I watched a 4-part documentary called 10 Years with Hayao Miyazaki. It was based on the renowned japanese anime director (known for his movies like Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and My Neigbor Totoro). I’m not exactly a huge fan of anime, but his storytelling in his films and creative process captivated me.
I was struck by two things:
His par excellent devotion to the craft.
He was a lousy father.
His adult son works with him in Studio Ghibli. His son premiered one of his very own film. Midway through the show, Hayao is seen walking out of the cinema. Hayao speaks to the director of the documentary and says, “His show is too similar to my work… He shouldn’t make a film based on his emotions.” When the crowd comes out, someone walks to Hayao and says, “”(Your son) has made quite a philosophical film…” but Hayao walks away. Hayao then speaks to the documentarian, “You have to change the world with film… Otherwise, what’s the point?”
The painful part about Hayao’s assessment was that he might be right… and entirely disconnected from his role as a father.
1. An amateur sport. The moment you think you’ve turned pro, the rules change.
2. To experience little daily deaths. This grief process is one of letting go of expectations, “supposed tos,” assumptions of how kids and family life should be.
3. A bliss and a blister. It’s the greatest source of suffering. It’s also the greatest wellspring of joy. (So you can tell, I don’t buy the one-sided view that “parenting is such a bliss” idea, although I can appreciate some parents do truly feel this way!)
4. The intersection between the sacred and the secular. It’s a virtuous circle that constantly reminds you of the giddy reality of daily living, that some semblance of soulfulness is required.
5. Improvisation (originates from the Latin ‘improvisus’, meaning ‘not seen ahead of time’). Life is one big improvisation anyway, a 2 left-footed dance between plans rendered useless and surprises that behold gifts waiting to be opened.
6. A fermentation process of maturity. Not because we become wiser teachers to our children, but because we are hit with the stark realisation that we are called to become better students. Daily.
7. A mirroring of the gift of paradox that permeates through life. The parenting paradox is this: we aim create a strong emotional attachment with our kids, so that one day, they wouldn’t need us.
A Smorgasbord of Tips to Keep Your Kids Engaged, Learning and Connected During Home Isolation.
Note: This article is cross-posted on two of my blog sites,Frontiers of PsychotherapistDevelopment and Full Circles. While FPD aims to help therapists, and FC is more for a general audience, I figured professionals and parents might equally benefit from this.
Click on the buttons below to receive an entire list of ideas to engage your kids during this pandemic that has affected all across the world…plus more relevant resources to dig in a little further!
When we were having our first child, we decided that we are going to enlist the help of a Doula. “Do-what?” you might say. Here’s an explainer.
The way I saw it, she was like our personal coach and companion before, during and after the birthing process, a critical bridgecrossing phase.
What we learned about our doula Catherine was that not only did she have 4 kids, they were all homeschooled!
Maybe your reaction is like my wife and I. How is that humanly possible to home school a kid 24/7, let alone 4?!
I can imagine Catherine’s response to us neophytes at trying to homeschool our kids during this outbreak. Truth is, from what I’ve understood from Catherine and reading books on homeschooling (e.g., I highly recommend Brave Learner by Julie Bogart or check out this website), what the majority of us are doing is nowhere near what homeschooling really is about. It’s more like “isolated” schooling. The “home” in homeschooling is not confined to our place of residence. It’s much more expansive than outsiders might think (If you are interested, read more about Jonathan Holt’s views on homeschooling.
But this doesn’t mean that we should throw our hands up. What are going to do stuck at home with our kids during this pandemic? Maybe you might be confronted with feeling inadequate as a parent, but the truth is, parenting is less like a fixed classical music piece with musical sheets to follow, but more like a jazz improvisational jam; you never know what’s come next.
When I first read Jonathan Holt’s seminal book, How Children Learn, I remember one of the early advice in his writing was “to trust kids.” This could not be further from my educational experience growing up in Singapore. Schools told you what to learn. What Holt, and perhaps more Montessori-typed schools promote is to be child-directed.
But if you dig a little further, Maria Montessori said,
”Follow your child, but follow your child as his leader.”
There is no other more important thing for parent(s) to take the lead than during a critical crisis period that has swept the world. We have to “follow your child” and their curiosity, but also dance in this fragile balance of exercising leadership.
I argue that the leadership we need as parents is to design our home environments that nurtures not only the mind, but also feed the soul with how they experience humanity and the world around us. (While we try to juggle working from home and caring for others, be it elderly parents and young ones).
The last few weeks, my family and I, like many others around the world, have been in home isolation. My wife and younger child developed symptoms of fever and cough, and the only prudent thing to do was to self-isolate for the next few weeks. We don’t know if it’s COVID-19, as they do not meet the criteria for testing, but speaking to our GP on a telehealth consult was reassuring.
Like it or not, we are all homeschoolers now. As a recent articlestates, this pandemic “will bring about an education reevaluation, if not revolution” of how our education system.
Majority of the ideas in this list to keep your kids engaged, learning and connected during these home-bound times were “guinea pigged” in our family of four, with our 6 and 3-year-olds. Some were figured out along the way, and many were grafted from resources I’ve picked up across the years (see below for some of the good ones), and others were employed through the years in my work with families as a therapist.
If you would like to have a buffet of ideas to engage your kids, moving beyond just “isolated” schooling and borrow some of the richness of homeschooling during this period of home isolation, click on the link below to get yourFREE guide.
Do you have other tips for home schooling? Love to hear your ideas. Share them in the comments below.
“The lesson here is that there is no fix. There is, however, forgiveness. To forgive yourselves and others constantly is necessary. Not only is everyone screwed up, but everyone screws up.”
~Annie Lamott, Almost Everything: Notes on Hope.
My spiritual director the late Fr Claude Barreteau, MEP once told me a story about a man who repeatedly climbed a hill every week to arrive a small chapel where he made his confession to a priest. He felt bad that he had been doing so for such a long time, and seemed to make the same mistake. On the exterior, it looks like this person hasn’t learned.
But I suspect Fr Claude’s story speaks to the business of forgiveness, which is a daily affair.
Today, out of sheer frustration, I yelled at my daughter. She burst into tears. She was inconsolable. Maybe Mom would come and sooth her. I was rendered helpless. I chastised her for being rude in the first place. She cries even louder. Mom’s not coming.
Then, in exasperation and lack of ingenuity, I realised I scared her. I sat down on the floor and I said, “I’m sorry. I messed up. My loud voice must have scared you. I’m gonna try better again the next time…”
She stopped crying. She looked at me. I brought her close. Meanwhile, in my mind, I was resisting even ounce of my being to correct her faults. There’s another time for that.
For now, “will you forgive me” is enough.
We need to climb up that hill and come to our senses that “everyone is screwed up… and everyone screws up,” and come back down again.
I woke up this morning with these words ringing in my ear, “teach me.”
Maybe it was because our almost 3 month old daughter was screaming for her feed at 4 in the morning.
But it struck me that as parent, we ruminate about how we are going to raise our children, and what we’re going to teach them.
What if we turn things around?
What if we see our kids as our teachers, not our students?
What if we see events as doors for learning, and not just a stimulus as we mindlessly react?
When something goes wrong, our default reaction is, “what’s wrong with me?”
Instead, we can turn things around and ask ourselves, “what can I learn from this?”
A Redemptorist priest I know used to share an antidote about Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist who survived the brutality of the concentration camp in Auschwitz. Dr. Frankl noted, “It’s not so much about what you ask out of life, but what life asks out of you.
At this moment, what does life asks out of you?
I know that I’ve got to learn strip things down. Why? I need to be a better husband, father, and a son.