This week has been one foot in front of the other. All week. Plod plod, hurry hurry, bang crash, slam and slide. Shuffle. Each step has felt heavy and unavoidable but somehow deliberate and purposeful. Perhaps thanks to all the self talk I’ve been doing. Trying to keep it all in check. ‘It is ok to feel this way’, ‘Stop for a minute and think, ‘Take a few breaths’, ‘What really matters right now?’, and my favourite – ‘I am the adult, they are the children, I am the adult, they are the children’….it so easy to say isn’t it?
And this is just my parenting.
Thoughts have been swirling around my head, thick and hazy. Hard to get a hold of. I feel really tired. But the kids aren’t hanging off me right this second, so I have a little time to myself. They are sleeping in fact. I really love them when they are sleeping, for obvious reasons. Also, all kids are beautiful to gaze at as they sleep. Their big juicy lips, pouting. Their eyelids, crescent and peaceful. Their day is done, another is on its way. A fresh start. A clean slate. I wish adults would operate like this too. But we hold on so tightly to everything, until we are so full it hurts.
My partner and I have recently finished a parenting course. Because parenting is hard and all too often it is done in isolation. But we did this together. Along with 16 other parents who also have challenging children.
Of all the wonderful things we got out of this time, one thing really stood out to me. A gem of wisdom I think the whole world could take heed of. Something I don’t do enough of myself.
‘What you feed, grows’
In the context of parenting, it is fundamental. But it is also a principal for all to take hold of. Give attention to the behaviours you want to see. Even when they are only being displayed them 1% of the time. Even when you are so mad and bad yourself. And they are mad and bad to you. Make a big deal of the 1%, or the 15%, or the 50%. Be consistent with your attention. Ignore as much of the bad behaviour as possible, and be straight to the bone with any negative behaviour you do need to address. Practice restorative solutions. Simple and clear. Focus on what they have done, rather than them when they are off target. And really hone in on exactly what it is they did well when they are on track. As well as letting them know they are amazing and that you love them all the time.
Kids constantly seek attention and they are excellent at getting it any way they can. So give them good attention. Play with them. Celebrate them. Then, get better behaviour. It doesn’t take too long until they re-wire themselves to seek attention positively.
It makes complete sense. There are no holes to be picked in this theory. It is so solid, it isn’t even a theory, it just is. It is a simple truth: Water plants, they grow, smile at someone, they (usually) smile back, practice makes perfect, eat well, rest and cope for another day – see, all of these things. Proof.
But as always, there is a flip side – Worry too much and everything compounds, plant vegetables in the shade and they won’t thrive, only ever yell at your kids and your relationship will turn toxic, burn the candle at both ends….and so on it goes.
‘What you feed, grows’
I need to fess up here, I am a glass half full kind of person. I am very practical, I like to get things going, get things done – subsequently I focus on perceived gaps in situations. The parts that I feel are less than. I notice when things have gone wrong in my books, or if I think something should be done better, or a certain way. As a result, I often fail to see what IS already there, what HAS been done and the things that ARE working well. It is great to see the next step, but it is crucial to know what is actually already happening too.
As a society, we need to think about what we focus on. What we shine a light on. Who we give air time to. What we celebrate and who we celebrate. Because, what we feed is what will grow. We have a choice in this.
This week I’ve felt the weight of the world. There are days when it feels like everything is coming together – not in a ‘ohh, this is really coming together now’, kind of way, more of a – ‘argh there a bit and pieces of broken dreams, scary nightmares and devastating lived realities all flying around and smashing into each other, kind of a coming together. And potentially getting together, against you, despite your best efforts, kind of a way.
Like you are falling into a vortex of darkness, with said small sharp things swirling, which you are of course, deftly ducking to avoid.
Images of our awful government flash in front of my eyes as I watch my children playing, feeling frustrated that there is literally no way we can buy a house, or even hope to continue affording renting in the suburb they were born and raised in, no matter how hard we work. Angry thoughts that my friends with small babies are not fully supported to stay at home with them if they so choose. A horror at the growing number of people living in poverty in our communities, and the contempt in which the rich of this country hold them. A sense of doom when reading world news and politics.
All the while a moaning ‘why do I even bother’ bellows from somewhere deep within.
There really is a whole bunch of bad shit going down in our communities. There is no disputing this. We hear about it all the time. Sometimes I think it is all we hear about, purposefully. It is overwhelming. Bad news is disempowering. The dark spots are joining up, blocking out the light, the good, hard work people are doing. This doesn’t have to happen.
‘What you feed, grows’
How are we to counteract all the narrow-minded, hateful news reporting we are feed? How can we show each other that there are other ways? How do we raise children who are understanding of each other and respectful and celebratory of difference?
We feed what we want to grow.
In this week of heavy footsteps, another mantra of mine is:
‘People are good, and they are doing good things’
If we stop and think, if we look around and take stock. We see that people are good. Almost everyone wants to do right by each other (there sure are some bad eggs out, but I’m not talking about them right now).
People are trying really hard every where I look, in spite of what is thrown their way. This is where the focus needs to be. I’m sick of hearing about Isis attempting to take over the world and Trump wanting to build a wall. Of course we need to know and understand these things, but I want to hear more about all the amazing peace work on the ground. The grassroots – these people are the majority. Then surely there will be more hope and fewer people mindlessly nodding along to the news in their living rooms at the ‘need’ for more civilian airstrikes. Because this is what they are. It is the civilians who suffer.
Mainstream news is spun to incite more hatred, to create more power for the greedy. I don’t buy it. Muslims are not terrorists. Governments and corporations are. I want to know more about LGBTI communities in the US, and their work in dismantling decades of prejudice against them. Can this be the news please, rather than Omar Mateen?
I’m tired of hearing about lazy indigenous people (not true), instead I want to read news about all their awe-inspiring social and education initiatives – and just about them, amazing them. The Ainu of Japan and their friends at Parihaka this month for example.
And, as funny as ‘like Mike’ is, I’m tired of hearing about Mike Hosking. I want to know more about the peace hīkoi from New Plymouth to Parihaka at the moment.
We each have visions of how we hope the world will grow. But these visions are purposefully blurred in the deprivation of what should be receiving positive attention, the love, the nourishment. To the point that we stop looking up as we walk about. Instead, we look down at our tired and drudging footsteps. ‘Why bother’.
This week, I’ve been consciously looking up, looking around and taking stock. And I’ve seen people everywhere who are thinking differently, who are trying new ways of doing things, people who refuse to put their energies into vortexes of darkness, sadness and doom.
I am certain that if we all read and learn about each others successes and ideas, and just hear each others voices more often, uninterrupted by mainstream media – we would feel much more secure in the knowledge that people are good.
We would be much more likely to reach out and help each other. Much more likely to give something new a go, or to support someone else in their ventures. We would be less likely to believe that we are powerless. It is in the interests of the corrupt and powerful to lead us to this conclusion. It is not true.
The people are the majority, we have the power. We are not all our to get each other. Quite the opposite.
Stop and reflect, attend to and nourish those around you. And we will all grow.