Family life, parenting

While you’re busy making other plans

john and sean lennon

“Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

I was recently reminded of this old John Lennon quote, but it had never struck me as so true as it does here and now in my life as a parent.

There are so many schedules, plans, activities, theories, ideas, dreams, and narratives that my adult mind so easily gets tangled up in that I can miss what’s happening right here, right now: life.

I might over-schedule a series of “festive activities” and feel disappointed that my family doesn’t appreciate how hard I’m working or resentful that my kids are too strung. I can fall into visions of perfection, diving deep into homeschooling resources, sure that the doldrums or challenges we’re encountering could be solved if I bought just the right curriculum. In the past I could tell myself a story of frustration about why the baby is waking in the night, or why the toddler is melting down. I’ve become envious or suddenly bitten by perfectionism after seeing someone else’s child achieving something on Instagram.

Meanwhile, in this season the evenings are dark and the mornings are long, and my children come into the kitchen each morning with sleepy smiles. We have spent many hours this week cozied on the couch, reading aloud to each other. I’ve had spontaneous cups of tea with loved ones and watched my kids fling fistfuls of freshly fallen snow into the air. I’ve received gifts so precious, so commonplace, that I stop seeing them as gifts at all.

Meanwhile, life is happening.

It can be useful and energizing to find inspiration and education, and it’s important to keep visioning and wondering, but I’m going to set an intention to try to catch myself at the moment where my mind tips into expectation, anxiety, or daydreams of perfection.

I’m aiming to keep my feet on the ground, noticing not the plans I have, but the life I’m living. Right here, right now.

It turns out that great John Lennon quote is from his song, “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy),” a song of love, devotion, and presence recorded for Lennon’s son Sean in the summer just before he turned five years old. The song was released in November 1980, and today is the anniversary of John Lennon’s death in that same year. 

 

 

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Christmas, Solstice & Hannukah, parenting

Five links to slow you down this season

the snow lady shirley hughes

“The Snow Lady” by Shirley Hughes

Montessori wrote a lot about inner preparation of the adult, meant to culture the sensitivity, peace, and curiosity that is best suited to meeting each child. Whether you are motivated to prepare for the children in your life, or to cultivate a bit of space in your own heart this season, you deserve to move at your own pace, even in December.

Pour a cup of tea and read an article; fill the sink with warm soapy water and hit play. Here are a few bits of space and wonder I’ve gleaned on the web lately:

Shirley Hughes’ BBC Woman’s Hour Takeover  I have such a fondness for the author of Alfie and Doggo (our favourite is her seasonal collection of poems called “Out and About“), and really enjoyed this hour of British radio where Shirley Hughes herself set the agenda. Pour that tea!

Mr Rogers wasn’t just nice — he wanted to take down consumerism

An introduction to storying – that is, telling a story as you craft it, or crafting a story outloud. Winter is the time for stories!

Take Peace! A Corgi Cottage Christmas with Tasha Tudor film on Prime Video. The beloved children’s illustrator shares memories of Christmases past, surrounded by her paints and her corgis. Quite dreamy.

Gaelynn Lea’s Tiny Desk concert (just a quick break from Mariah)

P.S. I’ve been asked whether I’ll have a 2019 gift guide, and the answer is yes! It’s on its way (in its own time).

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Books, Family life, Nature, parenting, Peace education, Preschool, Social justice, toddler

Being here now: an Earth Day reflection

As I write about deepening my practice of Montessori philosophy, this blog often winds up focusing on presence, attention, and mindfulness — and that’s where I land on Earth Day, too.

How do we parent in these times? How do we show up for our children? How do we show up for the earth?

We are, of course, of this Earth and in relationship with the community of natural things, whether we know it, acknowledge it, feel it — or not.

The reality of the current and ongoing ecological crisis is dire. As adults, that’s something we need to be present with, and take immediate action on. It’s our role to make choices about how we’re going to participate in capitalism, how we’re going to live, how we’re going to vote, how we’re going to show up in governmental process and how we’re going to invest in localized community.

As adults, it’s our role to be present with how all of this affects us, to notice how winters and summers are different than they used to be, to name our grief, to imagine abundant futures and ways of getting there.

For young children, who don’t yet have the connecting experience of a childhood’s worth of winters and summers and who don’t have the power to control outcomes, the facts of climate change can be overwhelming, frightening, and ultimately, lead to disconnection in order to numb the pain of loss. As one of the great teachers of our time, Joanna Macy, says “The refusal to feel takes a heavy toll…The energy expended in pushing down despair is diverted from more creative uses, depleting the resilience and imagination needed for fresh visions and strategies.”

Young childhood is the time to be present with knowledge of oneself as part of the family of wild things, connecting to the tiny, enormous beauty of this earth. It’s also a time when adults can mindfully model ways of being present in right and healthy relationship (with other people, species, money) — or not.

Grief is an inevitable part of presence in this time. As children mature into capacity to carry the knowledge of what’s happening on the planet right now, it won’t be easy or light or without pain. But ideally, it will come at a time of life when the young adult feels deeply connected to the earth, at a time when they are feeling powerful in their ability to contribute and capable of collaborating with others to develop solutions (in Montessori philosophy, this is likely to be the third plane of development, age 12 to 18 – maybe you’ve heard of Greta Thunberg?).

With younger children, we don’t pretend to live in a perfect world. We talk about aloud about consumption and weigh purchasing choices aloud. We talk about having enough. We talk about upholding Indigenous sovereignty and land-based practices. We talk in terms of “caring for the earth.”  

But mostly, it’s not about what we say. Children, with their brilliantly absorbent minds, are picking up our habits, our purchasing choices, our core beliefs and motivations all the time. They see how we care for ourselves, and for others, how we navigate conflict. They are learning what it means to be an adult, to be a human, to be present, through watching us.

Dr. Montessori observed of young children: “The things she sees are not just remembered, they form part of her soul.”

My husband David has a practice of picking up cans anytime he goes for a walk, something he always saw his Dad do. Once he even did it as a Father’s Day gift; picking up cans along an old road in Toronto, where his dad had picked mushrooms during his own childhood. It’s a way of saying “I noticed this was out of place, did not belong, was not in right relationship. I can help to move this to a better place.”  It’s a small thing, but not too small to be worth doing.

When I bring my presence to the natural world  — when I go outside, when I walk to do errands, when I track the birds at the feeder or visit my sit spot or sing around a campfire with friends — my body, mind, and spirit are reminded of my place in the family of wild things. And I model for my children that falling in love with this world is a gift, come what may.

“The biggest gift you can give is to be absolutely present, and when you’re worrying about whether you’re hopeful or hopeless or pessimistic or optimistic, who cares? The main thing is that you’re showing up, that you’re here and that you’re finding ever more capacity to love this world because it will not be healed without that. That is what is going to unleash our intelligence and our ingenuity and our solidarity for the healing of our world.” – Joanna Macy

How do we parent in these times? With curiousity. With hope. With presence.

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Image of an old stump growing vibrant green moss

Resources for navigating climate grief with presence: 

Books

Coming Back to Life: The Work that Reconnects – Joanna Macy

Emergent Strategy – adrienne maree brown

The Right to be Cold by Sheila Watt-Cloutier

These Wilds Beyond our Fences: Letters to My Daughter on Humanity’s Search for Home – Bayo Akomolafe

Dancing on our Turtle’s Back – Leanne Simpson

Podcasts

How to Survive the End of the World

For the Wild

Joanna Macy on On Being

Instagram accounts:

@rachaelrice

@life_as_ceremony

@mollyccostello

@adriennemareebrown

This is by no means comprehensive, so send me your recommendations, and I’ll add them to this list!

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Books, Family life, Montessori philosophy, parenting, Peace education

Perfectionism and parenting

Perfectionism (1)

I heard this quote on a podcast recently, and it really grabbed me. There are times I can think of, as a parent, as a teacher, as a blogger, when I know, looking back, that perfectionism has been driving. And none of these have been my best, most effective, or most loving moments.

As I thought about it, I realized perfectionism isn’t actually an end point — it’s not about whether things are “perfect.” It’s always been a motivating or “driving” force, as Brené Brown puts it. It’s about proving myself worthy. And as a parent today, there are all kinds of new ways to push myself into perfectionism.

We meet perfectionism on the way to potentially stressful situations: when we feel we have an audience to impress, like visiting grandparents, meeting a new teacher, or  that first  playdate with new friends. When we have created an expectation for ourselves, like embarking on a family vacation, or preparing and presenting something new to a child (and we’re already thinking ahead to the Instagram post!). We meet perfectionism when we want to others to see us and validate us and our efforts.

It’s not about doing your best, it’s about aiming to arrive at a place when you will have your efforts, have your self, validated by external circumstances.

It’s fundamentally removed from the present moment ad is always pushing on to another, more perfect moment in the future.

I think we all probably know what perfectionism looks like, and even more what it feels like (I get that tension in my gut just thinking about it!). The unholy trinity of perfectionism, fear and shame are powerful forces that can ultimately drive us in the opposite direction of our goals.

You know what perfectionism doesn’t look like? Curiosity. Openness. Vulnerability. Acceptance. Gratitude. Joy. Presence. In fact, maybe these things are the anti-dote.

Let’s hop in that car. Let’s offer curiosity to our children. Let’s offer acceptance to ourselves.

You are a good mother. You are a good teacher. You are worthy. I am worthy.

P.S. All credit to Brené Brown, whose work is really changing the world. I highly recommend any one of her amazing books, but especially Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. If you’re reading this blog, this is the book for you.

If you’re wondering about what embracing imperfection looks like in real, family life, check out this post.

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