Love, presence and food are words that enter my mind when I think about important factors in raising my five year old son, Canyon.
Love. I have learned in my adulthood, the more love I receive, the easier it is to receive and give back and beyond. And that gift of being loved, and being able to love, will put anyone in the place of or on the path to personal freedom, or personal truth. I often find myself singing the Beatles tune, “All you need is love…bahm, bahm, budda-ba,” and I get it. Love is the important gift we give our children (and every person in every relationship we have).
Presence. Talking to and treating Canyon like a friend helps me stay present to him. I think about creative things that I would do in my free time, like paint, cook, plant the garden, or build things with hammers and power tools, and I include my son. I joke around with him, foolishly sing and dance in front of him, and ask his advice on what ingredients to add to a meal we’re creating. Most importantly, I respect him. I do my best to stay present to his emotions and treat him the way I want to be treated. When I mess up, I am quick to apologize and explain where I was at that moment and why I was wrong. At five, he already has impressive communication skills (his life partner will thank me for that!). When negative emotions take over his being, he gets quiet time in a comfy space for yelling, his favorite toy of the week taken away for a day or more (depending on the severity of this crime), or the most devastating to him- a day without friends his own age, if he does one of those things that makes me say, “Who are you and what have you done with my son?” If it’s one of those days, we work together on not-so-fun projects, like pulling weeds or cleaning out and organizing his desk, and we use that time to discuss life (and I try to make the work fun so he has a healthy relationship to his future chores). I recently figured out that I can stop a tantrum or extreme frustration. When I recognize that something is stirring, I get on my knees, look in his eyes, and state kindly, but firmly, “Okay, this is the point where you make the choice to have a good moment or a bad moment,” and then I follow with an example of what each choice will look like, and what each choice will bring to him and the people around him.
Food. This is the topic I get in trouble for because of my passion for and understanding of it. I’ve learned to curb my passion to want to educate every person I talk to. Now I understand not everyone wants to hear it, wants to change, or agrees with what I am saying. To me, the concept is simple. Eat food that grows in the earth that is not treated with chemicals. I have so much to say about this from a health and environmental point, that I can probably write a book about it, so I’ll keep it at that simple statement. My family eats, almost always, organic and gluten free. However, for us, if we don’t bend, we break, so if we are dining out or at someone’s house, we gladly enjoy what is served to us.
To have creative solutions to problems or potential problems, and to love and be loved and to respect and be respected, are the ingredients my family uses to create our happy environment. I never forget to look at myself to examine what part I play in an uncomfortable situation and I ask the same of the people I surround myself with. When I am content and free, I am a better mother, wife, and friend. I model that to my family, and they do the same for me.
Stacey Gates, The Tot’s Cafe’s Spotlight Mom