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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Raising Boys is Gross.


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In a few weeks, I will welcome a second son. And to answer ahead of time, it’s unlikely I will “try for a girl”. I wasn’t disappointed.  I am all about everything happening exactly as it should. I am supposed to be mothering two sons. In my short time in this role, I have come to the understanding that the raising of sons is gross but more like disgusting and it has nothing to do with my actual children. I am a woman, raised by another woman so I know the truth of what we face in the expectations and limitations of how we are socialized. I have though, come to a whole new understanding of what it means to try and raise boys to men in a society so consumed with outdated ideas of what makes a man…

Men shouldn’t cry. Do you know how much it kills me to hear parents say to their sons, “stop crying, you’re being a baby?!” So everyone, even grown men, have tear ducts meaning everyone is designed to cry. It’s actually scientifically proven to be a stress reducing and cleansing operation both physically and mentally.  Somewhere along the way it was invented that crying is a lesser emotion so as a man it shouldn’t be done. I call malarkey. I actually make space for it. Palmer you are crying? Let’s talk about why. Come to me so you can be comforted. Let’s actually use this moment to learn more about you. How in the hell is it helpful to teach our sons to suppress a natural body function to perpetuate a false idea of manhood?

Your worth is tied to what you do. Or who you love. Or what you wear. I want to raise fearless, free humans. I refuse to teach them that they have to curtail their passions, their interests and their life’s work or decisions to a mold of worldly standards. Go to these schools,  get these kinds of jobs, buy all the things so the world can see how manly you are… This thinking creates unhappy drones, living lives of suffering.  When I talk to my grown sons I want to hear light and inspiration in their voices. I want them to be so happy with themselves that they make the world around them a better place. It starts at a young age by encouraging your children to create and play on their own. Actually exposing them to things broader than your own interests or letting them play just for the enjoyment of it creates space for them to discover passions and life interests. The focus on what you memorized or what score you got on a test, just reinforces the warped idea that success is measured by trivialities.

Women are here for your entertainment. Or conquest. Or to serve you. And the only way I can do that is by being a real woman with flaws and honesty. By becoming the highest version of myself,  loving myself and lifting other women up I hope to show my sons that women are humans with equal capabilities, goals and contributions. Connect with a woman, knowing that she is complex and worthy of engagement on intellectual and spiritual planes.

It all makes you gay. Playing with dolls or expressing interest in “girl toys” is not a life changing thing. Dance classes and playing in your mother’s things is not an early indicator of anything. Children learn through engagement and observation. I want my sons to know how to gently care for a baby because one day they may have a family and I want them to be the type of loving father they are growing up with. If they are talented in dancing, fashion design or anything else deemed “feminine”, I am here for it because it doesn’t make you gay!   And get ready to clutch your pearls… you dont control who your children will be when they grow up. You do contribute to how they will navigate life. Will they be able to trust you enough to come to you? Will they feel loved and supported instead of tolerated should they live and love differently than you?  File this under “things you should know about me”: being homophobic is the quickest way to ensure your exposure to my children will be cut. I won’t do it. I don’t know who they will love and for the sake of all possibilities I am not going to let you poison their thinking against others based on foolishness.

We are all multifaceted. We are all having very human experiences. I want my sons to know they are more than earnings, sexual conquests and dumbed down emotions and experiences. It’s disgusting that for some it’s going to seem weird or strange. As a fearless and free mama, I am willing to take the risk in the spirit of nurturing whole individuals with a life that exudes love, truth and joy.

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The Compassionate Parent.

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When I was a child, even now as an adult, I was blessed to know that my mother will “understand”. I mean she may not approve or agree. She may advice or discipline but I can always count on her to consider my perspective, to UNDERSTAND that my feelings, no matter how different than her own were valid. I can never fully thank her for this gift. It created a security for me, a sense of knowing that I was safe with her, that I was loved and cherished. It effected my own decisions, it ensured I set boundaries and chose a partner who made me feel that same way. Since giving birth to Palmer, I have had to think to myself, “How do I create this same feeling for him?” How do I parent with compassion? How do I find the balance between creating structure and supporting his own exploration?

Remember how it felt. Each of us is walking in our own perception. Even a baby. Of course as the parent you have been there, done that, but once you were a small child, or a teenager. If your childhood was blissful tap into the things that made it so, but if it was painful tap into that also. Putting yourself back into the frame of mind of a small baby who is cold or hungry, makes it easier to know that he or she isn’t crying because they are spoiled… they are crying because they need you. They have limited ability to express themselves. I learned early that different cries can mean different things. Whether my little one is hungry or just needs a hug I remember that we all cry out for help sometimes and we all deserve to be comforted…

Let go of control. Palmer doesn’t belong to me. He is his own person, created through Frenchie and I. We are here to teach him important lessons but if parenting has taught me anything, it’s that I am only in control of my own mind. I can do everything “right” and he can still be grumpy or refuse his food. I try to create the best possible situation by making sure he is well fed and has fun but he can still fall out on the floor over seemingly nothing and I have no control over it. Learning to roll with the punches and remain flexible has made all the difference.

Be respectful. Every day we are teaching our children how to interact with the world around them. This is no less true when it comes to being respectful. Sometimes I have to make Palmer do things he doesn’t want to… Wear a seat belt, get his diaper changed, go to bed… It is the nature of our relationship. I can however still respect him in the process. I still speak kindly to him, don’t force him into affection with anyone and make allowances for the fact that Target is only a fun place for a short amount of time. I respect the fact that he doesn’t know what an inside voice is yet and if something is round like a ball he is throwing it. He is learning. He deserves my compassion. How will he learn to be compassionate if he was always met with yelling and unkind words for each and every misstep?

Communicate. I am a talker. I like to use my words. Anyone who knows me will tell you that, even Palmer. Before he was even born I talked to him about anything. And once he made his way into the world it has continued. I talk to him about our plans for the day, who he will see, what I might need from him. I remind him that he is loved and I thank him for being patient and kind. Once in a grocery store I was explaining to my then 6 month old the ingredients I needed for a new Thai dish I saw on Pinterest and a woman coming down the aisle remarked that from the other side of the wall she thought I was speaking to a school aged child! I talk to Palmer like this for a few reasons but the main one is because my own mom did it for me. It taught me how to speak, playing a huge part in my own ability now to communicate exactly how I feel, what I need and how I set boundaries. And before you roll your eyes and sound off about children having a place and not having to explain yourself to a kid just know that one day your child will be a grown up and they need to know they have a voice. They learn how to use that voice from you.

I will never be able to fully articulate the gratitude I have for the way my mother chose to parent me. She allowed me to ask questions, explained why her decision was the final one but also always listened to me. It helped establish the value I have for myself and others. In the house I grew up in there were rules but there was also freedom. There was always an emphasis on love. She got her point across without belittling me or embarrassing me. She didn’t say no because she could. I was allowed to make decisions and she enforced consequences in fair ways with out cruelty or malice. I sometimes wonder if it was a conscious choice or something she innately did. I can only say that it is how I choose to be with Palmer. When he is out in a world bigger than he currently knows I want him to have a standard of compassion for his interactions with himself and others. That standard starts with me.

Until next time…

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