I wonder how many times I have been stopped in my tracks by limited thinking. It becomes more apparent when I think of when I have overcome it and seen the result. A good example of what can be achieved was provided by Cai this Christmas. When asked what he wanted from Santa the response was instant, “I want a flying broom”. Sometimes, I will immediately shut him down especially when I do not believe that what he wants is possible. Thankfully, I did not do it this time. The question is, how does someone find a flying broom for a six year old?
Kim put out a call for help on Facebook, all she got was facetious responses – fancy that! I struggled to think of something and the muse was elusive. The germ of an idea came from Cai’s cousin William who provided a solution that was embraced and developed. As is often the case this solution came form the least expected source; being open to suggestion was key, as was treating this as a team activity. Before we knew it the materials had been collected and put together – I will confess we were impressed. On Christmas day Cai woke up excited, my highlight of the day though was when he saw one particular package. Tearing it open a huge smile lit his face; he had a flying broom.
Here is Santa’s note that accompanied it as a reminder that there is still magic in the world.
A Christmas Gift:
The broom of Maximillian Remus-Crown,
To earth by a hex was brought down.
Into the hands of Wizard Cai it finds its way,
On this auspicious, sunny Christmas day.
To raise it back into the sky,
Seven years of Cai’s life must go by;
During this time he must find the spell,
Then as transport it will serve him well.
Bon chance, good luck, lwcus dda.
I will be watching you carefully from afar.
I look forward to meeting you in the air,
Until then I hope that well you fare.
From a friendly wizard who cannot yet be named
How do you make the impossible possible?
Cai and I went climbing last Friday. What interests me is that he did not really want to go; I had to work hard to encourage him. This sometimes happens, the thing is that once we find ourselves outside he loves it. Watching him move over the rock on a beautiful, sunny fall day in one of my favorite places in Colorado was pure bliss. The smile that covered his face was one of a person fully engaged in the moment and loving it. Watching my boy enjoying doing things that are special to me in places that are special to me ranks as one of the best feelings I know. Learning the tools to make them happen is therefore important.
The first thing I have to come to terms with as I learn my ways of motivating Cai is that he is often a mirror of my actions. I am known to sabotage my enjoyment because I think something else is more important. How can I expect my son to be any different from the example that he sees? So yet again it seems that teaching starts with empathy and compassion and then requires a healthy dose of making the changes I want to see in my students in myself first. I also fall foul of not allowing myself to see the pleasure that is available in the situation at hand, I almost imprison myself in a preconceived mindset. That day as I watched Cai embrace the rock and sunshine, as he allowed himself to ignore the emotions he predicted he was going to experience I realized it was he who was doing the teaching.
So I now have a big note to self. I am going to make sure that we get outside more often. The more we allow ourselves to find the fun and beauty in a moment, the more we are going to find that same fun and beauty in every situation and this is a lesson I want both of us to live.
That evening following an afternoon of climbing and watching trout swim in the shadows of the creek I had a familiar feeling; one I do not allow myself to feel enough these days. It is a warmth and satisfaction that comes from having an optimal experience; the same concept as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls Flow. It comes from being brave enough to surrender completely to the moment. It is most easily found when doing something one is passionate about and yet it can be found in the most mundane occasions if we allow ourselves to be truly present. The topping on Cai’s and my cake was that we both slept the sleep of warriors, content and spent. Finding our brave may be one of the most beneficial things we can do. How do you find yours?
It has been a long time since I last wrote here and a lot has happened, the most significant being the death of my father. Now I feel the need to state up front that I did not really know him that well. He was born into an Edwardian English paradigm, one where fathers distanced themselves from their progeny. Fathers worked and children were seen and not heard; think George Banks in early scenes of Mary Poppins. The last few months have consequently involved lots of soul searching and the potential for a great deal of sadness and regret; I am though feeling far more positive as this chapter in my life ends. Through talking with people about him and revisiting memories that have long been hidden beneath more current thought, I have come to a better understanding of why we did not get to know each other. More importantly, for the first time in decades I have found a way to forgive him and this forgiveness spawns learning that I am very glad to engage.
When I think of my teens and twenties, I recognize that I was driven. This drive led to some of my most memorable moments; so much so it provided a lot of the stories from which I still teach. The drive came from a desire to fill a void. I was looking for my tribe. I was searching for adventure, excitement and a feeling of knowing what I was truly capable of. It drew me into the company of a bunch of lost boys, a number of surrogate parents and some of the most incredible people I have had the privilege to call friends. It also took me to many exquisitely beautiful places, allowed me to truly test my metal and gave me the opportunity to bear witness to some of the most incredible scenes of bravery and human spirit. The life of climbing and mountains has been a corner stone in my existence and will be a part of me I will always hold dear.
Why am I telling you this? Well my thoughts have been straying of late. I found my niche because of something that was lacking in my life and ultimately I cannot help but ask the question, “do I need to deprive my child to allow him to find himself?” Just yesterday Cai asked me, “why do you always tell me that you love me?” He is ‘taxingly’ insightful for a six year old. Ultimately, I know my father loved me, as I told Cai though, he just never informed me of this fact and did not know how to show it. What I have come to realize is that talent and accomplishment are not a reflection of a healthy or unhealthy home life. This gives me hope because I know that as I watch Cai’s talents and personality develop he will find himself with or without me.
(At this point I encourage you to look at some video of the sons of two friends of mine both of whom have doting fathers. http://www.myspace.com/samaireymusic is a myspace of an amazing talent in folk music and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZfro78oYRk is a showreel of incredible Parkour.)
The take home point for me is it is ok to show that I value Cai, it is alright to tell him I love him and take interest in what he does, it is important for me that he knows he belongs and feels I care. The hard part will be in watching and hearing the crazy and dangerous stuff that allows him to learn who he truly is.
If the foundation of any relationship is showing people that you care, how do you do it?
Yesterday I went climbing with Cai; it was a wonderful time of movement, sunshine and bonding. It was particularly great to watch him work things out; be it figuring how to move over the rock or tie knots and create a simple anchor. I also gained a huge buzz from his desire to lead, especially as he is smart enough to know when it is safe and when he prefers me to give him a rope from above. It was interesting in that he actually was a little scared a couple of times and had to overcome this. As he ages this seems to be a more frequent occurence.
Now something I consider when I am teaching is that I believe it to be only fair that if I expect something of my students, I need to give the same of myself. It is one of the reasons I particularly enjoy teaching in areas that are new to me; it stretches me and keeps me on my toes – something I want the people in my care to experience as well.
Yesterday, for a second I pondered what I was doing to overcome fear that might match Cai’s, then it slapped me in the face like a sledgehammer. As I moved over easy rock 50 feet above him; something I do regularly when instructing I was hit with an overwhelming desire not to fall. My need to protect my son took me to a place emotionally that I never visit with students. Climbing easy ground is something I am so practiced at that it does not give me cause to think and yet yesterday, with the stakes being so big (in my own mind); I had to talk myself through what I was doing.
The great thing about this is that when I asked Cai about the fears he felt and what it felt like after he had accomplished a climb and dealt with these feelings, then I came from a place of empathy. Last night we both slept the sleep of warriors – in fact Kim said she was woken at 5.00 am by Cai giggling in his sleep. Sharing something so vital with Cai helps me to feel alive. What fears do you find worth dealing with? How does it make you feel.
I am contemplating renaming this blog “walks with a 5 year old” as walking Cai into school is giving me a lot of fodder for thought. The other morning he wanted to talk about “how to train your dragon.”
If you have been reading these posts regularly then you might have surmised that we do not allow our little boy much screen time; our reasoning being that we are hoping he nurtures a vivid imagination; one where he has to create his own images rather than adopt the ones presented on tv, in movies or on computer games / websites. The hardest part of this for him is that he often does not know what his friends are talking about. So picture this poor, deprived boy who has seen a movie before a number of his friends. Basically he is like the proverbial pig in poo and he is intent on acting out the role of “Hiccup the viking” and his dragon at any possible moment. Thankfully, since seeing the movie, we have also read the book which has a very different plot to the movie. (No guesses as to which I prefer.)
So as I said, we were engaging in the morning ritual of walking and talking into school and Cai wanted to tell me about how the story is true. Now I certainly did not wish to disillusion or argue with him, but the thought of vikings with Scottish accents living in a world of cliffy, sea stacks that make St. Kilda look like a tropical beach causes me shiver. I started to ask him which story (the movie or the book) were true. We then looked at how the story of Hiccup and how being kind to Toothless the dragon was similar to a lot of other stories. The “truth” of the story being that an animal that was known for being selfish and feisty became friendly and selfless after being treated with unconditional love. This “truth” is the same as stories that we might find in the Bible or the teachings of Buddha, it is the basis of many novels and a lot of myths. Cai; who used to go to Dharma school when we lived in Anchorage, then proceeded to tell me the story of Prince Siddhartha and how he became the Buddha. He also informed me that it did not matter if the events had happened or not because the story was true. This has got me thinking a lot about what is the truth in the stories I tell.
When you distill it down, what is the truth in your favorite story?