Awakin Calls » Patty Wipfler » Transcript
Patty Wipfler: Helping Parents When Parenting Gets Hard
Guest: Patty Wipfler
Host: Kozo Hattori
Moderator: Birju Pandya
Welcome to Awakin Calls. Every Saturday, we host a conversation with an individual whose inner journey inspires us and whose work is transforming our world in large and small ways. Awakin Calls are an all-volunteer-run offering of ServiceSpace, a global platform founded on the simple principle that by changing ourselves, we change the world to create a more compassionate and service-oriented society. Thank you for joining us!
Kozo: Good morning. Good afternoon. Good evening. My name is Kozo, and I am really excited to be your host for our weekly global Awakin call. Welcome and thank you for joining us. The purpose of these calls is to share stories that help plant seeds for a more compassionate society, while fostering our own inner transformation. We do this by holding collective conversations with guest speakers from all walks of life, who inspire us to live in a more service-oriented way. And behind each of these calls is an entire team of ServiceSpace volunteers whose invisible work allows us to hold this space. Today our special guest speaker is Patty Wipfler. Thanks again for joining today's call. Let's start with a minute of silence to anchor ourselves into this space.
Thank you. Welcome again to our weekly Awakin call. Today in conversation with Patty Wipfler. As an all-volunteer offering, each Awakin call is a conversational space that is co-created by many invisible volunteer hands. In a few minutes, our moderator Birju Pandya will begin by engaging in initial dialogue with our speaker Patty Wipfler, and by the top of the hour, we'll roll into a circle of sharing where we invite all your reflections and questions. At any point, you can hit star six (*6) on your phone to enter the queue, so as to be prompted when it's your turn to speak. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or submit a comment or questions via the webcast form, if you're listening online via the live webcast.
Our moderator today is Birju Pandya, who is a long time ServiceSpace volunteer. He works in regenerative investing, integrated capital, and gift ecology. But, more importantly, he is an amazing father and mentor to many, including high school and college students, college graduates, and even 50-year-olds like myself. Whether at work, or at home, or with friends, Birju is always trying to amplify the good, so we're very lucky to have him moderate this call. Thank you, Birju, and over to you.
Birju: Thank you so much, Kozo. What a warm introduction. I am grateful to be on the call with you today, and I am grateful to be on the call with our guests today, Patty Whistler. Patty is the founder of a movement called Parenting By Connection. She shared the message across decades, through a wide range of approaches, from a nonprofit, to books, to coursework. Patty, thank you so much for offering your presence today.
Patty: I'm really honored to be with you Birju with your community as well. Thank you.
Birju: How are you doing today, in the midst of all the things our society is dealing with?
Patty: Actually very well. There are many challenges for my nonprofit, as for almost every nonprofit these days. But we have kind of tackled the challenges with energy, and there are many benefits to having to focus very carefully on what is the most important thing you do, and how can you do it the most efficiently, with the most help.
For instance, one of the things that we have done in the last month, we offered 103 parents support calls in six languages besides English, for people all over the world. People could just get the number, call in, and be listened to, and have a chance to listen to other parents also struggling with pandemic issues and parenting issues. And the people who led the calls were so happy to do it. And the people who were on the calls have emailed us saying that really helped. So, just figuring out what's important, and then finding a way to do it, even if funding and resources are short, and that's what we've been doing, and it's been really rewarding and encouraging.
Birju: I love that. That echoes some of what we hear in the ServiceSpace ecosystem, you serve with what is in your hands. Whatever your hands can offer, that's enough. Well, I would love to work towards sharing more of the work that you have today, but I would love to lay the groundwork for that and hear a bit more about your early years. As I understand it, your family had some intense experiences in your youth, and I am curious what you would say laid the groundwork in your early years for a life that focused not just on service to families. There's this possibility that there's more to life than meets the eye.
Patty: Well, the things that really affected me strongly as a child were, first of all, being the oldest of six children. My mother had six children over 14 years. And it was really a privilege to grow up in a large family. I really liked being with children. I like my brothers and sisters, loved them. I found that I love to play. My parents were hardworking, way overstressed, and rarely played. But we played. So in a way my brothers and my sister were the people you could have fun with in our family. And I did have a lot of fun. So that was one big influence.
Another big influence was being Catholic. And I grew up in a community, where it’s just here on the San Francisco peninsula, and in those days, somehow being Catholic was a very strong identification. And I went to Catholic school, which was a block-and-a-half walk to school from my home. And I knew every Catholic house along that block and a half, and met most of the houses, on many blocks surrounding us. I knew who was Catholic and who wasn't, who was part of our Catholic community and who wasn't. And somehow it was all very important.
And in a way, the reason it became more important as time went on was because I had a brother who's just 18 months younger than I was, and then a sister was born when I was four. My sister Marianne, and she was just a beautiful baby and my mother had prepared me, with great seriousness, for being a sister. She read me these books about being a sister, and what I was going to be able to do. I was going to be able to hold the baby. I was going to be able to feed the baby. She taught me how to fold diapers, and how to fold the baby clothes, and how to put them away. My mother really considered me an important part of bringing this baby home, and an important helper for her. And I sort of took on the idea of being a big sister, with great intention, and I just fell in love with my sister. The first time I saw her, I fell deeply in love with her.
And, after a normal six months, I was just hanging out, and [she was] growing, and learning how to sit, and all the things that babies do, she began to lose ground and she lost the ability to sit. And she became uncoordinated when she did try to take milk from a bottle. After three or four ounces she just couldn't do it anymore. So she became difficult to feed and she lost her... She basically, over a period of about nine months, lost all of her intellectual capabilities as well. So she kind of laid there peacefully, looking around, and took a long time to feed, and no one knew what had happened to her. It was not clear at all. That some devastating thing had happened to her brain. And, we still don't know what it was.
That was of great concern to my mom, and my mom started doing, patterning, which is really exercising the child's arms and legs over hours. My mom worked with my sister for like six hours a day, doing these exercises that someone had told her might help reconnect her brain with her body, and none of it worked. Meanwhile, my brother and I were sort of, not intentionally, but halfway or more than halfway neglected, because taking care of Marianne just took everything my mom has and all the worry, and my father got really stressed. So it was a very, very kind of a grim time.
There was a lot of discouragement, and not understanding what had happened to her was very difficult. She just kept getting worse and worse, and eventually, she didn't recognize any of us as far as we could tell, as far as my mother could tell.
And, my mom kind of exhausted herself trying to keep Marianne at home. The doctors were telling her, "You should really send your child to a nursing home. This is too much for any parent, three children, under the age of five. Too much. Too much." And she just went, "No, I want, I want to keep her. I want to keep her. I want to keep her."
One day my sister had like three grand mal-seizures, each of which lasted about an hour, all in the same day. And that just devastated my mom and when my dad came home, she just collapsed on the floor crying and saying, "I just can't do this anymore."
So my mom refused to give up until she just… was overcome with emotion and had no energy left. A social worker came two days later, and took my sister to the county hospital, and from there they found her a nursing home. She eventually went to a state hospital for the mentally retarded, as they called it then. She died when she was nine. We went and visited her maybe once a year but I wasn't allowed in to see her, until my parents sneaked me in when I was 12 years old, for which I will forever be grateful. ‘cause I don't know, it was just devastating to sort of have your parents send your sister away, when she was so helpless. She's kind of the only person in the family who wasn't busy, and it was really nice to be around her. I don't know, I just felt very... I tried to cure her. One day, I waited until my mom was in the kitchen and I put my hands on my sister's tummy and then just thought really hard and tried to get my health into her in some way. And of course that didn't work.
Then after she left and I was in first grade of Catholic school and I was learning how to write, I wrote this letter to the Pope with a picture of me praying next to my bed. You know, to show him that I was a serious person, and asking him if he would pray for my sister and, and work a miracle. And, that also never happened.
It was just a hard thing to lose her and then to wonder what was going on with her and to feel like my parents couldn't talk about her. It was just too hard to even say her name. So we talked about her, once a year, when we were on our way to the state hospital, but I couldn't bring her up. I couldn't, you know. And so I prayed for her every day. I thought about her every day when I went to mass. I prayed for her and I begged to God to watch over her because it didn't look to me like anybody else was doing that. And, that made me very devout actually. I kind of really got into being a devout Catholic as a young child, because, "Who else was gonna take care of my sister if I didn't stick up for her with God", kind of thing.
Then there were other things that happened. My father began being abusive to my brother who was acting out because he'd been so neglected. And that created a downward spiral for my brother, and his life was always, always quite difficult. He managed well in the middle of it all but he had to drink and smoke, to self-medicate, because of all the anger and resentment that was inside of him for being so badly treated. And that was hard to watch, too.
And then my mom became an invalid, after her fourth child, and remained an invalid for about five years, including a year and a half where she could not get out of bed. And that was during and after the birth of her sixth child. So I really became the person who did the cooking and the childcare, and took care of the household. We had someone clean the house once a week, but I did pretty much everything else with most of my younger siblings.
So I kind of got into “doing well with children” early. So well that I was kind of known for it. Once in eighth grade, when it rains, you know that all of the kids had to stay in their classrooms. We had 52 kids in each classroom, in our school. And the nuns had to go out and eat. They were forbidden to eat anything in front of people. So they picked me, the eighth grader, to go into the rowdiest class in the whole school. They had triplets in that class who were just off the walls, and several other kids that were very difficult to manage. And they'd send me in, for the whole lunch hour, to play games with, and somehow make sure that the wheels didn't come off the class! [laughs]
Birju: Wow. It seems like all throughout there are just these intense ways to not only bond with faith, but bond with youth. And I'm curious, you know, as you grow through this kind of a stage in you, and as I understand it, you became a teacher, and a mother. But it seems like there was a journey of wisdom that took off a little bit later on. I'm curious how wisdom, and in particular listening, on which you've actually written a book on the topic, played a role in your continual path of inner development?
Patty: The thing that Marianne taught me; the very, very bottom-line thing that she, in her little life, little hidden life mostly, taught me was that -- Every single person in this world is important. And every single person in this world, whether they are able or unable, whether they can think or they can't think, whether they can walk or they can't walk, whether they can talk or they can't talk, is vastly important.
She was of tremendous importance to me. She never "contributed" anything to the world in the typical way. But there's some deep feeling of respect and understanding of the importance of each individual person no matter what. And I got that from her. And I think I really somehow carried that into my times with children and into my relationships.
And I kind of lucked out to have good parents as well. But I didn't understand the power of listening until someone listened to me when I was in a really difficult place. And then I think all of this preparation of caring about children, and knowing how to play, and listening to them and having a sense of respect for them, no matter their age or their abilities, all of that, just kind of came. It was all there, but I didn't know how to use it or I didn't have concepts to describe it. And when someone listened to me and I had a good cry and then went back to my children, in far better shape to be a mom than I was, you know, 15 minutes before that, it just all kind of fell in place.
So I think all the ingredients were in me but not in a coherent way, I suppose you might say.
Birju: And that's part of what I was intrigued by, you know, before the call started, our host here, Kozo, was mentioning that he received your book and that he was told that if there's one book on parenting to read, it's this one. It'll handle everything.
And I was kind of laughing as I was reading this book, because, you know, so much of what I see you're talking about seems as applicable to adults as it is to children. We call it Parenting By Connection, but to me it could easily be called Living By Connection. And I think about the difficulty of what you're naming, that we talk about listening as though it's a series of to do items. But of course, you know, it may be simple, but it's not easy. And all kinds of things are happening inside of us as we're listening. It's especially the case if what you're hearing is unpleasant, whether it's a child's temper tantrum or even listening to a fellow adult sharing something that's unpleasant.
I'm curious about that for you. What did you have to cultivate inside in order to really listen? And to do what our community may call holding space?
Patty: Yeah. Well, I haven't cultivated it entirely yet. I'm still working on it. I've been doing this for 47 years now, and it's like, it's an ongoing practice.
And I think the guru, Pema Chodron, I don't know if I'm saying her name right, I remember her telling a story once, about just having been doing meditation practice for years and years and years and years, and then a grandchild comes over and all of a sudden she finds herself going off the rails.
And basically the process is that, what we do in Hand in Hand, what we teach and what we promote and the kind of community that we promote, is one in which people do listening exchanges. So I listen to you for half an hour and you get to look, examine, feel whatever it is, wherever your mind wants to take you, that's the place to go.
And I don't give advice. I don't judge. I listen with warmth and respect, and confidence that you are talking about and sorting through exactly what you need to. And I seek to understand as best I can. But I don't ask interested questions. I don't probe. I don't tell you what else to talk about. I just really basically listen. There's an art to it, you know? And then you take a half an hour, which is what I gave you, and you give me half an hour to look at what's going on inside of me.
And the piece that is not well understood in very many cultures right now -- although there's wisdom about it that goes way back millennia, you can find it in poetry, and you can find it in the Koran, and you can find a little bit of it in other religious works that predate meditation -- is the idea that when we are not functioning well, when we aren't thinking well, when we have big feelings, we can't think well. And the way you can rectify that situation is to build a relationship in which you know you are respected and cherished, and in that relationship it will become safe enough to laugh, to cry, to tremble, and sweat if you're working through fear, and rebuilding your confidence, and to [throw] tantrum. And yawning is part of the tension when these process, but it's not emotional tension. Yawning releases physical tension and helps people heal from physical hurt and upset.
So that process of just respecting the wisdom in particular of children who can be our teachers on this, to just notice that they can't think and burst into tears. But the healing process requires a listener. It requires someone to keep the person safe, to hold confidence, and to hold out warmth and to trust that when they are finished crying or laughing or trembling and perspiring, or having that tantrum -- when they are finished -- they will think better and function better. And their brain will have done something very deeply helpful.
And the results of that, you know, of what they cleared out may not show for a day or a week, but using this process on a regular basis, you get to rid yourself of fears and worries and habits that are not very workable in a community. And children's whole personalities can change because they work. They work quickly. They work with abandon and they work many times a week. If they have a parent who's willing to listen.
So I've seen children over a period of... for instance, I'll just give a little example. My cousin's daughter was four years old when she joined the preschool where we were figuring this stuff out. It's kind of an experimental preschool and she came in with little lacy socks, patent leather shoes, dresses, and walking very carefully. She did not play physically outside. She didn't climb on anything. She didn't run. She had a very quiet voice and she was just a very quiet, 'girly' girl. Never physically active. Not interested. And somehow, children are great at figuring out who are safe people to open their feelings up with. And our school endeavored to be a safe place. And it was.
And we had a volunteer come in one day, a big six-foot guy named Jerry. Kindest guy you've ever met, really kind, just interested in children, wanted to see what we were doing and help us. And the minute he walked in the door, she took one look at him and burst into tears. She just started crying really hard, and being really scared to get anywhere near Jerry. And so we said, "Okay, Jerry, just stay right over there. Don't come any farther. We're going to listen to Alison." And so we listened to her, and listened to her, and listened to her. She cried for about 45 minutes, before she could stop crying and figure out what she wanted to do on her side of the room. And we kept Jerry actually about 15 feet away from her the whole time because it was so emotionally challenging for her. We had no idea what this was about, and she didn't say a thing. She just cried and cried and cried.
And that happened week after week after week after week, Jerry would show up for his two hours of volunteering. Alison would look at him, and begin wailing, and one of us would sit with her and just say, "That's Jerry. He might come a little closer today." And that idea would send her into deeper, more intense crying, which means 'hurt' is really being processed and let go of. And over time, and it took like seven months, we would get Jerry a little tiny bit closer to Alison and just point that out to her and she would cry and cry and cry. We never made Jerry get in her face. We never asked her what this was about or anything at all. Just, she would get into that situation, off-load feelings, and then be okay, as long as Jerry was not any closer than however close he'd gotten to trigger the crying.
And finally in the spring, she could let him be closer and closer and then one day, "Okay, Alison, here's Jerry. He's going to hold out his hand." And she starts crying and looking at him and crying, but she's not lost anymore in the middle of it all. We just said, "You could hold out your hand and just touch Jerry's hand. You wanna touch Jerry's hand?" And she's crying, but she nods her head up and down, because Jerry has been good and attentive and kind and warm towards her, this whole time. And so after about 15 minutes of crying, she finally reaches out her hand and touches Jerry's hand. And Jerry says, "Good to be with you, Alison, thank you." And then she cries a little more. And then I said, "Would you like to take Jerry's hand and go outside and see what the kids are doing out there?" And she cries a little more and nods her head yes, and finishes her crying. And Jerry and Alison walk out to the backyard, hand in hand, and we're all going, "Whoa, look at that."
But what was interesting was that a couple of weeks later, the boys, many of whom were older than her, decided they wanted to have a race from one end of the school yard to the other. And so we set out a line where they would start and a line where they would end, and we were going to see who was first, second, and third. And Alison said she wanted to race. She gets out there and she won the race. It's like she had become a physical child. She had started wearing pants. She'd started wearing lace-up shoes. She'd started, I don't know, just her whole ability to be in the world had become much more physical, much more confident.
And when she was seven years old, her father was going to run the Bay to Breakers Race. That's a seven and a half mile race up and down the hills of San Francisco where 50,000 people all run on a Saturday morning. And she said she wanted to run with him and her dad, and he said, "Oh, okay." And then he figured, "Well, I guess I'm going to have to walk the seven and a half mile, but I'll do it." She didn't even have running shoes, so they went out and bought her running shoes. She didn't practice. She just went with her dad on Saturday morning. She ran the whole seven and a half miles. And so it just changed Alison's life to have those huge cries about being afraid of Jerry. For some reason, Jerry brought up whatever it was that was in her way of having physical confidence. So her whole personality changed. Yeah.
Birju: I'd love to be able to reflect on this. It's stunning what you're sharing from my lens. What I find so curious about what you're naming is… what I would call the non-linearity of what happened. That it wasn't that she was going to be more okay around, you know, big burly men. It wasn't something that our minds could grasp. But somehow, her being okay, with his presence, would lead her to have a different relationship to her body. Like, it's not something that, at least for me, I would intuitively grasp. And what it seems like is the linchpin to that happening. You mentioned this went on for seven months, and the patience that's required amongst caregivers, to be able to hold space without having an outcome orientation for that period of time.
You know, one of the inspirations in the parenting world to me is a Steiner-influenced philosopher you may know, Joseph Chilton Pearce, and he has a quote that I really appreciate. He says, "Children don't become what you tell them to. They become who you are." And I'm curious, you know, there's a lot of folks out there who would have a hard time holding space for seven months. And I'm curious how your experience of how we are as parents gets patterned, and how we can grow and evolve that capacity, to one day become these giants, without making ourselves feel bad in the interim, for our being.
Patty: Yeah, yeah. And without feeling persecuted, sort of manipulated, dragged around by the nose by our child's need to cry. That's another big part of it. And really it's the practice. It's sort of like, when your child has a behavior that just drives you nuts, you know, it's like fingernails on a chalkboard for you. You can't listen to the child. You cannot be of help because that behavior throws you instantaneously into reactive mode. And in reactive mode, you're not thinking. You're operating on fumes, in a way. And what comes out of you is the kind of thing that your parents did to you, or your teachers did to you, or your community did to children in your community.
And so that's where, you know, the horrible things that we say to our children when we're all stressed out, or late to our meeting, and they want one more thing, or they're just driving us nuts in some way. The things we do and say at those times are not us. What they are is sort of a present day rehearsal of what we saw go down in our family, or in our schools, or just the, the unspoken attitudes towards children that the grownups around us had. We, we inhaled all of that. We became that. We have it preserved in our memory banks. And when those unpleasant memories are triggered, we have not so much control over what we do, what we say or, or our attitudes. And the thing you do is you just take that to your listening partner and you just go, "Oh, my kid is just... Now he's talking back every single thing I say or ask him to do. Well, I don't have to do that. And this attitude of..."
And then you go into, well, what would my parents have done with an attitude like that? Because the actions are based on what your parents did do. And so your listening partner becomes kind of a garbage dump for old, old bad memories, or present very negative feelings, or present negative impulses. If you can do it in person, you grab your listening partner by the shoulders, and you give that lecture that you are so tempted to give your child, or that you just did give your child, you know, yesterday. And you just shake them by the shoulders and go, "You are never going to talk to me like that again. I can't stand it. I won't stand it. And you need to go to your room!" And you just need to do what your parents did. And that lets somebody out. Or you remember how scary it was when all of the held emotion that you could see the fire in your parents' eyes, and how threatened you felt.
What I often go back to, to work on the core of my fears about sticking up for myself or, you know, sticking up saying what I think in person, goes back to my father slaughtering animals in our backyard, watering rabbits and chickens and witnessing, you know, him hardened himself, and go through this ritual, and then kill something that was not that much bigger than I was when I first saw happened. So I work on just how frightened I was, and how, you know, how little I could say, about what that did to me on the inside.
And so, there are lots of things to go through. Lots of fears that we carry that we're not good enough or our children aren't good enough. And lots of impulses that come from seeing behaviors that would have been very harshly treated in our childhoods.
What that harsh treatment is, is really different from person to person. But, you know, when grown-ups are out of their minds, they're not pleasant beings to be with, and we suffered that, all of us at some point or another. So it's really going into listening partnership, having a place to have a good cry, have a good laugh. Imagine standing up. To rehearse what you couldn't do when you were four years old, which is to stand up, put your hands on your hips and go: "Do not ever do that to me again! I am good and you don't know it, but I am. So shut up." Just trying to think through any way that you might have stood up for yourself had you felt powerful enough, or had you had people backing you.
It's a slow unfolding of our ability to be kind under stress, or to be thoughtful even when our child is going off track. Where it's harder actually is to stay thinking with grown-ups who are judging us, or yelling at us, or disapproving of us. I'm working on that a lot. We have partners who get also caught and rigid in certain ways, and I'm just working on the rigidities of the person that you have a chance to love, but who also can drive you crazy even though they're an adult, can really make a relationship so much better. There're so many people in Hand in Hand, too. After a couple of years of working on all these issues with their children, they turn and work on their issues with their parents. And over a period of a year or two or three, people can totally rework very difficult issues that have been long-standing in their families.
They become closer to siblings that they just couldn't abide. They become closer to parents who they could never speak honestly with. People become more understanding of one another. I'll tell you another story that I love. I have a listening partner whose dad had taken care of her mother who'd had a stroke for 10 years. [Her mom] was in a wheelchair. [Her dad] had to do all of her toileting and feeding. It was just a very intense job, and by the time ten years was up, she noticed that he was barely talking to her or anybody, and she really wanted to...
Birju: Just to make sure I understand. They're partners, this is the person's father and mother.
Patty: Yeah. The person's father and mother were partners, and he had been her mother's caregiver. She really wanted to try to help her father to open up, but asking him to open up was never going to work. She did know that, you know, through and through. But she just decided, well I'm just going to go over, and I'm going to give him three hours to help him in the yard and do what we call "special time", which is you set aside an amount of time, you treat the person with warmth and respect and you do whatever it is that they want to do. Or you offer your services in any way and you are guided by them. You don't try to change the way they guide you. You just do it. As your gift to them.
He wanted to prune these many fruit trees in his backyard, and he wanted her to cut the twigs and the branches into one-foot lengths only, and tie up these little bundles of one-foot twigs and branches. And she was like: "Oh, this is so stupid. We could just put it out on the street, and the guys would come and pick it up no matter what length it is."
But she spent three hours, you know, gathering the sticks and branches, and cutting them into one-foot lengths, and tying them into neat bundles, and did not complain. She didn't argue, didn't say what she thought it would be a better way. She just did it, with love, and care. And there was very little interaction between them the whole time. After those three hours, they go in for a cup of iced tea, and he starts talking and he didn't stop for a whole hour and a half, just telling her all kinds of things about his life and what he was thinking and it was unprecedented.
And what she had done really was to prepare herself to do this. She'd cried about her dad. She'd cried about her mom. She had really looked at their relationship over several listening partnerships. And what happens is that when you work on your own feelings, when you clean out some of what's in that dustbin of emotional experiences that still sit there, your attention is freed from managing bad feelings in such a way that other people's limbic systems, other people's social emotional centers of their brain can detect that you are available in a way you didn't use to be.
And, when you bring yourself to them and you give them a signal that you can listen--and special time is a really good signal that you can listen--they will somehow immediately and instinctively go towards more transparency, more openness, maybe even working on feelings.
So, it's a practice. Anybody you're not getting along with, if you do 10 listening times about them, your history with them, who they remind you of, what you're scared of when you see them, all your judgments about them, work on and get to the actual release of feelings underneath there, the laughter, and the tears, it will change the relationship.
This is how people become leaders. We noticed that people who are in Hand in Hand, and work with us over a period of time and have good solid listening partnerships begin to take stronger and stronger leadership in the world because they know what to do with their fears and the places where they notice their thinking stops, so they can reach for bigger and bigger goals over time.
Birju: There's so many directions that come up and what you're sharing here. First thing I'd want to say is just that I couldn't help but tear up, when you were sharing the example of having a listening partner to show up in that way with, and the capacity that's required in, really, society, capacity that it seems like we have systematically destroyed in our society for whatever reason. And just realizing that this may be a long road to hoe ahead, for the adults among us as well. We are providing the inheritance to our children to have to work through.
Patty: But you know, sometimes it's a hard road. Sometimes you get all of a sudden this huge bunch of feelings come up from deep in your past, and they make life hard for you for a while. But what's interesting is that, if you're crying with someone who cares about you, if you're laughing with someone who cares about you, if you're sorting it all through, the change you can see in yourself may come slowly, but it's ever so encouraging.
And the other thing is that when you do this, you learn to be a really good listener for someone else. And their saga of exploration, and discovery, and change, and their determination to make their own life better, and the lives of the people they love better--all of that will be inspiring.
It's like all of a sudden you see how much capacity to love that we have as human beings, and how hard we will fight to access that capacity if it's closed to us right now because of difficult experiences we haven't recovered from. So you just get this deep trust of human beings, and trust of the process of listening as you watch someone unfold over time.
It gives me the same feeling that I got when I was a child going to church, just being in the presence of the sacred. And I get that same feeling, being in the presence of the sacred, when I listen to another parent, another person of any kind, child, parents, and just the deep wisdom that's in there, once someone can get rid of the damage that hard times have done to them.
Birju: I'd love to jump in there. You use the phrase, watching a person unfold. In this community we talk a lot about the value of intrinsic motivation, not forcing the flower to bloom, so to speak. And of course, your work seems to me to be side-stepping that kind of carrot and stick approach. I'm curious if you could share a bit more about how children align with intrinsic motivation, and what that feels like.
Patty: We make a very strong, and in me anyway, deeply rooted assumption--anybody who does this practice for a while will get this deeply rooted sense, that children are good through and through, that they are built to cooperate, they love to cooperate, they love to include, they love to create. They are voracious learners, as long as they are in an environment in which they are respected, in which they can feel a sense of connection and respect and caring from the people around them.
And you know, school is not exactly set up all the time to offer that. Teachers know very well how to offer it, but there's so many hoops everybody has to jump through that really interfere with people's attention on connection, and respect, and warmth.
So, I'm trying to think of a good example. So, here's an example. My son, my younger son, had a very bad accident when he was one year old. He had to be rushed to the emergency room. His hand got sliced open very deeply, nothing horrible and there was no residual damage, but it's a very shocking thing for a one-year-old to go through.
And, he started working on these deep fears when he was about three years old. Finally, he felt safe enough to go in, and really wig out when he would get hurt a little bit, but it had left him unable to stick up for himself in any way. And we noticed in our school that if a child grabbed a toy from him, he would just sit there and look and have this little blank look on his face. He wouldn't tantrum, he wouldn't protest, but he also couldn't just walk away and do something else. He would be sort of stunned into silence.
And one day my friend who is co-teaching with me walked up to him and said, "David, did you like that he took that?" And David looked at her and just burst into tears. He couldn't say no. He just burst into tears. And that started one of these situations where, you know, there's crying happening once or twice a week, over and over again where we're saying, "You know, David, you could say no." And he'd cry and cry and cry and cry and cry. And then she'd ask the question again. "Did you like him taking that from you?" And he'd cry and cry and cry and [we'd] spend like 30 minutes listening to him try, you know, just crying about the thought of saying something, you know, to oppose what had happened.
And that moved to asking him, once he could say no, then we would say, "Do you want to get up and talk to Jesse about the toy he took?" And he'd cry about that thought for 40 minutes and not get up and [we'd] just let him be. That's fine. That's where he's at. And it went over a period of time, you know, listening to him cry about not wanting to get up.
Then he would get up and we'd say, "Let's walk over to Jesse," and then he would cry there for half an hour, feeling unable to walk. And then he would walk over to Jessie and burst into tears cause he couldn't say anything. Just, you know, "It's okay. You don't have to say anything. We're right here. You could say something." Cry, cry, cry, cry, cry. And eventually he would be able to actually stick up for himself with the other kids. It took about seven months.
Then one day, a child from another program threw an apple core into our room. And he looked at that and [said], "He shouldn't do that." And I said, "Yeah. Shouldn’t. You want to go talk to him?" David picks up the apple core and says, "Yes, I do." And, totally surprising me, walks out of the room, finds the kid is riding his bike over into the other program, disappears through the door. We'd never been in that program. Never opened that door. We go over there. I asked David if he wanted me to open the door cause it's a heavy door. He did. And I opened it and he walks in, finds the kid, walks over to the kid and says, "You threw this into our room. And I didn't like that. You shouldn't do that again," and gives him the apple core and walks out.
You know, again, total transformation. Every time we're just trusting, trusting, trusting that children will do the reasonable thing if there's not painful emotion in their way. And our job is really to offer them the opportunity to move that painful emotion and trust that it doesn't have to be all done today or tomorrow or the next day.
So children who can't do [unclear]... When children don't feel bad about themselves they're happy to share, they're happy to repair a relationship that they just screwed up by being harsh with another child. I've seen many children--we don't ask children, for instance, to say, "I'm sorry," after they've done something thoughtless with another child. We just say, "I can't let you do that again." And pay attention to them and just say, "No, you can't. Actually, we're not going to go outside and play. I just want you to stay with me for a little bit. Something's not feeling very good for you." And sooner or later they'll have a cry. And then we just watch them with the other child that they hit or bit or whatever, and within about a half an hour, they will find a way to rebuild that friendship. I've seen it happen over and over again. So we do not have to force these things.
Birju: I'm really grateful for that story. I'm curious as you're naming these stories, it's amazing to me that children could develop these kinds of capacities--in some ways it's slow and in other ways it's really fast. And I'm curious if you've stayed in touch with people who've engaged with these practices over time. I'm curious, what kind of elders do the parents become, or what kind of adults do the children become? If there are particular capacities or values that you may have seen over time?
Patty: I have kept in touch with hundreds of families, many hundreds of families whose children I've worked with at one time or another. Some of these, some of the young people, I'm in touch with on a regular basis. What we see is that young people, in particular for boys, what we see is that they tend to be very able to be emotionally supportive of other people, which is not always a trait that's fostered among males in our society yet. [We're] getting there, but the boys, they become fathers who are the sort of the emotional center of their children's lives. And the mothers often play a more secondary role, sometimes, not in the care and not in the love, but just in who the child runs to when they're upset.
So we see that and we see that many of them find ways to use art, or work that they find, to make the world a better place--there's lots and lots of them that are involved in really paving the way for young people.
One boy I'm thinking of right now had a learning disability. He had a mom who was on welfare and who was severely depressed throughout his childhood, although she was part of Hand in Hand and part of [the] listening groups that we did. She had a listening partnership with two other single moms over 20 years, actually. He had a rough time in school because of his learning disability, and also because he's black. And, they were very, very poor. His father lived two blocks away, but had nothing to do with him, which is just really a heartbreak, for any child. And, so he grew up under difficult circumstances.
He had run-ins with the law as most black teenagers do. He experimented with marijuana and wound up being wildly allergic to it. So he got really out of control, aggressive, at a couple of points when he was on that drug and wound up in jail. His mom came and his mom and his Hand in Hand community of friends stayed with him, visited, did not give up on him, held that he was good, just supported him as much as they could until he got out.
And then he stayed off the drugs, was able to manage to do that, and became a very talented counselor of homeless youth in San Francisco, in a city program there. He was exceptional in counseling homeless youth, and finally went to college and graduated with great effort. And now he is the Associate Director of Admissions for a university that serves youth with histories like his in the Bay area and has just bought a house.
And one of the other young people, also black, who grew up as a family friend of his, did a young people's support and leadership group, based on the listening ideas that she had been exposed to growing up. So, she got him and his sister and herself and her brother, and then I think three other teen young adults, who were just trying to figure out how to support themselves in this world.
And they met for, I think, two years, once a week, working on their feelings, thinking about leadership, thinking about what they needed to do, what they needed to work on in order to build confidence, to be leaders of their own families, of their own lives, and then leaders of others as well. And he was really helped by that, and anchored by that group, and the relationships he had with the young people in that group.
So, those are the kinds of things that can happen. Not everybody shows up that way, but, it's just one picture. I know we have so many kids who were wild in their teens, and their parents handled it with listening and limits when needed. And, slowly these children were able to work on the early traumas that were the engine of that wild and crazy behavior, the poor judgment that they had. And as they were able to cry really, really hard, often with their parents, about the things that were not working in their lives, their judgment got better and better and they became more and more successful.
There's another young woman who was arrested for going 90 miles down the freeway here on the 101 one day. And her mom set sensible limits after that. Not as a punishment, but just, "You know, you cannot drive a car for six months. I won't let you because your judgment is not good enough and we'll see how it is after six months" kind of thing. Not as "this is what you get," but as "this is how I keep you safe," which is the best way to set limits really.
And she's now managing a big group with a very large corporation in San Francisco. She's got lots of emotional intelligence having been listened to by her mom throughout her teenage years. So, a couple of examples.
Kozo: Beautiful. Patty, I feel like listening to your stories is like going to church, it's like touching the sacred, and it also inspires me to see the goodness in children and adults. But we're at the top of the hour actually, so we're going to transfer into, I think Birju has one more question, then we're going to transfer into a space of sharing, so I invite all callers: You can hit star six (*6) and be put into the queue to ask a question. And, we already have a number of questions coming through the web feed, but you can also email us at ask A S K at servicespace dot com.
Patty: I'd love to answer questions. Great.
Kozo: Wonderful. And then I think Birju, one more question and then we'll switch over.
Birju: Great. Great. Just to be clear, is that email@example.com?
Kozo: Oh, sorry. I said dot com, huh? dot org. Dot O R G. Thank you. Birju.
Birju: No worries. No worries. Well, Patty, I wish this conversation could be doubled in length, frankly. But just to be in a place of self-reflection through this process, I would love to invite you to reflect upon it.
What would you say you have become, from these experiments that you have done, for decades upon decades upon decades, and helped launch in the world? What qualities would you say have blossomed in you from that effortless lens?
Patty: Well, this is a hard question. Catholic girls are taught not to brag, or still even to talk at all. But I think I just have a very deep trust in the goodness of human beings, no matter what's showing on the outside. I have a very deep trust in people's ability to heal from hurt. And I have a very deep trust in the, I don't know, just the powers of parents. It's like parents have so much love and so much determination and basically parents, you know, the feeling is, I'll do anything, anything. I'll walk on glass, I'll do anything to help my child's life be better. And that can make so many good things happen. If parents have the tools, if parents have listening tools, and an idea of what to try that will put them on a learning path towards gaining that confidence themselves, both in their own goodness and in the goodness of their child and their own healing powers and the healing powers that their children innately have.
So, slowly but surely, I'm becoming less worried. I have been a very worried person, much of my life. I think it started when my sister started going downhill and it looked like we were on a sinking ship, but you couldn't tell why or when it was going to go. And, just that whole sense of, kind of, dread for the future. I've been working on that for a really long time, and it feels like the clouds are parting and I'm okay with the present and I'm interested in the future, but not so worried about it, which is an amazing change for me.
And it may not stay changed, but right now it's changed, and I'm so happy that I can finally sleep at night. So, I think I'm a really good listener. I think people feel very safe with me, in general, although not always, not every person. Infants, if somebody hands me their baby and I'm, you know, I'm able to interact with a baby for five minutes in general. Many, many times babies are crying within five minutes with me because they can feel that how they feel is going to be okay.
Birju: It's so funny that that's seen as a positive.
Patty: Yeah. Yeah. And also I love to laugh, and I've become so much more of a playful person. It's like I can think of a way to get children laughing about rigid behaviors that they have, or rigid behaviors that I have, that they have tension about, pretty easily on all kinds of things.
I really have my ability to solve problems through play and releasing laughter. It's very deep. So I don't know. I'm a really good resource for parents. I'm a really good consultant. I'm a really good teacher, I think. Yeah. And I don't know, what else.
And I've had the chance to listen to parents from so many different cultures. And so my understanding that we're all human beings, no matter where we come from or what our religion is, or what our language is. I've had the chance to use listening with people whose language I do not understand, even when they don't understand my language. If we each have learned how to listen, we don't really need the language part.
In some ways it's simpler without. They just talk their language and I just watch their bodies and see what they look like. And if it looks like they need to push on something in order to offload fear, feel things deeply, I give them my hands and invite them to push and as they push, they cry really, really hard, and it works.
I don't know what to say. I think I want to say that those things amount to love. I'm not big on words, but play amounts to love, listening amounts to love. Trusting people amounts to love, trusting the healing process amounts to love, in my book.
Kozo: Beautiful. Well, Patty, normally the host gets to ask the first question, but I'm going to read something that came in on the web, because it ties straight into what you were just talking about, and you might've already answered this, but I think it's something that needs to be voiced. And I just want to comment, Patty, that a lot of the things that people are typing in the web are like super long.
So they're feeling that presence of you to listen and you being a safe space because they're just, they're downloading a lot of their hardship, pain and suffering. And this is a good example. So I'm not going to mention names because a lot of this is very vulnerable stuff.
“This is immensely helpful, so thank you so much. I have a very smart, mouthy 16-year-old, prone to say very rude, mean and cruel things to her sister and both parents. It appears calculating. I have a lot of trouble dealing with the apparent lack of gratitude, manners, grace, empathy, and I end up losing my temper. I love the listening partner approach, but I fear that my uncontrolled responses such as yelling, et cetera. have done irreparable damage to the relationship. Can you offer next steps in hopes that it's not too late? You should also know that this child was adopted from China when she was one year old.”
And I think all of us parents have that fear of doing irreparable damage. And I think you're very powerful in speaking to that with your method.
Patty: Sure. Okay. There's several things to say here. One is, yes, really your first and enduring step would be to find a good listener. Some people pay a counselor, but you need to pay someone who's not going to analyze you, or give you strategies, or anything like that.
You are looking for someone who will embrace you, thank you for all of the hard parenting work you've done, appreciate your path with this child and ask you the question, what's the first time you saw your child and what were you feeling then? What were you hoping for? What did you think parenting her was going to be like?
Because often times the dynamics in our relationships with our children actually start from their conception. The pregnancy, or in the case of adoption, the work that you did to adopt and the ideas that you had in your mind, the expectations that were set then, and then how things really came out and where you were left without help, without resource, without someone to go to, or someone to cry with when it wasn't the way you hoped.
All of that is what you would want to take to a listening partner and you can email me - I don't know what I get to say on this podcast about the resources that Hand in Hand Parenting has available for you. But parenting a child who was not well connected with anybody and in general, in orphanage's children, there's a lack of resources, and a lack of kind people, and a lack of time for kind people to do kind things with babies. And that lack makes it very hard for a child to trust that when you try to connect, that they will get anything out of it. So there's a big attachment break there, in lots of deep feelings that need to be healed.
So it's not a simple process. However, we have several instructors in Hand in Hand who have been through that process with adopted children, who know how it goes, who would be able to think with you about it. I'm not going to try to pretend it's a simple thing, but where to start would be getting help for yourself. I mean, in general, she's trying to, she's showing you she doesn't feel connected and that lack of feeling connected is buried way back in her earliest months, days and months in her life. There's lots of stuff to heal from there. And so almost every interaction, the sort of the warmer and the kinder you are, the more of an emotional flare from her, you are going to get.
And in your family, you need to not let her do harm to other people. So what I suggest, although it will be hard to handle without some good emotional support, is that you set up 15 minutes every night where you just say, “Hey, I want to do a meeting for 15 minutes every night. And, I want you to tell me all the things about your younger sister that bug the heck out of you and I'm going to write them down.”
And what you don't do during that meeting is try to solve anything. What you do do is offer warmth, offer trust that this is going to be an interesting time together. You offer warmth on your face. You make a little list, and you say, "Okay, anything else? Oh, okay. Yeah. Okay."
And it's also, as an explanation, I'm assuming that the sister was perhaps not adopted or did not go through the same kind of trauma that your older child did or that this child did. And so being around a child whose life is sunnier than the life that you've been through, and the feelings that you have to carry, is just infuriating.
So there's nothing that the sister has done to create this. It's just the fact that your family is safe, and when the other child, the sibling, is at her sunniest or having her best times, where things are going really, really well, that's when your adopted child feels safe enough to show how angry she is that she doesn't get to be relaxed in this way. She doesn't get to be sunny in this way. She doesn't get to feel loved the same way the other child does.
And so it's kind of like being a starving person and having to sit at a table full of riches and wonderful, yummy things and no one will let you eat. That's what's coming up for her. So, we could explain more if you get in touch with us. We have a good booklet.
So, you do this for ten minutes every night, and when it's over, or 15 minutes every night, and when it's over, you just go, "Okay, we're going to burn your list now." And you go into the bathroom and light a match to it and let the ashes fall in the toilet and flush it down. Or you rip it up or you shred it in your shredder or you wet it and flush it down the toilet. You do some creative thing to make it all go away. But the next night you go in and you (say), "Okay, what are the things on your list tonight? I want to write them all down."
But the attitude of, "I'm with you, I hear this. Tell me more." That "tell me more" attitudes, without any urgency to fix it, can really help a child feel heard, and feeling heard is... The other thing you can do is take special time with her. Just set up an hour on the weekends and say, "I've got an hour and we can do whatever you want to do. And we're not going to spend money (or we are going to spend money and here's how much). We don't have the car. (We do have the car.)" You set those parameters and you set the parameters around whether it's going to be on a screen or not, and then you do whatever the heck it is that she wants to do with warmth and kindness.
And if she goes, "Well, I don't want to do anything with you," then you go, "Okay. All right. I'm just here. I'm here for..." And maybe you might want to set the first one up for shorter than an hour, like maybe 20 minutes. And (you say) "Okay, well, if something comes to you, I'm right here and you can tell me and then we'll do that. That's fine that you don't know what to do. I know. It's kind of unusual, but we'll try it again another time if you can't think of anything today."
And then you continue to pay attention. You continue to give eye contact. You continue to hang out, in a relaxed way. It doesn't matter what the child chooses, or even if they choose anything. What matters is that you are paying attention. You continue to be warm. "Oh, you're gonna go off by yourself in your room? Okay. I'll be right outside your door. Yeah, I'm waiting. If you think of something, come let me know." If she wants to be alone.
It's like you're building trust, so you need to let her follow her idea of what this should be like, and you pay attention no matter what that is, even if she closes the door, slams in your face, and locks it. And you can slip little notes under the door every five minutes. "I'm still here. Just wondering if there's anything you might want to do know. I'm still here."
And then when 20 minutes is up if she still locked in there, you just go, "Okay sweetie. That's the end of Special Time. I'm going to go make the lunches now. Come to me if you want to talk, I'm here." You just let it be. Because giving the child the chance to drive the relationship, whatever direction they drive it in, that's the point. The point is not that it look like something. The point is that you give her the reins of the relationship for 20 minutes or however long. Those are good places to start.
Kozo: Wow. There's a lot there. Thank you. Thank you, Patty. I was listening to this spiritual leader, and he was saying, how, rather than go out and look at the world and look at people and judge them, ask yourself, "Where's their pain?"
And I noticed how quickly, and I just read a short comment from this parent, and how quickly and precise you were able to find the pain -- the pain of being adopted; the pain of what might've happened in an orphanage; the pain of having a sister who seems to have more; and that's just an amazing gift, Patty. Maybe it's from all the listening, that you can really zero in and find those trigger points of pain. Yeah, so just in awe.
And real quick, another question came in when you were mentioning your research, it says, "Would you be so kind to let us know how we can access, purchase, a hard copy of the Parenting by Connection text. We will supply all that. Everybody who RSVPed, we'll send out a thank-you note and we'll supply all Patty's information and website and links to her books. So we'll do that. I'm going to use the host privilege and ask a question. I have about six questions for you.
Kozo: But I'll just try to pick one. I think the one that's really coming up for me, and, like we talked about earlier, I have two boys, and I noticed in that story with Alison, what I noticed is that Alison, like you said, she was really a girly-girl and she was confronted with this manly man, and I saw an integration of the divine feminine and the divine masculine and that she was able to embody those masculine traits of athleticism and fortitude. So I'm wondering, it seems the other way for boys, and I'm speaking of myself and also my sons, often the divine feminine is wrung from us. We're taught, at a very young age, at five, "Stop crying. Don't be a crybaby. Toughen up." So, do you have any advice or tips or methods for cracking that toxic masculinity and allowing this softer space to evolve in boys and men?
Patty: Yeah. Yeah. Well, what I've seen over time, the reasons I can put my finger on things pretty quickly is just having worked with many thousands of children from lots of different cultures over four decades, four-and-a-half decades now. So just experience helps. And what we do see with boys is -- and girls, both -- is the value of roughhousing as a regular practice in your family.
Just parents getting down on their knees. Clearing the furniture. You get the coffee table out of the living room. You take the lamps out. It only takes two minutes to kind of get all the doodads out of the living room and bring every pillow in the house into the living room and just having a big old pillow fight with people whapping each other. And, with little ones, you just give the confident four-year-old some good whacks. But every time they whack you with a pillow, whether it hits you or not, you go down, "Oh, you got me!" And you give them the more-powerful role. It's like you lose. You don't lose fast. If you've got a child who's ten-years-old and really physically quite competent, then you give them some good payback and some good play, never harder than they're playing, never to win, but just to keep the play interesting and fun, to keep challenging them, and looking for the laughter. And what lets a child laugh is just the right kind of play.
So you're not looking to win. You're not looking for a contest. You're looking to connect through play. More eye contact, appreciation, humorous narrative. "Oh no, he's coming to me with a big one now. Oh, not that big pillow! Oh please! Oh no! Ugh!" Down I go. "Oh, I hope he doesn't come back with that thing!' And then, of course, wink, wink and your child laughs and laughs and laughs. And then, "Here I come!" and whomps you again. Basically that kind of play lets tension release just beautifully in laughter, and laughter is a very strong connector between people as long as the parent is not acting out of some frozen need to win or frozen need to prove themselves; as long as the parent is actually wanting to connect with the child, connection will happen, and children's hopes go sky-high when there's play like that.
So play like, letting siblings jump, even at the ages of 10 and 12, jump on the biggest bed you've got and you try to whack their feet with pillows, and of course, every now and then you get them and they fall down on their bottoms on the bed and it's really funny. But most of the time you can't get them because they're so fast and so clever. And they use up all this energy and they laugh and laugh, and they feel really free. And they build their coordination and they build their instantaneous sense of where their bodies are in space and how close each other are and how to handle the challenges that you throw at them. All of these things build leadership.
And, with boys who have fears, aggression always comes out. It's always rooted in fear. Fear from very early times when they were overwhelmed by circumstances, or fear of disapproval or fear that, if they get hurt, they might not get better. All kinds of things. And in the middle of this kind of play, kids always "get hurt". There's some little... their elbow hits the edge of the bed, or their head gets bonked when they finally accidentally fall off and they'll burst into tears or burst into anger because "You did that!" and "You got my eye!" and "You meant to!" or "He meant to!" Sort of blaming it on somebody else and maybe somebody else did get a little squirrely in the play. That does happen. But as children cry about these places where their confidence breaks quickly, if there's any pain whatsoever, they become much more resilient.
And they also...and you moving in and caring and offering kindness and not blaming anybody for anything, just, "Oh yeah, your brother might've gotten a little squirrely but you know, I don't think he really wants to hurt you. Maybe he's just having kind of a bad day. I'm sorry. No, I'm sorry, I didn't see that that was coming at you. I'm sorry I didn't help you, help it not happen." And so you, you take the responsibility for managing the safety and you don't let anybody get blamed. If the child starts blaming their brother, (you might say something) like, "You can yell, but I'm not ever going to believe that he really wanted to hurt you like that. I'm sorry it happened. No." So you hold out, "You're good. Your brother's good. We're good. And I think we can play again. I'll stay with you until you feel like playing again."
And all of that lets a child repair their confidence again and again and again over time until they can... Like my grandchildren, my grandson is 18 and my granddaughter is 15-and-a-half, so there are two-and-a-half years between them. They can wrestle for 45 minutes hard, really challenging each other and laughing and teasing and, not mean. It's just a way to connect and play. They can do this for 45 minutes with nobody getting hurt, and they really dish it out. And neither of them are afraid to have it dished out. Neither of their confidence breaks because we've listened to them so well. So basically when boys and girls have a place where their aggression is welcomed, where you can bring it into a play space and have it all play out there and set limits if they get too edgy. Set limits if they're whacking so hard that it's gonna give somebody whiplash. "Nope, Nope. Can't let you do that. You gotta hit me below the shoulders" or "Oh, you did it again. I think I'm going to have to take away this heavy pillow and give you this one." And you just keep managing the safety so that the play can continue. And they continue to have a play space for those feelings of aggression, that wanting to win, the wanting power. And the listening that you do when they do burst into tears, that models the kind of caring and love that you want them to have.
So, a little story to illustrate. There's a mom who teaches Hand in Hand, who has… I think her boys are seven years apart. So the older one was I think seven or seven-and-a-half at this time. Maybe her boys are six years apart, and the younger one was like 18 months, in the back of the car. She's on the freeway. She can't get off the freeway for 20 minutes and the baby starts crying, crying, crying, just deep, deep crying and wants to get out and just kind of wiggling around in the car seat and his legs are going and he's just wailing and she's trying to connect with him verbally from the front seat to the back. "Jack, I'm right here. I'm right here. I'm sorry I can't get you out of the seat right now. I'm with you. I'm so sorry. It's hard."
And her older son, after about a minute or so of the mom trying to be verbally present to her baby, her older son who's seven turns to him and says, "Jack, I'm going to hold your hand. I'm right here. Jack. I'll listen to you. You're not alone here. I'm here, Jack. Right here," exactly the way a parent would do and just so kind and so thoughtful. And he just was his little brother's listener person all the rest of the way home. So it didn't mean the baby stopped crying but his brother knew how to listen and the crying did not throw him cause he'd been listened to fairly often as a little boy himself. So I don't know. Does that answer your question?
Kozo: Yeah. Thank you. Beautiful. I mean, practical but deep at the same time. I'm sorry, Patty, I have an echo, so I have to mute myself after the question.
Kozo: We have one last question that we ask all of our guests and there are still more questions in the queue, but, I'm gonna just end with this question. How can we, as the ServiceSpace community, support you in your work?
Patty: Hmm. Huh. Explore Hand in Hand. I mean, it's a mutual thing. See what you can learn from us. We have so much information online for free, and many portals through which you can get a deeper picture of what it is we're putting out, and portals for real, in-person, or online help for you in the midst of your parenting. Come be part of our community or come partake of our community and then give back in whatever way you can. Give back in terms of listening time to other stressed parents, to your parenting partner, to your own parents who are trying hard to be good grandparents. Give back and listening and play to your children.
We want a world… we're building a worldwide movement. We have teachers in 17 countries. We teach in nine languages. We really want to grow this understanding of how good children are, how good parents are, the fact that there is a healing process that we're all dying to use, we just don't quite have the tools. So grab the tools, use them, learn, and, keep using them, I think.
And there's more direct ways to help. We're a nonprofit, and like other nonprofits, help at this time in terms of financial or volunteer support really makes a big difference in our being able to reach parents who are kind of at the end of their ropes with sheltering in place and trying to be teacher, parent worker, and keeper of the house. It was too much before the pandemic hit and now it's way too much.
Birju: Oh. I'm feeling so full by what I'm hearing here. I feel like I'm... First of all, just thank you so much for taking the time to be on this call with us. I am reflecting on what I'm going to carry out of this call, and I think the statement is very apropos: "Parenting By Connection." And what that implies for my own capacity is significant. Being intentional about it is so important to the future of my family and, in my mind, my civilization. You know, my work is in finance and business. That's actually how we met, and I can't help but notice that so much of what you're saying here forms the root of things that we call "geopolitical crisis" or "climate change" or "inequality." And to address it at the level of climate change and inequality is really ignoring that what we're talking about is hurt and that we don't have the capacity to feel it or hear it. But I'm so grateful that you took time out to share that connection to us.
Patty: Well, thank you so much for inviting me. And if -- I will come back anytime. So if there's more appetite, here I am. Thank you.
Kozo: Wonderful. And thank you both. It was just amazing to sit and listen to this call. I think the one thing I could say, Patty and Birju will understand this as well, the biggest compliment I could pay you, is that I am so excited right now to finish this call and go out and play with my sons. So that's a huge compliment considering we've been sheltering in place and I've been homeschooling them, and we've both been fed up with each other a number of times a week...
Patty: Of course.
Kozo: But I'm so happy to re-establish that connection and just play. So thank you for all that you're sharing.
Patty: Well, thank you very much for having me. It's really important to know that the hard times that can always teach you even more than the good times do. So the hard times are necessary. And, if you've got someone to listen to you about the hard times, that's how to make hay with a difficult situation.
Kozo: Wonderful. We're going to end with a moment of silence and gratitude and then I'll close the call after that. (pause) Thank you. Thank you, everybody, for joining us, and thank you, Patty and Birju for this wonderful conversation. I hope everybody has a wonderful weekend and, if you have children, to practice some of these practices and listen deeply and play.
Birju: Thank you, Patty.
Thank you for listening to a recording of Awakin Calls. To access archives, visit us at www.awakin.org and to get more involved, volunteer at www.servicespace.org.
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