A new dawn? (Don’t speak too soon!)

Well… as so often mentioned, I do have a large number of children, so the sooner I learn that total peace is probably something to accept as unlikely, the better… However, the one spanner in the works, the one real problem, is the bickering. The disharmony spreads through the house and suddenly everybody is disgruntled and sparking off one another.

We chatted about it over breakfast, my boys and I. I gave them an example:

One of them has misbehaved (no prizes for guessing the most likely) and I, tired from broken sleep, have allowed it to get to me. I’m in the kitchen feeling grumpy. Wilf walks in and gives me a big smile and I summon the energy to smile back. Already my spirits have been lifted. Then in comes Humph and asks if he can give me a hand. My heart begins to sing, so by the time Arthur comes in, I suggest we bake some cookies.

What a happy picture!

If, however, I’m in the kitchen feeling grumpy and Wilf walks in with a scowl and a tale to tell… well… It all goes downhill from there, doesn’t it? Oh, and it needn’t be me in the kitchen – that was just for the example – it could be any of us anywhere.

Their little faces slowly lit up with the dawning of some kind of realisation.

Little Wilf piped up:

“It’s like a mirror!”

I gave him a quizzical look.

“You know, if you smile into a mirror, you get a smile back. If you frown…”

We were all nodding by now. That is just what it’s like.

So we set ourselves a challenge for this week: we’re going to try to greet people with smiles instead of frowns, with offers of help instead of tales, with praise for achievements instead of tickings-off for ‘crimes’.

On top of that, they each have a personal challenge; a little thing that each of them has a tendency to do and which threatens the peace. Humphrey is going to try to stay out of other people’s business; Arthur is going to try not to be manic at bedtime, Wilf is going to try to do as he is asked the first time and Bertie…


Bertie is going to try to stop shouting.

This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned the shouting, nor the first time I’ve become concerned about the bickering. Striving for a peaceful life – within the realistic parameters of a family of five boys, anyhow – is what drove me to buy Sarah Napthali’s Buddhism for Mothers of Schoolchildren in the first place (and I plan to buy the previous publication: Buddhism for Mothers, too).

Now, I wouldn’t want to make the mistake of speaking too soon, and heaven knows it’s early days, but

I have just started reading a book entitled The Mindful Child by Susan Kaiser Greenland and I hadn’t got further than the first couple of pages before I had put the book down and ordered a stopwatch. The woman is inspired. Her ideas are so simple that anyone could do them, and it gives me great hope for a period of reigning peace in the not-too-distant future. Allow meย  to illustrate:

Yesterday afternoon, after school, three of my boys were in the sitting room. Two were playing and Bertie was, for want of a better description, being a nuisance. ๐Ÿ™‚ He was bored, but too small to join in and hadn’t the desire to find something to do. So I whisked him off upstairs to his bedroom. There we found a big, square cushion each and sat on them on the floor facing each other. We put a small, plastic frog on the floor between us and the stopwatch next to it. I gave Bertie the very simple instructions:

Put your hands on your tummy
Feel your tummy going up and down with your breathing
Keep looking at the frog as your tummy goes up and down
Press start on the stopwatch when you’re ready to begin

It is a form of meditation for small people. And of course I had wonderful romantic notions of how successful it would be, how we’d sit there for ages in peaceful, companionable silence. The reality was this:

[Very patient voice]: “Sit still, Bertie. Put your hands back on your tummy Bertie. Just keep looking at the frog, Bertie. Sit still Bertie. Look at the frog, Bertie. Hands on your tummy, Bertie… No, not talking, Bertie. Sit still, Bertie…” and so on.

I felt my frustration begin to rise. And then I had a minor epiphany: how was this any different from my listening to a guided meditation? My role, in this case, was not to meditate, but to facilitate Bertie’s attempt. So, actually, gentle and patient reminders to bring him back to the breath, back to the frog, back to his tummy, were actually just what was needed.

By the time we finished, we had done two whole minutes. Now, I know that doesn’t sound spectacular, but let me tell you this: We came downstairs afterwards and Bertie was (albeit temporarily) a different child. He wasn’t fidgeting or interrupting, he was calm and peaceful. For a while at least!

Today, when he gets back from playgroup, we’ll do it again. But the best bit is, now they all want to try!



6 responses to “A new dawn? (Don’t speak too soon!)

  • Morvah

    Lovely post Alice – Just a thought…. but does Bertie have a legitimate ‘shouting function’ in the family? I’m not sure exactly what I mean but some role where his shouting ‘facility’ could be usefully expressed? Sag is sporty so maybe linesman or ref?? I’m clutching at straws here Alice but it occurs to me that maybe throat chakra overdrive might need balance. Giggling at the picture of you two and plastic frog meditating… Hugs M x

    • erisian

      Oh, and I meant to say, I think you’re definitely onto something with the throat chakra theory – there is definitely a blockage there. He tends to get very ruddy-cheeked and Jem found an acupressure point behind his jawbone which, when pushed, saw the colour diffuse from his cheeks almost instantaneously. So… how to unblock a four-year old’s throat chakra – any ideas? x

  • Morvah

    For Sag read Jupiter – sorry

    • erisian

      Actually Morvah, I thought you were rather cleverly referring to his Pluto in Sag (Sag rising)! All very apt under the circs.

      We haven’t found him a niche yet, but I suppose a ship’s foghorn might work ๐Ÿ˜‰ He starts primary school in September (so very much too young in my humble opinion, but that’s a post for another day, perhaps) and I suspect that fitting in with lots of other small people and learning that it isn’t just home-life that carries guidelines and boundaries might help his understanding a little… (Can you see my fingers crossed from there?) But the meditation was totally amazing. Even just two minutes. So for now, I shall plug away at it…

      Much love to you. x

  • annie nijhius

    great blog its lovely to know my family are so normal!!!

    mirror is a fab analogy (always knew Wilf was wise) and one I have used myself, several times, because I know I’m expert at it, go shopping, checkout girl fed up and doesn;t even bother looking up, then I pack as slowly as possible and any fruit not placed carefully on the belt gets rejected by me, awkward me! As for the meditation I have a wee girly that practises very regularly together with yoga (all stuff that she has picked up from cbbies). It does get a little difficult space wise when they all four are having a go! If I knew more about it I would have ready pupils . As it is I just give encouraging words and leave books with good pictures lying around.

    as for Bertie you’ve just not found the volume control yet.
    love and light A

    • erisian

      Lovely Annie – good to see you here!

      Is that your lovely Flossie who is meditating and practising yoga? I’m most impressed! I am constantly amazed by how our little ones gravitate towards things, regardless of their parents sometimes! ๐Ÿ™‚ She’s a lucky girl to have an encouraging mummy.

      Bertie – any clues as to where I might find it?? ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Love and light to you and all yours, too, lovely lady. xxx

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