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Posts Tagged ‘related anecdote’

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.
Lao Tzu

I wake up at four in the morning to our one-year-old groaning and wailing next to me, half asleep and crawling around. I lay her back down, for the fifth time tonight, rub her belly and hope she falls asleep.

In my mind, I welcome the situation and let go of wanting to change it, wanting to control it, wanting her to sleep.

 

The baby is asleep already, but I’m still awake, thinking about work stuff. There’s a project that I was supposed to have finished already, and I haven’t. There are a thousand loose ends there for me to fix, but I can only work on them when the baby is napping, which comes up to a grand total of three hours a day.

In my mind, I welcome all my feelings and frustrations about the situation and let go of wanting to change it, wanting to figure it out, wanting to push the situation out of existence.

 

Welcome it and let go of wanting to change it. Again and again.

 

Still I lay awake, worrying about my thesis. I’m way behind on my original schedule, as well as on the augmented schedule made after the first two months of delays. The work project is eating up all my time, and the delays mean I have a bunch of additional paperwork to finish so I will be able to graduate in the first place.

Again, I breathe, welcome all my feelings and frustations and fears about the situation. And let go of wanting to change it, to turn back time, to fix my schedule and figure out how to make it work.

 

And then the baby wakes up again. She tosses and turns, kicking me and not settling down.

Again, I welcome my frustration, and my fear of being horrendously tired and unable to work the next day. And let go of wanting to change it.

 

Does it help?

Eventually we both fall asleep. Next morning, I am one step closer to letting my employer know that I really have to focus on my thesis and that I have to set a boundary to my work tasks. I am one step closer to working on the thesis, if even for a few minutes.

And even if the baby repeats the same dance for the next hundred nights, I am one step closer to the first time she sleeps through the night. Without having a nervous breakdown in the middle of the night, no less.

Thank you for stopping by. I will now attempt to get some sleep before the baby wakes up at four a.m. again. πŸ™‚

Love,

Sari

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Things do not change; we change.
Henry David Thoreau quotes

One of the reasons I’ve not been blogging as much recently is that I’ve been struggling to find topics. Or, more specifically, topics that fall under the heading of “life, learning and communication.” Of course, it can be argued that everything can be put under that heading – everything that I come up with will unavoidably relate to at least life, if not the other two.

I’ve also been thinking about the purpose of the blog. I love pondering communication, not least because I’m using pragmatics tools in my MA thesis. More than that, though, I am fascinated by learning.

Even more so as nowadays I stay at home with the eleven-month-old and get to witness the incredible rate of learning that takes place all the time. All. The. Time. At the moment, she’s learning to take her first steps unassisted, and she’s exploring language at the same time. I’m stunned every day by the sheer effort and determination that I get to observe.

This, in fact, is another reason I’ve been shying away from blogging. There’s a cornucopia of topics in our day-to-day life alone, but I’m reluctant to flood the blogosphere with stories of my child if I’m not a mommy blogger. It’s related to the feeling of not wanting to have every single Facebook update be about my child – and that turns into not posting anything, even if I find something interesting and would otherwise like to share it.

Who is it, again, that’s doing the insightings?

Ever since the baby’s arrival, I’ve been in a kind of limbo with my personality and identity. Before, I was a student, a singer, an active participant in student organisations, a freelance teacher, an employee, as well as a daughter, a sister, a friend and a wife.

Now, I am a mom. And a wife. And a student, and a few other things that I used to be. However, my social life has shifted radically from what it used to be. Before, my planner would be filled most evenings, starting at five p.m. and going on until nine, ten or the wee hours of the morning. Now, I have to be home by five thirty for the baby’s dinner and bedtime, and if I go out, it’s a rare occurrence that takes place about once a month. That’s change for y’all.

Another thing that has shifted are my priorities and interests. Ever wonder why new mothers can talk endlessly about how their babies feed, cry, poop and sleep? Those three things are pretty much the only ways to tell whether or not the baby is healthy, what with the limited means of communication at the baby’s disposal. After health issues, you get gear. Strollers, babywearing slings, diapers (cloth or disposable), clothes, bedding… You can fill up several hours of conversation with all things baby, which you have undoubtedly noticed if you’ve ever met a new parent.

When your world revolves around the newcomer 24/7, there’s little else that grabs your attention.

Our daughter was born about a week before the whole volcano incident in Iceland – you know, the one that wiped out most of the European flight traffic for a week? I had no idea that it was that significant. In my baby-filled world, it wasn’t, except for the fact that one of the baby’s godparents was stuck in Denmark at the time and managed to get a rental car ride back to Finland.

After being in that baby bubble for several months – you remain there if most of your social contacts are other new moms who are also at home and available for lunch during the day – it’s quite a task to regain your non-mom identity.

For the past few months, I’ve done quite a bit of searching on the topic of Who I Am. Who is this person when she is not singing Old McDonald Had A Farm seven times in a row? Who is she when she is not working at the freelance contract job? Who is she when she is not putting in the hours for her thesis?

One powerful part of my search has been The Sedona Method, where the central process is one of letting go. A key way of letting go is welcoming the situation as it is, then welcoming the emotions that relate to it, and then welcoming any sense that the situation is about you personally.

Right now, I can either keep struggling to find out what I’ve become, or I can welcome the sense of being This, whatever it may be, and then explore it from a place of acceptance.

This is what I am today

Which brings us back to the tagline. If I don’t resonate with it anymore, I can change it. There’s a lot to be said about life, learning and communication, but right now I am not the person to say it on this blog. Or say it from that perspective. I will probably deal with similar topics as I have in the past, but I want to put a new spin on them.

One of the things that I still am is a Shivanaut. My practice is not rock-solid or enviably advanced, but when I need Shiva Nata, I go for it. I want to teach it one day. I love how it makes me feel. I love the fact that I will never use it up, even if I started doing it every day for an hour. I resonate with it on a very deep level, and that makes me a Shivanaut, even if I don’t do it every morning anymore.

I am a mother. With all its ups and downs, motherhood is the biggest thing I’ve ever faced, even if I only measure it with the level of responsibility and involvement. I have not exactly been shouting it from the rooftops for the past year. On one level, it’s a weird way of penance for the fact that we were blessed with a baby when others have not been as fortunate. I almost feel guilty for what we’ve been given, even though I know that it’s not a zero sum game.

I’m still fascinated by learning, and especially the experiential learning approach where experience is followed by reflection and then analysis to yield theories about the phenomenon. It’s the key learning process behind the branch of drama education I’m studying, as well as a powerful tool for any form of self-development, whether learning a skill or trying to figure out a relationship.

I will do my very best to use this blog as a place of reflection and analysis, and hopefully offer some of you a lesson or two in the practical process of experiential learning as well.

Thank you ever so much for stopping by! If you like what you’re reading, why not subscribe? Whether you do or not, I’d love to hear any comments below – and as always, keep catching your own insightings!

Love,

Sari

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The obvious is that which is never seen until someone expresses it simply.
Kahlil Gibran

When I was a teenager, my deepest desire was to be Someone Special. In my journal, I’d rant and rave about how I was ordinary, average, mediocre, boring, and how I hoped something – anything – would happen so I’d be exceptional.

Today, I still feel I’m ordinary, average, mediocre and borderline boring, and I’m pretty content with that. On some level, I do realize I have skills and characteristics that are not average for my age group and social context, but I always relate them to the global context as individual traits – “it’s not like I’m the only student mom out there”.

This view of being ordinary and average sometimes cripples my blogging. I’ll come up with an idea, and then not blog about it because I’ll think it’s already painfully obvious for everyone else but me. By blogging about it as if it were a whole new concept, I’d effectively reveal my true, average, ordinary and boring self to all the world and Internet to point and laugh at.

Because, let’s face it, the one time I end up blurting out something embarrassing is when everyone decides to visit my blog and leave a *facepalm* in the comments, right?

The thing about the painfully obvious is that it’s not, well, universal. If it were, I doubt the world would have as many wars and conflicts going on as it does. Instead, it’s all in the viewpoint.

A tree standing in the middle of a field is only obvious to those standing at the edge of the field. If someone is standing in the woods and peering toward the field, they might see the tree or they might not. If someone is standing at the edge of the field with their back to the tree, they’ll most likely not see the tree. If there’s no-one to tell people to move away from the woods or turn around, the tree will remain hidden.

And this is where we get to the part of me being ordinary, average and boring. Sure, there are other student moms out there. Other nearly bilinguals. Other Shivanauts, other drama students, future teachers. It’s the combination of those that gives me a unique viewpoint into the things that I’m interested in.

It’s your unique combination of characteristics, skills and traits that gives you the viewpoint where something is painfully obvious to you but still needs voicing, just in case the rest of us are standing in the woods.

For me, this is intimately linked to the “be boring” instruction in Johstone’s theatrical improvisation. Trying to be creative and individual often means you come up with the same jokes, puns and situations countless others have already come up with.

That which is painfully obvious to you is actually the most unique and creative thing you could come up with, because no-one has your exact point of view on life. The shared aspects give us the common ground we need to understand each other, and the differences allow us to expand our individual points of view.

Help us all out of the woods and face the field, so to speak.

Thank you again for stopping by! Keep catching your own unique insightings, and if this post inspired you, I’d love it if you shared some of your thoughts!

Love,

Sari

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This…whatever-it-was…has now been joined by another…whatever-it-is… and they are now proceeding in company. Would you mind coming with me, Piglet, in case they turn out to be Hostile Animals?
Winnie the Pooh (A. A. Milne)

The above quote is from the Winnie the Pooh story where Pooh and Piglet follow the tracks of a potential Woozle – until they realize they’ve been following their own paw prints around a little group of trees.

That’s kind of how I feel whenever the holidays and the turn of the year come along. My mental image of a year is a circle quite like the face of a clock, with New Year up around 12 and the beginning of July on the bottom. (Unlike a clock, however, my year goes – and has always gone – counter-clockwise, so January ticks along from 12 to 11 and so on.) And the proverbial clock is about to strike twelve tonight, which makes me want to look up from the paw prints I’ve been following and figure out if I’m going in circles as well.

Not that going in circles is a bad thing, mind you. Or rather noticing you’re going in circles.

Just before I started writing this post, I did a bit of Shiva Nata for the first time in a while. I did Horizontal level 1 arms to warm up and then started with Level 4 arms. The number pattern is the same, but in level 4 you go from horizontal to vertical and back to horizontal with each step. So if Level 1 begins H1H1-H2H2-H3H3-H4H4, Level 4 begins H1H1-V2V2-H3H3-V4V4. And so on and so forth.

It’s the same circle, but on a different level. There’s an underlying pattern – the number sequence – that gives you a road map for going through the new part.

And that, to me, is the beauty of going in circles. The fact that you notice you’re going in circles is evidence to your pattern perception abilities. The geographical equivalent is the “there’s that wonky tree again, we must have passed it three times already – what’s wrong?”. In social situations, the wonky tree might be the nasty treatment you get from yet another lover, or the way every conversation with a family member always ends up with them blaming you for something you didn’t do. You’ve gone around in a circle, and it’s time to notice the wonky tree.

When you notice the pattern, you can do something about it. You can also observe whether it’s the exact same pattern or if there’s something new to it.

This New Year, as many times before, I’m trying to get my house organized and start with the Flylady system. The first step is to shine your sink, and the idea is to make it a habit and build from there. I must have started the habit ten times since finding Flylady in December 2006 (funnily enough, around the year clock’s strike of twelve again). It’s a pattern that many others have, too, judging by the magazine stand covers – Get fit, organized, out of debt and into your new swimsuit in just days! seems to be a good selling point in January, whatever the year.

The interesting thing was that I noticed a change in the pattern. Or rather, I noticed that something had indeed stuck with me from the previous X times of starting with the system. We routinely make the bed now, which was something that really really didn’t happen, say, five years ago when we first moved in together. I’ve also acquired a decluttering mindset, almost by accident. Giving stuff to charity when new stuff comes in is no longer a gruelling process, it’s a natural consequence of noticing how much happier I am when things actually fit in their closets and drawers.

Some cultures apparently think of time as not linear but spiral. That is, life flows in concentric circles like a staircase, and when you notice you’re back in the same spot in the horizontal axis, your vertical position has changed so you have a new perspective on the past – taking a look down the stairwell, if you will.

To me, the thought makes a lot of sense. In fact, I tend to think the spiral has an expanding quality as well, at least ideally. When you see the familiar wonky tree coming up, you might be able to avoid it beforehand. Whatever you learn, whatever you encounter, if you reflect back on it and observe the landscape, you have the opportunity to expand the circle and acquire more perspective.

That way, you won’t end up chasing yourself around a group of trees forever.

Thank you for stopping by, and may your year 2011 be plentiful in insightings and all that is wonderful!

Love,

Sari

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Skill and confidence are an unconquered army.
George Herbert

I’ve been battling with a lot of seemingly unrelated issues lately. On the one hand, there’s my deep-rooted procrastination about my MA thesis. My favorite means of procrastination has been hanging out on message boards, reading more than contributing. And then there’s my Shiva Nata in Finland project that’s been hovering at the edge of my active attention for a while now.

All of these issues share an element of being seen and watched. There’s the online presence I’m creating while participating in the message board culture, and a big part of that is noticing how others see me. I feel the need to contribute, either by asking questions or sharing knowledge, rather than just to agree with others using silly smileys. I need to feel Useful.

The Shiva Nata in Finland project is currently me trying to figure out a context in which I could teach Shiva Nata in Helsinki. To my knowledge, there aren’t that many Shivanauts in Finland. This means that I need to find enough people who are willing to give it a go and a venue to teach in – not to mention figure out a feasible mode of teaching. This would mean telling people that I’ve got this great thing and how would you like to be a part of it. Scary stuff.

The latest addition to this whole Vortex of the Terror of Being Seen came today, when I finally cracked open my thesis files again. My seminar paper is due in two weeks, and the next step towards that goal is to transcribe a section of my data – a videotape of me teaching a lesson.

“Dude. Seriously. Lame.”

The realization of the Vortex actually came a few days ago. I was trying to figure out why I suddenly felt the urge to purchase something that I don’t really need but that’s a Limited Edition Item that Everyone Is Bound to Want. I dug around the problem by journaling, and discovered a deep-rooted belief that I have:

“Unless I’m interesting or useful, I’m an embarrassing nuisance.”

Hmm. That’s interesting.

By having an interesting Limited Edition item, I myself would become interesting by association. With Shiva Nata, I would have to convince others that the practice is both interesting and useful, and so I would become interesting and useful by association.

The worst case scenario with either of these would be for me to show up and get greeted by evasive looks and an embarrassed “This was what you had for us? …Umm, it’s not even close to what we were hoping for. Maybe it’s best if you just go home.” My worst social nightmare is to be perceived as an embarrassing wannabe hangaround that no-one has the heart to get rid of.

Which brings us to an interesting point about my thesis procrastination.

My data, as I’ve already mentioned, consists mainly of a videotaped lesson where I navigate a group of teenagers through a drama process. The teenagers were new to the genre, and since teenagers are the undisputed kings and queens of the eye roll when they’re not one hundred per cent sure about a situation, there was much eye rolling to be had. It’s an understandable defense mechanism, and since the teenagers did participate and put in an effort, it didn’t damage the process too heavily. It was caught on tape, though.

And as I watch the tape, all of the embarrassed glances seem to be aimed straight at me, like daggers.

My brain knows that the thing I perceive as embarrassment is strictly, purely and only a characteristic of the participants who are feeling unsure of their footing. After all, there’s a new type of activity with a not-yet-familiar teacher, outsider spectators and video cameras. I mean, I’d be pretty insecure, too.

The part of me that holds on to the belief of me being first and foremost a nuisance, though, is going bonkers with this huge pile of evidence. “See? See?! I’m right! I’m one hundred per cent right and there’s a video to prove it! Ha! I knew it!” There’s a little goblin with a pitchfork tail running around, waving its hands, and bouncing around. Kind of hard to ignore.

A short recap. In order to work on my thesis, I have to transcribe 75 minutes of what is effectively a live enactment of my worst social nightmare.

Geez, wonder why I’m procrastinating? πŸ™‚

The dilemma of being seen

What’s difficult about this fear of being seen is its twin, the desperate need to be seen. Eye contact alone is hugely important in relationships. When raising children, the best thing you can do is give them your uninterrupted attention, complete with eye contact, several times a day.

When I was starting out as a kids’ group counselor as a teenager, our course leader advised us to seek eye contact during roll call. Whenever we’d say someone’s name and they’d answer, we were to really notice the answer and the person by maintaining eye contact for a few seconds before moving on. I’ve been on the receiving end of this policy and it makes a world of difference.

Being seen, being watched, is a vulnerable state, though. Maintaining eye contact can be a highΒ status marker, and high status is linked to power. When you’re being watched, someone is using power over you. That’s why it’s so difficult to go on stage thinking that there will be an audience. Waiting for an audience reaction is like standing against a wall blindfolded and trying to guess whether the guns shoot bullets or “Bang!” flags.

One useful solution to this problem is to put on a different role. Actors do this as a part of their profession, but other performing jobs do require some kind of role protection. There is the role protection of the uniform – a police officer in uniform is first and foremost a police officer, not Jake, except among his peers. The same goes for clergy members, store clerks, and other professions where you represent your position, not your personality.

Teachers don’t have uniforms, at least not in the Finnish educational system. The role protection must be an inch deeper, in the behavior of the teacher. I’ve been very happy with the way I’ve grafted my Teacher Me, a character who can maintain discipline and create a warm ambiance in the classroom, who is reliable and inspiring. And, most importantly, who deflects all kinds of status threats effortlessly.

The problem with the thesis data, however, is that it’s not my Teacher Me doing the transcription. It’s Student Me, and she’s completely unprotected from the eye-rolling power of the teenagers. She does not have the shield of experience on her side like Teacher Me has, and the “You’re a nuisance!” goblin has a clear shot whenever it pleases.

This is what I fear with the social circle around the Limited Edition and the Shiva Nata in Finland project. If they see me the wrong way, they’ll want nothing to do with me. If I just show up, plain old Me, no interesting gadgetry or sacrificial usefulness, they’ll see I’m an embarrassing nuisance.

AndΒ if I feel I’m seen the wrong way, I feel the need to quickly create a barrier against the Nuisance Goblin. When I do that, I lose contact with myself, and with that I lose any potential of creating actual human contacts.

I wish there was an elegant, sophisticated solution to this problem, other than Shiva Nata and journaling, followed by Shiva Nata and some more journaling. But at least now the Nuisance Goblin has been brought to my attention, and I can start negotiations so as to not have it running around in my head anymore. This has also been an exercise in letting myself be seen, warts and all.

Thank you for stopping by, and for lending your proverbial ear and eye. If any of this sparks any ideas, I’d love to hear them in the comments. Until next time – keep catching your own insightings!

Love,

Sari

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Every breath you take and every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take, I’ll be watching you

The Police: Every breath you take

Yesterday, I was driving to visit an acquaintance, and my daughter was sitting in her car seat in the back. We normally take public transit if it’s just the two of us, so she doesn’t have a lot of experience of being alone in the back seat. This time, however, circumstances favored us taking my mom’s car.

Normally, she really likes it in the car. It hums, the scenery changes, and most of the time there’s someone next to her, keeping her company. This time, though, she was alone in the back, and I don’t know if it was that or some other reason, but she was really unhappy and voiced it very loudly. Since I’m pretty averse to letting my child cry for lengthy periods of time, I pulled over and went to the back seat, tried to calm her down and gave her the pacifier. She settled down for a moment, and just as I was starting the car again, she began to whimper. I started singing a simple lullaby that we’ve been singing to her since she was a few weeks old, and that seemed to calm her down. I ended up singing the song over and over until we arrived at our destination.

Apparently the sound of my voice and the familiar song were strong enough messages to convince her that she was not alone and that I was close by, even when she couldn’t see me. As far as I understand, developmentally she is yet to realize that things exist even when you can’t see them.

“I’ll be right there!”

I’ve been thinking a lot about presence ever since I read an article on a study concerning babies’ stress when they are ignored. The babies in the study were six months old, and in the study, their mothers played with them normally, but “froze” for two minutes at a time every now and then, staying in the baby’s sightline but ignoring the baby and staring at the wall. The babies showed elevated stress hormone levels on the following day, when they were brought back to the research facility, even though there was no ignoring on the second day.

I found out about the study on an online message board, and there was (unsurprisingly) some discussion as to what the practical applications of this study are. Some people thought it more or less chains mothers and infants together and lays a guilt trip on anyone who dares to go to the bathroom with the door closed if their child is left alone for that time. Others saw it as a defense against “just let the baby cry it out, it’ll be all right” type of advice.

Personally, I do think that babies need their mothers close by. If a child voices a distress and it systematically gets no response, it will eventually stop voicing its distress because it’s just no use – no-one will answer anyway. However, a response may well be something along the lines of my car-ride lullaby. If my baby hears my voice, it knows I’m not far away. I haven’t disappeared from the world, even if I am currently invisible.

Furthermore, she knows she is not invisible – I can hear her, I can vocally respond to her cries, I can take eye contact when I get closer and I can pick her up when I see she’s in distress. My presence and interaction with her convince her that she exists.

The online presence

In many ways, the online world reflects this “someone please tell me I’m not invisible!” line of thinking. Establishing a presence online – whether in Facebook, on message boards, in the blogosphere, on Twitter – really requires time, effort and reciprocity. There are a few online contexts where I’ve managed to create a presence, and others where I’m really only a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it face in the crowd.

Creating that presence takes time. Reading (because most of the presence is in text form) what others have contributed, finding interesting tidbits to share, regularly coming back to see what others have added since your last visit. It takes effort. Figuring out your opinions (on more serious matters), grafting your message so it’s easy to read, wording your jokes, timing your responses so you stay on the pulse and don’t comment on ancient topics.

And it takes reciprocity. Commenting on what others have already said, taking it a bit further, reading the responses you get and possibly repeating the whole cycle again. It’s the online equivalent of the eye contact: “Yes, I can see you, there you are, you exist in this world.”

Degrees of presence

For our daughter, I’m probably the number one presence in her life. The head honcho, the one who hardly ever leaves her side. My husband is a close second. After that, there are the grandparents, the godparents, our friends, and so forth in descending order.

It’s interesting to see how the degrees of presence show in her behavior towards us. Since I’m nearly always there, my presence borders on boring. It’s safe, but it’s also something she doesn’t make a big deal about. The few exceptions are the times when she wakes up from her nap, and sees me coming in the room if I was somewhere else. The smile on her face says “Awesome, you were gone and now you’re here!” My husband, on the other hand, seems to get all the giggles. πŸ™‚ He is a safe presence, but not quite as predictable as I.

Then there are the interesting visitors, the ones who ring some kind of a bell but aren’t daily contacts, people like my mom and some of her godparents. There has to be a grace period of her reacquainting herself to these visitors from the safety of my or my husband’s lap, before she is secure enough to cuddle with them.

Online, the degrees or presence became evident on another message board, when there were several cases of sad news in a short while. Since the people in question were “big names”, it seemed that everyone knew what was going on in a heartbeat. Similarly, “big names” leaving or taking a break would be a huge deal in an online community – just because so many people are so used to their presence. It’s safe. You can count on their “it’s okay, honey, I’ll be right there”.

When a small-time presence disappears for any length of time, you hardly notice – until they return, or until someone points out they are gone. I’m fairly confident there were less than a handful of people who wondered why I’d been a lazy blogger, and most of those people were real-world friends. πŸ™‚

A shift of sorts

Since creating an online presence (and a real-life presence, too) takes time and effort, you can realistically have a limited number of really influential presences in different social communities. At the moment, my most influential presence is in the context of my family, but there are other, smaller ones in the background.

I’ve noticed I need the feeling of being a strong presence in social communities. Possibly for the “someone sees me, therefore I must exist” reason. This is probably why I’ve originally liked being a group leader or a teacher – there are more pairs of eyes to strengthen my existence. πŸ™‚ Being a quiet onlooker in the sidelines has not been a suit that fits.

Until now.

I don’t know if it’s the arrival of the baby or something else, but there has been a change in my relationship towards social situations, whether live or online ones. Before, I’ve felt like I need to open my mouth, to contribute, to be a presence in order to “buy” my foothold in the community. Contributing has been the currency of being seen.

Now, I feel like contributing has become the primary force. I want to contribute when someone needs help, thoughts, entertainment or ideas. Or when I have an idea that needs voicing. If someone sees it and benefits from it, wonderful. If they comment, even better. But I don’t feel like my contribution was a failure if it’s met with silence.

Furthermore, I enjoy just observing a situation without feeling the need to contribute. If something comes up, I’ll express it, but I don’t feel like I’ll be thrown out of the room (or off the Internets) simply because I just observe. I love going to a moms-and-babies meetup, sitting at the table, drinking a cup of coffee and just listening. And my worth as an online community member is not determined by my post count. πŸ™‚

As is appropriate, the writing of this blog post was interrupted a few times by the cooing of a napping baby who needed my presence. πŸ™‚

Thank you so much for popping by again! If any thoughts came up (and you feel the need to contribute πŸ˜‰ ), feel free to share in the comments! If not, it’s okay to just sip coffee and observe, and possibly catch your own insightings!

Love,

Sari

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All the world is a laboratory to the inquiring mind.
Martin H. Fischer

Being the mother of an infant is fascinating. Thanks to the Finnish parental allowance system, I have the opportunity to stay at home for the major part of her first year of life, and observe how she makes sense of the world. The rate at which she learns things is flabbergasting. And as a future educator (and a student working on my MA thesis) I can’t help but draw generalizations.

Case in point: the pacifier

For a few months now, our daughter has accepted the pacifier for what it was meant to do – soothe and pacify without the element of feeding. Now that she’s slowly getting the hang of using her hands, she’s started to grab her pacifier and investigate the mechanics of the object closer.

For those of you who haven’t handled a pacifier in a while, it’s not a complex object. There’s a rubber (or silicone, in our case) nipple, which is the part that goes into the mouth – traditionally speaking. On the other side, there’s a round button-like “handle” with a picture on it. And on the sides, there is a plastic flat edging in a kind of four-leaf clover shape, so the child won’t slurp in the entire pacifier. In other words, there are five different bumps on the pacifier in addition to the “part that goes in the mouth”.

Guess how many ways there are of putting a pacifier in one’s mouth? Or rather, guess how many ways our daughter has come up with?

See, the “handle” part of the pacifier, directly opposite to the nipple, is perfectly sized so that when her gums are itching from teething, she can gnaw on it. If we try to help (and I use the word in very broad terms) and turn the pacifier the “right” way around when she’s doing that, she’ll take it out and turn it back around. As in, “You guys, don’t come and tell me how I should be enjoying the pacifier!!”. πŸ™‚

That’s creativity for you.

As she was winding down for a nap just a few moments ago, she clearly started to practice putting the pacifier in her mouth the “right” way around. For a nap, she does prefer the pacifier the traditional way around. πŸ™‚ She kept taking the pacifier out, eyeing it very carefully, and then bringing it back to her mouth.

The wrong way around.

The right way around, but letting go too soon.

The right way around, but not grabbing it with her lips before it fell away.

Grabbing my hand as I took the pacifier handle and moving my hand as a crane to aim the pacifier in her mouth.

Over and over again.

My attempts to help went completely unappreciated. πŸ™‚ The circle of trying – failing – getting frustrated – trying again – failing – getting really frustrated kept repeating, until she totally lost her cool and started crying. At that point it was okay for me to give her the pacifier, hold her close and let her fall asleep.

It’ll be interesting to see how long it takes for her to be completely at ease with handling the pacifier and being able to grab it when it falls and put it back in two seconds. When she’s there, I doubt either of us will even remember the learning process. It will just feel like she’s always been able to do it.

But that’s not the case. Every single skill she has is the end result of a relentless process of experimenting, getting feedback (at the moment mainly physical), taking corrective action based on the feedback and experimenting again.

And again.

And again.

Why does it feel like it comes naturally, then? Well, for one reason, all she does all day, every day, is experiment. Every single encounter with the surrounding universe is an opportunity to experiment, get feedback, and adjust accordingly.

The other reason is that we, her parents, go through this exact same process all the time, too. We interact with the baby, get feedback (e.g. giggles = yes!, crying = I’m uncomfortable, and a multitude of other responses), and adjust our behavior accordingly. And we don’t remember the learning process, either.

This is also the reason why it’s pretty exhausting to be home with an infant – whenever she’s awake, we’re both learning, and that takes energy.

I’m so glad you could tune in again! I’d love it if you shared your own experiences or insightings on the topic!

Love,

Sari

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