Our greatest challenges, our greatest teachers

Every day, every single day, we face challenges. We face people and places and things that feel confrontational, confusing, hard, maybe even impossible. And some of our greatest challenges come from our greatest loves. Our children push us and pull us and demand and refuse. They stand firm and then fall apart. And we are there. We catch them. But just as we’re helping them to their feet, just as we’re dusting them off, they start to push us and pull us again.

Breathe deeply mamas. These little loves of ours, these little beings, sifting through their internal world while learning to navigate the external world. It’s hard work for them. And it’s hard work for us too. On the days when they feel like our greatest challenges, know that they are also our greatest teachers.

Where else were we given a second chance to experience childhood so closely? Who else has asked us to dig down deep, oh so deep, to see what we are really made of and to show us a depth to ourselves that we never knew? And how would we ever have a chance to feel such unconditional love while being tested endlessly? Where else would we be given the opportunity to practice patience and kindness and generosity every single day? It is through practicing these things over and over that we become them.

We matter in their world. We are pivotal. And they matter so much in our world too, in more ways than we may realize. Just as the good moments fill us with love and happiness, the challenging moments fill us with growth, the chance to learn and evolve into a space we may not have seen before.

So embrace the challenges, embrace the new space these challenges open up to us. Dig deep and grow. These little teachers of ours, they are relentless and they are powerful. And even in the moments that don’t pass with ease, know that they are our greatest teachers.

Greatest Teacher

Songs, Anytime, Anywhere

One of my mom tricks of the trade has been singing. If my daughter is crying, I sing. If it’s time for food, I sing. If we’re getting out of the bath, I sing. If she’s getting bored in the car, you guessed it…. I sing. We know that music is a full brain experience, meaning that it engages many parts of the brain all at once. I find that what this means for my daughter on a really practical level is that singing has the potential ability to:

  1. Grab her attention. Sometimes this means distracting her from what she was fussing about

  2. Cue behavior. Music is a powerful tool in helping to cue behavior. I have decided on certain songs that I sing for various parts of the day and it helps remind my daughter what is coming next. It can be a simple as a musical reminder for naps, one for food, and another for bedtime.

  3. Encourage motor movement. Whether it is rolling over, crawling, standing up or clapping, add music to the day and my daughter is much more interested in moving her little body. Actually, these days the minute I start singing she is clapping her hands.

  4. Facilitate speech development. Singing is engaging, structured and repetitive. This makes it a wonderful tool for modeling and engaging my daughter in exploring her voice.

  5. Teach new skills. I’ve been dabbling with a little bit of sign language with my daughter. Showing her the signs in a song and practicing with the song is fun and it also helps her remember it.

I’ve found that the most important thing about singing with my baby is that there is no pressure and it’s all fun and sweet times together. I’ll explore some fun ways to create songs in the moment in another blog but for now get those vocal chords warmed up and start singing, even if it’s just Row, Row Your Boat all day long.

Fighting Fear and Finding Joy

I am the mother of a human child. This is really very complicated at times. It is so heartbreakingly beautiful and difficult in the same moment. On top of this, she is changing ALL THE TIME. She is impossible to organize and keep clean. She follows the rules and then breaks them all every day. 

Living with this little human child means that there are moments of such joy that I can hardly believe I am this lucky to be her mother. She holds my face when I sing to her and we laugh and kiss each other. Time stands still and it is perfect. The thing is, there is this voice of fear that creeps up inside too often during these moments. It says things like, "what if something ever happens to her?" Darn you fear! This was a perfectly golden moment until you poked your little head into it. 

I used to think this is just what it means to be a mother, that one can hardly enjoy a perfect moment with your child without being completely gripped by fear. But recently I heard some beautiful and challenging words from the researcher and storyteller, Dr. Brené Brown. She said that in all her years of intensive research, gathering stories of people's lives and listening to them in their most vulnerable truth-telling, she has found that JOY is the single most difficult emotion to experience. She talks about this very human tendency, that as soon as joy creeps in, we are sabotaged by fear. She believes that it takes the utmost courage to show up in our lives and practice joy. 

Whoa! What?!? This completely floored me and also made total sense. The experience of true joy is so absolutely vulnerable and so out of my own control. It is a call to utmost presence in the moment. I realized that too often I let fear pull me right out of the joy. I do not want this kind of fear in my life. 

What if the greatest gift we can give our child is our joy? What if our total presence and delight in them at any given moment is the thing that will help them feel known, safe and give them courage to expand and grow? I know that for me, I would like to choose more joy than fear.

I guess raising a human child requires a human mother. There's nothing more human than being vulnerable, letting myself be alive and truly experience joy.  

4 Ways Music Helps You Process Emotions

Music has a way of connecting us to our emotions. A certain song will trigger a memory from twenty years ago and we are back in the emotion of that time. It is truly incredible. At times when we feel stuck or we find ourselves pushing away certain emotions, music is a wonderful tool to help us reconnect and to dig deeper. Here are 4 simple tools to use music for emotional processing. 

1. CREATE A SONG MAP: Whether it is the new job of mothering, a move, a loss of an irreplaceable loved one, or a new job; life is full of transitions. One way to work through the different aspects of each transition is through music. Is there a song that comes to mind when you think of the feelings you first felt when you found out about this transition? Is there a song that comes that represents what you are leaving behind with this new life? What about a song that speaks to where you are in this exact moment? Take some time and listen to these songs. They can help to map out the territory that is this new part of you and your life.

2. HIT REPEAT: Remember when you were 13 years old and you sat and listened to that song on repeat after your latest heartbreak? We often don't spend the time with music that we did in our adolescence but really should. Are the tears stuck inside? Is the anger just lying beneath the surface? Take some time with a song that you know will bring these emotions to the surface. 

3. DIG DEEP: Take a song that really speaks to you and print out the lyrics. Take some time to listen to the music while looking at the lyrics. Underline a passage that perfectly speaks to you. Use this as a prompt for journaling, art or meditation. 

4. CREATE: Take a song you love and play around with changing the lyrics to tell your own story. You can change just one word in a line or change a whole line. Who knows? You may love this so much that you'll decide to create your own song.