Being Responsive

I’ve posted many times about divorce, and as much as I’d like to put all of it behind me and move on, I have two sweet boys who are and will always be impacted by the choices their father and I made. Divorce is cyclical; the three of us continually journey through varying phases, and I never find myself prepared for where their little hearts and minds will go.

The latest installment came the other night at the dinner table when out of the blue, Gage looked at me very seriously and said, “Mommy, I’m never going to get married.”

I can never be sure where Gage will go next when he makes sudden announcements like this, so I asked why and waited for the rest. I never expected what came next; his mature thought process that lead to his profound statement left me breathless, heartbroken.

“Because I don’t want to be like you and Daddy.”

I might as well have been a puddle on the floor. My brain grasped for something to say, anything that could take away this knowing, this life experience that my little eight year old possessed. My feeble attempt to reassure him, to restore his faith in marriage fell pitifully short. He looked at me skeptically as I rambled about choosing the right person until thankfully, his attention was diverted by his brother.

I know it is clearly too early to predict doom for his future relationships due to commitment issues. But at the same time, I also realize that they will both be permanently impacted by our choices, even if they were only two and four. They are fortunate enough to see their father and I interact positively most of the time. They also see a loving and healthy marriage here at the Rock House.

Gage, at 2

Gage’s comments have helped me to realize that in addition to modeling healthy relationships, I need to be talking with them about marriage and divorce more frequently and in a more complex way than I have been. I have to help them heal and understand the whys and hows of what happened, so they can learn and hopefully not repeat this experience later in their lives.

This has definitely had the potential to completely stress me out! Instead, with my momfulness practice and focus on presence, I’m learning to be less reactive and more responsive to their needs, to love all of the challenges and opportunities parenting them brings.

Privileges

As I was rocking and nursing Rowan to sleep on Sunday night, I was trying to savor the moment and not fret over returning to work the next day. I have been focusing on my word, presence, and trying to keep myself grounded in the moment. I’ve posted about rocking before, and there is simply something almost healing about it. Everything else falls away, and it is just the two of us, our breath aligned, her sleeping body heavy on my chest.

It was in this quiet the other night, in my earnest attempt to remain present, that I reflected on the weekend. It was full and busy, but I realized that in that fullness, was happiness and joy. My first instinct is to stay home, to keep things quiet, in an attempt to stall time, but this weekend there were times that we had to be out and then times that we chose to be out. Because I’ve been working on presence, I was able to find the joy in each experience, rather than feeling stressed because how much time they were taking.

As I reflected on the weekend, I had a very clear and humbling sense of the privilege I’ve been given to be a mother to wonderful children and a wife to an amazing husband. My life is so rich because of what they add to it, and I know my focus on presence has allowed me to be more available to enjoying every second.

Affirmations

Every so often, Pacey and I come to blows over homework. This time it ended with this:

He has been blessed with the gift of stubborness, something that will certainly come in handy as he grows, but for a mom, it can definitely be a challenge. He is a brilliant kid (and I’m not just saying that because I’m his mom), but that sometimes leads to total meltdowns when he has the opportunity to be wrong. I say opportunity because he definitely needs to learn that it is okay to be wrong because that is how we learn.

As a teacher, I am accustomed to helping kids. When they don’t understand something, I patiently work with them. It frustrates me to no end when he immediately shuts down, refuses to listen, or starts to cry or bang his feet on the floor.

I try my best to maintain my composure because really a 10 year old having a meltdown and a 33 year old having a meltdown are not a good combination! This doesn’t always work, though, and yesterday, I did have a hard time maintaining my presence and finding ways to respond to him with compassion and grace.

Until today. I am always humbled and in awe by how what we need will often show up for us right when we need it. I have recently started following a group on Facebook called Peaceful Parenting. Throughout the day, they post positive statements or thoughts about motherhood, and this morning, a link to a YouTube video that has many different positive affirmations you can use with your children. They even group them by age range. The thumbnail on their post showed this statement:

I had to stopο»Ώ and allow it resonate.  After the drama of the afternoon’s homework time, I decided that I would find a way to help him become more responsive to my guidance during homework time. I planned on setting aside time tonight to read some more in my Momfulness book, sure that I would find some guidance. 
I’ve read about and used affirmations before. I used to carry around meaningful statements on index cards that I would read each morning or when I needed to find focus, but I have not thought about using them with my boy-os. And now that I think about, I’m not sure why I haven’t. Instead of telling them to focus, to listen, to stop getting frustrated all in the heat of the moment, laying a foundation of of these things in a positive way seems like a much more effective starting point. This isn’t to say that some moments will not call for me to redirect their behavior, but slowly, we can reshape their reactions, beliefs, and behaviors in a positive way. My next step is to figure out how to begin sharing these with them consistently, intentionally, and effectively.

Presence

With the new year comes new hope and fresh starts. Everyone is talking resolutions, and I usually hesitate to make any because like most, I fail to follow through with them! I follow a blog called Sorta Crunchy, and each year she picks one word to focus on and guide her through the year. What a fabulous idea!

I really wanted my word to be one that seemed to find me, rather than one I decided would work best (or would be easiest!). I wanted it to be one that would impact me personally and relate in a positive way to my family. Choosing to pull the Momfulness book from the shelf a few days ago played into this perfectly. The first section is dedicated to presence:

We practice being here, now. We relax into life and stop wanting to be somewhere other than where we are. We realize that our true home is so close to us; it is in this moment; it is in the eyes of our child or in the greeting of our partner or in the hug of a dear friend. Our home is as close as our next breath.


We live in such a fast-paced world, and I find that I am always focusing on what is next. I’m most challenged by this when I am at work. Being away from Rowan is so very hard, and I live for the clock to strike 3:30. I wish away those 8 hours until I get to be back home again, and then I wish for the evening hours to slow down and creep by, so I can immerse myself in my family. I fret for the 25 minute drive to the babysitters, fret while we are getting the kids’ things together, and fret for 15 minutes until we get home. I fret about the traffic, I get really annoyed at slow drivers, and I curse red lights.
This constant push and pull and consuming stress is exhausting. I am so focused with the idea of time speeding up and slowing down that I’ve realized I don’t spend enough time living in the moment, being present. I look back on the months since I’ve been back at work, and they seem like a blur. And I wonder. Did I live in them enough? Or did I spend my time dreading work, rushing through traffic, mourning the end of the evening?
Is there any wonder why I feel imbalanced?
I go back to work tomorrow after 12 days off, and I plan to take it minute by minute. I know I will cry after I drop Rowan off, but I will be present with those tears, not wish them away, not only long for 4:00 when I am with her again. I know work will be very busy, so I will be busy with it, not focus only on 3:30 when I get to leave. On my ride home, I will enjoy the quiet time to myself– time to pray, to prepare myself for the busyness of homework and the clinginess of an infant who has grown used to her mama 24/7.
As I approach 2012 with a focus on presence and Momfulness, I will work towards finding home in any moment, rather than wishing moments away. For now, I am a working mom, and I have to find a space in my heart for that home, too. 

Momfulness

You have to find a mother inside yourself,
We all do. Even if we already have a mother,
we still have to find this part of ourselves inside.
Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees

A few years ago, when I was in the thick of single motherhood, I found a wonderful book– Momfulness– Mothering with Compassion, Wisdom, and Grace by Denise Roy. What I loved about this book when I first devoured it was its focus on forgiveness and acceptance for mothering right where you are and the encouragement to suspend judgment of yourself as a mother. Finding compassion, wisdom, and grace in the midst of the craziness of parenthood is not an easy task. She offers a practical spiritual practice that can easily fit within any religious practice. I pulled this book out today, so I can revisit it as I work to regain balance. Organizing the physical space in which we live is only part of a very important process I know is necessary for our family to function smoothly. I know that my job as a mother is to keep compassion, wisdom, and grace as the driving forces in my interactions with everyone in our house. I’ve posted in the past that since Rowan’s arrival, balance has been quite elusive, and I know that creates situations where Momfulness is key.

Throughout my pregnancy with Rowan, Hubs and I frequently talked about the changes that bringing a baby into our lives would create. The other kids had become quite self-sufficient, and we knew that the adjustment would come with growing pains. Despite having that awareness, I was not prepared for just how hard it would be. I had grown quite accustomed to life with my boy-os and having time to do fun things with them, to take them places, to just spend one-on-one time with them. All of that went out of the window with Rowan’s arrival. She is a true high needs baby, and an HNB (as we affectionately call her) in the family precludes many activities. Even walking to the crosswalk to walk home with the boys when she was a newborn was a monumental task! I feel like I’ve lost so much time with my boys, and luckily they are awesome kids. They haven’t been jealous of her, and they have been so very flexible with the adjustments we’ve had to make.

Though Rowan is still very much an HNB, at nine months, she is finally starting to settle into life outside the womb. As long as I’m within a few feet of her, she will happily play. And probably the biggest accomplishment is she is finally napping consistently and for more than 20 minutes at a time. This major milestone is wonderful because I am focusing on finding balance in the time I spend with them. It is easy to judge myself for feeling like I have faltered in my parenting of them. This is coming on the heels of both of them being very attached to their dad, and sometimes I can’t help but take it personally. In rereading the first chapter today, I realize that I have to be gentle with myself and acknowledge that I have done my best. But I also come away with the awareness that I can focus on finding compassion, wisdom, and grace in all of my experiences with them.

During Rowan’s naptime today and yesterday, the boy-os and I played with one of their Christmas presents. We mixed plaster, filled molds, and painted the dinosaurs.

They are so gratifying and easy to please. And pretty cute, too!

My favorite quote from today’s chapter:

In practicing Momfulness, we cultivate compassion, not only for others but also for ourselves. We increase our ability to see our own suffering– how tired we are, how hard we are working, how much we don’t know. We develop the capacity to forgive ourselves, and to give ourselves some of what we need. Our hearts open, and we make friends with even the most difficult experiences of our lives.

This is such a very powerful passage and several parts almost move me to tears. I am making a promise to myself to focus on these three things.

Forgiveness: How great would it be if, as mothers (or simply people) we could forgive ourselves?

How much we don’t know: Even as a third-time mom, it is hard to admit that I don’t know all of the right answers.

What we (I as a mom) need: I need to exist as my own person, too, not just as “Mom.” In order to be the best mom I can be, I must take care of myself. I’m working on this one, too, in my focus on regaining balance.

I’m excited about this journey!

That’s all for today!