Posts Tagged ‘Parenting’

Nice haircut

November 8th, 2007    -    18 Comments

I guess the last post was too much to swallow in one gulp, when all we’re really talking about is how to know for sure that we’re teaching our kids to do the right thing.

Buddha left us a nifty eight-step program for that called The Eightfold Path that tells us how to live an enlightened life. It tells us eight ways to do the right thing: eight ways that cover just about the entire scope of human activity. It goes: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.

That’s a lot of right. But this right doesn’t mean from wrong. This right means without a perception of a self.

Whaaaat?

Specifically, when it comes to speaking, it means that honesty is not always the best policy if someone has just gotten a bad haircut.

It means that in my interaction with my child, if I am motivated by: my shame, my anger, my fear, my worry, my desire to have my way, my pride, my fervent hope that I can teach her to be smarter, more charming, more clever, more grown up, more successful, more like me, less like me or more or less of anything or any way that constitutes my personal agenda, that’s not right. And I will inevitably cause her harm.

It means that in my interaction with anyone else, if I am motivated by: my shame, my anger, my fear, my worry, my pride, my desire to have my way, my need to be understood, my need for you to hear me out, my need for you to validate, concur, accept or agree to my point of view or do anything else that accords solely with my personal agenda, that’s not right. And I will inevitably cause you harm.

How can we put this into practice? Each time you get ready to speak, take a look at what you’re carrying. If you’ve got a pair of scissors in your hand, ready to cut, snip, shape or otherwise improve someone else’s head to your liking, set the scissors down!

Turns out not very much needs to be said. And in the event that you slip, hair grows back in no time at all. That’s the truth!

Chopping away at the truth

November 7th, 2007    -    5 Comments


All well and good, you say. Who wouldn’t agree that children tell a charming version of the truth? But what about when a lie is really a lie? What about right from wrong? How do I teach my children to know that? Isn’t that the task before us? To raise good children to do good things?

Yes, it is our task and it is deceptively difficult. Not because of them, but because of us.

It is not as easy as counting to 10. Not just about hewing closely to a list of things to do, or a list of things to not do. Don’t hit your brother! Don’t cheat! Don’t lie! There is a place for those kinds of lists, they appear in all religious traditions, and they can be useful, especially as a starting point. But they do not really get to the pit of the cherry, so to speak, because human beings are quite clever with themselves. We nibble around the edges. We lie all the time, especially when we say we don’t. Rare are the offenders who can’t completely convince themselves of innocence. Or at least of extenuating circumstances!

In Buddhism, we have what we call the precepts. Formalizing your commitment to a Buddhist practice involves “taking the precepts,” which is a public promise to do what you say you will. The precepts sound like this: “Refrain from killing. Refrain from stealing. Refrain from lying.” They sound deceptively like another list of prohibitions with which most of us are familiar. And in that way, sometimes Buddhists seem to be replacing one set of ethical prohibitions with another. That’s as far as some folks get: still mired in a moralistic view of good and bad, right and wrong, believing sincerely that they are on the righter side of right, and on the gooder side of good. I’ve written before about how anytime we are judging either/or, right/wrong, good/bad, using our egocentric picking and choosing mind, we are hanging ourselves from a very strong and enduring tree, but hanging ourselves nonetheless.

(With lip-smacking self- satisfaction, I assure you that I’m better than those other half-baked Buddhists!)

No, just thinking you are doing the right thing isn’t doing the right thing at all. To get it really right, you have to chop down the tree. You have to chop away at self-satisfaction, self-righteousness, self-interest, self-absorption and self-service. You have to chop down your precious self – all its menacing branches and creeping vines. You have to forget yourself altogether. Then you really cannot tell a lie. But you can still eat the cherries or make a heckuva pie.

I’m off to destroy the incriminating evidence. Less of everything but truth tomorrow. (Or something that tastes a lot like it.)

Truth, as told by

November 5th, 2007    -    15 Comments



The following post is based on the truth.

Things my daughter has said when I’ve been attentive enough to hear:

At the amusement park:
Sometimes the noisiest places are the most peaceful.
Looking at the sky:
The moon follows us wherever we go.
After a nightmare:
My brain is mixed up.
Asked to subtract 2 from 32:
I’ll know that in high school.
On setting the alarm:
My eyes have timers in them so I know when to wake up.
On her religious persuasion:
I’m half Jewish, half Buddhist and half Christian.
Hearing that what she wants costs $139.
I’ll ask Santa and it won’t cost anything.

I could take exception to any or all of these statements. I could see these as teachable moments. I could subtly nudge, correct, expand, or explain. I could interject scientific, biological, psychological or theological concepts of my choosing. I might note, for example, that the moon is not following her, per se, but that through Einstein’s Theory of Relativity we know that the interplay between mass and curvature causes the gravitational and centripetal forces that hold the moon in its position relative to Earth. Would that be more true?

Children’s views on the life around them are at once literal, lyrical and magical. They are simultaneously very small and simplistic, and very large and profound. They are always true; we just may not judge them to be right.

When my daughter speaks, I listen for a teachable moment. That is, a moment that teaches me. And I stifle the impulse to limit the possibilities of her universe. Her life will do that for her. She will inevitably acquire knowledge, cultivate reason and encounter her own doubts and dark nights. She will ask me difficult questions and I will respond as best as I can. I save her nothing by shortcutting her journey to what I believe to be right or rational, provable or true. I play along, because these are the days for play.

Right now and for the briefest flicker of time, she stands before a wide open window, inviting me to come see. It is a breathtaking view, and I want it to last far longer than I know it will.

When it ends, I’ll still be standing by her.

The giveaway that keeps giving away

November 2nd, 2007    -    64 Comments


All week long I’ve been teasing you with the claim that this was Grab Bag week at the Cheerio Road, promising that at the end of my interminable rambling there would be a goodie at the bottom of the bag.

This morning I reached into the bag and came up with a prize . . . for me.

The Original Perfect Post Awards - Oct

Shawn awarded me A Perfect Post Award for that little list of trust I posted last week. Only Shawn knows how perfect this turn of events really is; how the universe delivers what you need courtesy of a sensitive, soulful mom working hard and long in the wee hours of Somewhere, Pennsylvania. This is one gift that really gives, since it corralled a herd of unsuspecting readers to this dinky one-lane road yesterday. I’m so grateful I could blog on that for 30 days, but I won’t, I’ll get back to the subject at hand.

At the verrrry bottom of the bag is the giveaway I have in mind to give away, and it’s not nearly so generous, since I bet I’ve already given something very much like it to nearly all of you. The brand new paperback edition of Momma Zen has arrived and honestly it makes me and my mother and her mother and my daughter and her daughter proud all over again. It’s right pretty. I will send this gleaming white prize, inscribed by the famous author of same, to one of you who wants it and tells me so in the comments section of this post by 6 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on Sunday, Nov. 4. Now here’s the deal. If you get it and already have a copy of the book, promise me pretty please that you will give away the other copy to someone else who least expects it, because that’s how the Cheerio rolls and rolls and rolls and rolls back to you like it does to me. All the time.

An upstanding girl of 8 will choose the winner from all entries. She is trustworthy and honest and, unlike her mother, has never told a lie. But more about that next week when we talk about Truth with a capital T.

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Self-deceptively delicious

November 1st, 2007    -    19 Comments

Mom, what’s your favorite holiday?

Crinkle. Chomp. Swallow.

New Year’s.

And hey! Speaking of lying to yourself, what’s the deal with this mega-deception anyway? 1.2 million copies in print? And who needs help hiding squash in macaroni and cheese? Burying chickpeas in chocolate? What kind of help is that? We need help getting the squash out into the open as it is! Chickpeas, rise up and reveal your true (lack of) colors! Good food tastes good by itself. But let’s be honest. You can do all that without a book, and your children just might begin to trust you more if you stop trying to pull one over on them at dinner, no matter how adept you are at fooling some of the people some of the time.

Oh look at that, my buddhism went all to hell with this post. I’ll try to patch up my self-image next time. Maybe I should get a little counsel from a world-class expert in the art of fooling no one. Turns out that, as of today, Karen P. Hughes, trusted counselor to the President, is available for another tricky assignment with truth, and I only hope she doesn’t write a cookbook.

The Parent’s Little List of Trust*

October 25th, 2007    -    17 Comments



*Not so little. Not just parents.

Trust accidents and coincidences; trust imperfection and the unforeseen.
Trust the milk to spill.
Trust confusion as the child of clarity; trust doubt as the mother of confidence.
Trust fevers, trust coughs, trust tummy aches.
Trust the body at all times.
Do not trust children’s cold medications.
Trust family. Trust friends. Trust strangers to become friends.
Trust old wives. Trust whatever you find when you find it.
Trust forgiveness. Trust forgetfulness. Trust remembrance to return when it serves you.
Trust the day and the night, like the sun and the moon, to appear right on schedule.
Trust time.
Trust change. And the change after that.
Trust not knowing.
Trust that when you can’t handle it for one more minute, you can handle it for one more minute.
Trust your strength. Trust your flexibility.
Trust in every outcome. To trust only in a certain kind of outcome is not trust, but fear.
Trust that children always say what they mean.
Trust that even when they don’t get what they want, children always get what they need.
Trust your life as it unfolds.
Trust your teacher, and that everything everywhere is your teacher.
Trust your child.
Trust yourself.
Trust.
And trust again.

Bathtub confessional

October 24th, 2007    -    8 Comments


I’d always wondered when the time would come. Then one night while Georgia soaked in the tub and I sat nearby, it came.

Mommy, were you alive in 1982?
Yes, I was.
Were you married?
Not to your Dad.
Were you married to someone else before Daddy?
Yes, I was.

Cool.

Trust accidents and coincidences; trust imperfection and the unforeseen.

spooked

October 16th, 2007    -    10 Comments

Dear Karen,
Lets get some
spookyer
Halloween
decorashons.
To get a
little spookyer.
Love,
Georgia

Last Monday my daughter brought home her regular weekly packet of homework. Half-way into the second month of the second grade, this packet is getting bigger, downright monstrous, and although she has four days to finish, it is enough to haunt my daily after-school agenda.

Have you done your homework?
Time to do your homework.
Sit down and do your homework.
Let’s do your homework.

Just three pages.

Just two pages.

Just one more page.

The homework isn’t massively hard. It’s avoiding homework that is monumental. After an hour or so of this banter, I snapped and shrieked, terrifying us both.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK!!!!!

She froze, then completed 12 pages, the full week’s assignment, in 19 minutes of shivering silence. Afterwards, she took a sheet of blank paper and wrote a page in secret, folded it and placed it in an envelope snuck from my stationery drawer. She excused herself to go outside where I knew she placed the letter in the mailbox. I expected the mail that day would carry a letter of reproach for a certain mommy, and I apologized repeatedly. We made a banana cake together and shared a treat before supper.

When the mail came, I opened my surprise letter.

Spookyer? That’s what she wants? As if one screaming meemie in this house isn’t enough.

Offered in proof that our children have come to save us, to redeem and reform us, and to forgive us no matter what. May we parents hasten our homework.

Oh, and we put up the decorashons this weekend. Are they ever!

Peace at last

October 11th, 2007    -    9 Comments

Jizo asked Hogen, “Where have you come from?” “I pilgrimage aimlessly,” replied Hogen. – Zen koan

You might have wondered where we were going to end up this week with this conversation of ours. Just so you know, I never have any idea. So much of the motion in my posts comes from you, from what you say here and what some of you say elsewhere. This aimlessness is a wonderful new practice for me; trust me when I say that it you are showing me amazing new worlds, opening a deeper level of trust and exhilaration in this life we share, because everything seems to come together in the end.

When I started posting on Sunday night about the question of whether parenthood, or motherhood in particular, was a job or a relationship, you might have noticed that I tagged every post “Mommy Wars.” That was intentional, even though I never seemed to touch on it in so many words. I certainly didn’t mean to imply there was a war between mothers or to incite one. We all know there is no such thing, the words being just another method the media use to pressure cook the news on an otherwise placid day.

I was referring to the other war: the war we have with ourselves anytime we divide our lives into opposing parcels, into either and or, this or that, which or what. We all, each of us, wages a ceaseless battle with ourselves, undermining our choices, ambushing our instincts, dreading that the wrong move made long ago has already set in motion our certain, future defeat. We are our own worst enemy; in most cases, we are our only enemy. And we’re all so tired of the fight.

Make peace. Be free. Call your life whatever you like. You own the world you occupy, and you’re doing a beautiful job. Remember, everything comes together in the end.

Tomorrow this week’s winner in the comment pool is revealed, along with a flurry of priceless consolations!

Somebody’s got to do it

October 10th, 2007    -    19 Comments


That’s how I feel whenever there’s a bag of chips in the house. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.

We’re looking this week at our lives as parents and whether we call that a job or a relationship. Last weekend while I was on retreat, I did quite a bit of introspection on the ultimate truth of our existence (translation: wondering what’s for dinner) and what I came up with was this recipe:

Life is a Five Layer Bean Dip

Everything you do well requires these ingredients.

Attention – Giving undistracted attention to what appears in front of you. If you are only paying attention to your thoughts and feelings, that is fantasy. Fantasy is what is far away. Fantasy jobs and relationships are the easiest to maintain, because they don’t have the sticky stuff of:

Proximity – Showing up, shoulder to shoulder and hand to hand. This can be uncomfortable at times. And because a lot of the time we have a lot of reasons we’d rather be somewhere else, we have to make a:

Commitment – We can quit anything, and we will. There are even ways to opt-out of parenthood in one way or the other. To keep showing up requires:

Self-discipline – The will to get out of bed. To overcome inertia. To transcend self-interest and delay gratification, which isn’t delayed forever, but eventually comes in one of the many faces of:

Love – Sometimes it’s a direct deposit into your bank account, sometimes a pat on the back, sometimes a burp, a smile or a cuddle. Love is currency, the only currency in the universe. The more you give (at work, they don’t use the l-word, they call this passion), the more you receive in return. What I’ve noticed is that love is nothing but attention, and that brings us neatly back around to a bottomless bowl of bean dip.

Now when you take your tortilla chip and dive in, you don’t just scrape the sour cream off the top. Oh no, you don’t just extract the beans in the center. You can’t! You go for the whole thing at once. It’s all one thing: the flavors intermingled, the textures combined, the taste complete. You swallow it whole, or at least I do, in about 15 minutes.

Although there are many ingredients in your life, with many names, you only have one life. It’s you! Every relationship is you, every job is you, the salsa and cheese are you! Somebody lives your life, somebody eats every bit of it, and it can only be you. Your only job is to have an intimate relationship with yourself, and the more you do, the more you’ll enhance your life and everything in it. You’ll see that there is no separation between job and relationship. They are just words for you, who happens to be hungry right now.

A final desperate prod to elicit your erudite comment and thereby up your chance to own an as-yet unpublished dustcatcher volume that I will further adorn with the nib of my 99-cent Pilot finepoint before expressing to our lucky winner drawn at the end of the week!

The problem is

October 9th, 2007    -    9 Comments


So while I’m busily non-thinking about this question of whether motherhood is a job or a relationship during my silent meditation retreat last weekend, I remembered what my husband said recently as he glanced over my sagging shoulders:

“The problem is, you spend too much time doing things that don’t pay.” Meaning, I guess, teaching meditation and yoga, volunteering and writing the things I most love to write, including this blog. But not meaning, I presume, taking care of our house, yard, dog and daughter, because at least to him that is my job. (To be fair, he was being supportive, and given the source of my discouragement, accurate.)

“The problem is,” I think in quick retort, “you don’t.” Meaning his absence of hours, days, nights and vast distances, whether miles away or just on the computer at home, working, always only working apart from the rest of us. I’m reluctant to recognize even for a moment that his job also provides him with a whole world of companionable and rewarding relationships.

So where exactly does the distinction occur? Where, as Kathryn and Chris commented yesterday, is there a line drawn between jobs and relationships and how does it get there? This question matters, because most of the time, we see our life delineated into little sections. There’s a job over here, and a relationship over there. There’s work, and there’s family, and then there’s everything else, each with its own time, place, name, definition, merit and value. All these jillion pieces seem to jostle and compete with each other, confounding us, like a jigsaw puzzle that won’t fit.

And so then, completely immersed in the oceanic no-mind of deep, wordless meditation, I made a list in my head of the essential components of relationships, I mean jobs, I mean well, you know what I mean.

After investing hours in this invigorating internal debate with myself, recalling and reliving the discussions of days and even months earlier, I said to myself, admittedly self-satisfied, from the profound state of unutterable egolessness, “See Karen, meditation really works for you!”

I will share the list with you tomorrow when I hope to remember the darn thing.

And as a gentle reminder, every time you comment this week your name will be entered in a drawing to win a paperweight provocative prize. I promise you this prize is not something you have; it is not something anyone yet has, not even me, and I have grave doubts that anyone would even want it. Good luck!

Mom: are you a job or a relationship?

October 7th, 2007    -    14 Comments


I’ve just come from a weekend retreat so I’m feeling frisky and ready to mix things up.

The always energetic and informative Amy Tiemann of Mojo Mom had a post awhile back (waaay back in January) about whether motherhood was a job or a relationship. She came down convincingly on the side of relationship.

Now this is precisely the kind of thing that can set our heads to bobbling. Is it this way or is it that way? Are we one thing or the other? I want to take a look this week at how we deal with this question – how we see ourselves and the life that lies before us.

So tell me: is motherhood a job or a relationship? There are plenty of good arguments on either side. You don’t need to be a mother to have an opinion. Just tell me where you stand. Weigh in on any of our conversations this week, starting now, and you’ll be entered to win a doorstop an intriguing gift at week’s end. Keep the comments coming. I can be influenced by your effort, swayed by your attention, and romanced by having you near.

But wait – I reveal too much.

Let the bobbling begin.

Life interrupted

September 28th, 2007    -    6 Comments


I know I said I was going away. I’ve swept the tea house, I’ve walked the dog, I’ve scooped the poop. Later, I’ll go to Target and you know what that means.

But right now, I need to pipe up and call a spade a spade. This is a lie. A deception. Nickelodeon network is going “dark” for three hours this Saturday and advising kids to go out and play. Not. Get in shape. Sure. And then come back inside before the day is done and watch a kid’s reality show about not watching TV. On TV. Cripes.

And look! The news media gives it a pass. They wave a flag at it!

This is called “getting in front of an issue.” This is called public relations. I give myself permission to sneer because this was once my chosen profession. By the time I left it I was jumping up and down, waving my arms and hollering, “Don’t believe a thing you read in the paper or see on TV!”

I liken this TV-network-on-an-anti-obesity-crusade to my experience doing PR for a beer company. You read that right. The big daddy of brewers. We spent a lot of PR time and dollars trying to convince the media that we cared about people drinking responsibly. We had a catchy slogan for it. We wrote speeches and talking points. Then one morning the regional vice president called me at home, before work, because he was watching the early morning local TV news report of an overnight, fatal car accident in which alcohol was implicated. The news report showed footage of the police officer at the grisly scene lining up a dozen empty cans of our preferred product, all retrieved from the mangled wreckage. The VP, my client, wanted to know why I didn’t have enough clout to keep the local station from showing pictures of our brand in such an unfavorable way.

I resigned from the job that day. Soon, I resigned from everything else. After that, I began to have a life. My own ultimate reality show. The money isn’t as good but the beer is much better.

In real life, there’s a place to put Nickelodeon and this stunt that really is dark. Where the sun don’t shine. Then go out and play and don’t come back in.

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