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.

  1. My kids’ choices aren’t responsible for me feeling like a good or bad mom.
  2. I trust that they are making choices that are healthy for them at the moment.
  3. 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.

Instagram @thetanyamilano