Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Month: February 2014 (page 1 of 4)

No one puts baby in the corner

Note: I found this gem in the archives and thought I would share. It’s a few years old, so I’ve not resumed using a sitter and the eldest hasn’t magically reverted to 3 years old. 

A few weeks ago, upon arriving at pickup from the babysitter’s, H Boy darted out the door quicker than I could say hello. The sitter informed me that he had to spend some time in the corner that day for not listening and not being especially nice. While I do recognize he’s 3, I still left with a sense of failure. MY kid was being disrespectful?

Days later, as he was trying to convince me that he had acted in a way deserving of watching a movie, he dropped it that he had “Spit in Michelle’s [the babysitter] cup”. When pressed for why he would do such a thing, he told me that “she said no.” He was sent to bed without a movie. Thankfully, upon further investigation, the incident was around a toy cup, not the babysitter’s mug of coffee. A fortunate turn, as I’m simply not that prepared to take on the vileness of outright obstinate behavior .

But the experience of mothering a 3-year-old has allowed me to dip my toes into thinking about sin and the age of accountability and fallenness and grace and imperfection. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a Formula and Process girl. Nothing wins my heart like a good “If / Than” clause. And though I can cerebrally tell you that parenting doesn’t fit into that framework, you’ll still catch me trying.

While I realize perfection is slightly out of reach, it doesn’t stop me from wanting to raise good kids. And not because I feel like it would add a few credits to my Good Person account. God will love me no more (or less), no special seating privileges at the pearly gates, not even promises of earthly rewards. So I required a little soul searching for why I was completely appalled regarding the Cup Spitting Affair. Why do I want good kids? Why does anyone want good kids?

Perhaps the promise of ease plays into it. No bailing anyone out of jail or dealing with other Bad Kid ramifications like going to parent teacher conferences. Maybe I believe that good kids are less work, which appeals to my general inclination toward laziness.

Or I believe that if I raise good kids, they’ll automatically have good things happen to them. They won’t be stricken with cancer or loose their job or have rough patches in their marriages. Maybe I believe that good kids become Good People and nothing bad happens to good people. Right?

I could want good kids because I somehow believe that good kids equate to sinless kids, thus by being good, they’ll be spared the expense of pain and consequences that come with sin. And that’s just incorrect thinking.

Mostly, though, I believe I want good kids because it reflects my ability to parent, as if I’m doing something right based on their behavior. Which is absurd. I can no more control another human being than I can the weather. However, I somehow equate a cup-spitter with a poor mom.

The logic applies to hurting and hurtful people and their God. He can no more stop them from hurting others than I can keep a boy from spitting in a cup. So the pain we see in the world isn’t a reflection of God, it’s a reflection of ourselves and our inability to understand how our actions effect others. God wants more from us and does hold us to a higher standard, but short of explaining the expectations and providing a consistent and worthwhile example, what’s He to do? The “pain in the world” argument against the existence of God doesn’t hold any water with me. God isn’t failing in that department, we are.

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Parenting non-advice #2: Sleep begets sleep

Sleep begets sleep (or, the more you do it, the more you do it). It’s Infancy 101. Classic is the “don’t let him sleep too much during the day or he won’t sleep at night.” Baloney. For the wee ones, sleep is a skill that they do in rhythm. When they feel like they enjoyed an exceptionally satisfying nap, after a quick snack and change they say to themselves, “that was fantastic – let’s do it again!” Conversely, after long stretches without nappy time, it’s as if we lay them in the bed and they say, “what’s this place? I’ve never been here before. What do I do here?”

I’m finding Truth #2 even applicable through little kid stage. The 5-year-old boy rests better after a string of days with (short) naps and nights with reasonable bedtimes. Put him on a no-nap streak and add a late night, his little body can’t descend into slumber as quickly – and then the 5-year-old in him gets bored and restless and gives up. It’s not that he’s not tired – he can’t get his body and mind to match. He gets out of his sleep rhythm. Because you’ve never been wide awake at 2am, exhausted before, have you?

The key, then, is to do more of what you need. Not to save up ’til later and try to cram it all in. If I’m in a streak of not-so-great dinners, I cook a extraordinarily fantastic dinner (one of those go-to crowd pleasers) and usually my inspiration resurfaces and I find the groove.

When I can’t seem to connect with God in my 15 minutes of quiet in the morning, I get up at 5 instead to see how fulfilling that time becomes. I’ve yet to be disappointed.

Of course, there’s always a time when you take a break and step away. This is true of any routine. But far too often I think we elect this course of action over pressing in because, well, it’s easier. But what if our frustrations reflect not a need of surface-level engagement but rather digging deep? We want to throw in the towel not because it’s too hard but because it lacks meaning.

I’m notorious for hating cold pools (my ideal swim is around 98 degrees. In the sweltering sun). I typically put my feet in, one-by-one, descending the ladder slowly, carefully and quite typically, loudly. I’m not known for suffering silently. But if I’m after a good swim, why would I want to stay on top of the water? My true-swimmer friends know it’s far more effective to dive in and adjust to the temperature quickly.

The wetter you are, the wetter you will be.

The happier you are, the happier you will be.

The more rested you are, the more rested you will be.

The more you do it, the more you will do it.

Which brings me to the tie of the two pieces of non-advice. When I habitually feel good and love simply and forgive easily and calm my mind frequently – the more I will do it. It can be like jumping into a cold pool to give up my quick temper or snappy remarks, but after a while I’m swimming laps more gracefully.

So, there you have it. My bits of parenting advice, boiled down to you. You pass on to your kids the way you interpret the world – do so intentionally. The more you do it, the more you’ll do it.

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Parenting non-advice

In my meager 5ish years of parenting, I’ve reduced everything  to 2 basic ideas could help me be the world’s best mom if I would listen to my own non-advice. Both are counter-intuitive (and at their root, they are the exact same thing).These gems were handed to me and if I were Hallmark, I’d put them on the back of every baby shower card I sold.

1. They feel what you feel.

2. Sleep begets sleep. (More about this another day).

My kids know when I’m rushed, when I’m frustrated, when I just want some time alone – and they won’t let me wallow in it. During the moments I’m at my wits end, it’s because they’re at their wits end. I’m pushing them away and they feel the shrug – and grab tightly at my attention.

When I’m happy-go-lucky, no-sense-crying-over-spilled-almond-milk? They are too. They roll with the punches. They feel what you feel.

This is why the morning rush when you feel frantic seems to go even more disastrously. The kids feel the impending deadline and buckle under the pressure. Yet when I nonchalantly ask them to suit up as if we have all day, they react with less laces that “won’t tie” and zippers that “won’t pull.” By feeling relaxed, I’ve enabled them to feel relaxed.

This, I hypothesize, is why babies sleep so fabulously in our beds. When we’re sleeping and feeling the benefits of relaxation, baby does too. I think this is truest at their littlest and as they grow they begin to feel and emote from their own wells rather than from ours – but at the moment, our hearts are on loan.

Though I would love if the kids would simply own up to their end of the arrangement, we the parents probably need to take our cues from Ghandi and be the change we want to see in the world home. If there needs to be less yelling, I should probably stop yelling. If there needs to be less rush, I should probably take my time. And by allowing myself to feel all of these feels, I give the gift of my children feeling them, too. 

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