Tag Archives: parenting

Conversations with a tween

The girls are both delighted to be posing with their dad for the Christmas photo!

The girls are both delighted to be posing with their dad for the Christmas photo!

I have a tendency, these days, to talk less. I really value quiet. I like the pauses in conversation to be with what was just said. I like to listen to where people go with their thoughts when given the time. I enjoy being around people and noticing what that feels like, seeing what they do and what I do– maybe listening to breathing.

Though this has been really nice in a lot of relationships, I’m starting to see that it may not be the best strategy with my tween daughter. Hazel doesn’t ask me what I think very often. She’ll tell me something about a friendship or something that makes her laugh, but it’s usually brief and it comes when her mind is there, still with her friend or connected to the funny thing she saw on pinterest. In these moments, I don’t get the feeling that she really wants to talk with me and that leaves me unsure of what to do. If I just sit there quietly, then she’ll eventually wander off. Though she’s not engaging me in conversation with her comments or passing thoughts, she is talking to me. In order to help get a conversation going, I have to push past my enjoyment of quiet and the awkwardness of not knowing exactly what to say and I need to make the effort to engage her. It seems so obvious now that I’m writing it down, which is good. There isn’t much that’s obvious in parenting a tween.

This weekend, I tried it out. Whenever Hazel said something, I thought of it as an invitation to connect. I’d ask her a question or talk about what I thought or a time I felt that way. It rained all weekend, so we spent a lot of time in the house together and I had many opportunities to practice. I’m pretty sure I talked more in one weekend than I average most weeks. It was a different way to be together. I felt closer to her and I could see that this way of connecting was working for her, too. On Sunday night at bedtime, I bent down to kiss her goodnight and give her a big squeeze. She didn’t let go right away, and so we stayed there, quietly hugging, feeling each other breathe. And then, she told me she’d had a really nice weekend. I don’t remember what I said, but I do know that my heart swelled and I felt grateful for her, for the time we spent talking and for all the quiet moments in between.

 


 

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Graceful parenting

 

dave nora

Yesterday, I was in the car with Dave and the girls, nervously giggling as I remembered an awkward and funny moment that went down last year. We had a friend over for dinner during Black history month (she happens to be black) and Nora was learning about black history in her first grade classroom. As soon as we sat down at the table Nora turned to our guest and with sincerity and interest said, “Did you know that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves?” Our guest responded graciously while Dave and I simultaneously froze in our seats, turned red, and cringed. Only later were able to let out some of our uncomfortable, nervous laughter, talk to our kids about what went down, and explore some of our own feelings of shame and unease around the situation.

But in the car yesterday, something else happened. Conversation reminded me of this moment and I started laughing and quietly recounting the story to Dave. The girls were in the back seat staring out the window, but as soon as we started talking about this they knew it was something juicy—something that was emotionally charged. Kids have amazing radar. They asked what we were talking about.

As soon as they asked, I realized that I was being insensitive. That Nora might feel embarrassed about having said something to our friend that could have made her uncomfortable (it was probably my own discomfort that I was feeling) and that in my laughing with her dad, there was a hint of making fun at her expense. I felt ashamed which meant I would avoid talking about any of it with the girls and push it all aside, but Dave stepped up.

He took time to recount the situation – describing the event at the dinner table without much emotion. Nora didn’t remember any of it and Hazel didn’t either, but I could tell that they were nervous and afraid of being called out for doing something that caused such a reaction in us. But Dave was so respectful and considerate, the way he addressed all of this. With his careful words, he spoke in a way that made it okay for the girls’ to have these feelings, to be curious, and in having the conversation, he acknowledged that he can see their desire to be sensitive and kind to others. He put us all at ease.

He went on to talk about why Nora’s comment was uncomfortable for us. Nora asked if it was funny. Dave said that it was sort of funny, but only because she was little and sincere and didn’t know better, but not funny like a joke that you’d repeat again. He saw the question behind Nora’s inquiry and was so clear in his reply. She took it in. He said something simple about talking about race with someone. The girls listened. It went on like this—parenting win after parenting win. He addressed so many of the important aspects of the situation with clarity, respect, and sensitivity. The girls listened carefully and so did I. I was honored to bear witness to such thoughtfulness. I was grateful to see that parenting with true grace is possible. It was special and reminded me of one of the beauties of relationship…

Sometimes, we get to witness our partner truly shine.

 

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Piano Lessons for my children… worthwhile or an exercise in self-torment?

Here's a romantic evening shot of our sweet piano, and two of my mom's beautiful paintings.

Here’s a romantic evening shot of our sweet piano,

Do it well.

Do it with a good attitude.

Do it for a long time.

And you will become it.

Hazel and Nora started piano lessons a few months ago and it has been fascinating to see how they are each responding to the piano, the music, and a practice routine.  I’m watching their skills develop little by little each week. Hazel is a good student in all things. She keeps up with her work and doesn’t like to disappoint those that are counting on her. She also loves music. She practices, has a good attitude, and likes what she’s learning, which all help to make her a really good piano student. Nora, on the other hand, is not enjoying piano. It’s parental/child mutual torture to get her to practice even a few times a week. When Wes is here, she does her best to get him to talk about anything other than piano. He patiently keeps her on task. He might be a saint.

The girls have different attitudes about these lessons, but both are progressing. Nora is almost through her first book of songs and Hazel has moved on to some sheet music. Even though Nora is learning stuff and is getting better, there’s a notable difference (pun intended) in how much the music seems to be a part of each of them. Hazel likes it, owns it, and is really proud of what she has accomplished. Even though Nora is spending time at the piano, her real energy is going into avoiding the task. When she’s playing she’s really practicing wearing us down. On days we are very persistent, she focuses on cranking out the minimal amount of practice with as little effort and the least amount of attention possible. (True confession: As much as it annoys me, I can totally relate. I wasn’t much of a piano student and employed many of these tactics myself. )

Watching the girls learn this new skill makes me wonder about two things:

  1. What is my attitude when I practice yoga? Which kind of practitioner am I? Am I practicing with attention? Am I operating with a good and open attitude? And am I connected to what I’m learning? Or am I going through the motions but actually practicing  ‘avoiding what I’m really there to do’?
  1. Patañjali lays out the process of yoga and how we learn something new in Yoga sūtra 1.17 and it totally applies to piano lessons.

This sūtra says…

vitarka-when we first start piano, we have only a gross understanding of it

vicāra- as we practice, it becomes more subtle

ānanda- this process brings us joy

asmitā-rupa- eventually we know the piano so well that we become one with it.  We don’t have to think about correct posture or “every good boy does fine.”   It’s already there in our muscles and on the paper when we sit down.

anugamāt- It’s through this process over a long time that 

saprajñātah – our understanding of the instrument and the music that it makes, becomes a part of us.

If we want to have more of something in our lives, then we need to spend time doing that thing. It’s not enough to merely go through the motions. We practice to have more of the kind of experiences we want and with an attitude that fosters a love of learning, ānanda. The experiences that help us to connect, earnestly and eagerly, to the things we want in our lives, are experiences that shape who we are and who we become.

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