one little word

April 6, 2012


January was a bit of a crazy month. In this part of the world we have six weeks school holidays, from mid December to the end of January. As a family, we had the opportunity to examine and negotiate boundaries, limits, and expectations, and learn a whole lot more about what independence should look like for a 10, 9, and 6 year old in our neighbourhood for our kids.

Phil Nunn, an Australian psychologist, uses the metaphor of a rope being around the parent’s waist. When do you let the rope get loose, and when do you reel it in? With all of my education, I still find myself floundering on the subject. I don’t mind this at all, because from uncertainty and disequilibrium comes the opportunity for reflection and evaluation. Having worked in child protection I know that I can be overprotective at times.

The process helped me to add muscle to some of my core values of parenting. I thought a bit more about Phil Nunn’s metaphor, and I came to the conclusion that the rope has to be even stronger and thicker if I’m going to be letting it out a bit more and bringing it back in.

I like to keep things simple. Simple, clear, and direct, that’s me.

Influenced by the writings of Rachelle Mee Chapman, one of the simple things I introduced  for my family was a word of the month. One focus word that brought us together and helped us to focus on what is important.

February was “Kindness”, courtesy of Rachelle. At dinner time, we talked about what acts of kindness we performed throughout the day. In interactions between each other, I asked the boys to reflect if they were being kind. The idea expanded. I mentioned it to the parenting group I was facilitating that month, and they took it home to their own families. In the group, we were talking about how our kids were growing in kindness. There was a kindness buzz going on, and it felt so good.

March hit us. It literally felt like a hit. It took my breath away. Life got so much busier with the arrival of the soccer season and my husband starting a part-time business (something he loves but will never pay the bills) on top of his full-time job (the one that pays the bills). The new word was “Breathe”. Before dinner, we did some breathing. When the kids got overwhelmed we did some breathing. Two new parent groups at work with their own unique challenges, and I did a lot of deep breathing.

April seems all sparkly. It’s Autumn here. Warm days, cool nights. We have another two weeks of school holidays. And so  the new word is “Joy”. I’m not really sure how I’m going to communicate that one to the kids, but I figure that if I’m feeling the joy, which I am, then that’s going to rub off on them. Finger painting and snail races, here we come!

I wait until the new month starts before I set a new focus word. It has to reflect the circumstances and energy of our family at the time. It’s just a simple little thing that we are now in the habit of doing. It has added vigour to our discussions and enriched our interactions. And this is the thing, you don’t forget the lessons learnt from the previous months focus word. You do have to be careful that you don’t compartmentalise, don’t make it a product. Just enjoy the process,  just let it be organic and flowing and see where it takes you. Oh marvellous process.

Wishing you much joy (or whatever you are focusing on) this month.

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About hakea

groupworker, parent educator, therapist, mother of three boys.

View all posts by hakea


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10 Comments on “one little word”

  1. Team Oyeniyi Says:

    Dad just took the three younger ones to Luna Park and the oldest is going to the beach. I will be joyfully home alone in the quiet! 🙂

    They forgot to take the camera, but oh well, that is life.

    I have the same problem with the rope around my waist, given the kids haven’t yet been here a year – still so much for them to learn. I can imagine that having worked in child protection, you would be even worse than I am!


    • hakea Says:

      Hi Robyn

      Your kids will be able to reflect on so much when they are adults. They have had the benefit of a strong culture, community, and family, and have had to be resilient and adaptable.

      Have a joyful day


  2. michaelwatsonvt Says:

    I love the idea of a word a month! Breathe would have been the perfect word for last month as my wife was teaching in Bangladesh and India, there were a number of small, young adult based disasters to deal with, and all of us seemed to be ill at one moment or another. Now we are already planning international teaching trips for this time next year, renegotiating the lease on our office, and planning our summer (summer here is often fleeting) ! I guess “breathe” is still a great word for April.

    Joy to you and yours!

    I love the background flowers!


  3. InsideJourneys (@InsideJourneys) Says:

    I so enjoyed reading this post, Narelle. I love that idea of focusing on a word. It’ll be a challenge this month but I’ll definitely try. I need to feel joyful.
    Now about that rope — I don’t have children so I’m thinking back to my mom. She held on for dear life. I was the one who broke the rope!


    • hakea Says:

      LOL, and I so enjoyed reading your comment. That imagery is so strong!

      Maybe “breathe” is a good word for this month for you?

      Best Wishes


  4. eof737 Says:

    Wishing you well… it’s been a while. 😉


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