This morning my kitchen looks a lot like it did yesterday. This time it was not because of so much canning but because Pete worked late and I had evening plans sewing with a friend at her house. (After my three days solo I've been conscious to carve out some time apart from my kids, be that to hang with friends, crafting alone, or even just walk the dog.) Despite the messy kitchen this morning I woke feeling rested and ready to start the day. There was no canning yesterday, just some live fermenting and some time with my serger. (Oh, serger. How I love you.) Even the laundry folding was neglected.
Today I'm starting slow. Yesterday was very busy for my world (three things on our schedule) and today will be the opposite to re-balance us a bit. I have my decaf latte, the cat in my lap, and the dishes are soaking in the sink. My sleepy people are all still in bed so I'm stealing a rare moment of quiet.
Thought today is Mystery Thursday, this week we are toning it down to catch up from yesterday and the rest of the week. It has been busy and it's important for me to know when to pull back.
My children have been struggling with harmony lately. They are great friends and love to play together usually (though normal sibling struggles are not uncommon) but this past week they've been frustrating each other more than not. And honestly, they've been frustrating me with the bickering too.
Last night I called off a game they were playing when it eroded into name-calling and raised voices. I calmly told them to each go to their respective rooms for five minutes to rest. It had been a busy day and I felt they needed some quiet and solitutude. (Note that I didn't send them to their rooms in anger or as a punishment. Just a simple re-boot of their energy.)
Regardless of my intention, they were not happy about my request. Tears for one, grumbles from the other, they headed down to their rooms. And then something magical happened. They relaxed. They hit a calm and creative groove when they found themselves alone and in silence. When five minutes was over I let them know they could clean up and come out but neither one wanted to be done. They voluntarially stayed in for another 10 minutes, came out for dinner, and then both wandered back in to their own rooms to finish what they began during their quiet time.
This caused me some reflection/amazement. I strive to practice NVC-parenting every day with varied success (NVC = Non Violent Communication). That means it is my goal to not yell, dominate, or otherwise act as a dictator of any member of my family. NVC means no punishments. No shaming. No violence of any kind. And to be honest, even this gentle re-boot felt a little harsh because it put me in a dominance role of forcing them to do something they didn't want to do. Perhaps it is memories of what "Go to your room." meant to me one generation ago. Shaking off the implied negativity and instead delivering a loving and gentle "Please go to your room and rest for five minutes." caused such a shift.
How do I parent if not by punishment? By connection. By validation.By loving kindness. I don't do it 100% of the time thought that is a goal I suppose. But sometimes I lose it. And while for me that might look different from when you lose it, it's the same idea of coming unraveled a bit. Just as our kids lose it sometimes, so do we. It's human.
The basic premise of NVC is that every behavior is the expression of a need. Find the need. Yesterday I felt my kids were expressing a need for quiet by constantly arguing over small things. They were over-stimmed.
When I see an expression or a behavior I don't try to control the behavior. I look for its cause. The root of the behavior often seems unrelated, so we need to be present and reach out and connect with our child. Did something happen today that caused my child to feel powerless? Is there a sadness under the surface that is being expressed through behavior? Have I been distant and distracted and my child needs to feel my presence? Is our schedule too full?
The upshot about our five minutes of solitude yesterday is that I recognized our need for quiet moments worked into our day. Every day. And all of us. I have mastered our weekly rhythm over the past month or so; now it's time to hone our daily rhythm. I look forward to it.
I promised you that zucchini pickle recipe today. You can find it here. Enjoy!