Infectiously Happy

Four small Ways to Instill Confidence in Small Children. 

Super Flying Palmer... Courageous. Assured. Free.
Super Flying Palmer… Courageous. Assured. Free.

Recently Palmer told me that some other kids didn’t like him. My heart broke. I know that everyone can’t like him. There is always going to be someone that doesn’t like you. But, um, I think he is awesome so I had a little lump in my throat. I went in for further understanding. I mean, I need to know why I might fight someone. LOL. Just kidding, kinda. So he told me that the “mean guys” didn’t like him and they told him so. When I asked him how he felt about it he said, “It makes me sad.”  Cue all the feelings. I then asked him, “Do you like you?” I wasn’t ready for his answer. “Yes mama, of course! I love me!!!” So I asked, ” Do they ever hurt you physically?” And he replied, “No, because I know how to keep myself safe. I wouldn’t let them just hurt me.” That’s when the room got dusty and the dust got in my eyes. I sat with our conversation for a bit. As I said in the beginning, our “likeability” is fleeting. Wanting to be liked has held me in bondage, stifled the truth and prolonged my involvement with interactions that were not serving my best self. I have been slowly, over years, shedding that need to be liked but it’s hard. I don’t want to pass that on. On another layer, because I am raising two BLACK people in a world that is consisently devaluing our experience, I have sincere intention around making sure they know their worth. In all things, I have no control over anyone but myself. I do have control over how I interact with them. I control how I will affirm them. I control whether or not I give them agency over their minds and bodies. I am working hard every day to show them they are capable, powerful and important, even at three and one year old. We can take small steps in our daily lives to give them a confident outlook on their experience. Just a few ways…

Give them responsibilities. Somewhere, somehow, the lie started that children can’t grasp responsibility. Every day, Palmer has jobs. Small jobs, that I can easily do, usually much quicker but I need him to know what it feels like to take care of something. Sometimes his jobs are convenient for him, like putting his shoes in the basket when we come into the house. Sometimes his jobs are not his favorite, like putting away his toys before bed, when he still wants to play. That is real life. Even at three, he understands what he is supposed to take care of. He gets responsibility. He may even go off if you try to take care of it for him because somewhere inside, his little soul has pride in getting it done himself. As he grows, as Duke grows, they get bigger jobs. And eventually I am swinging in a  hammock while they make me smoothies and sweep the kitchen. Just (kinda) kidding.

Let them create.  I am not talking about a pinterest project. I mean let them create their own entertainment, help with meals, create their own fun. We can be overbearing in our need to make “fun” activities or keep them from making a mess. Let them make messes. Let them see what they can do, what their efforts can bring forth. It may take longer. Make time for them. They deserve our time. The greatest fun I see Palmer have is when he is making his own food or playing a game that only he knows the rules to. He has a things for paper airplanes and origami that makes mail or my writing notes unsafe. The joy I see when he is immersed in his own versions of meditation through play are inspiring.

Listen to them. Even if they do not yet have words. Listen to the sounds, pay attention to their body language. Feel the energy they are giving you. They know what feels good, what they want. We can allow them to say no. It is how we teach them to keep themselves safe and listen to themselves. Palmer is old enough (physically and mentally) to tell me alot about himself. I remind myself constantly to plug into what he is really saying to me. Even with Duke, who is just finding words, those little screams are his way of communicating. I vocalize that I am listening, even if what they don’t like, getting a diaper change or seatbelt, is needed. I will tell them, “I hear you.” “I see that you don’t like ____ .” If I can adjust the situation to be more pleasing, I do. For me that is about letting them know that their discomfort is important and their experiene is valued. Try showing that to grown ups, it’s much harder work.

Check our egos. They are not ours. They came through us, but they belong to themselves. We would serve them and ourselves to remember that. Our behavior has to reflect that they are small humans and not property. We have to treat them with the same respect we require because from day one they are learning what it means to be treated kindly and humanely from us. It can be hard to walk in this truth because as parents we don’t want to be judged harshly if our child is not listening our crying in public. That is our ego. The reality is that your child will not listen. They are going to do things that may embarass you or make others uncomfortable. They are learning in each moment, so they aren’t trying to manipulate you. Most likely thay are asking for help or expressing overwhelming feelings.  We have to make sure that our interactions with them are not being fueled by fear, anger and ego. Violence (Read: spanking, popping, physical intimidation) have no place in raising confident humans. It serves the purpose of breaking, training and controlling through fear and pain. You cannot build someone up and break them down at the same time. Our ego is easily bruised, even as parents. We have to be willing to check it and interact from a place of understanding and ease.

 

Just small steps that can leave a big impact. I know because my mama parented me this way. This is my intentional legacy to them. My dedication as a mother is to free, empowered, confident people who can trust themselves.

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Thoughts about things.

May has concluded. I have purged over 496 things. And yet there is still more I wish to rid myself of. This month has been beyond wonderful for a lot of reasons. I was surprised that so many people I know and love decided to join me for this challenge. They gave away clothes and books, old, useless ways of thinking and acting. My boo Stacy and her hubby even got rid of two cars! Through the entire time I was overwhelmed by a growing sense of lightness. I was able to help others with small gestures of giving and for that I am so grateful. I have a new sense of focus. I even have more time to do what serves my happiness because I am not busy cleaning, organizing & tending to my “things”. This process left me with renewed ideas and so much clarity. So here is what I want to share:

Find real power in letting go.

This applies to anything you cling to tightly. Clothes, relationships, habits or titles. People operate on this false belief that if they hold on tighter it can never be taken from them and all the while they don’t control any of it. The idea of control makes a fearful or out of control person feel powerful, but that power is an illusion. So yes take good care of the people and things you love but realize that any of it can be taken from you. What will you do then? Real power comes from loving yourself enough not to be defined by it and by letting go of what is keeping you from the life you truly want.

Things are a distraction.

Someone tried to argue with me about this point and here is what I said to them; Imagine you have an especially tough day. Tension with someone you love, stressful financial situation, irritating work situation… What is the solution? For a lot of people, there is an assumption that, “oh well, I had a tough day so I will Eat-shop-watch TV-medicate until I am numb from that discomfort”. I am guilty, especially of the shopping and to what end? It doesn’t fix anything… You end up with more crap then you know what to do with and you are no closer to a life that will make you happy. What if instead of burying ourselves in things we used authentic connections and experiences to handle stress? Are your things going to help you make a new resume to find a job that will make you happier? Will your things hold your hand when someone you love passes away? I enjoy vacation and free time with my family and friends more than any pair of shoes or dress. Memories from a life well lived will sustain me more than any “thing” I could possess.

You have the life you built.
This can be a tough pill to swallow. It’s hard to admit but many people, myself included, will say that they want something, like peace, but at every opportunity they respond in ways that create exactly the opposite. They have to have the last word in every “discussion”. They will never leave a job or relationship that is stress filled. They rant about traffic, their family, taxes, whatever… Then they look up and exclaim: I want peace! But do you really? Do you really want to be healthier, be in a loving relationship, travel, be happy, etc? Are you truly letting go of the things that will prevent you from building that life? If I want to build a boat but buy parts for a tree house, did I really intend to end up with a boat?

Gotta go… Up early for my baby’s first beach adventure. :-)

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What to keep… What to purge.

May is more than half way complete. As of today I have purged more than 153 “things” and I can already feel the lightness this challenge has created in my life. On a superficial level my house is cleaner and I get dressed each morning much more easily. On a deeper and more important level I have been able to be helpful to others, I have been moved by the people in my life who have also participated and I feel like by disconnecting from “things” that don’t serve me, I have been able to really focus on the things that are useful and create only joy for me. I do get one question repeatedly: how do you decide what to keep and what to purge? I’ve read suggestions online and talked to other people who are going through this process too and I have compiled a list of the questions I ask myself when deciding to let go…

Do you love it?
For me this is not only about a thing but pertains more to ideas, relationships, your own patterns. That’s a huge part of this challenge for me. The tangible items must go but those aren’t the only things that weigh us down. So do you love it? Do you love the consequences or effort surrounding it? Do you love how it makes you feel?

If you were free from guilt would you hold on to it?
A lot of what you have or do is connected to how it’s going to affect others and that is normal. Yoga Kelley would tell you we are all one so when doing anything you want to think of the way it will affect that oneness BUT for me guilt is a trap. It’s a means of manipulation and most people end of keeping things and remaining in situations because they would feel guilty for hurting someone else’s feelings. I ask: “What about you? What about what you want?” If you are burdened by something and only keeping it around because it will hurt the person who gave it to you it’s time to let it go. It’s hurting the person you should truly be worried about… You.

Does it fit the picture of the life you want for yourself in 5 years?
I have a clear picture of the life I want next week, next year and in 70 years. I want ease, love and happiness, to enjoy my work and make a positive impact on each person I meet. I want white sand beaches, time to enjoy my family and friends and adventures all over the world. If it isn’t going to fit that, IT HAS TO GO! So yes I like pretty things and I didn’t give them all away but I realized that all of those things you collect need a place to be stored and a bigger house with more closet space means a higher price tag, which means working longer hours, doing things that I don’t want to do for that almighty dollar, which means less time with my loves, which gets me further and further away from the life I want. The choice then becomes mine…

Can you replace it if necessary?
So there is this trap with things. The what-if-I-need-it trap. Well the fact is most of the little ends and gadgets that we never use but hold on to just in case can be easily attained if by some chance you decide to go on an underwater basket weaving expedition. So I say goodbye to waffle irons, purple jeans, old phone numbers and anything else I never use!

Be awesome :-)

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The Things We Buy To Cover Up What’s Inside

too much stuff
“The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.” – Socrates

I have a confession: I have too many things. I’m not a hoarder, I just have more than I need and it’s become more than I want. I love pretty things, shiny things, “useful” things. The time has come though, to shed much of it. On a deep down level I think my things made me feel good about myself. I have more clothes than I can wear per season, more books than I will read this year and too many pots for my family of three. I’m done with that. I can’t organize it enough and I am tired of trying to find ways to store things I never use. I want to be free of the hold that holding on to so much has on me…

So I have decided to make a plan of it. I was inspired by my dear friend Kim who for the month of April got rid of things in correspondence with the date, April 1 = 1 thing, April 20 = 20 things and so on. I thought, “why not?!”, so as of May 1st it’s going down. 31 days is a whopping 496 “things” I must part with. I’m going to document the process, my own feelings and lessons, and come back here to share with you all.

To tell the truth I’m afraid. 496 is a shocking number. I computed it four times because hell, that’s almost 500. And maybe my math is wrong… Please tell me I’m wrong! Anyway I am afraid I will miss my things or regret a giveaway but more than afraid, I am excited. I am excited to truly enjoy what’s left, enjoy more time, less to pay for or organize. So now I invite you to join me. No rules, you know what you need to do for you. Just get rid of what’s weighing you down, getting in the way of the life you want…. People, actions, things. Let’s get free together. We will reconvene on June 1.

Freedom soon come :-)

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