Sunday, June 12, 2011

What creates resilience? What does giving bring?

To all the lovely people who responded to my last post, and even emailed me with incredible support and advice—thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, the tips of my toes, the length and breadth of me. I am so grateful.

One of the things you've all said is:

Loving your child and helping them feel supported and safe is what helps banish the fear.

This is what creates resilience.

This is something I agree with and feel so deeply I want to shout it from the rooftops! Every time someone uses the word 'resilience' to justify leaving kids to their fears, I want to shout. Every time someone uses it as a reason for kids to go to school, I want to shout. Every time people used that word at our old school as a reason for my girl to stay, I wanted to shout.

My throat is sore from holding the Shout in.

I've sat with women who have talked of their child having complaints and fears about school, and saying their kids needed stop complaining, that they needed to tough it out—specifically to teach them resilience. But I've done a lot of reading, and the psychologists and experts talking about resilience aren't talking about kids going it alone, toughing it out, sucking it up. They say, instead, that supportive, nurturing relationships with teachers and other adults are what help children feel safe. That it's safety kids need to feel, to become resilient. Not feeling alone and abandoned.

People asked me when I pulled my girl out of school: But how will she learn resilience?

Well, quite simply: From helping her to know she is not alone.

That she won't be abandoned. That I am there for her. That she is heard. That she matters. That she is so important to me I am prepared to do all sorts of bold, riding in on a white steed, sword-waving, cape flying things to keep her steady and keep her safe.

How does this translate to our Sleep Issues, and Facing the Worry Monsters?

Well, this is what I was struggling with yesterday. I have given so much, reassured and loved so often and consistently. How much more do I give? How much more do I do…?

She has been sleeping in our bed now for 6 months, every night. She asks every night, When are you coming to bed? If I say now, she is thrilled. If I say soon, she stays awake until we're there. If I say, It might be a while (because I have a movie date with my husband, or simply want to sit with myself and Be), she cries and paces the floor upstairs. Keeping her brother awake until he comes down in tears and says, Please make her stop.

If I go to bed and go to sleep with her, she does, eventually go to sleep. But these days, it's not quickly, or easily. Right now, it takes time, and patience, and talking, and giving. A lot of giving.

The giving that is needed now has a bunch of parts.

We will get into a bedtime routine that is steady, and filled with cuddles and lying down with her, and relaxation exercises. I plan to find a kid version of the herbal remedy I take for sleep, lots of lovely things like Valerian, Magnesium, other sleep-easy herbs that float through your system with no side effects. I've been given a podcast link by a friend to help with relaxation. (And other great night-listening suggestions from blog friends too). We'll start some meditation, and we'll talk and cuddle, the way we have been, but more.

More. More giving, which in turn brings so much good, so many smiles. So much love and security.

But I have to let go of some things. Some of my own worries and wants, so that I can give without reservation, fear, or resentment.

Like that feeling of, "My girl should be sleeping by herself now; she's almost 9."

And, "If I give more, she may always need more. Am I feeding the fear, not banishing it?"

And, "If I go to bed, to sleep, every night with my child, what about my time? My time to write. My time to hang out with my husband. Our time to talk, watch movies, decompress from the day. What about us, and something outside being parents? What about me?"

Yesterday, around 4pm, I felt all Gived out.

I went to bed. I slept, with some breaks, for 13 hours. THIRTEEN HOURS. I think I was a little weary. And a lot full.

This morning, with the clarity that comes from rest, all the jumbled thoughts began to

sort themselves into order. I began to see the Good and the Way Through.

Like how last night, I woke long enough to bring my girl to bed, and hold her cold hands between mine.

She said, "I'm finding it hard to breathe." She said she felt afraid.

So, I talked about fight or flight response. I talked about what she was feeling, that she was like a bunny sensing danger. I talked about adrenalin. And muscles tightening. She said, I didn't know that! She held on to every word.

She became the bunny (at which point she giggled), and we relaxed her little bunny body, from her feet, ankles, legs, knees, upper legs, hips, on up. Slowly, softly, she loosened what was being held tight. With lots of deep breathing, she relaxed, until she was curled up in her bunny burrow, with her brothers and sisters and her mum bunny nose-to-nose, all close by.

She liked that story very much. She still took a long time to sleep, but I held her close and she knew, with every bit of her bunny self, that she was safe and she was loved.

This morning she came downstairs with a sweet, big smile. She had slept for 10 hours. She was rested and she was happy. The beginning of the beginning. The start of something New.

It was a good, fine moment!

This morning I thought: I could do this again, and every night, until the fear loosens. Until this passes.

I could go to bed early, then wake early, in order to write and have time for myself.

I could find time in the day, on the weekend, to be with my husband. We could have movie afternoons, while Nana or friends hang with our kids.

I am sure there will be nights in the future we can curl up on the couch. It will come.

This morning (and yesterday too, a little, through the fog)

I started to see how Giving, giving wholly and purely, comes from


If you let go of the shoulds and wants (especially the ones that block the giving that is needed),

and accept what is needed in the moment,

accept what Is, in the moment,

truly, absolutely, give in and accept and embrace what IS,

then the giving is easy.

The giving flows.

It doesn't feel hard at all. It actually feels a lot like freedom, and a lot like flying.

And a whole lot like joy.


And because the last few blog posts have been all about my boy, here is what my girl, who had hardly slept the night before,

got up to yesterday:

created a kitten collection

made egg carton cats

made playdough

and planned and helped make a playdough stop-motion animation with her brother.

So I think,

in fact I know,

that if this much joy and love and creativity can come, even after a hard night,

we're going to be all right.



  1. If you and your family lived...right down the street, my girl and your girl could have a slumber party and giggle and play so much they would both fall asleep exhausted. :)

    I love the way things work out..and they will. Look at your girl, beautiful and smiling and full of joy. I love her cats!! Kei has gotten so many great ideas from her. Tell her Kei said THANK YOU!

    Check out this post I think that your kids would love it! I know Kei and I bookmarked it today. In fact this whole site you will love.

    Lovely post...and we should all live "in the moment".

  2. You are such a great mom!

    I can never come up with those great things like: pretend you have a bunny body.

    But I can feel your pain. My girls both had extreme cases of nerves and anxiety in school. part of me blames the system. part of me worries that my girls get it from me - I struggle with anxiety. I wonder if I am doing the right things to get them past it. I just want to hold and love them til it all goes away.

    My girls want to sleep in the same room and I suspect it has something to do with something similar to your girl. They feel more comfortable and less alone when they are together, they feel stronger and happier and more loved and less scared.

    I just love your words and the way you write.

  3. This was so beautiful Helena. The amazing things our children teach us as they grow through their own experiences and challenges... I am so glad both of you have had some real rest. I will be thinking of you every night as I lay with my own daughter. We'll say an extra "go away monster" prayer for you both. Many many hugs...

  4. Ah Helena, your words rang true with me. My Gracie is like this. I am not sure when bedtime went from our favorite part of the day (not because she was leaving me for the night) but because we read books on the rocking chair in her bedroom, had her last bottle of the night, snuggled and kissed night night. I am not sure when that changed....somewhere around second grade which was a very stressful year for her. There are times when I literally do not have anything left to give but we find a way to recharge our internal battery and we like the Energizer Bunny we keep going and going and going.
    Your honest words are a blessing to me to know that we are not alone in this struggle against the fear and anxiety that nighttime can bring.

  5. How beautifully written. And what a beautiful person you must be: I imagined being a little scared girl and how peaceful and loving and reassuring it would be going to sleep knowing that my mum loves me this much. It really does put in the right perspective all those tough bedtimes and middle of the night calls :)

  6. hugs to you lovely lady <3

    My boy who is 8 sleeps in my bed almost every night as well, he will stop when he is ready, in the mean time there is no harm is sleeping in the arms that love you.


  7. Thank you for sharing your story of angst and attempts to create calm where it isn't. It rings true in our home, too, though it's much better when I decide to just accept, and ride with it.

    We also have unconventional bedtime routines (they won't sleep unless I am lying with them--and singing--in my bed). My anxious 7 yr old has worry dolls under her pillow and a poster of two gorgeous horses hanging over her pillow that she pats before she goes to bed.

    I wanted to include this link to a blog post about resilience. I don't know the writer and it's not a blog I follow. But I like how practical it is and it just makes sense.

    Wishing you and your girl cuddles and sweet dreams!

  8. I have about 5,000 egg cartons that I'm just waiting to do something with....


I love hearing from you! Thank you for your heartfelt, thoughtful responses—they lift me, and give me light.