I will never forget this mushroom! We were out with Nature Explorers, a class provided through our local homeschool support center, focusing on mushrooms that day. Joran was having a tough time navigating his emotions, social anxieties, etc.... This included lots of screaming, shouting and general grumpiness for a period of time. It was an interesting practice for me in staying centered while he worked it out. Sometimes Joran takes his energy out on me, pushing, pulling, shoving, angry words, etc..., but I was not willing to do that with him this day. He started taking his frustrations out on the forest instead. Much appreciation to the forest from Mommy for that!
After a bit, the group stopped and circled up to listen to the instructor's story of the day. We sat apart while Joran continued processing. It was pretty easy for me to just hang out on a fallen log while Joran did what he needed to do. Jasmijn wanted to explore, too. As I was just chilling and glancing around, Joran found the Polypore mushroom in the picture above, attached to the log I was sitting on.
My astounding discovery about this mushroom was that it can bear the impact of a raging 5-year-old boy! Joran was jumping on the mushroom like it was a springboard, with as much force as he could muster, certain that he would break it off. It never happened! Pretty soon, he realized that this was a pretty cool tough mushroom and started studying it. The energy exerted and then the focus the mushroom attracted from him was just enough to shift his attitude back to positive curiosity, and we got back to following the group, finishing up the 2-mile hike, and even enjoying another relaxed hour with a classmate and his mom, picking blackberries, hunting bugs, hiding under trees.... Thanks Polypore!
Parenting is a practice. We'll never get it done, it's constantly unfolding. We're constantly growing, understanding ourselves and our children in new ways.
In our culture, worrying about our children is part of being a "good parent." I'm learning that this is a flawed premise. We try so hard to help them that it just leads to overprotective, paranoid parenting. When we can't figure out how to help them, we feel powerless or angry that they are not cooperating or behaving the way we want them to behave. It's actually better for me, and therefore, better for my children when I remain centered, stable, happy, even when they are way off balance.
The day with Nature Explorers provided a perfect example. So many factors collided for Joran during those two hours. Joran wanted to play with a couple of the boys, but did not know how to join in or feel confident in following my suggestions. Once we started on the trail, Joran seemed aloof, wanting to do his own thing, not gather near the instructor with the other children. We found a cool bug, and while Joran was looking at it, another child grabbed it to show the instructor. Joran felt so angry about this and started talking about revenge. He doesn't normally take this out on other child, but instead turns to me with complaints and acting on his frustrations.
So, one thing piled up on him after another. Another student got a lot of attention for finding a frog. Everyone gathered around to hold the frog, but Joran tends to back off when there's a crowd. He wanted to see and hold the frog but didn't feel comfortable squeezing in or waiting until the commotion died down. He liked the idea of looking for another frog, but wasn't willing to initiate a search. He became obsessed with the idea of finding a frog, but more focused on the fact that he didn't have one, he was not willing to search on his own or stick close to me to catch one if I saw one. As the group continued through the forest, Joran escalated to screaming, shouting, starting to push and pull me, but I would not participate with this. He redirected to stomping, kicking and pulling on rocks, dirt, decaying wood and plants.
Through all of this, I focused on staying connected to well-being. I know Joran is also fun, curious, highly intelligent, loving and powerful. I held these beliefs in my mind as we kept moving along. I also reminded myself that I could choose happiness no matter what he was doing. Having fun in nature comes naturally, so I kept looking for frogs, enjoying the beautiful trees, feeling good about my own strength and agility, laughing about the adventure in it all. There I was, 7 months pregnant, toddler riding on my back, slipping in the muddy pools populated by frogs, and perfectly happy!
It feels good when I don't make my son responsible for my feeling of well-being. I'm also glad that my belief in myself as a good parent doesn't depend on his happiness. Most of the time, I have no idea what we look like to other people. So, another big part of my practice includes letting go of attachment to other people's opinions. In any case, I find that many times, what they think of us is yet another figment of my imagination.