Communication, weekend with family, parenting class

We left Thursday afternoon to head for the mountains, had no internet connection there, got back Saturday night late, I photographed a wedding on Sunday, and bedtime was hard last night so I chose to watch more Potter with Ted rather than writing a blog post. Thus the long (for me) CelloMama silence.

But here I am.

Last week I posted on my friend’s FB page, at his request, that he is in jail. There was a fair amount of communication with other friends of his following that post, and it consumed a bunch of my attention and thought. My third letter to him came back to me, which made me sad. It was the first long one I’d written, but it arrived at the jail where he’d been after he’d been transferred elsewhere. I’d thought they’d send mail along, but I guess not. We haven’t spoken since his transfer, so though I’ve been talking about him to a bunch of other people, I haven’t spoken to him directly in a while. I have a number of more serious things I have been ruminating about telling him and feeling some stuckness around, and thus haven’t written another letter in a while. I think I will write a short one soon, just to tell him I am still here, and let go of the need/wish to have every communication be perfect. The connection is what matters.

We had a wonderful weekend in the mountains with my sister (G), her boyfriend (D), and their kids. I loved having the extended time. We’re all so busy, and so often getting together is one item of many on a crowded schedule, bounded by activities, bedtimes, etc. Having a few days meant that we could ease into interactions, learn about each other more slowly, have conversations as they occurred naturally rather than within a specific timeframe. We learned some more things about parenting, about sharing space, about the needs of three families in one house. Because the basement didn’t work for any contingent as a sleeping space, we had musical beds a couple of nights, trying to figure out a configuration that could work, and that was somewhat challenging. But the communication around it was great, and in fact I think the opportunity for problem-solving benefitted everyone.

D’s daughter got interested in my camera. I had two with me since I wanted to practice ahead of the wedding I photographed on Sunday, and she asked if she could use one. We had a great conversation about aperture, shutter speed, and film speed, and went around taking pictures of things together and separately.

It makes me so happy to see my sister so happy. Her boyfriend is a wonderful guy, and their interaction is warm and mutually supportive. It’s lovely to be around.

Hazel and her cousin fought, a lot. And then on Saturday, when we were driving away, Hazel cried and cried, saying her tummy hurt, that she needed to go back, that she wanted to live with her cousin and D’s kids, that she loves her cousin so much, etc. It helps me to remember that power struggles do not mean a lack of love, or the presence of malice. As my sister says, if they didn’t love each other so much it wouldn’t matter so much.

Sunday I prepped for the wedding, and then I was at the wedding, from 2:30 to 9 or so. It was a long, exhilarating, tiring, wonderful day. I have a ton of photos to go through, to edit, to pass along. I definitely wouldn’t want to do that as my main job, but it was quite amazing to do something that far out of my normal professional life, that far from my comfort zone (I’m usually a one-on-one kind of a person). I have not looked at all the pictures yet, but will get through them in the next few weeks.

Monday I was astonished to find myself back in my regular life, parenting and teaching.

Today, I drove down with the kids and picked Hazel’s cousin B up. We spent the day down at their house, at the park nearby, and at a restaurant for lunch (neither G nor we have much food in the house at the moment). I managed to apply, erratically and inconsistently, some of the new tools Ted and I have been learning in our parenting class. The day, overall, went pretty well. And now I’ve done it, and I know I can take care of all four kids.

Tonight we had the last of our 4-part class series. It has been such a tremendously helpful experience. We’ve taken notes each time. Tomorrow night we’ll compare notes and make a plan for moving forward. We want to continue to nurture our forward momentum. There are a few people in the class who are interested in forming a parent group, and I hope we can get that together, too. There’s nothing like support from others struggling in the same trenches.

One thing we did tonight was express appreciation for something we love about our families. I said that I loved how strongly and intensely my kids are themselves. This morning I had a moment of realization about how quickly, consistently, and fervently I focus my attention on projected negative consequences, rather than on sometimes subtler positives or potential for positives in the moment. My personal goal for some time now, I think will be to remember to focus on the positive, not to the exclusion of reality, but as a way to be thoughtful about to what I am giving power. It is simply not necessary for 90% of the content of what I say to my kids to be correction. I can step away from micromanaging them. I can act out my confidence in their ability to figure things out for themselves. And I can enjoy the spark of humor, the shared appreciation of wonder, the warmth of love, give those things their due before weaving in any teaching I find necessary.

In other words, I can laugh when my daughter pokes her finger through the hole in the shower curtain and speaks to me in a funny voice. I don’t have to imagine the curtain shreds on the floor and lecture her about treating stuff with respect. I can talk with her about that later. There will always be opportunities for discussion of that sort, but the moments when she looks for connection with me will not last forever if I’m always batting them away in correction or judgment.

The wonderful thing is, change is always possible, repair is possible, and I don’t have to waste my time in self-castigation, either.

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