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Soft Parenting Myself.

He looked down at his school uniform this morning and softly whispered: “Mum we need to tuck it in more, I don’t want to look fat.” We have never spoken this word in our household, so I am perplexed by its presupposition, but I breathed deeply and pulled him close.

“My darling, You are kind, you are funny, you are smart, and you are handsome.”

As this script rolled off my tongue, he repeated the words with me softly. Kind, funny, smart and handsome. Four simple words that I ask him to absorb as we drive into school.

Six years old, a little boy and someone has modelled to him that when he bends over and his shirt billows that he should be afraid of being seen as fat.

Lately, I have seen that compassion and empathy hide in the whispered moments more than the loud declarations.

Many perceive soft parenting as weak, but I am learning moments of acknowledgement and reframing can be the greatest gift to my children in their tomorrow.

The last few weeks have been tense in my heart. Feeling a shift that is difficult to explain, exhaustion still hanging around post-school holidays and generally feeling despondent about the goals I set myself at the beginning of the year.

What manuscript?

Excercise? Smile.

Empathy for those closest, check.

The moment I surrender to the lack of control around my diary and time alone, I start to find my breath again, with compassion for my journey.

How is your mid-year internal soundtrack?

Are you being soft with yourself or has the critic taken residence, handing out shame on every corner?

The whole idea of being soft can interpret as excuses or weakness in the realm of success and achievement. I know that my heart, however, responds in an environment of positivity and surrender. There is a part of me that continues to try to control and keep my heart small.

Softness looks like;

1) Changing the language, we use to ourselves and therefore those closest to one filled with compassion and grace.

Softness sounds like;

2) A cheerleader, on the side of the stage, chanting and believing the best in yourself and others, rather than a cynical “You always do that!” tone.

Softness tastes like;

3) The fresh awakening of water, even though it is not our first choice, it fills parts of our very being that can serve only as nourishment.

Judgement may fit like a glove and might trick us into thinking we are justified in our reaction, but the beauty of a soft response helps us to allow love to change the very fibre of our being.

Can you softly parent yourself?

Proverb 15 says it this way.

“A soft answer turns away wrath, a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.”

Little by little, allowing change to be birthed from deep within.

Love leading the way, rather than shame hunting us down and holding us captive.

Choose Empathy

Amanda Viviers

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Choosing Empathy for Mothers; a movie review of tully

‘Your twenties are great, but then your thirties come around the corner like a garbage truck at 5:00 a.m.’

Marlo (Tully)

 

Last week I watched a movie that took me a week to recover. It was a Mothers Day escape with my dearest friend, and we ran away from our houses quicker than the IKEA lady could say “start the car”.

Sitting in the cinema with a box of Maltesers that I had bought as a present and repossessed for our night out, we had no idea the shaking that would come from a movie that kept us guessing right to the end.

Motherhood is brutal. And we laughed so much from the relentless cycle of routine and difficulty, but the moment came when we settled into a place of deep dismay.

Charlize Theron beautifully portrayed the depth and breadth of motherhood. Our hearts broke at the intensity of it all. From miscommunication with school principals to the sheer comfort of frozen pizzas and daytime tv.

In my early thirties, I saw this season as an oasis of hope, a mirage in the distance, that I struggled through singlehood to find my promised land. However, the reality of the juggle of Motherhood leaves me questioning.

We laughed as the main character Marlo’s daughter asks innocently.

“Hey Mum, what’s wrong with your body?”.

We cried when Tully (her night nurse) said

“Girls heal.”

and Marlo replied

“No, we don’t. We might look like we’re all better, but if you look close, we’re covered in concealer.”

The secret to Motherhood is the sisterhood, and without the capacity to reach and find help from another, left like an island on our own. I often struggle to accept help from others. I sometimes regret saying no, when someone has reached out with grace and empathy. We are often our own worst blocks in the opportunities of finding our steady place again.

We never know the battles that every person is facing, and behind the facade of social media, there is always a conversation about the challenges we face. Although we all meet Motherhood with different seasons and strengths, if we are all honest the sleepless nights, the constant boundary setting and the pain of growth can be waring.

This movie needs a conversation with a friend afterwards, but the beauty of exploring our darkness is worthy. If we don’t sit in spaces where we confront difficult seasons, we will never feel the joy of a change of season and the sun shining again.

It is still showing in cinemas nationally for a short time. Grab a coffee, a friend and let’s together start a conversation that matters. When we choose empathy for those, who are struggling we all grow.

The secret of motherhood is the sisterhood.

And the greatest gift I found in Motherhood was the hearts and lives of other women in the same season.

Amanda Viviers

 

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Choosing the battles we enter is in essence choosing empathy

The internet has not worked in our house for the last fifteen days, and the irritation is rising across our neighbourhood. I am sure I have heard my neighbours yelling a little louder, the kids across the road melting down and my internal patience pedometer is on fire.

Little annoyances, framed by first world problems that unravel our empathy cord. It is never the Meta-Story that breaks down kindness and light, it is the pieces of grit in the grout, that cause the tile to fall off the wall. Little by little the imperfection, works its nuance and cracks open the seam around it.

It’s clothing placed in the basket, even though it wasn’t dirty. It is the half-eaten apple rolling beneath the couch. Maybe the crusts left in the lunchbox and the wand from the coffee machine crusted in milk. Little pieces of thoughtlessness that ask us to breathe deep. Again.

Text message miscommunication and outdoor chairs cracking from the enduring summer heat, people yelling “You always do that” and icecreams that fall off their sticks.

Lately, though I have remembered that it is a choice to enter the arena of conflict and reaction is a choice. Even though people dump their bags of rubbish at our front doors, it is our choice whether we bring them into our metaphorical homes.

Conflict is a choice. Also, offence leaves the conflict arena, by deciding to choose empathy over a quick and often regretful response. Empathy is listening to hear but choosing our answer carefully.

Do you struggle when you pick up other peoples offences and bring them into your personal space?

I do.

My need for justice often overtakes the sanity of the moment. I get lost in the complexity and forget that some conversations do not need answering.

Allowing words to wash over and annoying circumstances to slide, become the superfood power of living with empathy shaped glasses.

You don’t have to attend every argument to which you are invited to enter.

The most significant leadership lessons I am learning. The way we choose to enter into conflict changes the breadth and depth of our spheres of influence.

How does this impact your everyday journey?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Join us for more conversation over on Patreon at the boardroom retreat. Personal and Professional Development for Leaders.

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Small Things That Have Created Fear In My Family

Photo by Kristy Lee Photography

The moment I reach for my keys or pick up my handbag she starts to scream. This simple reaction might be tolerable if it was a rare reaction. However, it is daily. Actually twice daily, even three times a day. Nope indeed more than four times a day.

She has only known homes that edge onto main roads. Maybe it has to do with our budget or our penchant for danger, but we always seem to choose homes on busy intersections.

The fear began in the season that my front door opened onto a driveway and a busy seaside road. With a newborn and a wild toddler, every time we walked out the front door I re-enforced the danger we were entering. She has never known a day in her life that I have not warned, carried her hand tightly or asked that they look left and right before they walk to our car.

Fear.

I think it was first birthed in my own heart because I watched a story unfold over on Instagram where a beautiful little red-haired boy died suddenly in an accident on the road. I remember scrolling his story repetitively, with tears dripping off my face. Coming to the summation that I could never survive the horror of a childhood accident. Fear gripped my heart, and I transferred my pain.

Every carpark, each walk towards our car, the loading and unloading of my vehicle were fraught with fear. The fear that strangled my heart jumped into my little shadow hearts. Every concern I face, they journey as well. I now face the difficulty of unravelling the fear that grips onto her little heart.

“Come on kids let’s go to the car” I shout into the corridor void in our house. I can hear her from any location in our abode. She starts to scream, she begins to cry, and my empathy is left impatient, with a roll of my eyes and tiredness in my heart.

“Do not leave me” she screams, then she pants “Please carry me,” she whispers. “I cannot go to the car alone.” My daughter does not have a fear of leaving or arriving. She is okay when I say goodbye and walk off to my day of work. She has confidently waved as I have travelled away overseas. However, she cannot handle the fear of walking five steps to our car alone. Every time we stop she screams, each time we walk her brother into school, (like every day) she cries, and I am not sure how much more of it I can take.

The walk of empathy in this season of my life is even more present, because I have caused this fear. My fear transferred and it is now my responsibility to unravel this knot and create a new rhythm of the carriage in my little girl’s life so that it doesn’t rise to overtake her heart and allow anxiety to set in.

Fear is irrational and to extend empathy to those who are crippled by its hold is an exercise in patience.

How can we extend empathy when we are tired of the everydayness of being human?

I am learning when I remind myself of my internal fears. I am seeing that when I slow and hold them close, remembering that each time that I am present, it is a great privilege of my day. Breathing in deep the vulnerability of the moment and telling myself she will be skipping off to school with the season swiftly over.

The empathy that I extend for her.
The empathy that I post in my heart as a reminder to myself.

Remembering how far we have come and how long we still have to travel. With moments of pause and intention, it is my goal to extend care and caution to unravel this knot that frustrates me.

And if I was truly honest with myself and her, it is a fear that I created anyway. I didn’t mean too. I just knew no other way. Soon I will want to hold her hand and carry her little heart closely, but she will be too independent and too cool to hold me close. So for today I remind myself that empathy goes both ways and fear can be unravelled. It just takes time.

Slow your heart dear Mumma, tomorrow is another day, and together we can do this.

Amanda

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Grace Lives Here

by Kristy Lee Photography

His grainy black slippers speak comfort and grace as he walks through the door. The sun has set, and he starts unpacking his day as he walks from his jeep to the front door. Bag dumped, formal shirt unbuttoned, then he retreats to the shower and then his grainy black slippers complete his daily ritual.

There is something about these simple moments as he says goodbye to the day that reminds me that grace indeed lives here. His work is relentless. The images and stories he retells as we sit next to the fire with wine in hand, I know can never portray the complexity of the hues his eyes have seen.

No simple solutions. Memories fortified for another day. He is home.

Does grace live comfortably in the worn grainy slippers waiting for your loved ones as they arrive home?

Does empathy wait quietly to help them unpack the details of a day sown into the people who require more than they can give?

The most significant gift I can give my husband is the space to process the immensity of his everyday world, in a home that provides the robust energy of grace laced deeply within its walls.

GROWING GRACE

I am learning to allow grace to rise, so my family finds the space it needs to come down from the battle of their everyday world. Grace grows when we mature and allow breathing room in the beauty of our homes.

Changing the way I speak to myself.

Lately, I have been learning that the way I talk to myself changes the way that grace grows in my home. There is an inner critic that can get stuck in an old pattern of thinking and when I listen to this voice rather than speak to myself negativity arises. Do you talk to yourself? Telling yourself what you are. How far you have come. Building yourself up in the truth of what you know to be true. Or do you listen to the voice that thrives on all the things you are not? Changing the way I speak to myself, has been creating a breeding ground for grace to live more comfortably in my home and relationships.

Changing the way I talk to others.

Reframing and counting the power of my words creates the most significant shift in the weightedness of grace in our home. Speaking of the past rather than encouraging change into the future shifts empathy in my everyday. Rather than “You always.” I am learning to strengthen what is positive and bring softer correction to that which is draining. Negativity can breed negativity, and I see so much more grace grow from encouragement and rewarding good behaviour.

Marriage is so daily. There is no respite. In the times that are good and the moments that are sad, you will walk alongside someone who has seen it all.

“And I love that even in the toughest moments when we’re all sweating it – when we’re worried that the bill won’t pass, and it seems lost – Barack never lets himself get distracted by the chatter and the noise. Just like his grandmother, he keeps getting up and moving forward… with patience and wisdom, and courage and grace.”

Michelle Obama

His grainy black slippers remind me each day of how far we have come and when grace lives loud in the way I speak to myself and how I talk to those closest a settledness comes that is unexplainable.

As Michelle states so beautifully of her relationship with Obama as we keep getting up and moving forward with patience, wisdom, courage and grace. These attributes can be the result of marriage lived sown. And when they are growing in our daily life, we can indeed say that grace lives here.

Amanda