Reflections #20. Between play and work 💌


Reflecting on my parenting journey, may you see yourself reflected.

Between play
and work

Issue #20, October 2016

Mummy, play with me, pleeeeease!


Today I reflect on the tricky balance between flow and direction, play and work, abandonment and responsibility. I have a tendency of being too serious, scheduled and demanding. These are some of the things that have helped bring more joy, fun and laughter into my family life.

A little window into my life


I have recently been through a phase of disconnection with the family. Having too much on, and a nasty flu knocking us all down one after the other, meant that our regular quality time disappeared for quite a while, both with my children and with my husband. This led me to feeling empty. Without heart connections, life is void of meaning for me. I’d like to tell you about my journey in trying to mend things with the kids.

Luckily, I knew what would help: play time became the number one priority, and everything else (dinner time, bed time, after school activities, play dates, instrument practice, helping with house chores…) was relegated to second place or below.

It felt very powerful to be squeezing everything else in order to prioritise child centered play, to know so clearly that it really is more important in my life to laugh with my children than to follow all these rules about how life should  be or look like. I usually have a loud inner ruler who has strong opinions about timetables and ways of doing for almost every activity in my life or in the life of my children. I truly am an orderly perfectionist Virgo. But this time she was silenced by the obvious: fun and connection were to come first for a while.

After a period of disconnection sometimes both my son and I forget how to play. My daughter is very keen on Attachment Play and can get into it virtually any time. My son, even though younger than her, runs of ideas before he has begun! We have half an hour to play and he doesn’t know what to do!

I know I get stuck because my parents were very serious and never played with me and my sisters. That’s why learning about Attachment Play opened a whole new world for me. But when one begins as late as I did with Aware Parenting (my kids were 5 and 6 years old), sometimes applying the ideas is a little more complex than when starting with younger children. So my advise for young mums is to start as soon as possible!

So I realised I had to be a bit more cunning, and turn as much as I could of our daily lives into a game. Soon they took the cue and began suggesting games at every chance, because kids are brilliant at turning life into a whole lot of fun. That was great for a while and it did what it needed: bring joy and connection back to our daily interactions. Yet, soon Inner Ruler began complaining. Since the needs for joy and connection were met, she was keen to have her needs for order and rhythm met, too. And most of the games the children suggested happened when Inner Ruler least wanted them: as I was serving dinner, while brushing teeth, before bed, when getting ready to go somewhere…

That’s when the real work began for me: the pull between my fear (of not being in time, of not getting things done, of not doing them properly…) and my knowledge of how important it was to keep on giving space to the playfulness, and the connection that it nourished. I have had this dilemma very often, trying to find the perfect balance between flow and direction, between play and work, between abandonment and responsibility. I have a tendency of being too serious, scheduled and demanding. The beauty was that, by needing very clearly to swing toward the “flowing-playful-abandoned end” of the spectrum for a while, coming back to centre was so much easier!

I am still working it out. There is still pain left from when I was a child and was pushed too much toward the “directed-work-responsible end” of the spectrum, and that pain gets in the way until I give it space to heal. As I do, slowly, that elusive perfect balance appears more and more clearly, easier to find when needed. Every situation is different and requires a unique middle term. And I am becoming an expert at finding it!

The theory behind the practice

I notice there are four steps that are helping me to “become an expert”, and they have nothing to do with studying books! I guess what I study is our daily life, and everyone can do that if they are motivated enough. I’d like to describe them in case they inspire you:

The fist one is noticing what does not work. Repeating patterns are often a good place to start: “this never has an effect!”, “he always does that!”, and heavy, exasperated thoughts of the sort can help us find stuck places in our regular interactions with our children (or partners).

It is also essential to notice what doesn’t work for us, inside us, like my huge resistance to play when needing to get ready to go somewhere, or at bed time. Heaviness, exasperation, resistance, anger in all its gradations (from mild irritation to severe rage), stress, frustration, all shades of fear (from low anxiety to full blown terror), guilt… all those feelings are flags that let us know where there is pain wanting to be heard and healed.

The second step is to heal that pain. I reckon this is the hardest one. It requires, first of all, courage to face it. Often a lot of it. And then, finding the way to bring healing, be it with a Listening Partner, a good friend, with our inner resources or with professional support. But this step is absolutely essential, because without it the next two are going to be constantly sabotaged.

The third step is enquiring into alternatives. I like American coach Tony Robbins’ description of madness: doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result. Fortunately, once our inner healing has happened, we tend to get wonderful and creative ideas of possible variations to our daily interactions that might help shift the situation.

The fourth step is testing our ideas out, and refining them with trial and error. It’s virtually impossible to get it right straight away, but trying something different will give us feed-back and possibly more ideas of different things we could try. Slowly but surely, a better situation will evolve as we continue to question and investigate.

It might feel like a lot of work to start with, because we are not in the habit of putting so much thought into our daily interactions. But if we say that one of the most important thing our their lives is the relationship with those we love, doesn’t it make sense to put some energy to improve those, the same way we look after our body with healthy food, rest and exercise?

When we do, eventually those steps become automatic. And as we get into the habit, the results outweigh the investment by far. I have found so much more ease, joy, understanding, compassion, peace, equanimity and love, true unconditional love, for myself and my family!! May it be the same for you.

If you see yourself reflected, touched, inspired
or if you have any questions or comments,
I would love to hear from you! 

Please comment below.

I tried to teach my child with books.
He gave me only puzzled looks.
I used clear works to discipline, but I never seemed to win.
Despairingly, I turned aside.
“How shall I reach this child?” I cried.
Into my hands he put the key: “Come,” he said, “Play with me”.
Author unknown, adapted by Aletha Solter.


What’s happening

Aware Parenting Drop-in Support Group
This is a monthly, drop-in support group happening at the Jings Cafe, situated in the Byron Bay industrial state. It’s open to anyone interested in hearing about Aware Parenting for the first time, deepening their understanding, exploring specific issues about how to apply it into their daily lives or just feeling nourished in a space created by like minded people.

Every 1st Wednesday of the month, 10 to 11 am
$10 per session, first one free
We would like people to register for the event, so please go to the facebook page and click “going”.

Aware Parenting free introductory talks
These are free talks my colleague and friend Shana and I are offering to introduce parents to the basic concepts of Aware Parenting. This is a 45 minute overview of the basics, with lots of space afterwards for your questions, comments and even practice. 

The next talk is happening at
Heart and Soul of Wellness
49 Commercial Road, Murwillumbah
Sunday 16th October 3.30 pm

Inspired Parenting Glossary

Attachment Play:
Type of interactive play that strengthens the connection between the players. It often involves laughter, does not require any special equipment and can take place anywhere. It is never competitive and does not have any set rules. There are 9 forms of attachment play: non directive child-centered play, symbolic play with specific props or themes, contingency play, nonsense play, separation games, power-reversal games, regression games, activities with body contact and cooperative games.

Findings from research studies support the effectiveness of these nine kinds of activities with children suffering from specific emotional and behavioural problems. Used in the context of parent-child relationship, attachment play has the potential to resolve common discipline and aggression problems, heal fears and trauma, and promote trust, self-esteem and independence. (For a more detailed description, see Aletha Solter’s book “Attachment play, how to solve children’s behaviour problems with play, laughter and connection”)

Aware Parenting:
Aware Parenting is a philosophy of child rearing that has the potential to change the world. Developed by developmental psychologist Aletha Solter and based on current research in child development, Aware Parenting questions most traditional assumptions about raising children, and proposes a new approach that can significantly improve relationships within a family. Parents who follow this approach raise children who are cooperative, compassionate, competent, nonviolent, and drug free.

Listening Partnership:
This is a term coming from the beautiful American organisation Hand in Hand Parenting. They describe it as an exchange of listening support between adults. Having found a suitable person to do this exchange with, listening partners usually set a time weekly (or as often as it works for them), and take turns in listening to each other. In that time, a space of empathy and compassion is created where emotions are released and healing occurs. This can be done face to face, over the phone or through the Internet.




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