being mindful / intentional behavior looking outward
Is it possible that the primary factor in developing close relationships is something we can all do, something that does not require “expert” training or advice? Issue number 25 addresses that which is at the core of strong relationships—a genuine mindfulness that allows us to see the relationship first in all we do—intentional behavior looking outward. When we are relationally mindful, we see that nothing is really routine; we experience the warmth that is most effective in creating increased closeness and relational understanding.
We will add more on mindfulness to our web page and Facebook page from now through the end of June, and all subscriptions ordered by May 2 will begin with issue no. 25. Single copies can be found at Barnes & Noble or ordered with an email request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
At age eight, Amelia Belchior woke up in her home in Marromeu, Mozambique to learn that her mother had passed away—a short 15 months after losing her father. She and her two-year-old brother were left without parental love and guidance. In the orphanage system, they learned to gain confidence in household work; however, in Amelia’s own words, “I thought I had things under control, but deep inside I always felt something was missing. I felt incomplete. I missed being a child and my self-esteem was low.” Amelia later recognized what was missing at the time: to truly feel cared about—“something every child needs.”
Amelia and her brother were adopted eight years later, and after years of building up self-protections, the transition to break them down and accept love was challenging. “Having come from such difficult circumstances, the transition to [our adoptive parents’] home took some adjusting. No matter how much I rebelled or rejected my new parents when I first came to their home, they persisted in showing love to me and helping me to work on the negative self-views I had developed.”
Amelia describes how her adoptive mother’s persistent, patient encouragement led Amelia to overcome her fears and self-doubts. “After living without parents for many years and then having the blessing of being adopted, I learned why every child needs parents. Through being loved I learned to love; I learned to believe in my inherent worth.” Amelia quickly acknowledges that, “Without my mother’s example and encouragement, I don’t think that I would have felt the love for my neighbors or for myself that I feel now. When I had the support of parents I did better in school and learned manners. I was healthier, happier, and treated others better.”
Amelia Belchior’s full story is found in Seeing the Everyday Issue No. 24.
In a media age that bombards youth with images of what they should look like and gives false importance to outer beauty, it can be challenging to instill in young minds a true sense of inner strength and beauty. How can fathers and mothers compete with the seemingly endless flow of lies that lead to unwarranted self-doubt and anxiety in young people? Though there are many suggested solutions in parenting books, the most influential approach is one that any father and mother can provide without training. We learn from Jenet Erickson’s own reflections the lasting, positive effects of a father whose consistent, deliberate presence formed the necessary attachments that kept his daughters from relying on the media for answers. Instead, they found character and confidence through his constant care. In Jenet’s own words:
In the hours before he went to work and in the hours after he returned, Dad spent his time teaching us and showing us how to do difficult things and better ourselves in the process. From doing math and chemistry problems to hoeing rows of tomatoes and milking cows, from learning to swim to kneading and baking bread, he instilled in his children confidence and capacity. In a way that only he could manage, he challenged us to do more while strengthening us through his knowledge we could do it. Most important, he was seemingly always beside us, willing to reach in and lift the load when it got too heavy, always encouraging us with his confidence. In his closeness and care, we felt strength. In his teaching and challenging, we developed confidence that we could do whatever was put before us.
It wasn’t until I was older that I realized Dad had never talked much about our appearance. I very rarely heard him comment on anyone’s appearance—especially women’s. In his quiet teaching, I knew that what Dad cared about most was that our bodies were healthy and well cared for so they could help us fulfill our dreams and do good for others. In a world that objectifies the body for sexual pleasure and financial gain, Dad seemed to intuitively fill us with confidence that our bodies were about our minds, hearts, and capacities. In Dad’s world, there was simply not time or energy to worry about making our bodies fit a worldly model of beauty. We had too much to do and too much to give. Our deep attachments to him and Mother, as well as understanding ourselves and our self-worth, provided footing to focus on what we could give and do to bless others.
As I look back, I marvel at his wisdom…
Jenet Erickson’s full story is found in Seeing the Everyday Issue No. 24.
Something very good happens to a baby’s brain when parents are close, attentive, communicative, and nurturing with their children—an effect that continues on through life.
During the critical, earliest stages of a child’s life, they learn to trust, respond to and return love, and understand how it feels to be loved. A sense of identity and belonging is threaded through every aspect of life and creates stability and security in individual consciousness. As a child, mother, and grandmother, Marlene Hinton has experienced for herself the important connections and bonds that create pathways for healthy relationships throughout life. In Marlene’s own words:
While I can’t recall the first two years of my life when these bonds were forming inside, my earliest memories revolve around my parents. I recall playing under the table while mother worked nearby, unwilling to allow me to leave untasted squash on my lunch plate. I still cringe thinking how badly I must have bruised Dad’s ankles as he held me up around the skating rink while my uncooperative skates pelted him. And I felt safe and secure paddling around the swimming hole supported by his steady shoulders. Recollections of decades of love and companionship collect into the shadowy form I interpret as myself: who I am and to whom I belong. My love is an extension of theirs, and thus my happiness an outgrowth of their nurturing natures. We shared a lifetime of togetherness. The joy of being in their presence is a priceless inheritance.
The other day I was asked to tend a two-year-old grandson whose mother was unpacking boxes after a move. Originally, the plan was to take him with me to my house, but he indicated that he preferred to stay home. After a wide sweep of his little arms and repeated commands of “Come!” I followed him outside where he began playing with his toys. His eyes kept checking on mine, assuring that I was watching every minute as he crashed trucks into each other, threw objects into his tiny play pool, hurled balls, jumped, and otherwise did things that required no adult supervision or even participation. Except that having someone who meant something to him watching, paying attention, exclaiming, encouraging, and being present as he performed all the amazing feats had significant meaning for him. He didn’t need my help. He needed me to be present with him. Reflecting on this and my own experiences as a daughter, wife, mother, and grandmother, it is interesting to me how the attachment process—our familial growing together—never ends.
Marlene Hinton’s full story is found in Seeing the Everyday Issue No. 24. Single copies of Issue 24 can be found through the end of March 2014 at Barnes & Noble Bookstores or ordered at any time with an email request to email@example.com.
When we speak of the word attachment, we refer to the psychological and emotional connections wired in our brain during the first 18 months of life, as well as the nurturing processes that continue to influence us beyond infancy. Strong familial attachments play a vital role in our relational capacities. Better understanding about how strong, secure attachments form and why they matter can help us become more thoughtful and intentional about this important process.
While it is true that we cannot return anyone to an infant state to rewire this process, the nurturing we receive after infancy is just as needed, and has the power to heal and restore. Consistent sincerity and warmth in ordinary interactions help cement and heal these important emotional attachments one day at a time. As Marian Wright Edelman has stated so well, “We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.”
In our research article we discuss what attachment is, why it is important, and how it continues to develop. Dr. Gordon Neufeld, page 108, brings to our attention that “Attachment makes the child want to be good for the parent . . . [and that] children endeavor to become like those to whom they attach, creating a natural, instinctive learning model from parents” without compulsory means. In the story “Kneading Confidence,” a young mother describes how her father gently “instilled in [her and her siblings] confidence and capacity—in a way that only he could manage,” forging both stronger ties to each other and training for a life of awareness and giving. From another perspective in “Rebuild Our Nest,” a mother tells of the intricate challenges her family faced when adopting a young girl from an Eastern European orphanage. She recounts insights learned from her own father as they have helped this new daughter to feel loved, becoming one of their own. And in “Letters to Mommy” we read of a child’s deep yearnings, expressions, and desires for her mother after an early death.
Each story becomes a strong statement that the contribution of fathers and mothers is irreplaceable in the life of a child. Their contribution affects all of us, throughout our entire lives. No effort is wasted in forging healthy attachments—for in relationships nothing is really routine.
Daryl Smith, Editor-in-Chief