January 2016

Baby Magic

By some kind of infant magic/witchcraft, this baby stuck her pacifier in my hair where it is now STUCK. Like, very stuck. #momlife #problemsyouneverexpectedtohaveever

Authenticity and Being Present

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Every experience you have changes you. Sometimes they are big, sweeping, overwhelming, sudden changes. Sometimes they are slight, unnoticeable. But even the slight and unnoticeable compound over time.

That means we are constantly changing, whether we realize it or not. We are constantly becoming someone else. Therefore, true authenticity requires presence.

What does it mean to be present with yourself? It means being able to listen to your feelings and your thoughts. To truly listen requires curiosity; the desire to seek and see. It means not assuming. It means not “knowing”. It means listening and accepting what you find.

I think it’s hard to be present with yourself, to stop to listen to your true self at each opportunity and then be open to what you find. It’s hard and then it’s easy. It takes practice and then it becomes habit. A habit worth creating.

When my oldest daughter was born, it quickly became obvious to me that I could never be a stay at home mom. When my second came along, I was aware how fleeting time was and how precious these moments were. I had changed and what I wanted was different. Rather than assume that my original feeling was “who I was”, I stopped to check in and found a different answer.

There’s a second layer to this challenge: finding people who can stay present with you. We like to think we “know” people. It’s comforting. Sometimes we take comfort in thinking we know someone better than they know themselves. It’s not easy to think about people in our lives changing and becoming someone different. We often assume such changes are negative and will take people away from us.

But the truth is, people are always changing whether we want to see it or not. In truth, the friend you had yesterday is someone different today. Even if the change is so small it isn’t noticeable.

Do you surround yourself with people who stay present with you? It is always fascinating to me to meet someone I haven’t seen in a while and consider who I was back when they knew me… to think that the person they think they are interacting with no longer exists. Even more dangerous are the people who see us every day. When we see someone every day, it’s easy to believe we know them and it’s too hard to see the little changes that build up over time.

And on a similar note, do you stay present with those around you by accepting their present authenticity? Or do you assume you already “know” them?

And perhaps most importantly of all, how does this affect how you interact with your children?

It is easier to assume we know ourself and others, but the truth is, the “self” is like a landscape: it is constantly being changed. Sometimes drastically by a tornado. Sometimes slowly like the growth of a blade of grass. But always changing.

It is only when we are aware of that change and curious about its impact, both in ourself and others, that we can truly embrace our own authenticity and that of others.

Can We Talk About Report Cards for a Minute?

Report cards.

When I was a kid, I used to love report card time. I usually did pretty well in school, so it meant a chance to be recognized in my strengths. I knew other kids who dreaded them. It meant hard conversations about things that already felt hard enough as it was.

Now that I’m a parent, I imagine there are still the same broad spectrum of feelings about that little manilla envelope that I have to sign off on three times a year.

This is one of the times that I’m most grateful for the years I spent working in education, and for the brilliant group of friends I have who are still devoting their energy to teaching kids every day. Because those experiences and relationships have given me a different perspective from which to approach things like parent teacher conferences, grades, and–you guessed it–report cards. What I’ve learned has totally changed the way I approach these opportunities. Here’s what I’ve learned:

What report cards are NOT:

  • Report cards are not fuel to get angry at my child.
  • Report cards are not fuel to get angry at my child’s teacher.
  • Report cards do not define who my child is.
  • Report cards do not define who I am as a parent.

What report cards ARE:

  • Report cards are an opportunity for a conversation with my child.
  • Report cards are an opportunity for a conversation with my child’s teacher.
  • Report cards are a way for me to practice being curious rather than jumping to conclusions.
  • Report cards offer clues from a different perspective into my child’s possible strengths and challenges.
  • Report cards are made by humans. Humans who love my child and want her to do well. Humans who see a side of my child that I don’t see. Humans who may not see the side of my child that I see.

Bottom line: Report cards are an opportunity for me to impact the way my child feels about school and learning for the rest of her life, for better or worse. How I respond to those little numbers on that piece of paper can either fuel her excitement or dampen her spirit, can build her confidence or chip away at it.

And I know which path I want to choose. Because at the end of the day, it isn’t the grades that matter. It’s the person. The sweet little human who can’t wait to show me what she wrote in school, the one who brings home 6th grade chapter books on library day because she is so impatient to learn to read, the one who draws little curly q’s on all of her letters on all of her worksheets.

If I do anything at all with four report cards a year, it will be to use them as fuel in her brilliant fire.