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Category Archives: parenting

markers

Often finding meaning is not about doing things differently; it is about seeing familiar things in new ways.

~Rachel Naomi Remen

Tonight the three of us sat down to talk about how to tell our twin boys about the death of their uncle, our brother. It has been five months, and we have not spoken the words to them that he is no longer living. Simon is a real presence. We see him in photos, we talk about him in conversation. We tell stories about his childhood at the dinner table. My sister and I are also still stumbling through this boggy terrain of grief, completely new in our life experience. Our shock at his death is renewed every time a photo of his countenance pops up on Facebook or our photo steam, unexpected, true to life.

In just a few days, t and I will fly the 3,000 miles to my parents’ house. We haven’t been there since the summer. How has it changed by their son’s death? Are there new pictures of him? Will their grief be palpable to more than just me?

The question tonight was: do we need to tell the boys about their uncle before going back east?

We talked about this in some depth, the pros, the risks, what the boys might say to my parents or grandparents, what questions they might ask with the direct, tactless innocence that three-year olds summon so easily. But what was most interesting, most beautiful and unexpected, was that our conversation turned to remembrance. How will we guide these precious, tender children to connection and remembrance, to a gentle experience of the truths of this life (which includes death) where Simon’s passing is not a traumatic memory of something they couldn’t grasp as children, but a knowledge of him and of our perspective on life that was deepened over the years.

This led us to talking about ceremony, developing frameworks for rituals to hold us when we pass through traumatic and confusing times, practices that allow for growth and depth and creativity. It occurred to me as we spoke that this is one of Williams we will put down strong and enduring roots: developing practices that we all love and nurture and turn to for meaning, comfort, and identity.

We have bedtime rituals now, and they will change as our sons grow and mature. We have a little seedling of a ritual of saying a mealtime blessing that came out of the boys memorization of the blessing their teacher recites before lunch at school. This ritual sprang to mind, and I was quickly inspired to think of new variations on blessing our meal, our unity, our shared lives. What about putting a photo of someone we love as the centerpiece, focusing our stories and love on that special person during our meal? Or beginning with a love note for each family member? What about blessing our meal by showing photos or another artistic representation the leaves, blossoms, and fruit of one of the plants that added to our meal, and sharing in the beauty of that plant? So many ideas for the simple opening of our daily family meal.

My sister and I were raised in a home in transition away from their Christian roots, and we find ourselves without many customs or rituals from childhood to turn to in remembrance of our brother. We experience our love for him under the sky, amongst trees, in the wind and the air of nature. Remembering him with the boys in a practiced form will give us scaffolding, though, that we will be able to turn to when others we love depart from this life. Learning how to honor his spirit together will teach the boys reverence, depth of love, the sacredness of family and sibling relationships. More personally still, it will give me a safe way to express in front of my children a little of the sadness this loss evokes in me.

What rituals do you observe, religious or otherwise? Which ones have you carried from your childhood into adulthood, which have evolved, and which have you created to fit your life experience? I would love to learn about this idea from a larger pool as we contemplate this new structure for our children and ourselves.

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strain

Three years old. So emotional for the children and the parents. I’m sitting outside the bedroom while T does bedtime, listening to one tearful reaction after another. His voice is tense, wanting to guide the child through, showing him the straightest path, offering the solution he perceives to be best… The boy, though, just wants to work with things as he sees them, to try it his way. The adult who doesn’t want to spill medicine or clean up a mess is beside the little one who is making sense out of the whole thing, his instincts pushing him to do it himself.

All day long we have these encounters: parent to parent, parent with children, children with each other. The screaming anger from M, the tears from S. Slamming doors, walking away in anger, pushing, grabbing, shouting… the parents struggle to slow down, to let go, to allow them space to work out their frustration, satisfy curiosity. Our voices strain, our hands grab things away from them when we tire of guiding. We end up acting in ways we discourage sternly in the children. It’s a constant paradox of wanting a certain kind of home culture and experience of peace for the children, but churning in our own dissatisfaction, impatience, exhaustion, and really, sometimes boredom.

Each adult (there are three, with me, my sister, and my fiancé) has their own experience. Right now, I sit outside the door, my child cries for me, wails that he wants time with his mama. The door won’t be opened, though… We have all agreed that he needs to learn to be comforted by each of us. Except that I am not comforted, the child isn’t appeased, and the other parent is stressed. We feel the pull, my child and I. I feel his longing, and even though I know that he might be just as tearful and whiny with me in the room, I want to answer. I sit, I wait, my stomach in knots, my shoulders tight, my breath shallow and fast. I am resisting the urge to protect my child from the frustration that may or may not be bubbling in my partner. Then the parent begins to read, the tears somehow subside. The child is quiet, leaning his stressed, tired body on the solid body of his new father… a chord emerges from the dissonance between them, without me.

This is our path, to push, to question, to wait through our discomfort, to go through the thorny underbrush and persist in our determination to serve our children for where they are. We give each other space to grow, both through their childhoods and through our parenting. Sometimes the way is clear, and other times we all come through bruised and hurting. The gift is, that either way, we seem to find our way back to each other, embracing and finding delight through fault and perfection, through chaos and ease.

 

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course correction

tenderness

tonight, after a particular moment in which my constant frustration over our messy house was not at all concealed, s lay down in bed, and said to me in the very saddest three-year old voice: “Mama, I feel sad when you, when you, when you… when you are sad of me.”

needless to say, i scooped that sweet, vulnerable, tender boy up into my arms and looked him in the eye and told him that i was sorry – that i wasn’t sad of him, and that he always brings me happiness. i told him i always love him, no matter what is happening.

it was a lesson i hope to really internalize, though. of course we all have a whole range of emotions, and i believe that it’s ok to process most of those with the boys.the problem is, we just don’t know how they are interpreting our outbursts and expressions of feeling, and that right there is the caution. to speak more mildly, to react with more measure, to choose words carefully and express myself with kindness and patience, even of things that are happening not from them directly, but simply around them. because even though we hugged and laughed, and snuggled, i know that fear is there… and no one planted that doubt of love except me, and that is indeed really sad.

 

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2011 in balance, learning, parenting, relationship, spirit

 

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saturday

wall of tattoo designs

today was about a lot of things, but mostly about family. about the family we are, the family we celebrate. it was about being here and now – having two small children leaves little choice but to allow life to flow over and around me, even when i feel like a stone, sunken to the bottom of a swiftly-moving river. it was moments of pause. moments of remembering.

two of three

touching down for a second with my sister, and feeling the cellular changes happening to us without our brother. tears, and pain, and honor, and love.

thinking about my children, and how very tiny and fragile they were, and how amazing, and shining, and wonderful they are now. and how lucky i am to be their mama. every day. every breath.

today

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2011 in family, loss, relationship, spirit, twins

 

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mishmash

20111104-212919.jpg
Friday. The boys and Ted and I, all home. Tired in the morning. M, still in his very sensitive place of refusal to comply with any suggestion, guidance, or pleading from parents or brother. Readjusting to being all home together, as we do every weekend. Mama’s brain not yet tuned in enough to make any real plans for the day.
As it turns out, we did pretty well. Managed to get a good mix of being out (breakfast at diner, pm haircut for m), active (neighborhood walk, hot tub time, raking and playing in leaves), and creative (fingerpaint, imaginative play involving pretending sleeping bags were whales eating them, and making collage pictures). We are tired, especially after pushing bedtime late in anticipation of time change, but it was a pretty good day. I even managed to sit and do some enso with the leftover tempera from fingerprinting. Photo forthcoming.
Tomorrow – family portraits in the morn, and I’m getting a tattoo in the afternoon in my brother’s memory.

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2011 in balance, loss, parenting

 

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old silver enso

old silver beach

 

We’ve been on the East Coast since early August, enjoying and enduring in equal measure lots of unstructured time. The past year has been like that for me – being happy, content, and engaged in the present moment has been deeply challenging. Is it ADD? Perpetual exhaustion? Personal failure? It seems like it’s just this unending struggle I’ve entrenched myself into. I cut out more and more – trying to do less multi-tasking has been the main thing I’ve focused on, which is one of the reasons I haven’t been blogging, and have spent much less time staring at facebook to name just a couple of things. It’s been freeing, but it has cost me a lot of communication with friends and family. In this world of increased demand on packing every minute with multiple actions and priorities, my decision (which wasn’t even really a conscious one) to just do one thing at a time has been quite impactful in both positive and negative ways. It’s also been harder than I imagined before becoming a parent to be consistently and joyfully and imaginatively engaged with my young children.

Anyway, the enjoyment of our vacation here on Cape Cod has been abundant. My boys – just newly three years old – are so full of vitality, curiosity, questions, repetition, imagination, driven exploration… it’s so much fun to get out of the daily grind at home and spend hours and hours outside.

In general, we try to keep things simple and cheap. We stick to the little woodsy lake beach a mile from my childhood home rather than pay $20 a day (which for us ends up being more like 2 hours) for ocean beach parking. This one day, however, we decided to spring for the parking, and let me say it was well worth it. Old Silver Beach in North Falmouth is a delight with small children, particularly at low tide. The shallow water was peaceful and lots of fun, and sand structures left over from other beach-goers provided so much fun to the boys – what looked like a giant hole surrounded by castles became a nest for my two nature lovers. Tidal pools filled with rocks didn’t attract the attention of other kids, so it gave my two firecrackers a place to throw rocks to their hearts content.

After tracing an enso in the sand at Old Silver, I thought I’d use this time without inks, desk space, or special papers to simply observe and create enso in my environment.

 

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2011 in artistic expression, balance, daily enso, parenting

 

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daily enso: three

blue enso circle

permeated

 

playing with color in creating enso. blue and green on the table, painting with maxy: a lovely way to combine some creative time with mama time. i made a lovely, big enso that got left on the table, and the word i’d had in mind was permeable, as that day i was feeling emotionally out-of-sorts, unbalanced, troubled. the boundary around my being felt shaky. truth be told, i’ve been in a rather shaky state for a number of months. more on that later.

i left the wet enso on the table, and shoghi came over to check out our work. in the process, the watercolor paint on all of them was smeared, and really, i felt that this only added to the depiction. i have always enjoyed the impact of externals on the creative process, and i enjoy how sharing my designated meditative space with my world changes the outcome.  i don’t particularly seek to create anything flawless, in life or art.

interestingly, intent is a key element of creating a circle. did you know that? children actually pass through a developmental stage where they acquire enough muscle control and cognitive intention to draw (or paint, as the case may be) a circle. you can see that altough max and i both use our right hands and both of us begin these at the bottom, my enso is painted clockwise, while his is counter-clockwise.  significant? doesn’t really matter – it’s just part of the reflection.

green enso circle painted by toddler

toddler's enso

 

The Circle Game (excerpt) BY MARGARET ATWOOD

The children on the lawn
joined hand to hand
go round and round
each arm going into
the next arm, around
full circle
until it comes
back into each of the single
bodies again
They are singing, but
not to each other:
their feet move
almost in time to the singing
We can see
the concentration on
their faces, their eyes
fixed on the empty
moving spaces just in
front of them.
We might mistake this
tranced moving for joy
but there is no joy in it
We can see (arm in arm)
as we watch them go
round and round
intent, almost
studious (the grass
underfoot ignored, the trees
circling the lawn
ignored, the lake ignored)
that the whole point
for them
of going round and round
is (faster
       slower)
going round and round

 

 

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