I stood in the doorway. Uneasy, uncertain if I was at the right place at all. I couldn’t seem to find my way around this hospital. My eyes flashed back and forth, seeking for some sort of assurance. A doctor passed me, I stepped aside to let him pass in the narrow hallway. I read the sign on the door again. It said to report here, but the lady behind the desk was ignoring me. Her phone conversation seemed to be going on forever. Then she stepped out of the room and passed me. Nothing about her acknowledged the fact that I was there. She held her nose high, her face a mask of arrogance. Her heels clicked away while I repressed the hint of anger that I felt rising in my stomach.
I took a seat and a big breath of air and turned to my phone for distraction. The heels came clicking down the hallway again. Still on the phone, she took her seat behind the desk again. Still nothing. I was completely invisible to her. By this time I was having a vivid conversation with myself.
“Leave it Mirjam. She’s talking to a patient. Maybe she didn’t see you.”
“I am so certain that she saw me! This is not worth getting angry over.”
“But you have to stand up for yourself!”
“No, I’ll just leave it.”
The doctor called me in and ended my inner struggle. I mumbled something about being ignored, but let go of the situation. After my appointment, I sat in the same hallway again waiting for the doctor to hand me the forms for my bloodwork. A woman approached me, she smiled apologetically. Her face was soft and friendly.
“I’m so sorry that I kept you waiting,” she said. “I had a situation and I was in a panic. Are you still waiting for me? Did the doctor call you in already? You don’t have to wait in the hallway, you can wait in the lounge, where you can have a cup of coffee. I’m so sorry. Is there anything else I can do for you?”
As she walked away, I could have slapped myself in the face. If there is anything I have learned this past year from working with kids with special needs, then it is that there is always more then what you can see at first sight. My first rule is: whenever there’s an extreme, look beyond the behavior. There’s always a reason for the behavior. No one yells for no reason. No kid acts out for no reason. At my work when I react to the behavior, I miss out on the real reason behind the behavior. I miss out on a chance to really connect.
I have used this technique a lot in my work. When a kid starts throwing things in anger, I can give a lecture about not throwing things and give a consequence. But I can also start a conversation by saying: ‘I can see that you are really angry,” and find out what the real issue is.
Most of the time I find out that the angry child is feeling sick, had a difficult morning or is feeling anxious about something. Addressing the real issue always deescalates the situation quickly.
I have also tried this technique at home. Whenever my youngest is whiney and starts yelling for no apparent reason, instead of reprimanding her or correcting her behavior, I stop and think a moment and then I address or investigate the situation. I take her by the hand and look her in the eye. “Are you hungry? Shall I make you something to eat?”, “Did you have a rough day? Do you want a hug?”, “You are tired, aren’t you? Do you want to sit on the couch, can I get you a blanket? Shall I make you a cup of tea?”
I haven’t perfected this technique, at least not at home. I have found that at home it is harder to control my emotions. When one of my kids starts acting extreme, my first instinct is still to correct the behavior or to step in and join the madness. At work it is easier. I can take a step back and think before I react. But I am getting better at this every day. The situation in the hospital has taught me that adults are no different from children in this area. Instead of getting angry, I could have reacted with patience. I could have been more apprehensive. In hindsight, I realize that I did notice that her cheeks were flushed. I heard her say that she was doing her best to fix the situation. I should have looked beyond her behavior.
When I look at the world around me this way, I find that I am so much more understanding, so much more forgiving for people around me. This is why I am sharing this with you today. Because we could all use a bit more understanding, right? The next time your child, spouse, neighbor or coworker starts yelling or overreacts for no apparent reason, don’t join the madness. Take a step back, think, make eye contact or make physical contact and address the situation, investigate.
I guarantee you, you will witness a tiny miracle.
Do you think you can use this technique? Have you ever been in a situation where there was more behind someone’s behavior than you thought at first?
This is an original post for World Moms Network written by Mirjam in the Netherlands
When my husband and I got married over 16 years ago, we had very little belongings. What little savings we had, we spent on the wedding and on buying paint for our new home.
We had no furniture, not even a bed.
Any help we were offered by friends and family was refused by us. We knew exactly what furniture we wanted and saved every penny to buy furniture piece by piece. We made numerous trips to Ikea just to fantasize about how our house would look like furnished. We went to work and cooked a meal together and ate it while we sat on the kitchen counter or on the floor. Life was uncomplicated in those days. If I had to make a list of my possessions back then, it would have probably fit on one page. And I am not sure if that page would have been full.
With every year that passed my house started filling up with things: furniture, tableware, linen, and baby furniture, toys.
More and more stuff came in through the door: clothes, kitchen supplies, books, videogames.
Suddenly my house was full and my life had become complicated. Some of my days felt like an endless list of chores, schedules, and mostly decluttering. I felt suffocated by the amount of things I owned. I started longing for the simplicity of those first days when my life (and my house) wasn’t filled with so much stuff.
It wouldn’t have been a problem if I hadn’t had such a hard time with throwing things away. Many of the things I owned held memories for me. I can go through my things and tell you a story about every item. About the way I felt when I purchased it, I can tell you who gave it to me or why I desperately wanted to have it. My memory is selective that way. I cannot say exactly in what year I graduated, but ask me about any toy my kids have and I can tell you exactly where or who they got it from.
It was little over a year that I took a good look around and decided I wanted a change. At first I started clearing out and organizing my closets. After a while I started throwing out more and more things. With every closet I cleaned out, with every bag of clutter that left the house, I felt happier and lighter. Since then I have devoted myself to simplifying my life.
On Pinterest, where I spend more time than is probably considered healthy, I discovered that my new found strife for simplicity actually has a name: minimalism. I now know that minimalism is about far more than having less things. Minimalism for me is the art of letting go. Being content with living in the here and now not clinging to the past or hasting your way on to the future. Minimalism is embracing simplicity in its purest form. Pausing, breathing and enjoying the essentials. And surrounding oneself with nothing more than that. After all we should carry our memories with us, there is no use on stacking them ten feet high on shelves in boxes that we never look in. Minimalism is about trust, about not having to be prepared for every little thing, not having to keep everything because you might need that one item one day in the future.
I have been trying to convert myself from a compulsive hoarder to a content minimalist for over a year now. I have a long way and many stacks of clutter to go but I will get there. I even have a name for this journey. I named it: Project Simplify and it is definitely to be continued.
Tell me your thoughts: What is your experience with clutter? Do you have difficulties with throwing things away?
This is an original post for World Mom’s Network by Mirjam from the Netherlands.
I write this in response to the recent terrorist attacks in Belgium on March 22th.
When I came home from work on Tuesday, I turned on the news and watched chaos and destruction. I am not particularly partial to watching the news, but this hit really close to home. I watched in shock and horror, not completely able to grasp exactly what I was watching.
Privileged as I have been most of my life, this kind of violence and terrorism are things that I watch on television or read about in the newspapers.
As my kids walked in, I felt a strong need to give them some sort of explanation or assurance that they were safe. I couldn’t. I was at a loss for words at that moment.
“Terrorists fight a war against unarmed women, children and elders,” I said. “They fight innocent people instead of playing by the rules and fighting against soldiers. That is what’s so wrong about terrorism. These victims had nothing to do with any war whatsoever. There were just living their lives.”
The news reporter switched to his colleagues in Beirut.
“What are the responses there?” he asked.
“People are shocked and appalled,” the reporter answered. “Although there are some who are happy that ISIS has been able to strike one of their enemies.”
I for one couldn’t understand why that was being reported hours after the attack. I can only imagine what it would feel like to lose a loved one to terrorism and to hear that people are cheering about it.
It was another hate seed being planted.
But sometimes my heart is flooded with fear and my mind worries about the future. It is not the terrorist attacks that scare me the most. What scares me the most is the growing intolerance against Muslims, refugees, and foreigners in Europe.
I see that hatred is growing, and bitter seeds of hate are being planted, watered, and rooted. My response is to double my efforts in teaching my children compassion, kindness and tolerance toward others. I realize that my reactions, my responses to these violent acts, will teach them how to respond to hate. So I refuse to be overwhelmed by fear or hatred. I grab onto hope and hold it tight.
On Friday, it was reported that in Brussels, people were writing messages of love and solidarity on the streets. The simple gesture of people writing with colored chalk warmed my heart.
Because if we are able turn to love instead of hatred, the terrorists haven’t won.
My heart goes out to the people affected by this tragedy.
“Hope is being able to see that there is light in spite of all the darkness.”
– Desmond Tutu –
How do you hold onto hope in the wake of terrorism? How do you talk to your children about it?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Mirjam of the Netherlands. Picture credit: Christine Organ.
I used to visit the library every chance I had. It was my favorite place in the world. I loved its quiet atmosphere, the air thick and warm with stories, knowledge, wisdom, all ready to be discovered in hundreds of books.
And oh, the smell. I loved walking through those endless-looking shelves filled with books waiting to be read. I was a fast reader, and devoured books as if I was a hungry predator. I was always looking for a new book to read.
The selection of books was a meticulous process. I’d browse through the youth section of the library, searching for the perfect choice. I would take a book out and put it back, carefully study book covers and read the information on the back. I was very picky about the cover. The cover had to be pretty. If I wasn’t feeling it, I wasn’t reading it. If I didn’t like the cover, I wouldn’t even flip the book over to read the back. I was never going to read an ugly book.
The downside to being a fast reader and a picky book picker was that after a few months there were no more books to read.
No books with pretty book covers that is. Hesitantly I started perusing the youth section again, this time going for second best. I read Roald Dahl’s The Giant Peach, the one Roald Dahl book I had neglected to read because I didn’t like the cover.
I vividly remember how much fun I had reading that book. After that, I discovered one surprising book after another. They all revealed content that I never would have guessed from looking at the cover alone.
One day I read The Blooming Mimosa Tree by Gerda van Cleemput. For months I had kept putting the book back on the shelf because of its hideous cover. When I finally read it, it blew me away. The book told the life story of Helen Keller. I was intrigued and found my first real hero. I cried with her disappointments, cheered with her victories. When I had to walk down the stairs I closed my eyes and tried to find my way in the dark. I sat on my bed trying to imagine the sweet smell of mimosa flowers.
The book left a huge impression on me. It taught me the meaning of the word “perseverance”.
Yes, I learned a valuable lesson at that young age. I am wired to react to visuals, and I’m naturally drawn to pretty things. I guess we all are to some extent. We let our eyes guide us and motivate who or what to choose and how to judge. And by doing so we miss out on inspiring people, fabulous places and great experiences.
So say hello to that other mother who is not your kind of person. Give your best smile to that teenage girl covered in face piercings. Offer coffee to the eccentric old man across the street or offer to help that foreign family with their different manners and clothing. You may find a hidden treasure on the inside.
These days I’m still a little flaky when it comes to picking out books, and I’m still oversensitive to pretty book covers. When choosing a book I touch it, smell it, read the back, open up the book and read a few lines.
But I never ever judge a book by it’s cover. Because beauty isn’t always visible from the outside.
Are you tempted to judge people (or books) by the way they look? Tell me about the hidden treasures you have discovered when you ignored whatever it was that your eyes tried to tell you.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Mirjam of the Netherlands. Photo credit: Entressen kirjasto. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
My life is busy.
I get up in the morning and get myself ready before I wake up the kids. My oldest kid is sweet and cooperative in the morning. He just gets up and does his thing.
I wake up my middle kid. Up and down the stairs I walk, greeting my youngest with a smile and waking up my middle child, again.
I check on my son who’s on his way down for breakfast and have my daily discussion with my young fashion queen. Then I wake up my middle child. In between giving instructions, brushing teeth and combing hair I tidy up and load the washing machine.
Then I wake up my middle child.
By this time my waking her up is accompanied by a series of serious threats. Usually that does the trick.
Lunches are packed and I make sure the kids eat before rushing them out the door on their way to school.
As I drive back home after the last drop off, my hand reaches for the radio.
Daily. Same button, same action, same feeling.
My life consists of routines and familiarities.
Hours turn into days, days turn into weeks, into months, into years.
Little things shift and change. I don’t have to buckle up my kids in the car, they do it themselves, I no longer pick out all the clothes. If they want a drink they pour it themselves.
It is almost impossible to imagine, but one day I will miss these routines.
I have to remind myself frequently not to take them for granted.
And I have to force myself every now and then to pause, look my kids in the eye and not rush by them on my way to the next chore.
What I have right here and now is amazing.
But because it is here every single day, I tend to forget.
My days are so busy with tasks that they go by far too quickly.
And ever since I started working outside of the house more,
it seems the pace of my life has doubled in speed.
I start my week on Monday and before I can even blink it’s already Friday.
So when I’m folding laundry I pause to look at my kids.
When I’m cooking, I take a second to stop and smile at them.
If I walk past my kids I take a moment to hug or kiss them on the forehead.
And after dinner we dance, I always have time to do silly dances with my kids. Because how ever fast my life goes by, I do have the power to pause it in those little moments.
Do you take time to pause?
How do you make sure life doesn’t pass you by too quickly?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our mom of three in the Netherlands, Mirjam.
The photo used in this post is attributed to McKay Svage. It holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.