Stimulus – Response…

th-26When I decided to give up smoking, I set myself a date and organised all the things I needed to get off to a good start, e.g. patches, quitting info, downloading an app.  I was all set.  As the time drew nearer, I started to find myself beginning to make excuses, ‘I can’t do this, my life is too stressful right now’, ‘as soon as my partner upsets me, I’ll give up – what’s the point?’, ‘the kids are stressing me out’.  I seriously started to talk myself out of it.

When dealing with my children’s behaviour, I notice that sometimes I don’t deal with it particularly well, saying things like ‘you’re stressing me out’, ‘Don’t make me shout’, ‘you’re upsetting me’.

When I argue with my partner we end up rallying with each other over who is the least responsive. ‘You never talk to me’, ‘you never listen to me’, ‘you’re not interested in what I have to say’, ‘you never show any affection’.

All of these scenarios have one thing in common.  They all are reactive ways of behaving.  Reactive people believe they are not responsible for what they say – they believe they have no choice.  I used to be this way, and still can be on occasion.  Reactive people blame things on their circumstances, their conditions and there conditioning.  They blame other people for their situation, they blame the weather for their lack of motivation.  They do not realise that they have a choice about the way they react to things.

Every moment that we have in our lives provides us with a new choice.  We can choose to make it a positive one or we can choose to make it negative.  We determine what happens in our lives by the choices we make.  When circumstances are beyond our control, we choose how we react to them.

Everyone should take responsibility for their life and stop blaming others.  We all have the freedom to choose. Proactive people understand this.

“Between stimulus and response, you have the freedom to choose.”  Stephen Covey

As a human being we have four qualities which allow this- self awareness, imagination, conscience and independent Will.  Covey says this is what separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom.

 I did manage to give up smoking.  I told myself I could do it regardless of what my circumstances were.  I wrote a post about it, you can read it here. https://patchworkrainbows.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/habits/

I’m beginning to deal with my children much better too.  I lose my temper much less now.  I remind myself that I need to be a role model and their behaviours are a direct response to what is going on around them.  They are not at fault for our situation, so I remember to take it easier on them.  I learnt about child development stages and they are no longer reprimanded for what is ‘normal’ for their age.  I no longer sweat the small stuff.

As for our relationship, it is steadily getting there.  I admit there is a long way to go and much resentment that needs forgiveness.  I try to remember he can’t help the drinking – he has an addiction.  I need to read more about this to help me understand.  I need to be more supportive.  I need to remember that I can choose my response when things go wrong instead of flying off the handle.  I’m getting there slowly… but I will get there.

5/4/15 – Building Rome…

Over the last week I challenged myself to complete the following goals:

Write a ‘Family’ post

I wrote a post reflecting on how my life is like an aeroplane flight.  I talked about what things make my family off course and what things make us stay on track.  I looked at the things which affected us in both positive and negative ways.  I looked at the things I have already done to improve our situation and I looked to the future to find ways of improving things further.  You can read this post here: https://patchworkrainbows.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/destination-anywhere/

Have a family meeting with my children

Daddy’s LIttle Princess (DLP) decided that she wanted to call our family meeting ‘Planning’.  This is something they have in reception class at school where they decide on the activities they want to choose for the afternoon.  It seemed quite fitting so we are going to stick with it!

We started off with a little game.  I blindfolded DLP and lead her to a place in the house where returning to the starting point would be a little difficult but not unsafe.  I spun her around a few times for good measure.  I then told DLP that it was now her job to find her way back to the starting point.  DLP tried to return and seemed very nervous and worried.  After a moment I asked her if she would like some help or clues, she said yes.  I then directed her back to the starting point with instructions such as ‘move forward five steps’, ‘turn right’ etc.  When she was safely back I asked her if it was hard to find her way when she couldn’t see and had no instructions, she replied yes.  I then let Mummy’ s Little Soldier (MLS) have a turn.

Afterwards we sat down together and talked about us going through life together as a family and how sometimes we can’t see the future.  We talked about how we sometimes need assistance or clues to help us get to our destination.  We talked about how wonderful it was to have a family to rely on.  I helped them to understand how this was related to the game.

After the game we sat down and brainstormed some ideas for activities for the next week as I am going to be on annual leave.  We came up with the following list:  going on a train trip, a Spring walk, Making chocolate Easter nests, going out for lunch, going to the toy shop, going to the park, visiting Nanny and Grandad, Zentangling, buying new school shoes, school work and reading and arts and crafts!

I have also set the children and myself a little challenge.  We all have to think of one helpful thing and one kind thing we can do for each member of the family daily.

A fun bonding activity

This week we decided to make fairy cakes.  Both DLP and MLS really enjoyed this.  So much measuring, weighing, stirring and seiving was done and a great big mess made.  So much fun!

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Liebster Award no 2

I was nominated again by the lovely https://bekitschig.wordpress.com/

You can read my post here: https://patchworkrainbows.wordpress.com/2015/04/02/liebster-award-2-2/

My goals for next week are:

  • Continuing with our ‘Planning’ and bonding activities and complete as many of the activities the children chose as possible.
  • Complete the ‘Love in ten sentences challenge’.  Nomination by the lovely Edwina at http://edwinasepisodes.com/
  • Make a start on Writing 101
  • Write at least two posts on the first habit – Be Proactive.

Destination Anywhere…

th-24The last week has been a bit up and down for me.  I have found myself reflecting on the concept of life being much like an aeroplane flight.  If you missed the post you can read about that here : https://patchworkrainbows.wordpress.com/2015/03/27/family-planning/

I am starting to have a much better idea of what I would like my final ‘destination’ to be – although I’m sure my thoughts and ideas will change along the way as I grow as a person.  Also ‘my’ destination will have to become an ‘our’ destination at some point as I slowly start to involve other members of the family.

There are going to be plenty of times when we are going to be ‘off course’.  Just this last week I have had two evenings when Daddy has come home at 2 am extremely drunk when he is supposed to be looking after the kids the next morning (I leave for work at 6am).  So that’s two extra days off work – which I won’t get paid for, not only that I only received a promotion a month ago – so it’s not exactly a good start.  I am also currently sleeping on the sofa because I just can’t cope with his alcohol sweats, snoring and flatulence!  So I’m getting a lot of flack for that.

Other times when we are off course include times of stress.  These are usually for me when I am tired – taking too much responsibility for kids, not sleeping well due to the above, coping with his drinking, sleeping on the sofa!  For Daddy stress mainly boils down to having a bad time at work or dealing with me after he has been drinking! (He says).

Periods of stress then generally lead on to periods of conflict.  We have been snapping and back biting at each other since the drinking episodes, things are just finally starting to ease down again, and everything seems to get forgotten about and we carry on – till the next time.  Really stuck in a rut with this one…

I also worry about the future.  What effect will all this tension have on the children?  What am I going to do once they have flown the nest?  Are we going to make it?

On a more positive note, I have had some great ‘on course’ moments this last week or so.  On the days when Daddy has been able to look after the kids, he has not taken them to the pub with him which is his usual course of action (he doesn’t have more than a pint, but I still don’t like the associations that the kids will think this is a normal everyday activity).  On three occasions recently he has actually taken them to the park!  Three different parks at that.  This is a huge improvement and I hope he keeps it up.  I guess some of my being more positive and supportive is getting through somewhere, particularly surprising as it’s been such a dodgy week.

I have also brought up the idea of a family meeting with the kids and they are very excited about it.  Daddy’s LIttle Princess (DLP) wants to call it ‘planning’.  They do this in nursery and reception class.  So DLP has been drawing lovely pictures all week of the activities she would like to do over the Easter holidays.  Even Mummy’ s Little Soldier (MLS) has come up with an idea!  I know DLP has also mentioned it to Daddy and he seemed to be going along with it!  So more progress here.

Our biggest issue is dealing with the 2 am drinking binges.  Sometimes I deal with this well, sometimes not.  Overall I deal with it much better than I used to.  I used to go crazy – shouting and screaming, ringing him until he had ridiculous amounts of missed calls and him eventually turning his phone off.  That was when I had serious coping problems and most likely depression.

Since those days I decided to calm down.  I learnt about the Circle of Influence and the Circle of concern.  I realised I had more control than I thought.  I realised I could not change him.  I realised that only he could change his addiction – it was out of my circle of influence.  Instead I made him aware of the following ground rules for him and myself:

  • When I’m looking after the children the next day, he may do as he pleases until whatever time.
  • When he looks after the children the next day, he needs to be back by midnight. (He does this more often than not.)
  • He needs to get his priorities straight.  He can be back at a reasonable time when he has to work the next day.  His children should be more important than this.
  • If I have to miss work due to him.  I will take my lost salary from his bank account. (I control the finances as he once got us 27k in debt.)
  • I will not constantly ring him.  It does not help.
  • I will not confront him when he gets home drunk.
  • If I take too many days off work,I may eventually lose my job, he will then be the breadwinner (which he can’t afford).  He will need to accept this.

These things have actually reduced the incidences, and I’m extremely lucky I have an understanding boss.  If anyone else has any ideas, I would love to here them as I need all the help I can get!

th-15I have to keep telling myself it’s never too late.  It has been encouraging to see improvements at this early stage.  I keep trying to remember the story of the Chinese Bamboo Tree.  At first you see just a little shoot – maybe even for many years, then all of a sudden you will see great growth and strength.  I just have to keep trying.

Family planning…

th-24I have been giving a lot of thought recently into what kind of family culture I would like my own family to have.  What am I hoping for?  I came up with the following ideas:

  • I would like my children to be brought up in a stable family unit.  I want them to see what a healthy relationship looks like.  I want them to know that relationships should be loving, respectful and supportive.  I want them to understand that their parents are also separate beings who allow each other space to grow as individuals.  I want my children to understand that their will be conflict and that there are mature, respectful ways to settle such differences.  I want this kind of relationship with my partner.
  • I want my children to feel loved, safe and secure.  I want them to know that I will encourage their development and interests without being overbearing.  I want them to have faith that I will notice what ‘sparks’ them and fills them with passion and I will do everything in my power to support these things.  I want my children to gradually gain independence when they are ready with no pressure.  I want my children to be the best version of themselves they can be and to have solid values and live by their principles.

This is the place I wish to get to.  Reading it back to myself it seems achievable but it will take a lot of hard work and commitment as it is still very far from the place I am currently in.

Stephen Covey compares our plans about the future of our families to the flight of an aeroplane.  The pilot starts off with a flight plan to get to his destination, but along the way their is wind, rain, turbulence and air traffic which makes us deviate from our flight plan.  So most of the time the plane is not even on track at all.  What we have to remember is that barring any major incidences the flight will always arrive at it’s destination.  During the flight the pilot receives feedback which allows him to make adjustments along the way.

Stephen Covey says “The hope lies not in the deviations but in the vision, the plan, and the ability to get back on track.

I look forward to developing my vision for an improved family culture and hope to come up with my very own family mission statement.

So, how am I going to get there?  What will my particular flight plan be?  Stephen Covey says you always need to start with self.  Therefore:

  • I will strive to create a stable family unit and a healthy relationship.  I will be more loving.  I will be more respectful.  I will be more supportive.  I will allow my partner space to grow as an individual.  I will find mature, respectful ways to deal with our differences and I will create this kind of relationship with my partner.
  • I will love my children unconditionally. I will keep my children safe and secure.  I will encourage their development and interests.  I will not be overbearing.  I will notice their ‘sparks’ and passions and I will support them.  I will let my children gain independence when they are ready.  I will not be a pushy parent.  I will allow my children to be the best they can be and I will teach them to live by their values and principles.

They will learn as I learn and I will be a good role model.  I think it is important to involve the children in the process from the start as the habits will then become part of their lives.  I am not ready to involve my partner just yet, but hopefully with time I can become what Covey calls an ‘agent of change’.  I will use the principles in the 7 habits to help me along the way.

Other things I would like to add to my flight plan include:

  • Having a weekly family meeting to plan, communicate, teach values and have fun together.
  • Having regular one to one bonding times with each member of the family doing something they choose to do.

th-15I know I need to be patient.  Stephen Covey tells the story of the Chinese Bamboo tree to reflect this.  The seed is planted and then you see nothing except a tiny shoot for the next four years, all the growth is occurring underground.  In the fifth year the Chinese Bamboo tree grows up to eighty feet!

Winston Churchill once quoted we must “never, never,NEVER give up!”

I completely agree, no matter how far we have deviated from our flight plan, we can always adjust and arrive at our destination.

Inside Out…

th-10As we progress through the ‘Seven Habits’, Stephen Covey takes us on a journey from dependence to independence and then on to interdependence.  Covey calls this the ‘Maturity Continuum’.  Dependence deals with the paradigm of ‘You take care of me’.  Independence deals with the paradigm of ‘I take care of myself’.  Interdependence deals with the paradigm of ‘We take care of each other’.  Stephen Covey calls this the ‘inside-out’ approach.  Starting with self.

Habits 1,2 and 3 take us from dependence to independence.

1.  Be Proactive deals with taking control of your life, focusing on the things you can do something about not those things beyond your control and taking responsibility rather than blaming others or your circumstances.

2.  Begin with the end in mind deals with knowing what you want to accomplish in life, organising and preparing in a way that reduces the need to work in crisis mode and beginning each week with a clear plan of what you want to achieve.

3.  Put first things first deals with being disciplined in carrying out plans, not allowing the important activities to be lost in the busy activities of your days and doing things which are meaningful and allow you to accomplish your overall goals.

Congratulations!  If you have managed all that you can officially call yourself independent.

I always thought that on the maturity continuum that I was at the very least independent and perhaps even interdependent in my work environment.  Looking back at the details of the first three habits, I see that I am wrong!

I have somewhat taken control of my life in that I have found myself again and I’m doing the things I enjoy.  I am no longer dependent on my partner and am doing most of the upbringing of the children.  However I do still occasionally worry about things I can do nothing about such as my partner’s alcohol dependency.  It took me a long time to realise that I could do nothing about it so old habits die hard.  I am getting much better at this though.  I do feel like I take more responsibility now but I do still hold quite a lot of resentment towards my partner and how his drinking has affected our lives but I’m trying to be more understanding.

I have real trouble with habit 2.  I just don’t know what I want to accomplish in life.  I never had a dream career and my interests and hobbies are constantly changing.  I can’t seem to settle on one thing for long.  I think about this too much and I think the answer is simple because all I want really is a happy, healthy family.  There, I just answered my own question!  I’m pretty good at organising and planning at work but at home I often feel swamped.  I have a general idea what I want to get done each week but it doesn’t always happen.

Habit 3 – well I procrastinate a lot.  Even my five year old tells me not to ‘crastinate!  Sometimes I’m so busy at home that I never stop and sit and play with the kids.  We definitely don’t spend enough time together as a couple.

Habits 4,5 and 6 take us from independence to interdependence.

4.  Think win – win deals with caring about the success of others as well as your own, cooperating with others and dealing with conflicts by finding solutions which benefit all.

5.  Seek first to understand, then to be understood deals with being sensitive to the needs of others, seeking to understand the viewpoint of others and when listening, seeing things from the other person’s point of view, not your own.

6.  Synergize deals with valuing and seeking out the insights of others, searching for new and better ideas and solutions and encouraging others to express their opinions.

Congratulations!  If you can do all that you are officially interdependent!

I do quite well at these in my work environment which is the area of my life that is most successful.  I work hard and I’m very well thought of by my manager and colleagues.  I generally train up the new staff who come in and as they get younger and younger and I get older I feel myself getting a slight twinge of jealousy when they start performing well.  I guess it is inevitable that someone may overtake my accomplishments one day.  They are so keen and motivated and I seem to have lost that as time has gone on.  At home I’m not so good at resolving conflicts so they benefit all.

Habit 5 is tricky.  I’m quite a quiet person so I’m a very good listener.  I can be very sensitive to other people’s needs e.g. the people with PMLD that I support at work but I am not always emphatic towards everyone.  I guess I see it that if you really are in need like the people I support then you are worthy of sensitivity but it is based on my judgement of your situation.  That sounds terrible now that I have written it down, must change that!  I guess it’s because I see the people I support surviving and thriving everyday when their needs are so high, that I think other people should be thankful that they are able-bodied, happy and healthy (in lots of cases).  People sometimes live in a bubble and sometimes don’t think about the hardships of others compared to their own.  But, I guess I’m forgetting we don’t always see the truth or real situation behind other people’s pain.

I am quite good at listening to other people’s opinions and coming up with ideas, but here again I need to improve on this at home.

Habit 7  is Sharpen the Saw and deals with renewal in the four areas of life, physical, social/emotional, mental and spiritual.  Doing this increases our capacity to live all of the other habits of effectiveness.

This is probably where I’m going wrong!  I do not really do any physical form of exercise, although my diet isn’t too bad.  Although I have a habit of skipping meals if my partner’s not about for dinner (quite a lot).

I don’t have many close friends and my work relationships are mostly professional.  I don’t really go out much as I don’t like to leave the kids in case my partner drinks. So socially I’m not doing so well

I am doing activities I enjoy now and I’m reading about spirituality but I guess I could always be doing more.

Habits…

This post was inspired by the following Daily Prompt:

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/too-big-to-fail/
th-8According to Stephen Covey a habit is the ‘intersection of knowledge, skill and desire’.  Knowledge is what you know and why, skill is how to do and desire is the want to do.  You must have all of these three things in order to form a habit.  It is also necessary to have these same things to break a habit.  Habits are extremely difficult to break and often people need to make major changes in order to do so.

I started smoking when I was seventeen.  I had quite a difficult home life (both of my parents went through periods of depression and they had a volatile relationship), so I used it as a way to de-stress.  I can’t even blame it on peer pressure as I was at college training to be a nursery nurse so smoking was frowned upon!  Later on at 18, I started going out with a guy that smoked and most of my friends in my local pub smoked too (back when you could smoke in a pub).  So at this point I was hooked.  I never worried too much about it and always thought that I would be able to give up whenever I wanted.

Of course, as time goes by this statement becomes less true.  So fast forward a few bad relationships, and finally getting to a point where I could be happy to be single, I decided it was time to try… and failed miserably, several times over the next few years actually.

Eventually I’m with my current partner (which regular readers will know came with a whole new set of problems and stresses).  We talked about trying to get pregnant.  So again I didn’t worry and felt absolutely sure that I would be able to give up if I became pregnant.  How wrong could I have been?  I cut down hugely but I could not give up.  It’s still to this day the one thing I will never forgive myself for.  In fact it took until my youngest was two and a half before I gave up completely.  It was thanks to Stephen Covey actually.

I started by looking at the knowledge:

  •  Smoking was starting to effect my health.
  • I wanted to stop before the children noticed.
  • I wanted to be around to see my children get married and have children of their own.
  • I didn’t want to effect the children’s health.
  • I didn’t want to pass the habit on to them.
  • I didn’t want to go through smoking-related diseases.
  • I didn’t want to die.
  • I could spend the money on something worthwhile.

I then looked at the skill:

  • Look for information online about quitting.  NHS Choices website.  Look into ‘Stoptober’.
  • Read books on the subject.
  • Speak to friends and family who had quit.
  • Gather as much support as possible.  Make myself accountable.
  • Speak to Gp about quitting options, patches, gum etc.

I looked over my desires:

  • To be healthier.
  • To have healthy children.
  • To be a part of their lives as long as possible.
  • To save money.

I then came up with an action plan.  I used patches, initially these were brilliant and completely stopped my cravings, after a while they brought me out in big red welts on my body (an allergic reaction). It was very painful but because they stopped the cravings so well I continued with them until it was unbearable.  Then I went cold turkey.  The welts took months to disappear!  So ‘Stoptober’ 2013 I gave up smoking for good.  A few months later my partner gave up too.