Rethinking parenting pressures

I’m beginning a collection of courses offered by Brené Brown called “Kitchen Table Wisdom,” beginning with “The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting.” The entire collection is about rethinking the pressures we put on ourselves and our kids.

In case you want to check out her course, I think she’s still offering 20% off with code ALUMS.

There are so many topics to address in her 4-week online course that I’ll just pick one for today: BELONGING.  Belonging is not a nice-to-have; it’s a DNA requirement.  It’s one of the irreducible needs of life.   It’s an innate human need to be part of something larger than oneself.

I was floored that when Brené said our message to our kids needs to be: “I see you.  I know you.  And you belong here,” I teared up! Wow, that got me right in the heart.

  • It brings me back to middle school and high school lunch times when I didn’t know where to sit.
  • I wanted to be in a high school sorority but I didn’t get in (yes, my high school had a Greek system).
  • I think about one particular summer at camp that I didn’t fit in with my cabin-mates at all and how awkward I felt.
  • I gave in to the pressure to excel in absolutely everything, no matter what spoke to me or didn’t.

It’s like a hustle, always striving to wear the right clothes, say the right thing, be part of the group.  I worked sooooooo hard to fit in that I eventually didn’t even know who Naomi was anymore.

It is said that we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.  There was a final collapse and surrender when I was 18.  There was some rolling-up-my-sleeves real authentic work that had to happen in order to know and love myself.  And then, ten years later, there was yet another identity shift and another need to dive in and re-assess just who I am and what I believe and learn again that I am knowable and lovable.

Children have a way of seeing exactly who you are deep inside.  They don’t know artifice. Especially when they are vulnerable newborns, we are also at our most vulnerable.  We don’t hide who we are… we sing to them off-key, we pour out our hearts at 3am, and we love them no matter what.

Kids need to be deeply seen.  They need to have a home where they can be their most vulnerable or their most powerful and know with certainty that they are going to be treated with trust, respect, kindness, and affection.

I have to say that I am continually pleasantly surprised at the feeling that family brings up for me.  When the 3 of us are playing a game or laughing over dinner, sometimes I feel such a peacefulness wash over me.  I tingle with that sense of belonging.  I know that I am deeply seen for the authentic me, not for the put-together self that I sometimes present to the world.  There is no hiding with us… we might snap at each other but we soon recognize our error and apologize.   We nurture our connection every single day.

Sweet Girl actively shows us her love.  She makes us cards and notes.  She’s got a pen in her lunch box so she can write back to me on my little lunchbox love notes I put there every morning, and I always look forward to opening it to see what she wrote.  She freely gives affection and snuggles.  It reassures me that she feels safe in who she is and feels that she belongs in our family and our home.

Many people don’t get that belonging from their home… but they do find it somewhere.  Youth groups, school clubs, organized religion can be great, but maybe also it’s part of the lure of terrorist groups and human trafficking or even just hanging with the wrong crowd.  Every single human being requires belonging.

Brene says that the best way to learn new ideas is through creativity, and so her coursework involves using our hands in some basic art page.  For belonging, we drew a house and wrote at the top, “In this house, you have permission to” and then filled in the house with all the things that are safe to be or do inside.

I got a little carried away and wanted to make something much bigger for our living room.  I had SG made a house and fill it in with what she thinks goes inside and incorporated her ideas into the canvas as well.

Even cooler is that as the course progresses, we go back and add to our houses.  So it’s ok that I’m not finished yet!

I began with an old canvas that SG started painting a couple years ago (left). I covered it with scrapbook papers and paint.

Then I started planning where I’d put my house.  For the house itself, because the canvas was wet and I still wanted to work on the background, I glued all my papers onto watercolor paper first.  I’ve been writing and doodling and putting rubons on the house.

Some of the things we have permission to do in our home: ask questions, be yourself, have alone time, be vulnerable, shine, share feelings.

I’ll keep you updated when it’s finished.


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