This (Imperfect) Moment is Enough

In A House for Hope, Rebecca Parker writes the first chapter, “The Holy Ground,” and discusses the topic of paradise as religions view it, especially how liberal religious communities have viewed it as the earth now  with the possibility for it being what we want, having love and compassion incorporated into the paradise we can create here rather than paradise being completely separate from earthly, mortal existence.

If that sounds too heavy, I’m not expecting you to go read the chapter (though it’s only about 15 pages long and currently* available through Google books if you are interested in reading it).

Rather, the concept of being comfortable with where we are in this moment is worth highlighting. My life is not as I want it to be. I accept that. I want more. And, I can keep reaching for more. But, in this moment, I can find peace with where I am, what I have here, and make the most of it.

This is enough.

The following excerpt from the book may illustrate the idea. The author is on a bus touring a national park and speaking to one of the other travelers, who fosters kids and who acknowledges the heartbreak and brokenness of that work.

He asked what book topic I was working on now, and I answered, “Paradise.”

“Paradise,” he mused, and looked out the window of the bus for a few moments at the bright sky, the deep green pine forests, the alpine meadows coming into view, and rising above them, the sharp peaks of the Minarets.

“Do you mean ‘paradise’ like where we are right now?”

“Yes,” I said. “Like where we are right now.”

We both gazed out the window for a few moments, breathing the pungent fresh air.

“This is enough,” he said.

“You know that because you help kids,” I said.

A cloud of thoughtfulness passed over his face.

“Yes,” he replied, “that’s right.”

We come to know this world as paradise when our hearts and souls are reborn through the arduous and tender task of living rightly with one another and the earth. Generosity and mutual care are the pathways into knowing that paradise is here and now. This way of life is not utopian. It does not spring from the imagination of a better world. It brings hope home to today, to this moment and its possibilities for faithful love.

The author and her fellow traveler are not naive; they’ve experienced much in the world, including the heartbreak it has to offer. But, they accept the imperfection, strive for closer to perfection, and accept the moment for what it is.

I find a meditative peace in that. Now is enough. Where we are now is okay for this moment. In another moment we will be somewhere else, and so the world turns.

Repeat after me…

This is not where I want to ultimately be. I am working towards something better, always reaching. This is a step along the path, and the journey is worthwhile.

I am not perfect, and that is okay. I work to improve life for myself and those around me. I have value even in my imperfect state.

This moment is enough.

 

Further Reading

A house for hope*As of September 24, 2016, Chapter 1 of A House for Hope, which I reference here, is fully available here through Google books.

Winter, Eyal. “Why is it Hard to Live for the Moment.” Psychology Today. 19 Sept. 2016

Review: Between Parent and Child by Dr. Haim G. Ginott

I highly recommend Between Parent and Child by Dr. Ginott. It’s a 5-star book with a lot of wonderful advice written in a very readable way.

Within about 200 pages, Dr. Ginott presents some wonderful advice for parents that advocates a way of simply engaging respectfully that honors the end results that the parents want and need without diminishing the emotional state of the child.

Parents set the tone of the home. Their response to every problem determines whether it will be escalated or deescalated. Thus, parents need to discard a language of rejection and learn a language of acceptance… It’s a language that is protective of feelings, not critical of behavior. – p.193

The goal of the book is to improve communication between adults and children so that there are fewer conflicts and issues in the child’s development. Children definitely think a little differently (severe understatement) from adults, so part of his message is just unraveling where the child is coming from.

I don’t think any of the recommendations in the book will be insulting or objectionable to any parent. They do require us, though, to pause, think ahead, and change our thinking a bit from having an immediate reaction that tries to fix the situation to just listening to the emotion behind the child’s reaction or words. The short version of his advice on discipline captures the philosophy in a way that if held in the mind later, the parent could apply it to any needed situation:

Discipline: permissive of feelings but strict with behavior. -p.196.

The recommendations in the book are applicable to adults as well, in my opinion. I work at a technology company with some engineering folks who tend to come at situations and just assess the data rather than the people involved. I kind of want to get this book for several of them… Might make them better managers and leaders.

The advice that I will personally find a bit difficult to follow is likely to relate to providing too much information and being too wordy sometimes in ways that may be not only unhelpful but potentially negative.

Unwittingly, parents may create guilt in children by being wordy and giving unnecessary explanations. – p. 168

A short example follows in which a young boy takes a hat from a teacher who recently returned to school from a prolonged illness. When the parent tried to have the child return the hat, her prolonged explanation provided irrelevant information that could lead the child to believe that he was responsible for the teacher’s illness, etc. Being succinct, “Bring the hat back,” might have been better; it was sufficient for resolving the situation without complicating it.

This book made me meditate on my own parenting in a wonderful way. It didn’t criticize the mistakes that I’ve made or am destined to make in the future; instead, it gave me a roadmap for how to be a better parent in the future. I will be keeping a copy of this on my bookshelves and revisit it periodically.

Further Reading

Indulging in the Ridiculous

Thanks to ItsWolfeh https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Romeo_Being_Silly.jpg
It’s fun to be ridiculous sometimes. Thanks to ItsWolfeh https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Romeo_Being_Silly.jpg

Parents have a great advantage over non-parents in that we get to be absolutely ridiculous without as much judgment.

I want to swing at the park? I get to! I just have my daughter with me and I’m no longer labeled “that weird, crazy lady on the swings again.” Score.

At work, I often get tense because I have to be serious, playing politics, and guarding what I say all day. That’s stressful. When I get home with my daughter, there is a release of tension in allowing myself to join her play as an active participant rather than a babysitting observer.

Playing with children isn’t always work. It’s fun. It releases stress and lets you enjoy life. It seems like sometimes society tells us that everything is work, that everything adults do has to be for a financially rewarding purpose. Sometimes, though, it’s only work if you make it work , if you take the joy out of it or don’t immerse yourself in the positive aspects that could otherwise make it more like play.

Release the ridiculous! Strut your silliness. Flaunt your funny.

Get on that swing. Pretend to have an invisible bear who’s cranky but who would feel much better if he gets a sandwich (yeah, that happened last weekend). Let your kid bounce on your stomach while you act like you’re getting squished (good ab workout btw). Build a fort.

Be present in the play, not just observing that the kid doesn’t kill himself, and you might find that it’s a great mental relief for you as well. Then when the kid is in bed you can return to all serious adulthood. Bah humbug.

 

Keep Reading

Encourage further ridiculousness with silly poetry by these fantastic folks:

Roald Dahl – Hopefully you’re semi-familiar with his novels, but he also wrote some hilarious poems, including “The Crocodile”. More are easily found online.

Shel Silverstein – He’s just classic. I personally find his poems a bit dark, but a lot of kids like him. His collections can be found online and book sales quite often for very cheap.

Jeff Foxworthy – I was pleasantly impressed with his book Silly Street: selected poems. My daughter took to the book at bedtime quite well and loved the images. The poems themselves were fine, not great literary masterpieces, but did challenge her to think in a bit of a different way about her world and engage in the silly.

Jack Prelutsky – Maybe not someone you’ve heard of. Check out a selection of his poems here for flavor and check out your local library if you enjoy them.

“Power is Mine!” – The Autonomy Granted in Having a CD Player

This week I did something to grant my daughter more power and autonomy over her play. I don’t think I’ll regret it…

Miss Ella's Playhouse CDI remember how much I loved being able to play cassettes with stories and songs as a kid, especially around bedtime, so I bought my daughter a cheap CD player. We already had a few CDs, including Miss Ella’s Playhouse.

I set up the CD player and showed her how to put the discs in and operate the controls. She got big eyes and a happy grin. Now she can start and stop her own dance parties whenever she likes.

While she does like the music itself, I think it may be the power that came along with this that she loves even more. She can turn the CD player on. She chooses what CD to play. She presses start and can change the volume. She doesn’t have to ask me or anyone else for help to make music come out of this machine. How empowering!

I’ve been watching the satisfaction she takes in being more autonomous and considering other ways to empower her. At this age, around 2.5 years old, she doesn’t need anything huge. These little abilities are great, and their importance is something I need to key in on as a conscious act in order not to deprive her of other similar opportunities.

Opportunities for her to feel more empowered and granted more responsibility and freedom:

  • Watering the plants that she helped me plant the seeds for in the flower pots on the front steps.
  • Carrying her backpack into daycare instead of me.
  • Doors: Closing the car door, opening the front door once I’ve unlocked it for her, opening the sliding doors to let the dogs in and out of the backyard.
  • Helping find her own clothes in the fresh laundry pile and taking them to her room.
  • Getting vitamins ready for the dogs’ food.
  • Choosing the cereal she wants at the grocery store.

More chances for responsibility can be empowering and show trust. Trust between me and my daughter makes us both happier. I don’t have to watch her all the time. She can entertain herself for a few minutes and choose what she does or does not do.

If you want to try something similar, I recommend getting a cheap CD player. The local library usually has CDs in the children’s area for checkout so that you can cycle in new content without having to spend anything.

 

Keep Reading

For books that focus on the main character’s autonomy and taking the situation into her or her own hands, check out these items:

It's Only Stanley by Jon Agee

It’s Only Stanley by Jon Agee – 5 stars

When his friend sends him a call for help, Stanley, the family dog does not just sit idly by. He turns the house into a spaceship and goes to the moon to rescue her! Stanley is hilarious, but I would be a bit terrified of having a real dog with this capabilities…

 

Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev – 4 stars

When the local Pet Club won’t let his pet elephant in, a boy decides to create his own club where all are welcome. Instead of getting mad, he uses the opportunity to make friends and make others feel welcome. I think this boy would grow up to make the world better, too.

 
Beekle, The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat – 5 stars

Beekle waits and waits in the land of imaginary friends for his person to imagine him. He waits so long without being imagined that he takes matters into his own hands and travels to find his person, facing unknown, strange lands along the way. But, his daring pays off, and he finds her!

Toddler Yoga. Cue Giggles.

I never thought I’d have a 2-year old daughter who loves to do yoga. There. I said it. I must seem super hipster to be encouraging my daughter to do yoga.

There’s a good reason for it: her regular gym classes were full when it was time to register a few months ago. #alarmfail

So I put her in a class at the YMCA that had a free spot: toddler yoga. She did okay with it, but then something about it seemed to stick. Maybe it was because she liked showing off tree pose, or maybe her daycare did it once in a while.

Either way, when I found a YouTube yoga series aimed at kids, I decided to give it a try.

She loves it!

Now, if you are imaging a toddler calmly and patiently flowing through poses, I scoff at your naivety. Toddlers, at least mine, isn’t that calm. If you watch some of the videos below, you may get a sense of the flow. These videos have kids going through the poses but not with the same relaxed focus that an adult may want from a yoga class.

These are very different rhythms of yoga, for adults and for kids, and that’s fine as far as I’m concerned. My daughter has a field day following these yoga adventures – yes, adventures, they follow a plot led by Jaime from Cosmic Kids.

After about 10-12 minutes, my daughter’s attention wanders, so set your expectations for a 2.5 year old to engage for maybe 10 minutes at a time.

Ideal times to try this:

  1. It’s raining outside and the wee one has a lot of energy.
  2. You just want to sit for a few daggum minutes please please please.
  3. You’re videochatting with the grandparents. This keeps the kid in one place, and it’s hilarious for the grandparents to watch.
  4. Just because.

Cosmic Kids Yoga is my daughter’s favorite yoga series so far, so maybe given it a go. Hey, if it fails, you’ve only wasted a few minutes. If it succeeds, you can laugh at your ability to say “my kid does yoga.”