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Parenting Lessons From Lithuania

Some Things I learned While In Lithuania

In July, I attended an international summer school for Adlerian training in Lithuania.   What a remarkable experience.  I meet Adlerians from 26 different countries and places as diverse as Malta, Bahamas, India, Iraq, Israel, Switzerland, Romania, Bulgaria and more.  I had never been to Lithuania before, or to any other former Soviet state for that matter.  So many things made an impression on me, but I would like to just mention a few that are related to parenting.

To begin, I was seated on the plane next to a Lithuanian mother travelling with an 11 month old and a 5 year old.  I will admit, as much as I do love children, I thought it was going to be one long hellish trip.  To my surprise, the children were amazingly well behaved. The 11 month old only fussed when he was hungry and wanted to nurse.  The rest of the time he sat contented on his mother’s lap.  Interestingly, the mother did not have the typical “emergency bag” of toys, games, story books, snacks, juice boxes.  In fact, she didn’t “entertain” him at all.  No peek-a-boo, no rattles shaken, no patty cake.  They just sat together, smiled a lot and talked amongst themselves. They were relaxed and happy and you could feel their closeness. The 5 year old ate what everyone else on the plane ate.  Every bite.  No kiddie food was packed in case he didn’t like the meal served by the airline.  It was amazingly civil, sweet and peaceful.  If you sit with a North American family on a transatlantic flight, you probably wouldn’t use these adjectives to describe the experience.

Once in Lithuania, I stayed in a little resort town called Druskaninikai (try saying that 5 times fast – or just once correctly would be impressive too).  Outside the conference centre where our classes were held, was a lovely park.  Families strolled through the grounds, but the only entertainment or activity available was to rent bikes, peddle cars or tricycles.  Slim pickin’s by our standards, but these kids were content to simply peddle around a water fountain that made an interesting spouting display every half hour.

It was remarkable.  It was refreshing.  It made me realize just how much we wind our children up!  If that town was in North America, you can bet there would be animated characters, rides that go 100 miles an hour, and kiosks every few feet selling slurpy drinks and fried pogos.  There would be loud music too, and it would all make for dizzying overstimulation.

Against the calm of Lithuania, I realized how fast I talk, how fast I walk, and how many things fight for my attention.  Everything at home is loud, busy, fast and digital, but we don’t notice because its our culture and we’re embedded in it.   In Lithuania, however, they are still recovering from oppressive Soviet rule.  It’s like stepping back in time.  The parents are not snapping pictures of their kids to post on Facebook, they don’t have their heads down texting as they walk, they are not talking on cell phones, or working on laptops.  Frankly, its all too expensive still.  Even corporations don’t have money for advertising.  The fast food chains have not yet infiltrated this little country town.  In Druskininkai, its just families hanging out and talking.  You forget what that life looks like.  I liked it!  A lot.  Civil, sweet and peaceful.

I wish I could say that I slowed down permanently.  I haven’t.  And I can already feel the siren call of technology luring me back. I can sense the frenetic pace of the city and feel I have to match my cadence – or else…   Or else what?  I remind myself.

So, thank you Lithuania.   I came home a better parent.  I am working to be calmer; to be more mindful and present in the moment; to turn off the background noise of life; to visit with my kids when they are around instead of filling a short void by checking my iphone.  I am feeling way more relaxed. My teenagers are more relaxed, and I can only imagine how relaxing it would be for a 5 year old and an 11 month old.  So relaxing that I bet they could feel content just sitting on a plane with their mom for hours.   Ahhhh….

Happy Parenting


About Alyson

Alyson has been blogging parenting advice for over 15 years. She has been a panelist at BlogWest, Blissdom, #140NYC and more. Her content appears on sites across Canada and the US, but you can read all her own blog posts right here.

More about Alyson

10 Responses to “Parenting Lessons From Lithuania”

  1. @FeliciaDewar

    I love this Alyson. I totally hear you on the fast pace, the constant entertainment and our digital age – heck I’m embroiled in it as well. BUT, are you aware that to NOT entertain your children constantly, to not over-schedule them daily, to not encourage the fast paced lifestyle we lead is frowned upon in court should your partner ever take you there?
    We are not just active in our society, it is forced and should we choose to sit outside and enjoy the days together quietly – well, shame on you for not trying to make your child “successful”. Sigh. Yes, I know, I am jaded. I just felt a little envious of the mother on the plane!

  2. Alyson Schafer

    Hey Felicia, I hear the frustration. Can’t win for trying sometimes, right? Well, I hope you have some moments of Zen like that mom on the plane too. Rooting for you from afar!

  3. Debbie Todt

    I think that this goes to show how disconnected in North America we are from our kids. Cell phones, computers, TV, busy lives all get in the way of our being connected with our kids and so they are fighting constantly just to try to make a connection with us. Even when we go on vacation with our kids, we try to pack so much in that we are not relaxed and still are very disconnected. Slow down!! Take several moments every day to become reconnected with not only your children but with your spouse, parent, friend. I think we have lost sight of what is really important and meaningful in our lives and they have it figured out!

  4. Alyson Schafer

    Hi Debbie, Thanks for posting. Yes, there are some things like aging wine, and slow cooked stews that just require patience and time. Relationships are like that too. Time – MINDFUL time.

  5. Metin Tozoglu

    The world is tooo small is correct correct for me and Alyson because before ICASSI I was following her on TWİTTER and we both joined ICASI in Lithuania so we met first day joggging along the Nemunas river.
    I alll agrreee with her observations on those people and that country.

  6. Alyson Schafer

    Hello Metin! Yes, and I was the only crazy women running – and I was the only person I ever saw in Lithuania with an MP3 player and headphones. Remember we jogged along the river? It was lined with fisherman with their poles in the water. They didn’t have music with them. They were just enjoying the morning. Why did I have to listen to Beyonce’s “Love On Top” in Lithuania? Too funny! Great to hear from other ICASSI people about their impressions. Stay in touch. Alyson

  7. Violeta

    Happy you liked Lithuania! Druskininkai is very small town, I would say it is more hectic in the big cities, and there is always a temptation to turn to some device or something to occupy your child than to take time and connect, it is so true everywhere, even in Lithuania…
    Greetings from Kaunas, Lithuania

  8. Alyson Schafer

    Yes, and our small towns are different from the big ones too. We all face the same struggle of not taking the easy way to entertain – its a universal.

  9. Olga Quigley

    Hello Alyson,

    I was born in Lithuania in a small town of Shiauliai. During the Soviet times ( I am Russian in my roots), and my childhood is filled with the pace you described. The way we played as children, the way we made friends. The way parents had enough time to connect with you… I am a mom of two boys 3.5 years old and a 9 months old. And I am definitely feeling “under digital pressure” of it all. We are so fortunate now in Toronto to have all the gadgets of “saving the moment” on cameras, iphones and ipads, etc.. that we forget to live in that moment. Its a little scary to realize how wired we all are… how many things we chase after and the ever increasing pace of life. Back home all stores are still closed from 1pm -2pm for lunch. For Christmas the whole country is on vacation for 14 days… I definitely want to slow down after being reminded how my childhood was spent. How many wonderful memories i have of my parents and grandparents taking their time with me..

    Thank you.

  10. Alyson Schafer

    Thanks for sharing that with us! Lovely!


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