Presence and expectations

Hello, Happy New Year and Happy Chinese New Year dear Marshmallow Peeps,

I know this greeting is late, but I hope your collective holidays were happy and restful. We now find ourselves in a new decade, back to the old proverbial grind. I find this transition back into the daily slog difficult, not just this year, but almost every end-of-the-holiday shift back into the usual daily routine. Maybe it is because of the festive build up and collective busy energy during the preamble to the season then the sudden absence of anything special in its wake. At any rate, the transition back to everyday life is rough.

While still on break, right after New Years Day, I received an email newsletter from a friend of mine who works as a mentor. The newsletter spoke about how she, in late December, found a box of old “New Years” letters she had written as a child to her imaginary friend, YumYumChewy. In rereading these annual audits of her childhood years, she realized that, while she had a lot to say about pop culture, fashion, brother troubles, confessions of crushes, and parental annoyances, she had nothing to say about New Year’s goals or resolutions. The absence of setting lofty goals, it reminded herself of the freedom she had as a child to “just be.” Sure there are expectations placed on children, there are rules, there are other children to contend with, but still, on the whole, children can “just be” and do so without much thought or effort. I think that this is, essentially, the true beauty of childhood, especially early childhood– kids are who they are and they don’t know much else.

Of course, slowly, over time this shifts. There are experiences both within the family and outside the family that place pressures on who we turn out to be. The seemingly smallest things can have significant impacts on the course of our lives. I am reminded of one such incident that happened between a friend of mine and her daughter. Her daughter liked to sing and has a talent for it, but hasn’t to date pursued any formal training. One day while this child was singing a song as she came into the kitchen, her mom poked fun at her singing. It was meant as a little tease, but it had a large unintended effect. That kid didn’t sing out loud again for another 3 years because her mom accidentally made her feel self-conscious of her singing abilities. Yes, maybe my friend’s child being was overly sensitive about the whole thing, but her reaction reflected the doubt it cast within herself. My friend regretted ever having teased her and in hindsight, lamented how detrimental that moment was for her child. Case in point, what we say as parents and how we say it to our children can hold a disproportionate amount of sway in their lives for better or worse.

Over the break, I was rereading a few chapters from Igniting Greatness, Remembering who we really are through The Nurtured Heart Approach®. In a chapter titled Baby Stepping, authors Howard Glasser and Melissa Lowenstein write, “Imagine a baby getting ready to take her first steps. Even when the ‘almost’ step happens, joy simply erupts.” (p 63) We don’t say, “That was pretty good, but your form could have been improved on! We wouldn’t think to be critical or point out lack or shortcoming. Even if that baby was developmentally different and walked late, or perhaps might never walk at all, the adults charged with her care would find ways to connect with and encourage her movement toward greater functionality and independence…Unfortunately, we tend to lose that instinctive sense of highly responsive delight as our children leave baby-hood.” (pp 63-64) Before we know it, we are nitpicking, lecturing, frowning down upon grades, behaviors, and badly made choices. But perhaps, if we shift our perspective away from expectations and focus more on what isn’t going wrong, we give ourselves room to notice things we might have otherwise missed. We are released from “success as an un-scalable mountain or a bar held high” (p 65). We are free to just notice our children being themselves, exploring and expressing themselves unfettered by our opinions and judgements, our fears and our egos.

At any given moment, there are a lot of things that are NOT going wrong. This is akin to what is referred to in Chi Gong as “opposite thinking.” A shift in perspective can bring about the space needed to move around a metaphoric roadblock and keep a more balanced mindset.

So, as we usher in the Chinese New Year and The Year of the Rat, we can think about how The Year of Rat is the beginning of a new 12 year cycle. With this new beginning we can set the tone for ourselves and for our children by noticing what is not going wrong and maybe that leaves us  more room for things to go right.

“What is love? Love is the absence of judgement.” ~ His Holiness the Dalai Lama

In Gratitude,

Anouck

 

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