By Stacy Lewis on December 14, 2012
By Stacy Lewis on December 11, 2012
Getting ready for Solstice…
By Stacy Lewis on November 13, 2012
a simply wonderful afternoon
By Stacy Lewis on November 5, 2012
I was covered in kids, both of whom were unhappy and insisting they had had the smaller share of mama-cuddling. We were a pile of tired and I was in surround-sound stereo: “But I want as many minutes as Orlando!” and “Mica went first last night!”
I rose up, if not bodily, then in energy, exclaiming, “Everything can’t be the same! Because it’s not the same! You are fighting to have equal amounts thinking that is the answer but it is a losing proposition! It will never be satisfying!”
I was lecturing, which never goes well. I managed to gather myself, slowing my words, winding down, eventually arriving back on earth. Breathe, Mama.
And I breathed out a story about the Same Monster.
The Same Monster… do you see him over there in the corner of the room? I heard him talking just now, he was saying that he wanted the exact same thing as brother! It couldn’t be even a little bit different. It had to be exactly the same. If brother had two minutes on Mama, he wanted two minutes! If brother had fourteen grapes, he wanted fourteen grapes! That same monster stomps around the house, insisting that things are the same!
But then when he gets the same thing, he wants the next same thing. He doesn’t always feel happy. In fact, I think he’s feeling a little sad, over there in the corner.
“It’s okay, Same Monster,” I said into the corner of the room, “to feel sad. Sometimes it’s hard not to have the same things or do the same things as brother. Sometimes you wish you were smaller or bigger or faster. Sometimes you wish you had Mama all to yourself.”
The children were quiet and still, listening. And then the Same Monster got up from the corner and went down to the garden, where he noticed something. Of all the cherry tomatoes on the vine, not one of them was the same as the other! He picked a few and ate them. They were juicy, cool, and sweet.
In the darkened bedroom, Mica asked where the same monster went next. It turned out he went to the beach, where the rocks were purple, green, grey, black, brick-red. Where each wave was its own size, shape, and arriving in its own time. We traveled through a lullaby of detail, difference, smells, tastes, and sights, until finally the Same Monster came back home, where he got into bed with us, and cuddled with all three of us together.
We were in a pile, but no longer bunched up — the kids were not starving for more and I was free from the spasm of Stop energy.
Later, when I first reflected on the Same Monster story, I was feeling proud that I was teaching my children to appreciate differences. But then I recognized the real importance of that story: when the Same Monster was feeling sad and I could sense my kids peeking into the corners of their own sadness. Into the grief of realizing that they are brothers, that there are two of them, and that sometimes they get different amounts… of time, of grapes, of Mama.
The story has provided a short-hand for us in the days since… Now we can summon the Same Monster to help us see our desires, to feel our feelings, and to conceive, just maybe, of a new possibility. New possibilities which can’t be seen until the feelings are felt.
From Gordon Neufeld I learned about something he calls the traffic circle…
Imagine a circle. Frustration goes in and it comes out in three ways: by making change, by adapting to circumstances we cannot change, or by attack. If we are unable to make change and are able to feel grief about that, we adapt. If we are unable to make change but are also unable to feel grief, our frustration turns to attack (which can take many forms, such as acting mean and rude, hitting and fighting, foul moods, self-deprecation, sarcasm, irritability and impatience, etc.).
My children were feeling the frustration of not having the same things, likely masking even deeper feelings about not wanting to have a brother. Trying to convince them to stop acting or feeling frustrated would not help. They might learn to mask the frustration, but it would still be there, and instead of coming out in bickering it might come out later in a secret punch or pinch. Or maybe older brother would develop a taunting tone when talking to the younger one. And we would never get to the feelings underneath.
The way to resolve frustration (and in the process, change behavior — a great side benefit!) is to feel the futility inherent in the situation: They each do have a brother. That’s a fact! And it is simply not possible to have the same things all the time. And sometimes they feel sad about these things. I want them to feel that sadness, not because I want them to be sad, but because the sadness will help them adapt to the way life is.
After they’ve felt the sadness, sometime later on, maybe they could consider the idea of appreciating differences. But to be honest, that was an idea from my very adult, thinking mind. These children need to feel their feelings more than they need my ideas. And in order to feel, they need soft hearts. To have soft hearts, they need safe spaces. As Gordon says, children need an invitation — for all parts of themselves — to exist in the presence of their parents.
That is why, now, when the Same Monster comes around, I welcome him with open arms, and we listen more closely to his sadness, and to all his feelings.
~ * ~
This post also appears today on the Seattle Neufeld Community blog. Please pop over to check out stories shared in the spirit of more deeply understanding human development and attachment while in the midst of raising up these lovely young ones (and sometimes ourselves, too).
By Stacy Lewis on October 31, 2012
“Without movement life is unthinkable.”
“What I’m after isn’t flexible bodies, but flexible brains. What I’m after is to restore each person to their human dignity.”
“If you know what you are doing, you can do what you want.”
“…To make the impossible possible, the possible easy, and the easy elegant.”
On a five night retreat, settling into the quiet of self among many others. Listening, walking, sleeping, waking, sitting, walking, receiving what comes. Noticing so much.
Over the last year during my Hakomi training, somehow I became friends with my hypervigilance. A friendly recognition of how quick my mind is, how my mind is counting and organizing, keeping track of the comings and goings of people, what we decided yesterday. I used to think it was effortless — it is going on in the background after all, in my unconscious — but I realized, with a great big sobbing relief sitting on the cushion on retreat just how much energy it takes. It is not free. And to have that energy available again — to imagine it available to me… incredible.
Our home is nestled among twenty-two other homes. I am continually trying to understand how this impacts me. I know it has meant that I’ve retreated. I retreat into myself. I don’t come out. I hold back. I am still holding my breath, who knows how many years it’s been, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Maybe I don’t have to do that anymore.
And reflecting on the grasshopper totem not just as a sign for our journey with Orlando, but for my own journey. Giving myself time, and trusting slowness and and inner stirrings and big ideas. Accepting unorthodox methods of progress. Moving toward unbridled joy. Yay!
By Stacy Lewis on October 26, 2012
I was sitting at the dinner table. I saw the creature wiggling between his fingers.
I leapt up, totally confused. “Wait, it’s alive! It’s been in your pocket?”
It had been inside a little plastic thing — one of those containers cheap toys come in, delivered by gumball machine — for the last eight hours. In Orlando’s pocket. And it was still alive. We made it a jar and gave it some leaves and let it spend the night.
But it reminded me of the grasshopper I found in my hair on Orlando’s first day of school six weeks ago.
Yes, there was a grasshopper in my hair.
And yes, Orlando started school.
It was mid-September, and Orlando and I walked through the big open field and then across the street to an old reclaimed school building that is now a cultural and arts hub in our neighborhood. In one of those rooms there is one teacher and four students who spend three days a week (9 to 2:30) jump roping, painting, singing, writing, playing, knitting, and giggling. Orlando is one of those kids!
I’ve known about this community Waldorf homeschool since it started a few years ago (it used to be in a parent’s home, and run by parents), and somehow last June it occurred to me that we could look into it more seriously. We visited on their almost-last-day of school last year and spent the summer feeling it out, thinking about it, getting to know the teacher…
We spent the summer following our hearts, and took the leap.
On the first day, I sat with three other parents and felt something on my head. I reached up and drew my hand back — something was moving! The moving thing leapt onto my neighbor, who caught it, as we all gathered round and exclaimed, “A grasshopper!”
I couldn’t help but wonder, what could it mean? Why would a grasshopper hitch a ride on my head into this classroom, on this day? I was dying to look up the totem but at that moment, it was clear what the grasshopper meant: pure delight. The kids clamored as the bright green critter crawled up and down Orlando’s arms. They took turns holding it. The parents looked at each other wide-eyed and smiling, and then we cracked the window and let the little guy go.
Orlando is having such a wonderful time in this little school. It is incredible. At the end of the day, when I ask how his day was, he tells me, “I liked it!” If I ask what parts, he says, “All of it.”
He jumps rope every morning — after starting out so awkwardly he is now a proud jumper of over 100 turns. After shying away from the flute (too hard for him to blow softly) he proudly plays hot cross buns. He knits. He writes lowercase. He sounds out words. He loves the numbers block they are working on now. He and a fellow classmate’s wax turtles got married the other day.
Over the last couple of months, his body is softer, his eyes are brighter, and his demeanor is more relaxed. He is happily taking what is offered, learning and reaching, claiming and reclaiming his own curiosity, initiative, and sense of accomplishment. Of course, school is happening concurrently with the HANDLE work we are doing, so it is hard to say what is coming from where, but the most important thing to me is that he is enjoying both. His brain and body and soul are quite simply happy.
I knew, for a long time, that Orlando might need something more, likely specifically around letters. But he was curious, bright, involved in activities he enjoyed, and we were comfortable waiting. Looking back I can see that things probably began changing when he turned seven. Over that next year, he became increasingly less grounded, more agitated. He started cracking his bones compulsively, talking baby talk, and was no longer interested in his previous activities.
Part of me could see it as natural — part of the ebb and flow, to be more active and less active, to “regress” before making a leap. Yet, another part of me could see that something was off (mother’s intuition). It was as if he were carrying a ballast and over time this ballast was becoming heavier… as if he had the impulse to move forward but he was held back in some way. Stuck.
So, around the time he turned he eight, we decided to do something.
The something was to see a neurodevelopmental specialist who was coming to Seattle that next spring (March 2012), and who was highly recommended by friends. We met with her and learned a lot. We did the activities she recommended for a couple of months, but I was already becoming interested in other methods that might be more subtle and require less time and effort to accomplish. Lightness matched what I had been learning in Hakomi and I was curious if there were other options.
Which ultimately led us to HANDLE just a few months ago. And at the same time, we were visiting the new school for Orlando, and looking into a new outdoor school (that didn’t conflict with his Waldorf schedule) and getting to know this first-born child of ours all over again and continuing to follow, follow, follow, lead, follow, follow, lead. And here we are: three days of Waldorf, one day of total outside with a new (more structured and skills-based) outdoor school, and a whole, happy kid.
I still don’t know how it all unfolded — this wasn’t a cerebral process, there was no plan. It was a heart process. A body process. A moving around and checking things out and leaping process.
Grasshopper showed us the way.
The Chinese symbol of good luck and abundance,
Grasshopper gives its totem people the ability to take chances.
To move on hunches and take the leap forward.
Things might not move for them as they do for other people;
progress is not step-by-step, but rather extremely fast.
Trust your own instincts on when to make the leaps.
Trust your inner voice.
It will lead you to great successes.
Don’t be afraid to leap –-
and remember that Grasshopper only leaps forward, never backward. (source)
By Stacy Lewis on September 3, 2012
“I love mama.” This murmured by a nine-year-old snuggled up and holding on to me like a little monkey, his head burrowed into my neck.
This from a child who hasn’t hugged me in a long time, not like this. I am sad to say that I didn’t realize these hugs had gone fugitive until they reappeared three weeks ago.
Three weeks ago, when we began our HANDLE activities.
HANDLE stands for Holistic Approach to Neurodevelopment and Learning Efficiency.
What Handle looks like (around here): walking deliberately through a hula hoop, lightly holding our cupped hands over our ears, getting wrapped up in a blanket, tapped rhythmically on the skull, playing patty-cake, and blowing beads across the table.* What Handle looks like is one suddenly cuddly kid.
The figuring was that we wanted to do something after all… for Orlando. That in moving along the continuum of “he is learning in his own time” and “let’s give him all the support he needs” we decided last fall that we would look into giving him more support. We weren’t sure what that would look like but we stayed open.
A lot has happened over the year, especially in the last six months, and it has unfolded so naturally, but not always perfectly gracefully.
Suffice it to say that after all the seeking, newness and organizing, after the worry and integrating information from new people and discarding suggestions that didn’t fit so well, after all the shifting of my perspective, after moving through sadness and hopefulness while staying in tune with my intuition… I feel, fundamentally, that I have come to know my oldest son more intimately than I did before. That I can see him more clearly. And that we have found something he needs.
Nothing tells me that more than how good he feels… The smile that comes over his face when we do our Handle activities. How he feels better about himself, and has never, for a second, thought there is anything “wrong” with him. How hungry his body and mind are for this exact type of attention, how brimming with love and gratitude he is to me for providing it.
How grateful I am.
We will be meeting with our Handle practitioner every month for the next six months, having the opportunity to expand or add activities as necessary. Both Orlando and I are fully included in every appointment, which I love. And all the activities take less than a half a hour a day (spread out throughout the day) and the emphasis is on doing them with gentleness.
There is so much that remains to be seen, and so much more to learn, and much more fun to be had.
* I feel compelled to put a disclaimer here, in that these activities are recommended specifically for Orlando, based on how he experiences the world and where he might need more support. While these activities are simple and somewhat commonplace, they are not necessarily beneficial for everyone. That is what my Handle practitioner told us when we met with her. Thank you for keeping this in mind!
Here is my sliver of the internet, where I share the salty-sweet of raising two young boys (ages 10 and 7). I write about mindfulness, homeschooling, and our everyday shenanigans... Join me in the ever-evolving flow of relating peacefully — to ourselves and others. Read more.
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