Archive for March, 2011

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Lost in Translation

March 22, 2011

The scene Monday morning at the breakfast table included a bleary-eyed boy lamenting the list of after school events this week.  Piano Monday, field trip Tuesday, allergy appointment Wednesday, class Thursday, rehearsal Friday.  Which lead to the plea:  “Can’t I skip some?”  Of course, we, as parents, launched into the importance of honoring obligations, fulfilling commitments, blah, blah, blah…it wasn’t until we were well into our diatribe that I realized he doesn’t want to ditch these days, he loves each adventure.  (Well, maybe not the allergy appointment).

And I was struck by the immortal words of Vanilla Ice:  ‘stop, collaborate and listen’.

What was Cole really saying?  On a regular week he has, at most, two after school commitments.  Three additional activities this week were coming together to form the Bermuda triangle of exhaustion.  What he was trying to express was a sense of the too-much-ness.  Having finally caught on to my own misunderstanding, misreading of his intent I asked “are you overwhelmed?”  “Yes.”

Ah, now this, this was a different discussion altogether.  This was a joining of forces, a sharing of strategies.  We articulated our own action plans for when we are overwhelmed:  can we rearrange the events?  can we alter the outcomes?  can we prep for any of the days in advance?  In this case the answers were no, no, no.  So the best we can do is take a deep breath and narrow the focus on the now.  What is on the list for today?  Let the others just be.  Constrict our view and release the future, for worrying can’t change tomorrow, but it can stress us today.

The morning served as a reminder to model our own coping strategies to help build the tools in our son’s tool box.  And today?  He woke up, cheery, eager for the field trip, not at all concerned with the other commitments on the horizon.  As for my future career singing the wisdom-filled lyrics of Vanilla Ice?  Yes, well, I’ll keep you posted.

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Vernal Equinox

March 20, 2011

Vernal. Spring.  Verdant.  Green.  Growth. Equinox. Equality.  Equanimity.  Balance.

vernal + equinox = the harbinger of spring, the moment when the sun crosses the celestial equator and day and night are even.

The amazingness of the vernal equinox in the Pacific Northwest is that it does not represent the static stability of an = sign.  It is the dynamic equipoise implied in the relational symbols of ≈, ≤, ≥, and it is the chaotic, unpredictable nature of nature.  You can be drenched in rain and simultaneously have to wear sunglasses (yes, those things buried somewhere since last October) for the intense, low sun shining through a patch of bluest skies.  Sun showers.  Really.

Vernal equinox here is not the simplistic hours of light = hours of dark that occur along the equator.  It is more accurately characterized by an equation like this:  hours of clouds + hours of sun + hours of rain/ sleet/ hail/ mist + hours of dusk and dawn + hours I am asleep = 24.  And, believe it or not, this replicates the equinox inherent in family systems.

If there are two or three or four or five or more in your family, each individual has an equal stake in the family resources – time, money, energy, attention, focus, love, etc.  Whatever variables are in play in your family, each person has a right to access their share.  But this is rarely happens concurrently.  Some adjustments in family energy are exerted in short spurts – a sudden illness, a special trip.  Some transferences will exist for all of childhood and beyond.  If you have a child whose educational needs require extra care than is provided at school, the family adapts.  If you have a child gifted in any manner of ways, time is often spent nurturing that gift.  The question then becomes how do you shift other resources to the remaining members so that the net experience is one of parity for all?  At our house we often hear ‘it’s not fair!’ and what a child is indicating is that they don’t feel honored.  Does my nearly five year old actually want a 21 gear bike?  No, but she does want to be acknowledged for her own growth.  Does our almost ten year old truly believe he needs adulation for sounding out new words in the long term see-saw of learning to read?  No, but he wants us to notice how he is pushing his own developmental boundaries.  And so we juggle the resources to help everyone feel treasured.

But enough about the kids.  What about you?

Are you making use of your portion of the family resources?  Are you taking enough time to nurture new skills?  Explore hobbies?  Enhance friendships?  Pursue happiness?  It is fine for adults to abdicate our allocation on occasion, or even for a while.  But it is essential for our health and the long-term well-being of our families to claim our place within the system.  If we demure our ration too often, too constantly we either wither, become bitter martyrs or fade so completely from view that our children cease to see us.  In the act of parenting, we must not cede our humanity.   We need to redraw ourselves into the family portrait.

This is dynamic equilibrium.  The details will look different for every family, and they will alter for every family over time.  The structure doesn’t have to be a rigid set of decisions, we can instead envision it as a flexible framework that evolves as needed.  Because in the midst of the torrent of rain and elusive sun, you occasionally catch sight of that magic, the rainbow.  Vernal Equinox.  Growing in Balance.  Can we do it?  Let’s keep each other posted.

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