Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ritual of Affirmations

Welcome to the First Mindful Mama Carnival
This post was written for inclusion in the Mindful Mama Blog Carnival hosted by Zoie at TouchstoneZ. Participants are writing posts about what mindful practices mean to them, how they parent mindfully, obstacles to mindful practice and experiences along the way. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
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Many months ago I began a little ritual with my children at bedtime that has morphed into the most important part of my day.

My children--there are 4 of them, aged 7yrs, 5.5yrs, 3.5yrs and 11 months--all go to sleep in the same bed at (roughly) the same time.  Sometimes the baby goes to sleep first and then the older girls and I lay down together later.  Or sometimes the younger three fall asleep together and then the oldest girl gets up to relax by herself for awhile.  But no matter how it all comes together, we always end the day with what they have come to call Mom's Favourite Things About Us.

As we lay down together I describe for each child what was wonderful about her or him that day.  I tell about some action or moment or comment that made me feel excited or proud or inspired or amazed or interested or loved or loving.  Sometimes I tell them about something that I learned about them that day or something that I learned about myself through watching them.  I also include something about myself that I thought was special or important.

Some nights I am tired and it is hard to come up with something authentic about each child.  Some nights the baby is fussing or one of the girls has just had a melt-down and I am feeling particularly irritable.  Some nights I'm just in a hurry for everyone to fall asleep so that I can get out and do something on my personal agenda.  Those are the nights when it's the most important for me to make the effort to connect with each child by providing an authentic affirmation of my love.

I have come to notice several significant benefits of this practice.
  1. I feel a deeper connection to my children.  It is very easy to tell ourselves as parents that Of course we love our children unconditionally.  But to actually put a name to the reasons and ways that we love our children is actually much harder.  I have learned that it has no value to use this special time to say "I liked the way you set the table for supper."  Instead, I use more emotion-laden words:  When you set the table tonight I felt so relieved because it is really hard for me to carry the dishes while the baby is asleep in the sling.  Your thoughtfulness made me feel loved and important.
  2. It erases whatever negativity occurred during the day.  When there's been a big fight over toys or a lot of complaining about supper, it is sometimes tempting to use this special time to make a lecture or to offer some inauthentic praise.  Instead, I have learned to take whatever happened and turn it into something positive.  Holly, I am grateful for the way you told me that Jasmine was ruining your Barbie game by throwing her ball at you.  You helped me to remember to pay more attention to Jasmine when she needs someone to play with.  I appreciate how you came to get me.  I love you and I know that when you set up your Barbies very carefully, you don't want anyone to wreck it for you.  Jasmine, I really enjoyed playing catch-the-ball with you today and I hope that you will ask me to play with you again tomorrow.  When I play with you I feel happy and free and joyful and for a little while I get to be a little girl like you and have lots of fun.
  3. It makes me happy.  Spending some relaxed time in quiet contemplation of what each child actually DID throughout the day has become a moment of great joy for me.  Our days are not empty repetitions of routines and schedules.  We embrace Freedom and Joy each day;  reflecting on our lifestyle never fails to bring a smile to my face.  By focusing on my own happiness in Mothering, I become even more happy.
  4. It connects the children to each other.  The older girls are always interested in hearing what I say about each other child.  Sometimes they have something to add, like when I talked to Jasmine about how I've noticed that she really enjoys having visitors and Anna commented "Yes, it's nice that she likes to talk to our visitors because I don't really talk to some people but Jasmine always makes them feel welcome."  The older girls also insist that I talk about the baby each night and they enjoy my stories about what makes him a special part of our family.
  5. It reminds me that it matters who they are right nowI sometimes get so lost in the Big Picture of Parenting that it is easy to miss the day-to-day details.  Slowing down each evening to talk about the day-to-day details ensures that I will remember their precious childhoods.
  6. It perpetuates more of the same feelings.  When I talk about how proud or excited I felt during the day I return to those same feelings of pride and excitement.  I believe that the more we focus on what we enjoy, the more we will have of what we enjoy.  By focusing on what is wonderful about each of my children, I am able to see even more of what is wonderful about them. 
  7. I get to practice self-love.  I have had to work hard to overcome years and years of negative self-talk, and this little ritual of affirming my love for my children each night has helped me to give myself some love and appreciation also.  I am able to tell my children about what I like about myself which makes me like myself even more.
This opportunity to grow and learn while raising my children is both inspirational and humbling.  Isn't it amazing how a small ritual can take on such meaning and importance?



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10 comments:

  1. What a beautiful ritual! This would truly set a foundation of connectedness, acceptance, and understanding for a family. I will have to remember this as I grow my own family. Thank you for sharing such a lovely idea!

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  2. This is so incredibly beautiful - thank you for sharing!

    I will absolutely be doing this with my own from now on...love it, love it, love it. :D

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  3. Patti, what a fabulous post!
    -Kerry

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  4. What a lovely way to ensure that you are truly seeing each of your children each and every day!

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  5. What a truly lovely ritual! Totally stealing this and using it in my own home. : )

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  6. What joy - I am DEFINITELY going to be using this one with my two. I know it will really be a positive asset to all of us. I love the way you articulate your feelings to be specific rather than gooey generic praise. I am continually learning this new language of love. Thanks for such beauty and positive inspiration.
    (Also been enjoying reading all of your thoughtful and wise comments on the other blogs in the carnival)

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  7. Gorgeous! Thanks for the inspiration.

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  8. It really hit me when you said that you also say something positive about yourself because that is SO important. It's one thing to tell your children how wonderful they are, but if you fail to give yourself the same love and affection, it will be hard for them to continue the practice for themselves as they get older. This is such a wonderful thing you do...your children are so lucky to have you!

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  9. My daughter and I used to close our bedtime ritual by telling each other our favorite parts of our days. I don't know when or why we stopped doing this, but your post reminds me of how precious those times with my daughter were.

    I especially like the part where you talk about how when things are tough, it's doubly important to engage in this ritual. It reminds me of what my husband and I used to say to each other before kids when we used to work out together: it's on the days when you feel the least like working out that you make the most progress by working out.

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  10. This is a wonderful post for the carnival. Thank you so much for participating.

    This is a beautiful practice to share with your children. I'd like to begin something like this with my own kids. I'll do some thinking on when a good time would be for that-weighing my patience with how long the bedtime routine already feels to me vs the idea that this might actually make it shorter because, knowing my boys, it is something they would connect with so strongly.

    Talk about an NVC heaven! I love points you outline, about really choosing the words that create the greatest connection to Self and Other. That feels so true to me. Any ideas I can incorporate to slow down, be mindful, take real notice of this moment is something I try to cultivate. Things move so quickly and it is easy to get caught up and forget to breathe and just BE with one another. I'm pretty good at modeling speaking feelings while in the moment, but I'd like to do more like you describe and bedtime seems ideal. I wonder why I'm feeling resistance to this idea? I think your post may have just led me to examine some sticky spots I have about bedtime... (thank you and ugh! at the same time ;)

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