i’m overwhelmed by the show of support. as it turns out, i am not alone… which is relieving, but also scary. because that means all of us are living with kids who are on the brink. i spent a good hour talking to friends yesterday about what happened and three hours returning texts and emails and facebook messages to many truly amazing and loving people who reached out to me to share their own experiences. friends offered ideas and self-help strategies and stories or just a voice of support. some of the advice was dead on.
my friend KF, who understands how my household runs and knows me all too well as a mother, told me i need to institute formal discipline and stick to it. she helped me work out a plan and suggested how i could approach PG with it. i did that last night and it went over very well. oh, and she also reminded me to make sure she’s got a fully belly.
my little mamma VR looked at me after the kids left for school and said, “don’t let them see you cry. be strong in front of your kids. you can cry when they’re gone.” check. words to live by. must work on this.
and then i spent a lot of time cleaning out my basement. i scrubbed and purged and analyzed and came up with this:
our kids are acting like freaks because they are freaked out. they are growing up in complex, confusing, chaotic times. and it’s scary.
in kindergarten, one of our children’s first lessons is on the rainforest, which is quickly disappearing. our children are obsessed with animals and sea life, which are are nearing extinction. we send them to the safety and comfort of school each day, where there are mandatory drills to protect our kids from not only adults but other children who want to shoot them with a gun. our children need to eat healthy food to grow strong, but vegetables are filled with pesticides and meat is filled with hormones. the list goes on… there are parents who can’t find jobs, there are children dehydrating to death in africa, there are terrorists who fly planes into skyscrapers.
as adults, we process this through prayer or action or mature discussion or nightmares or complete disconnection. whatever it takes to get through the day. but kids just absorb it. they don’t have the emotional or intellectual tools to handle this kind of information. so they carry it around with them. it’s not just a one-time frantic freak out. it’s woven into their list of daily thoughts and fears. they bring it up at bedtime, over dinner or on a long car ride. when their minds are quiet and focused, these questions crop up. they are scared, they are confused, they are stressed. it’s messing with their basic, primal need for safety. we’re talking root chakra. foundation.
when the foundation is not solid, the rest of the body is unstable. and it creates a child who is off balance, a child who turns into a maniac when just one more challenge is thrown at them. to add to the instability is the complexity that WE create in the lives of our children. we’re way past self-help books, mommies. we can unearth tools in books and lectures that can help us harness our strong willed children, but these collective tools are only a bandaid on a bloody gusher. the real problem isn’t them. it’s us.
it’s modern american culture. it’s this big, fast, flashy, plastic american childhood we offer our kids. i’m guilty of this. so i am not pulling a self-righteous tirade. but i truly believe that the solutions to our child-rearing problems are not to be found through books, behaviorists or bandaids. the solution is found in mindfulness and simplicity.
i think that children who are less stimulated will have fewer behavioral issues. the homework, the competition, the tutoring, the television, the team sports, the social calendar, the scheduled activities, the playdates, the closet full of clothes, the parties, the toys… each on its own is manageable. but glopped all together, it’s downright overwhelming. we can barely handle being responsible for all these things. and we expect our kids to be? and what is the purpose for all this activity? seriously, let me inquire again. what is the purpose for all this activity?
so now what? what do we do? how do we pull in the reigns? b/c growing up at the speed of life is just too much for our kids to bear.
first, we need to provide our children with a solid foundation in the intangibles. if there is no time for discussion about spirituality in the day, what the hell we all here for? to learn to color in the lines? to be the best athlete on the playing field? to get into a good school so we can make lots of money and buy shiny things? well, those things are part of development, part of the human experience, but are they all? i’d argue no.
i’d say that we are here to learn about love by way of these experiences. and if our sole purpose here on earth to learn about love, shouldn’t we talk about love more?
when i say love, i don’t mean, “i love my dog,” or, “i love the smell of grass after a rainstorm.” i mean LOVE. the love that connects, the love that is infinite, the love that empowers and restores and awakens. for me, love and god are interchangeable. and there is nothing that i love to talk about more.
but i admit, for as much as i write about love and talk about love with friends, there is only a casual, sporadic mention of love throughout the week with my children. we are very busy DOING, leaving very little time for devotion. so let’s start talking with our kids about god, buddha, love, spirit, allah. whatever you like to call this magnificent life force. start with a simple question like this: where is god? and just see where the conversation leads. everyday, try to ask another question about spirit. if you need prompting, ask me. i’m happy to provide ideas.
second, with the earthly shitstorm brewing outside our homes, we need to create a sense of hope for our children, mixed in with a dose of acceptance. because as it stands right now, everything they love is in big fat trouble. we need to tell them that this planet will survive, that mother earth is STRONG. we need to present to them examples of this earth regenerating and evolving.
we also need to make sure our children understand that we each have an enormous responsibility to take care of this planet, because this is our home. and every corner of the planet is connected, just the way each of us human beings is connected. we need to encourage our children to actively participate in the improvement of our surroundings and show that they can not only carry hope, but also use their own personal power to create a better world. it doesn’t take a lot to do this. we can start by doing something as simple as picking up litter while we take a walk. or giving them a little lesson at the grocery store about buying local and why it’s important.
and then you can instill bigger lessons. when i visit the city, i try to remember to pack a bag of oranges and bananas. my kids and i offer a handful of sunshine (oranges) or smiles (bananas) to homeless people that we pass. i do this because my heart aches for those folks who are suffering. i imagine how that juicy burst of flavor will feel in their dry mouths. and i feel like i’m spreading joy.
i want my kids to understand this and learn small ways to help people. i never know if these lessons stick, but a few weeks ago, PG said to me out of the blue, “remember that time we stopped and talked to the old homeless guy on the street and he didn’t have any shoes on?” i didn’t remember so she went on. “well, you asked what he needed and he said, ‘shoes,’ so you gave him 20 dollars and a banana.” i asked her why she was remembering that story and she said, “because i liked it.” i told her that it’s important that we help that man who needs shoes, but we can’t take away his suffering, because he is here on earth learning a very important lesson. and when someday he is an angel he will remember us and thank us for helping him that day. in retrospect, i should have continued the conversation by asking her some more questions. but i’ll be sure to do that next time. i hope that through these lessons i provide my children with tiny shifts that will carry them through adulthood and encourage them to use their superpowers for good, and provide them with a stronger sense of hope and acceptance.
i truly am confident that reminding my children of their own divinity and providing them with a lighter load of activity will help quell these frantic, chaotic, home-wrecking freak-out sessions. when the world gets too much to bear, take a breath and return to source.
love you guys.
from mine to yours,