Sacred Moments, Sacred Families

20121231_144825I have to tell you about this awesome course – yes it is one of my mine 🙂 At least, I am one half of this course. Melissa and I have been writing this and living this for well over a year together. We made it come alive last year at Silkwood and now offer it in bite-sized chunks, because we know every family has different needs.

Sacred Moments is a parenting course offered on the Gold Coast as a monthly playgroup at Nerang, a monthly evening discussion group at Finger Prints Children’s Centre, and as the Effective Parenting Weekend at Silkwood School, on the Gold Coast. We are currently working on offering it as an e-course for those who live further away. What will you gain from the Sacred Moments Parenting Journey?

This course offers a framework and skills to support your decision-making as parents. Parenthood is a unique experience for each of us.  Sometimes we experience parenthood as a gift, while other times (even on the same morning), we can feel totally swamped and want to escape all our responsibilities.  This course is designed to help you equip yourself, as an individual, for the occasionally wild ride of parenting, to help you feel more prepared as a parent, better nourished, and a whole lot more inspired to be creative about your parenting so that you can enjoy the journey.

You will gain the skills to discover, honour and support your own pathway as a family. This course presents family life as a shared experience between parents and children, based on the understanding that there is no ‘right way’ to be a parent or a family unit, and no magic answer that will fix each and every family dilemma. The process of parenting is a rich, deep and dynamic process that allows us to be present with, honour and ENJOY all that life with children has to teach us.

You will gain a framework to support and ease your everyday family experiences. The framework we are presenting may even help to dissolve those tricky and exasperating moments before they become a big problem, negating the need to find that ‘quick fix’ solution. It will allow you to plan ahead, creating wonderful memories together and smoothing the ruffles in family life as you go.

You will learn techniques to review and reflect upon your parenting experiences while you are parenting on-the-go. You learn how to be present to your parenting and monitor your own effectiveness in the present moment. The ability to reflect with clarity is key to the process we are presenting. It will assist your own personal learning and help you in knowing when it is time to seek more information, more support or use other professional services. These techniques will also help you work through experiences of guilt and anger in a manner that honours your experience and your learning.www.

You will gain a support network of parents. For those attending Sacred Moments Parent Child Group it is anticipated that as we work through this course together and share our experiences that we will emerge as a group of parents able to support one another positively through the processes of family life when needed.

To find out more, email us at mj@liveyoursacredessence.com

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Parenting: The Celebration of Transformation

060I was an early childhood teacher before I became a parent. It now seems like a previous existence! I entered family life with a background of theory about small children, years of classroom experience, and just a little knowledge about babies … and was to quickly find out that theory is all very well, classroom experience is only useful in the classroom, and the little I did know about babies still equated to knowing nothing at all. I will never forget the day our midwife made her last post-natal visit: I was gripped with fear and overwhelmed with the responsibility of caring for this little tiny person my body had produced (what do you mean this is your last visit?) I just couldn’t fathom the idea that she thought we’d be fine. She smiled, and gave me a kiss … and left. I looked at our brand new son and thought that being a mummy is easier with the baby on the inside!

I was stunned at how much I had to learn – from scratch. Breastfeeding was harder than I thought it would be. Sleeping was a mystery. Teething was distressing. Fevers were frightening.  Food and decisions about health care were whole other issues!  I felt overwhelmed by all the advice that people shared with me, out of the goodness of their heart, and a little confused at the vast array of parenting styles and methods to choose from.

Despite feeling so unprepared, my husband and I still must have had some form of composure about us: our little guy was a ‘good’ baby who didn’t cry too much, a cute little thing who smiled at everyone and an inquisitive chap who was interested in everything (and therefore got up to quite a bit of mischief). The first year of his life was full of life lessons for all of us. It was wonderful and exhausting all at once. In reality we were as fine as any other new parents – stumbling along and finding our way in our re-defined relationship as a family of three. We had a go at every idea in the book (and devoured every book in the library), and then threw it all out the window and just went with what ‘worked’. We breastfed, didn’t use a dummy, co-slept, wore him in a sling. We used NVC and baby sign language. We used natural cloth nappies, and had a go at Elimination Communication. We did baby-led weaning and fed him only home-cooked meals.

Some of it worked, some of it didn’t. Our son knew what he wanted, we knew what we wanted, and it took some experimentation and some occasional compromising from each of us, to find a happy medium.

I have often marvelled at the bravery of the first child for being the ‘guinea pig’. They open wide the doors of parenthood and thrust us through them, willing or not! They are the trailblazers who will grow up and move on to the next developmental challenge before we feel that we have really mastered the last one. They test our patience, our creativity, our energy levels, our values and our relationships. They make us wake up to ourselves! I have found that parenting has been the single most effective way to learn how to listen to my own ‘truth’. I have learned more about myself on this journey than any amount of personal development I may have done before my first birth!

I have my favourite parenting books, and my favourite parenting ‘experts’ but I do not rely on them for all the answers. Since becoming a parent, I now interact with families socially through playgroups, mothers groups and women’s groups. I have shared my experiences and learned from my friends as they travel their own parenting journeys beside me. I have learned enough to believe that nobody can claim to have all the answers, because we only know for sure about our own experience with our own families, and all the rest is theory until it ‘clicks’ with you. I am inspired and interested in finding out more about what will enhance my understanding of my children, and thus our family life. It is exciting when we become our own teachers, and are forgiving of our mistakes.

Parenting has empowered me as a woman, a mother, a wife and a teacher, and I have learned that:

– parenting involves acknowledgement of the value of pain as a teacher (frustration, tiredness, disappointment and worry!),

– whichever way we parent it needs to come from the place of our own truth and intuition,

– parenting is a journey of discovery and learning, but is most inspiring when we keep looking and keep learning, rather than searching for THE answer, and

– for parenting to ‘improve’, it should be regarded as a sacred celebration of transformation.

We can get bogged down in the day-to-day elements of parenting and family life. I have found in my journey that the thing that keeps me going is to celebrate (daily) the sacred, the beautiful, the funny, the quirky, and the clever, but also to not overlook the ugly, the scary, the annoying, the angry and the frustrating. All these moments cycle in and out of focus but are ever-present in our parenting.

Written by and Copyright to Jennifer McCormack, May 2010

First published by Kindred at www.kindredcommunity.com

Please do not reproduce without my permission

Parenting: Being Kind To Ourselves

Being Kind to Ourselves

written by Jennifer McCormack, Copyright June 2011.

152For most parents, on first learning of their pregnancy, the first reaction they have is to read and talk to as many people as possible to learn about all the things that they can do to understand pregnancy and to become wonderful parents. Armed with our research into gentle birthing, nutrition, breastfeeding, sleep and behaviour, we think we are ready. Ah … little did we realise that all we have learned, and many of the values we held prized, will constantly be re-assessed, even dropped completely as time goes by.

Parenting is not a set of skills that can be learned and ticked off a list. It is not something you can become accomplished at by reading a book. Parenting is a living process of constant learning and re-learning. It is something you can be wonderful at one moment, and then be really bad at the next. Becoming a parent means we have to learn a LOT more about ourselves (and our partners) than we would otherwise have explored.

I don’t think that parenting has ever been an easy thing for anyone. If we listen to the stories of our generations of parents before us, parenting certainly appears to have been simpler than it is today, but I believe that it challenges each and every one of us regardless of what circumstances we are in when we become parents.

When I first became a parent I had read a lot, and as an early childhood teacher I had already begun to form a pretty clear philosophy of my own about how this parenting caper was to be approached and managed. I had enjoyed a wonderful career as a teacher of young children, and had proven myself as someone who could work intuitive with little people. When I became pregnant it was expected by many that parenting would be a breeze for me!

Tired ... but still smiling

Tired … but still smiling

I guess to some extent I had that expectation too, but I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy road all the time.  I just never knew how often I would end up dropping my parenting ideals, and everything else, because I just didn’t have the time, the energy or the opportunity to make them work. I never knew how often I would kneel at the altar of motherhood and beg for some inspiration or at the very least some energy to continue the task.

I would be really very surprised (and delighted) to meet a parent who hasn’t, at some point, been in the depths of parenting where dinner every night has been baked beans on toast (or just straight out of the tin), where arguments, shouting and sarcasm has replaced laughter, conversation and storytelling. When you’ve all been so tired and worn out that simple solutions to even the simplest of problems just don’t present themselves immediately and the only solution you can think of is to pray for a moment’s peace. I knew there would be some rough bits to navigate as a parent, but I had no idea how often they would come up, how rough they’d be, or how just how helpless those experiences can leave you feeling.

Early in my parenting, one of my friends introduced me to the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 Principle. This principle is an observation of nature, and notes that, basically, life is not fair.  We cannot expect 100% perfection when we are more likely to achieve 80% of our goals only 20% of the time (as an example). Please try an internet search on this term – it is very interesting! The Pareto Principle has often come back to me in the years since as a comforting little thought, that none of us are meant, nor are statistically ABLE, to be the people we want to be ALL of the time. What a relief it is to have something like this to explain that we cannot live up to our ideals of perfection – that we are meant to be imperfect and must give ourselves permission to drop things from time to time.

It is what we do, isn’t it? We know what we WANT to achieve in our parenting – but actually achieving it is something else. I would honestly have never guessed at just how many obstacles could arise in one day to prevent me from achieving one simple thing, such as mailing a letter, or getting the clothes off the line (or even INTO the washing machine!).

So –

  • we don’t talk to our children in sweet voices all the time (Get over here NOW!),
  • we don’t always model such wonderful problem solving skills of our own (who taught my child THAT word?? Oh .. it was me),
  • we aren’t as organised as we’d like to be (Six trips between the car and the house and I still haven’t found my keys and I’m 20 minutes late ..)

So you aren’t perfect? Are you happy at least 80% of the time? Then you are doing well. Remember that it is our imperfections that give us the opportunity to learn and (eventually) laugh. If nature was 100% perfect then it would be pretty boring. That random imperfection makes our world a pretty interesting place to be.

Be kind to yourself.

Me and Rosella

Advent Week Four: The Blessings of the Human Kingdom

This is the last week of the Four Kingdoms of Advent, and we celebrate the Kingdom of Humans. I have written about the Mineral Kingdom, the Plant Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom individually, and we as humans carry the blessings of each of these Kingdoms in our bodies: in our bones and bodies we have the strength, structure and physical condition of the Mineral Kingdom. Our life force and sense of vitality is a gift from the Plant Kingdom, who also share with us the gift of adaptation, nourishment and beauty. We share skills of social interactions, behaviour, instincts and feelings with the Animal Kingdom – all of these blessings combine and have allowed us to develop something that makes us different.

The Human Kingdom contains the power of creative knowledge and the ability to transform ourselves and our world around us. As Amber Greene described it, “we are CALLED to use this gift!” It is the eternal wrestle of mankind to be something more than we are, and those with hearts that are called to beauty, truth and goodness in the world will find out how best to use their creative intelligence.

IMG_5013

The Advent tells the story of the birth of the Christ Child, who was recognised as one who would grow to be a great teacher and leader – a king among men who had access to divine wisdom that he would share with the world. Putting ‘religion’ aside, I still see this story as one that is important and very accessible to us all. Whether or not you believe in Heaven or God or Jesus, in the Advent Story that has been unfolding over these last few weeks we have everything in place for us to birth ourselves anew, and with consciousness. To me this is a story that perfectly describes the potential within each of us to be great and to use our creative potential in the world in wonderful ways, no matter how ‘humble’ we feel our talents are.

Mother Blessed Book

Mary, in her pregnancy, carries the idea and the potential for something wonderful, and looks for the blessings in life even when life was not be making it easy for her.  She represents the power of birth and creative transformation – a divine gift given to her by the Holy Spirit. Joseph is an old man who has lived a long, hard-working life. He realises this child Mary bears comes from something ‘beyond’ him. I know that feeling – of not really being my children’s mother. I look at my children in utter wonder at where these spirits came from, and feel humble and proud that they chose me to be one of their parents. In this relationship Mary has connection with Heaven, wonder, beauty, spirit, positivity, gratitude, creative power, while Joseph has connection with the Earth, goodness, values, wisdom, work, perseverance and loyalty and together with their love they share their gifts with another human being – this Christ Child who stands with one foot on the Earth and the other in Heaven.IMG_0058

I think the Advent Story tells us that WE are the Christ Child. We have the potential to grow into something beyond ourselves because at the moment of our births we are given the gifts of Mary and Joseph, and the blessings of the Mineral, Plant and Animal Kingdoms. We are human, and we have faults but through divine gifts we have the potential – ALWAYS – to look for something better, brighter and more beautiful in ourselves.

Madoona and Child Figure WM

THE BLESSINGS OF THE KINGDOM OF HUMANS

Written by Jennifer McCormack

Old man Joseph, Mary and Donkey have travelled far together,

Through all kinds of landscapes and through all kinds of weather.

And yet no matter how rough their ride, they went with gratitude,

For they knew that journeys are easier with a positive attitude.

They were closer now than ever before, to their destination,

And when they reached Bethlehem there would be a celebration.

For Mary carried the Holy Child who soon would be birthed,

and this Babe was destined to be a great Teacher on this Earth.

They’d been travelling through villages, lots of little towns.

It was lovely to see some other people about and all around.

When they finally arrived, their lengthy journey at an end,

They were surprised to see how busy was the town of Bethlehem!

Travellers like them had taken rooms at all the available places.

People turned them away from their doors with the saddest faces,

“I’m sorry we have no room for you, but you could try next door,

Perhaps they’d have a place for you to sleep upon the floor?”

A child had been watching poor Joseph and Mary growing in distress,

They were weary, hungry, so very tired and having no success.

He said “I know a little place, it really isn’t the best.

But it’s warm and dry and it would be a place for you to rest.”

He took them to his father’s inn and asked if they were able

to rest a while with their donkey in a corner of the stable.

The innkeeper looked at them with kindness on his face

and said, “Of course, my rooms are full, and it is the only place.

It’s clean and dry and very warm, you’ll rest well with my cows.”

He brought them blankets, food and water and left them with a bow.

And that night Mary birthed her Babe, in that quiet shed

With Joseph at her feet and the Donkey by her head.

They were all spellbound by the beauty of this tiny Holy Child

Mary slept a healing sleep and when she woke she smiled.

“This Babe was born upon the ground, and a great teacher he will be,

I shall teach him all I can, and then he shall teach me.

I am grateful for friends and families and for places filled love,

and for this special little Babe I thank the Holy Spirit above.

I give thanks to the kindness of others, when they see a need

who can see that inside another lies potential, like a seed.

We all have the ability to grow and learn, to open up our hearts,

and try to be and do the best we can, its the greatest way to start.

For every parent anywhere knows the awesome power of birth

That love and trust and honest work will transform this Earth.”

10 Things I’ve learned about helping babies sleep

I didn’t understand the contract I was making when I became pregnant for the first time. Eight years of broken sleep later I am finding it much easier to get through nights with frequent wake-ups, and I can see some light at the end of the tunnel. Here is my experience, and  please remember this is MY experience. I am not offering advice, just sharing what has worked for me. This is what I have learned:

1) I can’t MAKE anyone sleep. This one has been a tough lesson for me!

2) My own needs are MUCH more important than my baby’s. Just because I don’t cry as loud or as often as my baby does doesn’t mean I should ignore my own needs. An unrested parent is no good to anybody in the family. The amount of crazy decisions I’ve made (and regretted) when I am tired, words I’ve said and can’t take back … the times I’ve been too tired to feed myself or my family properly, or even speak nicely. When I am tired my coping skills are diminished and I can’t handle noise or the regular squabbles between siblings. I have no energy. I get sick easier. I shout a lot and make threats when children don’t listen to me the first time. I have the skills I need to parent effectively but am too tired to remember to use them when I need to. If I am not getting sleep than I have to find a way. Often this means a bit more help from the family. See point nine.

3) Don’t turn the light on. Night time is for sleeping. Sleeping happens when it is dark. If light is required for reassurance or to find something then use a candle or a very dim LED light. Apparently any light at nighttime resets our brain from sleepy mode to wakeful mode, so keeping it dark keeps the intention that sleep is required now.

4) Don’t talk. When I greet and chat to my baby at night then I am inviting them to join in a conversation. Keeping the intention that night time is for sleeping means keeping verbal communication at a minimum. A whispered reminder to rest, a soft lullaby sung to soothe is all that is necessary.

5) Have my night time equipment ready. I don’t go to bed without a pair of slippers, a dressing-gown and a drink of water within reach. I just never know how long I am going to be up for when my baby wakes and it is hard to sooth a baby when I am cold and thirsty. It is also handy to have other things within reach so that I don’t have to turn on the light – things like essential oils, baby’s drink bottle, thermometer, wash cloths, spare pyjamas … it isn’t very nice to cuddle up to your baby only to be vomited on in the next moment. And you never can be sure when this is going to happen!

6) Go to the toilet before I go to my baby. I have had to learn this one over and over again. Nothing like leaning over a cot – just so – knowing that you can’t take your hand off your baby or she’ll wake, no matter how full your bladder is.

7) I can sing ANY song really slowly and it becomes a lullaby. Lullabies, like everything, work when they are not over used. In the early days with our first child we’d rock and pat and swing and step rhythmically – ANYTHING to get him to sleep. I swore that if I held him like THIS then he would sleep, my husband declared that it only worked for him like THIS – in the end I think everything we were doing was overstimulating him when he just wanted to be held close and sung to softly.

8) Each one of my babies has had different sleeping needs . It took some time to find out and respect how my baby sleeps best. Our first child fussed in our bed until we put him in his cot (in our room, then in his own room for a while, then back in our room!) Our second child snuggled with us for a long time until she moved into her own bed, in our room. For a while there we had three beds in our tiny bedroom and the whole family slept there. Then before my last pregnancy  they both moved into their own room together, and they are still happy with this arrangement. Our last baby sleeps best on her own in her cot (in our room) with a few short and reassuring bedtime snuggles when she wakes. She always seems relieved to go back to bed afterwards. She’ll move in with her siblings as soon as she sleeps all night long. I am all for co-sleeping but only for as long as it suits everyone. Every now and then our older two come in for a snuggle at night, but they usually go back to bed after a while.

9) Don’t be the ONLY one who gets up to the baby at night. I have fallen for this every time and every time I have found it is not a good pattern to set because before I know it I’m the only one who can soothe the baby. It may be ‘easier’ to get baby to go to sleep if I do it, but not when I end up getting up several times a night. When this starts to happen my husband and I take turns – EVERY time our baby wakes, EVERY night. With each of our three children as babies I found myself deep in a hole of continual sleep deprivation because I was the one who responded each time. Soon I was getting up every two hours, or sometimes more. It was a nightmare. I found myself unable to sleep because there would be no point. It really is a horrible experience to fall asleep exhausted only to be wrenched out of it moments later. Once I realised what was going on (and this took an unbelieveable amount of time to come to this realisation) my husband and I changed our patterns and we shared the waking and soothing. I can’t say it was pleasant for anyone at first. There was a lot of crying involved, and not just from the baby, but also a lot of hugs and it was not long before the gaps between the wake-ups grew longer, and the need for turn-taking diminished. What worked best for us was to make a plan about who gets up when, and agree on the way the soothing will be done. If both of us approached her with the same strategies it became clear that the only option available was to allow herself to sleep with the help of two people who love her. Having said that because I still breastfeed her at night, I am still up EVERY night. See next point.

10) I encourage my babies to self-soothe. I do breastfeed my baby at night still. She is nearly two years old. I have  guidelines though. I hold the opinion that MY babies do not need to eat when they are sleeping, and that they do not need to suck to be comforted. It took a little while to switch from breastfeeding to hugs for night comforting but we did it gently, respectfully and to a plan. Now my baby generally wakes once for a cuddle and a lullaby, and once for a feed. She can sleep all night, and has done, but illness and busy days often disrupt sleeping patterns. If she wakes before 3am she gets cuddles. After 3am she can have some milkies.  When she is ill I relax this a bit and I breastfeed her when it is clear that comforting isn’t going to help her feel relaxed enough to sleep.