Oh the possibilities…
Happy New Year Marshmallow Peeps! I hope your holidays were a healthy combination of excitement and rest.
Firstly, I’d like to apologize for the delayed publication of our “Cultivating Possibilities” January| February Issue of Eat The Marshmallow. Holiday breaks are always a bit goofy and this year, our local school district decided to let the children out of school closer to the Christmas holiday and not have them start school back up until January 8th. This left working moms like me in a bit of a lurch, hence the delayed publication. On the bright side of this scheduling clump, I have had more time to reflect on what I’d like to write in my letter to you!
I always find the time around New Year to be an uncomfortable period. The celebrations are over, which is rather sobering both figuratively and literally. That sense of completion that comes with the holidays, a time when we allow ourselves to indulge in socializing, cooking, and celebrating the culmination of the year wanes. The year turns over, and I find myself staring down at the prospect of having to do it all over again. It seems both boringly mundane and daunting all at once. I am reminded of a moment in Tina Fey’s show 30 Rock, where the writers are told they have to stay and work through the holiday break and one of the writers breaks down in tears, flopping himself down to work, pitifully crying, “I don’t wanna do this… ”
In my house, I am definitely not alone in these sentiments. My daughter, after being on holiday at home for a week, had nothing left to focus on and decided to channel her inner 80-year-old. She did so by complaining of all these mysterious aches and pains (my daughter is a pretty active kid, that has difficulty judging spatial relationships at times, so she tends to be a bit clumsy now and again, which results in many bruises from bumping into or tripping over objects in her path). After hearing the litany of everything that was still aching or hurting for the 5th time within 36 hours, I turned to her and said, “Is there anything that is going well?” She looked at me, paused to consider my question, said “Nope,” as she grinned and left the room. So much for efforts in guiding her towards the glass half-full. At least she left the room grinning which made me laugh and consider how a moment of of negativity was shifted slightly to a moment of conscious, funny negativity.
It is all a matter of perspective and self-awareness. This made me think about my own feelings of New Year. What would it be like if I looked at this time period without the attitude and baggage I bring to it? Without that stuff hanging about, coloring my judgment, the field looks fairly open. I cannot predict what will be, so why assume anything negative or positive about the New Year?
While on break, I caught up on some podcast episodes that I had downloaded yet hadn’t listen to and came across the Kinder-Gardening episode of the podcast Hidden Brain with host Shankar Vedantam. In the episode, the podcast looks at current societal views of parenting. Apparently, even the word parenting is fairly new, only having appeared in common use in the U.S. during the 70s. Prior to that, the word parent was not an active verb, but a word that was used to describe a relationship, for example, “I am a parent.” This shift in the use of the word, spawned many different formal parenting philosophies. In the episode, guest author and psychology professor at UC Berkeley, Alison Gopnik talks about how many parents think they can shape their child into a particular kind of adult, while the science suggests otherwise. She uses a beautiful analogy of “the gardener” which mirrors what the science points to regarding the healthiest relationship basis between parent and child. The parent, as the gardener, creates an active, nurturing, diverse and rich ecosystem, then plants seeds. What happens after that is anyone’s guess, some things take, some things fail, and the gardener can only observe, prune, and cultivate what is happening in the garden. It is up to the intricate dynamics within the ecosystem which determines what will be the outcome of the garden that season.
I take great comfort in this idea and it has helped me re-frame my thoughts about the upcoming year and well as my ideas about being a parent. Unexpected things happen. And if I only have my vision set to an ultimate goal, then, I will, most likely be disappointed. But worse than being disappointed, is I will have missed out on all the surprises along the way. By taking more of the gardeners perspective to being a parent, I can provide a protected and safe space that can foster growth and change. In doing so, I get to watch the all the small things evolve over time and not make assumptions about what should happen. I can just watch what is happening and make adjustments to the accommodate the changes and growth.
I believe this applies to nurturing myself as well as nurturing my daughter. So, come what may 2018! It will certainly be a wild and woolly ride. But through it all, I can choose to be an active participant, curating and cultivating as I go. I encourage you all to do the same. We are in it together after all. Change is going to come, imagine and be open to the possibilities.