I’ll tumble for you.

This morning I did a cartwheel.  Hand.  Hand.  Foot.  Foot.  {Grin}.

Eleanor is obsessed with mastering the art of the cartwheel.  And she wanted to see one.  Not hear about it.  Not have help doing it.  But see it.  Live action.  I avoided it as long as possible.  I tried to distract.  I tried to explain.  And then, after a mental shrug and a hiatus of decades I tipped myself over and did it.  A cartwheel.

But first, I made Eleanor back up.  Not to better observe my mad skills, but in fear of clobbering a six year old with the potentially cattywampus momentum of a 42 year old hurtling her body through space.

In the moment of free-fall, I felt eight again.  As I landed, I was struck by keen vulnerability.  Joy teetering in the good will and acceptance of others.  And I remembered. This is what it feels like everyday to be a child.  A new skill, goal, task, expectation is before them.  Try.  Attempt.  Do.

And sometimes, Do Not.  Sometimes, no matter the commitment, no matter the dedication, no matter the depth of effort, there is failure.  And children experience failure much more often than we do as adults.  Because we’ve gotten very good at picking our way around experiences that might set us up to fail.  We choose jobs, relationships, hobbies, even vacations that line up with our strengths.

Except now.  This twist of time.  The year-end close-out special known as New Year’s.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but I have always hated New Year’s.  Not for the hats, not for the parties, not for the kissing at the stroke of midnight.  I hold the dread solely for the resolutions.  For a long time I didn’t understand why.

And then in that upside-down moment I was reminded of the words of Brené Brown, describing the comment of a colleague.  “I know you want to help these kids, but you must understand this:  you cannot shame or belittle people into changing their behavior.”  Yes.  Yes.  Sage words.  Good advice.  Important parenting tool.  But the tumblers that fell into place were these:  what happens when we are the kids?  When the child is actually the one hidden inside an adult body?

How do we treat ourselves when we tumble?  What words do we mutter?  What profanities leak out?  What dangerous and silent tirades streak through our minds?

The problem with the promises we make on New Year’s Eve aren’t in the resolve or will power or dedication.  The issue is with the aftershocks.  The manner in which we beat ourselves up when we stumble- which we all eventually do.  We may say we are focused on what we want to improve, but for most it’s really flight from what we think is wrong.

We try to shame ourselves into change.  And the problem is, it doesn’t work.

The gym-membership spikes of January 2nd turn into the glutinous chocolate gorging of February 14th, 15th, 16th….and before we know it we have fallen off the resolution wagon before it reached the fast lane.

I am fat.  I am weak.  I am dumb. I am unlovable.  Every time we think this way we wire our brains to believe it.  And our bodies respond biochemically with stress hormones, loneliness, judgment and depression.  (isn’t this all warm and fuzzy and encouraging for the start of the year?)

What if we remove the shame and mentally align ourselves with our goal before we even begin? Focusing on becoming ‘er’.  Healthy-er.  Strong-er.  Smart-er.  Lovely-er.  It may seem like mere semantics.  How powerful is the ability to reframe?  Ask any athlete who practices visualizations.  Creating a win in your mind triggers the same neural pathways as running a win.

‘er’ sets you on the path, points you in the direction you want to be headed, assures that you have the ability to problem solve how to get there.  No matter that you stumble, you are already well on the way there.  Returning is just a matter of taking a few steps back to center.

We know the best way to help a child learn is in the midst of love.  What if we try in this New Year to love ourselves in the middle of our own learning?  A resolution to be kind in thought, word, and deed.  Begin with love.   And keep me posted.

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