The Purejoy Parenting Blog
I am giving myself a lot of kindness right now. Kindness for not knowing what to write in this blog. Kindness for the imposter syndrome I experience for not being a perfect Purejoy coach. Seeing through the lens of kindness is new to me.
Before Purejoy, kindness was a foreign language. I grew up in a house filled with criticism. There was always a right and wrong way of doing everything. Many cruel words were spoken. I also experienced a lot of silence along with the loneliness, so I filled myself up with harmful words to validate the silence. I told myself often that if things weren’t done perfectly that I was a failure, stupid, weak, and worthless. I was committed to the mindset that being successful meant being hard on yourself to obtain your goals. If I made a mistake, I berated myself for it.
Purejoy changed everything. At first the kind, loving voice came from people like Leslie, and the master coaches and group coaches. It was external. Committing to the SafeSeat process I soon internalized their voices, so when I was feeling shame it was their voices in my head giving me kindness. With a lot of practice I eventually heard my own voice saying, “Of course you didn’t want to do that. You were having a hard day. You love your child. You just forgot to pause and love yourself. .”
Last week I lost my sh*t. At the end of a long week of solo parenting, all 3 of my kids were melting down on the way home from an after school picnic. My middle child was “out of control” scratching her siblings causing them to bleed. I abruptly pulled the car over, yanked her out of her car seat and set her on the sidewalk. I yelled “It is not ok to scratch people!” and “Do you want me to leave you here?” at the side of the road. She screamed, “Noooo!” and clawed her way back into the car.
As I sat back into the driver’s seat I immediately experienced the sunken feeling of shame rush into my body. My heart was pounding. My inner voice started saying “What have I done? I am a horrible mom. I am traumatizing my child.” Right then I stopped myself. I put my hand on my heart and waited. After a couple of breaths I heard these kind words in my own voice. “Oh, my love. You were overwhelmed and scared. Of course you want to protect your children from getting hurt. Parenting is really hard.”
Before Purejoy I would have endlessly berated myself for threatening to leave my daughter on the side of the road. Stuck in the shame cycle I would have shut down and withdrawn. But now I could see the situation more clearly and approach it from a place of nonjudgement. Later that evening after SafeSeating and offering myself kindness I took responsibility for my actions and asked how it was for her. My middle child said she was scared and since I had connected with myself I didn’t need her to validate me by saying it was OK. First, I validated her feelings and then together we came up with a solution. She would wear gloves in the car to protect her siblings and remind her not to scratch.
So I ask you, the reader, who’s voice is in your head? Is it harsh or kind? Is there a kind voice of someone you know (a teacher, relative, loved one) that you can hear? Can you bring it into your head and your heart and make it your own?
Emily Zelig, Ph.D. is a Purejoy Parent Coach and Plant Ecologist. She is a disabled, autistic mom who is passionate about supporting families and celebrating neurodiversity. Emily lives on a mini homestead near Seattle with her husband, 3 children, and too many plants and animals to count.
You can reach her at email@example.com
Before becoming a mother, I was first a Science Teacher and then went to graduate school to become a Counseling Psychologist. I was a Licensed Professional Counselor in Pennsylvania before my son was born and continued this work after weaning him. When I became a mom, I read all the books about positive discipline, mindful parenting, the “whole brain child”, peaceful parenting, Montessori at home…the list goes on and on. I wanted to know all the theories, weigh all the options, and have an overflowing toolbox of strategies and philosophies. I thought all this learning would enable me to be the best version of myself for my loved ones and my clients; however, no matter how thoroughly I studied or how widely I explored, I could never seem to manifest what I’d learned in my day-to-day life as a teacher, counselor, mother, and human being…until I found Purejoy Parenting.
When I became a mother four and a half years ago, I felt overwhelmed most of the time. Before becoming a mother, I enjoyed being excited about life, involved in activism, full of positive energy, and involved in lots of exciting projects (albeit without ever finishing half of them—yes, I have been diagnosed with ADHD). I only felt overwhelmed by all of this when I was on some sort of time constraint, or when my actions would impact others. As a mother, it felt like ALL my actions impacted my son, and his needs took up so much of my mental bandwidth! This pushed me over the edge into constant overwhelm.
Thank goodness I discovered Purejoy! At its core, Purejoy Parenting isn’t about knowledge, or theories, or philosophies—it is about being radically present and honest with ourselves, moment to moment. Pure Joy showed me that, in order to bring any of my pursuits to fruition, I needed to start by nourishing the soil in which I was planting: MYSELF. I needed to see that I was planting all this learning in soil riddled with negative stories about myself: that I am scatterbrained, that I am a clutz, that I am too needy, that I am too selfish to be a good mother because good mothers are completely selfless, as my mother was. I needed to recognize my perfectionistic tendency to beat myself up when something I’d planted ended up wilting or not even sprouting at all (metaphorically speaking).
It is counter-instinctual to choose to sit in one’s metaphorical muck and examine it, but, as a Counseling Psychologist, I certainly recognize the value in doing so. However, I don’t like to sit with my own muck. I have a deep-seated fear of being “a burden” to others. I chose helping professions that allowed me to sit with others in their muck and “help” them, but to avoid my own (“This is for and about YOU, not ME”). Purejoy facilitated my realization that, despite my intentions, I was dragging my muck around with me everywhere, including in my work and my parenting. I sought to practice Rogerian therapy, which is client-centered, non-authoritative, offers clients “unconditional positive regard”, and believes that clients hold the wisdom needed to find their own healthy path and solutions. Yet, as a Counselor, I found myself driven to sound authoritative and knowledgeable and to offer my clients “solutions” to feel that I had given them something “valuable” during their session. Purejoy facilitated my realization that this was a manifestation of my own muck. How could I ask clients to sit in their muck if I wasn’t willing to do the same? How could I connect with my clients and my loved ones from a place of openness and curiosity if I wasn’t able to connect with myself from a place of openness and curiosity? Purejoy taught me how to do so using the SafeSeat practice. The SafeSeat practice establishes the practical infrastructure and daily practice needed to create the healthy habit of PAUSING, tuning into one’s body, sitting with vulnerable feelings, recognizing the stories being told, attending to the young voice inside, and offering kindness to ALL of it.
So, why do I recommend Purejoy Parenting? Because, head and shoulders above any of my other education or training, Purejoy taught me the most about how to manifest my own inner wisdom in my day-to-day life. Purejoy trained me to recognize when I am feeling overwhelmed and to bring awareness to the emotions and stories underneath that overwhelm. One of my favorite quotes is by Viktor Frankl: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Purejoy taught me how to recognize that space and go to my SafeSeat, where I nourish the soil of myself by offering ALL of it, including the muck, acceptance and love. Purejoy facilitated my realization that I could not ask my clients to sit with their uncomfortable, vulnerable sensations, emotions, and stories, and to hear the vulnerable young voice inside of them and offer themselves unconditional positive regard, until I learned to do so with myself. Purejoy led me to see that I could not hear the vulnerable inner voice of my son and offer him unconditional love until I offered this to myself. I LOVE this world and my greatest desire is to be fully present every moment of my blessed life, especially with nature, with my loved ones, with my clients, and, most especially, with my son. Purejoy has made this so much more attainable in my day-to-day life, and I am forever grateful.
This morning I woke up to the sound of the rain beating against the window near my bed. I could hear the cars driving by and the rain splashing up against the tires. My family and I have been dealing with a variety of illnesses for a few days, so any extra time in bed would be heaven sent. I now hear my son getting up from his bed and heading to the bathroom. I shutter a bit. I know what is coming next, what comes every morning, but today it just seems to be bothering me more. I’ve only been awake for a few minutes but I already know my capacity is going to be on the LOW end today. My ability to parent, homeschool, clean up, work and make decisions is going to be very limited and even challenging.
Cue 6 year old barreling into my bedroom with the ipad in tow, “MOM can I play on the ipad”? I have a couple of choices to make at this moment and each one is completely dependent on my capacity. I’d like to relate my choices to the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I imagine myself being Goldilocks, just strolling around, not bothering a soul. When all of a sudden, a cute little cottage comes into view (parenting). I walk inside and see 3 bowls or “choices” I can make at that moment.
The first bowl is too hot- I could react fast and bark at my son, “NO you know you can’t have the ipad in the morning. You ask me every day and the answer is always the same! When are you going to learn?” This of course would blow up into a whole event itself, my daughter would then wake and we would all start the day off on the wrong foot.
The second bowl is too cold- I could calmly sit up out of bed, give my son a big hug, tell him I love him and ask how he slept last night. Then I could have a conversation with him about his BIG desire and include him in the choice. “Sounds like you really want to watch the ipad this morning. Tell me more about this since you have a lot of other things to do today.” This would take presence and energy to be intimate with “THIS” moment instead of giving him permission or not from my desire.
The third bowl is JUST right- I’ve already taken a scan of my ability for parenting today. I know I’m not feeling well and neither is my son and daughter so I could say “good for you for asking and today I’m offering 30 minutes on the ipad while your sister and I rest a little longer. Then I’ll be down so we can start our day.” Yes, I’m breaking my “rule” of no ipad in the morning, BUT I’m honoring where my children and I are TODAY.
Can you guess which bowl of porridge I decided to eat? Ding, ding, ding, the third bowl. After the 30 minutes of much needed rest, I venture downstairs with my daughter, and make breakfast for the kids while they watch an episode of their favorite show on Netflix. My day continues on and since I’m playing the role of Goldilocks, I am of course greeted by many more choices, which are typically a little more difficult than that of choosing the most comfortable chair.
In the parenting world it is so easy to take a black and white approach to making choices with our children especially when we feel the need to give them permission or not. We choose bowl one or two thinking they are the only options. One reactive and the other gentle and kind. Of course we want to parent from the second place, but is that always a possibility? Is there maybe times when we choose a bowl that isn’t so hot or cold, but that’s just right for us at the moment? What’s so great about having that third choice is we become less rigid and more flexible. We take into account not only our current capacity but also how our kids are currently able to handle the situation. We parent from a place of curiosity and love. Leading from our heart, rather than parenting from how we think we should be or letting our emotions take charge.
Let’s fast forward to the end of the day, Goldilocks is so tired and ready to snuggle in her bed and fall fast asleep. She/me then hears the three bears breathing heavily on her face, her eyes open and the idea of a beautiful night’s rest is gone, poof! My “three bears” are actually just another analogy to the story. For me, rather than the actual threat of bears mauling me in bed, it’s just a steady flow of judgment and guilt. My overactive brain tells me all of the things I should have done better, “why can’t I stick to my rules, be curious about them, be more gentle, I shouldn’t have yelled at my daughter today, I should have done laundry, we should have read more books and finished that science project” YADA, YADA, YADA!
The beautiful thing about having choices is that I can take that same strategy from earlier in my day and apply it to how I treat myself in this moment. The moment of “Mom Guilt”, self-aggression and not being “good enough”.
I of course have the same choice as Goldilocks, to run the hell out of that dangerous situation and never look back. By stuffing my feelings down and away I could grab my phone, scroll for an unhealthy amount of time and aimlessly ignore the thoughts until I become sleepy again.
I could lay wide awake in bed coming up with solutions on how to do things better from here on out, maybe read a new parenting book or tell myself I SHOULD and WILL be a better mom tomorrow.
OR, (this one is my just right porridge, the secret sauce) I can take a moment to SacredSeat, listen to the voices that are telling me I’m not good enough and acknowledge them! I tell myself of course you wanted to parent like freaking Mary Poppins today, BUT the REALITY is my capacity for “adulting” was limited and that is more than okay. I offer myself kindness, because I did the best I could.
So rather than running away from the three bears, yelling at them, or trying to create a different situation in which they aren’t mad, I instead wrap them in a big bear hug and offer them only kindness.
I didn’t always have the ability to pause and see a variety of choices in my parenting. My go to was to react, think later, followed by guilt. Purejoy taught me that by bringing awareness into the situation I can see different perspectives and make the best possible choice at that moment. But, even when I don’t, because let’s be honest, no one is a perfect parent. I can still be gentle with myself and in turn, gentle with my kids. For me, self- aggression takes me completely away from the concept of choices. I’m angry with myself, so in turn I act out of my emotions, losing the ability to pause. What that looks like is an angry mom yelling at her kids, then my children following that same pattern. My support to any parent reading this blog is to keep the story of Goldilocks and Three Bears in the back of your mind. By offering little moments of awareness, kindness and pauses when possible, hopefully you can pick the “porridge” that is just right for you.
Brittany van Emmerik is a Certified Purejoy Coach, LMT and homeschool mom of two. Brittany supports new homeschool parents in discovering healthy alternatives to conventional schooling. She knows how difficult it can be taking on the responsibility of educating your child and that each journey is very unique. By inviting her clients to look deeply into traditional expectations and preconceived notions, they work side-by-side to create confidence and a healthy homeschool environment personal to the client and their children.
Attending birthday parties with my 4 year old daughter has been a mixed bag of emotions and experiences for both her and me, and her best friend’s party a few weeks ago was no exception.
My daughter loves being invited to and attending parties. She’s excited to play with her friends and looks forward to enjoying the fabulous entertainment and food, and of course the birthday cake!
She’s naturally sociable and good natured with her friends. And at times during parties she can become very overwhelmed by the noise, the number of children in the room and the unspoken social conventions (waiting in turn for food, waiting for the singing and candles to be blown out before having cake, waiting patiently for your turn during party games and so on). Of course this can lead to confusion, frustration and impatience, and for my daughter this can result in shouting and/ or complaining.
Since completing the PureJoy coaching training, I am more comfortable supporting myself when I’m triggered by my children’s big emotions when we are at home. On good days I take as much time as needed to hold space for myself in my SafeSeat, show myself kindness and respond from my adult capacities. And, of course, there are off days, when getting to my SafeSeat is a serious struggle.
However, supporting myself is much more difficult when things become tricky with the kids in public.
The most recent parties we’ve attended have gone pretty smoothly, so I assumed this one would be fine too. She was so excited to be there, to give her bestie her birthday present and to play! She skipped into the room, instantly ran off to find her friends, and started playing on the electric ride on cars that had been hired for the event.
She fell madly in love with those cars! The car she was playing on soon became HER car. If any of the other children played on it she became quite agitated. I was chatting to some of the other parents when I heard her shouting from the other side of the room at a boy who was in HER car. The boy’s father and I walked over to them and BAM, I found myself in a situation that I found very difficult to navigate.
My default reaction in these situations is to go into my thoughts, strategise, try to find the right words to say to get my daughter to calm down, and find words that might also sound good to the other parents around us. I tried to be patient, calm and polite, despite the growing discomfort I was feeling inside. My daughter did not calm down.
My head started to spin. Can I sit with discomfort and hold space for both myself and her? Or will I try to manipulate her to avoid feeling uncomfortable? Should I conform to social expectations and ask her to share nicely? Should I tell her to stop shouting, as it’s rude, and encourage her to speak kindly to her friends?
In the mental overwhelm I just froze. I felt uncomfortable, I got hot, I went red in the face.. The four year old me inside felt the same emotions as my daughter. Except I was trying to hold them in, swallowing the energy down, holding back, trying not to act rude or spoiled, and strategize my way out of the situation.
I attempted to support my daughter but really I was just trying to find some ‘magic’ phrase that would make her stop. She could sense my lack of confidence and sense of safety, and her anger turned towards me.
Whilst I was stuck in freeze mode, the boy’s father removed him from the car, my daughter got straight in it, and off she went. She had her car back, she was happy again, for now.
And along came a number of other emotions; guilt because this boy’s turn in the car was cut short, relief that at least the shouting had stopped, paranoia and worry about potential judgements of everyone in the room. And most of all disappointment, because I didn’t parent in this situation, I just felt passive, helpless and ungrounded.
My daughter’s pleasure at having the car back didn’t last for long. There were many other things she found challenging at the party. By the end I was exhausted, anxious and totally drained. I felt I had failed.I wasn’t confident in supporting myself or my child. And I had pleased no one.
Finally home and in the security of my SacredSeat two things came to my awareness.
Firstly, my desire to feel supported in the way I parent. At the party I reverted to early strategies of pleasing and placating and acting nice. I had been looking to the external environment (other parents) to secure the approval I wanted. By giving myself loving kindness, and listening to the young voice inside of me I could say to her ‘Of course you wanted to please the other parents, you wanted approval, to feel safe and supported!‘. Instead of looking outside for what I wanted, I turned my focus inside, asking how I could offer myself the support I was seeking from others.
And secondly, I became aware of the part I’d played in the dynamic between my daughter and I. As hard as it is to admit, I judged my daughter’s behaviour as overpowering and rude. And by default I took the other polarity, of being helpless and ‘nice’. Overpowering and rude are aspects of myself that I’d rejected long ago, I learnt to hide these parts of me, keep them contained. My daughter’s behaviour had triggered these emotions within me, and I just wanted to suppress them! And by polarising, the gap between us kept growing.
From my SacredSeat I could see the situation differently. My daughter had been strong, commanding, powerful and assertive! Of course there are ways to do this that are more refined than shouting until others relent. And the reality is she’s four, so of course she isn’t going to know how to do this yet! Ultimately I want her to be able to call on these powerful parts of herself, not reject or suppress them. And with maturity, she will be able to use them skilfully.
And in wanting this for my daughter, my true desire became clear, what I really want is this for myself! To reclaim and own these rejected parts of me; strong, commanding, powerful and assertive. To be able to call on them to meet my strong and powerful girl, and be the strong and assertive parent I am.
And so my practice in my SafeSeat and SacredSeat continues to deepen. Alongside offering loving kindness to myself daily, I am focusing more on my practice of commanding and grounding my energy, so when the intensity levels start to rise, I can ground into and commit to the present moment, come out of my head, into my body and access my inner power, wisdom and creativity.
Thankfully my three young daughters give me many opportunities to practice, and I’m grateful to them all for shining the light onto the parts of me that are ready to be reclaimed, and grateful to myself for be willing to pursue them.
Abi is mama to three girls, a four year old and 18 month old twins. She is a certified PureJoy coach, a mindfulness meditation teacher and mother’s circles guide in training. She is passionate about working with mums of twins who already have singleton children, supporting them in accessing their inner power, wisdom, creativity and self compassion as their family grows – from pregnancy, the early days with their twins and beyond.
“How many hours of sleep do teenagers need?” “How can I get my teenager to go to bed earlier?” These are just two of the searches I kept asking Google. Even though the answers were always the same, I kept asking them hoping for a different result. I was hoping Google would solve my problem of having a teenager who likes to stay up into the wee hours of the night. I’ve always loved my 8 hours of sleep and I couldn’t wrap my mind around why someone wouldn’t want the same thing.
In case you’re wondering, the recommended sleep time for teenagers is between 8-10 hours and the most common suggested strategies are banning electronics from the bedroom, charging phones outside of bedroom, cutting caffeine, discouraging naps, to name a few. Armed with this information, I was determined to get my son to change his sleeping habits. I tried to discourage him from taking naps, reasoned with him about the importance of sleep and even tried using science to drive my point home. As you can imagine, this didn’t change anything and I vacillated between “I need to get him to change” and “forget it, he can do whatever he wants because that’s what he’s going to do anyway”. Perhaps a very typical response, but neither is a very helpful strategy.
Then, one morning things came to a head when my son asked to stay home from school because he was exhausted from lack of sleep. I looked at him indignantly and asked if he was asking to stay home because he didn’t get enough sleep, as if I didn’t hear him correctly the first time. I kept staring at him as he went on to say that he’s so exhausted that he would fall asleep behind the wheel if he tried to drive to school. I just kept staring at him, my mind swirling. “How ridiculous for him to even ask to stay home when he should know better than to stay up late into the night on a school night”. As soon as that thought popped into my head, another voice came along. “I don’t have a clue if I should let him stay home. Seriously, why is parenting so hard? I need someone to tell me if letting him stayhome is the right thing to do.” And then the practical voice came along. “I can’t let him drive if he’s clearly telling me he’s so exhausted that he’s going to fall asleep behind the wheel.” All of this is going on in my head while he’s waiting for my answer. Finally I said “you can stay home this time, but you need to start going to bed earlier.” Anger flashed in my son’s eyes and he responded “I know!”
During my Purejoy coach training, I discovered that my desire to control my sons behavior had more to do with my discomfort than his actual behavior. However, in the heat of the moment, I relied on my old parenting habits for a solution.
So, as soon as I heard myself telling my son that he needs to start going to bed earlier, Purejoy kicked in and I realized that I was trying to control his behavior, so I could feel better about myself as a parent. You see, him staying up late made me very uncomfortable and I thought he should be more like me and value sleep as much as I do, and if that didn’t happen, it meant I wasn’t doing this parenting thing “right”.
Throughout the day I found that I was judging myself for allowing him to stay home. I created a story that making him go to school tired would have been the natural consequence of his actions even if he fell asleep in class. But even this didn’t sit right with me and I took myself to the SacredSeat. I sat with the discomfort of the day and the stories I was telling about myself and my son. Underneath it all, I felt powerless and helpless. I was trying to avoid those intense feelings, but once I was able to acknowledge them in my SacredSeat and offer kindness to myself, I was ready to act like an adult.
Later on I approached my son and inquired about his experience of being a night owl when society in general has very different operating hours. I asked what he notices when he doesn’t get enough sleep. Whatever his response was, I kept inquiring what he notices next. At some point I asked him if he thinks he’s going to keep doing what he’s doing or if he thinks he wants to change something. By connecting with him from the place of openness and curiosity, I discovered that what he needed was support with the practical skill of finding strategies that work for him so he can change his habits, not any lectures about the importance of sleep.
By taking responsibility for my own emotional experience without believing all the stories I created about the situation, I was able to separate the practical solution for an emotional issue and meet my son where he was at and it opened a beautiful door to connection and collaboration. Purejoy!
Martta Desanges is a Purejoy Parent Coach whose superpower is connecting with her clients quickly on a deep level to give much needed support on an immediate problem. She is also a mama to four amazing humans who have taught her more about herself that she ever wanted to know. Martta is also an outdoor enthusiast who loves to read and travel and who swears she will never give up coffee or chocolate.
My two year old daughter bursts out laughing: “Again! Do it again!” Usually I can’t help smiling when I hear her playing like this. Instead, I feel my chest tighten and my lips squeeze together in a grim line. My husband is the one playing with her, he’s the one bringing forth her laughter and enjoyment with his new animal game, and I am jealous. This scene has been repeating itself over the past few days, ever since I noticed that my husband has come up with some new games that my daughter finds irresistibly fun.
Coincidentally, as I write this post, my two brothers are visiting us in our little town in Ontario, Canada, and the jealousy has started to creep up between us, too. Just a minute ago my younger brother and I sat quietly working on our own projects, side by side. As soon as my older brother joined us, they started talking to each other, sharing inside jokes and getting distracted from their work. Right away a chain reaction of thoughts starts going in my head: “my younger brother has more fun with my older brother than with me”, which leads to “my older brother is more fun and has a warmer and closer connection to my younger brother than I do,” then “I am fundamentally less capable of forming warm, close relationships” and, finally, “I am less loved and less deserving of love than my brothers.”
These thoughts come with a strong wave of feeling, especially the feeling of being rejected. I feel like I have been permanently placed on a lower rung of the ladder of human worth – a ladder that I intellectually don’t believe in, but which looms up, terrifyingly real and threatening, when jealousy comes around. It’s a ladder that I formed in my mind years ago, and I placed myself firmly on the lowest rungs when my older brother got more laughs from our relatives, when he won our arguments, or when he (as an innocent young child himself) called me stupid for crying over a lost game of checkers. For most of my life, I have been holding onto these uncomfortable beliefs and feelings without knowing what to do with them. And when they become more pressing than I can currently tolerate, I resort to old familiar behaviors to try to get some relief.
As a young child, these behaviors gave me the best chance of relieving some of the vulnerability and terror that arose when I felt rejected. One strategy is to imitate the ways that others appear to “earn” love. In the case of my daughter, I’ve been paying attention to the games that my husband plays with her, and have been trying to replicate these games. These are not casual attempts to try out something that I think might be fun for my daughter. Oh no, the energy is not carefree at all. I feel tense and desperate to prompt joy and laughter in her, as if to say: “you’d BETTER laugh and enjoy this game with me as much as you do with daddy! PLEASE prove that I am just as fun and interesting as he is!” My daughter can sense that something is off, and neither of us is having fun.
I’ve also used an old strategy where I blame my husband, telling him that my suffering is his fault, because he’s set me up to have an unrealistically high opinion of my skills with children. I’ve reminded him how, a couple of years ago, he told me that I’m “remarkably good with children.” Yesterday I yelled at him: “If I’m so freaking great with children, why can’t I get on my daughter’s level, and play in a way that she finds engaging and fun?! You set me up to think I’m so fantastic with kids, that’s why it’s so painful to see that I suck at playing with my own child!” I am deaf to any logic or perspective, such as, being great at something does not imply being better than everyone, at every aspect, at all times. When I blame him, what I’m really doing is finding a “bad guy” to rage against, which brings some temporary relief from the vulnerable feelings of inadequacy and rejection. Sometimes I find more indirect, or passive-aggressive ways to offload my feelings. Once when I was washing dishes, he sat down nearby to play with my daughter. I started to feel that heavy feeling in my heart, and right away I turned the water on full blast, and made sure to leave it running when I stepped aside to get more dishes. The reason? My husband is irritated by the idea of wasting water, so I was trying to evoke his discomfort with the sound of running water to “get back at him” for the discomfort evoked in me by the sound of my daughter’s laughter.
There is another layer of vulnerability that I am trying to stay safe from here: I feel a lot of shame every time I am jealous, especially jealous of those closest to me. I have a judgment and a belief about jealousy that it is a “bad” feeling, and when I am unable to suppress it, I have a gradually growing reserve of aggression towards myself for feeling jealous at all. This shame drives me to hide from my daughter and husband when I see them together, to shrug my husband’s hand off of my shoulder, stomp off to the basement and slam the door.
This morning I dropped off my son at school, and the long walk home gave me some time and space to reflect on my commitment to taking responsibility for my own feelings. In the past couple of years, with the support of Purejoy, I discovered that there is an alternative to suppressing, numbing, fixing, or offloading my feelings onto others. And as I walked, I reminded myself (I seem to need endless reminders!) that it does not matter how thoroughly I can describe what’s happening with my emotions, it doesn’t matter how many blog posts I write about it – I have to actually do the uncomfortable work of welcoming all my vulnerable feelings. All of a sudden, while walking through my neighborhood, I opened up to the unconditional kindness and compassion that have become increasingly familiar since I started practicing the SafeSeat. I opened up to the feelings hiding underneath my recent behaviors.
I said to myself, “Oh, sweetie, of course you want to be the fun one. Of course you want your precious daughter to laugh with you more than she laughs with anyone else. Of course you want her to affirm that she adores you, that you are loved, because that’s not something you grew up knowing with any certainty. All those times when you thought your brother was getting more love than you, those were so painful, and you didn’t know what to do about it.” I kept walking, and crying, with my hand on my heart. “Sweetie, I’m here now, I see you and hear you. I see how much it still hurts to feel rejected. I see how much you punish yourself for these feelings, and especially how much you punish yourself for acting them out. I see that these are your innocent attempts to hide from your pain, and to earn love. And the reality is, sweetie, you are sooo lovable. You are just as precious and wonderful and innocent as your little daughter.”
I stopped for a moment and wiped my tears before opening the front door. Having touched and soothed the true, deep-down location of my pain and discomfort, I was now ready to walk through the front door, to own my behaviors without shame, and to begin to shift back to a relaxed and open-hearted connection with my daughter, my husband, and my brothers. Will I still feel rejected and act out these feelings, today, tomorrow, and for the rest of my life? Certainly! And I remain committed to a continued practice of tending to all of my tender feelings, thereby bringing myself back into loving connection with myself and others.
Masha is a Purejoy graduate from the class of 2021. During the day she plays a lot of Guess Who and creates many video game-inspired interactive chalkboard challenges. When the kids fall asleep, she adds some jokes to her stand up routine, or stays in their bedroom, reading ahead in their chapter books by the light of the nightlight.
Do you know that feeling at the end of the day when you look back at how your day went and notice that you didn’t nurture the connections you wanted to, feel drained, and overall guilty about how you acted with your family and what you didn’t accomplish?
That was my normal eight months ago. I was an expert in self-aggression, taking myself apart and examining everything I did wrong: I didn’t cover all the topics I wanted to during homeschool time; I still hadn’t graded last week’s tests; I forgot to play Little Ponies with my daughter; my kids didn’t spend enough time outside today; I let my kids use too much screen time; I tuned out my 7-year-old when he was talking about Minecraft. As you can probably imagine, I could go on forever.
Going to bed and waking up I was feeling like I was never measuring up to the idea of the parent I wanted to be. I look back now and can clearly see the impossible standards I set up for myself. I had no idea what healthy personal boundaries looked like, let alone how to implement them. I considered myself to be an above-average parent; I’d read all the books and listened to all the webinars and was breaking paradigms left and right. But, you see, I hadn’t discovered the biggest shift of all. I knew what I wanted for my children, how successful they’d be if only I could get them to (insert anything here). What I didn’t know was what I wanted for myself, how to stay true and honor myself while raising happy children.
Reading the traditional way of parenting I understood it to say how much I had to sacrifice to be a good parent. I read about the scores my child needs to make to predict whether or not they will be an average Joe or a CEO leading their own company, what the best way to school is, how many languages they should speak, and how many instruments they should play. Even gentle parenting tells you how you should treat children so they are emotionally safe and encourages honoring their needs above all else. It wasn’t until I learned and practiced the Purejoy view that I understood why the other ways weren’t working for me and my family.
Purejoy taught me to slow down and encouraged me to know myself, my needs, and my core vulnerabilities. As I understood that I could stop looking to the outside for someone to take care of them for me, and stepping into my true self, offering loving kindness to myself, and setting healthy boundaries (YES! Even with my children!) I honored myself. In doing so, I stepped into my adult capacity which enabled me to make the decisions I thought would bring the most benefits to me and my family. Another turning point was seeing my children as capable and full of wisdom, getting curious about their process and desires. When I take time to see, hear, and understand their high values and their vulnerabilities, I am better able to support them.
Now, I know all of this may sound ideal and lovely in theory, and at the same time, so abstract and sometimes unreachable, but I’ll give you an example of a situation in my day-to-day life and how simple changes are able to shift entire paradigms:
When my children were little, I enjoyed prepping snacks and lunches for them, cutting everything into shapes and adding those decorative picks, and love notes for them to find and enjoy. As they grew older, I had more responsibilities with work and found myself with less time to prepare them, but I kept doing so. As even more time went by I found myself resenting them for expecting me to always prepare their snacks and lunches. I made up stories in my head about their age and how they should have the skills to do it themselves and with every meal I prepared and at every request for a snack I noticed more and more irritation. Then I’d react from an emotionally triggered place and probably ask them – not so kindly – to go get it themselves and probably shame them for being as old as they are and not doing it themselves from the get go, or begrudgingly do it myself and be in a bad mood after.
After my Purejoy training I learned that there were many components to this seemingly simple task. I recognized that they weren’t forcing me to do anything, they were simply stating their desires – and how lovely it is that they felt safe enough to do so. They didn’t need the notes or the picks or the fruit cut out in cute shapes, that was coming from me; I also recognized that it was ok if I didn’t prepare their snacks all the time, if I didn’t feel like it I could express that I’m not available to do so, and share with them what I am offering (listing what they can find in the pantry, or opening a jar they’re not able to), and move on with my day. I don’t tell them what they “need to do”anymore. I share with them what I’m going to do. They are capable of deciding what their next step is. By setting my personal boundary and saying no, when I choose to say no, I am honoring myself and not growing resentful, I see the reality for what it is, and when I say yes it is with a wholehearted yes that fulfills me.
I invite you to consider what you believe your job is as a parent. Leslie once asked me: Do you believe your job is to prepare your child to be successful in the future world you’ve learned to be attached to, as who you think they should be, or could it be your job is to fill them with loving kindness so they are able to show up as themselves and make choices confident in who they are and the abilities they possess?
How might you best support yourself and your child in this vision?
And remember: be curious about your answer, offering it kindness and love and leaving judgment and self-aggression out of the conversation.
Thais is a certified purejoy parent coach living in Honduras with her husband and 3 neurospicy kiddos. As a parent herself, she understand the challenges that come with raising neurodiverse children in today’s fast-paced world. Her coaching approach is based on a combination of evidence-based practices and personal experience. She offers parents the opportunity to see beyond the labels that have been assigned and step into their true selves, and at the same time support their children in finding their brilliance and path in life.
Ten minutes of Special Time! That’s what the parenting experts said. All your child needs is 10 minutes of Special Time. Ok… I can do this!
As an Ob/Gyn, my 3-year-old son missed me when I was at work. And I missed him! I desperately wanted to reconnect with him when I came home, but I had just spent over 24 hours in the hospital. What I wanted even more was a hot shower and a nap.
Luckily, I read The Parenting Book (or more like 50 parenting books) and I had found THE perfect solution! I would meet his needs for just ten minutes, and then I could meet mine with a glorious steam-filled shower, and then a nap with my favorite blanket.
I can hear the late night commercial now: “You too can be The Perfect Mom if you call in the next 10 minutes. Dial 1-800-Special-Time to achieve your wildest parenting dreams!” My dreams were about to come true!
That morning, I drove home with such high hopes. I let my son know that we would have “Special Time”. He chose to play LEGOs. No surprise there! I set my timer for 10 minutes. We played, laughed, and reconnected. The timer buzzed and I turned to my son and stated the magic words The Book instructed:
“That was fun! Special Time is over. I’ll play with you again after my nap”.
“Well. Thanks for the sh#t day, Mom!” My son responded with anger flashing in his eyes.
Ok. Yikes! That did NOT go as planned. My sweet little 3-year old just cussed at me!?! I did what I was told! I played for TEN minutes! Why didn’t that work?
Fast forward to today… I’m now a Purejoy Master Coach and have been hanging around Leslie for 3 years. Looking back at this moment I feel such tenderness and kindness! We both did the best we could with the capacities we had at the time. And, I completely missed the mark.
This is why I love the SafeSeat, the foundational practice in Purejoy. It’s a simple practice in theory, but so very deep! It’s like the Wardrobe in the Chronicles of Narnia. You may think the end is just a wall at the back, but the further you go, past the fur coats, the more you discover! There’s an entire new world on the other side.
As for the simple part: The SafeSeat is about moving from the emotional world to the practical world. Seems easy enough! Many conscious parenting techniques teach emotional regulation.
The magic is this: Finding the intimacy of the moment. What is that, you ask?
Let’s take my Special Time example. I actually felt quite emotionally regulated. Yes, I was tired. But, I also felt inspired by this new hope. I wanted to play with my son. He also seemed perfectly regulated. He was enjoying LEGOs with me.
However, this solution was only one fur-coat-deep. To get to Narnia required me SafeSeating the emotions that were behind it all. I needed to get truly intimate with all that was present in the moment. I was already somewhat aware; I knew that we needed/wanted to reconnect. Where I missed was moving straight to a practical solution for an emotional issue.
If I could go back, I would use the SafeSeat in the car driving home. First, I would listen to my relief at having a 24-hour shift under my belt. I would listen to all the emotions that this can bring: the frustrations, lamentations, and celebrations. I would welcome the cringe of what I imagined would be expected of me as a wife and mother as I returned home. I would listen and offer kindness to each and every one of the emotions as they entered my being.
Then, when my son hears my car pull up and runs into my open arms, I would be there fully present for all of his being.
“Oh sweetie! I’m so happy to see you! How are you feeling this morning?”
He may or may not share. If he did, I would listen attentively to each of his feelings, bring them into my heart, and communicate how meaningful his experience is to me.
I would acknowledge and honor all of the emotional energy that lived in the intimacy of that moment. I would welcome all of the unmet needs and wantings with a fearless open heart. And then, only then, I would move to the practical.
“I hear that you want to play with me so much! I wish I could play for hours and hours with you, too! But, I’m really tired. Here is what I’m offering: Ten minutes of play now and then after I take a shower and rest, we can play again.”
Or, if I was really exhausted, I could skip the “Ten Minutes” and offer a LEGO date after my nap.
Either way, if the emotional energy is not met, the practical solution will not work. And the more I practice the SafeSeat, the more intimate I am with the moment. I can uncover all of the conscious and subconscious emotions that are present, fur coat by fur coat. I can open my heart to all that is tucked away by practicing the SafeSeat… That’s the way to Narnia.
Thanks so much for reading my story! I hope this supports you in discovering the intimacy of your moments so that you can find your own way to Narnia! And maybe a glorious shower and a nap, too!
By Erin Waters
The other day, one of those very wet gray days which are common in Manchester (and they feel particularly gray and wet if it happens to be Sunday), I had a bright idea: I will teach Lara how to ride a bike without training wheels. A great idea, isn’t it? She is 5 and enjoys riding her bike, wouldn’t it be fun for her to learn to ride it without training wheels?! My imagination quickly painted an idyllic picture – a sunny day, a happy child on a bike, a smiling parent (me) running behind them gently supporting the kid at the back etc. etc. I liked the ‘picture’ so much that I ignored the fact that the reality was far from the image in my head, it wasn’t a sunny day and my child didn’t actually ask me to teach her to ride a bike – she was happily occupied by drawing and coloring.
Filled with excitement and enthusiasm (on my part) Lara and I went downstairs to the underground garage to practice – there is an ample empty space, an even floor – perfect!
Within a few minutes my ‘idyllic’ picture crashed into reality. Lara found it very hard to keep balance: “I am scared….I can’t do it….You aren’t holding me properly…It’s your fault that I am losing balance….You aren’t helping me… You are an IDIOT!….” Yep, she went from “I am scared” to “It’s all your fault. You are an idiot” within seconds. And I was quick to join her in her frustration: my body tensed up, my heart started to beat very fast, and the heat rose towards my face – I was very close to exploding. The voice inside me was raging: “It was supposed to be fun!!!”
Her struggle and frustration about being incapable of riding a bike without training wheels triggered something deep inside me.
At first, I wanted to blame her: “Come on, why do you give up so quickly? What’s so scary about it? I am here, holding you, running behind you, and you are calling me an IDIOT!?! Then, a familiar voice ‘spoke’ loud and clear: “She is just like you, lacking in confidence, ready to give up at the first hurdle”, and I sensed the heaviness in my heart and noticed tears burning my eyes ready to flow down my cheeks. The next moment, I ‘saw’ myself, a little Elena, on a bike: struggling with it and scrambling under the pressure and expectations from my ‘big people’. They didn’t like me to be slow, timid, uncertain, and quick to give up. They wanted me to be good at achieving and accomplishing things – that was important to them! The moment a ‘memory tape’ started running I noticed myself getting filled with shame and guilt, and I felt annoyed with myself for feeling those feelings. The annoyance wanted to come out in a scream: “I am doing my best, I am trying so hard, and you are calling me an idiot? That’s unfair!” Gosh, a little Elena, powerless, helpless, incapable to do what’s required, was here again – the little girl, who has never succeeded at the first attempt.
In that moment of clarity, I stopped. I sat down on the floor, and the reality of the moment hit me: I felt powerless, helpless, and ashamed seeing my daughter struggle. Powerlessness and helplessness were such familiar feelings to me and covering them up with either people -pleasing or self-aggression was my ‘go to’. A few more deep breaths, and I was able to feel the deep sadness inside and see the reality for what it was: my 5-year-old daughter was having a first go at riding a bike without training wheels and found it challenging! I looked at my sweet little girl – body shaking with sobs, tears rolling down her cheeks – she was really struggling. I said: “Let’s go home, sweetie, I love you. We can try again another time”.
The situation shook me to the core. I felt as if it was about me. I knew I wanted to take it to my Sacred Seat and stay with it until I got more clarity and peace.
In the SacredSeat a question kept coming up: “Was I really that slow at everything?” Yes, that is what I was told by my parents and teachers, but what if I was simply different from what they expected of me? What if they were simply trying to remove ‘training wheels’ from my bicycle too early, long before I was ready to ‘ride’ on my own? They called me ‘slow’, and the label stuck. Kids make up meaning and are conclusion-making machines, so I concluded that being slow at learning is bad, hence I am bad and/or something is wrong with me. And, as a kid, what I learnt to do is to hide my so-called slowness, which meant not to participate. Not to get involved. To play small and hide behind people who are strong, quick, and outwardly capable. Acting helpless, incapable, ‘bad’ at everything was my identity. It was my safe place: I play small, so you feel big, and because you like feeling ‘big’, you are going to like me, and that’s all I wanted – to be liked, loved, and accepted. How very innocent!
For as long as I remember, I preferred to do things by myself to avoid being compared. And I never questioned my ‘being slow’ until Purejoy. That evening, sitting in my SacredSeat I wondered: “Is that really true that I am slow? Or does it simply mean that I do things at my own pace?”
Watching my child demonstrating similar traits brought back those familiar vulnerable feelings of helplessness and shame for who I am. To avoid the discomfort that came with those feelings, I first wanted to blame my child, then I wanted to run away, shut down, and withdraw love. But instead, I chose to open my Purejoy toolbox and get out the magic tools of SafeSeat and Sacred Seat. In the moment, ‘SafeSeat on the go’ allowed me to first notice and stay with my emotional experience which made me available to see the situation from my daughter’s perspective: she was trying a new thing, it was much harder than she expected, and that brought a lot of strong feelings. Those feelings were too uncomfortable, and she tried to discharge them by crying and blaming me. (Of course! That’s what you do when you are 5!)
The SafeSeat practice supported me to pause, notice my experience and the story that was attached to it, and then separate it from my child’s experience. Lara was having HER experience that had nothing to do with me! The moment I became aware of that, I knew that all she needed from me was my presence, my support, and my validation of HER experience. When we got home, I sat on the floor and opened my arms. She threw herself in, still sobbing – “It was so hard…. It was so unfair…. You didn’t help me…. I couldn’t do it…. I am not good at riding the bike…..” “I know, sweetie, I know!” – I kept saying, holding her in my arms. From time to time, I would ask: “How are you feeling? A little calmer?” “Not yet”, she would reply, and we continued staying on the floor, embracing. At some point she said: “Your heart is beating so fast. Are you OK?”. “Yes, I am”, I said, “I too felt upset, so let’s stay here and calm down together”.
We held each other until her tears stopped and her breathing became slow and regular. A huge emotional wave had passed, and we got on with our day. I am SO grateful for my Purejoy toolbox! It’s magical!
By Dr. Elena Nalimova
Elena is a Purejoy Coach and Purejoy Group coach. She is a mother to Lara, who is 5, as well as a classical pianist, accompanist and a teacher.
One of my highest values is health and wellness so I decided early on that it would be a high priority in our family. As babies, I fed my children the way I wanted and clothed them with ‘healthy’ fabrics. I covered their little bodies with ‘healthy’ things on their skin. I had complete control over their schedule and made sure they got outdoor time and adequate sleep. I felt like I was on top of the world.
I was doing it right! Yay me!
Then came the age when my kids were aware of their own ideas and began expressing them freely! Now this happens at different ages and for different reasons and each time I revisit a few things that I’ve come to through years of inquiry and working with Purejoy.
- My kids’ choices aren’t responsible for me feeling like a good or bad mom.
- I trust that they are making choices that are healthy for them at the moment.
- It may take longer than I want because they are learning and have their own timing.
As an example is what’s happening with my son and how he eats vegetables.
In our family, we love frozen peas. My husband and I prefer them cooked in our food especially in stir fry and Indian food. My son prefers a bowl of frozen peas directly from the package. He absolutely loves them. My daughter does too.
We also serve cooked/roasted carrots quite often because it is a good choice for my husband’s digestive problems. We’ve found what works for him and I value simplicity and ease. And then, there is my son who prefers and only eats raw carrots.
Instead of controlling his preferences and making him eat the cooked vegetables I choose cooperation which includes my children’s preferences. I actually enjoy providing my children with options for dinner and sometimes providing alternatives for certain meals, but it wasn’t always like this. Through my journey in Purejoy I dove even deeper into my conditioned thinking so I could show up as the mama I wanted to be.
You see I had stories and beliefs around dinner time and food choice. Early in my parenting, I didn’t even know or consider I could question the stories. They were living me. One story I listened sounded like this: “You should never give your child another meal when you’ve already served dinner. That’s spoiling them.” they say. “That’s disrespectful to the cook!” others say. There were lots of “they” voices roaming around in my head.
I listened to parenting experts that claimed that family dinner is the most important requirement for a connected family culture. I was determined to do it “right” which meant I had to control the environment and my children. I felt feelings of powerlessness coming up over and over again when my children made requests for other food items or didn’t want what was served. I used control and power to try and create this fantasy dinner experience where everyone loved and ate the same food. I found myself digging my heels in and heard myself saying, “We cooked this and you will be trying it or not eating at all.”
As I entered the Purejoy Parent Coach training I was met with a space that supported questioning any narrative that put a barrier between my heart and my child’s. As I deeply inquired through the SafeSeat process I discovered that I didn’t value control. I valued cooperation. Those stories and words that were guiding my parenting weren’t mine!
Slowing down and listening to my inner wisdom voice I heard, “ It’s ok to let go of control in favor of cooperation. As the pressure released I realized I could trust myself instead of the experts which is a Pillar of Purejoy: Trusting Yourself.
Today, I listen and hear when my children are expressing their desires and recognize they are taking care of themselves in these moments instead of seeing them as needing to be controlled so I feel ok. They are learning about themselves just like my husband and I are still learning in our timing. Our family dinner is one filled with cooperation and delight as everyone feels seen, heard and understood. This is what connected family dinner is to me!
Tanya Milano-Snell is a Purejoy Parent Coach who uses mindfulness and embodiment techniques to support the process of big change in moms and the family. For over 15 years she enjoyed early childhood teaching in play-based, nature-based, and social emotional learning. She’s also inspired by her parents who left this earth too early with so much more love to spread. When not playing with her kids, you can find her frolicking in the woods with her dog and talking to inanimate and animate objects.