Musings Parenting

Intend and dream

I have a newfound interest in exploring my dream life. To better honor and engage with the sacred journey that I embark on every night.

When I was a child, I had recurring nightmares. My experiences at night were so traumatic that I developed a fear of sleep itself, knowing that the monsters of my dreams would be there waiting for me night after night.

As is often the case with universal timing, my mother happened to be taking a class in lucid dreaming. She taught me the basics of lucid dreaming, imparting that it might help me overcome the nightmares.

An enviable part of being young is the flexibility to absorb most any teaching, and I recall being able to lucid dream by almost the first night. All I needed was this flash of inspiring possibility.

The first stage of lucid dreaming I experienced was of simple awareness; knowing that I was in a dream. While this didn’t alone stop the nightmares, it calmed me and encouraged me to continue.

Over a short time, I could command the monsters to obey my will. They weren’t always so obliging, but with time I was organizing colorful parades of these monsters in my mind. What was once so terrifying became a playful game of celebration.

The feeling of triumph I got from this experience was profound and extended into my waking life. I became more confident at school and I felt more empowered in my life. I had accomplished something that felt like magic, and it had a real energy to it.

I retained this lucid dreaming ability for a few years, but with time it withered away. In college, I myself took a dream course in hopes of rekindling the experience. Through journaling, I was able to at least start remembering my dreams again, but actual lucid dreaming remained elusive.

I’ve spent most of this life remaining curious about dreams, but not really getting to the point of prioritizing the experience enough to dig deeper.

Now is the time for me to prioritize dreaming.

From my experience, an important aspect of any inward journey is setting intentions for the meditation. Ask your guides what you want to come out of this sacred time you are setting aside for yourself, and they will often deliver in profound ways.

So I’ve decided to approach each night as a journey inward, and set intentions as I go to sleep about what I want to get out this time.

In a previous post about morning rituals, I wrote about the importance of allowing screen-free time in the mornings after I wake. I’ve found that an important part of remembering my dreams and receiving the results of my intentions comes from allowing space for it to come in. If I get into productive mode immediately, I’ll quickly forget important aspects of my journey and the dream time that I set aside for insights has been wasted.

One final thing I’ll add is that I’ve always encouraged my children to approach dreams as something they have control over. Every night since they were too little to talk, I’ve asked them to think about what they want to dream about that night – like selecting from a menu of experiences to enjoy. Every morning, I ask them with genuine interest what they dreamt about and tell them about any dreams I remember. I hope this sets them on a path of having a more meaningful relationship with their own dreams.

What is your relationship with dreams? Do you have experiences of lucid dreaming you could share with me? Any techniques that you use to better remember your dreams? How do you talk to your kids about dreams?


Gamifying Toddler Discipline

I’ve been experimenting with a new parenting technique with the my young kids that has been working well for us. I never liked the idea of negative incentives for kids, because I want them to focus on doing good rather than avoiding punishment.

Many video games reward players with an in-game currency that they can earn for doing certain tasks like completing a puzzle successfully. Players can trade these tokens for in game rewards like a new virtual outfit.

Gamification is the process of adding game-like incentives to something that isn’t a game. So I decided to try gamifying the rewards for my toddlers as a way to incentivize chores and good behavior.

Today, Tetris (4) and Coda (2) earn “tokens” (repurposed poker chips) for completing responsibilities like cleaning up their rooms before breakfast or putting away their toys after they play with them.

Once a task is completed, a token is taken from a “bank” and given to them. They then get to place the tokens in their own “wallet” jar for later spending on rewards. Because the jars are glass, they can see how many tokens they have at any given time.

They can cash the tokens for privileges like having a movie night, eating popsicles, or choosing the music we listen to in the car.

The reason I love this concept is that it decouples the reward from the responsibility. Instead of incentivizing good behavior by telling them that they can watch an hour of TV if they clean their room, I tell them they’ll get a token that they can use however they wish.

Tokens can therefore given at any time, not just when a reward is available or desirable. Just like life, when you put in the hard work, sometimes the reward doesn’t come right away.

My kids love earning tokens and they seem to be a compelling enough reward in and of themselves now that they’ve associated them with good outcomes.

I love that the token system teaches them both about doing their part around the house, as well as the value of currency and planning ahead.

I also think it is valuable to hold yourself to the same standards as you set for your kids, so I’ve set up my own token jar. Of course the responsibilities a bit different (ie making my bed) as are the rewards (ie buying something on Amazon for myself), but I find this technique helps me accomplish my responsibilities as well.

Fortunately the kids haven’t caught onto the fact that formerly free features like popsicles are now locked behind a paywall, so I’m coming up with a longer list of privledges and responsibilities for them, and would love to hear your creative ideas!


Marriage finances for the modern era: a proposal

My wife and I got married 2 years ago today. It’s been a wonderful ride! Looking back, one decision that’s worked out well for us is how we manage our finances. As I think it’s a model that could work well for most couples, improving both happiness and financial health, I wanted to tell you about it.

I subscribe to the notion that marriage is a partnership. It isn’t about merging two into one – it’s about two individuals planning the rest of their lives together.

At first we considered the traditional “share everything” approach to marriage finances: funnel everything into and out of a single joint account. While still the most socially acceptable choice, for two upwardly mobile professionals with individual wants and needs, it seemed to lack flexibility. On the flip side, keeping everything independent as we did prior to marriage wouldn’t scale for the sorts of long term planning we wanted to do, like buying a house or having kids.

We ended up going with a halfway approach: we kept our individual accounts, and added a shared joint account to which we contribute a percentage of our paychecks every month (say, 60%). A percentage makes more sense than a fixed dollar amount because it scales to life’s changes as they come along: if one of our startups fail or we became pregnant, the working one would share more of the load. Most payroll providers offer options for percentage contributions, so this is both easy and automatic.

This system has worked out great for us because it takes the contention out of minor everyday financial decisions, while keeping our sights on long term planning. If Heather wants to buy some new shoes or I the latest crowd-funded board game, we use our individual accounts. That 3d printer we’ve had our eyes on? Shared ( pitter patter my heart ). A big purchase on the horizon? We’ll start contributing a higher percentage to the pot.

With how much you hear about couples fighting over money issues, and how natural and effortless this system seems to us, I wanted to share it with couples looking for alternatives to the norm.

How do you manage your finances after marriage? Any other marriage tips to share? I’d love to chat about it with you over at Hacker News.

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