Little Things CCVII

What an embarrassingly lazy day today was.

There was sunshine, wonderful sunshine.

I finished reading “Rising Strong” by Brené Brown, and found it very helpful ❤️. I feel that for most of it, I tend to live that way anyway, and reading the book was a bit like having a confirmation for what I feel to be right – living the uncomfortable as well as the comfortable, and always being curious towards oneself. It’s nice to see my vague, often doubted and questioned guesswork, which I have never really consciously thought much about as an overarching way of meeting difficulties, in the form of research based processes and guidelines.

Laziness also have me time to think about the concert yesterday. I re-read my post from yesterday and realised that I hadn’t mentioned one of the most important observations: I wasn’t nervous. I had a slight wash of nerves when I stood up before my first passage, but otherwise, there was no real feeling of being nervous. I’m grateful to everyone who has put up with me being all nerves on various stages and living rooms in the last 5 years, after not having sung for 10 years because t got jealous whenever I spent time practising. It’s been getting better steadily, and I’m very happy about that.

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Little Things CCVI

Concert days are hectic with two kids and other relatives. They are stressful if there is not enough time to warm the voice up before the dress rehearsal just before. Will the voice recover from singing with pressure (because it wasn’t warmed up), in time for the concert? You never know. Will a cup of coffee help, or make everything worse? Trying to concentrate on the music and singing the right words is awfully difficult if you’re mainly concentrating on making sure the notes come out with enough ring and freedom.In the end it was fine. I locked myself into the toilet for disabled people, blocked my ears to block out the terribly forgiving acoustics, and gave myself time to find that point at which my voice pops. After that, nothing can go wrong. Usually that happens after about 10-15 mins of warming up – today, after the horrible dress rehearsal and an even tougher rehearsal late last night, it took 30 minutes.It was a good concert and a glorious ice-cream in the sunshine after. Also, my daughter has secured herself the orchestra to accompany her for a violin concerto in autumn. I’m looking forward to seeing her in the limelights.

Little Things CCV

I’m in Munich with the two younger kids – the eldest is at home playing adult. I used to love having the house to myself around his age, so I completely understand his excitement.

Tonight I left my youngest with my uncle with no time to spare. We were very unlucky with traffic, taking nearly two hours longer than planned – quite a feat for a 300km journey. This meant that I had to go straight off to the rehearsal with my daughter, and didn’t have any time to settle my youngest in. He really sees his great uncle, because I’m rarely in Munich and even when I am the with the kids, he is often not there.

Today I’m grateful for my youngest’s sunny personality which allows me to do things like that – drop him at somebody he sees maybe twice a year if we’re lucky, without 5 minutes time to make sure he’s comfortable and feeling at ease, knowing that he’ll be perfectly fine by himself.

Little Things CCIV

I’m having so much fun learning about anatomy with my youngest. He’s really getting into it, and has decided to learn the latin terms rather than the German ones used in two of his books. He uses all the terms so freely and naturally, and I can see how proud he is, seeing his knowledge grow. He has the natural wonder if a scientist, it’s wonderful working with him.

Little Things CCII

I had a big talk with my daughter today, about the relationship with her dad. She misses having a dad who cares, who loves her, and who is interested in her.

“Do you think it would work out if you found someone, a soulmate, and he lived with us, and we could just shut dad out of our lives?”

I told her that I don’t think you can simply replace a parent, however bad the relationship is. I also told her that I don’t depend on finding a partner to be able to take care of her, as I’m already doing that anyway.

We talked about how she imagines this person, our family’s “soulmate”. He would be interested in her (and everyone else), and the same type of consistent as I am. He would show up to her activities, ask her about her day, he wouldn’t smell bad, and he might help with school related things if required. He would simply be present and contribute in a positive way.

On the other hand, her real dad tried to load a bra on her which he couldn’t explain to his girlfriend during one of their arguments. “Say that it’s yours, please! ” he pleaded.

When she stayed home from school because she was ill, he didn’t realise she was in the apartment until 9pm. He doesn’t interact with her, value her in any way, or show her any love or respect. He only complains about her not being nice enough to him and avoiding him, but makes no effort himself.

We went into a lot today. Into how she strongly suspects that his girlfriend and he are cheating on each other (partly because of the incident with the lingerie), and how she fears that if they break up, t will loose it and become even worse than he is now. How on the other hand his girlfriend is not a nice person to live with – lazy, moody, and only friendly if people are watching. Luckily, she says, she’s hardly ever around nowadays.

I feel for her. I let her know (again) that I won’t make her go anywhere. t’s next plan is for the children to meet him at the station instead of him coming to my house to pick them up. I said when he suggested it that I would not be forcing any of the children out of the house. I’ve also let her know that no matter what, we will make it work. If she’d need to stay with me, I’d have to organise work differently, but that I would definitely find a way to make it work. I don’t want her thinking that she can’t make that decision because of me. t is not good for any of the kids, least of all her.

I just wish I can help her with that longing for a father figure that she described to me.

Little Things CCI

The kids are back.

I thought I’d jump right in and have a chat with my daughter about why she got nervous seeing a male hand on one of my Instagram posts.

It turns out that it was a good idea to get to the bottom of it.

She gets nervous because she fears that if I meet somebody, that person will suddenly be present in her life too, whether she likes it or not. t has presented the kids with a total of three girlfriends who either moved right in or were/are at least very much everyday presences for the children. Their presence was never the children’s decision, nor was their opinion sought beforehand.

I took the opportunity to tell her that I had promised myself that if I ever met somebody I actually wanted to share my life with and who wanted the same thing, any decision concerning the living situation would be a decision of all affected. I also told her that I would definitely tell her if there was such a person, she wouldn’t have to keep an eagle’s eye on social media to for that.

She also said that she was keeping an eye on me – “after all, you have a boyfriend, and I am making sure that you are being loyal”. This one stumped me a bit. To my knowledge, she has never known me to be disloyal, mainly because that’s not who I am. But I told her that that was between myself an Y (whom she was referring to), as commitment and expectations are always a very individual agreement between the people in the relationship, whatever the nature of the relationship may be. As long as those expectations are clearly communicated and agreed on, it isn’t even half as complicated as it sounds.

It was a good conversation, open and honest without going into details that a 12 year old should really not be worrying about. She appreciated it, and I got the feeling that what I had to say had quite a profound effect on her. She seemed to be relieved.

I’m glad I didn’t just write her comment a few days ago off as a pre-teen testing the waters. I was able to hear her concerns, broaden her ideas about relationships and communication, and to let her know that there is no threat.

Teaching Trust and Trustworthiness

We hear a lot of controversial statements about trust. The general gist seems to be a warning not to trust freely, because that opens up the possibility of others abusing the trust you are bringing to the table and harming you in the process. On the other hand, organizations strive to build a trustworthy image, to convince people to trust them and ultimately buy their services. Being trustworthy is portrayed as a waste of time for individuals, if nobody is looking. Idealistic, utopian people do that. In the end, the world will take advantage of them, because unfortunately, the general opinion sighs, we do not live in an ideal world.

I personally believe in trust. If we can’t trust, or we decide to only trust ourselves (a much more difficult feat than it sounds if done properly), how can any human society, even a family, function?

Being trustworthy has nothing to do with other people or circumstances. It simply means that a person lives up to a consistent set of values, no matter what. Mistakes are allowed, but they are openly and honestly acknowledged, and amends that mirror one’s values are made.

In our distrustful world, being trustworthy is attached to goals: we want our customers to be able to trust us, so that they will become loyal customers. I want my children to trust me because I want to have a good relationship with them. I want to show my friend that I am trustworthy, because I value our friendship and don’t want the friendship to end.

In an ideal world, nobody should need a reason to be trustworthy. It comes with being a good person, leading to living at peace with oneself.

Naturally, we want our kids to grow up to be good people, but we also want to help them “survive” in the real world, that world where trust and trustworthiness is attached to a pricetag.

So how can we do this as parents?

First of all, I personally place a high value on trust. I want to live in a world in which people can be trusted, however unrealistic that is.

Kids learn from what they see their parents doing, positively and negatively, so the first step is to be trusting and trustworthy as a parent. Part of that is owning mistakes, apologising sincerely, and most importantly, making better decisions in future similar situations. It’s no good getting angry in a situation, apologising, and then doing it again.

Another big part is trusting your kids. This is a difficult one. As parents, it’s important to stay vigilant and open-minded to catch any problems before they become major problems. Nobody is a saint, least of all kids who are right at the beginning of trying to figure out what I’d right and wrong, and where they stand in the world.

Take lying for instance. Every child tries to get out of an uncomfortable story with a little lie at some point in time. How can we let a child know that we trust them, while making sure that they don’t get accustomed to using lies as an easy way out of difficulties?

I think that this is how it works. The first assumption has to be that they are trustworthy, even if there is a little voice telling us that something is not quite right.

If things don’t quite line up, keep your eyes open, without becoming controlling.

If you have evidence that you are being lied to, bring it up. Confront the child with the evidence, but, and this is really important, without getting cross, and without humiliating the child, or accusing them. I would do this by saying something to the effect of you are telling me that the story was such and such, but I can see things that tell me that the story must be different. Can you explain this to me?

That brings the difficult situation onto the table, that one situation that the child was trying to avoid by telling a lie. Then follows the honest, sometimes very painful story after which the child expects harsh judgement, maybe punishment if that’s the kind of upbringing you go for as a parent, and feeling terrible. Only – that doesn’t come, because as parents, we stand by our kids. We are accountable for their behaviour legally, and are morally responsible for ensuring that they become adults who live by their own values.

So, instead of reacting emotionally and blaming the child for their failure to reflect what we think we have taught them, we start thinking about how best to amend the situation together. We also have a conversation about trust and trustworthiness. I always use situations like these to confirm that I trust them, because I believe that this is the only way any relationship can ever work. Without trust, we need to spend an excessive amount of time proving things to ourselves and to others. I also point out that trust is a two-way thing; I choose to trust, but if I see that I’m making the wrong choice, I have to protect myself and anyone else, and stop choosing trust. Instead, I’d have to start validating every story, questioning them and demanding proof and evidence. They easily understand, even at a very young age, that choosing trust is the nicer option for everyone. But that, I explain, comes with a decision to make an effort to be trustworthy, and to owning your mistakes when you make them.

At the end of this, they know that I’m a safe person to come to about any mistakes, because owning it didn’t turn out to be as bad as they had imagined. They also know that I actively choose to trust them – whatever happened before to trigger the conversation, and however likely it is to be repeated. They know that I expect them to try to live up to the trust they are receiving. They also know that I will stay at their side, no matter how injured I may feel, and will work through the problem with them.

This has worked very well for me and my kids so far. Each child has had some conversations like this, over little things and biggish things. Each has come out of it feeling exhausted but loved and feeling better for having cleared the situation up. In fact, I’ve even been asked for help to eradicate bad habits in consequence. They are all growing up to be strong personalities who will stand up for what they care for and for each other, and each has a positive approach to trusting people, in different ways, mind you. Trust and other values are something that they are able to talk about, and something they have an opinion about, because it’s something that we have discussed.

The path is not easy, it requires a lot of patience and awareness. Getting angry as a way of communicating my own values and expectations would be a much easier albeit short term solution. But in the long run, it’s proven to be worth the effort and the sometimes repeated frustration.

I’m proud to be their mum.

Little Things CC

I always have such grand plans for my no-kids Saturdays. There are so many things that I should get done, and an equally long list of things that I want to get done.

Alas, these things very seldom materialise. After a week of 18-20 hour days including non-stop days at work, worries about the kids, practising, running, gym, and general staying-alive activities such as shopping and basic cleaning, I’m just plain exhausted. I need a quiet Saturday just to get my bearings back and perhaps do a load of washing or two.

Today was such a Saturday, and again, my plans failed and my to-do lists have remained largely untouched.

But –

Today is one of the few Saturdays that I feel ok about all that. I was able to acknowledge that I’m exhausted, and that it’s ok to be tired after a crazy week. I managed a practice session, some shopping, some washing and a few household tasks, but instead of feeling like a failure because all of the things I didn’t do, the was no pressure, because I felt comfortable with needing a recovery day.

I’m going to try to remember this. I need to give myself a rest from pressure for at least one day of the week.

Little Things CXCIX

We had a family meeting at the psychologist’s today. Unfortunately my daughter was ill and couldn’t come, but the boys were there, t and I.

My eldest was on a “secret” mission (that I kind of knew about), to assess who fought fair – and boy did he get his answer.

I also recognise my own way of discussing difficult things in him. He was challenging his dad a lot, nailing him to things he had said moments before, and bringing t back to the point in question whenever he tried to get out of something by bringing something completely different up. I also realised that I have a really cool way of communicating with him in small gestures and facial expressions. We can quickly convey information or agreement/disagreement to each other with a flick of an eyebrow. I have that with my daughter too, but I hadn’t noticed just how powerful it is until today, and what a strong bond it creates.

The discussion was messy. t didn’t like that the kids didn’t actually like his suggestions, and quickly started blaming me for that. Then, when that didn’t go down well with the kids, he got upset and said that he was being ignored, and that the psychologist was being unfair. It’s becoming more and more clear that t is the child in this system. My youngest is still lost because he is a child, but my eldest is definitely an adult when dealing with t.

I’m looking forward to hearing my eldest’s verbal assessment when he’s back here – I pick them up on Sunday.