Tuesday, June 29, 2010

blog post

I am making a blog post about summer...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Reflections on Mothering my Son

I am so very lucky to have a son who is extremely loving and sensitive. He has always been this way. When he was a baby, he loved to be cuddled, but infant massage was too much for him...it either hurt him because the pressure was too hard or it tickled him because the pressure was too soft. He loved to be held, but in very specific ways, so much so that Aaron often had to sleep sitting up with Andy resting tentatively on his chest. When we left him at preschool or Kindergarten, we needed to do so with very specific rituals, which included numerous kisses, love phrases, and squeezes. He is keenly aware of the energy and emotions of those around him. He can sense when someone is sad, and he is not just empathetic, he FEELS the same way. He is deeply and spiritually connected to dogs. He loves them with all his heart. He cannot handle it when a family member, especially a sister is hurt. He loves powerful things, because I think he can relate to them. Some people have experienced Andy as reactive, somewhat hyper, or even explosive. But this is his way of intensely responding and interacting with a situation.

In all of their endeavors, I hope for my children that they can learn new things about themselves and others, enjoy themselves, and expand their skills to the furthest extent they hope for. This is true for both sports and music, academics and art.

Our choice to use Attachment Parenting has been very important for Andy. When he is over-stimulated (emotionally or physically) he is calmed by close connection, empathy, reassurance, and a strong parental commitment to him, in whatever shape he is in. Of course we have struggled with many evenings of yelling and fighting, but generally with gentle and FIRM reassurance of our love, things get better. He has some difficulty regulating his emotions, and I truly believe that this is because he feels them deeper than others do in our family. People have varying pain tolerance, so doesn’t it also make sense for them to have varying emotional tolerance?

In sports, Andy has been fortunate to have two main coaches. The first was Aaron, who is a very skilled father, and very aware of Andy’s needs on and off the field. The second was our sweet friend Brad, who was also able to very gently encourage the best in Andy. Now we are faced with a hockey coach who is pushing him. Pushing him hard. Hard like making him cry. I try to explain to Andy that he is doing this because he wants to encourage Andy, that he wants Andy to get better, and he believes that Andy can get better. But he is humiliated, scared, and as a result, angry for the treatment he gets in training. This treatment spreads to the other members of the team, thus leaving Andy to feel more and more alienated. And then he gives up, not because he is “weak” but because he cannot stand the internal conflict it creates for him. In fact, this anger sometimes turns inward and becomes “I’m so stupid” and “Everybody hates me.”

I know that this is not the last experience we will have with coaches like this. I also know that this experience is far better than what could come in the future. I have seen coaches verbally abuse their children in inexcusable ways. So, how can I protect him from what he feels so deeply and intensely while preserving his ability to connect so intuitively with others? At the same time, how can I push him to be the best he can be without breaking part of his spirit that we hold so precious and true?

I often wonder how he will be able to make it in a world that values strong men, and even discourages sensitivity. I have seen him fight back tears in a group, try to prove himself adequately strong, and hide his true feelings about a situation. I am grateful that, despite machismo here, I have met very sweet and affectionate Colombian fathers, who seem to love deeply. I know these are models for him, as are his uncles and friends who understand him well. What more can we do to encourage him to be his real self, no matter how it may be received in society? What will we do when he falls in love? How can we protect him, but also give him the freedom to experience vulnerability and rise above it?

Andy is 10. In the coming years, we will celebrate his coming of age to manhood. I hope we can find some way to honor all of him, enough so that he will know that his powerful ability to love and connect to others is truly a gift, and not a curse. I want him to know that his investment in relationships and his intuitive emotional self has a welcomed place in this world.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

body, brain, spirit

We are now settling into a daily life that does not involve school. It is a bit harder to adjust to this kind of rhythm when we are so used to our "normal" Kansas activities: Kauffman Museum Camp, Bible School, Swimming daily with friends, Camp Mennoscah, Bethel College Camps, Evening Potlucks with friends. And of course, this year, we cannot anticipate time with the cousins and Grandparents at the cabin and Camp Friedenswald.

Our family goal for the summer is that each day, we will do something for our body, our brain, and our spirit.

It has been fun to see how each person chooses to do this, whether it is learning how to type an email, spinning at the park, spending quiet time creating, or working out hard at hockey practice. Each evening we can talk about what we did for our body, our brain, and our spirit, and my hope it that this will help form an understanding for them about self-care and balance that they can use for the rest of their lives.

Monday, June 14, 2010

2009-2010 School Year Closes

We are so grateful for loving teachers, flexible administrators, a nurturing, natural, bilingual environment for our children, and the honor to watch them grow. Blessed be.

MCC Retreat #4

Our fourth MCC retreat was in Covenas. So, we traveled to this retreat by boat. We stayed in a little hotel right on the beach, and there was good swimming, in terms of big waves and calm waters. For most of the time, the beach was not very crowded.

The children were happy to see their team-mates again. There was volleyball and soccer on the beach, searching for shells underwater, drawing and building in the sand, and many evening games together.

Our team worked on the issue of diversity among us, trying to better understand who we are and how our cultures interact in ways that are helpful and hurtful. Some of the conversations were painful and difficult, but so very important.

The saddest part of this retreat was saying goodbye to two families and one individual who will be leaving our team. This summer we will lose half of the children on the team, and our kids are sad to say goodbye to their first friends in Colombia. Our friend Elizabeth planned a beautiful, touching farewell service for them.

The happiest part of this retreat was being with so many of our friends to watch the opening of the World Cup. Our sweet country director was willing to plan our sessions together around the most important games, knowing how important this time was for some team members.

And we were able to once again return to Bogota, ready for what will come in the next few months...

Vacation-Isla Palma

From Cartagena we took a bus to the north part of Covenas, a northwestern cove of the Carribean. From there we took a small motor boat to a group of islands called the San Bernardo Islands. One of these islands is Isla Palma. This was our first "resort" experience as a family. We were greeted on the dock with cold drinks and dancing staff. The hotel was decorated in an interesting way, with traditional Afro-Colombian characters all over the place and murals of pirates and sea life.

The only thing on this island was the resort and some wildlife areas, so we did not feel distracted by too many options for activity. All of our food, including snacks was included in the price of the hotel, so we only had one choice of restaurants as well (the food was good, but not as good as Tayrona, which was fancier). We played on the beach, collected shells, had family volleyball games, slept in, watched beautiful sunsets, and were blessed with so many meaningful conversations and connections together.

We did pay to go on a boat tour/snorkling outing on these islands. Parts of this were very awkward/disappointing. One island they took us to is the most densely populated island in the world. Most of these people are children, living in fairly extreme poverty. It is not that we did not like visiting this place, but the tour was set up very much in a way that made us feel awkward, almost as if we were going to a "human zoo." We did not like that. They also took us to a small island where we were hounded by poor, desperate people trying to sell us things. This was so sad, and so hard to deal with, but also provided for some good discussions.

On the way back to Isla Palma, we stopped in the ocean to do our second round of snorkling. It was quite wavy, and felt like we were in the middle of the ocean, but we were over a beautiful reef. The coral here was largely untouched, beautiful, and unbelievably diverse. We were in awe. We spent a long time watching all the various fish, sea anemonaes, shells, and coral.

Aaron conquered his fear of sharks that afternoon, and Lydia conquered her fear of bumpy boat rides. We all arrived back, wet and hungry and happy for the experiences of the day.

On our last day at Isla Palma, we were watching a very small dolphin show on the dock of the hotel. The hotel has blocked off part of the ocean at the end of their dock where they have two pet dolphins, Fiona and Camilla. There were only about 10 people watching this show. Lydia and Andy were invited into the water to swim with the dolphins. And Fiona, who is only 10 years old, let them each ride on her back. I did not have my camera for this moment, but it was a thrill for all three of them. A kind Colombian took some photos for me and sent them to me later.