Life coincides. You read the right thing, or you meet the right person, at the right time, and it helps you to make the changes you’ve been sensing within you for some time.
Today, whilst I was having my Glucose Test at the hospital, I began to properly read ‘The Idle Parent’, which, much like ‘The Continuum Concept’, read just after giving birth to Ava, has a very specific message about parenting. Summed up pretty well, I think, by D.H.Lawrence’s plea in ‘Education of the People’ to ‘Leave them Alone’. That is, stop interfereing.
The more I parent, the more I feel as if this is probably my most important task – to stop interfering, stop presuming I know best, stop overparenting, stop being so anxious about this or that and just leave them alone.
I feel this way increasingly about pregnancy and birthing too – that I have to pretty much leave my body alone to do what it is doing and stop trying to control it. I did this in many ways with Ava’s birth and it worked beautifully – I hope I can repeat it this time around.
It’s a challenging thing for me, because I am a driven perfectionist. I want things to be the best they can be, and that means I tend to do too much, to read too much, to think too much, to analyse too much. It is not conducive to being mindful, and mindfulness is the most important thing I would like to acheive in life and in parenting.
I don’t believe there is anything more important, as a parent, aside from the not interfering, than being mindful. Two things which may not seem to go together at first, but which fit perfectly. Mindfulness is about paying attention and being present – it works well, then, with trusting your child to know what’s best in most situations – trusting them to develop and learn at the rate they need to, with attention and care given freely whenever they need it.
Parenting idly is not the same as being neglectful or careless. In fact, most people I know who are the best at giving their children freedom are about as AP as you get. But there is a huge difference between meeting your child’s essential needs and trying to force that child to act and behave and be a certain way. That bending of their will is exactly what I want to avoid.
In many ways, we have been guilty of over-parenting with Ava. I have put myself under pressure to go to certain classes or groups, to do certain things because I thought, or was told, they were the best things for her. But without exception, the times when we are just hanging out, together, when there is not forced conversation or forced activities, is when I am aware of a deep contentment and happiness – and more, a deep learning and understanding that comes from experiencing life like this. Simply, without force or effort.
Of course this relates also to my views of schooling, which increasingly reveal just how damaging being part of that system has been for me. I feel trained to readily accept the advice and knowledge that different institutions pass on – and sitting in the middle of my GT test today and wondering why I was there – talking online to my friend who is a doula – and realising that I had not even bothered to question whether or not this test, like many, was necessary or beneficial, I was once again reminded of how damaging it can be to be taught from the earliest age that schools, or hospitals, or the government or…any body of people supposedly in the know, know you best. Or your body.
This relates to a wider issue that I’ve been dealing with lately, and that is how busy and overwhelming aspects of life have become. In the last few months I have been busier than I have ever been before. Busier than when I took exams at school, or travelled, or anything like that. And I’ve also been increasingly pregnant, two things which don’t necessarily mix very well.
On one hand I am not someone who thinks being pregnant makes you incapable – but on the other, I know I have not rested enough, not been as connected as I could be to this pregnancy. Going to yoga on Sunday evening, I realised that, at almost 6 months pregnant, that was the first time I had spent any intense amount of time just doing something for myself – for Ezra and myself. Our teacher wisely spoke about paying attention to the breath, about how we rush through life to get to something else, rather than just ‘being’ in where we are at the moment. And certainly, that kind of being is what I strive for, so loading myself with a schedule that is a little insane is doing exactly the opposite.
It is busying myself with things, with dramas, with distractions, rather than just being. So I need to find a way to pare down and lessen my load – to simplify, essentially. In fact, skimming ‘Simplicity Parenting’ earlier, I realised that everything I try to do with Ava I need to do with myself. Lessen the stimulation. Lessen the activities. Lessen the distractions.
Which brings me to my decision to leave Facebook, or at least, use it differently. I don’t believe Facebook is the source of all evil, and nor do I contend that it is not extremely useful for some things. In fact, the reason I won’t be leaving it entirely is because it’s excellent for MamaMake – for promoting it, for selling things, for meeting other crafty businesses. And it is also great for certain groups – like the freebirthing one I just joined – that is very poignant right now.
But I do think that it is the kind of thing where you have to be in the right mindset to use it, and I am not presently. I find it addictive. Perhaps I simply don’t have enough self-discipline to not check it several times a day (or hour) but talking to others, I find I am not alone with this. It is so easy just to log on and see what’s going on, to follow other people’s lives, even conversations, in the kind of detail that just does not seem natural.
I would love to meet up with friends and genuinely not know what they’ve been up to. I would like to see their faces when I talk to them. I would like to make the effort to connect with people in real and easy ways rather than the ways Facebook offers, which are not always the best for communication to flow easily.
Aside from a few people who are on different sides of the world, I can do this with the people in my life. And there are far too many acquaintances who I don’t know in life, who should really not be on my Facebook ‘friend’ list.
Maybe this will only be temporary, but it feels right for right now. I have a great need to lessen anything complicated in my life. To abstain as much as possible from the kind of drama that I avoided like the plague in high school, and Facebook, for all its pros, can be a playground of hostility and passive aggression sometimes. Plus I can’t deny that the rare occasions when I have been ‘cut off’ from the internet and phone have been amongst the most soothing and wonderful for my mind – I recall a few days in the Lakes without internet access, and being in amongst such beautiful nature at the same time felt near-heavenly.
Howard maintains that his life is much easier now he’s off Facebook. I’d like to be able to take a photo and not think, ‘Oh, I’ll put that on Facebook’. So I will be here, and on MamaMake and Twitter – both the website and the FB MamaMake, and I will be contactable in all number of other ways – hotmail, phone. Letters are always good. And those of you who are friends, I can see in any number of ways in the real world. I look forward to it.
We have plans this year that all boil down to us simplifying in life. It means evaluating whether or not things are essential, or even beneficial. If they’re not, there’s no longer much room in my life for them – I just don’t have the time, literally, or the mental or emotional energy to invest in anything that is not valuable and important to me. And the things that are important to me are pretty simple, pretty easy to count on one hand actually. Loved ones, writing, making, living mindfully…I’m sure that seems like an obvious life lesson to learn – we all have such limited time, why waste it? I’m trying not to.