Friday, May 14, 2010


Reading our newspaper this past week has been particularly sad for parents of teenagers. Sixteen year old James Webster's unexpected death, and the sisters - seventeen year old Holly Yean Jae Baek and thirteen year old Kelly Yean Sue Baek's anticipated deaths, have given us a lot of take-home thinking in regards to our own children. Such tragedies for the families and extended families and friends.

"You are not just a caretaker of a baby ( a child, a teenager) but a partner in a unique and evolving relationship. Both of you start out knowing very little about each other and go on from there to learn more every day, synchronizing with each other rather as dancers do. You both respond to non-verbal cues, to facial expressions, eye movement, muscle tension - even breathing - quite spontaneously. And when you act like this you are invariably doing the right thing. When you become self-conscious and critical, you miss steps in the dance and confidence drains away."
Sheila Kitzinger : Pregnancy and Childbirth"

Sheila Kitzinger's books have been lifesavers to many young mums over the years, including me. She is so clear and true in her approach to being a mum. She is one of those authors who gives full information to her readers so they will be equipped and empowered to put things into practice in a way that works and suits them. I always felt confident to proceed as a mum, after reading Sheila.

Today there seems to be many more professional voices that speak, sometimes intrude into mum's lives. Voices from early childhood educationalists, nutritionists, doctors, psychologists and at times the state itself. The message I'm describing here, robs parents of a freedom, a confidence which is truthfully theirs. Instead such voices set themselves up as the authority. Parents are merely seen as "caretakers".

If the first sentence of this week's quote was made into a parent's mission statement or mantra, they would be on the way in taking back ownership as a parent. This opening sentence talks of spontaneity, the changeableness, the individualness of each family's life, of parents with their children. It is not prescribed, it is "unique" and "evolving".

Sheila's comparison of parentS and children being like dancers, "synchronizing with each other", gives many valuable and practical points to think about : -

1. In professional dance companies of different styles, dancers that are put together as partners or in groups, have similarities in dance style, strength of discipline and other qualities. They look for a natural relationship between the dancers.
Some families today have a natural relationship between both parents and each child, while others have the natural relationship of just one parent with the child or children. We forget the simple fact that we are related, and like the best of dance teams, we can work and live creatively together, because of our related genes, history, temperament and skills.

2. When dancing with a partner or group for a performance, a big key to success is to dance as one, as an harmonious team. In some dance styles, the aim is to glide across the floor looking like one object, not two people. The dancers have to stop thinking of themselves as an individual and instead as they dance, think of themselves as one with the other dancer/s - a unit. Some have described it as thinking of yourself as one part in a much bigger whole. Your attention is not just on yourself but equally on everyone else at the same time.
This is the same for parents and their children. Most of us can remember when our children were very little, maybe newborn babies, and the deep feelings of oneness we felt with them then - they were ours, and we headed into life totally at their side. Of course as they grow and develop, independence comes and increases. This is as it is in dance too, but as dancers return to the together parts of the dance, the precision of oneness returns, it isn't lost or done away with because the dancers are connected, they are in the performance together. The lives of parents with their children are the same. We have times of independence, but because we are in families, we return to be with each other again.

3. Successful and gifted teachers of dance give lots of space for the learner's frustration, mistakes, time to grow, time to learn to trust and feel comfortable. They don't expect perfection.
How are you going in these areas as a dad or mum?

4. When people dance with a partner simply for fun, the most important thing is to make sure your partner is enjoying themselves. Your enjoyment in dancing with them is transferred to them, giving them pleasure. The main idea with this sort of dancing is that you want people to want to dance with you.
Absolutely the same for dads and mums with their children. We must give them pleasure and show our enjoyment in being with them. Do your children want to be with you? Do they find you a pleasure or attractive to be with?

5. In the early stages of learning to dance with a partner, one dancer needs to give guidance at times. In the beginning this is usually verbal instructions but as they develop, guidance is through physical contact and awareness - "You both respond to non-verbal cues, to facial expressions, eye movement, muscle tension - even breathing - quite spontaneously."
Some parents start off with books, DVDs or going to courses, and most of us give verbal instructions to our children to guide them, especially when they are young. But as they grow and develop things need to change. If, as the dancing pair, our connection with our child is developing, then we will be observing and understanding more of what's happening for them. Our response to their "non-verbal cues" should equip us to appropriately guide them along.

6. If your aim is to teach your partner a routine with the correct technique, you are best to dedicate yourself to a lot of practice on your own. When you advance in your level of dance, your partner always seems to have improved too.
As parents, we need to work at and then model good behaviour, habits and attitudes, so they are a natural part of us and then our children will "improve too". Children mirror what is around them. Are they mirroring you?

The dancers comparison helps us to see the huge creative sides in parenting, as well as the closeness and awareness that exists between parent and child when the relationship is going well, when one is tuned to the other. It also encourages the possibilities to improvise, giving freedom, choreographing life as you go. The closer the connection the greater the freedom to be spontaneous, more bold, daring in your family's growth. There's also the idea of complementing each other and feeding each other - one showing the way at one point, the other at another. Then there's the times when both are working hard together and relationships are deepened.

"And when you act like this you are invariably doing the right thing." Maybe you have diagnosed that you have been doing the wrong thing and your confidence has "drained away".
* do you lack confidence in what to do most days as a parent?
* are you possibly thinking too much about yourself and not enough about your 'dancing
* do you not like the way things are going with your children? - maybe you don't like what they
are doing?
- maybe you don't think you are
being heard or listened to by
your children.
* are you regularly distracted, just haven't the time to put into learning to be with you children.
* have you lost heart or interest in the children? - do you need to equip yourself better and do
more 'practice' on your own?
- are you unwell - are there health issues you
need to look at?
- are you fatigued and run down, need a holi-
day, regular sleep, a month of early nights, to
eat and drink healthily?
- do you need to talk to someone who can help?

How do you begin to synchronize with your child? Start working with the ideas above that you liked and then when you sense some progress, add in some of the tougher ones.

THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS get going and do some dancing.

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