Is the house on fire? A tool for parenting emergencies

Is the house on fire? A tool for parenting emergencies

In those moments when we’re just about to lose it with our kids and we don’t really want to blow up at them, it’s good to learn how to de-escalate. It often feels way more urgent than it actually is. Start by asking yourself “is the house on fire?” And if it’s not, here’s what you need to do instead of freaking out. Stash your kids somewhere safe for 5 mins (if developmentally appropriate). If they are squabbling, separate them. If they need entertaining stick on an audiobook or get out a special toy you hide except for in these moments, or occupy them with a much coveted foodstuff. Go where you feel safe and ideally not overheard. Lots of folks use the bathroom or car if nowhere else can work. Call one of your Listening Partners. If you do not have one of these we suggest rectifying this immediately, but in a pinch point 4 can be done alone (or at least with pillows and a baseball bat). Scream/rant/cry/make some noise/thrash about. Catastrophise about how much the house is DEFINITELY burning down. Blame everyone whose fault it is. Swear like a rabid, Tourettes ridden creature. Tell them exactly how much you want to throttle your two year old and abandon your 12 year old at boarding school. Be NOT fine. Just for 5 minutes. Go back to your life with a miraculous capacity to keep holding the shit together. We call this taking EMERGENCY listening. Unlike your regular Listening Partnerships, (where you schedule a preemptive time to exchange listening regularly, with the intention of pouring out the build-up of feelings to...
Endurance stress or Connection stress?

Endurance stress or Connection stress?

A guest post by Alice Irving Pretty much all of my (yummy) clients are stressed. Most of them are doing too much. But that’s not really why they’re stressed. What’s causing their stress isn’t the volume of work they’ve got, it’s the feeling of fear and anxiety about what will happen if they don’t do it.  I can feel the internal roar as I write that: we’re also quite attached our stress, these days. It’s what makes us who we are, and that’s all part of the story.   Good stress: Endurance Stress   This is the stress which your body experiences when you’re running hard, dancing hard, thinking hard, working long days or otherwise stretching your ability to perform. It builds muscles, both physical and neurological. Endurance stress is what gets the job done: it’s the extra hour of humping.  It releases feel good hormones which help us recover physically and emotionally.  Endurance stress builds resilience. On its own, endurance stress is responsible for the great feats of human achievement. The freediver fishermen. The minute mile. Anyone who looks after small children. Endurance stress is great! (But if you’re burnt out already you need to go very gently with this stuff). When you combine endurance stress with the second kind of stress it leads to overwork and burn out: and that’s what most of us “stressed out moderns” are experiencing.   Bad stress: Connection Stress   Humans are wired for connection: we need each other, we need to feel in synch with each other. The prospect of being out of synch – because of conflict or disapproval – is really,...

The rescue we all need sometimes

This scene is the aftermath of deep emotional work. Where all the lights… and eyes, were on me. An experience unparalleled except for in ceremonies where all my people showed up just for me – like our wedding or my beautiful blessingways. I have shared a fair bit on Facebook about how I have recently been going through an intensely emotional time. I have had to face several really hard things this year, culminating in an excruciating situation which triggered two core hurts from childhood. This pain I had spent my whole life avoiding finally found a way out in the shape of a breakdown where I spent four months unable to do much beyond feeling, shaking, crying, raging. I was deeply distressed most of the time, waking each night for several hours distraught, frozen in angst and horror. I was exhausted and out of my mind. My capacity to think has been very much inhibited, as well as my ability to parent or hold space. I have leaned on my community a lot. My listening partners have held me through this with such presence, patience, love and dedication. And somehow through the shame of being so needy, broken and unable to give back and feeling that this was all my own fault and I deserved it, I knew I needed to ask for even more. So I rallied my listening partners and asked if they would be willing to perform what Patty Wipfler has developed as a ‘Parent Rescue Squad’. This is where a parent in crisis summons support through one way extensive listening time. An intervention that...

Healing is messy

Healing is messy. Sometimes it looks like chocolate coconut water on a plate, having snorted it out of your mouth and nose. I’ve not been OK at all recently, (which probably signifies being more OK than I’ve ever been). Ive lost my drive, run aground. In short I’m having a disproportionate reaction to a heartbreak, which is triggering the early trauma of not being met. Coincidentally, trauma they are working on my brain to release daily with the neurofeedback this month. Last weekend I wept and laughed hysterically for four hours. Thankfully two of my best women were with me and knew exactly how to keep me crying; one of the benefits of having trained everyone around me to listen really well. At one point I started speaking nonsense that I really believed at the time. “I shouldn’t be allowed to live in this house, they should keep me in one of those ‘safe houses’ for special people. I should have a warning sign on me” “What would that say” urged my sister “Keep upright. Handle with care.” I wailed. And then I pissed myself laughing and remembered all the times where being horizontal with a certain person recently has got me into this mess. The relevance of being kept upright on loving skin as a baby rather than horizontal in an incubator was not lost on me either. It was an epic release. Snotty tissues piled up. My tearstained tshirt became a beautiful piece of art that my friend Alice dubbed ‘Rainfall on heartache’. We continued with our ritual Sunday pancakes until someone said the words ‘fragile friends’...

Love tickles, knee squeezes and licks

While I’d consider us as a fairly loved up, snuggly, nuzzly clan, the truth is I’ve had to actively force myself to be physically affectionate with my kids. Not because I wouldn’t want to show them affection, but because it wasn’t wired in my brain under Mothering 1.0. I’ve had to actually train myself to kiss them goodbye each time I go out. Children need to feel connected to us as much as they need air. Affection is like a beautiful thread that strings the connected moments of a day together. I don’t know when I started using love tickles, but they are a sweet way to say “I’m right here” particularly if I’m driving. I usually just slip my hand into my child’s lap and that’s the code to say “I love you”. Their part of the code is to tickle my hand. It feels warm and fuzzy. Or let me know they are feeling off track by whacking my hand, which is fine too. Other little check-ins between chores or separations might be hugs or nuzzles, knee squeezes or running my fingers through their hair. My kids never want to be touched if they are feeling upset, so I back off if they resist my touch. We do lots of kisses and little licks in our house too. I’m really grateful to my husband for injecting abundant use of the words “love you” into our family; something that was rarely said in mine. And I think we need to make the effort to connect physically even when our children grow beyond the sweet intimacy of the early...