Tag

parenting

Authenticity and Being Present

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 8.28.34 AM

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.

Summer!

Preschool graduation was this morning. We are now officially on summer break. So we made our summer bucket list.

I love asking her questions and really listening to the answers she comes up with. It’s like a secret window into her incredible little mind.

The secret to asking open-ended questions is to really listen to the answers. To ask with a curious heart and receive with an open heart what comes back to you. I’m starting to think that applying the same thing to parenting is as good for the parent as it is for the child.

Just Like That

Have you ever noticed how many times in a woman’s life that she becomes someone completely different in just a moment’s time? I suppose everyone has these kinds of sudden identity changes. But as a woman I am noticing how frequent and profound they can be.

It’s been a crazy year. My life has turned upside down. When I think about where I was a year ago, I’m blown away by how different my life is. One moment I am single, and a short ceremony later I am married, complete with a whole new name. Have you ever thought about how profound it is to become someone new, a whole new signature, drivers license, and identity just like that? I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Who is this new person?” How could I know yet? After all, I had just met her. She didn’t even exist until now.

And then one little white stick and two little blue lines and I went from being a woman to being a pregnant woman. Everything about the way I was treated, the way I treated my body, and the way I thought about myself changed, just like that.

Fast forward nine months and in an instant I went from being a pregnant woman to being a mother, from a mom of one to a mom of two. Everything changed: the way other people treated me, the way I identified with my body, how I felt and acted and thought about everything changed. Just like that.

One day I was a Professional Development Coordinator. I loved my job and the people I worked with. Then all of a sudden I wasn’t. Then I was a massage therapist. And then, at some moment that is hard to pinpoint, I became a stay at home mom. What does that even mean? When you fill out your child’s paperwork at the doctor’s office and they ask for employment, what do you write? I know deep in my heart that devoting this time to my children is the right and authentic choice for me and my family. Choosing to stay at home doesn’t feel like losing a piece of myself. Until I’m staring at that blank line. And then I don’t know.

All of these changes are profound, life-altering, identity-shifting changes. The kind of changes where you become someone completely different, just like that. Aren’t those kinds of things supposed to take time? Shouldn’t you have to work at it?

And then as a mom, a mom with the intention of raising authentic children, I have to wonder, what kind of changes like that does my child face? She became a big sister in a moment. She will become a kindergartener in a moment. What can I do to support her?

Or maybe the more important question is, what can I learn by watching her navigate these transitions? What will it teach me about who she is? Because isn’t that the point? Not to impose my way of “coping” on her, but instead to help her discover a way that works for her? Perhaps the best thing we can do as parents is to chose “discovering” over “knowing” every chance we get. Because every time she goes through one of those big life shifts, both the ones I can see and the ones I can’t, she will have become someone completely new. Just like that.

And then I get to discover her all over again.

Who vs How

I woke up this morning thinking about the difference between who our children are and how they are/how they act.

The first thought that came to my mind was how we try to teach our children to be kind, to be generous, to be patient. And then I wondered if I was contradicting my own movement. If I’m trying to make my child be that type of person, am I trying to control who she becomes? It would seem that way.

But on the other hand, perhaps being kind and patient and generous isn’t about who they are so much as how they are in the world. After all, people who are not patient people can learn to practice patience. People who are not inherently generous can be inspired to practice generosity. Perhaps our job as parents isn’t to make them into generous people but to teach the people they already are to practice generosity. To encourage them to practice kindness. To inspire them to practice patience.

Or maybe the best gift we can give them is the awareness that they have a choice. They can choose what they want to practice. It may not feel like it comes naturally. It may not be easy. But they can always choose.

I have learned a lot about myself in the last four years. I am on a constant journey of discovering who “me” is. And as I learn, I find things that I am grateful for in myself. Passion. Awareness. And I find things that I wasn’t aware of. Desire for control. Impulsiveness. These things are part of who I am, but sometimes I let them control how I am. And the outcomes are sometimes unpleasant for myself or those around me. Realizing that I didn’t have to resent those parts of me was an enormous gift. I could acknowledge that I am impulsive. And then make a conscious choice to be thoughtful instead.

If I could give my daughter only two things in all the world, I would give her the curiosity to discover WHO she is, and the awareness to see that she can always choose HOW she is.

Lucky for me, she was already born with more curiosity than I could ever give her.