A ten year tradition and a seven day challenge

Today we returned from our annual trip to Camp Merrie-Woode, a summer camp located near Cashiers, North Carolina where we spend a weekend with six other families.  Days are full of swimming, hiking, paddling, biking, fishing, and lolling on the dock.  Evenings we cook marvelous meals, drink wine, talk and laugh, and play games.

The camp is built around the shores of Fairfield Lake at the base of a beautiful mountain with a spectacular rock face.  As we drive into camp at twilight on Friday evening, we are immediately filled with a reverence for the natural beauty of the place and a sense of gratitude that we have the good fortune to return each year.

The tradition began ten years ago when all of our children were babies.  Every year there have been new adventures.  As the children get older, we revel in their independence, how well they all get along, and how they almost-magically occupy themselves with an ever-expanding range of activities.  This year was better than ever.

Highlights of the weekend for me:

1) No cross words with my kids; they were in great spirits and so was I.  Change the environment, and the dynamics change.  What can I learn from that?

2) I had a terrific time playing tennis with Dirk, and I’m motivated to make sure we play again — fun with the spouse!

3) Sitting on the dock after dark while Zoe and two pals jumped into the lake and swam and played in the moonlight — pure joy!

4) Feeling truly relaxed (or at least as close to it as I have been in recent memory) for significant chunks of time throughout the weekend — amazing!

5) The food!  : )

And out of this all grows the seven day challenge.

We spent three days in constant proximity to six other families, which creates an interesting opportunity to observe and learn about how other parents do their parenting thing.  Over the course of the weekend, I noticed that one of my friends never seemed to critique or analyze her kids.  It just wasn’t part of her parenting jargon.  While many of us kvetch about our children, disect their behaviors, and joke about what we perceive as their personality flaws, this mom seemed to consistently maintain an attitude of  peaceful and loving acceptance of her kids.  It really made an impression on me and made me realize how many negative things I say about my kids.  This is usually done in an attempt to make sense of their behaviors and/ or to commiserate with other parents.  Nevertheless, it sets a certain tone in my relationship with my children, a dynamic that is subtley adversarial and where I perceive myself as constantly beleaguered by their difficult behavior — and I’m afraid it has become all too reflexive.

So, I’m challenging myself not to say anything negative about Zoe and Alexander (and I’m using the term pretty broadly here — no analyzing, commentating on their behavior, making observations that in any way have an underlying critical twist) to anyone — not my friends, acquaintances, co-workers, or even my husband — for seven days.  I predict that this will be quite challenging for me!  I will report back a week from today to let you know how it went.

Can you think of any parenting challenges you would like to set for yourself?  Or have you done so in the past?  If so, how did it go?

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4 thoughts on “A ten year tradition and a seven day challenge

  1. I haven’t set any in quite a long time. But I like your challenge. I don’t dwell on the thought that I over analyze or criticize my kids, but I suspect I do, because I recently started hearing a tone from Jacob as he judges Michael that sounds an awful lot like me… he must be getting it from somewhere. I look forward to hearing how it’s going this week for you and I’ll do my part to try it too. Maybe I could expand that thought to my classroom. Is that possible? I think it could be.

    • There are several layers to this — the things we say directly TO our kids that we may not realize have a critical tone or sub-text (which they’re very good at reading!) and the things we say ABOUT them to our spouses, friends and colleagues. I think these behind-the-scenes comments could have a negative effect on our psyche that we don’t realize. Trying to curb them fits within the happiness concept, “Act the way you want to feel”. E.g. If you smile more, you feel happier. So maybe if I stop critiquing my kids so much, I will FEEL less critical — and happier and more content in my relationship with them! I think it could be helpful in interacting with your students, too!

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