I’m Starting with the Mom in the Mirror

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There’s a book called Mindset by Carol Dewck.  It’s becoming widely read by educators, and many parents. A friend of mine just wrote an awesome piece about it here.  The idea of cultivating a growth mindset has been popping up for me, beginning with a consultant at my boys’ school handing me the book three years ago. I put it off, being busy and all, and I think I actually over-borrowed her book by a year or something.  Oops!  So I finally read it, and the gist is that we can choose to have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.  You can change your way of thinking, and you can choose to try hard at things that aren’t easy.  Of course there is much more to it, and you should pick up that book.

This seemed like a really simple concept, and I pshawed the idea that needed to change my mindset.  Of course I had a growth mindset! My mind has had a lot of attention!  I spent my late teens and twenties working on myself, understanding how I worked, and I came pretty darn far with that, thankyouverymuch.  I needed those years for that.  My mindset was solid.  It was my kids who needed some help here, not me.

The last couple of years brought parent-teacher conferences where I heard that my boys were awesome, except they needed to learn to persevere when things didn’t come easily right away.  I would heavy sigh, internally blame it on Latefordinner, and say “I don’t know where they get that!” That’s not how I do things!  And I work on it with them.  I take them for very long hikes in the woods and make them figure out how to get back, dragging them for miles when they want to quit.  I make them do chores for screen time, teaching them new chores and following through with my rules.  I use the mantra my parents used: “You can do hard things!” I make them problem solve, forcing them to figure things out before I help them. But the desire to work hard still doesn’t seem to be ingrained in their psyche, in their mindset.

The other day Tuna got a new Transformer.  He was frustrated because it wasn’t easy, and Latefordinner wouldn’t help him.  He reminded him that he used to get frustrated when he was four (he’s almost 11 now), but now he had to big-kid-up and figure it out.  Tuna carried that thing around with him all day, working and working on it until he could transform that thing in 10 seconds.  And he did it!  He was so proud of himself.

Then he came to me and wanted ME to try it.

Asking me to do Transformers is like asking me to sew something–I might throw a tantrum and smash stuff.  I have avoided Transformers for seven years now, passing them off on Latefordinner, because I CAN’T DO THEM. I HATE doing them, and no one is going to make me!!

So I wouldn’t do it.  I actually snapped at him  and asked why he even wanted me to do it.  Did he think it was funny that I’m not mechanically inclined?  Did he want to watch me fail? No, I wouldn’t do it.  I don’t sew, and I don’t do Transformers.  I had the fixed mindset that I couldn’t do Transformers, and I refused to try something hard. I told Tuna I would not try.  Now, there are some things in life we just don’t have to do as adults–taxes, sewing, washing cars, dishes…oh wait, gotta do those. BUT, when my child came to me and wanted me to try his Transformer, it was an opportunity to teach him how to do hard things.  I stomped my foot and refused!

The whole thing didn’t sit right with me. I knew I was being hypocritical and childish. I almost blew my opportunity to model the growth mindset. …..until I realized what I was doing.  I took me a day, actually.  Once the lightbulb went off–I think it was Latefordinner’s account of telling Tuna to work hard that flipped the switch– I went to him and asked him to teach me, and to be patient with me. I explained that I really should work harder on the things that don’t come easily.

It turns out he is an excellent teacher!  And, I was a pretty good student.  Transformers are hard when you’re me.  I can do hard things.

How many other times had I unknowingly taught him not to try?  How to quit?  How to not even begin?? How many other opportunities have I blown?

mirror-on-face

The good news is that Tuna (10), Binker (6), and Squishy (3) are still young enough to catch on, and they’ll have minimal damage.  I am always brought back to the mirror in parenting.  I used to call Tuna my little mirror–he shows me the truth of who I am–he is a reflection of me.  Somewhere along the chaotic way I lost that, (I think because it’s a bit overwhelming to see three different perspectives of your own reflection, like a three-way mirror), and this has been a shining reminder to do some inward reflecting.  It’s the same concept as putting on your own oxygen mask first before helping others–how can I grow their mindsets if I’m in denial about my own?  I’ve spent too much time projecting, not realizing that I’ve been giving away my opportunities for growth. Mindsets, like reflections, are never solid. We are never ever done growing. Who was I to think I didn’t need to change?  I really hope to hear some hard work reports at conferences this year.

This parenting gig is hard! Good thing I can do hard things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many long thoughts on why I should and shouldn’t shut up.

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I am grateful to have been raised with a healthy understanding of humility and grace. Today I have learned that I have only begun to understand what it means.

My church holds a summer Peace Camp every year, and this year both Tuna and Binker went.  Binker became friends with a boy his age, and on the last day I was talking to his mom and another friend. We were saying that we should get them together. This boy is an only child.

I was observing the attention she was able to give him, the calm he emitted, the calm she emitted, and feeling nostalgic from when I only had Tuna.  He was an only child for four and a half years before Binker came along.  I was able to dote on him, give him all of my attention, and he….uh, never emitted calm….but, I guess maybe I did.  I did not yet know the more scattered feeling of having two, or three.  (Although, that’s a whole other topic, because actually having two or three seems to create more calm  in some ways. I mean, if one-child-me could see the way life is now, she’d FREAK OUT! Whereas three-child-me is like eh, whatever, if you’re not bleeding or broken you’re fine.  And then there’s the whole floor food thing…)

Annnywayyy,

So I was wondering how that dynamic would work on a play date–Binker as the middle, his new friend as the only. They played nicely together, so it really shouldn’t matter. My mind was letting that go, ready to exchange numbers, when her son walked up and talked to her about something. She was able to stop, talk to him with her full attention, hug, and he trotted away. Now don’t get me wrong, I talk to my boys and hug and kiss and give them what they need. The difference I noticed was in her. In not needing to then immediately switch to what another kid was doing or saying or needing.

Me, being all blabbity before the thinkity a lot of the time, said “Awe, I remember that, only having one.”

I was smiling, reminiscing, and then I felt my heart hurt when I saw her attempt to smile at my remark (I do that–feel people. It can be helpful, but it sucks a lot too.)  I didn’t understand why, but the energy shifted, and I realized that that was NOT the thing to say. She seemed uncomfortable, then I was uncomfortable, and I changed the subject.

Flip to months later. We never did set up a play date. We became facebook friends. She posted an awareness meme about baby loss–stillborn, infant death, miscarriage.

Oh.

Cue the tears, and the feeling that I never really will know anything, and that I probably should never talk ever again. And, the desire to tell her that I had a miscarriage, and how in the great Universe could I be so heartless to assume that someone has one child by choice.  One little seemingly innocent comment unearthed great grief.

I don’t know her story, but I know the pain of loss.  I don’t know anyone’s story, and I know the importance of NEVER ASSUMING ANYTHING EVER.  There is a saying: Always be kind, we don’t know what another person is going through. I can extend this with “always think and think again before you speak”.

All children are amazing miraculous blessings.  The families with six children–the ones we say are crazy–are blessed.  We don’t know why they had six children.  We can never assume to know. The families with one child–where we wonder why they were never given a sibling and will they be ok in life without one–are blessed.  We can never assume to know why they had one child.

It’s not a topic we discuss.  We whisper “I lost one too”, and that’s the extent of it.  I remember that I decided I wouldn’t do that–be quiet about it after it happened–and then I forgot I said that. Until two things happened:  Tuna and I had a conversation, and the next day I saw the meme.

“Mommy, is a baby growing inside a mom alive?” (you know, every day conversation with a 9-year-old. I have no idea where this came from.)

“Well, it develops a heart beat, and it is a big debate on whether or not a fetus is alive.  Some people believe anything with a heartbeat is alive.  Some people believe that they have to be able to breathe on their own.  Some people have other beliefs. It’s a grey area. Sometimes babies are born prematurely and they can’t breathe on their own.  Sometimes doctors can save them, sometimes they can’t.  Sometimes it’s not up to us.”

He looked really sad.

I told him I had a baby growing in me before I had him, and I lost it. He was surprised and asked his or her name. I had never given it a name, didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl, never really thought about that, and once again was blown away by the depth of conversation I have with my boy.

“So I might have had a sister.”

“Yes, maybe that was my girl.  But now I have a niece, and maybe one of you boys will have a girl and I’ll have a grand daughter.”

“You’re going to be an awesome grandma, mommy!”

“Thanks buddy.”

Since then I’ve been thinking of what I should name the baby that I miscarried. Then the meme showed up. I think I will choose a name to honor all lost babies, worthy of being honored and talked about, not to be ashamed of, not to be embarrassed about. A name to honor everyone’s choice to have 10, not have any, adopt, not name, talk, not talk about it, grieve.  how can there be such a name?

With Unity. We as grieving mothers and fathers can find peace in Unity. Unity is where we come from, and it is where we go after this.  Coming from One, returning to One. My comment may be forgiven with Unity. We all can understand it on some level.

My lost baby is named Unity, in honor of all of us. She is joined in Unity with all lost babies, and their parents are joined in Unity through their grief and healing.

As Albus Dumbeldore said, “Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.” I was afraid to name her, and now that I have, the fear of the sadness is gone. I hope her name resonates with one of you as well.

Nothing but Flowers

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Tuna and I were chatting today, and he told me that the 10-year-old neighbor boy has his ears pierced.  My reaction was surprise, a little shock, and sadly judgmental.  He said, “well, so-and-so has her ears pierced and she’s way younger”.  I said, “yeah but she’s a girl.  Well, I guess I was eight when I had my ears pierced, but I’m a girl.”

And I stopped myself.  I realized what I was saying, and how I had reacted with sexism at the forefront of my mind.  Tuna just looked at me and watched me analyze myself, all the while grinning because he knew this all along.

Such humility, and how far I still have to go.  I wonder what other prejudiced, sexist, racist, classist, _______-ist behaviors and thoughts have cemented themselves in my subconscious… Those isms are sneaky, sliding into our inauthentic selves, stifling and hardening over the truths of what really IS.

Rather than holding onto the shame I feel from this, I am choosing to realize that It’s gonna take some more jack-hammering lessons from the kiddos in my life to clear out those isms, and the simple truths underneath these isms may have room to grow and flourish again.  The Talking Heads song “Nothing But Flowers” sums it up:  “This was a shopping mall, now it’s all covered with flowers.”

We don’t need to believe that only girls can pierce their ears any more than we need that shopping mall.  Once we keep only what matters, and allow those isms to fall away, nature will prevail and we’ll all be covered with flowers, boys and girls alike.