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The very Best Alternative to Giving That Guy the Finger

March 12, 2015 in Blog, Conversations with Isobel

When I was … I don’t know, twenty or so, a friend told me that I wore a terribly angry expression when driving. It’s been a whole lot of years and I still think about that. What you have to understand is that I learned to drive between Chicago, IL and New Haven, CT. Well, most of the mechanics around starting the car and using the clutch and parallel parking happened in the Southern New England Telephone (SNET) parking lot in West Haven, but the actual driving learning that comes from negotiating traffic and stuff like that happened between the ages of 12 and 16 on cross country trips with my dad between Chicago and New Haven. Following that, my early solo experience was earned in those cities and surrounding suburbs. The general mood among drivers there is basically low grade anger. I didn’t notice that I’d taken on that resting expression until my friend mentioned it that one day and once you know, it’s hard not to know. As a result, if I’ve been driving alone in the car for a while I’ve been known to freeze my expression and check it out in the mirror. It has changed with much practice and now I tend to look at other people’s expressions instead.

road-rage[1]So there’s a T intersection by our house that provides ample opportunity to display geographic specific driving style. Yankees such as myself tend to mosey on up the side of the road that aligns with the turn we are about to make. So if I’m making a right, I’ll likely creep up that side, edging right next to a car making a left, even if it means getting a few tire marks on the grassy shoulder. If I’m making a left I’ll hug the center (so as to leave room for someone behind me to make a right) of the lane but stop forward enough to be able to clearly see traffic coming from either direction. Southerners, on the other hand, tend to like to use the whole road. (In their defense, it IS a one lane road). I’ve also noticed that they like a wide radius when turning. So when someone is turning left into the street I’m getting ready to turn left off of, it’s not uncommon for our cars to come really close to each other, giving us the opportunity to get a real clear look at each other. A very familiar angry driver face was usually looking at me from the other car. But here’s the thing, if the other guy would just wait till he was actually in the intersection to start the turn (you know – to get closer to a 90 degree turn) then we’d all have plenty of room, so you can understand why my angry driver face would also tend to make an appearance. Angry driver, meet angry driver. On more than one occasion the single finger salute was in order.

And then one day, on our way to wherever we were going, Isobel, who was in the back seat, said “why does that guy look so angry?” Hmm. Innocent bystander, welcome to our party.

Recognizing this as a learnable moment, I took stock of the situation and decided to make a change.  If someone gives me an angry glare and I return with my angry glare, what would happen if I gave them a contrite smile? I’ll tell you what happens, they usually smile back. If not a full on smile, at least it broke the glare.

Soon, Isobel started to notice that most of the drivers making that turn looked a little cranky, regardless of how far I had pulled up.  They just had resting grouchy face.  Many were on the phone. We started experimenting with the faces we could make.  Pleasantly content – this felt nice but didn’t really pack a punch.  The I-Know-Something-You-Don’t look sometimes gets a little rubber neck action.  But what really seems to get a rise out of people is the simply perfect lovingly happy face. Everyone who sees that one tends to take a pause and get a little grin themselves.  It’s like they’re asking themselves, how do I want to spend this moment here? Anger is contagious. But so is joy. But what’s great is you get to pick your infection.

Pro Tip

March 4, 2015 in Blog

Don’t give your kids plastic light saber shaped chopsticks to use for the first time at breakfast on a school day.

34 Hilarious Photos Of Kids Losing It Over NOTHING. – Dose – Your Daily Dose of Amazing

October 8, 2014 in Blog

34 Hilarious Photos Of Kids Losing It Over NOTHING. – Dose – Your Daily Dose of Amazing.

I admit, this made me giggle too.  If you can totally relate but haven’t yet read about Resiliency as it relates to parent coaching you should read this first to get your chuckles in and then read about how we support people (and children) through these breakdowns on izande… Hint – it’s totally ok to not agree with the legitimacy of the meltdown.  That’s not what they were looking for anyway.

Eli’s view.

May 22, 2014 in Blog

Eli, my three year old, was experimenting today with making marks on his skin with his body. He made a hard fist and admired the way his nails made crescent moons in the palm of his hand. But minutes later, when we were in the car, he was disappointed to see that the mark had disappeared. He asked me how to make a mark that would last and we talked about scars. “What’s a scar?” He asked.

“Like these,” I turned as much as I could towards him and pointed to the scars above my lips. I have a bilateral cleft and after more than a dozen surgeries what I’m left with are two little lines from my nose to my lips, scar tissue, and some other atypical shapes, and lack of symmetry. But of course, Eli said, “what scars? I don’t see anything.”

He’s known me his whole life so you’d think he would’ve noticed this by now. But when a baby, a toddler, a young child looks at the face of his or her mother for the first time, he isn’t looking at all the things that make her atypical, substandard, less than, imperfect, unusual… He isn’t looking with comparison at all. He is simply looking at the face of unyielding, unconditional, whole and complete love. And that’s pretty much all he sees right up to those teen or preteen years… the awkward years… when we exchange innocence and wonder with judgment and comparison. Interestingly, we tend to practice the act of comparison with ourselves before we start doing it with others.

Eli often likes to tell me he thinks I’m beautiful. Like an angel in disguise (from the “what does the fox say” song). He often sits on my lap, facing me, gently stroking my cheek with his hand and whispering that he loves me, all the while staring at me as though he is memorizing every curve (not measuring the depth of my age lines). Physical touch is very much his love language. Such a dude, my Eli.

But what I realize from this is in my continued conscious effort to practice loving my body, I learned two things today:
1- Through the mindful attention to this practice, I notice teachers and sons and possibilities to grow my learning are everywhere, provided I’m
looking.
2- It can be helpful to look at myself through the eyes of my children in the wisdom of their youth. When I do, I’ll look for what is, without seeking context or comparison. The reveal is totally worth it.

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Loving the “during” – unconditionally

May 16, 2014 in Blog

20140517-104501.jpgCaught this link on HuffPo today…  This Woman Wants To Change How All Of Us See Our Bodies.

This was really meaningful to me today. I was benched from exercise two weeks ago because of risks that presented in my 12th week of pregnancy. Since then I’ve been struggling with anxiety around what is happening to my body. Will people wonder if I’ve let myself go (again)? I’m letting it rob me of the joy of growing a healthy baby. This post reminded me that my body and my baby need me to love myself where I am today, for taking care of my and my baby’s needs. Easy to say, harder to embody. But of course saying it may be my first step to feeling it; to being it.

I do feel a little like a hypocrite.  I walk around espousing the virtue of loving our bodies and who we are in our bodies, but I didn’t start doing this until I had lost nearly 40 lbs and could clean and press a solid oak bunk bed.  My body wasn’t perfect.  I had stretch marks.  I had a rice pouch.  My breasts are too big for my frame and creates fat rolls in weird places.  But I walked around saying, these are the breasts that nursed my babies.  These stretch marks provided them safety.  This body creates life. And did I mention the bunk bed?

Even though, twice, this body did not create.  And both times it didn’t I did not, in that moment, love my body.  Particularly when my second baby died in my uterus, I was furious with my body for tricking me into thinking I was healthy and strong.  I wanted to punish it.  I don’t know if I did.  But I remember wanting to.

And a few months ago when I found myself pregnant, for the fifth (and final) time, I grabbed my Running while Pregnant book and started flipping through the pages trying to figure out what deals I had to make, how much work I’d need to put in, where the threshold was between keeping my body as strong as I’d worked it to be, and keeping this baby healthy.  I felt guilty that I was willing to find that line so I could walk right up to it.

So when two weeks ago, the bleeding started, and I thought for certain that my body failed my family once again I started to hate it.  Again. And when it turned out to be fine, that the baby was fine, that it was no big deal… but that I was not allowed to run for a few weeks or go to cycle class… I started dealing with the doctor.  What about jogging? So that’s no on Body Combat? I almost didn’t even ask about the three days a week I did Body Pump.  My husband did.

For two weeks I’ve been feeling guilty about missing my workouts.  But I also realize that I feel terrified that I won’t be one of those women who is back at the gym 3 weeks post partum.  It takes me a while to establish a new routine with a newborn and the older kids.  It’s taxing.  I get tired.  I’m old.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to get my body back.  And I don’t want to sit and hate my body while I’m doing it.

So I start now.  Today.  This moment.  Remembering, re-iterating, that to love my body means to love it without condition.  Not because of or in spite of what it has done for me.  But to love it and to want to care for it in the best way I see fit.  Remembering to love my body unconditionally means to sit proudly, no hiding.  Feed it well.  Take pictures of it.  And laugh.  My body LOVES to laugh.  Love my body not for the before picture or the after picture, but for the now picture.  The during picture.  The – here, while I’m living, I’m loving – picture.  That’s what I’ll be working on.

Hope > Disappointment

May 16, 2014 in Blog, Conversations with Isobel

hope

 

I am pregnant. I’m still waiting for it to be considered acceptable to tell people. There are social norms to consider here, specifically, that one is supposed to wait until the pregnancy is deemed “viable” to start telling people. Having experienced two miscarriages, I get that. You know, you don’t want to tell a bunch of people who then tell a bunch of people who you later have to face and explain that the baby died. I find this a bit difficult, because really, the same people who would be in my network to celebrate my news would also be in my network to support my loss. Right? Yes – and, good news travels fast. Sometimes faster than bad. And the only thing worse than listening to a friend of a friend of a friend try to cover over the misstep of congratulating you by telling her personal story of loss, while you’re still experiencing it, is staring at the blank faces of people who you know know, but don’t really want to talk about it out loud, so they just stare. Blankly. It’s not their fault. I suspect I do it too.

So then – who is in the tiny trusted network of people I can tell? Well, obviously my husband. I texted him a picture of the stick I peed on two minutes post pee. It was our anniversary. I’m pretty sure I rock at anniversary surprises. I told my doctor and my NFP practitioner. I told a fitness instructor at my gym. And that was about it for a while. I don’t get morning sickness so that hasn’t been terribly obvious. But I have been tired. And bloated. And sore. And eventually, my daughter Isobel got curious about those things. She just turned seven. The last miscarriage was a year ago, right after her sixth birthday. I hadn’t told her about that pregnancy at all and I have felt guilty about not having done so, and not giving her the opportunity to grieve for the loss of her baby brother or sister. (I didn’t feel guilty about not telling my son, who was only two at the time. I do feel guilty about not feeling the same way in both cases; guilt is complex). So I did eventually tell her, months later, and she cried and held on to me. Honestly, I think she was the only person who cared as much as I did. Maybe that’s why when she asked me why I was so tired, I decided to just go ahead and tell her.

She wasn’t looking at me at the time. She was staring at the television. But I saw her mouth start to curl up into a smile and then she slowly turned towards me so I could explain to her that she shouldn’t tell her friends yet because we don’t yet know if it was going to be ok. “If the baby will survive you mean?” She asked.

“Yes. If the baby will survive.” She asked when we’d know and I said I couldn’t give her a date but I would let her know every time I learned something new. “Does Daddy know?” I thought it was cute that she thought I’d tell her before him. I suddenly wondered if that would really have been so wrong…

She went silent about it for a few days. I thought maybe she had forgotten or just didn’t care so I didn’t mention anything. Then the other day, in a rather nonchalant, totally random way, she asked how big the baby was.

“Tiny. You probably couldn’t even see it.”

“When will it be the size of…. Like a grape?”

“Well, if things go ok, maybe a month? I’m not really sure.”

“When will you know if it’s a boy or a girl. Do you have a name picked out?”

“I try not to think about names yet. I would like to know that everything’s ok first. But I was thinking maybe this time we won’t find out if it’s a boy or a girl until it’s born. What do you think?”

“I still want a baby sister. Well, another brother is ok too. I guess it doesn’t matter to me.”

And then someone walked in and she stopped talking. We got in the car to go to school and she asked me again, “How small is tiny?”

“I don’t know. Maybe like a seed.”

“Like a pumpkin seed or a tomato seed? Tomato seeds are a lot smaller.”

“You didn’t talk about it for a while. Now you have a ton of questions. What’s different?” I was getting a little suspicious about the sudden burst of curiosity. “Did you tell your friends?”

“No.”

“Because if you did, I just want to know so it won’t be a surprise if your friend’s mom asks me.”

“I didn’t tell anyone. But Daddy. He said not to tell Eli because he can’t keep a secret.”

“True.”

“You know what name I like?”

“What?”

“Ahnna.”

“Is that from Frozen?”

“Yeah.”

“Then no.”

“Why not?”

“If the baby survives I’m not naming it after a cartoon.”

We talked about names for a while longer. I drove her to school and we were early so we had a long time to sit and chat. She was clearly getting very excited.  Isobel has a strong nurturing instinct. She is meant to be a big sister. But she also struggles with expectations. When I got pregnant with Eli, she wanted it to be twins so badly – one boy and one girl – just like her friend was having. I told her there was just one and she cried about that. Later, when I realized that she had her heart set on a little sister and I was feeling confident she was getting a brother, I spent quite a bit of time in advance of the ultrasound tech’s announcement to prep her for that disappointment. She doesn’t feel disappointment lightly. She feels it with every cell in her body. She loses herself in it – just washes away in the current. It’s hard to watch – and frankly, it is sometimes annoying. And she knows she is like that.

But that morning, she asked more questions and I felt her enthusiasm growing. I didn’t even realize I was doing it – because I was doing it as much for me as for her – but for most every “what if” question she asked, I prefaced with some form of “if the baby survives” until eventually she just said this:

“I really think that instead of saying ‘if the baby survives’ all the time, you should just talk like it will.”

Silence.

Hello wisdom bomb.

I do a lot of things wrong with my kids – I do a lot of things wrong with her. But that moment I realized just how awesome she is – listening to her measuring out a dose of my own good medicine. She reminded me, so simply and perfectly, that no matter the depth of the disappointment, for the moments where hope still lives, hope is ALWAYS the better choice.

So now every morning she asks me how big the baby is. Sunday, she decided she would like to stay the only daughter so today she asked me how big “he is.”

“It’s a boy is it?” I asked. She smiled. “Maybe a blueberry.” I answered her question. She giggled.

“When will it be raspberry-sized?” She asked

“I’m not sure. A couple of weeks.”

“One day it will be the size of a pear.” She said. And followed that up with… “Once, I had a blueberry and I put it inside of a raspberry and I ate it. It was good.” It sounded good.

The Value of Buying Local

December 4, 2013 in Blog

This weekend, I brought some out of town guests to my local runing store, the Lucky Foot to look at shoes. It’s my favorite store. And no, it isn’t cheap. Cheap isn’t what they do. So when I was asked why I’d rather spend $140 on shoes there when I can get them for less – sometimes even way less – at Dick’s… well, the answer is complicated, even though the decision to shop and buy local for me is quite simple.

The first most obvious reason to shop local is for service. Local business owners have a lot of skin in the game and as a result, they really do go the extra mile. (That’s funny – you see – because it’s a running store. Get it? Ok, well…) But it’s not just that there’s often more at stake, it’s also because there’s more passion. I buy what I need but I shop for what I want and often that’s connection – connection to people who are serving their passionate purpose in life. So yeah, maybe I “need” a new pair of running shoes, but what I want is to experience the joy of talking about running and footwear and shin splints and trails with someone who lights up talking about that.

When I’m shopping local and shopping small business, I am often speaking with the people who have the authority to make decisions that directly affect my shopping experience. Because of that, I have more power to influence the experience as well. Yeah, maybe that means I can ask for a discount because I brought my friends, or because my daughter thinks I’m fast. Honestly, I ask for discounts at big box stores more often than I do at local stores. And I’ve gotten them there. But that’s not what I mean. In local stores, if I’m talking to an owner I am probably also talking to the lead buyer, the marketer, and the social media manager. So if I pick up a pair of shoes and ask if the manufacturer invests in sustainable practices, or complies with human rights policies, or has a product (red) line… I have the opportunity to invite in a conversation in something I’m passionate about and potentially make new products available. At the big box store I can have the conversation but there’s little likelihood that I can influence actual change.

And then there’s the question of buying local. So it may indeed cost more. In the moment. But over time, I win in value. And if I can influence others to shop and buy locally, the value increases. Here’s why. Studies show the more dolalrs that are spent in locally owned businesses stay in the local community. There’s a great deal of variability, but roughly, it’s double, That is to say if 30% of the money spent at a big box store stays in the local community, 60% of the money spent at a locally owned business stays in the community. More money from big box stores funds the tax dodging c-suite who don’t even know my community exists. I don’t mean to characterize big box stores as the root of all evil. I’m just saying that largely, the people who stand to make the most profit from the dollars spent there are concerned with their community which is far removed from mine. And my community is – my kid’s school, my local volutneer fire department, my running community. These are the people that support Girls on the Run. They hand me water and high fives at races. They directly support and raise money for families, right here, in my neighborhood that are struggling. The more money that is able to support the needs of my tightly localized community, the less dependence our community has on allocations from tax dollars at the state or federal level. Will buying locally result in a reduction of local taxes? Probably not. Certainly not without a grand shift in consumer buying habits. But buying locally is about considering the entire value chain. It’s about maintaining localized decision making. It’s about empowerment. It’s about relationships. It’s about everything I care about. I get all of that for free with the purchase of a $140 pair of running shoes.

Gluten Free Eclairs

November 24, 2013 in Blog

imageDid I make (from scratch) gluten free Eclairs for breakfast? Yes. Yes, I did. I think the words you’re looking for are, “nailed it!”

Recently, Isobel discovered the joy of the Boston Cream donut. Sure, I like a boston cream donut as much as anybody, but my husband likes a Boston cream donut like nobody else. It is baked into his culture… Or fried maybe. At any rate, since he has been gluten free it hasn’t really been an option for him. But once Isobel opened the door for the craving…

I’ve made gluten free choux pastry before to make churros so I figured an eclair would probably taste pretty decent and it keeps me from having to fry more dough which is just sort of a messy pain. I followed the glutenista’s recipe and it came out great. I’m not sure what she meant in her chocolate to butter ratio.. It certainly wasn’t a one to one by weight, so maybe she meant by volume. By weight, 2 to 1 of chocolate to butter gets you the right consistency. Also the vanilla filling is way more than you need so you could double the choux if you’re in a waste not want not kind of mood. I am freezing a few assembled Eclairs and also freezing the excess filling separately so we’ll see how that keeps.

Unimaginable

May 21, 2013 in Blog

20100911-flag-half-staff-e1343053390396[1]            The US Flag caught my eye as I drove past the Honda dealership today on the way to my daughter’s school.  It’s exceptionally majestic, high in the sky, dancing in the wind.  I was wondering if and when the order would come to lower it to half mast – if that’s done for natural disasters – to signify mourning for the more than 50 people killed due to yesterday’s tornado in Oklahoma.  It seems like the flags are always at half mast these days for one tragedy or another.

            And then nearly an hour later, after dropping my daughter off, I turned the radio back on to the news and listened to stories of the tornado and my heart burst open again with sadness.  In thinking about the schools that were leveled I wondered how smart it is that I take my daughter to a school so far away that it would take so long be to get her if disaster struck – and that she’d be nearly an hour away from my son.  The thought of having to make a choice brought my stomach to turning.  I envisioned the faces of my children struck with terror, separated from me, with death screaming towards them.  It fills me with panic and unimaginable sadness to see that.  Every…  Time… I close…  My eyes…  To blink.

            And finally, as I walked into the office, I overheard some women talking by the coffee machine and the tv, tuned to the news, on the second floor.  One woman said, “I’m sorry but really, if you know it’s coming why don’t they evacuate.”  She said.  About “them.”  “They” should evacuate, and I wondered how much time is the right amount of time to evacuate?  If I’m forty five minutes from in no traffic, do I have time to reach my child and evacuate?  Or would I rely on that woman, in that school, who had her car right there in the parking lot and could have left, but she didn’t.  Because she needed to bring the children to safety.  And when the five year olds needed her, she protected their souls, shielding their bodies with hers as a car, lifted into the air by the force of nature came hurling at them.  The children are unscathed and she, remarkably, protected by the same God who threw the car, leaves the scene only injured.  If I were the mother of the child seeking shelter under that woman’s body, how grateful – simply unimaginable gratitude – would I have for the woman who could have fled but chose not to.

            The other woman replied, “or move.  I mean, how many times must your home be destroyed…” says a woman, whose home was never destroyed.  I suppose, if you’re well paid and can afford losses on your home and are free enough from roots that hold you to a location – by poverty, by memories, by duty – I suppose you would move.  Maybe you’d move here, where it’s safe and where nothing bad could ever possibly happen.  I mean – other than earthquakes or acts of terror.  Here where malice and cruelty doesn’t exist.  Here with these women who joke and trivialize at the deaths of fifty men, women, brothers, sisters, children, parents, loved ones, family pets, livelihoods, memories.  Tragedy doesn’t exist here.

            I’ve been judgmental.  And I have laughed at the expense of others and I’ve made jokes that were insensitive, untimely, or callous.  I regret that.  More now than probably any other moment in the past or in the future, when I will inevitably do it again.  Today, though… today I am filled with gratitude for what I do have and cherish and for the people who have stood in the face of peril to protect innocence and even for catty women in the break area who remind me to consider these different perspectives, so that I can be filled with unimaginable gratitude.

Learning in Flexibility

May 16, 2013 in Blog, Conversations with Isobel

            We were at that mall again – the one my daughter likes so much.  It’s an open air mall with shopping and restaurants.  But that particular day we had made a plan.  Chris was going to meet us there with Eli and Lola, the puppy we adopted a week earlier, and we were going to have dinner at Panera’s outside seating – the whole family, including Lola.  This was, from Isobel’s point of view, the pinnacle moment of dog ownership – bringing the dog to the outdoor mall.

            We hadn’t done this much with our late dog since in his old age he’d grown tired and a lot of walking was difficult on him.  But even then, Isobel would ask to bring him with us so she could take him to the doggie bakery (where she was often frightened), and look upon him with adoration as he lapped water from the dog stops.  So enamored by this idea was she that once, she convinced me to buy her a small animatronic stuffed dog that had a little remote control device tethered by leash and she thought if she could control it well enough she could bring it to the mall and people would think that she was walking a real dog.  She reveled in the conceptual double take.  Honestly, she had been fantasizing about this moment for more than a year.  It was a BIG deal… like – first kiss, big, I mean, to a six year old, who hasn’t yet developed the interest in a first kiss. 

971417_10151413752263133_1469256196_n[2]            So now we had a puppy and this seemed like a delightful idea.  The puppy needed socializing and we needed dinner.  We arrived earlier than the boys and were shopping a bit when my phone rang.  It was Chris.  His breathing was quick and heavy and his voice was flustered.  I could almost smell irritation over the phone (Indeed, I have one of the more advanced iPhones).  He said something like, “Dude.  I barely made it 3 miles away from the house and I thought I smelled something so I pulled over at the parking lot of the state park and Lola crapped in the kennel.  She stepped in it and then climbed on the sides of the kennel and.. well there’s just shit everywhere.  This isn’t going well.  I need to go home and get her in a bathtub.  Can you just go get Eli from daycare while I deal with this… shit?”  And of course I would.  I hung up and hurried towards the car with Isobel.  I honestly barely got to readying myself to tell her about the change in plans when the phone rang again.  “Dude.  In the time it took me to pull over at the park and turn around a tree fell across the road and now I need to figure out a different way to get home.  Just…  what the hell?  Anyway, I don’t think this is going to work.”  He was clearly having a bad day.  Or at least a bad 10 minutes.  And Isobel could tell. She was starting to panic.  You could see it from a thousand feet.

Isobel, aged 2, dancing at Disney's epcot

Isobel, aged 2, dancing at Disney’s epcot

            If ever you want to learn about somatic coherence – the connection between the human body’s shape and form and emotional states – look to a child.  Because where adults have spent a lifetime working on denying emotions or masking their body’s cues and practicing this intentional disconnection, often resulting in a conflict that settles in as chaos and confusion, manifesting illness and discontent… children, especially the youngest ones, are entirely pure in that coherence.  There’s no faking it for kids because it is primal.  This provides a reference point, for me, to regard all emotions, whether we decide to perceive them as good or bad (an attribute we assign later in life) as being a part of our very basic nature – it’s because they’re observable in infants.  This is how I know that dance is an integral part of expression – it is because very young children will recognize music and have a basic instinct to move rhythmically to complement it and allow the shape of their bodies to emulate the emotional response to auditory stimulus.  It is simply hard-wired into our biology, and we see this in the child who has yet to unlearn it. 

           As with Isobel, who, still in movement as we headed towards the car, started to physically crumble beside me.  Her shoulders fell forward and down, her knees weakened, her balance shifted as she placed more weight into my hand than she had when she was floating along excitedly preparing to realize her life long dream of outdoor dining with her dog.  And while her body started to sink into despair, her breathing became shallow and quick while the emotions buffeted by tears crested into a forceful wave crashing against her flushed face.  And then she cried.

           My daughter is the very definition of the Spirited Child as described by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka.  When Isobel feels something, she feels it everywhere in her body, without filter and at depths seemingly unknown by mankind.  On the one hand, for a parent, this can be really frustrating.  And annoying.  Occasionally maddening.  Frequently confounding.  Somewhat embarrassing.  You know, because it never seems to occur at convenient times.  On the other hand, it makes for a fantastic teacher because it is hard to miss the lessons when there’s nothing big enough for them to hide behind.  In this moment, on this day, I had been having an exceptionally good day.  I had been in the practice of creating a deliciously content mood of focused curiosity all day long.  I had been practicing this so that at times like these, when there was a pull to feel anger, I could, in the moment, shift myself into the desired mood of contented, focused, curiosity.  I was present, focused, powerful and in control.  And as THAT version of me, I looked at my daughter and said, “Isobel, I can see you’re very upset and disappointed.”

           “I’m just…” she stuttered”… I’m just… very.  Very.  Sad.”

           “I can see that.  What would you like to be feeling?”  I asked her.

           And she gave me the very best you-idiot look a 6 year old can muster (which is indeed quite spectacular) and said with an air of obviousness, “I just want to feel sad” and she punctuated it with another you-idiot look.

           The thing here is that THIS version of me as a parent – where I have presence of mind to be patient and both hear and listen – is not just a version of me that acts in service of my children, but this version serves me, quite possibly even more so.  There’s another version of me that just needs to get through the moment and she is pushy and impatient and impervious to learnings in her arrogance.  She is a purveyor of lessons and serves up information by the mouthful – the very loud mouthful.  And that version of mom judges the histrionic display following the ever so slight disappointment (at the shattering of a young girl’s life-long dream) as hideously embarrassing.  Thankfully, she was not invited to today’s conversation because this version of me got totally schooled by a six year old and loved it.

           And she is so right.  Sadness, like any other emotion, has the right to be honored and does not have the inherent need to be fixed.  In fact, how often have I felt insulted when I experienced and expressed an emotion of sadness or rage or fear and have been told, even from a loving voice, “don’t feel that way.”  The expression of sadness offers the gift of release and it is just as important to take the necessary time to experience it in its fullness in order to appreciate the comfort that comes with its release.  And thankfully, this version of me was present to learn that from that sad and terribly disappointed and honest version of my spirited child.

           “You are absolutely right.  I’ll let you be with your sadness.  And when you’re ready, you let me know, because I’d like to show you something that I learned earlier today, ok?”

           She carried her sadness with her all the way back to the car.  She carried it like a heavy weight into her booster seat and carefully buckled it in with her for safety.  Her tears softened and melted into her as she gazed longingly back at the patio of the restaurant where she wanted to be sitting, eating mac and cheese and feeling great pride with her pup.  And I drove on.

           A little ways down the road she broke the silence with her voice, still in vibrato, “Ok – I’m ready.”  She said. 

           “Sometimes, when change happens and we feel a little disappointed, we might want to be able to experience a little flexibility so that the change doesn’t hurt quite so badly.  Would you like to try something to help feel more flexibility?”

           “Ok.”  She answered correctly but totally devoid of heart.

           “Did you know that when we feel things inside, we feel them outside too, like in our bodies?”  (Silence).  “Well it turns out sometimes we can change how our bodies are and that can change what we feel.  Would you like to try to change into flexibility for a while?”

           “Ok.”  She answered again, completely devoid of heart.

           “What does flexible look like to you?”  I asked.  She lifted her arms up, grudgingly, and waved them up and down.  A little.  “Ok – so that’s sort of a mildly flexible robot.”  The corners of her lips turned up a touch.  “Maybe we want to get a little more wiggle in it.”  And from the front seat I tried to show her my flexibility.  She sadly mimicked.  “Maybe get a little flexibility in your elbows….  And your shoulders.  And even your neck so your head can wobble some.  Can your legs give you some flexibility?  And what about your bottom.  I know you’re stuck in a seat but we can still wiggle our bottoms right?”  And I was doing all of this (with one hand on the wheel, one eye on the road, the other glancing back at my daughter for occasional status updates.

           She was starting to giggle and laugh at my rendition of flexibility.  “I am Isobel, and I am a flexible bowl of jello.”  I said.  And she laughed.  A little.

           “I’m still sad.”

           “That’s ok.  You be whatever you need to be.  But when you feel like trying, tell yourself how flexible you are, and think about the giggly wiggly feeling you got watching me do it.  And wiggle yourself as much as you can.  And pretty soon I bet your wiggly self will start to shake off the change that made you sad and you’ll be ready to see the possibility that we will be able to get Lola to the outdoor mall one of these days.  And remember – when you see Daddy later, he is going to be all tied up in knots of frustration about how his day went.  Maybe you can show him your flexibility and his knots may loosen up too.”

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