A lot of what I like to write about are situations that I’m dealing with personally, and this subject is an area in which I am working on very diligently. So let’s start this conversation with a question I’d like you to ask yourself. As a parent, where do you spend most of your time? If you are anything like me, you’re probably spending a lot of time hanging out – IN YOUR OWN DARN HEAD!
From the moment you wake up, your mind probably starts to race. What’s the schedule today? What time do I need to have which kid at what place? What do I have in the fridge to make for breakfast, pack for lunch, cook for dinner? Do any of the kids have anything clean to wear today? Do I have anything clean to wear today? How am I going to fit everything in? Does the car have gas? Do I have time to shower? Did any of my kids even take a shower this week? And on and on and on it goes, pretty much all day, until you go to bed and try to sleep while instead you think about everything you DIDN’T do today. In the middle of all this mental acrobatic madness – what’s happening with your kiddos? Do you find yourself barking orders more often than being silly? Are you constantly feeling stress creep up around your ears rather than feeling warm fuzzies in your heart? Do you let the nagging thought of “I’m not doing enough” fly through your head at superman speed instead of simply being present? Do you notice that when you’re trapped in your own head and not focused and present that your kids start acting like a bunch of crazy monkeys who drank a pot of coffee? If this sounds all too familiar, let me preface the rest of what I have to say by this; trust me you are not alone.
It’s been said that being a parent is the hardest thing you’ll ever do but we just throw that saying around like it’s nothing – and then move on, continuing to do this very hard parenting thing, all while spinning out in our own minds. Damn it people – it’s true. Being a parent IS the hardest thing you’ll EVER do. It’s crazy hard. Emotionally exhausting. Confusing. Frustrating. Sometimes even awful. Most of all however, being a parent is unbelievably beautiful, wonderful, and topped off with the most amazing sense of wonder, joy, and love. That’s a pretty heavy basket to carry around, and can also be a confusing one as well, so what the heck are we supposed to do to make this load a bit more manageable? How are we supposed to keep the wonder, joy, and love part at the top of the basket where it’s easily accessible?
This is something I’m working on more and more each day, and as a homeschooling mom who is super guilty of the “Am I Doing Enough” conundrum, the simple act of getting out of my own gosh darn head is really challenging.
So what’s the secret? I don’t know if there is one, but like with anything else, getting out of your head and into your heart takes practice. I am motivated to do so by my pure desire for joy. I want to feel happy more than I feel anything else and although I know that’s not possible all the time, I try to see the world through the eyes of my boys more often than the cloudy and often f****d up way that I tend to see the world. I have all sorts of life experiences that have unfortunately created opinions in my head about how things should be, or ideals based on society, or standards set up by government or educational facilities but all that MY kids want to be is happy also – and that’s what I want for them – so why mess up that dream by my own convoluted thoughts? I’m really trying hard not to.
Most kids today are over-scheduled, over-schooled, overwhelmed and overworked and very often stressed out to the max – but for what purpose? So that we can raise them to understand that life should totally suck most of the time? Where did this idea come from? Yes, we have to teach responsibility and solid work ethic and prioritizing – but when did it become tedious to try and instill these philosophies? What happened to lazy afternoons of simply playing outside, looking up at the clouds, getting dirty and sweaty just because, or simply curling up on the couch with a book? How often do you see YOUR kids doing any one of these things during the day? If your answer is, “Not very often,” I invite you to start parenting outside of your own head and start connecting a little bit more with what your heart is telling you. It’s not easy, and you’ll be the odd one out, but trust me, it’s worth it.
How do you do this? Start by really listening to what your kids are telling you because often what they are saying or how they are behaving is a giant indicator of how they are actually feeling. Most kids under 10 and even older don’t have the capability of telling you, “Hey mom, I need to have the opportunity to just be a kid more and I need you to let me do that – can’t you see how stressed out I am – in fact I’m kind of falling apart.” Instead, what younger and older kids will do, is start to act out in ways that will get your attention – and our first reaction is to punish rather then listen. I invite you first to listen. Get out of your own head for a minute and ignore the “you need to teach a lesson” bit that most parents will resort to, and instead really see the world from where your kid is standing. What has the day/week/month/year been like? Has there been any down time in between school, activities, homework, and playdates? Has there been any moments that you have had to simply connect with your kiddos on a very basic, non-scheduled level? Have you sat down and really listened, played, or just relaxed together? Do you feel stressed about your kids schedule, life, list of things to do and activities, because if you do, than I’m sure your kids feel it too!
We need to teach our kids early on how to take care of themselves by showing them that it’s ok to listen to their bodies, to connect with themselves and to slow down when they need to. Have you ever watched little kids play on the playground? It’s NOTHING like how we treat ourselves. Kids will play super hard and then sit down and rest when they get tired, and then play some more and then lay around on the grass for a while, and then go get a snack when they are hungry, and go back to playing and then stop when they are done. We don’t do that – as adults, we learned to not self regulate a long time ago. As adults we do really stupid shit. We workout until we puke, stay up late every night to get it all done until we are chronically exhausted, work long hours until we hate our jobs, starve our bodies if we think we are fat, and finally, ignore our need for rest and relaxation until we figure out how to cope with electronics and alcohol. For most of us, self regulation was shoved out the window a long time ago, and now a lot of us are trying to get it back – but we forget how important it its to model this stuff and allow this stuff to happen naturally for our precious kids.
So dear parents, let’s work together to get out of our totally messed up heads. Make it a point to slow down and listen to your children. Start establishing routines with your family that remind you of how it used to be at Grandma’s house when you were young. Read together. Play games together. Have a day every weekend where you all plan on being outside together. If you homeschool, stop worrying about “if you are doing enough” and focus more on your whole child. Is your kiddo happy? Learning about things he or she is interested in? Exhibiting excitement about what the day might bring? Exploring options that they might not have known about before because you also showed some interest? Sleeping well? Do you hear more laughter in your house than yelling? Than you’re probably doing just fine. It’s when you see things start to melt down around you when you might want to consider leading more with your heart and less with your head. Do your kiddos really need to have an activity that they attend every single day? Maybe pick just one thing and stick to that for a while. Or have options around the house that your kid might show interest in and just see where it goes rather than forcing it or “scheduling” it. Over the last two years, Jaden, our 12 year old has taught himself how to play the ukulele and Rowan, the 8 year old than showed interest and now Jaden is teaching Rowan – this saved me a LOT on music lessons and they are learning how to work together and getting some pretty awesome life skills in the process. This is just one example – but folks it can be done.
As I established early on in this blog, I’m not perfect, in fact, I’m pretty awful at getting out of my own head but I’m working on it every single day. Being aware is the first step and “just being” is where I try to live when I’m one on one with my boys. I recently introduced meditation to Rowan. He’s my high strung, super active, crazy wild energetic overly stressed out emotional kid and I’m trying to show him NOW that it’s ok to slow down and just breath. With Rowan, telling him he “should” do something never works so instead, I left my door open one day while I was meditating and he came in and sat on my bed with me and hounded me with questions. I showed him my Calm app and he “discovered” that there was a kids meditation series. He played it and together we went through day 1. Guess what. He loved it – and the coolest part – he thought it was his own idea. Sneaky little me. Even if this isn’t something he will do with me everyday, we have established the notion of getting out of our heads for just a bit, focusing on our hearts, being in the moment, and just being happy.
I realize that there is so much more that I could share with you on this subject so let me know what you think? Should we continue to explore what “getting out of your head” parenting looks like? What else do you want to hear from me? Let’s get the conversation started!