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.


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.

Let the Music Play on (play on, play on): trying not to fastforward through life

goat singingMy morning hikes are filled with music. My iPod sings my favorite songs to me the entire loop of Jim Green Trail. Everything from James Taylor to Janelle Monae. I tend to be moody about what music I’m into on any given day, so I often fastforward through songs I don’t believe are speaking to me or have the right energy for that day’s walk. I hear the opening few notes, nix it and tap the arrow to move ahead to something more acceptable. It’s mine to control, so why should I have to suffer tunes that aren’t floating my boat?

Early in this morning’s hike I caught myself clicking through a string of Beatles songs. As each began I hurried them along to something else, impatient to find that diddy that sang to my heart and my soul perfectly in that very moment. I noticed because they are all songs I adore and my resistance seemed unusual. Still, I kept clicking. Four or five songs in, the perfect one still foiling me, I stopped. I let that song sing, and the next, and then I surrendered to the iPod. I decided that whatever came up for the rest of the walk I would let it play in its entirety and, in its own time, move on.

Just for fun, click here for a little Lionel Richie inspiration. Don’t forget to let the music play on, play on, play on…

Song after song played as a perfect reaction to the thoughts and memories floating through my morning self, and I laughed at the perfection of it all. As I recalled wake-up time with my son, Sting sang Something The Boy Said. As I emerged from a more wooded area to an opening near the golf course, The Beatles announced it with Here Comes the Sun. I looked at the dusty, drought-weary trail and sent out a wish for rain just as Jarle Bernhoft began Ever Since I Was a Little Kid, and suddenly I was transported to the loop trail of Seattle’s Discovery Park where I used to hike all winter through the mud and a steady drizzle and listened to that then-recent purchase.

I let the water refresh me as I watched two squirrels race up one mossy California Oak, jump across to the next and titter down its twisted trunk, taunting each other for their own squirrel-ish reasons. I took my headphones off and the rising breeze through the tree grove serenaded me as I rounded the final bend of the trail. The orchestrated bleats from the goat farm across the pasture accompanied the last few steps to my car.

I sat quietly, the iPod already on the passenger seat, as I contemplated my day. This friendly but firm reminder was so simple, and if I hadn’t let it play out, I would have missed it entirely. I drove toward home and whatever the day held, knowing I wouldn’t fastforward through those tasks I thought weren’t important or people I didn’t care to interact with. Each one arrives as a perfectly timed opportunity, an experience, a healing, a lesson that is lost if I don’t accept it with gratitude and allow it to play out naturally. If I give up control and relax into the gifts offered, the music all around me rises in a grand crescendo of energy and love that can carry me anywhere. My day, my life, is exactly how it’s supposed to be. It is beautiful music.

An offering

In my first post a couple of weeks ago I began to tell a story about our Buddha statue, one of the catalysts for starting this blog. I’m loath to leave a storyline open-ended or keep the six or seven followers I’ve gained since then (shout out!) dangling, so I guess that’s a good place to go this week…

From all windows in the back of our home we can see our new Buddha statue. It sits humbly amongst the herbs and lavender in a small bed in the back yard near where Henry plays toddler basketball, practices jumping and sets up his race car track on sunny days. We purchased the statue from a free trade store in our Seattle neighborhood of Queen Anne a month and a half ago. Larry and I looked at hundreds of sculptures of all kinds over the last few years, searching for the one that spoke to us, that had the right energy and simplicity. We knew in a moment this – calm, beautiful and still in its shipping crate from the owner’s recent trip to Bali – was the one.

For the first week I found myself seeking him out whenever I was in prime viewing rooms: the kitchen, the office/guest room and Henry’s room. We all did. At bedtime before I closed his blinds, Henry would cock his head sideways, look out at Buddha, wave and say goodnight, which these days sounds mostly like “beebee.” In the morning when we hatched our way down to the kitchen with Henry in our arms, he made sure to say a special good morning to our guardian friend. That week was chilly and wet, so we didn’t much venture out to Buddha, but his presence was felt.

The following weekend the spring sunshine favored us and the yard became the preferred play area. We always said hello to Buddha when entering his realm of the garden, but Larry and I had no regular ritual nor had ever demonstrated one in front of Henry. Then, one afternoon, in the middle of testing which car sped the fastest around the hairpin curve, Henry stopped, picked up his favorite yellow utility truck and placed it gently in Buddha’s open hand. Then he took his brand new drag racer with blue flames on its hood and offered that too. Then he turned around and continued playing.

Over that weekend he offered pebbles, rocks, flowers and more cars. He tried to balance his water bottle in the crook of the statue’s arm, but couldn’t figure it out. He pulled up his Henry-sized monkey folding chair in front of Buddha and sat for several seconds looking at him before getting up and sitting between Mama and Daddy who were watching him in wonder from the garden steps.

Even the strangest concepts seem obvious when you see them unfold so naturally before your eyes. Especially in the last several years, I’ve experienced countless things many may consider extraordinary, even impossible – all part of the package when you start to explore seeing your world more clearly — and as so many of you fellow parents can understand, parenthood has only increased the regularity and normalcy of the “bizarre.” It is so easy to take for granted what many call everyday miracles when you’re negotiating the sippy vs. big person cup conundrum or walking your child to go poopy in the potty. However, this one got our attention.

Here’s what I believe Henry was reminding us that weekend. Children We all have an innate sense, a gut instinct, a strong intuition, a clairvoyance, a memory, a higher self, a wisdom, a voice, whatever you want to call it, that allows us to just know…whatever we need to know. And most of what we know to our core is love.

Henry loves and shows respect for Buddha without even thinking about how he knows to do it. Thoughts, expectations, obligations, beliefs, right and wrong. They don’t have anything to do with it. It is unconditional and without logic. It is simply love and connection. He wants to make an offering in that moment, so he does.

That’s what he came out of the womb understanding…being. We all did. We all are born at peace, connected to both the center of the universe and the center of the earth. It’s allowing ourselves to remain there that’s the tricky part. And, as Buddha teaches, sitting in that is where we learn whatever it is we are here to learn.

I believe it’s that simple. Simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy, but our children often make it look that way. Okay, they know it is. Henry will help me remember that.