Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Toddler timekeeping

There's a bit of a tendency to panic in the face of children's mindfulness.

Very often, I try to rush my two through an experience because I'm rendered quite rabbit-in-the-headlights bored and claustrophobic by sitting still in a moment. Breakfast. Dressing. Walking to the library. There will typically be no good reason to hasten the toddler-extended experience of these things, other than the anxious sensation in my gut that it's wrong to dawdle.

Why does it matter if we spend an hour eating a bowl of cereal? We're lucky enough to have few appointments that need keeping these days. I have much more to learn from their being engrossed than they do from my impatience.

Last Christmas, I really regretted rushing us through Advent. The world around us makes it difficult enough to wait for December 25th, but often we embrace its hurry. On December 1st, we're talking about presents and putting up trees and asking them if they're excited about Santa and simply wishing the month away.

Children can't cope with this rush and yet we determined adults force them to endure it. In my opinion, the older they get before they start to buy into it, the better. Let them live one chew, one minute and one day at a time. I suspect they'll enjoy Christmas Day a lot more if its promise hasn't whipped them up to fever pitch by the time it arrives. This year I'm going to try really hard not to speak to them in anticipation of Christmas until a couple of days before it hits.

I try not to talk with them about much beyond tomorrow. In my analysis, at three, they get confused by much mention of things much farther off. I hope to let them lead the way and let me know when their grasp of the future is getting stronger. We won't be able to fight it forever, I know.

One of the biggest disservices we can do ourselves is to constantly focus on tomorrow, to constantly worry about today's lack of productivity. I'm so thankful I have some toddlers in my life at the moment to show me a better way.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Best foot forward?

I have stumbled across a super book called Travelling Light. Increasingly, Catholics are providing my spiritual succour. Curve ball.

It provides a meditation or Breather for every day of the month, to use over and over again as the year passes.

Today's - Transform the Negative Cycle - tackled dealing with evil. Which we all do every single day. The world and most of its people either deny the presence of evil or, when hit by it, throw it back at someone else. (See Katie Hopkins.)

The aim of a faithful life is to learn to absorb the negative, swallowing its deadly impact into ourselves, so that it can be reborn. 

I love this. But it was the second point that struck me most: we can only do this 'swallowing' to the extent we are ready. If we take Christ as our example, we read that even he repeatedly avoided charged situations until he felt his 'time had come'.

We need to know ourselves well enough to see when to ingest the poison and when to refuse the cup offered by that deathly person, situation or place. Reconciliation and redemption may always be our best hope ..... but sometimes, we must wait for somebody else to usher them in.

I find this terrifically helpful when considering whether to step up with courage or wait and perhaps retreat. And that, I think, is the ever-present feature in my life's succession of choices!

How do I react when someone says something bitter, ignorant or hateful? Speak or let it go? How do I deal with the resurfacing of irritations with people I know? Address them or let them slide? Should I pursue challenging avenues of activity that may compromise my equilibrium, or let them pass? Am I called to remain with organisations or people whom I naturally oppose or walk away from them?

No doubt the road ahead will always be a mystery. But perhaps it is not too much to hope for that, with each milestone, I will be less of a stranger to myself and better able to choose between a rest and a few extra miles.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

You show me yours.....

My thoughts turn to confession.

Ha! No. Not here, I won't....

I decided to re-read Foucault's Will to Knowledge. He examines the link between power and confession, particularly where this relates to sexuality and its analysis.

The elicitation of confession is a way of gaining power for the listener, as much as empowering the confessor. (And let us not deceive ourselves by claiming the practice of extracting confessions has dwindled alongside the power of the Catholic church.)

In our own relationships, we often try to obtain truth or answers from someone else in a way that gives us power. Question after question fired at an acquaintance whose natural silence makes us edgy. Probing away at a personal crisis we find intriguing. Aggressively insisting someone explain a 'faulty' opinion.

We also run away from others' honest offerings when they are unsettling. Or we decide to tell the truth at moments that win us favour and control. Or we refuse to reveal ourselves in speech altogether as a method of self-protection.

Confession is a cultural practice reliant on speech, of course, in keeping with our Western, Protestant word-obsession. This places at a disadvantage people with less verbal power. Not just the shy but the child, the poorly educated, the foreigner, the uninitiated. Indeed, if we are not careful, we start to assume there is nothing really worth knowing about the severely disabled person, the non-English speaker, etc. Or that it is our right as the 'articulate' to instruct them.


We must be cautious about seeking or giving out personal information. Not just online or to marketeers but in our personal lives. Parents can seek too much honesty from children who need privacy and freedom. Churches can insist on certain kinds of self-revelation, definition and confession that are more about control than love. Friends can play games with others' confession by digging out, circulating, hiding or forcing personal stories down others' throats.

Perhaps there is only one relationship where we are right to aim for full spoken revelation of ourselves and that is marriage. Here, we try to be one not two. We are not in a relationship of power but one of equality. And any confession is accompanied by a lived intimacy that reveals much more of the 'truth' of who we are.

Elsewhere, as I've learned from Foucault, beware those asking you to confess!