I believe that everyone, in some way or another, has a second (or more) set of “parents”. This is a broad definition of parents I am using here – they may be people who cared for you when your biological parents were having problems, such as grandparents or aunts and uncles, or even godparents as is the custom in some places. They could be people who took you to the movies or to fancy restaurants if the money in your family was tight. They could be people close to you whom to others might seem commonplace but to you were heroes. They could be teachers, formally or not. The common characteristic among these people is that they were role models for you and had a big (positive) impact on your life in one or more ways.
I was lucky enough to have several such wonderful people in my life during childhood and adolescence, but one couple stands out.
I recently posted this photo of my twin children on my Facebook page with the caption “Where two oceans meet…” The double entendre was on purpose, albeit private since I only shared the fact that the location was Cape Point, South Africa, where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet – a turbulent mix of sea change and wind that nurtures one of the richest and most diverse floral kingdoms in the world. (United Nations Environment Program)
As I watch my children together against this backdrop, the second meaning hits me with a certain beauty and clarity.
How do I nurture the two vastly different oceans that are my children in a way that will allow them to thrive and flourish in their inseparable and sometimes turbulent emotional mix of differences and growth? How did Mother Nature do it in Cape Point?
As I reflect and take my cues from the natural environment around us, what I see is the ebb and flow of calm and storms, much like the children’s daily lives together. The strong winds that come can break each of my children where they cannot bend. On Cape Point where trees break from the wind only small shrubs grow, but those shrubs abound with nesting seabirds, small animals, and flowers that are hard as wood. Resilience blooms here.
Those same winds and storms carry foreign nutrients from far away that once calm, blanket the landscape with new and unexpected influences on the life that abounds there. Whether the impacts are negative or positive on the land, maelstroms don’t abide by what Cape inhabitants want or need. They either create rich and remarkable new species among those who adapt and embrace the new, or they can uncompromisingly destroy what tries to hide with futile resistance. Life always finds its own way.
The western seaboard of Cape Point is pummelled by Atlantic waves into jagged high cliffs that are hardened and worn and immovable. The eastern waves lap against a gentler bay that slope the yielding sandy beaches, although wayward and changing with each season. These two coasts are my children.
What Mother Nature is telling me is that life is not always safe and warm, that motherhood and nurturing for my children’s growth comes with uncontrollable forces that can either be seen as destructive or enriching. That while looking at this scene through either of these lenses and trying to focus on what will become of them is futile and indeterminate. I cannot see the future. I do not know how they will grow. All I know is that my love for each of them will always be as deep as their two oceans.
How do you approach raising two (or more!) different children?
This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Dee Harlow, a mother of twins currently living in Lesotho. You can also find her on her blog Wanderlustress.
It’s one of those things I never saw coming before I was a mother: The value of adults behaving badly around my children.
In fairness, most of the adults my boys get to interact with are fine people, who behave with maturity, have decent principles and who take responsibility for their actions. And I’m not talking about those who swear, or drink alcohol or smoke, or who have different beliefs or ways of raising their own children. Accepting that others are different in many ways is something the boys are well on the way to understanding, and these things are superficial when all said and done.
I’m talking about: the value of experiencing adults letting them down; the importance of hearing adults blame others for their own inaction or mistakes; the usefulness of having an adult’s words and actions not line up with one another; and the great learning involved when they are around adults who are manipulative, bratty, unreasonable, show blatant racism or sexism, or who are down right mean and nasty.
With these, the boys all go through the stages of mourning. Sometimes the mourning process is longer than others, depending on the closeness of the relationship they have with the adult in question. When it’s a distant relationship, it might be a casual comment or discussion in passing – the emotional impact is minor and the processing, swift. With a closer relationship, they are usually are angry or sad enough to tell me what has happened, although I have also occasionally had to remind them not to simply tell me what they think I want to hear. There seems little value in processing half-truths, and there is no value at all in having me take on a rescuer role merely because that’s what they imagine I want to happen.
There is immeasurable value, however, in discussing unhealthy drama triangles where those roles of rescuer, victim and persecutor play out, in order for the boys to recognise them and avoid them, or at least extricate themselves from in the early stages. It is useful to recognise narcissistic tendencies, adult bullies, and the difference between genuine remorse and manipulation. It is good for them to know that there is a big difference between passive-aggressively saying yes, while meaning, no, and politely but honestly declining. (That doesn’t work for me, is often enough.) They have learned who can be relied upon to keep their word or who is worthy of respect. It is to those adults whom they turn for protection and advice. Equally, they are learning which people are not principled or who consistently cannot be relied upon.
As a solo Mum, I often have times when others are caring for my children. It seems vital that they know which adults are safe and which are unsafe, not just physically but emotionally, too.
Sadly, the have had experiences where they needed to know those differences. I don’t belabour the points, but we have been through it all more than once. The 14 and 11 year-olds get the full works, the six year-old gets a very watered down version. We always discuss any positive aspects they think the person has and we then go on to list the many adults they know who don’t behave in these ways. The experience always comes before the lesson.
I finish these discussions by pointing out they can choose the behaviours they wish to embrace and those they wish to reject.
I’m all for a magical early childhood where all adults are heroes and heroines and imaginary beings are real things, but from around the age of nine this magic seems to naturally begin to subside. Rudolf Steiner called this the Nine Year Change and I have found that to be a useful label. From around then, my older boys have come out of their dream-world and into a world that is quite scary and overwhelming at times; a world in which they realise I cannot always protect them; a world in which they realise they must learn to look out for themselves. Like other life skills, I am a firm believer in helping them to recognise healthy and unhealthy people of all sizes and those adults behaving badly are a wonderful learning tool. A tool I never expected, but one I value all the same.
Have you had to help your children reach an understanding around an adult’s bad behaviour?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Karyn Wills of New Zealand. Photo courtesy of idreamlikecrazy / Flickr.
Recently I started practicing Heartfulness Meditation. It is when you are trying not to think about anything that you truly realise how your brain is never quiet! No matter what we’re doing, there’s a constant commentary going on. Most of the time we’re not consciously aware of these thoughts, but they do have an impact on our mood and behaviour.
Sadly, we are often raised to be very hard on ourselves, and our “self-talk” tends to be negative and critical. We would never be as cruel as we are to ourselves towards anyone else! This begs the question, why do we think it’s okay to be so mean to ourselves?
Many point to the way women are portrayed in the media, and how we’re somehow expected to be “perfect” – totally able to be a brilliant mother and an outstanding career woman whilst keeping a husband happy to boot. The truth is that nobody is perfect, and nobody truly has the life that we imagine they do!
A while ago I read something that truly resonated with me – “Don’t compare your behind the scenes to somebody else’s show reel.” Think about this for a minute … none of us really know what goes on in another person’s life, we only know what they choose to share with us.
Obviously people tend to share whatever makes them look good, and not what they’re ashamed of. So we look at another person and think “why can’t I be as good / brave / fit / successful or whatever as this person?” without knowing that they are probably thinking the same thing about us!
The good news is that as soon as you become aware of a bad habit, you can choose to replace that habit with one that is better for you. With regard to negative self talk, there are two steps to mitigate it. The first is to become more aware of the “soundtrack” going on in your mind. The second is to refute the nasty comments.
For example, if you make a mistake and find yourself thinking “I’m SO stupid!” you should counter that statement with something like “I’m not really stupid, I made a mistake, I now know better and I’ll do better next time.”
I also think it is very beneficial to carve out a few minutes every day to try and quieten the mind completely. This is usually accomplished by means of meditation, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be anything esoteric. It’s enough to sit in a quiet and comfortable space and just focus on breathing in and out. As soon as you become aware of a thought, you just bring your attention back to your breathing. There are many variations to this, for example in Transcendental Meditation a teacher gives you a mantra that you must repeat. No matter what you choose, the aim is the same, to try and get rid of the “soundtrack” (even if it’s just for a couple of seconds) so that you can reconnect with your authentic self.
Sometimes my soundtrack is made up of snippets of songs, and that can occasionally be rather amusing. Recently I tore part of my big toenail away from the nail bed. I kept it taped up to try and prevent my nail from falling off completely. I’d only left the tape off for a short time when I snagged the same toenail again and ripped it even more! Despite the pain, all that my brain had going on in a loop was the line “Oops, I did it again.” from the Britney Spears’ song!
Did you ever notice yourself thinking about a particular song in response to what is happening to you or around you? If so, can you give us an example?
Have you ever tried any kind of Meditation? If so, did you find it beneficial?
This is an original blog post for World Moms Blog written by Mamma Simona from Cape Town, South Africa. Photo credit: Kirsten Doyle
I love post-prompts like this one, as they make me think about my everyday actions, especially the ones that come out of habits I created overtime, and no longer think about. Let’s get right to it and I’ll say that even though some of my dos and don’ts apply to varying types of relationships, I am focusing on romantic relationships like the one I have the pleasure of having with the man who is my husband. These are only a few of my favorites: (more…)