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I Can’t Because : Creative Blockage

The baby took an unexpected nap in her highchair. I had just finished wiping down the kitchen and realized my opportunity to get to redecorating was now. Since Christmas had been stripped, decorations remained un-replaced. I raced up the steep attic steps to fetch my decorative stuff from the various bins. The house desperately needs color and character. And as I shoved the carpet down into the stairwell hole, I heard “I can’t because” being disproved.

 macrame basket on table

I have been chanting “I can’t because” quite a lot since the baby arrived. Plenty of projects I say I’m unable to do because I can’t be hands free to do this or that. But then I managed to clean a bathroom while my son watched her. And balanced a checkbook while she was both awake and asleep. Sometimes yes and sometimes no. Sometimes I have back up, most of the time I don’t. Will I never? No, just not exactly right now unless it is right now.

 Crackers and the quilt top form the I Can't Because post on Shalavee.com

You can make whatever you want to happen if you are willing to come up with solutions to whatever keeps you from doing it. Childcare is a big one for me but I think I can steal time and energy and nap time here and there enough to get a multitude of tasks done. It seems only the creative tasks get the shaft. Hmm !?

 Bar top with Spring motif on I Can't Because post on Shalavee.com

I really truly want to condone the “I can’t because” statement. I want to be supportive of the road bumps that happen in people’s lives. I can’t agree to “I can’t because” but I can say, yes you can in a different way in a different time by a different method, encouraging someone’s will to push through. I’m inspired by the courage I see it take to make the impossible possible. I want my underdog to give me hope for delivery from my own stuck-ness. So I shoved the rug down the stairwell and grabbed a purple tote full of stuff and descended. I intend to be the change.

(Read my letter of gratitude to Holly Becker after I took her first e-course when I began to truly see my creative blockage for what it was, bad for me.)

Baby Accessory

I’d love to say I got my stuff accomplished today. I’d love to say I felt that surge of productivity, that high you get when you got a little creative time in for you on the side. But the week writing this, I was about cleaning up after the party, laundry, and baby.

Fiona reading from Shalavee.com

Mostly, It feels like I’m biding my time. Waiting for relief from someone to be free enough to finish the projects I owe other people.

It can feel like I’m a computer desktop with a dozen tabs and programs open and running. And I’m chugging to finish all the tasks simultaneously. It’s slow going and inefficient and yet is all that can be done on this old computer.

Fiona reading from Shalavee.com

Some days I say, Fiona just wants to sit on my head. She wants to be my lovely baby accessory. One that drools and shrieks and sits on your head.

The job of being a parent is an extraordinarily hard one and not for the faint of heart. Our humanity comes in to trip us up so often, it often a miracle we get anything accomplished or create functional families. But we do. And we do. Thank goodness for miracles.

Fiona reading a book on Shalavee.com

She’s eyeing up my head. How much of me will she need in the next minute, hour, or day. And is that a sneeze? Oh not a cold. She’ll be in permanent hat mode until weeks end. Sigh. And I end up with it too.

The Fixing Chair : How Discipline Means Love

 I’m a Mean Mommy. My husband is a Mean Daddy. As a result, our son is a charming and mostly- confident little guy. He trusts and respects our authority. The secret to this? Discipline. I’m not talking about the “go out in the backyard and cut your own switch” type of discipline. We show our child we care enough to teach him right from wrong, respect for authority, and we hope he will grow to have self-discipline, self-esteem, and self-confidence. We began this parental journey not having a clue how to do this.

I had many of those mother moments when I felt lost and incompetent. I loved my out of control two-year old but my arsenal was empty after one too many shoot outs at the OK Corral. While desperately skimming my stack of library books to create a battle plan for a toddler counterattack, I stumbled on a book by renowned author T. Berry Brazelton who explained that discipline shows your children they matter.

By age two, they very well know right behavior from wrong. My two year-old knew had me duped until his hand was within striking distance of the no-no, a cat’s tail or lamp, and he shot me the look. If children decide they are loved by your reaction to their behavior, then if you don’t correct them, they assume they’re unworthy. Brazelton also wisely pointed out, if you give them too much praise, they doubt you, and if the only attention they get is negative attention, they will make sure they get their fill.

Kids crave boundaries because they are proof of love and safety. I set non-negotiable boundaries with him. Typing them and posting them so we all knew what they were. These can include the family’s rules of what is permissible or off-limits to touch, how to behave, or how to treat people or animals. The opposite of setting boundaries, following through, and showing your kid the validity of your word, is showing your child they don’t matter.

The administration of the pre-stated consequences for breaking the understood rules and boundaries is discipline. Preceded by a verbal warning, the disciplinary action should be fair and age appropriate. If the child’s next choice is to disobey anyway, he/she has chosen to engage in the battle to see who wins. They are hoping you win.

He says “no” but he came to live with me, my friend once said. Too many choices in his world will make his little brain explode. Continually overwhelmed, children can become “control freaks” trying to quell their fear of a world they’ve been led to believe they have control over but don’t. If there are no trustworthy consistent internalized boundaries, children can then carry these fears and become controlling anxious adults. Sound like anyone you know?

Consistency, my husband reminded me, is another important part of discipline providing trust between parent and child. The three year-old wonders if thirty-nine seconds later, you still mean what you said. What about on Tuesdays? Or if the wind is from the North? As his parents, we compared notes on no-no’s, administered the same discipline, and noticed we had a child who mostly minded us. Consequently, he was given a little more freedom. He trusted that if he’d been given a warning and still chose to misbehave, I would put him in what we called the “Thinking chair.” He called it the “Fixing chair.”

This was our chosen disciplinary device and the number one best thing we established to help us parent, thanks to my husband who was brave enough to put our son in the chair for his very first two minutes. The thinking chair method became, I explained why he was in there, kept him there for as many minutes as his age, and then re-explained why he was there and asked for his apology if necessary. In the following two years, it has been used as an either/or choice as in, “Stop hitting the kitty or sit in the thinking chair”. It’s been an exile destination for distracting toys. And I have put myself there when I needed to calm down.

The result of discipline, expectations, and boundaries will be a child who can fly from the nest and thrive. If we ask our children to stay reliant, we rob them of the opportunities and joys they are entitled to as humans. Your boundaries, self-discipline, and trust become theirs. The happy ending is the creation of an independently thinking confident child. Knowing you’re loved is powerful stuff.

Fiona from the Thinking Chair on Shalavee.com

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