The inside-out crusty oatmeal bowl meditation

I am giving myself ten minutes here. It is always both the hardest and the easiest ways of showing up and checking in. Hardest, because I don’t have a clear idea of what I want to write about. Hardest, because not having a plan invites all sorts of gremlins who tell me that I need to wait to write until a) I have more time and/or b) I have more clarity and focus. But easiest this way, because there’s no way to be wrong, no right thing, no rules, no expectations. I’m just throwing darts, after all. And then hard again, because I suspect there is a lot I want to explore in writing and I’m afraid I’ll miss something important. But then again, if it’s important, it will find a way in, announce itself.

The Parenting On Track class we are taking is already rocking our world. We are just three days into our first week. I’ve realized that while I coach other people all day long, I do not often coach my own kids. Asking them questions, not jumping in with answers, not preempting them, not doing for them, not reminding them about every last thing out of fear they will forgot, letting there be more space, letting there be less order, letting things feel messier and upended and confusing, sitting with the discomfort that brings up to the part of me that thrives on structure, clean surfaces, nice neat systems –

I’ve been experiencing all of this as an inside-out meditation. It’s like a twenty-four hour mindfulness retreat (“with no time off for good behavior,” as a friend of mine always says). But instead of watching my thoughts go by and not getting attached to them, not reacting, redirecting, altering, judging, evaluating, or any other manner of getting hooked, I am watching my kids go by, and noticing all of the ways in which essentially I attempt to control them from morning to night. It is pretty unnerving, which I take as a good sign.

One cool thing is that this is giving me and Greg a shared vocabulary, a common purpose, a sense of direction, a context for both reflection and action. Last night we sat on the couch and made three lists for each kid: skills she has and uses consistently, skills she has and doesn’t use consistently, and skills she doesn’t have but could learn. The first list was by far the longest, and the second will, I suspect, form the basis for talking – with them – about contributions they can make to the household. (Would probably be worthwhile to make similar lists for ourselves!)

I am taking a home course in Adlerian Psychology (which Parenting On Track is founded on), and finding it to be very intuitive – all having to do with the fact that our wholeness and sense of belonging stem from knowing we are contributing to the group, whether the group is a relationship, a family, a workplace, a society. There is such a fascinating intersection and natural connection between this theory and the premise of Co-Active Coaching, which is my coaching training. That we are naturally resourceful, creative, capable, and whole. That work is worth. That when we don’t feel appreciated and seen, we strive to find our place, get lost in stories and “mistaken beliefs,” and lose track of our deep self-knowledge and innate worth and value.

And then, wouldn’t you know, on the phone with my mom earlier this week, I learned that my grandmother – whose 98th birthday would have been two days ago – studied with Alfred Adler at City College in the 1930’s, and that my mom and aunts and my sisters and I were all raised on this stuff. No wonder it feels so in my bones.

Meanwhile, their oatmeal bowls from this morning are sitting out, getting crusty. Eventually, maybe one of the girls will notice them. I’m not really sure what I will do if they don’t, but I am choosing not to worry about it. Normally, I would clean up after they were off at school and they would come home and never even really perceive that the mess was no longer there. But at least for this week, for one week, I am just noticing, sitting with the dirty dishes, amazed that there should even be a sense of amazement at all the stuff my kids are perfectly capable of doing themselves, if only we wait before jumping in to do it (faster, better, whatever) for them. I am also appreciating the break from my roles as General Manager, Concierge, and Personal Assistant, but also aware of how tied up my identity as a mother is with wearing those hats. Hmmm… who could I be, as a parent, without them?

In a word, we’re getting out of the way, and realizing that the world is not falling apart. The beds aren’t made and we’re all a little disoriented, Pearl bit Aviva last night at Chicken Charlie’s, and Aviva hasn’t bathed since Monday. But nobody is hospitalized or locked up, and it feels so good to be learning something, to have found a new key to greater awareness both individually and in the context (there it is again) of our family. If we’ve crossed the border into a foreign country, I imagine the jet lag will pass and pretty soon we’ll be putting on our fanny packs to go explore. And then we might just realize that this isn’t foreign at all. We might just feel right at home.

And with that, my ten minutes are up. It ain’t poetry, people… or is it?

9 thoughts on “The inside-out crusty oatmeal bowl meditation

  1. karen pery says:

    Poetry indeed. Also bravery and courage. I love the idea of what you’re doing, and would love to take my self out of the battles. Hmmmm… more to ponder.


  2. RocketMom Cheryl says:

    “One cool thing is that this is giving me and Greg a shared vocabulary, a common purpose, a sense of direction, a context for both reflection and action.”

    A common vocabulary and purpose in parenting (i imagine, as I certainly don’t know) would help greatly. That must make the whole process worthwhile right there.


  3. Stacy (mama-om) says:

    Yes to getting out the way.

    I’ve been trying to get out of the way for five years now… I keep trying. It’s a practice.



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