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Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Role modelling for your child

This post has been a tough one to write. You know that honest self-reflection I mentioned before? It's quite hard to do. Even harder to publish for the world to digest.


The reason I turned to gentle, peaceful parenting in my home was because I didn't like aspects of the parent I was turning out to be. Fair enough, I had some additional stress to navigate when I became a parent - especially when Bean was cooking and in those early days of lone parenting. But whatever the reasons were for loosing my cool, I came to a point where I decided there just wasn't a place for reactionary parenting in our home. The kids might push my buttons, but as a grown up, isn't it my job to locate them and switch them off?

In those early days the buttons were pretty basic. I was too tired. I was too lonely. I was overwhelmed. I felt sad. So when Sprout did the usual toddler things, like expressing himself loudly tantruming for England or refusing to go to bed, my fuse was lightning quick. I shouted too much. There were nights I sat on the stairs outside his bedroom sobbing because I just needed the noise and the demands and the needing me to stop. There are times I know he felt frightened.

There are times I felt frightened. Scared I couldn't reign myself in, scared I couldn't love them enough. Scared I might actually hurt one of them because the end of my rope was already in my hands (and sometimes slipping away). I was brought up in a generation where spanking was acceptable and normal, but it felt wrong in the pit of my stomach when my instincts told me that all I had left in my parenting arsenal was to smack one of my children.

'Parenting arsenal' is a telling label all of it's own. Sometimes it felt like being at war with myself, or my family, just to keep on top of everything. To avoid smacking, I used a playpen to enforce toddler time outs, in not-quite Super-Nanny style. Or to separate the boys when I just had to walk away for 5 minutes. To say that I was unhappy about the resources I had as a parent is an understatement.

Discovering peaceful parenting was like walking into a wonderland of options, lifting myself out of the trenches to find a playground for me and my kids to spend our time in instead. Peaceful parenting was a lifeline emotionally, a new family strategy full of promise. I would develop a calm, nurturing and above all respectful relationship with my children. It was going to be wonderful!

Here I am three years later, and I can honestly tell you it IS wonderful. But it has been a journey, not a event. I've had to learn, practice, make mistakes, get comfortable with apologising to the boys when my reactions haven't been very gentle or considered! I accept that part of my role-modelling is going to be showing how to repair damage when you aren't perfect. Because none of us are. I'm not, and the boys won't be either as they grow up. Becoming humble has been the first and most impactful lesson in becoming a peaceful parent.

I have a set of resources as a parent now that have transformed my thinking from 'arsenal' to 'toolkit'. My fear and flashpoints have been replaced with a depth of patience I didn't know I could cultivate. Above all, I am able to step back so that I respond to my children, rather than react.

This hasn't come about because I've learned new techniques to discipline them effectively. This has come about because I've learned how to nurture and parent myself effectively first, so that I can model behaviour for my boys that I would like them to learn. Behaviour like slowing down, breathing, having perspective, accepting emotions as they arrive, not only as I want them to be. Being kind. Being graceful. Being gentle.

I've learned to notice what action has come before the reaction. First of all in myself - and over time, I'm able to see that in my children. When I'm tired, lonely, overwhelmed or sad now, I put self-care in place before I'm even remotely close to sobbing on the stairs. When I notice one of my children feeling tired, hungry, anxious, frustrated or overwhelmed I try and care for them before they wig out in response to the BIG feeling.

I don't always get there in time. This weekend, Sprout (now 5, and such a big boy in some ways, but so little in others) had a BIG feeling. I was trying to give Bean (3) five minutes of Special Time before they left to stay with their father for two whole weeks. They've never left home for more than 5-6 nights before, and that's only happened three times in their lives. It's a big deal. Sprout became very aggressive, trying to get in there to 'take' Bean's time. I calmly stated the limit, and asked him to wait for his turn.

In the time it took to be with Bean, Sprout tore his room to pieces. He was SO mad. And when I went in to see him, he was wild with fear. Books, bedsheets and clothes were everywhere. He was waiting for me to yell back at him - I didn't. I sat in front of him and counted down his breathing, 10 - 1. As we both drew big breaths I checked in with myself, using the countdown to ground myself. To not be triggered. To become present for my frightened little boy.

To step away from what the mess triggered in me, and locate what the mess was that was raging inside my son.

He stopped yelling. Tears began to flow. 'I don't want to leave you for two weeks Mummy. I'm scared'.

Connection.

In the space between the trigger and the reaction, just 10 breaths gave both Sprout and I a chance to de-escalate our emotions so we could cuddle, I could reassure him, and we could problem solve together. We agreed to Skype, to call, and if necessary, for me to pop over for a mid-holiday visit. My toolkit gave him the tools he needed to feel in control again. This is what Peaceful Parenting means to my family. We aren't perfect, we have our moments of chaos and high emotion. But despite moments that hit all of my buttons, I've managed to locate my own off-switch.

Since I found my own, I've got a LOT better at locating my children's when they need me to.

If you're following this Peaceful Parenting series and wondering how to end the war in your home, try starting small. Write this on your hands if you need to have a physical reminder for now - I've done that many a time in the early days!


"CONNECTION BEFORE CORRECTION"

Breathe out your own feelings.
Count down from 10.
Focus on your child.
Tell them you love them.
HUG.

Seriously, HUG.

Breathe some more. And hug some more. There is nothing that can't be cleaned up, sorted out, put right and dealt with, when you both feel loved. It's way harder to clean up, sort out, put right or deal with the terrible feeling of being unloved.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Clear Communication, Boundaries and Limits

One of the first things that resonated with me when I began to explore 'loving limits' in parenting was the idea that limits and boundaries keep us safe. Not just physically, but emotionally. I knew I didn't want to be a parent who squashes their child's personality under a list of rules. But I could feel intuitively that parents who set no limits at all do not in fact, give their child a wonderful sense of freedom and autonomy - they give them a huge world to live in that isn't at all contained. Even for me as a grown up, that's a scary thought.

There is a sweet spot somewhere between crushing authority and permissive boundary-less horizons. And it lies in containing the unsafe world, without containing my child at the same time. I've got to tell you, I don't hit the sweet spot all the time, but I'm getting better at knowing where it is. It's taken me some trial and error to find it, and I have the bruised ego (and occasionally body) to show for it. But if you like, I can show you what that sweet spot looks like in my house right now...

Last night I got a chance to find that spot for Bean. Bean is now a highly opinionated three year old. He's always been far more physical than Sprout and his passion for life comes out in many ways. From giving me a black eye when he meant to give me a hug, to launching himself off his bunk bed or the staircase, or a tabletop in joy, to having the kind of epic arms-flailing-hysterical-screaming tantrums I had only read about until now.

The tantrums have been particularly hard to navigate, because once they begin his whole body is consumed with fury and fear and sadness. The wave seems to be able to offer him a good long ride of misery. He won't be touched, or comforted at all. Left to his own devices, we're talking 20, 30 - maybe even 40 minutes of hysteria before he runs out of steam. It feels awful to not know how to comfort him. Tempting at times, to give in and let go of a limit, just to make it stop. (That's how he ended up with a dummy until his birthday just gone. The first time I took it away I just wasn't resilient enough to sit with his emotions and let them be expressed.)

What I've discovered, is that when he is in a BIG feeling, he really needs to be heard. 

So, last night, he was overtired. Really properly beat. And I needed him to get out of the bath so he could go to bed. But the bath is really fun! And he has new boats to play with in there, that he just got for his birthday! Man, it sucks to get picked out of the bath when you're three and having fun. Still - the limit is there because he needs it. He can't just play in there all night. So pick him out, I did. 

Ooosh the screaming began. And the flailing. And worst of all, as he kicked and screamed and pummelled his fists he was yelling 'Stop hurting me mummy. STOP HURTING ME!!!'. I wasn't even touching him, as he lay on the floor beating seven shades out of the carpet and wall. It's awful to listen to, but the limit still remains... bath time is over. So I looked for that sweet spot. The one between yelling at him myself to be quiet, because the force of his emotions scare me. Or forcing him into bed to cry it out because he must simply 'do as he is told'. Or putting him back in the cold bath I just removed him from, because he told ME to. 

I sat down quietly on the carpet next to him and said firmly, 'You really didn't want to get out of the bath.' He paused for breath, then carried on yelling. 'You're really mad at Mummy for picking you out of the bath.' He actually looked at me for a second. 'You are REALLY cross that the fun is over and it's making you feel sad.' He stopped yelling.


'You not nice Mummy. You not listen Mummy. You made me mad Mummy. I want a fun bath'. (sobbing). 

'I know Bean. I can hear you. It's really hard.'

We sat there for a minute, just breathing in a sense of understanding. I offered him my lap with a towel in it, and asked him if he would like a cuddle and to choose something else that might be fun. Maybe a story? With a look of deep resignation, he accepted my cuddle. A thirty second reconnect. 

And just like that, joyful Bean bounced back. Careered off up the stairs, laughing and jumping about while hunting for a book. It's like a tornado for me to witness, when he gets like that. The emotions just ripping through him. It's exhausting for me! Lord only knows what it feels like for him. 

What I've learned is that the limit isn't the problem for my kids. Really, the limits can be anything - keeping their seat-belts on, eating their dinner before getting pudding, going to bed at a reasonable hour, not watching 4 hours of television or eating chocolate cake for breakfast. When they get older, I bet it'll be limits on screen time, having a curfew, getting a fixed allowance they earn through doing chores... the problem for them, with all these limits, will be expressing how they feel about them, and in doing so, feeling heard. 

The limits themselves will actually help them to feel safe, that their worlds are contained in predictable ways, and there is someone lovingly steering the way through these formative years. That's my WHY. The reason I put in the effort to stay calm, be empathetic, and allow them their biggest feelings. It's also where I need my own support system firmly in place. Somewhere I can go where I feel heard, contained, loved and looked after. 

You see, it's a mobius ring when you get into this kind of parenting. No ending, no beginning. I can only give what I have when I'm getting it myself, so for every patient, resourceful, empathetic piece of me I give my kids, I'm grateful to the people who give it back to me. The other parents who listen and share their journeys. My partner who reminds me all the time that I'm doing an awesome job (even when I think I suck at parenting). My own parents who hold me up and still, after all this time, make me feel safe. It really does take a village to raise a child. So if you don't have one yet, and you're finding this peaceful stuff hard, bring a few more people into your loop. It will help, I promise. 


Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Parenting without punishment



When I became a parent people joked about 'mummy guilt'. There was a spoken and unspoken agreement among my peers and the people I turned to for advice that feeling guilty as a parent is a given. I often heard the 'joke' that I would leave my dignity at the door of the maternity ward and walk out with guilt stamped on my forehead instead.

Funny, right?

Not really. As the long broken nights accumulate and the challenges move on from keeping your infant alive to navigating the emotional world of your toddler, then on to supporting the emerging identity of your child, stuff happens. We make poor decisions as well as good ones. We pick up bad habits as parents as well as those that help us out. We give ourselves permission to do stuff we never thought we would when we imagined holding that precious baby in our arms - things like yell at them, ignore them, punish them. Sometimes that makes us feel icky, or sad, or disappointed in ourselves. But we often fall short of challenging those actions because don't we all know and joke about the 'fact' that being a parent means guilt will accumulate along the way? Guilt is inevitable, right?

To a certain extent, I think an assumption that we'll feel some guilt is right. Life BC (before children) never drove me to question myself quite as intensely or as frequently as I do now in my role as mother. But a big part of me rebels against the assumption that guilt must be an integral part of my journey as a parent. A flash of guilt that triggers self-reflection, yes, that is inevitable and good. It's a message that I ought to check my behaviour and change it. But guilt that festers and accumulates and gets accepted as 'part of being a parent'? No thanks. You see, I recognise the shadow of shame in that scenario. Shame is guilt's right hand man. And I don't agree to walking through my parenting life with shame as my constant companion.


You see, I've lived with guilt and shame before. In my life BC I struggled with all kinds of uncool stuff. A terribly unhealthy relationship with a guy I loved very much, but who treated me like shit. Years when I got blind drunk on the weekends and woke up with a hangover of shame alongside the alcohol one. A period of disordered eating when I was treated for anorexia and bulimia for a year. Shame was my constant companion in those years.

What does shame do to you when you hang out with it a lot? Well, I know for me, it ground down my sense of self-worth. It made me tired. It made me tearful. It made me angry and then, in the end, it made me numb. Waking up to myself again after the anorexic stage was a really painful journey. But I worked really hard at saying goodbye to guilt and shame back then. I was prepared to like myself enough to stay present - and that is a VERY. BIG. THING. It's also the crux of parenting without punishment: Staying present and liking yourself and your child EVEN when things go wrong.

When motherhood arrived with all the joking about mummy-guilt, I was uncomfortable without really understanding why. Then when lone-parenthood arrived and I felt the guilt and shame associated with that experience pile up, 'mummy-guilt' really wasn't funny. Laughing off each others fears and insecurities only makes us bury them, where the seeds of shame are sown. It's hard to hold your head up high and stay present when the messages we get socially, culturally and intimately are that we are not good enough.

Now that I'm parenting a pre-schooler and a young child, the lessons I've learned about guilt and shame have seeped into my approach to discipline at home. I'd like to say that my awareness of how shitty it is to feel ashamed of yourself means I've never made my kids feel the same, but that would be lying. I'm not blogging about punishment free parenting because I've nailed it. I'm blogging about it because it matters.

The many ways I learned to be ashamed of myself as I was growing up and becoming an adult are still there. And boy, does having kids hit your trigger points. There are many moments in my life as a mum when I've walked away from a situation feeling deeply, painfully ashamed of how I have handled (or more accurately, not handled) myself. There are times I've yelled, times I've cried, or I've been mean because something in ME was hurting. Those times when I've kicked one of their toys, or told them off because I've reached MY limit. And oh yes - I used the naughty step plenty, before I found a better way. I can't even say now that I won't ever lose my temper again because I'm not clairvoyant. But I know that I'm going to try.

And the reason I'm going to try is because I don't want my kids to internalise a sense of shame about who they are. I don't want them to grow up squashing some feelings and hiding others behind playing the fool, or just numbing them out. I'd like to allow them all their big, bold feelings, good and bad. While they feel them, I'd like to teach them to express themselves

  1. - Respectfully
  2. - Empathetically
  3. - Gently
  4. - In a way that keeps them connected to me and to themselves 

Which means I have to model that in the way I handle myself. There will be limits, of course there will. And there are a hundred great blogs out there already about how to set them without punishment. You can check out this one, or this one, for starters! I'm not going to give you a breakdown of 'how to' talk out a big set of typical problems right now. But I am going to share what I've learned in our family:

There is only ONE thing you have got to get nailed down before you deal with your children peacefully and gently, without punishment.

You must let go of your own guilt and shame. Carrying those feelings around inside you means they will seep out around your kids, and despite yourself, you'll pass them on. So channel your inner Elsa and really, truly, LET. IT. GO. You will get stuff wrong. So will they. You will get mad. So will they. You will need to apologise. So will they. Sometimes it will hurt you, a lot, to be the parent. Sometimes it will hurt to be the kid.

It will hurt less when you accept that you are learning together as a family. That each mistake is an opportunity to reconnect, strengthen your bond with each other, and learn how to be empathetic and respectful and gentle with each other as a team. Never let your disappointment in yourself or your child cause you to bring shame into your home. Shame will draw up a seat at your table, and sit between you and the people you love. Shame will talk over the conversations you need to hear, preventing you from feeling loved and connected. Shame will teach your kids not to bother speaking to you because you can't hear them. Shame will numb you out.

Being vulnerable is ok. Saying you are sorry is good. Genuinely learning from all the things that you get right and get wrong along your parenting journey makes you a GOOD parent, so please don't let a pattern of guilt distract you from that fact. Hold yourself with loving kindness and I promise you, it will become natural to meet your kids on that level as well.

The how of parenting without punishment really is much less important than the why

www.ninafarr.com 
www.facebook.com/visionpurposepassion

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Patient, peaceful parenting

Have you ever read about peaceful, gentle or connection parenting and thought "Pfft! In your dreams lady!" while you pick cereal out of your hair and regard your prostrate toddler on the kitchen floor? I know I have.

The dream of peaceful parenting, and being a zen, patient mother did seem pretty unrealistic to me at first. Ok I'll admit it, there are days when it seems pretty unrealistic still. But here's some stuff I've learned about peaceful parenting that I'd like to share with you. If you're wondering how to achieve that beautiful, loving connection with your children that you read about, and this magical land of 'no punishment parenting' this blog post is for you.

Listen up LP's especially, you don't need a house-elf, fairy godmother or other magical being to make this a reality in your home. Seriously, it's easier than you might think!

OK I hear you. It's daunting. So let's start by breaking it down. What even is 'Peaceful Parenting'?

Here's a basic run-down:

If you want to explore the theory more, there's a great site all about Peaceful Parenting here.


1) Parenting without punishment (a mysterious concept for many parents at first)
2) Clear communication, boundaries and limits (the holy grail in my house)
3) Mutual problem solving (yes, even a toddler can do it - honest!)
4) Role modelling for your child (ahh, do as I do, not as I say. A bit of honest self-reflection required here my lovelies).
5) Meeting your child's emotional needs (recognising them first helps)
6) Meeting your own emotional needs (should this really be last on the list?)

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say number 6 should be number 1 in the priorities. What I've learned as I've travelled the bumpy road towards a more peaceful and gentle home, is that when I'm out of whack, life is out of whack. If I'm unhappy, I am also likely to have a firecracker fuse, be prone to over-reactions and generally quite un-peaceful. 



So what does it take to be a peaceful parent, on the inside? For me, it takes time and space to be the best version of myself. I need to be able to meet myself as a friend and someone I actually like. When I have friendly thoughts about myself and can appreciate all my own good points, I'm much more able to share that person with the world. So if you really don't like yourself much right now, start with fixing that first. Here are some questions I really had to think about when I reset my parenting buttons...

Do you like who you are as a person? 
Would you want to hang out with yourself right now? 
Do you know what makes you happy, sad, or angry? 
Can you step away from your personal drama enough to laugh about it and have a sense of perspective yet?

If you answered "no" to any of those questions, (and I did, not so long ago) I hear you. It's hard. It's sure as hell not a peaceful place to be. But it can change. And when it does, mountains move, landscapes change, and children stop throwing cereal bowls at you. Truly!

Over the next few weeks I'm going to blog on each of the other five points of Peaceful Parenting and explain what these principles look like in our house. I'll give you a real, honest window into how I've got on board with them, one by one.

First of all though here's my checklist for "meeting your own emotional needs"
  • Start by making meeting your own emotional needs your top priority 
  • Abandon all guilt for needing 'me time' Right. Now. (Seriously)
  • Find someone to talk to about the stuff that drives you crazy as a parent. A friend, a coach, a therapist, your own parent - I don't care who it is, as long as it's not your kid. 
  • Go hang out with yourself. The fun you. The person you actually like. Do the stuff you enjoy, and let yourself enjoy it fully. 
  • Now take that fun, relaxed, emotionally supported and happy person back home with you. 
  • Introduce them to your kids. 

The rest of it comes later! Follow me for updates on the Peaceful Parenting path. You can find me on Facebook and on Twitter too.


Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Becoming Mum

Today I have a big yellow bruise around my left eye. It's the remnants of the shiner Bean gave me last Saturday, when he launched himself off the swimming pool edge towards me without warning. Connecting his chin with my eye socket first. *Ouch!* It goes down in parenting history as one of those moments where blue language was unavoidable. I did muffle the worst profanities in his armband, honest.

I am building up a catalogue of injuries and scrapes and breakages as my boys tumble wildly through their pre-school years. My hair is going grey around the temples faster than I like to admit, and now that Bean is almost three I can hardly blame my squishy middle on 'baby' weight any more. As each mark, dent, scrape and scar gets added to my mummy exterior, I can't help but wonder if this is what 'becoming real' feels like.



If you added up the injuries I have picked up from doing things with my kids, you might think I'd be put off taking them swimming or operating hot ovens in their presence. After all, I've grated the skin off my knuckles and received a black eye this weekend alone. Not to mention the glamour of walking around with globs of butter stuck to my shirt or in my hair. This week I actually managed to leave the house with a perfect little 'O' of porridge right on my chest (and by chest, I mean boob), where Bean gave me a cuddle wiped his face on me after chowing down on the breakfast he helped me to make.

But that's the best thing about having small children. The more you love them, the more beautiful you become. The scraped knees, bumps on heads and perpetually bruised limbs - all mine, never mind theirs - don't matter. Because generally, by the time you are a mother of small children, all these things have happened over and over again. Just remember, that the grey hairs and laughter lines and shabby clothes don't matter. Because to your children, you can't be ugly when you're showing them love.

Last weekend our swimming trip was to celebrate my rather lovely other half's daughter turning eight. We've been dating now for over a year, and I can attest to the fact that while I continue to parent alone (we don't live together) DP makes lone parenting a lot less lonely. The fact that he comes with two additional small people of his own as part of the package is just the icing on the cake.

And speaking of cake, boy do we love cake. The boys and I had a blast getting ready for the birthday trip. Cake baking is a big deal for us. We've been baking together since they were old enough to lick a wooden spoon and throw a fistful of flour. It's a messy, loud, hilarious and delicious activity that is guaranteed to make us all laugh. (And need a  bath afterwards).

As the boys get older and more capable I have moved on from letting them take turns to stir the batter, to allocating them proper tasks. This time, Sprout was in charge of breaking the eggs. This is the most exciting job, and the most risky. We only lost one egg to the floor this time, which is pretty good!

Adventurous Bean requested the job of grating the carrots for the carrot cake, so I gave him a tiny nutmeg grater and a carrot stick to have a go with (health and safety mum-panic prevented me from handing over the enormous cheese grater he was eyeing up. Which I promptly grated my own knuckles off with instead). As usual, Sprout saw the job through while Bean got diverted as soon as a bit of sugary butter made it's way into his mouth. But everyone gave their full attention to the magic bit of baking.

The magic bit of cake making is when you stir in the love. It's something my mum used to do with me, and I remember my nan telling me when I was little - cakes taste better when you add a little love. So we do. We stir in love and add a wish to the mix at the end. Of course, the enthusiastic stirring means that the cake mix gets everywhere, into ears, stuck in hair, all down clothes. What remains in the bowl is slopped into a tin and we all watch the gooey mess rise through the glass oven door. Once the smell of baking has floated through the whole house to the top floor, the boys know the cake is ready.

By that time I've usually managed to find myself a plaster, apply arnica cream or burn ointment, or other first aid to myself. Made a cup of tea and enjoyed the fact that my sharp edges are a little bit closer to being totally rubbed off.






Friday, 12 June 2015

Jar of stars

Our Jar of Stars is a family gratitude practice that I've been doing with my children for almost two years. It's been one of the most positive habits I have established with the boys. Gratitude is the fastest route to joy - and who doesn't want to live in a joyful home?

Our little lucky stars represent tiny moments of happiness we've experienced together. They hold memories that might otherwise have disappeared in the general business of life. Moments we celebrate and record - being proud of each other, being thankful, laughter.

Last week a group of our friends visited for a spontaneous barbeque in the sunshine. The boys were in seventh heaven pottering about blowing bubbles in the late afternoon glow, helping to chop mushrooms for the salad and stir chocolate into the cake batter in preparation for the feast. As the day slipped into evening, plates were put away and tired children called in for bed. Before pajama time and stories began, Sprout asked to put some stars in our jar.

He called all of our friends in from the garden and asked them to write a star with us. So around the circle we went, cutting paper, decorating our strips together, folding them into little bubble stars. One of our group was grateful for friendship, another for sunshine, another for delicious food. As each star was folded, kissed and put into the jar the beautiful simplicity of the practice made us all smile.

From one small act of thankfulness we have nine new stars in our jar. A visible, lasting reminder that there is magic in noticing the good in our lives. If you want to make your own jar, have a go! They're not as tricky as you might think. I'd love for you to let me know what you're thankful for in the comments below, so we can share the joy.


Wednesday, 20 May 2015

A ghost in my heart

Last night Sprout wouldn't go to bed. We ran through the usual list, a glass of water, an extra cuddle, a bit more chatting, a promise to come back in ten minutes. Eventually winding up at the usual place - a firm no. You must stay in bed, because it's late, end of story.

The whole routine is exhausting. For him and also for me. It's a repetative push-me-pull-me affair. In the closing scene I usually sit on the top step on the landing and wait it out, while he sits in bed and waits it out. When the soft sounds of him snoring arrive, I sneak in for a last goodnight kiss then get on with my evening routine.

But last night he crept out one more time, to tell me that a ghost was inside his heart. A ghost that kept knocking on it, making him feel sad, dissapointed, angry and alone.

Oosh. It was one of those moments I don't know what to do with, because instantly the ghost was inside my heart too - making me feel sad, disappointed, angry and alone with all the worry and work of parenting to do by myself. So we just sat there on the stair together in silence for a little bit, having a contemplative cuddle.

I had written on my hand earlier in the day, 'respond, don't react'. (Every now and then I need a little more than just a mantra, so I actually carry around the words I need written on me in plain sight.) With another tight cuddle, I squeezed that ghost right out of my little Sprout and told him it's ok, give me the ghost. He can live with me instead.

There will always be moments that slay you as a parent, they come out of nowhere, then just as fast they are gone. Some are happy and joyful, some are shocking. Some are so unbearably sad you can't possibly prepare yourself. Letting these moments go as easily and smoothly as they arrive is a skill I'm still mastering, but it's part of my commitment to respond and not react to life (and kids!).

As it happens, one sleep later, I'm glad that little ghost popped in for a visit because he has spurred me on in a new direction. The whispers in my little Sprouts heart have shown me where and how to develop my coaching practice this year. In October I'll be taking some extra training with Connected Kids to become a mindfulness and meditation practitioner for children. I will learn how to teach children to quiet their own hearts and minds, to feel good, calm, centred, and full of hope and happiness. Of all the things parents ask me about, supporting their children to feel consistently calm and happy is top of the list. I am so excited! It's going to be a wonderful complement to my work with lone parents and a bonus skill for me as a mum at home. Thanks, little Sprout for the nudge.