Sunday, July 20, 2008

No Spanking at Sea World

I think this is a good rule. If anyone from Sea World or the Anheuser-Busch corporation reads my blog, promise me you'll do everything in your power to make this a real rule.

My friends J & R went to Sea World with their 5-yr old. On an absolutely sweltering Texas summer day. Along with about 500 million other families. As they were going in, J happened to notice a group of several families, adults and kiddos, also entering. For some reason, they caught her eye. Well, later on that day, J & R stopped at some place in the park, and the same cluster of families was nearby. By this time, one of the kids was crying, and his dad was losing patience with him. Well, before you can say "Shamu," J sees the dad pick up his kid by the arm and begin whacking him on the behind. Right there, in front of everyone.

Now my friend J is not some meek bystander type. So she courageously walks up to the guy and asks, "Do you need to take a break?" And he asks her to repeat herself, so she does. He tells her he does, in fact, not need a break. J says, "That's going to stay with him for the rest of his life." To which Bruiser replies, "I want it to stay with him for the rest of his life." And then his wife, in what J described as a sticky sweet tone, walks up to interrupt, saying, "Ma'am? This doesn't concern you. Please move on." J replied that when someone chooses to physically discipline their child in front of her child, it actually does concern her. And the wife just repeated herself until J moved on.

I think there should be a whole website devoted to how to approach people who spank or shame their kids in public. Because although I so admire J's nerve, I can imagine being totally taken aback, and not knowing what to say, when this dad responded as he did. Someone (maybe even me!) needs to create a place where folks can find (and give) words to say in these moments. Because even if the parents are convinced that what their doing is the very best, one stranger chiming in with a different perspective could get through to that kid. And he might remember it and think back on it when he, for example, grows up and wants to understand why he has certain problems he may have.

When I heard the story, here's what I wish J had said: "Even the most hardcore proponents of spanking say that you shouldn't do it in anger, and you seem kinda angry. And you're at Sea World. And the tickets are REALLY expensive, and I doubt you worked so hard and saved up that much money so you could come here and hit your kid."

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Intelligent Edge

I am nuts about yoga.

Since the beginning of last year, I have taken a yoga class at 7:30 a.m. almost every single Saturday morning. Now, to some, once a week might not be much, but I'm a mom, I'm super busy, and I get what I get. On Saturdays, what I do is wake up before everyone else in my house and quietly run out the door to my class. This year I have added a Wednesday morning class, as well as some brief and sporadic home practice (generally the kids begin to climb on me or exhort me to try postures they make up) and some meditation before I go to sleep.

The teacher I started with on Saturday mornings, Jenny D., is a wise guru trapped in a hot blonde, surfer girl body. Her class is very challenging, and she has the most amazing things to say about how yoga can help you live your life better. She says things like, "Yoga is about breathing into uncomfortable positions, both on and off the mat." "Everyone who can do X (a handstand, an arm balance, etc.) used to not be able to do it." and "The sign of an advanced yogi is that he/she can fall and get back up, all with a smile."

In yoga they talk about finding something they call the "intelligent edge." That's the place where you are just a teensy bit beyond comfortable, but not yet causing damage to yourself. In yoga and in life, the goal is to be present and aware, and then to attempt things with an eye on playing around with our limits.

Tight hamstrings? Tension in the shoulders? There are postures for these, and more, in yoga. You start where you are, and you push into your intelligent edge, a little bit each time. You don't have to "do" it the way your neighbor in class does, you just try. And it's amazing how all of that trying adds up. One day I absolutely SHOCKED myself when I tried to do a headstand, all the while thinking to myself, "there's just no way!". Lo and behold, that was the day that all of that trying accumulated into doing. My core muscles engaged, my feet FLEW up, and before I could say, "there's just no way!" one more time, I was flipping over! After which, of course, I smiled and tried again.

But the reason why I'm crazy about yoga is not what it's done for my body but rather what it has done for my mind and my ability to cope with my life's challenges. It's all the same: try it, find the place where it starts to feel challenging, and breathe into it. Watch what happens. Breathe some more.

Difficult relatives? Smile. Try. Breathe into it.

Defiant toddler? Breathe some more. Sit down on the floor at eye level. Try.

Torrential hail storm destroy the back window on your minivan? Stay present. Breathe. Try.

For every moment that you experience as not going your way, it's all the same: Keep breathing. Try. Forgive yourself. Smile. Try again. It is lighter than you think. It all passes.