I had this little fantasy this morning: I would get up before everyone else to make baked oatmeal, a recipe I got from a friend on Facebook (thanks, Joanne!) and drink my first cup of coffee in peace. I would get to savor the early morning alone. Aviva and Pearl would wake up to the warm smells of cinnamon goodness.
When the alarm on my cell phone went off, I excavated myself from the bed as quietly as possible, hoping not to disturb the beast, a.k.a. Pearl. I ran downstairs naked because all of our clean clothes were – are – in a heap on the big green chair, waiting to be folded. I threw on my most comfortable outfit, the kind my mom would say is just “one step up from pajamas.”
A woman plans these things, and the goddesses – all mamas themselves – start their day with a chuckle. Everyone knows that! By the time the water was boiling for the French press, Pearl was roaring at the top of the stairs. “MAAAAAAAAA-MAAAA! I want you snuggle with me!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Soon enough, Aviva was up, and none too happily. Next thing I know, Aviva’s lobbying to watch a movie, Pearl’s naked in the living room, screaming that she’s cold but refusing to put clothes on, and I’m watching my little fantasy bubble pop before my very eyes.
There I was again, smack in the middle of my real life. And, as Vicki Hoefle, founder of Parenting On Track has helped me remember time and again, it was perfect. Not fake perfect, not June Cleaver perfect, but loud, healthy, normal, alive, messy, real, crazy-making, imperfect perfect. Paradise is right here, right now.
This perspective helped me stay above the fray as opposed to totally reacting to my girls’ moods this morning with my own poisonous cocktail of annoyance, resentment, and fatigue. Remembering the bigger picture kept me from over-generalizing the moment and telling all kinds of stories (This always happens… will it ever get easier… Pearl is just a mad person… Aviva’s so moody… Make your own damn breakfast…). And I’m convinced that not getting hooked created the space for Aviva and Pearl to find their way to a more cooperative and connected way of relating. Which they did, in their own time.
I was totally smitten the first time I met Vicki. We had lunch in Vergennes. I was a little nervous, didn’t quite know what to expect. I had been following her program vicariously for about a year through a local friend’s blog, and we were getting together to learn more about each other’s work and to explore whether it would make sense for her to refer folks to me who had taken her class and might be seeking more individualized, ongoing coaching.
“Tell me the whole enchilada,” she said, biting into a breakfast burrito as if it was the most delicious thing she had ever eaten. I felt like the only person in the world. I’m not exaggerating. Vicki is one of those people who makes you feel so totally seen and heard and acknowledged, so celebrated and unique and important. And the best part is, she means it. She believes it. She is tuned to perceive what each of us contributes. She is a powerhouse of resilience, connection, and radical faith.
And I get to work with her! So can you! More on that in a minute.
After 90 minutes of talking non-stop that day, I was all fired up and ready to go. Vicki and I both knew we had found something in each other that would bring out more of ourselves. We also knew we wanted to share it, and pretty much immediately began moving towards forming a partnership between Strong Coaching and Parenting On Track.
Last spring, Greg and I took Vicki’s four-week class, which was kind of like drinking the most delicious water from a firehouse. Six months later, we continue to explore how to integrate what we learned from Vicki into our family life. It’s not always easy, but, like this morning, the framework has given us a practical point of reference when what would be easy would be to spin out, fall down, give up.
Within a week of enrolling in the class, our world was rocked. Among other things, we were instructed to “do nothing and say nothing” for the first week, giving us a chance to simply observe both ourselves and our kids. It was fascinating, challenging, liberating, a week-long, inside-out meditation.
Once the bells of awareness began ringing, they never really stopped. That’s how it works! We learned about The Four Crucial C’s. I began studying the psychological theories of Alfred Adler, on which Vicki’s program is based, and felt so at home with the holistic philosophy that we are all naturally creative, resourceful, and whole. My own spacious approach to parenting felt validated, as did my general aversion to parenting books and programs and precepts and prescriptions. Like everybody else on the planet, our kids just want to know they belong.
What also became very clear as we ourselves experienced the power of this program was that how we treat our kids is inseparable from how we treat ourselves. It’s a mirror. If this sounds obvious, that’s probably because it is. But it’s one thing to read something and intellectualize it as “obvious” or to say “that makes sense,” and it’s another thing altogether to begin addressing where the gaps are in our own lives, in our own selves.
I remember early on when we were taking Vicki’s class, having this realization that I wasn’t coaching my own kids. I wasn’t bringing the same spirit of curiosity to them as I did to my clients. I was so busy keeping up with the day-to-day, making sure Aviva practiced violin, breaking up their fights, trying to get Pearl to stop whining – the list could go on, but it won’t – that I was missing out on actually building a relationship with them. Once I asked Aviva how she would describe me in three words to aliens from outer space. Her answer? “Frustrated, happy, and sad.”
When I’m getting frustrated – which is often – Vicki’s work in this world helps me remember to check in. To stop and ask myself: What am I afraid will happen if I stop nagging, pushing, managing and controlling? What is it I am unable to tolerate when Aviva and Pearl are fighting and whining and stalling and fussing? How do I actually want to connect with them? Who do I want to be? What happens when I TRUST them, refocus on the bigger picture, and remember how capable they are (and how capable I am, for that matter)?
Can you tell I’m a big Parenting On Track fan? I could go on.
But I have to get to this next part, which is that our partnership is going live. We’re doing it! By way of introduction, Vicki and I recently taped a conversation for her website. Read the latest Parenting On Track newsletter! Listen to our conversation!
If you are committed to changing the way you relate to your kids, you are essentially committing to changing, or at least examining, the way you relate to yourself, your spouse, your work, the whole enchilada. Nothing is separate. It’s all one life. Bringing greater awareness to one part of your life and not the others simply doesn’t add up.
Vicki’s program has reminded me of the very thing I help clients remember but often forget myself: To slow down. To watch. To trust. To create space and to get curious about the possibilities in that space. Joining forces with her may be a dream come true, but it’s a waking dream. Thankfully, none of us is June Cleaver; real life is so much more interesting than that.
I can’t wait to see how it unfolds from here.
p.s. This shirt, like most everything else it seems, is actually for sale!