Tuesday: When You Make a Choice, You Change the Future

This post is the fourth in a series of eight concerning Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents. For the original post and summary, click here.

Tuesday is the day of Karma. The message for today is, “When you make a choice, you change the future.”

This, today, this is the day I’m struggling with. I believe in karma, and I understand it, mostly (well… as much as any regular person can). Not in the way that people flippantly refer to it, as if it’s instant and applies to things like spilling your milkshake after making fun of a friend, but in a much more holistic, long-term sense. But how on earth do you explain that to a child? I picture myself explaining it to Neko, and then her thinking that she’ll be rich if she’s nice to people, or assuming someone got sick because they weren’t a nice person. Throw reincarnation and karma over several lives in there and I’m stumped! I need it to be simple enough to explain to her, but not have her oversimplify it in selfish or harmful ways. Perhaps this will just come with time.

For now, we will focus on identifying how the choices we make change the future, and that when we do things that help bring happiness and success to others, that we ourselves are more likely to be happy and successful. We will use today as an opportunity to discuss how to know what is the right choice – listening to our intuition, and asking ourselves how our choice will affect ourselves and others, before deciding.

In the end, we didn’t talk very much about choices today. I’ll write this off as a day to prepare for future Tuesdays, and next week I’ll be sure to have a good conversation about it with Neko!

a) read books about karma – any suggestions? I thought of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as an example of book where people “get what they deserve” – that’s the best I’ve come up with. ETA: My friend Jen suggested the Grimm’s fairy tale Mother Holle. This got me thinking – many fairy tales have a rather karmic theme to them. Cinderella, for instance. I think Tuesday would be a good day for fairy tales and fables.

b) talk about good things that have happened to us

c) talk about our beliefs about karma

d) talk about situations that happened today and choices we made, and why we made the choices we did – Talk about how we feel about that choice. You could also write a story or make a book about these choices.

e) talk about listening to our intuition to help us make choices

f) Pick a situation in your life – what can you learn from it? Sometimes things happen to us because we can learn from them.

Book ideas: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Movie ideas: The Cat Returns, A Little Princess

Advertisements

Monday: If You Want to Get Something, Give It

This post is the third in a series of eight concerning Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents. For the original post and summary, click here.

Monday is a day of giving. The message for today is, “If you want to get something, give it.”

First thing Monday morning, Neko and I had a conversation about this. “If you want others to share, or be nice to you, a good thing to do is share and be nice to them,” I told her. An apt lesson, as she was headed to Mairead’s house for the day, and the two of them don’t have the most stellar record for sharing and getting along. In fact, they know exactly how to push one another’s buttons, and do so on a regular basis. Neko was taking an avocado pit (“dinosaur egg”) to their house and was plotting how she would keep it away from Mairead, so we talked about how if she expects Mairead to share her things, Neko should give Mairead a chance with the “dinosaur egg,” as a start.

We also planned, together, to give out lots of compliments during the day. At the end of the day, we would share with one another the compliments we had given.

In the future, we will also talk a lot about being grateful for the things we have, and how, by being grateful for what we have, it can seem like enough, and we can also have more of what we need come to us almost magically.

It was a really great day, and I definitely had lots to be thankful for. In the morning, before I left for work and to drop Neko off (Justan was working downtown today and took the bus), Neko and I did yoga, I fed the hens (and gave them some whey from our cheesemaking to drink), I made coffee and a double-egg and avocado sandwich, and we had time to spare. Neko had a great day at the bookstore and playing outside, and I was thankful to have an extra staff member to help me during my shift, and good friends who stopped by for hugs in celebration of Chinese New Year – and they brought me lunch, including Pocky and fortune cookies!

I have lots of ideas of things we could do on Mondays in the future…

a) compliment each other and strangers – but remember, it’s important that the compliments are sincere!

b) practice random acts of kindness – all sorts of fun possibilities here! I won’t list them, as there are tons of ideas out there, and I’m sure you can think of your own. Look, there’s a whole website about it!

c) free hug day – I have been wanting to do this with kids for some time. A conversation would need to happen beforehand about only hugging if you are comfortable with it and you and the other person consent, but I think it could be really awesome!

d) talk about the things you’re thankful for at dinner – this is a really simple tradition that can, of course, be incorporated at dinner every day.

e) make a gift – whether there is a birthday or gift-giving holiday coming up or not, this is a great day to think of people you know who might like a gift, or to whom you’d like to give a gift. There are lots of amazing ideas for easy, handmade gifts on Pinterest!

f) send a love letter – for kids who can write (or younger ones who can dictate to an adult), writing a love letter to a best friend, grandparent or anyone else they love is a great exercise in expressing feelings and gratitude. While you’re at it, write one out yourself – maybe even to yourself! Or perhaps a spouse or parent hasn’t been told lately just how much they mean to you. Who benefits more in this exercise – the sender or the receiver?

g) hold the door for people – going out today? Take the opportunity to hold the door for anyone you can.

h) write a story about something you’re thankful for – when I was a kid, I loved making books; and now Neko does too. Take some regular, white, 8×10 paper and cut in half width-wise. Stack these new half-sheets together, fold in half and staple in the middle. Now fill with a lovely gratitude story, and be sure to include lots of drawings!

i) give each other back rubs – giving, and gratitude together! Plus – backrubs!

j) give to charity – this will have extra impact if your child or children choose the charity, and what to give. Something more palpable and less abstract than money, like toys, clothes, and so on, are easier for kids to understand.

k) talk about the Golden Rule – I remember learning this as a child: “Do unto others as you would have done unto you,” or “Treat others the way you would like to be treated.” It is absolutely, number one, the best life rule I have ever learned, and it’s easy for kids to understand (especially once they develop empathy around age seven)!

l) have a mini Thanksgiving dinner – if you celebrate Thanksgiving, how about preparing something similar to what you would serve on that day, only on a smaller scale? This may bring more of a focus to the idea of giving thanks. Be sure to talk about all the things for which you have to be thankful as you eat!

m) take someone flowers – pick some flowers from your garden, or wildflowers (just be careful picking wildflowers! Choose something safe like dandelions or a flower that grows with abandon in your area, and not anything that is threatened or rare), or buy some locally grown flowers in-season from your local farmers market, and take them to a friend. A simple way to brighten someone’s day (including yours)!

I didn’t come up with many ideas for books or movies for today, but as always, I welcome more!

Book ideas: Ribbon Rescue (Robert Munsch), Socks for Supper (Jack Kent)

Movie ideas: One Magic Christmas

Sunday: Anything is Possible

Yesterday, I wrote about Deepak Chopra’s The Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents. That post provides the context for this one.

Sunday is a day of pure potentiality. The message for today is, “Everything is possible, no matter what.”

Today was our first day of talking about the “Seven Laws” with Neko. We didn’t do a specific activity today (and I don’t expect to every week), but I did tell her that we were going to be talking more about spirituality and the big ideas involved in that. I didn’t go into a long-winded explanation of the idea behind “everything is possible,” but kept it simple and will wait for the questions to come naturally.

Today, we read several chapters of “The Magician’s Nephew” (the first book in the Narnia series) and also watched Spirited Away – and we talked about how seemingly impossible things happen in both.

On future Sundays, some activities I’d like to incorporate include:

a) meditation or quiet time – probably guided. The idea behind “everything is possible” is connecting with the larger consciousness and understanding that we are one with the universe and everything in it, so even some quiet meditation provides the groundwork for a lifetime of tuning in to higher consciousness.

b) nature walk – by examining small and large objects in nature, from a stone or some moss, to an old tree or the ocean, we can connect with nature or a higher power very easily. Plus, of course, it’s very important for kids to be in nature on a regular basis. And by talking about the amazing things that are possible in the natural world, we can be reminded that there are powers much greater than ourselves.

c) discussing problems or situations in our lives, and possible solutions – this wouldn’t be a planned activity, but if Neko is having a problem, or we’re having one as a family, talking about solutions could be a great way to open our own eyes to different possibilities.

d) build a labyrinth for a walking meditation – I think this could be really fun in the winter, but you could also do it with stones in the summer.

e) draw or colour a mandala – this is yet another way of reminding ourselves of our connection with a higher power, and our place in a complex world, and universe. MandalaProject.org includes some great information and ideas about both mandalas and labyrinths. Mandala colouring books can be purchased from mandali.com, or you may want to print off single colouring pages.

You may also want to simply read a book, or watch a movie to tie in with the “anything is possible” idea. Fantasy books and movies tie in, in a simplistic way, but for more of a message, how about:

Book ideas: Stone Soup (Ann McGovern), Oh The Places You’ll Go (Dr. Seuss)

Movie ideas: March of the Penguins, A Dolphin’s Tale, Ponyo, My Neighbour Totoro, Babe

The Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents

For a long time now, I have wanted to incorporate Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents into our daily life. As with his Seven Spiritual Laws for Success, the book plots the laws and lessons by weekday, so that each day of the week corresponds with a spiritual lesson to work on. I really enjoy his ideas for relating the lessons to kids – each law is put into language that kids can understand, although many of the ideas are still so abstract that parents will only be able to touch on very simplified versions of the ideas.

I think that there is potential to make this a very central part of our homeschooling schedule, with activities ranging from language, to art, to science tying in to the lessons from week to week. I’ve made lists of ideas and will be posting them on the corresponding days next week. These include book and film suggestions that tie in to the lessons.

Importantly, as we go through the spiritual lessons day by day, we, as parents, need to practice the laws as well. For instance, Wednesday is about the Law of Least Effort, when we tell our child, “Don’t say no – go with the flow.” Chopra tells us to accept situations as they occur; take responsibility for our situation; and relinquish the need to defend our point of view. As we have conversations with our children about these themes, we need to be honest with them about our own actions, reactions and feelings, whether we succeeded that day, or in the past, with the lesson, or whether there was a time when we were unable to

I’ll also try to remember, as Neko talks to me about her dreams and feelings, to not be judgmental of the things she comes out with.

Ideally, I would like to make a felt or magnetic weekly calendar, where we could mark which law we’re learning about each day, things like the weather and events or classes, and well… okay I haven’t thought about it much beyond weather and the Seven Spiritual Laws. I’ve tried to find an example of something similar to what I’m thinking but I can’t find anything close! If I make one, I’ll post a photo.

The days are as follows. I’ve listed a few ideas here, though like I said, I’ll be going into more depth over the next week (starting Sunday, Jan. 22) as I post the laws day by day.

Sunday is a day of pure potentiality. The message for today is, “Everything is possible, no matter what.”

Activities for today would centre around meditation, being in nature, and discussing the different possibilities in a particular situation.

For the expanded version of ideas for Sunday, click here.

Or maybe we build a walking labyrinth in nature for meditation?

Monday is a day of giving. The message for today is, “If you want to get something, give it.”

Activities today would centre around gratitude, giving gifts and compliments, and receiving gifts and kindness with grace.

For the expanded version of ideas for Monday, click here.

Tuesday is a day of Karma. The message for today is, “When you make a choice, you change the future.”

Today is a day to talk about choices, and how we can choose how to act or react in any situation. This is a great time to talk to your children about how to know whether they’re making the right choice. Activities for today might include talking about choices we’ve made today, and how they affected our lives and those of others.

To be honest, this is the day I’m having the most trouble with, as far as coming up with actual activities, or books. How on earth do you teach a kid about something as abstract and complicated as karma? I would welcome any ideas!

For the expanded version of Tuesday, click here.

This little quote is a good start, though.

Wednesday is a day of Least Effort. The message for today is, “Don’t say no—go with the flow.”

Today’s activities focus on finding the game in work or chores; taking responsibility for your actions and reactions; and identifying the work that doesn’t feel like work to you. Some ideas might be floating boats down a stream, wandering without a destination, or engaging in creative pursuits.

For the expanded version of Wednesday, click here.

“Flow Back” by Tim Donnelly

Thursday is a day of Intention of Desire. The message for today is, “Every time you wish or want, you plant a seed.”

Today is about identifying what you want, and putting that intention out to the universe. Some activities might include making a vision board, practicing visualization, or making prayer flags.

For the expanded version of Thursday, click here.

Here’s a great example of a vision board from the blog “The Parenting Files.”

Friday is a day of Detachment. The message for today is, “Enjoy the journey.”

This is a day to let those intentions from yesterday go and allow things to happen the way they’re meant to. I’m trying to gather ideas for some experiments that have unpredictable results to do on this day. This is also a good day to play a board game, enter a contest, and burn or otherwise release the intentions you wrote down on Thursday.

Saturday is a day of Dharma. The message today is, “You are here for a reason.”

Saturday is about discovering your own talents and skills, and using them to enrich your own life and lives of others. Activities today focus on spending time pursuing your talents, volunteering your time and talents for others, and learning about historical figures who have changed the world with their own unique talents.

Bathtub Phonics

All the sounds we’ve learned through Jolly Phonics so far.

This was a fun way to end our day. I promised Neko I would have a bath with her, but I asked her if she’d like to practice her letters in the bath. She was totally into it! We took all the sounds/letters that we’ve learned so far through Jolly Phonics off the fridge – each magnetic letter we could find that fit the bill. I then grouped these by letter/sound and we proceeded to build short words.

Praciticing phonics, switching out one sound at a time to form different words.

We had lots of fun taking one word – say, “sat” – and then switching out one letter at a time to isolate the sounds and build new words. From “sat” we might go to “cat” then “cot” then “pot” then “pit” and so on. It’s such a simple thing – letters stuck to the side of the bathtub – but Neko really loved the combination of bath and magnetic letters to practice reading and spelling.

On Crying-it-out Experts, But Not On Crying-it-out

And now for a slightly off topic vent.

If you’re a parent, especially a parent who has spent any time at all on Facebook or online parenting forums, I’m sure you know just how controversial the topic of sleep can get. Not your sleep, of course, though that is directly affected here (either by your baby waking up in the wee hours of the morning, or by your fuming over forum posts you read the night before) – but your baby, toddler or child’s sleep. Where should they sleep – in their crib, in their own room, in your room, in your bed, in a bassinet? And how should you put them to bed at night – nurse them or feed them a bottle; lay them down and let them cry; rock them to sleep; lie with them until they fall asleep? And then! What to do if they awaken in the middle of the night? Do you pop a boob in their mouth and go back to sleep? Walk down the hall, feed them in the rocking chair, and put them back to bed? Bring them into your bed? Give them a soother or teach them to suck their thumb? Let them cry while you watch on a video monitor? Let them cry but it doesn’t matter because you’re oblivious because they’re two stories away and you’ve shut off the monitor? It about makes your head spin, even if you were well-rested in the first place (which, and let’s be honest here, most parents with kids under 18 months are not, regardless of which of the previous options they may choose on any given night).

BUT – this post is not about which of these options is right. That is because 1) I can’t tell you that, because I don’t know your baby, and even if I did, I’m not your baby’s mom (or dad – dad’s have instincts too!); and 2) there are tons of great articles and studies out there already, and I don’t need to reiterate all of that (see: Babies and CIO from Ask Moxie, potential affects of crying it out from Dr. Sears’ webpage as a start).

No, this post is about the experts who teach cry-it-out, “extinction” (is it just me, or is that the most unfortunate name? If I were a “sleep training” teacher, I would choose a different word for PR purposes!) or controlled crying.

Now, parenting experts are… well… erm… Well let’s just say you want to be choosy. They’re a dime a dozen, and it really boils down to what their methods are based on and whether science backs them up, plus, most importantly, whether it matches your instincts and your particular baby’s needs (keeping mind that just because it worked for your first child… and/or second… and/or third, and so on, that doesn’t mean it will work for subsequent children). But no matter the day and age, whether it’s due to uncertainty in our abilities as new parents, nagging from friends or family, or even, sometimes, post partum depression, there will always be parents who are really looking for guidance, and when they find someone who makes a convincing pitch, they may go right against their instincts and follow the advice of that expert.

So as a first step, like I said: trust your baby, trust yourself. But, failing that…

Be careful when choosing an expert, and when choosing whether or not to follow their suggestions. In this post, specifically, I’m talking about the nature of the relationship they set up between you and your baby. Whether reading a book or taking a class, here are a couple of red flags to watch for:

1) Talk to other people who have used the method. How do they speak of their children? Is it the type of relationship you want with your child, especially long-term? If you hear other parents who are currently following the method referring to their child as a “monster” (though many of us joke about this on bad days, is it an overarching theme to their relationship?); or saying things like “we’ve been enabling this habit” (is your baby a tiny heroin addict?), “Don’t let him win the battle” (uhhhhhhh) or “She knows just how to get away with this,” I’d say it’s worth asking yourself whether you’d feel okay saying that about your spouse or a close friend. And…. if you would… well, you might want to look at the health of that particular relationship.

2) Read the language used in the literature or on the website. Is this expert setting you up to “win”? Do they use language that is reminiscent of war, coercion or training an animal? Again, these are things to consider in advance.

3) Then again, of course, you may not see any of this language on the website (they may use terms like “the gift of sleep” or other things that sound perfectly wonderful, and it’s difficult sometimes to tell just what these marketing terms are referring to), or hear it from their graduates (oftentimes, similar to an abuse situation, disturbingly, these experts will advise their students not to tell anyone that they have taken their class, are using the method, or even use the language around people – GIANT red flag right there!) – in which case, you have to watch for it in the actual class.

4) As mentioned earlier, try reframing: if you said, “My husband is a monster and I can’t seem to break him of this behaviour,” “My grandmother seems to think it’s okay to bother us in the night when she needs to use the washroom, and we just really need her to know who’s in charge,” or “My best friend is not going to win this battle with me,” would any of those sound okay to you? And again, if these are things you’re saying, I advise you think pretty deeply about the health of your relationships.

I know I’m going to get responses saying that it’s clear that I’m saying not to cry it out, as this is the type of language you hear from certain extreme sleep trainers. However, as I said earlier, this is not the case. I know lots of people for whom sleep training was very effective. I also know plenty of people who have been very successful with co-sleeping, and lots of ideas in between. But I don’t think, regardless of what you choose to do, this is appropriate language or framing for any loving relationship. So before choosing a class or book to follow for sleep advice with your child or baby, it’s worth asking yourself where you stand, and checking that their views are complementary.

A Conversation We Had Today

On the walk home from the library tonight, Neko and I were talking about her impending 6th birthday. We discussed what she might get for presents, and whether she minds having a birthday so close to Christmas.

She said her legs were tired, and asked me to carry her. I said, “I’m sorry, you’re going to be six now. I can only carry you in emergency situations.”

“Sometimes I think about the old times, and feel sad,” she replied. “I wish I could still ride on your back.”

“I think about the old times sometimes and feel sad, too. Getting older can be exciting, but it can also be sad, because you have to leave some things behind. I loved carrying you on my back, and feeding you bubby (our word for breastfeeding), and snuggling you in our bed,” I told her.

“But we’ll always do that,” she said, “Even when I’m grown up.”

“What? Snuggle in bed?”

“Yes.”

“Of course. And when I’m old and frail, and can’t walk on my own anymore, you can carry me on your back,” I suggested.

“Mommy! No I can’t! I’m not carrying you on my back!,” she laughed.

“Oh, come on! I carried you around for years! You can’t carry your poor, old mother?” I pleaded with her.

“Who’s ever heard of someone carrying a grandma?!” she exclaimed.

“We can be the first,” I said. She giggled.

A few steps later, she told me, “Mommy, sometimes I get sad when I think about when I’ll be a teenager and I won’t love you anymore.”

Oops. We’ve told her that she won’t always listen to us like she does now, and that when she’s a teenager she probably won’t want to be around us as much.

I reassured her that she’ll still love us just as much, hopefully, but that she just won’t want to spend as much time with us, and she will probably think we don’t know much about anything. I told her that I hope we’ll have a good relationship and that even though she won’t want to spend as much time with us when she’s a teenager, hopefully she’ll still want to hang out with us sometimes.

“I’m going to keep living with you when I’m older, even if I save up enough money to buy a house,” she told me.

One day I’ll look back at this post and shed another tear like I did tonight.