Mindfulness, Uncategorized

Back to school – What have we gained? What have we lost?

Standing at the school gate (behind the freshly painted yellow line) I watched yesterday as my children skipped off towards their classrooms without looking back.

Seeing their school bags bob out of sight, ushered by smiling teachers, marked the end of 6 months of lockdown. Parents were shuffled out through the new one-way system, blinking in bewilderment as we stepped out onto the pavement. Everything was so strange and yet so familiar; we seemed to slip back into the routine so easily that in some surreal sense it felt as though lockdown hadn’t happened.

Standing in the drizzle, I was, for the first time in half a year, free. Free from what had begun to feel like an inescapable, chaotic dance of multitasking, entertaining, cooking, tidying and refereeing, Now I had the chance to look back down the mountain we had climbed.

Our little nuclear family experienced no tragic personal losses from COVID-19, beyond those we witnessed in the news, which we followed helplessly, until the numbers and the politics became too confusing. Our three boys are young. They hadn’t missed out on any milestones or rights of passage. In many ways they adapted into lockdown with as much ease as they adapted back out of it. Just like that.

Lockdown had its upsides. Our children bonded and their bonds grew stronger. They played together for hours. In the absence of schoolwork they had to do, they began to lead their own learning; crafting, drawing, painting, reading, writing stories. They explored every inch of the garden. They spent more time than ever before with their dad, who was working from home. They built genuine friendships with their grandparents. As parents we realised the strength of our support network.

But there were losses of a different kind and with these came consequences for the whole family. We lost routine and a stabilising structure to our day. We began enthusiastically enough, the children and us, following a timetable, keeping up with a ‘school day’ of sorts, juggling working from home with homeschooling reasonably well. The grandparents joined in with zoom lessons and virtual story time. But as the weeks went on, the novelty wore off. Enthusiasm waned. Bedtimes got later, school days got shorter. Keeping homeschooling varied and interesting for three different ages was a challenge. Fighting was relentless and inevitable. The children learnt about Netflix and how to use the remote control. Their methods of mischief became extraordinarily creative.

As parents we lost time. Time to invest in our own projects so that we could feel personally fulfilled and able to give more of ourselves. Time to invest in our own self care so that we could do a better job of caring for others. Time to focus on one thing at a time, whether it was work, a phone call, or admin task so that we could give others our full, unwavering attention.

As parents we also lost space. Amidst the unbroken noise of three boys, we lost space to think. Space to get out and go. Space to calm down. Space to have an uninterrupted conversation. We literally lost space to sit, as the couch became a fortress.

We tried to solve these losses ourselves, but ended up simply moving the loss from one place to another, like a sliding puzzle.

We took on new projects to mark our personal space. In turn we lost time to invest in caring for each other and for ourselves, and we lost patience with our children as we piled yet more on to our multi-tasking list.

We stayed up late to gain back some child-free time with each other and time for ourselves. In turn we lost sleep, and we lost both time and space the following day as we limped groggily through the day with tired brains.

And now, looking back down the lockdown mountain we have climbed with its steep slopes and craggy crevices, we have time and space to process the last 6 months.

I have time and space to ask myself – How much did our lost space and time as parents impact our family through lockdown? Could I have done things differently? What could I have done better? Will my family be ok? These questions are likely to lead me to negatively introspect about the past and negatively forecast the future, creating worry and anxiety.

We have waited a long time for this time and space. Too long to fill it with self criticism and doubt. So I’m going to fill it with gratitude. Gratitude is an immensely powerful tool we can use to situate ourselves firmly in the present. Consciously considering what we are grateful for connects us with the people around us, and with the present moment itself. So,,.

I am grateful for family.

I am grateful for friends.

I am grateful for home.

I am grateful for passion.

I am grateful for hope.

What are you grateful for?

Mindfulness

Lockdown parenting: finding the positive

With schools out for lockdown, and parents working from home, the four walls of the family home loom higher; some days casting an enormous black shadow over the occupants. Sharing space without reprieve is tough. Relentless multitasking is exhausting for our minds and for our morale. 

But what if we shifted our focus to what we have, rather than what we don’t? In place of time to think, we have extra time to spend with our children, whose younger years will slip through our fingers like grains of sand. 

In place of by-the-book parenting, we have a collection of imperfect parenting moments, that, as Brene Brown points out in Daring Greatly, become gifts as our children watch us try to figure out what went wrong and how we can do better next time.

In place of freedom to connect with friends, we have freedom to connect with our home, the space we come back to every night, the partners with whom we used to bookend each day with the scraps of ourselves we had left, the children we struggled to get more than two words out of when we asked about their day.

In place of a deceptive certainty of what the future holds, we have the glorious present moment, and as Sam Harris acknowledges in his aptly named book Waking up, that’s really all we have.

In place of plans and diaries bulging with progress, we have opportunities to take stock, to change direction, to connect with another path. 

In Solution Focused Hypnotherapy, we spend time guiding our clients to reconnect with the strengths in their lives. To shift focus to the positive. Moving forward, this change in mindset can be both liberating and life changing. As Elliott Connie, Global Leader in Solution Focused Brief Therapy Elliott Connie says; “There is magic in being led by what you want, rather than what you don’t want.”

So embrace the moment; embrace the magic. And recognise that to do this is, in itself, an achievement. A demonstration of your powerful mind. 

References 

Connie, E. (2016). Small Things Can Lead to Big Things. Moments with Elliott Connie. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rd3QIelHxhk

Harris, S. (2014). Waking up. Simon & Schuster.

Brown, B. (2012). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. New York: Gotham Books.