal with life. They get shots, they must sit in that god awful contraption we call a car seat and they sometimes (gasp!) even have to wait to get their needs met while their mothers use the restroom!

No matter what my convictions are or how I may act to the contrary I promise you there is always a little voice inside my head begging me to sugar-coat a sad good-bye or other such childhood disappointment. For the most part I feel I am honest but today was a big test for me as a Mamma.

Today we went for Collin’s two-year-old check up. I knew for weeks now that this meant he needed one more vaccination. I also was keenly aware that our last appointment for a nasty cough had been a less than warm visit. With these two things in mind I decided that I would be honest and clear about what would happen. However, up until the moment we walked into the office I was trying to talk myself out of actually telling him he would get a shot before he got it.

I mean really who wants to know they are getting a shot before they get it, right? The anticipation is the worst part anyway isn’t it? (This is where I almost had myself convinced) BUT….and this is a BIG BUT….we ALWAYS know that a shot it coming. Yes thinking about it can be worrisome and produce anxiety, but what if someone took you into a room (someone you trusted) and out of NOWHERE someone just poked you with a needle? I would feel so betrayed and to be honest I wouldn’t be going anywhere with that person anywhere soon.

I had to look more closely at my motives. Why did I feel like sugar-coating the truth (and btw sugar-coating is a lovely word for lying isn’t it…)? Truth be told I was worried that telling him he was going to get a shot might make him freak out a bit. I was worried about having to deal with a full-blown toddler meltdown. Stating it out loud might make him more difficult to deal with. An oblivious toddler would surely be easier to ‘fake-out’ and get to cooperate than one who was in the know.

These were MY reasons for lying though and none of them benefited him in any way. He deserved to be prepared for all of it. He deserved to know what the nurse and the doctor were going to do. He deserved to know that he would get a shot and that it would hurt.

So I told him. Everything. (I did wait to talk about the shot until right before the injection nurse was due to come to the room though, in the hopes of reducing anxiety about the whole experience)

The other piece to this is the respect one must have to treat a child so young this way. There is an underlying belief that your child understands and internalizes what you say that must be present when speaking the truth. I can’t say I have always been completely honest or respectful during our short relationship but each day I am more conscious and I try harder. I am very aware that the words I use do matter. They matter very much. Sometimes I worry that when I speak the truth of what may be bothering him out loud I will cause a commotion. I will make things worse or bring on louder screams. But do you know what happens? Each and every time that I break through my own barriers and MAKE myself state what the real truth of his emotions are? He releases those feelings, moves through them and handles it. He may need to cry more or harder to do this. He may simply be thankful for the recognition and be able to move on. This truth telling is always cathartic and always moves us closer to a true resolution.

It was the same way in the Dr.’s office today. As we went through the steps that I had prepared him for he (and his Pooh bear) got weighed, measured and checked for any number of issues. He clung on to me a few times but easily relaxed as we discussed what was about to happen. He laid down for his shot, knowing he would feel a poke or a pinch. Of course he cried but he was done in less than a minute. He wiped his eyes, we talked about how he body was stronger now. I asked if he wanted to go and he smiled “Yes!” and we walked off talking about what happened.

Both of us full of love and trust in each other and our ability to face the world as a team.

How do you grow mutual respect? How do we stay honest yet speak in a developmentally appropriate way?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

As always, thanks for reading and T.G.I.F.!

Melissa

Nonviolent Communication-Learning a new language

 In my post on the New Year I expressed my commitment to study and practice Nonviolent Communication.  Now here we are a month out and I haven’t even finished Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg. This is not because I have put it aside, it is because I can’t get through a chapter without reading and re-reading it.

 When I first picked up the book it was with the intention to be more receptive to what others were saying to me.  I wanted to break down the walls that fly up in defense when I hear something that goes contrary to how I think it should.  I didn’t want to be such a ‘right-fighter’.  I also wanted to be able to express myself more clearly and in a less negative manner.  Generally I was hoping to clarify what I thought I was already doing in order to better model this for my son.

Little did I know what a journey this would be.  The book, broken up into two main sections dealing with expressing ones self and empathetically responding to others, has me re-learning the way I speak, think and express emotion. The four main components of the communication system are observing the actions that affect us or others, expressing how we feel in relation to what we are observing, examining the needs that created those feelings within us and then requesting the actions that would help to enrich our lives (or meet our need).

Click here for a visual of the NVC components

As I have tried to put this book into action I am continually left speechless.  The two components that really trip me up are expressing how I feel and then examining the needs that created those feelings.  I have come to a realize that I have a very limited ‘feelings’ vocabulary.  The words I use most frequently to express myself are ‘mad, angry, sad, frustrated and happy’.  When weighed against the breadth of human emotion this is a pitiful list to be sure!

As for the needs, well that was easy right? What was I needing? I need you to be quiet so the whole class can take a nap now.  I need you to do the dishes right now so I don’t feel stressed out about them later.  Whenever I looked for a need behind a feeling it was usually focused on someone else.  Furthermore, I have found that I mistakenly label assumptions about others as feelings! For example I feel misunderstood when you say you don’t want to (insert issue here, manage money as I do, run the classroom as I do etc).  When I say that I feel misunderstood I am really stating that I think they are misunderstanding what I am saying.  I am taking away their power and not truly feeling my needs or hearing theirs.

I’ve had quite the long-lasting-aha!-moment.  This quote has really stuck with me “what others say and do may be the stimulus for, but never the cause, of our feelings” WHAAT?! Never? Wow, what an amazing and freeing possibility that only I am responsible for my feelings.

I hope that through knowing myself better and learning  language that will express my feelings I will be able to be a more compassionate mother, wife and citizen.  This is not just about conflict but about being responsible for our own emotions and lovingly supportive of others.  What a gift to give ourselves and our children!

As I continue on this (admittedly longer than expected) journey I will keep you all posted.  Please share your experiences!

Thanks for reading!

Happy New Year, Happy New Focus

Ahhh…We can all breathe a deep sigh of new 2012 air.  The dust has settled from the holiday melee, children are back to routines that help them organize their sleep, emotions and expectations.  We (mostly) have cleaned and begun the reorganization that comes with piles of lovingly selected new toys and activities.  Along with the new year comes the feeling of new starts, a new you!, or a new waistline.

Pretty much every year, at least every year that I can remember, I have made a resolution to lose weight.  Yep, my whole life.  I will jog every day.  Lose 20 pounds.  Yoga four times a week…etc. This year as the calendar page flips to 2012 (and reeealy its 2012? I remember when that seemed so futuristic to me) I have new goals.  Goals that come from my drive to grow as a mother, wife and teacher.  Goals that are not just promises to myself or habits that need breaking.  Instead these goals are a reminder to myself to do the work emotionally that needs to be done, to keep growing, learning and becoming the *me* that I can be.

Study and Practice Nonviolent Communication:

In my former life, before teaching, marriage and my boy, I studied social change.  In fact I taught a seminar called “Nonviolence and the twenty-first century” as my senior capstone project in college. The Ghandian idea of nonviolence is not simply refraining from involving in physically violent acts. Standing idly by as someone is abused or marginalized is a violent act.  In other words it is not the abscense of an act.  Nonviolence is a concsious act in and of itself.  You need to make a choice, contribute to violence or contribute to peace.  I choose peace.

I know that during certain conflicts I lose my ability to hear others. Being right can become ridiculously important to me and often I can’t see past my own feelings into the heart of the other person.  Words that hurt are easy to throw around, often easiest to hurdle at those we love the most.  As our family grows I find myself looking back on how we have grown together.  How we truly are turning into a family.  Learning a dance of emotions, needs and responsibilities.  Trying to support each other as individuals and strengthen our relationships while recognizing that our needs may sometimes be at odds with one another.

As a mother I feel the onus is on me to raise a child who is able to express his feelings in a way that is gentle but clear.  Equally important is to raise a child who is able to really hear what others are saying.  Even if it means listening through anger, aggression or pride.  I know that the only way to effectively teach anything is to model it.  To this end I have begun reading (or sort of re-reading, as I started it before with about 5 other books and never finished it) Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg PhD.

As stated on the center for nonviolent communication’s website nonviolent communication is”the natural state of compassion when no violence is present in the heart”.  My goal for this new year is to engage myself in the study of a new type of communication that will help me relate to my son, husband, co-workers and students in a more loving, open and effective way.  I will not throw words around as if they don’t matter or hurt.  I will be conscious of where the other party is coming from.  I will stop, slow down and (try my hardest!) to step outside myself to see the conflict from the outside.

Focus on the study of Child Development and Early Childhood Education and Parenting:

When I first started this blog I didn’t really know where I was headed.  I know what I do, what I like, how I spend my days and I figured if I started writing about those topics I would find my way.  As the days have passed I have become connected to some amazing (and admittedly intimidating) bloggers.  Crafts sites, cooking sites, engaging anecdotes about their daily lives, crunchy eco moms who don’t use toilet paper (!?!).  I just can’t compete.  How do you take such adorable and informative pictures of your toddler doing an art activity (with no mess?) while supervising? Cooking a meal and remembering to take beautifully framed pictures of each step along the way? SO NOT ME.  Maybe someday, maybe another resolution, but not now. I know now what this blog is.

This is me, teaching, parenting, parenting while teaching.  What fires me up is child development.  Learning how children learn so I can support them the best way they can.  As a teacher, parent or friend.  This platform holds me accountable.  In this new year I will support children for who they are. I will advocate for them and their parents.  In our world today there is more help in a hug than in years of starndardized tests.  I will be true to myself  in this new year.

What about you? What are your goals for yourself? Goals for your family?

Happy 2012!