I’m writing in bed. I never do this, bring my laptop upstairs. But Greg’s not home and I haven’t let the day go yet. I have a sore throat that’s slowly becoming a cold. Greg is at a friend’s house, a friend who is in serious trouble, suicidal. Greg well may be the only person in the world his friend truly trusts. We are doing what we can to help his wife, who is at the edge of her capacity to be present for him.
It was quite a day, making phone calls to crisis centers and psychiatrists, calling and emailing each other frequently as we worked our way towards a plan. At 6pm when Greg got home, made a sandwich, and jumped in the car alone, while I got dinner for the kids and waited for a ride from a friend to parenting class, I felt grateful to be on the same page, mutual in our understanding of what needs to happen, or at least what we hoped to help facilitate, clear about our role as well as our limitations and boundaries, clear about the priority of our friend’s wellbeing, his life.
In Greg’s absence, I practically transcribed the third Parenting On Track class, which covered more thoroughly the Four Crucial C’s: Connect, Capable, Count, and Courage, which encourage cooperation, responsibility, contribution, and resilience. We explored the differences between praise and encouragement. Did you ever notice that word, encouragement? How courage is nestled, tucked in there? Courage, which can only come from one’s own heart center. Makes me think Centered could be the Fifth Crucial C, at least for me. For it’s when I’m centered that I can remember these teachings, and it’s practicing them that centers me.
We also learned tonight about about how praise is simply the flip side of punishment, a manipulation that takes away an individual’s opportunity to form her OWN opinion about herself. How it is addictive. I cannot possibly do justice to how much the class covered in two hours, but I am going to do my best to download it all to Greg’s brain over the next couple of days. I also know I need to give myself a day or so after each class to integrate the information, let it settle into me so that I can begin to experience it, implement it, inhabit it consciously and consistently. (I have to say, we also came up with an impressive list after class of the alternative C’s: caffeine, coffee, coke, chaos, calamity, crisis, confusion, coercion…)
I’m like a student all over again, eager to type up the pages of notes as a way of incorporating them into my being, eager to try it all out, see what happens when we consciously apply each of the “Four C’s” four times a day – with each of our kids. Eager to see what happens when I start observing more, asking more questions, getting more curious, acknowledging rather than praising, giving Aviva and Pearl more of a chance to think about how THEY would go about something, what choices THEY would make and why, what’s going on in THEIR BRAINS. We are raising thinking children here (thanks, Vicki). Not robots, not kids who look to us to tell them what’s next and here’s how and good job.
And it’s no fun for me either, you know, the roles I’ve accumulated somehow, this manager/nag/controller/assumer/dictator/fear-monger. As I mentioned in class tonight, I’m hearing myself sometimes and realizing that some of what comes out of my mouth is not even mine, does not even reflect MY values. It is a powerful shift, this stepping into Trust with a Capital T in relation to my children. I become curious about them and what makes them tick. I’m no longer one person at home – so often prejudging, directing – and another when I’m with a client – spacious, questioning, probing, letting there be silence, trusting that the answers are all there. Why wouldn’t I trust my own kids? It’s time I started being the same person 24 hours a day.
A friend in need, suicidal. Children sleeping in the next room, capable, full of more ideas and notions than I can possibly imagine, just waiting to be invited in, hungry to belong, to contribute, to experience themselves as irreplaceable, without condition, without parameters, just because they came that way, whole. If only our friend had an iota of this nourishment, this love, this kind of attention as a child – and who knows how he would have handled his depression differently all these years. No doubt it is complicated, real life stuff.
One thing I know, one thing I believe and have an abundance of evidence to back up: when a child knows her place at the table cannot be filled by another, when she learns to rely on her own self for affirmation, when she is told, over and over and over again, that she has choices, when she falls and fucks up and flails and experiences discouragement and frustration and IS STILL LOVED, STILL INVITED TO THE TABLE, she is a hell of a lot more likely to find her bliss, recognize it when she does, and choose to live large, to trust herself and the world, to ask for help when she needs it.
And with that, it’s 11:11, just in time to hear the front door swing open, Greg’s footsteps inside. And here he is beside me in the bed, and the stories fall away. My sore throat raging, congestion worsening steadily, I hit “publish” without re-reading my words, trusting that they will land or become lost, and knowing, too, that in this practice, it doesn’t really matter which.