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The Purejoy Parenting Blog

Summer is Almost Here

Summer is Almost Here

As the spring season blooms in Colorado, I find myself drawn to the garden. The irresistible pull of nature keeps me out there for hours, engaged in the never-ending cycle of growth and renewal. Memorial Day just passed, and it was a beautiful day – a day for remembering and expressing gratitude to all the amazing veterans for their service.

This week let’s talk about the anticipation of summer and the challenges it brings with kids getting out of school. As a working, single mom, I remember the struggles of arranging camps for my daughter to fill her summer days. It was a constant juggle, always trying to create something for her to do while I worked.

Reflecting on my own childhood summers growing up in Mississippi brings a wave of nostalgia. We enjoyed pretty free summers. There were summer camps, sure, but mostly we were just hanging out – going to the pool, riding our bikes in the neighborhood. Our parents trusted us, and we had the freedom to just be kids. It was a different time – a time before cell phones and constant connectivity.

Contrasting this with today’s reality is startling. Most kids, starting around the age of 12, have cell phones. We’re tracking them, constantly knowing where they are. For me, this created a lot of anxiety. When I wasn’t in touch with my daughter, I panicked. It’s funny how I got used to this constant connection when I hadn’t had it growing up.

As we head into summer, I encourage all parents to try a little practice. Try to relax a bit around the structure that you feel you need to create for your kids. In my experience, summer was a crazy time to hang out with friends. We were bored many times, but out of that boredom, we created shows, wrote music, performed, and had all kinds of fun.

The world has changed, and perhaps neighborhoods aren’t quite what they used to be, but there are ways to bring back some of that freedom. Maybe it’s one day a week, or maybe it’s on the weekend, when things are just allowed to be as they are – no structure, just hanging out. Everybody lives to their highest values. They choose what brings them pleasure, and joy, and see what it’s like to just have that summer freedom.

Remember, summer is about freedom and relaxation. As we approach the end of the school year, I challenge you to bring some consciousness to having at least one or two days where you just chill out and everybody gets to just hang out and just be in the summer.

 

 

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Over-protecting Your Child

Over-protecting Your Child

As someone who has spent a lot of time parenting and discussing parenting strategies, I’ve encountered a common tendency among parents, including myself – overprotection. It’s a topic that’s both dear and familiar to me. Especially in today’s culture, we desire our kids to be safe and feel safe, and we strive to provide a protective environment for them. However, we must discern the line between protection and overprotection.

I used to often find myself saying, “I don’t want my kid to feel this,” or “I don’t want my kid to think this.” But I had to pause and ask, “Why not?” Why did I want to shield my daughter from their feelings or thoughts? Of course, when she was thinking negatively about herself or expressing disappointment or sadness, my instinct was to comfort her and ease her distress.

However, I realized that my urge to shield her was more about my discomfort than her wellbeing. Instead of healthily separating out and supporting her to have her experience, I was imposing my feelings and discomfort onto her. I was trying to take her experiences away from herto alleviate my discomfort, which honestly was not always supportive.

My realization came when my daughter left home. She had experiences and thoughts that I wasn’t there to protect her from or convince her weren’t true. This made me realize that I needed to learn to tolerate my own discomfort while coming along side her to experience life’s ups and downs with support.

So, what does tolerating your discomfort look like? Let’s imagine your child comes home from school upset because a friend has said something upsetting to them, or they’ve been excluded from a group.

Instead of getting caught up in the story or trying to talk them out of their feelings, ask them to tell you more. I find it an art to listen without joining or agreeing with the story. “Of course, you didn’t like when they talked to you that way…of course, you wish they would stop….” Instead of “That was not OK for them to talk to you that way…I’m going to talk to the teacher right now”. Remember, this is their experience not yours and it is not your job to rescue them. Once they have shared then together you can brainstorm about practical steps to take.

If you validate their feelings without joining in the story, you support them in processing their emotions and understanding them better. They experience that feelings come and go, and they don’t define who they are. If you make a big fuss about those feelings or try to talk your kids out of them, those feelings start to feel like they have more power than they actually have.

When your kid comes home and tells you a story, remember, it’s never about what you think it’s about. Don’t join them in the story. Listen, empathize, and support them. Validate their feelings, remind them that they’re okay, and you’re there with them.

This week, I encourage you to sit with your discomfort while supporting your children to experience their feelings. It might be tough, but it will be worth it.

 

Enjoy

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The Weight of Our Needs

The Weight of Our Needs

As parents, our natural instinct is to protect, nurture, and guide our children. But have you ever paused to think about the weight your needs place on your children?

 In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, I often voiced my needs to my daughter – ‘I need you to get off the computer’, ‘I need you to take out the trash’, ‘I need you to brush your teeth’. Although at the time I proposed that these requests were being made with my daughter’s best interests at heart, I had to acknowledge the potential pressure and intensity that these needs projected onto her. 

 Do you find yourself justifying your needs. After all, you’re doing this for the good of your child, right? You might tell yourself that you want them to learn responsibility, to be happy, to be successful, to be healthy. But amid this flurry of needs, have you ever stopped to ask your children what they need? In your own parenting journey, you may forget to turn the tables and inquire about your child’s needs in order to engender co-operation in your relationship.

 When your needs are so intense that they present as demands, they can show up as disappointment if not met. This can place a significant amount of pressure on your children, both physically and emotionally.

 The key to addressing this is to first meet your own needs, and then to turn towards your child and ask them what they need. This shift in perspective canlead to increased understanding and cooperation.

Children want to be healthy, safe, and love themselves – just like us. These are the fundamentals of their being and it’s essential to remember that they are young and their understanding of these concepts is different from yours.

When you relax your protection mode and start seeing your children for who they are, you support them to come towards you, rather than protecting themselves from your engulfment. When you ask what they need, you open the door to deeper understanding and connection.

This process requires you to take back our projected needs and to create space for your child to express their needs. The result is a precious and exquisite experience of seeing your child for who they truly are – individuals who want to love themselves, be safe, and be healthy.

So, this week, try to shift the focus from your needs to your child’s needs. Open the door to your heart and see if you’re willing to show up and offer your child what they need. This shift in perspective may just be the key to a more harmonious and understanding parent-child relationship.

Where Did my Mojo Go?

Where Did my Mojo Go?

My core message centers around nurturing our internal wisdom in parenting and discovering our unique “mojo.”

The term “mojo,” commonly defined as a magic spell or charm, encapsulates my journey as a parent. I initially believed that parenting was about being a “magical mom,” constantly happy, patient, present, and understanding. However, I gradually realized that my daughter’s perception of me as a parent didn’t always align with my own expectations.

Despite my best efforts to create a nurturing environment, my daughter didn’t always react as I hoped. This reality, faced by many parents, can be incredibly challenging. The truth is, we parents are not supernatural beings but humans who occasionally lose our mojo.

One of the biggest challenges we parents face is the lofty expectations we set for ourselves. I often found myself wrestling with feelings of self-aggression, attempting to show up in ways that I wished someone had done for me. The guilt and shame that follow any perceived failure can weigh heavily.

It’s crucial to extend kindness and understanding to ourselves during these moments. We must remember that we are human, inherently imperfect. Recognizing and accepting this reality is a vital step in breaking the cycle of self-aggression.

I firmly believe that the key to good parenting is staying connected within ourselves. I propose turning that mojo inwards to love and care for oneself. It’s about being kind to our humanness, the part of us that gives so much to our children.

Investing in self-care and self-love is fundamental because the care we provide to our children often mirrors the care we desire for ourselves. We should remember that our children may not always understand or appreciate our efforts.

In my quest to be the perfect mom, I realized that I was not supporting my daughter to see me for who I truly was. By continually striving to create a perfect environment, I wasn’t showing her how to navigate through life when things weren’t perfect. This pursuit of perfection wasn’t serving either of us.

Remember, it’s important to remember that you are human, and it’s okay not to be perfect. It’s about being kind to yourself, taking care of yourself, and most importantly, relishing the beautiful journey of parenthood.

 

Seeing Beyond the Fixed Patterns in Your Parenting

Seeing Beyond the Fixed Patterns in Your Parenting

As parents, we often get caught in the trap of perceiving our children’s behavior as fixed patterns. We may make statements like, “my daughter never wears skirts,” or “my son always does this,” only to be proven wrong the next day. This week, I want to talk about this tendency to get stuck on one way of seeing our children and how we can move beyond it.

In Colorado, where I live, in the spring the weather is as unpredictable as a child’s preferences. One day we have snow, and the next it’s 60 degrees. Our children are similarly changeable. Even when we think we have them figured out, they surprise us. They never remain the same, and this is the one thing we can count on.

The issue arises when we fixate on a certain behavior or trait and start to see our children through a single lens. This one-sided vision can block us from recognizing the small yet constant changes happening in our children. When we are fixated in one way of seeing our child, we are unable to move forward; we get stuck.

I have had many parents approach me with concerns like “my kid is always angry,” or “my kid never helps out in the house.” These sentiments represent a kind of black and white thinking that does not reflect the reality of the situation. If you find yourself fixated on such thoughts, I encourage you to broaden your vision and notice the instances where your child’s behavior contradicts your assumptions.

For example, my daughter, whom I thought never helped with chores, turned out to be extremely helpful in situations outside our usual dynamic. When she was with her friends, she was always the first to lend a hand. Other parents would often tell me how helpful she was, leaving me in disbelief.

So, if you catch yourself thinking in absolutes about your child’s behavior, challenge yourself to look beyond. Ask yourself, “Where am I pushing or pulling? Where am I being one-sided?” Sure, parenting can be challenging, and we might have this idea that our children are supposed to help us. But it’s important to remember that our children are not obligated to fulfill our expectations.

So, let’s play with this concept in the coming week. If you notice yourself thinking in black and white terms about your child’s behavior, remember that it’s not the absolute truth. Be willing to look a little bit wider, a little bit deeper, and see all sides of your child.

Seeing Through Judgment

Seeing Through Judgment

 

Last week, I embarked on an introspective journey, diving deep into my understanding of judgment. I aimed to understand its purpose and functionality in my life, especially how it affected my parenting.

Judgment, I realized, comes naturally and instantaneously. As I scrolled through Facebook feeds or walked around, I found myself forming opinions and commentary within my mind, classifying things as ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ Intriguingly, I noticed this even when I was indifferent towards the subject matter.

This observation prompted me to delve deeper into my ‘judgmentality,’ as I call it, especially in the context of parenting. I realized that although I don’t judge others’ parenting styles, acknowledging that everyone has their unique path, I was judgy towards myself. This internal judgement wasn’t about the outside world, but it was about me.

My judgmentality was functioning like a questioner, throwing me back to myself. It created a dichotomy of right and wrong, and I realized that it was an attempt to validate my actions. If I knew I was ‘right,’ I would feel content, but if I thought I was ‘wrong,’ I believed I needed to change.

However, this constant need for validation began to overshadow the innate wisdom that I carry within, especially concerning my parenting decisions. My judgments were not helping me but were rather creating separation between my heart and my child.

Going forward, I decided to change my approach. Instead of creating a whole narrative around my judgments, I decided to bring them inwards and question them. Instead of seeing my child’s behavior as ‘right’ or ‘wrong,’ I decided to open myself to curiosity and ask, “Why do I need to feel right in this moment?”

This shift in perspective revealed that my judgmentality was creating a barrier between my heart and my child. However, once I stopped believing in ‘right’ or ‘wrong,’ ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ I saw my judgment as a messenger reminding me to turn inwards and open my curiosity about the present moment.

My take-away is that this introspective journey has helped me understand that judgments, if approached with kindness and curiosity, can lead to positive self-growth rather than creating unnecessary barriers.

Signs of Change in My Parenting by Masha Blokh

Signs of Change in My Parenting by Masha Blokh

As much as I like to bemoan the lack of change in myself and my relationships (“Seriously, we’re *still* having this fight 5 years later?!”), I’ve seen a growing number of signs that change is happening. 

 I am still prone to feeling hopeless and worthless after acting out my anger towards my family. And, recently, I often hear a calm, gentle voice simultaneously speaking in my ear. That voice has emerged in the past 2-3 years at most. It reminds me that I’ve been in this state before and have come through each time. It tells me that, of course, I mean well, that I have some understandable fears underlying my angry reactions, and when I acted out I was simply too scared to act differently in that moment. It also tells me that this experience is shedding light on one more hidden piece of my inner puzzle. So there is a newfound element of looking for the jewel in the anger, instead of hating and objecting to my present moment experience with all of my being – which is a state in which I’ve spent a chunk of time! Now there’s a tiny voice telling me it’s OK to let go a little, it’s OK to go look at my baby photo and feel self-compassion for my scared, innocent girl. 

 In addition to post-trigger shifts, that voice has led to some shifts in the heat of the moment. Increasingly, I am able to emotionally de-escalate before I get to a highly triggered state (keyword increasingly, not unfailingly). A month ago, after parking in the garage, I gave a sharp command to my tired daughter while rushing to get her out of her carseat and off to a late bedtime. She teared up for a moment, then started telling me “Go away! I don’t ever want you to be here! I want you to be gone!”

I sensed something powerful happening in my chest. Even being the doubting skeptic that I am, I experienced my heart physically wanting to hide, to retreat and clamp my chest shut around itself. A few years ago, I was not able to identify my sensations with this kind of clarity, and much less to tolerate the discomfort for more than a couple of seconds. I usually went cold and retreated to hide and numb my feelings, or lashed out and emotionally rejected my daughter, as well as anyone who happened to be in the vicinity. Or I demanded that she take care of my emotions and reassure me – either I apologized profusely to get her to “release” me from the guilt, or told her that I’m very sad and I’ll feel hurt until she stops telling me to leave.

Those reactions all showed my daughter that her feelings and behaviors are the cause for her to be rejected, and that my love for her is conditional on her keeping me feeling warm and fuzzy inside.

I was on the verge of all of those reactions, on the verge of closing off. And I stayed there – with her and, most importantly, with myself. While she raged, yelled and pushed me away with her hands, I could hear a small voice saying that this experience does not mean anything about the real “me”. I stayed there, feeling my heart asking me to hide it away, and just did my best to witness – to witness her apparently rejecting me, and to witness myself nearly closing off.

 I was SafeSeating without realizing it. I don’t use every trigger as a deliberate opportunity to SafeSeat, not by a long shot. And I sometimes look back on a trigger and realize, after the moment, that I had in fact intuitively SafeSeated it in a form that fit my needs in that situation.

 I could easily have crossed that line and closed off – I’ve done it many times! If she had said something about an unflattering comparison between me and “daddy,” I imagine I would have crossed the line. Perhaps only internally at first, pretending to be fine to my husband and daughter, because I have a judgment on my jealousy, and then wallowing in victimhood the rest of the evening. The more elements of discomfort that are piled on, the more likely that I won’t have the capacity to stay with myself. In this case I nearly allowed the guilt and shame of having snapped at her solidify all those stories in my mind: “I hurt her and now I’m being punished,” “I’m a worthless mom,” “She doesn’t love me,” “She deserves a better mom,” etc. etc. I felt the strong pull and almost toppled across the line…and I kept witnessing myself…and then she calmed down, and we went inside and had a beautiful bedtime together. 

I am not used to feeling rejected without taking on the identity of a rejectable person. And I’m not used to feeling rejected…and staying with myself long enough for the feeling to pass. It’s a rather new experience to simmer down before boiling over. And so is the sweet return to connection and self-love. Towards the end of bedtime my daughter requested hugs, and as I lay next to her and she put her tiny arms around me, I had this second novel experience – allowing myself to let that warmth in. I gently opened the young, scared part in my chest to this other polarity of peace and contentment. I have all sorts of stories which, when I believe them, prove that I don’t deserve sweetness or peace. Letting her hugs sink in without resistance was as momentous and as vulnerable as balancing on that fine line earlier in the garage, demonstrating yet again that there is always a jewel waiting to be mined in the discomfort.

Masha is a Purejoy graduate from the class of 2021. She has mostly moved on from Guess Who to cushion fights with her son and setting up all the dinosaurs in a row along the piano keys with her daughter. She is now slightly favoring improv comedy classes over stand up open mics as a participant, though it’s still a toss up for which is more fun to watch.

Worry to Wonder: A Parenting Shift

Worry to Wonder: A Parenting Shift

 

Do you find ourselves trapped in a cycle of worry? Are you worried about the future, and what it holds for your children. This constant worry often stems from a feeling of powerlessness, especially when unable to guarantee your children’s safety or control their journey into the future.
 
But what happens when you let this worry take control? Instead of owning it and acknowledging my discomfort, I found I often projected it onto my daughter. I told her, “I’m worried for you. I’m worried you won’t be successful. I’m worried you won’t learn to read, etc.” Now, take a moment and imagine someone saying that to you. Does it instill confidence, or does it inspire feelings of defiance or learned helplessness?
 
I found acknowledging my worry is the first step towards a healthier mindset. Yes, I was worried about the future, and with so much going on in the world, it’s perfectly normal. However, being stuck in this state of worry is like revving the engine while the car is in park – it got me nowhere, particularly when it came to parenting.
 
So, this week, I encourage you to take some time to notice when you start to worry. When you do, take a moment, put your hand on your heart, and say to yourself, “Of course, you’re uncomfortable. You don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. You want the best for your child.” And your child isn’t helpless. They may struggle, face challenges, and take risks, and yet they are resilient and capable and with you by their side they will find their way. 
 
Don’t forget to sign up for the “Raising Resilient Children” summit. You can hear my talk on March fourth, alongside many other speakers. 
 

How do you Interpret Your Child’s Behavior?

How do you Interpret Your Child’s Behavior?

Honestly, the main support I offer parents is to acknowledge that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting, as every child and parent is unique.

In my quest to be the best parent I could be, I often found myself interpreting my child’s behavior through my own lens. It became very clear that I had certain expectations or beliefs about how children should act, because I felt so uncomfortable when my daughter deviated from my expectations especially when we were in public. I was caught off guard by how many feelings came up when she refused to meet my expectations. It became very clear that how I interpreted my daughter’s behavior was actually causing my pain, not the actual behavior.

And yet, instead of moving towards my vulnerability I often claimed I was trying to protect her by guiding her towards what I believed was best. The issue though was that my interpretations of her behavior were based on my programming and past experiences. How I expected her to behave was actually all about me and my need to be validated. I often missed the opportunity to truly listen and understand her perspective.

If this rings true for you then how do you meet this in the moment?

Practice: Instead of jumping to conclusions or labeling your children’s behavior, practice staying present in the moment and being open to hearing their truth. This requires you to set aside your preconceived notions and beliefs, and truly listen to what your children are expressing. By doing so, you create a safe space for them to share their feelings and thoughts without fear of judgment or rejection.

Remember, your own experiences and emotions can cloud your ability to respond to your child’s behavior in a curious and compassionate manner. If you find yourself reacting from a place of fear or frustration, it’s supportive to step back and reflect on why your are feeling personally threatened by their behavior. Choosing to move to your SafeSeat to support yourself in offering compassion to your interpretations and conclusions can better support your child in navigating their own challenges.

I find parenting to be a continuous journey of growth and self-discovery. It’s a constant opportunity to for me to learn and evolve, both as an individual and as a parent. By cultivating self-awareness and practicing kindness, through my SafeSeat I create a nurturing environment where my child can also feel seen, heard, and valued.

If you have any questions or would like to share your own experiences, feel free to reach out to me at leslie@purejoyparenting.com. I would love to hear from you.

Wishing you a week filled with love and joy on your parenting journey.

The Illusion of What’s Missing: Embracing the Present Moment

The Illusion of What’s Missing: Embracing the Present Moment

It is snowing here in Colorado. I just witnessed a big load of snow coming down, creating a beautiful winter wonderland. However, at the same time, a friend of mine shared her plans of going to Mexico, which made me long for the beach. In that moment, I realized how often I catch myself thinking about what is missing or what would be better than the current situation. This pervasive mindset extends to my experience as a parent. I often find myself thinking, “If only my daughter would get off the computer, then I would be happy.”

Have you ever had similar thoughts? The belief that our happiness is dependent on external circumstances is a common one. We convince ourselves that if certain things were different, we would finally find contentment. But the truth is, this mindset is a never-ending cycle. As soon as one desire is fulfilled, another one arises. It’s like chasing a mirage that constantly eludes us.

As a parent, I often fall into this trap of seeking perfection. I strive to create an ideal childhood for my daughter, one that I didn’t experience myself. When I focus on making sure all her needs are met, I fixate on controlling her behavior to fit my expectations. Let me tell you, this only leads to disappointment and disconnection.

What I practice is shifting my perspective and embracing the present moment instead. This requires that I recognize that nothing is missing in this moment. We both have everything we need. As I said, this is a practice and of course, I get a lot of practice time with my busy future thinking mind.

I invite you to try a simple practice. Take a moment to make a list of everything you’d like to change about yourself as a parent and everything you’d like to change in your child. Then, reflect on each item on the list and ask yourself, “How do I think I would feel if this change occurred?” Consider if achieving those changes would truly give you what you believe you’re missing.

You may discover, like I did, that the source of your discontent lies within, not in external circumstances or your child’s behavior. By recognizing this, you can free yourself from the constant striving for something better and find contentment in the present moment.

As I embarked on this journey of self-reflection, I realized that my desire for control and perfection stemmed from my own childhood experiences. Deep down, I believed that I was responsible for my mother’s pain and that I needed to fix myself to prevent further suffering. This belief followed me into motherhood, where I sought validation of me being lovable through my daughter’s behavior. However, I came to understand that my daughter’s actions were not a reflection of my worth as a parent.

The key to breaking free from this cycle is to cultivate self-compassion and embrace all of you, especially the parts you judge as negative or bad. You can acknowledge that we are doing your best while still bringing awareness to what is happening in the moment. By exploring the need for control and surrendering to the present moment, you create space for genuine connection with yourself and your children.

Next time you catch yourself longing for something different, pause and remind yourself that everything you need is already within you. Embrace the uniqueness of each moment and find joy in the journey of parenting. Release the illusion of what’s missing and discover the beauty of what is.

Note: The above blog post is inspired by personal experiences and reflections on parenting. It is a reminder to myself and others to embrace the present moment and let go of the constant pursuit of perfection.

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