Kindergarten Renaissance

Henry SkyBelow is a blog from the spring of 2012 I’m compelled to share with you again. Henry was about to turn three years old and going through his own older toddler renaissance, a very fruitful growth period after a year of awkwardly adjusting his eyes and energy to his new Seattle home and school that glowed with a very different light from his Taiwanese and Los Angeles environments. Lessons were coming at him at lightning speed and, despite a few understandable bumps, his arms and heart remained open to the challenges. The result was the beginning of new interests, a new vocabulary and new friendships he maintains today even though we’ve carried him away. His light was shining brightly in our lovely but soggy world. Eyes naturally fixed upon him like an afternoon sunbreak over the Puget Sound.

We are in another Henry renaissance. This time the catalyst came with a move in May to Central Coast California wine country and the start of kindergarten in August. The previous year was filled with uncomfortable shifts for us as people and as a family, resulting in behavioral challenges, energetic and developmental confusion, and weeks of doubt about whether we had any idea how to be parents. After an initial adjustment to the move — the strange and simultaneous expansion of living space and shrinking of our social climate — Henry is learning, interacting with and talking about his new world in exponentially more exciting ways than even two months ago. The rollercoaster ride known as parenting living is clicking quickly to the top of that second (or seventy-fifth) thrilling hill and we’re all smiling into the sunshine and beautiful view.

While I considered all of this, the below blog from a couple of years ago came to mind. As a new parent, which really wasn’t that long ago, I struggled with the shifting focus and dynamic in our family. Now, on most days, I’m the one holding the spotlight and asking what color gel he would like. That may change tomorrow, but today I share this post with gratitude for the growth we are all enjoying during this Kindergarten Renaissance. Thank you, Henry, for sharing your glow and raising us all up to new heights.

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silhouette-JumpingGreater than the sum of its parts

May 28, 2012

Anyone who’s been any sort of mother for even a day understands what I am about to say. Once these precious and adorable little beings become a part of our lives, we become less visible to the naked eye.

We are there, but somehow translucent — a way to get to the sparkly little creature we hold in our arms or who clasps our hand. It’s as if a Rachel Berry-esque bright white spotlight is constantly shining on our children and we are merely the nameless blondes in Cheerios uniforms swaying and ahh-ing in the background.

It’s not that people completely forget about us or intend to ignore us, and I know this oversight is not meant to hurt us in any way. In fact, most mothers have done it themselves. I know I have. We almost can’t help ourselves. We all are drawn to where the light shines the brightest.

This used to bother me. A lot. There are some, especially my husband Larry, who always are fascinated with my doings and beings. But socially this was is still the norm. I would pout or rant to my poor husband after conversations or dinners where well-intentioned folks would ask Larry about his work then ask me how Henry was doing, somehow never getting around to asking about me. It didn’t help that much of my professional focus is on supporting others in their creative, business and/or healing process. My days are usually spent toggling between meeting Henry’s needs – often involving loudly demanded sippy cups and making sure he knows “please don’t throw rocks at the kitchen window” actually means something – and meeting my clients’ needs and, oh yeah, my husband’s and my own needs whenever possible.

For the first few months after we adopted Henry, when we met with friends I’d enjoy everyone staring and playing and cooing over Henry for a while. As all typical parents, I firmly believe Henry is extraordinary, so how could you not stare and coo? Isn’t he sweet? Isn’t he smart? Isn’t he cute when he poops? Yes, yes he is. But after a while I’d stick in my energetic nose – or foot or hand or waving arms, whatever worked – usually answering their unrelated questions with some vague hint at an interesting anecdote from my non-Henry week. “Yes, we are going to Yo Gabba Gabba Live!, not that the tickets were easy to get. I had to go online at 9 a.m. sharp, during a conference call with a client, believe it or not…”

I did everything but strip naked and dance the Hokey Pokey. So much of my time is spent giving so much to Henry, so why does he get all the admiration? I thought. Women who spend a lot of time together adopt the same monthly cycle. Perhaps so much close proximity to Henry’s toddler maturity level was inducing mine to regress.

Over time I grew up a little and became used to it, expecting to be the mother-in-waiting and becoming genuinely surprised and grateful when someone showed interest in me. I started to understand that a big part of my job is supporting Henry (and my clients and my husband and my loved ones) no matter what, to hold him up, to help him be the center or the diagonal or the sideways or whatever he needed to be in that moment. I’ve gotten a lot of attention in my lifetime, and now it’s Henry’s turn. I accepted my role.

But until not long ago – too recent to not be a little embarrassing – did it all become crystal clear. After receiving a perfectly timed message from a beloved teacher and friend, I began to truly understand…

Being a conscious parent is exactly the same as being a conscious human being: It’s never about me. It’s not just about him. It’s always about “us.”

It’s more than not letting your ego drive the bus. It’s about knowing that when one of us shines, we all do. When we support and love each other unconditionally, it is a gift to the entire family, to humanity, to the universe.

This lovely teacher said a lot of things, but mostly she explained that we all know instinctively when someone makes us shine brighter or be “better” simply by being in our lives, by understanding intuitively what we need or by knowing exactly how to explain why we shouldn’t throw rocks at the kitchen window so we understand. Anyone who agrees to unconditionally love and nurture another is agreeing to a cycle of sharing and support that raises the level of everything we do. The result is much greater than the sum of its parts.

When Henry shines brightly, so do I. When I shine brightly, so does he. When anyone shines, it raises us all up. It heals us all. It honors us all. No one has a role to “accept.” We are a part of each other and therefore can never be made separate.

Now, I am joyful when I walk through the grocery or the halls of Henry’s school or a family event and people involuntarily look past me and down at Henry to return his infectious smile and offer an enthusiastic ‘hello.’ Now I know a part of me is in that smile, just as a part of him is in mine. We are extraordinary together.

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