Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Mother's fierce love

I've been driven into a rest-only state by a weird inner ear virus that has given me vertigo and intense dizziness. I haven't been able to do much, but after the first few days, I have been able to read. For light reading, I enjoy mysteries. And sometimes I also discover meaning and wisdom there.

I just finished Mother Nature by geologist Sarah Andrews. At the end of the well crafted story is an "Author's note" about the power of Mother Nature and Sarah's hope for our eventual understanding and love of the great Mother.

"I find that California's geology follows a negative female archetype in its personality: She is capricious, moody, given to fires and floods and earthquakes, entirely too ready to rid herself of the humans who persist in building along her shores and valleys. She is the very image of the Hindu goddess Kali, as viewed through the lens of Western patriarchal cultures.... I find it interesting that Kali is viewed so differently by cultures older than ours. She is indeed considered ferocious, but not disenfranchised from her anger as are women in our society. Her anger rises naturally as she moves to crush that which threatens her children..."

"I dream a dream for my generation, a mother's dream. I dream that we are learning to raise our sons and daughters with Kali's ferocious love, not stunting their growth with toxins born of our disappointment and impacted anger. Our daughters will grow up strong, directing their passions in mature ways, neither scorned for their anger nor shamed for their desires, ready and able to use these energies to birth an even better world in the generation to follow. And our sons will grow up knowing how to grow, delighted by the strength of their sisters and their wives-to-be, responsible for all their acts and feelings, mature and wise and strong."

"It is a fine dream. In it we find the humility to admit our shortcoming in the way we've been treating our Mother. On waking, we embrace our limits and her vastness, and learn to live in harmony with the natural laws of her love."

Yes, it is a fine dream!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Changing our focus

When we are in the middle of struggles with our children, it is hard to imagine a positive outcome. Yet, no one ever really dug themselves out of hard times by focusing on the problem. We are able to find our way through the muck and sludge by using our positive character traits to lead us to the solution: our willingness, our courage, our determination, our creativity.

"Our son is so stubborn. He resists everything we ask him to do. He only wants to hang out with his friends or be on his computer. His homework is a struggle. And then when he does finally finish, we are all so exhausted we just fall into bed. Then the next day it is the same thing all over again. Why does he fight everything?"

Stubbornness takes two. We are also very persistent in our request. We have our ideas about how things should be done, and when he doesn't cooperate, he seems stubborn. But to him, we are being inflexible and unwilling to see things from his perspective. How can we view this situation differently? We can start by looking for the strengths.

Instead of the negative view reflected in stubbornness, determination is a desirable trait. We just want children to be determined and persistent and motivated by the "right" action. So, can we look at them through a different lens? The same child who seems manipulative has the creativity to work the situation to secure what he needs. The child who is feisty and resistant may also be energetic and able to stand up for what he believes. The child who is busy and into everything may have a strong spirit of adventure, willing to try new things. The child who seems to be ignoring us may be very focused on his own activity.

It takes an entirely different mindset to stop focusing on the negative and start noticing the positive potential. But when we do, often the behaviors change right before our eyes.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Recognizing Special Needs

We all have special needs at least some of the time. Children may have special needs which impact their mobility, their learning, or their social skills. When we are going through a major change, or an illness, or maybe we have a long term challenge, it helps when our needs are recognized and resources are available to help.

Frequently I get asked about a particular child. Someone will describe the child's behavior and ask me what I think might be going on. Since I have been working with children and parents for some time, I often can get a "sense" of the situation. If the behavior feels to me like it is within the range of "normal" for this child's age or experiences, we talk about what might help this child adjust right now. Sometimes after I have heard the description, I have what I call a "red flag" feeling. A little bell is sounding inside, a flag is waving in front of my eyes. My experience tells me that something different may be going on for this child. This child may need some extra assistance.

Without seeing the child personally, I can't tell for sure. But this is a time to encourage the parents or other adults to get some more help. Get some more eyes on this child, observing and listening. There are organizations whose job it is to do assessments of children, and then after this evaluation, to hook them up with services that will help them. Some parents may feel like "he will grow out of this. Why stress him out with strangers looking at him?" Well, the sooner the concern is recognized and addressed, the better this is for the child and family. Then, with more information and ideas, this child can move forward.

So, if you are feeling like something might be going on for a child, if you have questions about this child's development, find a local professional who can help you figure out what strategies would assist this child. Yes, we all have special needs, at least some of the time. And we all need help, at least some of the time. It takes a village, and everyone in it, to raise a child and support a family.