‘I hate you’ cannot touch Unconditional Love

green gauri

Within each of us is a sea of Unconditional LOVE, yearning for us to remember that it is who we are. Waves come and call themselves sadness, fear, anger, hatred, joy, excitement, etc. They do that. But the sea is LOVE – you are love.

The same happens with our children – but they quickly act as if  they are the waves. They feel a moment of hatred and say ‘I hate you’, they feel a moment of sadness and cry with all their might; they are angry and they express it with their whole selves because they live soooo in the NOW! And that is good, healthy to feel what is arising for them, completely. It is good if we as adults remember always who they are, they are LOVE.

Even as they are ‘waving’ (in anger, sadness, fear, etc), they ARE love and if we keep talking to them knowing, remembering that the unconditional LOVE is way stronger than whatever passing wave of feeling is coming up for them, they will (eventually) return to that, too, their trust and connection with us re-built.

Honour your child’s feelings as they come up. They are real, very real to them. Listen to them deeply, remind them that this feeling is valid… but hold in your heart the certainty that they are LOVE expressing a passing emotion (of anger, hatred, over-excitement), etc. The more often you can come back to love, even as they are ‘waving’ the safer they will feel in showing you all the passing BIG feelings that come for them, as they will sense that you know that is not who they are, it is just what they are feeling, for a moment.

And whether or not they grow up to believe themselves to be an ‘angry person’ or if they know that they are LOVE who happens to occasionally express some passing anger is, in large part, up to you. You can remind your child always, through your actions and words, that feelings are bubbles that come up for us and they pass, but the unconditional bond between you is unbreakable. More  importantly still, who they are is, at its core, LOVE and they can always return their attention to that in fullness, once the very human, very natural feeling has done its waving and is passed.

This is our job, in my opinion, to remember they are love, even when they forget it. Is it easy? No, not always. Not when our beloved child is shouting that they hate us, trying to hit their innocent little sibling or generally pushing our buttons. It is not easy but it is our calling, in my view.

One trick that can be useful for those starting out on this path is to choose one memory from a time in which you were with your child and felt only love for them and then consciously chose to recall that memory at the very moment when you are almost about to believe they are anger, and get pulled into being angry, too… instead, hold the pleasant memory, feel that love and answer from that space. You still validate their feelings but you also remember the unconditional love that binds you.

It becomes a virtuous cycle, remembering they are love and that feelings are just passing clouds (to mix my metaphors) can help us reconnect with the unconditional love inside of us (that is us). And us holding ourselves in our own centres, even as we are challenged to come out of it (and become angry/fearful/sad/etc – and believe we are that – too) will help our child express everything they have to express, fully, and then, when the catharsis, is complete, come back to their own center, knowing they are LOVE.

It is possible to feel love, even as we are angry. The unconditional love for me is like an unmoving background, always there, even as other passing-feelings project themselves on that canvas. The more we practice connecting with and seeing the unconditional LOVE (definitely different from romantic love or infatuation), the more we remember that LOVE is stronger and the easier it becomes to come back to it, even in times of crises.

Again, I waver. I don’t always find it easy, either… but I do find it true. I do find it a very worthwhile practice. I do see it helps in every facet of my life to know the LOVE is not just unconditional, it is truly eternal and ever present.

I am LOVE and remembering that helps me remember my child is LOVE, too… even when she isn’t acting like it.

Gauri

Understanding babies’ Buddha nature as a key to conscious parenting

Image by Jean-François Chénier via Flickr

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Babies are little Buddhas. This is my thesis, based on observing my (now two year-old) little girl and many of her friends. Let’s examine the evidence:

  1. Toddlers live in the Now. When they say they want something they mean right now, not in a bit, not tomorrow. They are talking from their feelings in the moment. Conversely, when they say they don’t want something, often (especially when it is something they otherwise love) they mean ‘not right now – ask me again in two minutes!’

  2. Kids this age are present, Here. They can, increasingly hold little conversations including about things that happened in the past and they can remember people and places that are out of sight; their sense of imagination, too, is a wonder and still, somehow they bring it all with them into the Present. They are incredibly alert to what is happening here and they are mesmerised by the unfolding of life before them: an ant on the side-walk, a cloud in the sky, a cigarette butt in a bin – it is all fascinating and so real and earthy.

  3. They are very much in the body. Though their minds are developing at a galloping pace, they are not ‘mini-adults’. The use of complex (or even simple) logic is not their prefered modus operandi for getting to know the world – even if they stand still and appear to listen and take-in a whole long lecture. Yes, they can understand a lot but learning through the body, through movement and play is what they are primed for and is still the most appropriate for this age group, in my view. Indeed, Rudolf Steiner, renowned educator, writer and philosopher, maintained that until around the age of seven, children mostly learn through imitation of the actions and rhythms they see around them. It is how they learn best and it keeps them from becoming too grown up, too intellectual and rational, too soon. Most of us want to nurture rounded individuals, people who can think, yes, but who can also imagine, feel, do… this is the age to practice and focus on creativity, imagination and play. Now is the best window of opportunity to foster great vision, creativity and even (arguably) the start of emotional and social intelligence. Yes, children are in the body and we gain a lot by remembering this and communicating with them with this in mind.

  4. Young children are in tune with their emotions and express them fully. I used to believe that enlightened people did not feel emotions. That they had somehow risen above them and lived with a permanent smile on their face, in an unbroken state of bliss. I have now had the good fortune of meeting several living enlightened masters (and even briefly living close to one) and I observe that they do, very much, have feelings. What is ‘different’ (if anything at all) is that they don’t judge their feelings or stop themselves from expressing them, they don’t get stuck in them, or act upon them, blindly, either. The feeling comes like a wave, it does its crazy-wavey thing and then it passes. The sea carries on, in deep peace, despite the waves. It does not say ‘that wave is too big, too frothy, too violent’… The Self (or deep sea) remains still, unaffected by the waves, no matter how dramatic it got on the surface. So it is with the self-realised individual (one who knows their true Self), feelings – like thoughts – arise and pass, leaving little mark on the person (like writing on water). Most are expressed in the moment, without judgement. If the feeling carries a call to action one which the Heart supports, the action is taken, without drama. The inner-guru or true Self witnesses it all, almost from afar, untouched. I am not saying young toddlers are actually ‘enlightend’ in the sense of realising the true nature of their Selves, mind you… but much of their behaviour points to a simpler, more natural way of being, much less tainted by thought, ego and judgement than most adults. Maybe we have something to learn from kids who are able to say ‘I hate you!’ in one second and come hug you shortly after, when that momentary (and very truthful) feeling has been completely expressed and released. Adults often lose touch with their feelings completely. They either repress them so deeply they forget they have any, and live a kind of cold, sterile, intellectual existence where they neither allow themselves to feel great fear or anger nor to enjoy deep happiness or love… or they act from a kind of reservoir of stored feelings almost continuously, out of compulsion, so that their feelings get the better of them and they end up doing all kinds of things they regret (where as the repressed ones probably regret more what they haven’t done). So, many of us carry around all these feelings that are either not fully expressed or not fully released (meaning that even if we expressed them – often loudly – we have still not ‘let them go’, we have not forgiven, learnt and moved on, leaving the feelings behind). It takes courage to express our feelings. It also takes great courage to forgive and move away from anger or other familiar, ‘safe’ feelings. So, in the end most of us are guided by poorly processed emotions and (unconscious) fears, resentments, guilt, etc. But kids don’t have this baggage, yet – which means we have an opportunity to help them not accumulate any!

  5. Children are love. In fact, I would argue we all are. At our root, mystics have long said (and quantum physics now confirms), we are pure energy. We are being of light and love. We may deviate. We may forget our light or have it, temporariy, obscured but we feel best, achieve the most, influence and touch the most lives when we live from our highest state, our highest place of love. Children, too, may act naughtily… but if we see into their core and remember to speak to the highest in them, they will respond (eventually).

  6. Young children live in a non-attached state, by and large. Okay, this could get confusing. I am not talking here of the child forming a ‘secure attachment’ to their primary carer(s) which psychologists like Bowlby have shown are so important for the health and mental wellbeing of all children (and later adults), of  this bond us ‘Attachment Parents’ work so hard to create and maintain with our kids. Here, I am using the term attachment in the Buddhist sense of the word. [I should share that I am not a Buddhist… but the vocab of Buddhism is very common in our society and many if not all of you will know what I mean when I use these words.] So, in this case I am saying that little children are, by and large, free from attachment to outcome. They do what they do not because they are trying to achieve something by this but because it is what they want to do, right now, it feels good to them – and then they watch and see what happens. Very Zen, actually.

  7. Toddlers see what is. This is the pinacle of many spiritual paths. The aim of most Eastern and modern New Age spiritual paths is to simply ‘see what is’ clearly, in the now, without judgement or condemnation, without hiding or fighting what is arising in our outer reality or in our inner experience. To be at peace with what is, to accept it efforlessly and to let it go when it passes; to act when the urge to act presents itself without attachment to outcome or second-guessing the deed is to flow naturally with life, open to what God gives you (to mix my religions a tad!). And I see whisps of this approach to life in toddlers. If a dog has three legs it has three legs. If we are poor and live in a slum, it is just the way things are, it does not get judged, questioned or measured against others, it just is what it is (at this age, at least).


Yes, to me the evidence is clear, toddlers are naturally more in tune with their ‘Buddha nature’ (contained in each living human being) than the rest of us are.

Now, how does this knowledge help us as parents? Let us consider each of these points again from the perspective of learning how best to respond to their needs, feelings and behaviours, as part of our investment  in learning the art of effective ‘gentle discipline’:

  1. Toddlers live in the Now: we should bare this in mind when talking to them. The example I gave above is classic, if they say they want something, like a snack, remember they mean now and (even if you cannot provide the exact one they requested) see if you can meet the underlying need (in this case, hunger) now rather than asking them to hold on until, say, you have been to the supermarket. They are not developed enough to be able to ‘delay gratification’ yet, on the one hand and, on the other hand, if they are upset they are no longer cognitively able to understand logical explanations of why they should hang on a little bit longer – when their feelings take over command of their brain they hoist out the logical brain. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t introduce the idea of ‘waiting’ and talk to them about how much better a snack they could have at the supermarket, or whatever… I just wouldn’t expect a very high return on that, at this age. Go easy on them. Conversely, if you ask a two-year old if they want to do something and they say ‘no’… wait a few minutes (until they have finished what they were so intently focussed on) and ask again. You might find that that ‘no’ actually meant ‘not now!’ In fact, make it a practice to mentally always add the word ‘now’ on the end of each of their sentences: ‘I hate you’ (right, now); ‘I want an apple’ (right now); ‘I need a hug’ (right now)!

  2. Kids this age are present, Here: step into the moment with them. One of the best tools in your gentle/positive parenting kit is ‘play time’ and one of the most important attitudes is to think of ‘discipline’ as something that happens by prevention or, as we say, ‘through connection’. If you can keep the connection between you and your child(ren) strong, real, light and fun you will really help prevent many issues from even arising. Whenever they can feel the love (inside them) they are also more likely to want to listen and co-operate with you. In fact, that stands to reason, we are all more likely to co-operate when we feel in tune with someone (rather than when we are at loggerheads and just want to resist and drag our feet), right? Kids are no different… So, how do we create connection? There are many ways and people have literally written books about this but the first step is always to become present and see what is here, now. Slow down. We connect by seeing our children, by really getting down to their level and seeing them, engaging in affectionate eye-contact and/or just watching them and noticing what brings them joy, what is holding their attention in that moment. And then, when invited, step into their world and speak their language: play. Plus, come back into the present and synch into where we are right now, we’ll be able to meet our children in this space, giving ourselves an extra beat, an extra breath to find the peace in which a creative, joyful solution can emerge for us, if one is needed. Let this be the basis of your discipline approach: connection and play. And let the ‘corrections’ be gentle, effective, playful… and as seldom as possible while maintaining a respectful, lighthearted, connected relationship.

  3. They are very much in the body: As I mentioned, Steiner holds that children are in the realm of doing and experiencing until they reach age seven. This is very important in terms of discipline (from the Greek ‘to teach’) because it means that while kids can respond to verbal commands, they do better and are much more able to respond to suggestions that are physical in nature. What I mean by this is that they are more likely to clean up a room if they see you cleaning up and they join in – by immitation. Or, if instead of screaming from across the room to not play with a particular object, parents get up and move to the child and physically (gently and with consent or at least fair warning) remove the object from the child – rather than expecting them to understand and obey a verbal command at this age and then punishing them if they do not comply. I am not saying they can’t understand. I am just saying the way their brain is wired at this age, they do much better with being shown by example (on their own or somebody else’s body) than being told. The same goes if they are, for example, hitting other children – stop them physically from doing it (don’t just tell them it is wrong and get upset if they don’t immediately stop and listen to you – they are in the middle of doing and it takes some doing on your part to change that). Modelling also works well on another front: if you want them to be calm, emotionally still and centered, the best way to begin to bring about this change is for you to slow down, get down to their level, look into their eyes and engage with them, even as you calm and center yourself. Children are sponges absorbing the energies, moods and tensions of the environment around them, if you want a calm child make sure their environment is simple and calming in its nature (turn off the stereo or TV or put on calming music) and see if you can surround them with people who are serene – at least in that moment, in which you need to help them re- find their center.

  4. Young children are in tune with their emotions: given an opportunity they will express and discard them, right there and then, in the moment and return to balance. They are not, like many adults, ruled by suppressed emotions they don’t even realise are there or that they dare not express… most kids before the age of three are still very open and expressive of their feelings. Our job, again, is just to get out of the way of them doing what comes naturally to them and ex-pressing their feelings as and when they arise. The worse we can do as parents, in my opinion, is to start to give them the message that some feelings are better than others or that some emotions are plain wrong – like anger/raging for girls or sadness/crying for boys. Then the (life-long) work of suppression begins! We inadvertently give them these messages when we try and distract them from or stop the natural flow of emotional expression. Some parents do this very openly using shame or blame (“stop that crying”; “get over it”; “suck it up”; “control yourself”; etc). Others do it subtly, even lovingly, filled with good intentions (“oh, you are sad, here have a cracker” or “there, there, don’t cry”. I have written about this recently and I am still very much a beginner at this ’emotional freedom’ approach for kids but I got to tell you it makes sense to me. Our job is to enable our children to continue to sense, accept and release their feelings, as easily as they do now. We can give them the vocabulary to openly discuss with others what is going on; we can provide a safe environment for them to ‘feel the feelings out’ and we can continue to model and message the fact that all feelings are ‘normal’, acceptable, natural – and that we are responsible for how we act upon these feelings… but what we don’t need to do is teach them how to feel or express themselves. There may be times when we help them channel those feelings more appropriately (“show me how mad you are by hitting this drum” or “show me how you felt when your sister said that, in a drawing”) but otherwise, our job is to step out of the way and let them do what they do so well: express themselves till their heart’s content.

  5. Children are love. In some ways, this is the most important of all of these points: children are love. If you started your journey to conscious, gentle parenting with only one ‘new’ belief and this was the one, I believe you would not go far wrong. For many it is not enough to know that children are love, they want to know how to put it into practice and so positive discipline books are written which get into they ‘how to’s… but if you start only with this, in your Heart to hold always that ALL children are love; if you respect them as a whole individual, an equal (if smaller) human being, with rights; if you can see past the behaviours, the words, the feelings and needs of the little one – important as those all are – and you can see the eternal in them, you will automatically raise your own energy in remembering too, who you are. And acting from that space, you will be talking Heart to Heart, pure consciousness to pure consciousness, unfettered (for a moment at least) by the bodies and the human entanglements you may have gotten into. Let the light in you recognise and speak to the light in them.

  6. Young children live in a non-attached state. They do not always understand consequences. They are experimenting to see ‘what happens when I do this?!’ Sure kids can be filled with guile and ‘intention’ and still so much of what they do is guided by this wanting (in the Now) to experiment with what is. They throw to find out what sound a thing makes, which way it will fall, how somebody will react if they are hit, how much they can get away with… They don’t do it ‘to annoy you’, as such, the intention is not hurt and they don’t yet have the capacity for empathy or to think in the third person (knowing that person feels something different from what I do) – until at least three. Sure, you can and should talk to them about all these themes but it is not helpful to expect them to get stuff they are just not equipped to fully understand, yet. So, don’t blame them or assign negative intent if they are just experimenting with gravity, for example. Try and put yourself in their shoes and think what they are trying to learn when they do this and see if you can re-direct them to more appropriate ways of doing that – ‘you can throw this soft ball, instead’ or ‘you can bang and make all the noise you want with this spoon on this pan’ or even’ you can hit my hand as hard as you like but you may not hit my head’ – hahah. Stay loose, have fun, find alternatives but try not to judge or to take it personally. At this age (pre-three) it really isn’t.

  7. Toddlers see what is. Kids are able to approach new situations without judgement, truly open-minded because these situations are geneuinely new to them and they have not yet accumulated the load of positive and negative associations which most of us carry. In the same way that they can be awe struck by a line of ants filing past a log they can be intrigued by a pile of rubbish or a dead seagull. It is all neutral to them. Stepping away from a ‘praise culture’ allows us to not impose our value judgements on our kids. We learn to refrain from saying ‘that is a good drawing’ or ‘you look pretty, today’ and instead asking kids what they think of their drawing or of how they look. This builds self-reference and trust in their own judgements… but I don’t think it is only in praising that we are heaping our views and judgements of the world on our children. All the time whether it is the taste of spinach or the view from a helicopter we can refrain from telling our kids how they should feel about something. ‘Yummy spinach!’ will just sound hollow to them if they are thinking it stinks… and thus erode some of their trust in your over-enthusiastic descriptions of the food on their plate. Why not take a moment to find out, instead, what they actually feel about this new food? If they don’t like it, you telling them how great it is when that is clearly dissonant to their own experience will not help them like it. Sure, watch yourself, don’t project negativity about stuff either, they may become reluctant to try something daddy doesn’t like… but no need to go too far the other way and try and brain-wash them into liking it, either. It won’t work. So, here, I see our job not to teach them what to like or not like, but instead to guide them to learn to identify and express their own feelings about what they encounter in the world. We want them to be clear about their own preferences and aversions (rather than being led by others or to need others’ approval). We want to help them to enter each situation anew, afresh, much as they do now – and be able to turn inwards for their own instant, spontaneous assessment of what is and what action if any needs to be taken. They should not be (consciously or unconsciously) worried about what we or others think of them or their actions. They should also, ideally, not be encumbered by past thoughts and judgements about similar people, objects or situations. We want them, I believe, to have awareness of the judgements that come up, which they have either inherited from others or remembered from isolated incidents are are now generalising. We want them to see these and know they are not truth, they are ‘prejudice’ – and to know to look beyond these, to what is there in front of them, now.  Yes, children see what is and that is a blessing. The trick, the question is whether we can help them remain as non-judgemental as possible as they grow. If we can prevent ourselves from passing down all our judgements (not just the obvious ones like around race, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc) but many of the other judgements little and small so that they can make up their own mind… Toddlers see what is, without judgement. We can learn from them.

Toddlers are not actually self-realised, I get that. It is not my observation that my little one knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that she is pure spirit (in physical form), that she is not the body, she is not the personality or the mind, she is not the feelings or the memories, not even her name or the labels others or she herself puts on her. She does not abide in the unshaken realisation of who she is. She is on the human plane on a ‘journey’ to discover who she really is, like the rest of us… but who knows if supporting kids to hold onto some of the above characteristics will help remind them of their true Buddha nature?

In practical terms, you can focus on the negatives and tell me how ‘terrible’ toddlers can be or you can slow down, tune in and find all the ways in which they are so in synch with life, feelings and the ‘here and now’ that perhaps it is us who need to learn (be ‘disciplined’?) by them.

Self-image: what is this ‘Self’ of which you talk?

"Mirror, mirror on the stall" - Bang...

Image by Sailing "Footprints: Real to Reel" (Ronn ashore) via Flickr

This is a post about a post about a post. That post is about living without mirrors.

I did that once or twice, when travelling. It feels great and is very freeing. You feel like you look gorgeous all the time. I also found I forgot about race and thought I looked just like everyone around me (Asian in this case… but I am actually white). And then I saw a mirror and realised I had the worse case of acne ever! My hubby had said, ‘I am so proud of you, you have got all these spots and you are totally cool about it’. I shrieked: ‘I have spots?’ and ran for the nearest mirror, in terror. Hah.

Meanwhile, the other day, I was musing about what it must be doing to this generation of kids that is growing up with a camera in their face, mirrors EVERYWHERE, TV, smart-phones, etc. They are aware of what they look like from so early on. Pip (DD’s nickname – making a slow transition to using it on here) has started not only playing ‘photographer’ but posing for photos, too. She is 20 months old. The thing with this heightened awareness of what you look like, from so young is that it must also make you more likely to identify with the body, first and foremost, no?

From a spiritual point of view this is kind of journeying in the ‘wrong’ direction. Okay, it is normal to start off thinking we are the body but most of us realise quickly there is more of import, here. The you might find yourself asking: Am I the body? Am I the mind? Am I the spirit or are am I something beyond even all of these?

I once had a very powerful conversation with a patient in a hospice I used to volunteer at about that. He was a Christian evangelical preacher. I come from an Advaita background. Advaita is a direct-path (or mystic) branch of Hinduism. I am not so into the philosophy of it all, nowadays. Just the practice. Anyway, the point is that this man, this black-power, formerly homeless man with whom on the surface I had nothing in common with bonded very deeply. This one time he confided in me about the pain in his body and his fear of death. For a moment, in the middle of a noisy room, full of people, I asked if he was the body. He said ‘no’. In seconds the conversation went from small talk to real connection. He told me he knew he was not the body, he was not the mind. He was prior to all that…

Perhaps being surrounded by mirrors and images of your physical form will bring these questions on sooner for some… for others it will undoubtedly keep them focussed on the shiny veneer, distracted from looking any deeper. Sad?

The post that sparked this post: The Path Less Taken: A Year Without Mirrors.

the spiritual teachings of a cesarean

Imagine if an angel kissed you and it left a mark on your flesh. That is kind of how I feel about my scar. Anya was born by cesarean. This was not the plan… at all. In fact we had envisaged a homebirth, had midwifery care, at home, throughout, hired a birthing tub, the whole shebang and then it turned out Baby was breach and would not – NOT – be turned. We tried everything every culture had to offer and baby was staying put, butt down! We even tried for a vaginal breech delivery but that didn’t pan out either.

So it came to pass that I had a highly medicalised, surgical birth and I am fine with it. I am surprised to say, I feel super-fine about it. Not that I would choose it again, of course not, just that I found my peace with it and am confident that my daughter’s birth, her arrival on this Earth and outside my womb was a blessed, magnificent occasion – and the means doesn’t really concern me.

I know many of the mama bloggers I ‘hang out with’ online are very political about this. And I get that. I have read Ina May, seen ‘The Business of Being Born’ and read ‘MisConceptions’. I am all for natural births and that would have fit in with my lifestyle and choices so well. But I am also for accepting what is, meeting it on the path – greeting reality as it comes hurtling toward you – with a smile, wherever possible. And hey, if my reality included some violent, unexpected feelings in reaction to this intervention-filled birth then that would be welcomed, too (eventually, at least). You can only take it one day at a time, see what comes and ‘eat the food on your plate’, right?

There are things that catch me out, don’t get me wrong. There are experiences I find harder to take in my stride and accept, zen-like. But this, even though it was seemingly against everything I stand for, felt just as it was meant to be. I credit my Birthing from Within classes for this, largely, actually. Birthing from Within is a pre-natal preparation course (summarised in a book of the same name). It is a bit wu-wu in nature (which is probably why I was drawn to it). They had us doing art as a couple to express our fears and hopes about the upcoming birth both verbally and visually, they got us to hold ice (the closest they can come, legally, to inflicting pain on us) to practice different breathing, relaxation and pain-management techniques and, crucially to this story, they encouraged us to visualise our worse-case scenarios and then re-imagine the same situation but with everything that we need to be able to cope with even this, our biggest fear. So, though we didn’t know for sure if Baby was breech at this point, I imagined that she was. I realised that didn’t freak me out that much after all, so I took it one step further and imagined I had to have, *gasp*, a c-section. And in that moment, even in the round when we had to imagine the ‘bad version’ of this story all I could see was my baby, coming out of me and onto the Planet – and nothing else mattered. I saw the doctors extracting her from my belly and the moment looked glorious, triumphant to me. I could see the energy and it looked and felt beautiful. And that was it, the fear was gone – discarded right there and then. [If only I had prepared this well for other things.]

What is more, I think this ‘crisis’ was (as the Japanese characters for this word point to) not just a risk but an opportunity. I took this as a huge hint from Life that it was time to make peace with the medical establishment. Yes, I like natural/traditional medicines and yes that is all I have used in this lifetime (up until now) but I acknowledge not just in theory but in action that there is a place for modern medicine in my life, too. That these two modes of healing are, truly, complementary. Now that was a lesson worth opening to (even if, frankly, I had no choice!)

So, now still, when I look down and see that scar on my belly I smile. I see beauty. I questioned this many times in the months after the birth: was I repressing some dark unexpressed feelings about this? Was I kidding myself about being okay with this? No, I really don’t think so. It has been 16 months now and I am still fine with it. That scar is where my angel came out of me and into the world and that ‘kiss’ is cause for celebration, nothing else.

Another Beautiful Blog: Simplicity Parenting

You know some days you are rushed, running, hectic, stressed. That is how my day ran today. And then I read this and remembered to breathe:

Simplicity Parenting » Blog Archive » Becoming Like Little Children.

Thanks to Natural Mama for pointing this little gem out to us.

Let your actions whisper to your child: ‘expect love’

Everything I do now is setting up my child’s vision of the world and how she will expect to be treated for the rest of her life. I keep thinking that. I know, there will be many other factors that will affect her affect (so to speak) and impress upon her a feeling of optimism or pessimism, self-worth or self-doubt but the roots of all that are laid down now.

With this in mind, when I touch her gently I am aware that she will grow up and expect (demand?) to be treated and touched lovingly and with respect. When I listen to her I know she will have high standards and know that people can and will be there for her, interested in seeing who she really is. As I play with her I hope this is instilling in her a love of carefree fun and laughter for its own sake that will last a lifetime.

I know she is also imbibing so much from what she sees pass between me and NinjaDad. Are we the perfect couple? Oh **** no but if watching us is forming part of her mental blueprint for how a relationship can be, then it ain’t all bad, either. But as I say, it is not only how she sees us treating each other but how we behave toward her that will influence how she goes on to treat others and what standards she will hold people up to when they interact with her.

I remember thinking about this topic when I watched an infamous episode of WifeSwap in which a spoilt brat pageant queen (allegedly) expects everybody to wait on her hand and foot. My first thought was “this girl will never find a partner that panders to her like that, she is going to have a rude awakening when she goes out into the real world”… Then I remembered that was not necessarily the case. She might just find somebody else with complementary neuroses, so to speak, perhaps a man who is looking for a trophy wife, doesn’t care if she can’t spell and hires a maid to take care of her every whim. My point is the world adapts to your expectations of it (to a point). When you think you are rubbish you attract people who will treat you like trash (or at the very least you don’t have the confidence and backbone to kick them to the curb when people like that appear in your life).

Conversely, confident, well-adjusted, centered people also know what they are looking for, they have the silence in them, the spaciousness to see through some of the masquerades and games and to step toward other authentic people. Look I don’t want to romanticise this too much. I get it, luck and other factors play a role… but so does mothering, your upbringing, the messages you receive (in word and in deed) from those around you – especially in these early formative years.

So it is that I say, be conscious of how you relate to your little one, put awareness into this task. Then again, I am sure you are loving and caring already, of course, so perhaps it is more about celebrating and being grateful for the great start you can and are giving your children just by being you and holding in you the space to make changes, to grow and step up when the opportunity presents itself, to break a chain of behaviour passed down through your family if it no longer serves you or your children. Be bold, take courage. Love yourself, love your daughter, love your son and know that that love will continue to show up for the rest of their lives.

Airplane Spirituality: What I learned from travelling with a one-year old

An airplane wing just after take off at Sacram...

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This holiday, Nica and I went to England, then Portugal, then travelled back to the US via London, again. That is four flights in three weeks. Nica is one. NinjaDad was only with us for the first of the four flights. While in the UK, especially, Nica was going through a growth spurt, was teething, she learned at least 10 new signs and took her first steps. That is a lot, all in a foreign country, in unfamiliar surroundings and with many new people gawping and fawning over you. Result – one clingy baby. And still, surprisingly, the flights went really well. How did we do it…?

Okay, first and foremost we have to acknowledge the role of luck (fate? good karma?) or perhaps just good genes. For one, Nica did not seem to have any problems with her ears which was a real blessing. The fact that she is breastfed and not vaccinated probably helps with that.

Speaking of breastfeeding, that was my secret weapon. Nursing was particularly useful during take-off and landings, as sucking and swallowing helps equalise the pressure in her ears. We also brought lots of entertainment and food. A little snack (a healthy one, of course) goes a long way with little Nica. ‘Entertainment’ was basic: things like books (including a photo-book – more on that in a future post), a soft toy and, you know, stuff. Nica like most babies her age, just loves bags full of stuff. My handbag works really well. She loves pulling out my purse and taking all the cards out of that – not ideal for a plane perhaps – but I let her have my make-up bag and the like. Other than that it was all about singing songs with her and walking her up and down the isle when that was what she wanted.

On the way there, NinjaDad had his iPad on him and we did pull that out ‘in case of emergency’ when Nica was getting a bit fussy (after I turned the TV I was watching off, when she woke up in the middle of the flight) and she enjoyed playing with the bubble app and the animal sound app – real treats. The other three flights was just me – no iPad.

On those flights, when I was alone with Nica, I found it turned into a kind of meditation. The only place to be was here and now. No point thinking about the future, either dreading it or preparing for it – you just don’t know what is coming next (will she sleep, will she wail, will she need me to sing, read, walk her ad infinitum? – you just don’t know). So, all you can do is stay present and react, respond to what comes up as and when it does. Planning, hoping or expecting just get in the way. I have found that often – unhappiness comes from unfulfilled expectations, which afterall are only thoughts. Let go of those thoughts and you are on a much easier path to self-contentment.

Sure, before you get on the plane you prepare, you try to anticipate your kid’s potential needs, of course – you do what you gotta do. For example on the last flight from the UK to the US (an 11 hour flight) with NinjaDad’s mom’s help, I made sure I had plenty of water, some fresh blueberries, a ripe avocado and lots of organic, gluten-free snack bars and the like. I also had ready-to-pull-out sections of my carry-on luggage for diapering, ‘entertainment’ and fresh clothes for Nica. So, yes, you prepare. But at the time, when you are in it, just stay in it – that is my learning. And that is what I did. On a minute-by-minute basis you can handle anything. In any case, I have most of what I have available at home, with me on the plane, that is: my breasts (and the milk within them), the songs in my head, my arms and legs for bouncing, carrying and walking Nica. I know I can handle most situations so I just see what comes. I read the need underlying Nica’s mood and respond to that. That is what I did, for 11 hours. Nica and I didn’t sleep much on the plane at all, only maybe 1.5 hours and this was after only 4 hours sleep the previous night (as we arrived in London from Lisbon late at night and had to travel to a different airport for the transatlantic flight early the next morning), so we played, we danced, we sung, we read books, browsed through Virgin’s kid-friendly e-books, etc.  And at the end of the flight, people congratulated us on such a successful (read: quiet-ish) flight.

This is attachment-parenting paying off. A year of being there with and for my kid, recognising her moods, needs, communications to me and knowing how to move with that – this, now on the plane, is where others see it in action and comment on what a ‘good’ baby I have. But again: hats off to lady luck and mistress karma.

I did not buy other people’s attempts to label the situation as difficult, ‘oh, it must be so hard, you poor thing, travelling alone with a toddler’. It was quite fun, actually, once I let go of hoping she’d sleep and I could just watch a movie or read a book like most of the other passengers. Once I sank into the reality of the situation at hand, then the dance of really being and seeing my daughter began.

Still, the flight was long and I did get very tired. At one point I looked at a clock and realised there were another four hours to go. The first thought that came was ‘I can’t do this for another 4 hours’, then another thought swooped in: ‘it is only four hours, anybody can do four hours with a baby’. So I ‘forgot’ I had already been keeping Nica amused for 7 hours and pretended I was fresh now and this was the start. ‘Four hours?! No problem I can do that, that is just like the first (and easiest) stint of the day from 7 to 11am when you just play with baby.’

My experience is also that people are extremely friendly and supportive of a mother travelling alone with a baby. I really appreciate that. This is one of the biggest, nicest perks of doing it on my own. Thanks everybody for your smiles and encouragement. That helped fuel me even further.

I literally arrived at the airport still dancing, singing songs for Nica and having fun naming (signing) things as we walked down the airport corridors at SFO, Nica in the ergo. It is funny what you learn and are reminded of in the most unexpected situations. Stay present to what is and open to what arises – was the teaching from my little one this day… if only I remembered that the other 364 days of the year!