Amazing Parents

Sometimes it\’s AMAZING. Sometimes it\’s just A MAZE.

It’s Raining

Today I got paid.  That was cool.

I also saw my dad.  He brought back something he had borrowed.  And instead of just bringing it back, he had to “fix it” for me.  A normal human would have been appreciative, but for some reason I was not.  I found it degrading on so many levels.  I realized this has everything to do with me and where I am right now — that feeling of just wanting to break out of every box I’ve ever been put in — and so I said nothing except, “Thanks, Dad.  That was nice.”  He felt good.  I felt good that I stopped a fight.

But hours after he is gone, I secretly think to myself how sometimes the fight is just so. worth. it.

Smelly J’nelly knows what I mean.  She has been living with The Guiltinator for 8 days straight.  Do you know the kind of inner resolve it takes to survive 8 days of that????  Seriously. It’s so intense.

The difference between me and Nelly is that I usually start the fight.  Because I need to say what I need to say and that’s just all I know in the moment.  But what I realized today was that part of breaking out of the boxes I’m in means breaking out of the ones I’ve made for myself.  Like I don’t always need to start the fight.  I don’t.  Just because that’s what I’ve always done and today I want to do something differently.  So today I just enjoyed saying nothing at all.  I’ve been doing more of that lately.  And now I can see why Nelly has always done it too.  The silent suffering.  Because in a way, it’s just so much cleaner.  So much cleaner to break away from.

I don’t know what I’m talking about anymore.  There is no point to be made.  Just an observation that means nothing in the end.  Except that maybe I’m allowed to experiment with who I am and that’s ok.  I don’t have to always be the one that thinks the fight is worth it.  Sometimes I can be the silent one too.  And that doesn’t make me “fake”.  It just makes me quiet.  And that feels really good.  Because when I’m quiet I can hear the rain.

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October 4, 2008 Posted by | A New Paradigm, Soap Box | 3 Comments

It’s Not Socks…or rubberbands…or old papers…it’s you.

The human brain is a complicated place.  It is estimated that there are over 100 billion neurons inside that lump of clay.  Each neuron has an estimated 7,000 synapses which connects it to other neurons.  I’m no mathematician, but I can guess that that’s a whole heck of a lot of stuff going on at any given moment in one tiny place.  And all of it happening out of our ability to physically see it.  It just zings and snaps and connects and ……ahhhh!  It makes me dizzy thinking about it (even though I totally dig it too).

To simplify how the brain behaves, we can break it down into one issue: how the brain stores memory.  Think of it like this — there is a four drawer filing cabinet.  Each drawer is a deeper and deeper level of memory.  So the further down you go inside the cabinet, the more and more subconscious exist the files.

The first drawer is the cognitive drawer.  This is where your brain holds data, including names of people, important dates.  This is the drawer you are in when you are solving a math problem or trying to figure out your schedule for next week.  You problem solve from here.  Information in this drawer is normally at your disposal relatively quickly.

The second drawer is your emotional drawer.  This drawer contains all the emotions connected to your cognitive memories.  For instance, you might run into an old friend and find yourself flooded with feelings, either positive or negative.  But for your life, you cannot remember their last name.  That is because the last name is in the cognitive drawer and right now, you are in the second drawer.  You have accessed a stored emotion connected to that friend.

The third drawer is the motor drawer.  Here is where you are when you are literally writing the letters in the words on the page.  Or when you are riding a bicycle or driving a car.  These memories are subconscious.  You do not have to concentrate on making the letter “b” when you write the word “baby”, because your body has remembered it and stored it away.  You just write it, without any thought.  It’s like what they say about riding a bike — once you learn how, you never forget.  To a large extent, that is scientifically true.

The fourth drawer is what we call the state drawer.  The state drawer is the deepest level of memory inside your body.  It is 100% subconscious.  Our state drawer can contain many positive memories.  Such as being held as a baby and nursed and all those pre-verbal needs being met.  What’s in our state drawer dictates our personality.  The positive memories in this drawer make us a trusting person.  Or a funny person.  Maybe open and emotionally available.

And it is also here that all of our traumas are stored.  When we are yelling or screaming or even shut down, we are in our state drawer.  We are coming from a deep place inside ourselves that we have little control over, and in fact, sometimes are absolutely unaware of.  This is where our children are when they are tantruming or stealing or arguing.  They are trying to survive in the moment and they are doing the best that they can to make it happen.  A lot of people are afraid of the state drawer.  But I’m not.  Instead, I honor it.  It is here that my deepest personality traits spring from and it is here that I have become the person I am today.  And that is ok.  With all my flaws and all my goodness.  It’s just ok.

So why am I talking about this?

The thing is, I woke up this morning and had a class to teach at 10.  I was working hard to get a presentation together.  I quickly reviewed the material.  I was working so hard to concentrate.  But it wasn’t working and I was confused.  I felt slightly dysregulated.  I literally sat in this chair in front of my computer and It was then that I realized I was walking around in my second drawer.  I was being flooded by emotions.  As hard as I tried, I could not get into my top drawer, into my cognitive drawer.  I was just too caught up in a memory of something from a long time ago.   Something about walking home from school with a cute boy who didn’t even know he was my boyfriend.  And a song I used to play over and over again.  Like I was free falling out into nothing.

And that’s fine.  And eventually I had my class and I believe I taught it from my emotional drawer and it went well.  It had passion and that is sometimes missing in life, so that’s ok.

But it just reminded me that we need to sometimes reconsider the expectations we have for ourselves, and also for our children.  When our children are in their bottom drawer, they are not in a cognitive place.  That is why consequences in the moment of misbehavior do not work.  That is why when you use time-out once, you have to keep using it for years and years.  Because in the moment it does not work.  Because in the moment of the flood of emotions, and in the moment of resurfacing trauma in their little lives, they are not in a place to understand cause and effect.  They are not able to problem solve.  The consequence is chaotic and does not make any sense.  That cognitive drawer is just not open.  In those moments its state drawer time.

And this is not some goofy parenting model speaking here.  This is nueroscience.  Plain and simple.  It’s fact.  It shows up on MRIs and CT Scans all day long.

So what do our kids need in those moments instead of consequences?  Well, think back to the last time you melted down.  Or to the last time you were flooded with an emotional memory of someone from a long time ago.  What did you need?  What would have helped you process it and move forward?

Most likely you just needed someone beside you, fully present.  Someone who can hear you and say, “wow”.  Well, that’s just what your child needs too.

Because without someone who understands you and someone who can validate you, everything just seems like you’re free falling out into nothing.  And sometimes that can feel really good.  But you know, it can also be really overwhelming.  I guess it just depends on what you keep in all those drawers.

October 1, 2008 Posted by | A New Paradigm, RAD Education | Leave a comment