“If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding” (Proverbs 15:32 NLT).
What does being teachable mean to you? I’ve been contemplating what I believe it to mean and how I reflect this in my life.
I have a procedure I try to implement when it comes to critical feedback. It’s worthy to note that by critical and criticism, I do not mean an attack. I mean an evaluative suggestion of improvement or observation from another (usually well-meaning) individual.
When I hear criticism, I hold it temporarily; assess if it is something I need to take on board or not. If this process of reflection brings light to a change I could make which would be beneficial, I endeavour to do so and take steps to do so. If my thoughtful consideration doesn’t deem the change valuable, I catalogue it or dismiss it.
There is so much good that can come from giving thoughtful feedback, asking for thoughtful feedback and receiving thoughtful feedback.
I am going to be completely honest with you:
I have not had the easiest year so far when it comes to motherhood.
Other areas are all going well, but this mothering gig has been a lot tougher than usual the last few months.
Whether it was the start of a new school year (and for my youngest that meant getting used to 5 days a week away from mum) or the fact that we had just returned from a 4 week holiday trip back to South Africa, living out of suitcases and traveling from pillar to post or maybe just a random turn of events, both my children hit a big wobbly.
For my oldest that meant a severe bout of anxiety over a variety of things, even though he has always been my easy-going adventurer that didn’t know the meaning of the word fear. My sleep was interrupted several times each night as he struggled with nightmares and falling asleep again afterwards.
My darling youngest returned to the tornado-like temper meltdowns he had when he was two. We all bore the brunt of his angry outbursts, copped an enormous amount of verbal abuse and had to tread on eggshells constantly.
Isn’t it funny how one little call can change so much?
“Oh no,” she wrote, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
In my household we’ve undergone a change in our previous roles.
At this point my husband’s main duty is to be the stay-at-home parent. My main duty is being the full-time student or as I’ve been treating it, the away-parent.
NGL, I totally struggled with this. My husband had completed a lengthy and arduous degree and had been applying for work to no avail. It felt right to be ‘my turn’ to dip into some studies. To indulge in some learning and career interests of my own. I thought this would be a welcome relief.
However, I continued to carry the mental load.
Well, still continue. I struggle not to think about the things the kids need to get done after school, what needs to be done at home, which social events are forthcoming with preparations needed, and things the kids are going through that I want to check up on.
Recently my husband and I were fortunate enough to have the grandparents here.
We were able to leave the boys with them, while we slipped away for three blissful, child-free days. Oh, and how indulgent that was. No fighting, no yelling, nobody to feed and put to bed, lazy late morning lie-in’s, time to sit down and read. Heaven on earth. It was in fact, the longest I have ever left my boys behind. It was a sobering thought and to be quite honest, a bit scary.
As it goes, we left a huge amount of “notes”. The do’s and the don’ts, the what’s and the what not’s.
Just before we jumped into the car, I took out my medical aid card and handed it to my mum-in-law. “In case of emergency”, I said. But as we drove away, my mind wandered to what if it was us who ended up in an emergency? What if I never came back again? My little list of instructions made to last for a long weekend could never contain enough info for that scenario.
She collapses in my arms, a mess of tears and pent up emotion.
I hug her hard and let her know she is okay. As she settles and slows her breathing, I ask her how she is feeling. She looks at me with wet cheeks and glistening eyes, “I’m not sure Mum, can we get the chart from the fridge?”
I am the mother of two girls, which means our household experiences a lot of emotions. There is joy and there is sadness, there is frustration and there is disappointment. We have made it very explicit in our family how much we value emotions. For being able to feel something, to know what you’re feeling and to name, it is an important skill in life.
Author and vulnerability researcher Brené Brown tells us, “When we are in pain and fear, anger and hate are our go-to emotions.”
We understand this in our family. That anger, and harsh words are often due to another emotion under the surface. So, we have a chart on the fridge that helps our girls to dig below their anger and actually name the emotion that is fuelling it.
Have you heard of the concept ‘lifestyle design’?
It’s this idea that a person can take control of and design their own lifestyle, a concept that is supposed to have garnered a lot of interest due to an inspirational book ‘Four Hour Work Week’ by Tim Ferriss. Basically, the idea that you can change how you think and what you do in your lifestyle in order to find fulfilment in your routine and way of life.
When I heard this, I thought as parents, we had no such luxury available to us.
When my son was four months old, I made a nice visit to a doctor who practices about an hour’s drive from home.
She had become my friend during my visits and I wanted someone I could trust to check out my new(ish)born son and give me the lowdown on his health without all of the unnecessary medical mumbo jumbo.
So picture this: I’ve just been in the car for an hour. My son has had a nap in that time, but is also going through a temperamental stage with how he feels about being in the car. Current mood: Nah.
But, against all odds, we’ve made it to the appointment. I pop on the baby carrier, get my beautiful baby out of the car-seat (which is acrobatic in itself) and slide him into the carrier. The sun blinds him, naturally. Which makes him want to look at it more, naturally. I shield him as best as I can while I lug my over-filled nappy bag out of the back seat and lock the door. Phew. We got this.
Recently I saw a television show where people called in experts to help with their hoarding problems.
I watched with a dropped jaw as they revealed room after room full to the brim with STUFF. Things they have grown attached to, things they can’t let go of. The root of their hoarding sounded like fear talking: “What if I need it again someday? What if I miss it when it’s gone?”
I have never seen myself as a hoarder. Go through the photos on my computer though and my little “hoarding” problem quickly shows up. Two weeks ago, I started creating a photo book of our 2017 and it proved to be a painstaking process to go through all the photos of last year and select only a few to display. Along the way an all-too-familiar pattern emerged as well. Less than happy faces, fake smiles and 7 photos of nearly the same thing, all taken in an attempt to get the best one. My memories were clouded. Instead of remembering the happiness, I remembered the effort it took to get that one perfect shot. I started thinking that maybe I want to start having happy moments in real life instead of fake happy memories to refer to one day.
I realised too that I watched so many of my children’s big moments i.e. running races and winning awards happen through the lens of a camera and in the process completely missed the utter joy and pride in their faces. And this saddens me a bit.