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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