Sunday, 27 May 2012

Love langauages

We all crave love. We all want to feel secure, connected, nurtured, appreciated. How we give and receive love is often different, but what is common to us all is the need & desire to be loved. To love and to be loved upheld with air, food, water & shelter as the most basic of human needs. Gary Chapman in his series of best selling books, The Five Love Languages - spells out his thoughts on how we fill our 'love tanks'. 

"Sociologists, psychologists & religious leaders all agree that the most fundamental need of children & teens is to feel emotional love from the significant adults in their life". 

Chatting this week with a dear friend on the joys and challenges of parenting teens reminded me of Chapman's book, entitled the same, Love Languages for Teenagers and thought it was blog worthy. 

Deep Waters saw the book on our kitchen table and asked what it was about - when I explained what the 5 love languages were, he asked if he could have them all! Sure, I said, but usually we have a primary and secondary love language according to Chapman. So after a bit of explanation of what each were, then asking him when he feels most loved by me, his response was, "when you lie in bed with me at night and we talk"! 

Deep Waters being the only introvert in a family of 4 raging extroverts never demands my time. He is so content on his own that I have to carve out space to make sure I connect with him. We often have bed time chats in 'his space' and it was interesting to hear that this is when he acknowledged his love tank is filled! 

So what are the Five Love Languages you are all busting to know!

#1 Words of Affirmation
#2 Physical Touch
#3 Quality Time
#4 Acts of Service
#5 Gifts

You can probably use your imagination to draw out of each one how we give and receive love. Chapman of course explains in great detail in his book, which I highly recommend. The underlying premise is to find which language best connects with each of our children. He believes that when our love tanks are empty we disengage. That's when the behavioural and attitude issues arise. Conversely if our love tanks are full, if our children & teens feel secure in our love, nurtured and clear boundaries set, then all is well in their world. Easier said than done! 

Some of us really need to hear words of encouragement and affirmation. Others of us need to be touched (appropriately), hugged and held while some of us need lots of quality time. Acts of service refers to doing things for each other, (often more a male trait, whereby words and touch are not forthcoming, so washing the car or taking out the rubbish are expressions of love). Then for others the exchange of gifts means everything, great value is attached to the gifts and express love. 

For Deep Waters, his love languages are quality time and touch. He likes one on one time with me, even though he never asks for it, and he likes to feel close to me physically, though he never initiates it himself. I have discovered over the years that if I touch him (just a hand on his shoulder or even hug him) while he is doing piano practise or homework that he physically 'melts' - any bad attitude fades away. 

It maybe helpful to think of each of our children, from toddler to puberty looking for the distinct markers of how they give & receive love, and learn to speak their language fluently. This won't be without it's challenges, yet is well worth the effort in our attempts to cherish our children and help them grow into healthy, independent, secure adults. 

Sunday, 20 May 2012

A motherhood tribute

This post was meant to be on Mother's Day. Wrote some of it on Mother's day in between my daughter's dances but ran out of time to finish, so here it is, one week later, but still relevant! 
Literally where would we be without mothers? Not here! From the beginning of time, the role of motherhood has been esteemed above all. Mary, the mother of Jesus even reverenced for her role in history, iconic. 

Today remembering the women; mothers and Grandmothers who  have influenced and shaped my life.

My Mum is one of the hardest working women I know. Earliest memories of her are working several jobs at the one time to raise my sister and I as a single parent. Doing anything to make ends meet and provide the best for us. Though resources were tight, we never lacked anything. Mum knew how to make a meal out of nothing. I have memories of Mum working till midnight on handicraft projects to sell; from ceramics, to teddy bears, dolls and patchwork quilts. Always creative, working at night after working all day. Mum also loves her garden, a place she starts her day and everything in it flourishes with her tender care.

Mum is a wonderful Nana to my four and they all adore her. Nan's house a favourite place to be for fresh baking and card making. When I first started back to work, Nan would always be at our place too, helping care for my four after school. Am forever grateful. We can never leave Nan's house without taking more than we came with, either a tub of home made soup, a batch of biscuits, clothing Mum has found garage sale-ing - we never leave empty handed! 

My Mum is incredibly generous, industrious and loving. She also knows how to 'let go'. She let me go to England when I was only 18 years of age, and live in Europe for 2.5 years. I knew it was difficult for her, but she let me do it anyway. Probably my fierce independence comes from her, am grateful that she trusted enough to let me go. 

I think my Mum gets her hard working ethic from her Mum! Nana Allgood was a dairy farmer's wife. Grew up in peanut country, Kingaroy, mother of 6, she too knew what is was to work hard; no washing machine, microwave, dishwasher or electric dryer in her day of raising 6 young children! Monday was washing day, the whole day. Tuesday baking day, all day, Wednesday, sewing day (as all clothes were handmade) and so on....

"Idle hands are devils hands", Nan used to say. And never were her hands idle. She was always crocheting, knitting or doing needle work of some kind if sitting still, even while watching TV, she was never idle. Nana Allgood also loved her garden. Snap dragons, freesias, hydrangeas, pansies and petunias always filled her garden in their season. I learnt names of plants thanks to Nana and today when I see beautiful gardens, think how much Nana would love it too. Nana was a very selfless, quiet, religious lady who made the best date scones on the planet!

My father's Mum was a carpenter's wife and similarly inspiring. Adopted as a child, she was the only one of us to have a private school education and grew up in beautiful Toowoomba. She lived a more bourgeois lifestyle, marked by sport and travel. Contributing to women's sport in Australia in the early 1950's so significantly that she was acknowledged by the Queen with a special award in the year 2000 - a letter only discovered when preparing her funeral. A humble, elegant lady who lived to 99yrs old, outliving her husband and 2 of her 3 sons. Sharp as a tack even at the end of her life, though visually impaired, she never let that affect her quality of life. 

For her 99th birthday she was given a brand new pair of sneakers to go off to rehab gym at our local hospital. Unfortunately she had broken her hip, however surviving the surgery at 98yrs, she bravely faced 2 hours of gym work everyday, until it all got too much and she was 'ready to go home' as she graciously put it. 

Grandma was able to recite all the names of the Broncos footballers & claim her pick for State of Origin team! Much to my son's great delight when we would visit, Grandma was listening to the footy game on the radio! And would politely tell us we would have to wait until the game was finished before we could chat! Grandma Turnbull loved her sport. Grandma was strong, elegant, poised, reserved yet broad minded.

I think mothering is the most significant, demanding, responsible role we will ever have as women. I also believe it's healthy and honouring to reflect how we have been shaped & influenced as a reminder in our current stage as mothers of what things will impact our children. 

What will our children remember about us? 

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Dealing with inner conflict

Cognitive Dissonance Reduction (CDR) is a fancy social psychological term for dealing with inner conflict. I attended a leadership workshop this week for work and this model was presented. I have heard it before but it got me thinking about how I can apply it to parenting. How life is so much about dealing with external and internal conflict and how do we prepare or demonstrate positive responses to this to our children.

I actually like models as it helps me make sense of the world and gives hooks to hang experiences on. CDR is simply the state of holding two opposing views and the process of rationalisation to reduce the conflict with those two opposing views. We all do it daily without even thinking about it consciously. 

An example is from Aesop's famous fable, the fox and the grapes. The fox wants the grapes, but he can't reach them, so he decides that they mustn't be good anyway, so turns and walks away. Hence the term, 'sour grapes'. 

Human tendency is to 'judge' or 'criticise' what we can't have, or decide that we don't want it anyway to reduce the distress, discomfort, tension or conflict. 

How often do we see this in our children? They want something, such as high grades for a particular subject, but don't attain it, so they 'rationalise' and say something like, " I didn't really like that subject anyway"! They love their school, want freedom of expression, but don't want to conform to strict uniform rules, so all of a sudden, "school sucks", just because they have to wear formal socks or a hat! 

I think for my children and probably many others from divorced or separated circumstances, the greatest dissonance is wishful thinking, wish Mum & Dad were together, wish our family was together again coupled with the reality of brokenness, it can't be. Holding these opposite views sometimes just takes, acceptance, letting go.....

Holding the conflict or tension of, I want something, but I can't have it - whether it be a physical thing like grapes, a new skateboard, a new camera or an intangible such as a special  relationship/friendship or a goal that we are striving for. Simply we can't always have what we want. So how do we as parents help our children deal with this inner conflict? 

Modelling and developing emotional resilience within our children is easier said than done. Also not being seduced to 'rescue' them when they are dealing with inner conflict, disappointment, dissonance. Sometimes it's healthy (but hard for us) to let them sit in that space for a while to learn to develop their own ways of positively rationalising, coping or finding a resolution, no matter their age. 

Like the butterfly, if we break the cocoon open for it, the butterfly doesn't develop the muscles it needs in that process to fly away. So it is with parenting. 

Emotional resilience is integral to maturity. Dealing with conflict and finding positive ways to hold opposing views also requires help sometimes. Help! So knowing when to let our children sit in that space and when they need help to turn a negative to a positive does takes great sensitivity, patience and probably a bit or alot of trial & error.   

Depending on their age and stage will determine how much help they need. Setting age appropriate expectations is about being realistic. 

For me as a parent often it's simply recognising and being aware of these things that helps the most and finding ways to apply and communicate this to my beautiful four so they too can recognise it in themselves..... and hopefully we can all be more the wiser, happier, healthier, selfless and resilient for it.

Happy Parenting xo