For this month's newsletter, I asked 3 fathers to share a bit about their experience of fatherhood and here is what Michael, Karmendra and Chris shared.
Kevin Karmendra Rossy~Father of one sweet pea.
Tell me a little about your family.....
My wife Jayantii, and I are a unique and simple couple that I feel try to embody the saying “act locally, think globally.” Jayantii is Irish, I am Texan, and we met and got married in Denmark 10 years ago. We share a passion for healthy living close to the Earth, and in community, and moved to Sonoma County, California in 2008 to follow our passions and education. After almost 9 years together we decided to have a baby, and on Earth day 2014, Atira Willow Lawless Rossy emerged out of the birth tub like a giant 10 ½ lb. watermelon, go mama! Now after 2 years we cant seem to remember what we did with our time before her. She is very patient with us, and though she is relatively “easy” child (as if there is such a thing) the sleeplessness nights and push of daily life is a constant Endeavor. I think one of my biggest learnings is that to raise a child, the best path for the child is usually not the easiest for the parents, but sometimes the “easy” route is ok, and to let ourselves off the hook. I have so much more appreciation for parents, and am amazed when I see a pops carrying two kids on a bike through town, or a mama putting an uptight tired kid in the car. I find myself giving internal high-fives to them, and understanding that they are winging it just as we are. Atira is an amazing child, and we are blessed to learn from her in so many ways. For her to be her best, I must set the example, no other teacher or person has really made me look at my patterns as much as her.
What are some of the qualities that you have embodied that support your art of fathering?
I tend to have a lot of patience, and good energy levels most of the time.
I stay connected to my center... through meditation and yoga practice. It doesn’t always happen as regularly or as long as id like, but it gives me something to fall back on and helps keep me in the present, one step at a time. Some good time in nature always helps too.
I fill up my own cup ...by cat naps
One of my favorite family traditions is... taking a silent breath before meals, sounds cheesy but nothing makes me happier than to see my daughter close her eyes intentionally and take a breath.
Everyone turns to dad when... mama is too tired, the compost and trash need to be taken out, dinner needs to be made, and the bills need to be paid.
Michael Ingram (my sweetheart)~Father of one 5 year old boy, and a foster parent to a 10 month old girl.
Describe your family...I would say that our family is active and always having fun. We love to be outdoors and learn through our adventures. We care deeply for each other and offer care to others and to nature. we make an awesome team and try to save the world with our work.
What are some of the qualities that you have embodied that support your art of fathering?...patience, kindness, curiosity, athleticism (our boy is very energized), a playful nature and imaginative.
I stay connected to my center... by listening to my heart and following it's guidance.
I fill up my own cup ... with physical activity like surfing, running and biking. It also fills my cup to share and experience the world through my son's eyes.
One of my favorite family traditions is... riding bikes early Saturday mornings for coffee and camping on Father's Day with good friends.
Everyone turns to dad when...something needs fixing, ideas need to be made/built and spiders need relocation.
Chris McMichael~ Father of three and the only man to take the Mothering Arts group leader training.
Tell me a little about your family...
Over the past 17, almost 18 years of fatherhood, with three amazing kids, I have learned that none of us are ever done learning. The father I was even 5 years ago, would not be recognized by me today. Mostly due to an amazing Parent Coach that we have been working with over the past 5 years, Leslie Potter, of Purejoy Parenting. She has really been helpful in bringing awareness to the ways that I receive and react to interactions with my kids, as well as looking at how my own upbringing shaped my beliefs of what it was to be a “good father.” I have undergone a huge shift in my beliefs over the years, going from a very authoritarian, “my-way-or the highway” mentality, to a relationship based model, where the connection with my children is more important than trying to have them take care of my needs. The relationship I have with my kids now, is one of open communication, where everyone is allowed to have their feelings, no matter how big they are, and we are a very big feeling family. Everyone is validated in having feelings, and not shamed or made to be bad or wrong for just having them. This doesn’t mean that everyone always gets what they want, because that is impossible, but they are allowed to express themselves, and even their disappointment in not getting it.
What are some of the qualities that you have embodied that support your art of fathering?
I stay connected to my center by... One of the practices that I have used to help center myself, is called the safe seat. This is just one of the many tools that was offered by our parent coach, and it has been a life saver whenever I feel triggered to respond to my kids behavior. It involves literally finding a “safe seat” in your house, or a place to go when you find yourself triggered and wanting to act out on your child. For me this location has not remained static, but I have found the toilet seat, to be a place where I can go to find some space for me to be with the feeling that is coming up for me. Taking time to breathe, check in with my physical body, notice what sensations are flowing through me (i.e. sweating, heart racing, etc.), and just be with those feelings. Then ask myself the most important questions, even know I may not be comfortable with what is arising, is it dangerous? The conclusion has always been “no.” It is just a feeling, a wave in the ocean, if you will, something that will pass, just as a new wave will be coming in behind it. The wave of emotion (whether I give it a label of being “good or bad”), will always pass, that’s just what emotions do. Yet sitting in my seat and breathing, focusing on what’s happening in my body, and staying there until the reaction, the wave, has passed, were I can go out and meet my child with curiosity and love. In doing this practice, my second oldest child, at first deemed this as me escaping the situation not wanting to deal with what he deemed as immediate life or death reactions. However, after explaining the process to him, and what was going on, he has grown to accept that when I say I am going to my safe seat, it means a happier and more controlled, non-reactionary dad will soon be coming back.
I fill up my own cup by... Some of the ways that I fill my own cup is by attending Cycling classes. I attend 45 min classes just about every other day, and over the past 6 months have ended up losing about 50 lbs. Not my original goal to lose weight, but an amazing added bonus. My goal was just to find some time for me to be able to go and move some energy away from the kids and the day-to-day chores of life. I have grown to look forward to cycling very much, as even though it is very strenuous, and I leave there dripping in sweat, my body being tired, but my mind being very soothed and revitalized. It is a place where I can almost reach a meditative state, and I see that continuing to work on my outer body, helps shape the healing for the inner one. I also practice daily mediation and morning rituals of mantras and mirror work. I attend regular counseling sessions as well, with the White Raven Healing center, where I really get to work on my inner self, look at my childhood issues, and past traumas. I also try and get outside as much as possible, even if this includes just walking the dogs to the park, and hiking on the many trails around the city.
One of my favorite family traditions is... Although it is not just a fill-my-own-cup moment, one of the traditions that we have taken up in my household, is nightly games of tag. It seems like such a simple game, but the entire family gets such immense joy out of this interaction. Sometimes we play at a local park, with many variations from regular tag, to freeze tag, to mouse on ground, etc. We frequently will have other kids join in the fun when we are out and about at the local parks. If the weather is bad, or time restraints are upon us, then we have our own indoor version, where we play between the kitchen and living room, which, although we don’t have any extra guests, it is still brings loads of laughter and an amazing connection with our kids. The nightly movement of this energy has become one of the staples in our connections with our kids, and it carries over past the end of the game, as seen how they interact and follow us around, just to, as we say, “be in the love.”
Everyone turns to dad when...As far as the importance of my role in the house, you would think the classic response to the question, “everyone turns to dad when…” would be around discipline, and in my household, we rarely actually use the term discipline. Our kids don’t “get into trouble,” like the way I would have growing up, mostly because we allow natural consequences of actions to play out, vs controlling reactions to behaviors. Excluding issues around safety, we don’t have “rules” in our house per se, rather we have made agreements. We have come together as a family and decided on agreements of things that we expect in order to function together. Along with the agreements, the kids decided on what happens when someone doesn’t follow the agreement, and this has helped to take the emotion out of it. When you are not emotionally connected to some behavior, I have found that it really reduces the amount of times and things that you might find yourself getting triggered by. If instead of looking at my child’s behavior and taking it as some kind of personal thing towards me (i.e. not respecting my authority), I look to everything that is done, as just someone trying to get their needs met, or living into what they deem in this moment as their highest value. AND that might not always agree with the boundaries and agreements we have arranged, therefore the plans for not following the agreement comes into play. So you might ask, when do they look to dad…mostly I would say when something electronic breaks down, or batteries are needed, specially whenever a bee enters the house, or a spider…mostly normal dad stuff… also, and most importantly to me, I think when someone needs attention, or a soothing hand to be rubbed with, or a place to be snuggled, then they would come to see me – provided mom is in the bathroom or out doing yoga, LOL, because yes, they go to mom first for those needs, and they come to dad with those needs as well.
What piqued your interest in the Mothering Arts training?
As far as the mothering arts program, one of the things that I was really started to notice over the past few years of research (AKA Facebooking), was how gender specific a lot of good information out there was becoming. I would notice myself, and I still do this, adding in the comment sections of numerous posts, that whatever they were giving information about from a woman’s perspective, could just as easily be written for a man. I believe it was one of the times that I wrote this on the Mothering Arts meme, that Kerry invited me to take a look at her program, and asked if would be interesting in participating, from a man’s perspective. This really got my wheels turning, as I felt that I was being allowed to enter a domain, that being “mothering,” and write about my perspective of what it means from a fathers perspective. I have often time shared about my experience of child birth from a man’s perspective, never in writing, but just to folks who have gone through the process, as it seemed to me to be an experience that is not often shared. One of the toughest experiences was watching the mother of my children giving birth, seeing her in such pain, and being unable to change it for her. Then post-delivery, this is before we realized the value of having homebirths (which is an amazing AMAZING experience that I will save for another day), they wanted to take our child into another room. I was standing there torn between leaving the baby or Angelina, wanting to be with both… it was heart wrenching to say the least…anyway, these types of stories and others are sometimes not really shared by men to other men, although this is changing, nor being shared with other woman, other than perhaps from the dad to the mom. For me, being able to participate in this program, allowed me to participate in the experience, while allowing for an alternative view point, that I was able to share with my fellow “mothers” completing the training. I have subsequently used a lot of the information provided in this program, in expanding my own private practice.
Thanks to Chris, Karmendra and Michael for sharing with us!