Go To The Tension

In order to help the four-year-old (remember her) fall asleep I have either held her hand or layed down with her.  This has occurred for the last FOUR and a HALF years.  Yes count them folks.  That’s approximately 1,642 days or over 39,000 hours of sitting in the dark anxiously anticipating that moment where she drifts off into wonderland.  Well, about 4 weeks ago, my husband and I decided this was going to stop.  Sure, there is a part of me that quite likes the cuddle but it would be nice to have some me time … we all know how therapeutic that is!

So I have started moving away from her at sleep time…one space at a time. It’s been a long and arduous journey.  This week I’ve made it to the door.  I’m looking forward to sitting outside the room and actually shutting the door.  I will probably break open a glass of champagne and celebrate the moment…of course I will probably wake her and have to start the whole process again.

The moral of my story dear orangepeel readers, is not that change is a wonderful thing and you should embrace it.  No, it has been bloody emotionally challenging and tiring.  The point is this… if you know in your heart that something is right for your little person, no matter how big or small the change is….do it and trust yourself and your child.

A psychology lecturer was overseeing me coach someone once.  At the end of the session he leant over to me and said ‘Laura, in coaching, you have to go to the tension.  Sit with it. See what unfolds.’  I love this concept and use it a lot in coaching.  It also comes in handy with kids.

Go to the tension.  Sit with it.  I promise there are lessons to be learnt.  I have literally sat by my daughter as she has screamed at me for the past 4 weeks.  While a big part of me has wanted to run to her, in my heart I know I am honoring all of us by giving her the opportunity to fall asleep on her own.  I have been sitting with the tension for four weeks. We are still getting there but the gift has been quite profound for me.  I think I have been secretly scared of her emotional unleashing (i.e. tantrums) and I am finding that its ok….the storm passes and a peace and understanding between us is unveiled. 

Whatever is going on for you and your little person, don’t try to stop the tension, just sit with it.  As those great Liverpoodlians once said ‘Let it be.’


Surprise Someone - Let Your Presence Be The Present

I decided to attend my mother's birthday dinner - as a surprise.  She lives near Brisbane and I live in Sydney, approximately 900 kilometres between us.  It wasn't a special birthday so it wasn't on her radar that I would be attending.  All the better to surprise her with.

In collusion with my step-father, I booked the plane ticket.  We both found it difficult to not blurt it out that I was coming to the dinner, he especially since he lived with her and knew how much she was going to enjoy having me there.  That created a buzz and excitement for us over the next two months.

Then it also meant, a weekend, well one night and a day away from the family.  At the airport, I found the long queues for security, waiting at the gate to board, and then a plane ride for an hour and half by myself, pure luxury.  I was carrying a completely gripping novel, The Sorrows of an American by Suri Hustvedt and it meant more reading time.  Something I rarely did uninterrupted unless I was on the toilet.  When the plane was delayed by fifteen minutes, and the other passengers groaned with impatience, I grinned with the deliciousness of more reading.

I had planned a morning with a friend M.  She picked me up from the airport and we sped towards good coffee and good gossip, shopping, gifts and more food.  There was excitement just from having a fly-in visit with an old friend.

My sister then picked me up and took me back to her spacious, quiet home.  More bliss.  An air-conditioned room with a double bed, films and fast cars - driven by her boyfriend.

Then came the moment of surprise.  My sister and her boyfriend walked into the restaurant where my mother was already seated with her husband and a good friend.  They handed over their gifts and then quickly texted me.  I was clandestinely concealed in the back of my sister's sports car, waiting for the signal.  Like a regular pro for the Bond movies, I disengaged myself from the secure position and entered the restaurant.   I approached their table and stood in front of my mother.  She was still unaware of my presence.  I said, "I've come to say Happy Birthday in person!"

My mother looked up, and for a moment there was confusion, and then complete joy and surprise.  "Jedda!  What are you doing here?"  She stood up and hugged me, a huge smile across her beautiful face.

My step-father grinned ferociously.  He had been keeping this secret for too long and he was glad to finally have it revealed.

The meal was good, the dessert was better.  It was three hours we would all remember.  Not everyone likes surprises and I'm one of them.  I had experienced some trepidation over whether my mother was in my category or the category that completely feel loved by surprises.  My mother, I was glad to find out, was in the latter.

To top it off, I slept in, read for an hour in bed, and felt like I'd been away for a week.  Though I would prefer not to receive surprises, the zest I felt in delivering one, meant I would always be happy giving them.

Conflicting Goals

I’ve just put the kids to sleep.  Wow.  What an afternoon.  The four year old spent quite a large percentage of time between 6pm and 7pm crying because she didn’t want rice for dinner.  After I begrudgingly whacked a can of beans on toast in front of her, she not only ate the beans but surprise, surprise ate the RICE!! FIGURE IT OUT PEOPLE!!!

I’m Laura and I am a mum, studying Coaching Psychology at Sydney University  (remotely) and currently living in Singapore (it’s been 3 months).

I hope to contribute to the life saving blog that Orange Peel is with a few bits of my experiences and some of the great concepts I’ve learnt at uni..god bless the psychology faculty!  Just stuff to chew on.

My first installment is about a simple concept called ‘conflicting goals’.  I realized the other day how this contributes to the quiet anxiety I feel on an ongoing basis.  Trying to meet two goals at the same time. See, even though I blame it on the kids (it’s a mother’s right to) the truth is I do hold responsibility for a significant share of the stress I create in my life. 

Like today, I decided to check my emails while the four year old (yes, that is her name ‘the-four-year-old’) was hanging off me asking if she could look at ABC Kids on the Internet.  After a few minutes of whining (and holding myself back from thumping her on the head with the laptop….I have a suppressed violent streak)  I turned the computer off. Simple. No more stress.  Conflicting goals eliminated.  I then opened up a space for the 4 year old to tell me what she wanted to do. Draw and cut out cupcakes was the response.  Not exactly my idea of a night out but hey, it’s what they pay me for (that’s right they don’t pay me…possibly my next installment).

So I call on you sisters (and brothers) to shine a torch on the tension in your life and consider the conflicting goals that arise in your day. Whether big or small they may be adding more pain than gain to your life. Be brave. Switch one goal off and open up the space for what really matters.  It may be your 4 year old.  Or it may simply be you.

Until next time,

Give Up Positive Thinking, Embrace Healthy Release of Feelings and Experience Zest

It was a week before my daughter, nearly 5, started kindergarten.  We were in a cafe and she kept whining she wanted something to eat.  She'd just had berries and babycino and there was an apple in front of her.  Nothing was really going to fill her up - she was already full - of feelings that needed to be let out.

She picked up a metal menu holder and threw it.  I picked her up and took her outside.  She began to scream and shout and though at first she was in my arms, she became too physical for me to hold and I put her down where she rolled around on the ground.  I kept close and kept watch.  She was doing a great job of letting all those feelings out that were keeping her off-track and disconnected and unco-operative.

Now I know what a good tantrum feels like.  Amazing.  I had one today with a Listening Partner listening to me, because I felt real disappointed about an event that had to be cancelled.  And as I was having it I realised just how good it is.  I cried out, it's not fair over and over, hit the bed and screamed.  I felt the disappointment melt away.

Ever since I'd read The Aware Baby  by Aletha Solter and the Parenting by Connection booklets written by Patty Wipfler from Hand in Hand, I'd been aware of the benefits of crying, tantruming, laughing, trembling and shaking with the attention of an adult close by.

Yes, benefits!

Parenting is the Foundation Policy for all other Policies

"Fuck you," Naemond yells at the teacher.  "You bitch."
His teacher remains calm and tells him to take a walk and then come back to the classroom.

Later that day, Naemond's mother drives him to a corner where drugs are sold.
"This is where you gonna earn us an income," she tells him.  "You the man of the family."
Naemond, 14 years old, is silent.  A stark contrast to the boy in the classroom.

This horrific scene from Season 4, Episode 7 of The Wire, set in Baltimore, is wisely analysed by Bodie, the drug dealer Naemond will work for.

"After I seen your mother, I know why you is like you is."

The Wire uses no poetic license.

The Daily Telegraph (25/1/10) reports on the age of children committing crime getting younger.

"NSW Police youth command Superintendent Allan Harding said although most youths first broke the law about 14 years of age, police were coming across more and more seven year olds who were finding themselves on the wrong side of the law."

Though poverty, lack of education, bad housing, lack of access to medicare and a system that discriminates against children, minorities and women, make its mark on an individual, by far the greatest cause for Naemond's 'conduct disorder', or seven year olds 'on the wrong side of the law' rests on the type of parenting a child receives.

Good parenting policies are the foundation to better outcomes for other policies.  Parenting comes first, not the other way round.

A Nude Swim to toast the New Year in.

I sat crosslegged on the sand in front of the lagoon, watching seagulls craw at each other madly, black swans glide with grace and reserve, and a large black bighting fly buzz round me mercilessly. I had set my timer for five minutes and I was trying to meditate. For me five minutes was a step up from nothing but it was proving difficult.

What was it today that irked me? I posed the question and almost as quickly the response came back. I was bored. Boredom is one of the worst emotions humans can experience. Over the other side of the lagoon was a two-kilometre beach. I couldn’t hear the waves and that was a good sign. Perhaps this morning it would be calm. I could go skinny-dipping.

The idea thrilled me. For just a minute. Then I watched as the protestations marched in: Never swim alone! The warning resounded in my mind. I knew that it could be dangerous and yet it was this element that excited me. Other protests nagged me too: It was immodest. No-one knew where I was. It was a childish thing to do. Despite the warnings, or because of them, I picked up my bag and trudged along the dusty path to the beach.