I don't believe in miracles - I rely on them

I don't believe in miracles - I rely on them

Yogi Bhajan


You found my blog and as I am experimenting with the weird and wonderful world of cyber publishing, let me explain what
a gunna is: it's a word for all things desirable, something that makes us happy and warm and comforts us when we feel tired or sad or lonely. a gunna is the best gadget in the world! it was leah s first word for all things she wanted. Or you might also know it as: dummy, schnulli, pacifier binky, schnuller...... and so on. So this is for my beautiful


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Parenting 1 Ohhhh 1

Being an older mother has it's advantages. Firstly I don't feel I am missing out on life, while sitting at home on my couch with my two little ones  softly snoring in their beds. In fact, having the "I don't have a babysitter" excuse is one of the great incentives of parenthood.

Compared to young parents, like my own parents were, I also feel I have, through my many years of gathering life experiences, ideas and opinions, gained a slightly  more mature - dare I say wise - approach to most every day issues when it comes to raising my kids. I have thought about  most things before they even come up and have a smug - ask me anything!! - attitude to most parenting questions.

That was before my kids could talk in full sentences.

 I recently realised that the game has changed. Where as only a week ago, I could approach tantrums and sleep problems in a methodical yet loving and patient way (weeell - mostly...)  and come out of the experience shining brightly - there are now  more and more moments in my life where I am not only left speechless, but also humbled by the simple yet superior logic of my children.

As I am mostly unsure how to put things to a five year old in a way she understand but that does not patronise her, I  often find myself either rambling on too much for too long (only  to realise when I notice her far away look that the issue has run away with me) or I underestimate her intellectual ability and over-simplify matters (which worked beautifully just a couple of days ago, when she was not yet five and a half) .

A little worried by some of her friends behaviour when playing at our house I recently tried to introduce basic play date etiquette into Leah's world. I started off by explaining to her, that it is not nice or polite to keep nagging for things while on a play date in other people's houses.

So -  I brightly launched my first lesson on good behaviour   -  when you play with X at her house,  I don't want you to keep asking her mum for ice cream and sweets. It is not polite behaviour and I want you to wait until you are offered something. Then you are allowed to say, yes please.

(and I am pretty sure you are all nodding in agreement here....)

When she asked why, I basically told her about accepted social behaviour, especially if you want to be asked back, but realised after a while, that she had stopped listening (counting her fingers in different combinations whilst trying to whistle at the same time was a hint).

Did you understand, what I just said? I asked her.
Yeeesss - she said with that bored melodic elongated eeeeeeeeeeee.

OK, can you maybe tell me?

That  I can't have ice cream when I want it.

Aehhhhmmmm - essentially yes....that what it comes down to.

After I stopped laughing I started - not for the first time this week - thinking that maybe I should revise my  learned rules of behaviour. Go back in time  to a 5 year old perspective (or 3 or 15 depending on whom I am trying to communicate with) before I start with my well intended life lessons.

So instead of blabbing on about social conventions and how to be polite, I could also be to the point and more authentic by saying:

When out on a play date, you can't ask for things when you want them. You wait until they are offered to you and hope that the responsible adult can read your mind. 

The moment Leah summed it up for me:( I can't ask for what I want, when I want it )- this rule of accepted good behaviour immediately stopped making sense to me. Why should she not ask for ice cream when she wants it?

Surely the better lesson to teach my child would be to graciously accept a "no"  rather than  to hide from the world what she really wants? (this is how we come to despise our  partners later in life when they don't telepathically absorb what we really want from them but stubbornly refuse to tell them. Ever.)

Growing up it was drilled into me that it is impolite to ask for what I want. Mainly - it now occurs to me - to save others from having to say no - because if there is anything more frowned upon than asking for what you want,  it is saying "no" to people.

And in order to save us from the discomfort of saying "no", we teach our children not to ask.

So that  years later - as well adjusted grown ups -  they will have to  spend lots of hours and money in therapy  re-learning how to say no to people and ask for what they want instead of expecting others to mind read their needs and wishes?

Doesn't really make sense now does it?

The only question is  whether life might  be easier for my children if they conformed to socially accepted behaviour rather than being true to themselves at the expense of being regarded as different or badly behaved.

And as I am writing this, it occurs to me that more than anything I wish for them to have the courage and ability to be true to themselves. With that in mind another of my great theories is that being different is really a good thing as it adds variety and spice to life and makes people into interesting individuals.

What my daughter taught me this week is that I need to start applying those wonderful theories (my 1 oooh 1 of parenting) to life itself, as there is hardly any point in telling children to be themselves - when we make them blindly follow rules that clearly promote the exact opposite.

And as I was still reeling from that blow to my mother ego - I had a chat with a 15 year old, which again left me feeling catapulted out of my comfort zone. What she said was:

I don't get it how my parents tell me to respect myself and my  body when it comes to sexual experiences. What they're really saying  is to only respect my body if the message is "no to sex" for as long as possible. But if I want to have the experience in a safe, healthy and loving way would that not be respecting myself and my body?

................ that's me speechless once more.

The bottom line is that in parenting from age 2 to 15 and beyond it is much more important to listen to and really communicate with my children rather than to tell them things - and learn along the way how to  fill all those beautifully written yet empty words with real life content.

Am going to have ice cream now....


Thursday, July 7, 2011

I'd rather have my own....

This is a common statement made by people in order to shut down a subject they feel uncomfortable with: Adoption. I recently  heard it from a woman, who, at 45, desperate for a child and single, is now considering going through all sorts of financial, emotionall and physical strain in order to have the experience of giving birth. 

Did it bother me, like it used to only a couple of months ago? Strangely it did not. Believe it or not, I simply offered my phone number in case  things did not work out as she hoped and she'd like some insight into adoption...

As I was scrolling through my older posts I noticed that somewhere along the way my focus shifted from advocating and talking about all things adoption - and the many why's and how's  and all the weird things I have encountered being and adoptive mother -  to more general issues (and race and color of course).

This for some reason makes me strangely happy as I realise that a subtle shift happened: in my mind my children are no longer my "adopted" children: they are simply my children.

Even though I always knew that loving my children was in no way influenced by how they would come to me, often, when asked if I had children,  I had to stop and think whether to add "adopted" to the answer.

Sometimes I deliberately didn't and waited with mixed feelings for  looks of surprise and comments like: oh are they adopted? (duh!). Not mentioning the "adoption" word was almost like daring people to react and to say something out of line, which then, in turn, could make me roll my eyes in exasperation. Of course they mostly didn't and actually many made beautiful recoveries :-)

 I now realise that a lot of my strange encounters and negative feelings about people's reactions came from my own insecurity - which had nothing to do with the fact that I had adopted children -  but simply from being thrown into a whole new world of parenthood and - yes - feeling ever so slightly marginalised because I  did not fit the norm.

Even though adoption was always my first choice (as opposed to "last resort")  a part of me still  felt alienated from "normal mothers" for not having had what is still widely regarded as the "real" mother experience: Conception.Pregnancy. Birth.

As I am growing into and in this experience of being a mother, I realise that somewhere along the way this has changed.

I am now - almost 6 years later - totally at ease in my role as a mother and no longer feel the need to view my family  through other people's eyes, in order to establish our  current "not-fitting-in" factor.

And as I no longer feel the need to mirror the view from an outside world, where we are often reduced to being an unusual family with two adopted children, the outside world ceases to influence my mindset.

I no longer think about whether or not to give additional information, when asked if I have children. I have two of them. Girls,  in fact.

I don't wait for and often don't even notice other people's reactions to my children anymore. In a way these past years of learning how to become a mother was like a second chance at growing up.

Where fitting in is of utmost importance as teenagers, when we are battling with a lot of change, starting a new chapter in our lives as independent adults, it becomes less important as we are growing in maturity and confidence. And as I was battling coming to grips and redefining myself in my new role as a mother, fitting in seemed a lot more important than it is now that I am happily and confidently settled into this next chapter of my life.

And this is what growing up should be, when we  -  ideally one day  -  reach a level of self awareness where we are at peace with who we are and don't need to defend ourselves against anything and anybody who seems "other than us". (yeah well, maybe this part is to be a death-bed achievement for some of us - but hey, I am on my way...).

So coming back to my initial thought, it now does not offend me anymore when people say things like: I'd rather have my own, when I mention adoption as a natural way of having children. It still makes me sad but I don't feel the need  to bare my teeth and growl: they ARE my own.

Today I just wish I had the time and the words to convey to all potential parents how wrong they are, when they think,  their children can only be "their own" when their genes are involved.

If you have it in you to be a parent, genetics don't matter. If they do matter to you, maybe you should re-evaluate your motives when it comes to parenthood. Because ask yourself this:  is this about you and your self image or about the child you are going to be a parent to?

And to all the women who have been brought up thinking that giving birth is really what defines them as a woman, really think about this for a while before you let it take over your life! There are so many different and beautiful experiences that we as women can have in a lifetime - motherhood amongst them - but the couple of months leading up to a birth are by no means necessary in order to be all we can be. If it happens, fine, if it does not, don't even let it break your stride. Just take what life offers you instead. In my world this is the key to happiness. And love.