Confessions & Confusions: Giving Us Space To Learn And Stay Healthy

On The Importance Of Listening ... And Taking A Break

By Melodie Cook
July 30, 2017
Families

We all need a moment to breath — so that we can learn and keep going.

Parenting is not a one-way street. If we listen, we can learn a lot from our children. However, parenting is also not an easy thing to do, especially for those of us who have children needing a lot of attention. This month, I’d like to share my thoughts on learning from our children and the importance of taking care of ourselves as parents, so that we don’t burn out!

Learning from our kids

My husband is a wonderful dad, but he tends to hold in a lot and then explode (I call this, “when gaman goes awry”). On one recent morning, my son was whining as usual (he wakes up whining about one thing or another and pretty much always has), especially when he went to open a cupboard to get a cup and a bunch of bowls fell out onto the floor. Of course, rather than picking them up himself, he blamed whomever it was for putting them into the cupboard “incorrectly.” I went and picked them up, although my husband was angrily insisting that Shinji should do it himself.

This was the most recent in the series of morning complaints, so my husband, finally fed up, stood up threateningly in front of Shinji and kicked off one slipper in frustration. Although I know my husband won’t lay a hand on the kids and never has, I instinctively jumped up between them to block. Then the war of words started. I tried to get them both to stop talking and calm down because no good was coming out of anything (Shinji, like many other people, can’t think straight before eating breakfast).

We ended up with my son in tears on the floor, refusing to eat breakfast, and my husband angrily grumbling to himself. I tried several times to intervene but was cut off each time. Finally, daughter Natsumi, having had enough, calmly told my husband that yes, Shinji was wrong, but that my husband’s overreaction was also unnecessary. To my surprise, my husband listened quietly as Natsumi gave her assessment of the behavior that went on. She continued: “Shinji is only in sixth grade, so cut him a break. Also, your way of getting angry is over-the-top and not working. You don’t have jump up and kick. You can get angry, but you can do it gently.”

I have been saying the same to my husband for a while now – he listens for a short time and then reverts back. But I think after hearing Natsumi’s perspective, and her calm delivery (a very good role model, if I ever saw one), he might think again. He is much a little boy himself and reacts to what he sees rather than trying to understand the motives behind it.

While I listened to her speak, I realized that she probably learned some really important lessons when she was living in her former institution. Surrounded by other kids and adults trying to deal with them, she must have experienced more child raising in action than most parents will in a lifetime and picked up multiple strategies from various caregivers for how to handle children.

Before she left for school that morning, I thanked her and told her that I had been trying to get the same message across, but it seemed to have more power coming from her. She impresses me more daily.

Taking care of ourselves

We all know that taking care of yourself is essential for dealing with stress — and parents are not an exception. I have a routine by which I make sure that I’m satisfied each day and can parent my kids with good humor. First, I go to the gym 3-4 times a week, which is great for both my physical and mental health. I also allow myself treats, even when I’m working. For example, on days when I have no classes, I take my pile of marking and my computer to Starbucks and spend a few hours working there. Yes, I’m still working, but it’s in a cool environment and I can reward my labors with frappuccinos.

Based on a quick poll with my other adoptive/foster parent friends what they do, here are several great ways to let some steam off if you need it.  

Exercise

Like me, another adoptive mother says that she couldn’t have done it without yoga practice. “I would have had many breakdowns without my yoga practice and community.” Another also runs and does team sports to burn off excess energy.

Bathe

Some parents said that regular trips to a hot spring or a public bath are great stress relievers. According to one, “Hydrotherapy works wonders!” Another mom agreed, saying that during the cold winter months, long hot baths were a great help to her.

Eat, drink and vent

“When I was at my wits’ end, a glass of wine (helped),” says one parent. Another said going out with a good friend for a cup of coffee and a vent helped her. A third confessed to having gained 2 kg in two months from sweets and cakes because the school adaptation process for her son was so difficult.

Go into your own head

Some parents had young children and were unable to get out much, but could find a room of their own on the inside. One said she spent a lot of time on social media to stay connected and also wore headphones in the house playing her favorite music while doing household chores.

Whoever they are, all parents need to take time for themselves to help get through sturm and drang of daily life. This is a way to give yourself — and your kids — some space to not only learn from each other but maintain healthy family bonds. Since I have a cold, there’s no gym for me today, but I will put on my headphones and sweat out some toxins through housework! Is it fun to dance around the house in an embarrassing way if no one is there to roll their eyes at you? You betcha!


Confessions & Confusions” is Melodie Cook’s regular column on adoption and fostering in Japan. Here, she answers questions from potential adoptive or foster parents, those who have already been through the system or any parents who just need to let off some steam. Got a question? Leave a comment or send us an email at editorial@gplusmedia.com.

Melodie Cook (originally from Canada), is an adoptive and foster mother currently living in Niigata, Japan. She is also a Professor at the University of Niigata Prefecture. After adopting her son in 2009, she started an online yahoo group “adoptioninjapan” in order to connect with other mixed-race families raising adopted children. She also has created a facebook page where adoptive and foster families can give and receive advice and support. Both groups are private, so please contact her to join: cookmelo@unii.ac.jp.

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