Taking Our Places: A New Parenting Documentary Directed By Ana Sofia Joanes

I’m screaming over here!! I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing Producer and Director Ana Sofia Joanes.  “Her first documentary, Generation Meds, explored our fears and misgivings about mental illness and medication. FRESH, Ana’s second documentary, celebrates the farmers, thinkers and business people across America who are re-inventing our food system.” ~ Fresh The Movie, Ana’s Bio.asj2

I am totally girl-crushing! We recently became a vegetarian family and watched FRESH for the first time a few years back, which slowly {along with many other resources} placed us on our vegetarian journey. Now, I learn of Ana’s first documentary Generation Meds… and I nearly passed out. You all may know how I feel about mental illness and depression etc.

We are a match made in heaven right?  If you haven’t seen FRESH watch it now. It will totally open your eyes to the reality of “food”. I’ll be watching Generation Meds ASAP!

Alright, allow me to collect myself.

Ana’s Newest Project, Taking Our Places

Ana is currently working on a new documentary called Taking Our Places, that follows three families as they allow us to peer {maybe probe is a more appropriate word} into their daily lives as parents. Allowing us to see the reality of parenting. As parents we know all too well that it ain’t always pretty and there are those little moments that we wish we could erase or situations that we know we could have handled better.

Taking our places gives us a look at Partnership-Based Parenting which is a skill that we can ALL benefit from. Both parents and non-parents alike. I cannot begin to say how much I am looking forward to seeing this film!

And — It will become a finished product with our help! So far Taking Our Places has been backed by over 60 supporters, with over $4000 raised. $25000 is the goal!

A note from Ana:

I’ve been shooting for two years and am ready to start post-production. We’ve hired a wonderful editor and we’re ready to go. In order to move forward we’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign. Please take a look, watch the trailer, and if you feel moved, please contribute! Every dollar matters! And please share on your social networks. Finally, “like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram. This movie is made by a team of moms (produced, directed and edited by moms!) and is meant for all the moms and dads who want to grow the love and connection in their family and in the world.

Instead of pulling quotes or bits and pieces from our “time together” I am going to let her words speak for themselves. I could not give her words justice if I tried. I am extremely  touched by her words, her view and her drive to seek alternatives when “parenting” doesn’t go the way we planned.

And really does it ever?

I am so happy that Ana is sharing the wealth with each of us.

If I had to sum up in few words the message that prevailed when speaking with Ana it would be this…

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you — Even if those “others” are your children…or any child for that matter.

Enjoy!


My Q&A With Ana Sofia Joanes on Her New Documentary, Taking Our Places

How did you go from FRESH to Taking Our Places?

“Taking Our Places is not really about parenting, the same way FRESH was not really, or not only, about sustainable agriculture.”…living authentically, being true to one-self, could have radical transformative and healing capacity for the whole world. This is self-care being redefined from selfish to powerfully world-changing. FRESH was about food but on a deeper level it was about shifting from seeing ourselves as separate from nature to being part of nature, to see the intricate inter-connectedness of all life… Taking Our Places, in this sense, is a continuation of my work with FRESH, work that has to do with shifting our understanding of ourselves and our relationship with others.
When I became a parent and my focus turned to my child. Filmmaking is a pretty intense activity. It’s not the kind of job you just leave behind when you leave the office. It’s pretty obsessive. So I thought, if I’m going to obsess about a movie, it might as well be about what I’m already obsessing over: parenting! But I also want to say that Taking Our Places is not really about parenting, the same way FRESH was not really, or not only, about sustainable agriculture.

When I was filming on Joel Salatin’s farm, a little spark was ignited inside of me that kept growing and growing… Joel had been showing us how his farm works, and how everything he does follows a very simple but fundamentally radical approach. He said “if you respect the chicken-ness of the chicken, the cow-ness of the cow, then all falls into place.” And what fell into place was earth-shattering. It was not only that the animals were happier and healthier. Or that the meat they produce was healthier and tastier. Good outcomes for sure, maybe even good enough, and certainly outcomes I would expect. But that was just the beginning. What Joel explained is that by respecting the essence of each life-form lead to building more soil, which meant increasing resilience to droughts, capturing more CO2 (therefore fighting Global Warming), and, of course, increasing productivity (did you say more food? more money?)  How could such a simple act, such a limited focus, lead to such far-reaching outcome I remember thinking. And then Joel said, can you imagine if we applied this principle to each other? He turned to me and said “are you respecting the Ana-ness of Ana?”

I’ve never stopped thinking about this question. What I think Joel was saying is that living authentically, being true to one-self, could have radical transformative and healing capacity for the whole world. This is self-care being redefined from selfish to powerfully world-changing. FRESH was about food but on a deeper level it was about shifting from seeing ourselves as separate from nature to being part of nature, to see the intricate inter-connectedness of all life. In doing so, you could start realizing the incredible responsibility you have to take your place in this web of life, because only when you do, can “everything fall into place.” Changing the world then really truly starts with oneself. When I became a mom, it also dawn on me that I cannot truly support my child in taking her place if I don’t do the work first. It’s one of the most humbling lessons of parenting that you cannot teach, you can only model. And so my work continued toward knowing and accepting myself and maturing into the person I already am. Taking Our Places, in this sense, is a continuation of my work with FRESH, work that has to do with shifting our understanding of ourselves and our relationship with others.

What compelled you to make this Documentary?

When my daughter, Maayan, was almost a year and a half, I felt like I hit a brick wall. I was totally and unnervingly powerless in getting my little girl dressed! Yes, something as simple as that.  But I came to dread trying to get out of the house, no matter how desperate I was to do so, because it would be such a struggle to get her to put her clothes on. Most of the time I would end up forcing her, and she would fight me so hard that I would be left feeling beat. Maybe being the boss was not all it was cracked up to be, but what was the alternative? How do I parent this willful little girl? I didn’t want my relationship with my daughter to be one of power-struggle!

A friend of mine recommended a few books. I started with the thinnest one: “Parenting from Your Heart” by Inbal Kashtan. I read the whole book one evening and was thrilled with what I read. There was a possibility of stepping out of the power struggle and instead, building trust, connection, and cooperation. BUT, the next morning, I still couldn’t get my child dressed! In order to learn how to apply these principles to my daily life, I sought out a counselor and started biweekly counseling sessions.

“What I’ve learned and what I think my movie will show is that parenting is a skill that can be learned and practiced. My message is simple: no, you are not alone, and yes, there are tools out there that can really help!”
My counselor’s commonsensical advice shook my world. For instance, my counselor, Kathy, pointed out how behind every NO, there’s a YES. What is my daughter saying YES to when she refuses to get dressed? Turns out she was saying yes to choice. All I had to do is provide two pieces of clothing to my pre-verbal child, and my struggles were over! She also taught me the difference between needs and strategies. Maayan would also never agree to put her coat on, no matter how freezing it was outside. Kathy helped me understand that my need was for Maayan to be healthy, and that my strategy was to put her coat on before leaving the house. Once I could see that putting the coat was just a strategy, I could imagine new ways to meet my need for Maayan to stay healthy. I could take her outside and wait for her to feel the cold and then put the coat on. Or I could bring a blanket and cover her on the stroller… Struggle over.

What happened next totally took me by surprise. Turns out, the book I read, the advice I was getting, the strategies that were working so well and transforming my life, are not what other people do! On the contrary, this was pretty counter-cultural and radical, and I started getting a lot of push-back. I was warned that my child would become a bully, and spoiled, that she was going to rule over me, because if I’m not in control, she is. If I was too soft, too permissive, I would live in chaos.

That’s when I decided to make a movie! Because I might not be good at getting my daughter dressed, but I’m pretty damn competent at making movies! And because this new approach to parenting totally rocked my world, it got me wondering, why not the rest of the world? So I decided to run a little experiment and see how other families would respond…

In Taking Our Places, I intimately follow three families as they learn and try to implement new parenting strategies. What I’ve learned and what I think my movie will show is that parenting is a skill that can be learned and practiced. My message is simple: no, you are not alone, and yes, there are tools out there that can really help!

What inspired the name Taking Our Places? What does it mean?

I borrowed the name from one of my favorite books from my most influential teacher Norman Fisher. In his book“Taking Our Places: the Buddhist path to truly growing up” he writes

“Each of us has a place in this world. Taking that place, I have come to feel, is our real job as human beings. We are not generic people, we are individuals, and when we appreciate that fact completely and allow ourselves to embrace it and grow into it fully, we see that our unique place in this world is the one thing that gives us a sense of ultimate fulfillment….What does it really mean to grow up? How do we do the work that will nurture a truly mature heart from which can flow healing words and deeds? Each of our lives depends on our undertaking the exploration that these questions urge us toward. And the mystery is that the whole world depends on each of us to take this human journey.”

What will we learn or gain from watching Taking Our Places? What is the take away.

One of the true gifts of this documentary is to witness these moments in others and realize how NOT alone I am in my humanity and short-comings.
Taking Our Places intimately follow three families over the course of several years. One the most powerful aspect of making this movie has been how so much of the loneliness and guilt associated with parenting has lifted for me. In public I’m often on my best behavior, but behind closed doors, that’s when the worse of my parenting happens: yelling, bribing, nagging, guilt-tripping. I used to think that other parents have it more together, do it better, etc… One of the true gifts of this documentary is to witness these moments in others and realize how NOT alone I am in my humanity and short-comings. But my experience has also lead me to believe that parenting is a skill that can be learned AND that we CAN experience more joy, trust, and connection with our loved-ones. Taking Our Places is also about that: the participating families learn a new mindfulness and partnership-based approach to parenting and receive coaching. Taking Our Places documents their process and showcase the beautiful possibility of healing and growth that can follow.

How did you pick the families that participated in the film?

“It’s tricky to ask people to do something you would not do yourself. “How can I even ask?”… “You’re not going to choose families for your movie, they’ll choose you, they’ll choose your movie.” And that’s exactly what happened.”… the three families participating in Taking Our Places have shown incredible courage, and the kind of radical honesty that the rest of us can only aspire to.”…
Here’s the thing, I would NEVER let anyone film me and my family! Why would I? I don’t even want my friends to see me scream at my kids, boss my husband, or fail to keep even a semblance of organization or cleanliness… You know, I clean the house before folks visit, and when I’m in public, I speak politely, I show patience, I’m on my best behavior. So why would I (or anyone else) want to show the truth to the whole world?

It’s tricky to ask people to do something you would not do yourself. “How can I even ask?” I would say to my filmmaker friends. “Because some people want to,” came the answer. “You’re not going to choose families for your movie, they’ll choose you, they’ll choose your movie.” And that’s exactly what happened. My co-producer Deana Morenoff and I made some flyers and posted them around town. Most people thought, “Oh that sounds interesting, but I could never…” and a few people said, “YES!” Over the course of shooting that “YES” has turned into a much less enthusiastic “yes,” and then to a “Why did I ever agree to this?” or even an “ENOUGH!” But through the ups and downs, the three families participating in Taking Our Places have shown incredible courage, and the kind of radical honesty that the rest of us can only aspire to.

When Jenny contacted me she said 'These families share their imperfect selves'...

…Do you believe yelling to induce compliance has more to do with parents wanting to appear ‘perfect’ based on the behavior of their child/ren?

…”parents ARE judged by the behavior of their children and since, as a culture, we put a premium on obedience, we judge parents according to how well-behaved are their children. … No-one is immune to this judgement. That’s why it’s so important to build community: mommy and daddy support group, parenting workshop, online community, etc.”
It’s hard not to be concerned by what other people think. Yesterday, at the doctor’s office, I let my older daughter (5) stay in the waiting room where the toys are while taking the other two to the consulting room. There was two or three receptionists and a couple other families in the room. One mom turned to me and her voice full of offense said “you’re going to leave your child here by herself?” I can’t relate to her concern… and it’s quite rare that people will actually say out-loud what they think, but I’m unfortunately used to the look of judgement. The kind of parenting I try to practice is quite counter-cultural and I so often see parents shake their heads at how I talk to my children. But it’s also true that although I’d like not to, I tend to deal very differently with a melt-down in public than in private. I think parents ARE judged by the behavior of their children and since, as a culture, we put a premium on obedience, we judge parents according to how well-behaved are their children. I think it’s the wrong emphasis altogether but that’s beside the point. No-one is immune to this judgement. That’s why it’s so important to build community: mommy and daddy support group, parenting workshop, online community, etc.

No one wants to yell at or hit their child/ren. Why do you think we do?

I yell most when I’m really really tired and feeling maxed-out. I also yell when I’m triggered: when my child’s behavior brings out some of my own childhood stuff. For instance I’ve noticed that I get the most angry when I’ve asked for support and don’t get it. I right away jump to this story that “you don’t care… my needs don’t matter… I’m all alone in the world.” I know it’s totally irrational (yes, my 3 years old doesn’t care about my needs, as she should!!!) and yet, once I’m triggered I find it really hard to stop. So I work on repairing what happened (owning it and apologizing) and in trying to let go of this old story ….

What do you believe are the affects of yelling at your child/ren?

…Immediate and long term?

…it’s gonna happen and it’s never too late to do the healing work.
Yelling sucks. It sucks for the parents and the children. When you yell, there’s a big disconnect. But disconnects happen, they can happen in silence as much as in loudness. And they will happen, and they are also opportunities to reconnect. At this point in my life and parenting, I’m no longer trying to be perfect or to avoid making mistakes or coming short as I realize that’s just gonna happen. What I focus on is on reconnecting: to myself, to my partner, to my child, to my purpose etc. So the long-term effect of yelling will very much depend on what follows. If you yell and later apologies and explain then you child might learn that nobody is perfect AND that it’s ok to apologize AND it’s ok to have a fight, AND you can love and be loved even when you’re upset, AND s/he might even learn about feelings and needs (her own and yours…).  (and just to make it clear, it’s not to say that I don’t try to stay calm and not yell… of course I do… and those efforts are very important…. but not more important than accepting that it’s gonna happen and it’s never too late to do the healing work.)

Do you believe parents think it's easier to yell than take another approach?

…Why is this?

…”what’s interesting is that in our culture we believe that if we’re not in charge then our children are: authoritative or permissive, that’s it, only two ways to parent! If that’s what you think then there’s really not much room for alternative to yelling and punishing. But there’s another way:”…
I’m not sure if anyone believe it’s “easier to yell”. I think we yell because we’re at the end of our rope and we don’t know what else to do to be heard! We’re desperate for some ease, support, cooperation. So we yell. I think parents would LOVE to know a different approach. But what’s interesting is that in our culture we believe that if we’re not in charge then our children are: authoritative or permissive, that’s it, only two ways to parent! If that’s what you think then there’s really not much room for alternative to yelling and punishing. But there’s another way: we can choose to build trust and connection with our children. And once you know that you’re not weak when you choose a different approach then the world opens up. And yes, it’s a lot harder to really listen to our children and to teach them to do the same for us than to just impose our will or give into theirs. Of course, as children grow, so do their powers: it’s not so easy to impose our will on teenagers! That’s really the motivation: I want my children to listen to me when they get older, I want them to WANT my advice and to trust me with sharing what’s going on for them. If they have never felt listened to, if they don’t trust that their voice (opinion, needs, etc) matter until then, why would they suddenly trust me to listen? and if I’ve used my power to make them do what I want them to do they are likely to have a knee-jerk reaction to anything I tell them to do. Because nobody likes to be told what to do and most of the times, even if we ask nicely, we are demanding compliance and children know that. So I”m starting now, with really young children, learning to really listen to them, trusting them, allowing them to make many decisions for themselves, taking the time to discuss and negotiate as much as possible. And I’m doing the hard work of learning to communicate in that way,

Jenny said this documentary will help 'Transform culture of parenting for others'...

…I used watch the nanny shows and say, ‘all that child needs is a spanking’ BUT now that I have my own child my views are totally different. Is this what you mean by needing to transform the culture?

…”we often fail to treat children with kindness and compassion that we insist they should demonstrate. Yet the difficult truth is that you can’t really teach children how to be, all you can do is model. That’s why the work of parenting is mostly an internal one!!!!”
YES, exactly! I can so clearly recall standing at a coffee shop and watching a woman softly speaking with her wee-one, asking which muffin she wanted “blueberry or peach”. “Your little girl has no idea, just choose for her, c’mon, this is ridiculous” I thought. “I am never gonna be one of those yuppy wishy-washy parents. Hell no! I’m not spoiling my kids, they’re gonna know who the boss is!”  Oh, and I would watch the women pushing their strollers around the street and standing around talking to each other at the playground and would shake my head convinced  I would be a working mom. Fast forward 5 years…. I’m totally soft (although of course now I don’t call it “soft”) and spend the vast majority of my time with my three kids. And I’m so glad that righteous judgmental childless me was so wrong, because I’m a much happier and probably a much better person now that I’ve allowed myself to be schooled by my children!
You know, we want adults who can make (good) decisions on their own (and not succumb to peer-pressure) but we raise them to be “good” and obedient. As a result we often treat our children in a way that we’d never treat anyone else.  We want our children to develop emotional intelligence but we often unwillingly disconnect them from their own feelings. Think of the toddler’s falling and the soothing words “you’re ok, you’re ok”… who doesn’t do this? but the child is not “ok”, she might be scarred from her fall, or feeling some pain from a scratch, or perhaps she is just frustrated because she was running and the fall stopped her play? whatever it was, she doesn’t get to learn about it, she gets told that she is (read “must be”) ok and to shush. Or take the little boy who calmly states “I hate grandma / little brother / etc”, and the immediate answer: “no you don’t, you know you love grandma/ little Henry/ whatever). And it’s all the cultural norm of acceptable behavior: boys don’t cry, girls don’t show anger, children behave and don’t show big emotions. In general negative emotions are pushed away, in ourselves and in our children. So there’s this huge gap between what we want our children to be like as adult and how we raise them.

There’s also a gap between how we expect our children to act and how we act. Did you ever see a parent grab a toy away from his/her child while saying “no snatching”? or insist on children sharing a minute after saying “no, you can’t play with my phone/bag/etc.” And we often fail to treat children with kindness and compassion that we insist they should demonstrate. Yet the difficult truth is that you can’t really teach children how to be, all you can do is model. That’s why the work of parenting is mostly an internal one!!!!

Can we as parents reach out and get a coach if interested in partnership-based parenting?

YES! I’m hoping my documentary will make a lot of parents interested in mindful and partnership-based parenting AND to the possibility of getting support, even via Skype. My website, ParentingTheMovie.com, will become a portal for parents looking to get started: online-classes, forums, articles, and contacts for coaches. There’s a group of parents in my town who are getting together and doing a 6-sessions workshop via Skype with one of the documentary coaches. As a result it’s affordable AND they got built-in support in their community!

BIG. Huge. Thanks to Ana for this opportunity!

You can support the making of this film by donating at Ana’s Kickstarter page.

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2 Comments

  • sarah
    November 5, 2014 at 11:24 pm

    That sounds like an interesting documentary. Great interview!

    • Raivon Lee
      November 8, 2014 at 12:55 pm

      Thank you! Yes I believe it is very interesting. I cant wait to see the finished product. Thank you for you comment!