Well, I’m back. It was good to take a break from my regular posting schedule. I love you all and love to write, but this solstice was a time for me to step out of the mindset of doing things because I should and just watch my life as I was living it. What I saw when I stopped frantically running for long enough to actually catch a glimpse of myself interacting with my family wasn’t so pretty. In fact, it was rather a lot like the view I saw through the plumber’s sewer-cam yesterday. It was a twisting, turning old pipe that is starting to come apart at the seams, with thirsty roots pushing in at every crack. Today, I am very glad to be renting instead of a homeowner, and I’m thinking a lot about self-improvement.
Over the holidays I also picked up Easy To Love, Difficult To Discipline again. Tom took it out for me on his library card, and after renewing it twice he’s dubbed it Easy to Put Down, Difficult to Read. And it’s true. The book starts off with a point that nearly every good parenting book makes at some point: You can’t give your kids what you don’t have. You can’t teach what you don’t know. Kids will ignore any “Do as I day, Not as I do” statements and simply do what they see you doing. And I’m starting to see and hear my discipline coming out in my children’s mouths, and it doesn’t look so pretty coming from them. Probably isn’t so attractive coming from me either. And while I’d heard the message so many times before, I had been tuning it out. This past week or two has been a powerful reminder that my own behaviour sets the tone for my children’s behaviour.
I find myself struggling with discipline because it is easy to read and agree with parenting techniques and philosophies in print, but another thing completely to put them into practice in my actual life. I might 100% agree with baby-led weaning in theory, but when it is 3:30am and my toddler wants to nurse for the 10th time that night because my milk supply is having a monthly dip and I am cranky and tired, the philosophical theory behind child-led weaning is way at the back of my mind. Facts and philosophies are one thing, actual behaviour is quite another.
This Christmas I saw very clearly that my own attitude and behaviour has a direct influence on my family. I mean, how can it not? It seems crazy to think otherwise, but when I’m starting to feel like I just want to stew in my own negativity, it is appealing to think that I can just hunker down in my own bile and let everyone else take care of themselves while I wait for the storm to pass. But it doesn’t work like that. I need to be able to teach myself how to calm down, communicate with kindness, stay playful and manage my expectations before I can expect to teach my children how to do the same. I need to be able to do those things even when, especially when I’m feeling tired or irritable. I hope that they will be able to watch me in the process of learning these things and feel motivated to practice them themselves.
And yet: a major obstacle I often find in front of me on my path is the inability to laugh at myself. I tend to take myself and my thoughts or feelings WAY too seriously. I get caught up on wanting to be perfect, even though I know it’s not a realistic or healthy goal. I want to lighten up, stay playful, have a sense of humour and not be so bloody serious all the time. Can I really do some intensive work on self-discipline while keeping it real? Because really: life is pretty ridiculous in a massive cosmic in-joke kind of way. If we took off our lenses of social normality and really looked at what we do and expect of ourselves and our children it would be easy to see the ludicrous in life, and easier to let problems and irritations slide off like beads of dew from a spring leaf. Because so much of what I get upset about really doesn’t matter. And life is too short to get bent out of shape over things that don’t matter.
So I’ve set a project out for myself this year.
Each month I will focus on an aspect of self-discipline that can be summed up in one word. This word will serve as inspiration for a personal meditation and daily practice, and also as a starting point for a weekly blog post. I will write about my experiences, challenges and progress (please, let there be some progress!). I’ll also write about any resources that have been a help for me in this work of self-discovery and self-discipline. The last Thursday of each month I’ll include a link-up, where readers who have been following along can write about and share their experiences with the month’s theme. It’ll be a change from my regular Thursday resource reviews, because I’m shifting my focus away from child discipline and towards self discipline, but I hope that it’ll be useful to you in your own journey as a parent.
I must admit, I’m a little scared. Addressing my inadequacies and foibles in a positive, playful way is something that’s Easy to Put Off, Difficult to Do, especially when doing so with a blog audience. But I’m hoping that, like most things, it seems more difficult in my own head than it is in reality. I’m also hoping that by sharing my progress and experience with you I’ll discover a community of other people who are doing the same work in their own lives, and we can learn from and support one another in the process.
So, Happy New Year and welcome to 2011 – A Year of Playful Self-Discipline.