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Adolescence

Why Parenting is Not About You

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Why Parenting is Not About You

When I was a child I dreamt of becoming a powerful attorney living in a high rise apartment in New York City. I wanted to use my relentless arguing skills and my strong sense of protection for the greater good. I did not see marriage in my future, nor could I possibly imagine having children. No interest.

When I did choose to get married, I wondered if I would ever follow the typical path of starting a family. It was hard to see giving up my independence and passion to do so. It wasn’t until I held a premature baby in my hands that I had the flash of desire to care for something so small and seemingly helpless. That was the moment everything changed.

When I became pregnant with my first child my friends had a hard time imagining me as a mom. I felt the same. Two weeks before I gave birth to my daughter, I cried to a friend that I might have made a mistake and wasn’t sure I could do it. Having tragically lost my own mother while a teenager scarred me deeply and I felt like my ability to mother may have died with her. My confidence in my abilities was non existent.

This is the part of the story where I want to tell you that the first time I looked in her eyes, I knew she was what I was waiting for. But that is not even close to true. I felt even more frightened when I met her and even more concerned I had no idea what I was doing. The fact that she was relying on me to pretend like I did was even more scary. I suddenly felt the weight of responsibility that terrified me.

What if I screwed it up? What if I hurt her with my lack of knowledge? What if she didn’t like me or worse, what if I didn’t like her? A lifetime of attachment fears fed my mind and I felt trapped. It intensified when I realized there was no turning back.

Despite my fear, I took the job seriously. I read as many books as I could on how to feed properly, what temperature to not scald the child in a bath, natural remedies for common ailments and what an irresponsible mom I was for letting my child sleep with me so I too, could sleep.

I listened to advice. I took it all in and practiced patience, openness, techniques to get my kid to listen, techniques to get my kid to talk. How to get her to use a toilet and how to get her to clean up after herself. I wanted desperately to do everything right. No one told me that having a child was the equivalent of taking my heart out of my body and holding it out for the all the world to potentially hurt it. The risks felt so huge and the fear so big.

The only thing I could not seem to learn from a book was how to fully love my child—courageously. That, it turned out, was all on me and has been the biggest challenge of all.

After 16 years now of watching my daughter grow and 13 years of watching my son, as well as a lifetime career of working with kids, parents and friends, I’ve learned a few things worth sharing.

1- It’s not about Me.

As egocentric humans we tend think EVERYTHING is about us. The choices our kids make. The paths they venture down. Their successes and failures. None of it is about us. None.

My job as a parent is to guide, to inspire, to create an environment I hope they will thrive in, and then, let them live in it.

The more I make it about me, the more I teach them to lose their confidence, independence and ability to trust themselves.

Does this mean I don’t make it about me? Not a chance. I often make it about me because that’s what we do. It’s what we’ve been taught and its a tough one to unlearn.

On the days they thrive, I pat myself on the back. But on the days I am challenged, I have to again check in with myself to see it’s my insecurities and fears that make it about me even when it’s not.

2- I am not in control.

I never have been. The illusion of control I have held is strong. On my most insecure days I am certain I am in control of their minds, their choices, and their guilt. Nope.

They always make the choice how they will respond. They will either buy into my tactics or they won’t. I have absolutely no control over either despite my best efforts.

They began making their own choices the minute they ventured from the womb. Whether to eat or not eat, to sleep or not sleep, to listen or to ignore. It’s all been their choice.

I control their environment, their belongings in my home, and their comfort in it. I control my words and my expressions. My behaviors and what I model for them.

I control how often I tell them I love and accept them as much as I control my eye rolls. After that, I’ve got nothing.

When I let go of my need to control them, I am rewarded with their trust in me, trust in myself and faith in the process of life. It is the flavor of true freedom.

3- We all came here to love and be loved. All of us.

Our biggest “lesson” in life is to experience love at its fullest capacity. We have the innate desire to be loved and to give it.

That means we have to feel fear if we want to feel faith. We have to feel anger if we want to feel compassion. We have to feel hate if we want to feel love. The extremes are how we experience the full gamut of what life has to offer.

My role is not to shield my kids from this reality, but to use my own experience and wisdom to support them through their own it. They came here to live. My job is to mentor them through it, not to do it for them.

Of course I want to shield them from pain. I want to put them in a bubble and solve all of their problems. And if I did, it would be the biggest disservice to them to not let them truly feel what will make them stronger, wiser, braver and genuinely more compassionate human beings. The same as all of my pains and hardships have done for me.

Protecting them from challenge does not make them happier. It makes them more vulnerable to deeper pains, insecurities and ignorances I can’t protect them from at all.

Loving them courageously means letting them learn to do the same.

Checking in with these truths for myself is what helps me to fully love my children (and my role as their mom) to the best of my ability. And so far, it’s working for us.

Parenting is the most amazing and brave experience I’ve signed up for thus far. The most challenging, the most scary and occasionally- the most rewarding. The attorney in the high rise I dreamt of would likely not have had the courage to work in this gig. I’m forever grateful she changed her mind.


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The Big Ass Circle of Truth in Parenting

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The Big Ass Circle of Truth in Parenting

At some point I felt confident. I knew the consequences I was dishing out to my child made sense.  My intentions are the same every time. I want my kids to learn. I want them to grow from their decisions, no matter what they are.  I want them to have a clear understanding of what works and what doesn’t work.  Isn’t that what we all want?

Yet I keep finding myself in these moments, feeling unsure of my convictions, and remembering just how challenging this gig is.

My daughter is officially a teenager.  Since her birth, I’ve dreaded this time of her life. “Stay little,” I’ve pleaded.  “Stop growing,” I’ve demanded.  Neither children obey my commands.

My girl is months away from being taller than me. Hell, it could even be tomorrow.  I just know it’s close. Dangerously close. She is already more confident than I was at her age.  More self-aware, self-assured, self-loving. She is kind, respectful, and sensitive, yet with a thicker skin she’s developed for protection after a few experiences encouraged her to grow it.

Overall, she’s well rounded and a person I genuinely enjoy being around.  I am proud to be her mother.

So what’s my issue?

The mood swings, the attitude, the typical adolescent poor decisions, the uncertainty of my creating long term damage with my responses to them. My own personal desire to want to get it right the first time…you know, fear.  Fear that I’ll say something to hurt her. Fear that she’ll feel neglected or rejected. Fear that I won’t be able to combat her natural inclination to feel like she’s not good enough…despite intellectually knowing I can’t actually do that.

So when I do upset her and I know how angry she is at me, I have to take a big step back and look at myself and my own insecurities as a parent.  I look at my desire to create the mother/daughter bond I didn’t have. I look at my interest in wanting her to trust me like I do my own father.  I want her to want to spend time with me and ask for my help.  And in that moment, when she wants nothing to do with me, I have to remember that I’m making decisions to support all of those things, even if they look like they will push her away.

The biggest thing I’ve learned in the past year with my children is that as they grow and my desire to stay connected to them increases, my approach has had to change as well.  I found myself hitting a wall with my daughter and she didn’t want to open up with me.  I realized that if I wanted her to let me in, I’d have to do the same.  I told her about my fears of her aging. I told her I knew I had no control over her and how letting go of the small belief that I do is a big piece for me to accept. I told her how the only way we were going to comfortably get through the next few years is for her to not shut me out and for me to trust that she will make decisions that will support her instead of hurt her…and that in the end, everything is going to be okay.

And in these moments of questioning myself, I find that my insecurity always comes back to the same concern…my own wanting to be more than enough for them. I think we refer to this as the big ass circle of truth.  I may have just made that up, but hopefully you see where I’m going with this. I fear for her what I’ve felt myself; feeling like I am good enough. I want to protect her from what it’s taken me my lifetime to work through and understand. And all I can do is trust myself to offer the best of what I’ve got.

In my circle of truth I see it. I know that what I’m creating is to help us both.  When I trust myself, I teach my kids to trust themselves. When I am honest about my fears and flaws, they are more open to share their own.  If I allow myself to be authentic and true to myself, they will observe this and ideally be inspired to do the same, on their terms, in their timing.

This practice of trusting is ongoing.  For everyone. I know that.  But when it comes to parenting, I’ve yet to discover anything more powerful than trusting my instincts, trusting what I teach my kids is in their best interest, and trusting that they will make decisions that are beneficial for them. Most days, my sense of trust IS the best I’ve got.

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5 Ways To Teach Our Kids How to Use Their Voice

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5 Ways To Teach Our Kids How to Use Their Voice

Remember the last time you walked away from an interaction with someone where you didn’t respond with what you were really thinking?  The one where you had 27 brilliant rebuttals or hard core responses you wish you said, but clammed up out of fear of how your words would be received and what repercussions there might be for speaking your truth. Of course you do, we’ve all been there.

And then we tell our kids to “Use Your Words” when they hit or are verbally aggressive at times and overreact because they don’t know how to communicate their emotions in calm, rational ways that get their point across respectfully. Its not a double standard. Oh wait, yes it is. (I can not apologize for the sarcasm, its how I speak my truth)

Yet, we want our children to speak for themselves and learn the value of self advocacy. In my professional view, its one of those life skills that not only helps you in ANY career you choose, but also in any relationship or friendship or interaction with another human being…and occasionally pets. (I am 99% sure they understand everything we say). But I am not kidding, its that important.

Learning to speak your truth and use your voice could not be any more valuable.  Shoving down your emotions starts with a disagreement with your parent or your friend or your sibling or your teacher or the kid bullying you at school and ends with stifled interaction and communication with your boss or your colleague or your spouse and a self esteem that feels it can not get out of its own way. It becomes a patterned behavior and response when we fear that if we speak our truth we will not be supported or worse off, rejected. And most of the time we play out the scenarios in our head and fear the worst without ever having lived it. We reject ourselves before we are rejected and silence ourselves without ever hearing the sound of our voice.

So how can we stop that pattern with our children?

1- Help them to identify what they want as an end result.  How do they want to feel at the end of the conversation?  What is the intent? Its important to know what they want to feel so they will be able to tell when they have met their goal and end the conversation and embrace the success.

2-Give them the words to use.  Do a mock conversation with whomever they feel they need to speak to. Help them play it out to make the unknown a known and they can feel prepared.  All those “I wish I said this” can be played out in advance to give them a better shot at saying them.

3-Reframe any negativity. If the conversation feels remotely confrontational (and most people avoid confrontation), help them see it as a positive more so than a negative.  For example, if they have to speak to someone who they feel is treating them unfairly, explain to them that by speaking up they are teaching that person how their actions and words affect other people, something they may not know, and in turn will help them rethink how they speak to other people, thus protecting future “victims.”  Annnnd they will feel awesome once they say what’s on their mind.

4-Help them see any fear around it as simply a thought, not a reality.  There is no real way to know how a conversation/interaction is going to go without assuming….and we all know what assuming does.

But more typically, the anticipation is far, far worse than the actual event.  Help them play out the worst case scenario so they can see that nothing is truly too life altering if it doesn’t go the way they’d like.

5- Tell them stories of situations in your own life that they can relate to so they see that they are not alone and that life goes on.  Its so helpful for all of us to speak to someone who we feel gets us and our fears when we are having them and when its the strong parent you look up to, even more so.  Sometimes the most comfort comes when we hear survivor stories of those who’ve been in similar shoes.

The  hardest part for some parents will be to not do it for their children.  When our protective instincts come out, we pump up our chests and want to fix it for them with our experience, but allowing them to do it on their own actually is a far more empowering opportunity for growth.  And isn’t allowing them to grow the best way to advocate for them? I vote yes.

And if you are wondering if they are old enough to handle it on their own? If they can speak up to you and use their voice, then they are old enough to handle it on their own.

Wanna hear the super bonus of all? The more you teach them and encourage them to use their voice, the more confident and comfortable you feel doing the same in your own life. Two lessons in one. What’s better than that?

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The Little Potato That Could

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The Little Potato That Could

Every year, my friend and colleague and I co facilitate our school’s anti bullying program and each time, I am reminded of why I love working with teenagers and all the goodness that comes with them.

Last night, we held our first training and one of the diversity exercises was to get to know a potato up close and write a story about their life.  They were quite funny and insightful, but one in particular touched my heart…so of course, I have to share.

“Once upon a time, there was a demented potato that no one would buy.  Every day the potato hoped someone would buy him.  One day, a woman was making some potato salad and needed five potatoes. She picked out four, admiring them delightfully. But when she got to the demented potato, she winced in horror. “Hideous.” She shook her head.

The next day, a blind man felt the potatoes and the demented potato thought, “Yes! This is my chance!” However, the blind man shunned the potato for its big holes and bumpy stature.

Finally, a little boy ran up to the potato stand and picked up the demented potato. “This one Mommy!” he said excitedly.

“No honey, that one is a dud,” she replied.

“But Mommy, they all taste the same!” the little boy exclaimed. And with that, the demented potato was on his way home with them for dinner.

 

Through the eyes of a potato and its teenage friends.

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12 Simple Lessons Every Pre Teen Girl Needs To Know

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12 Simple Lessons Every Pre Teen Girl Needs To Know

Remember high school girl drama?  You know, “I heard you were talking about me.”  “No I wasn’t.” “Then why did Betsy say you called me a slut?” “Maybe because Betsy told me you were talking about ME and YOU called ME a slut.”

Okay, there aren’t many Betsy’s in high school anymore, but for real, they still talk like that. It’s BEYOND painful. Be-yond. And they mean it…and Betsy really did tell her she called her a slut, to both parties, I’m sure of it.

Girl drama drives me nuts and yet a I have a bizarre love for teenagers. I find great joy in working with them because they are just hitting the cusp of adulthood. They are still listening even when they are pretending they are not. They want your opinions and approval even though they won’t ask for it, and the best part…I am not their mother, which means I can say whatever I want without fear of them not loving me and causing long term damage to both of us. But honestly, they are just simply kids, trying to figure it out and needing a little bit of help…or A LOT of help along the way.  As they sort out how they feel, what they think they should feel and what they think they shouldn’t, they get sidetracked on where they stand. As parents and adults who care about them, our role is to redirect and help them navigate which way feels best for them. This can be a challenge, because lets be honest, they can be stereotypically stubborn and extremely annoying. Extremely. But work we must, to assist them to the finish line of adulthood, without tearing out every last one of our pre gray hairs.

Listening to teenage girls hash out their differences can be exhausting. Often, I find myself walking away with a tension headache and a realization of the intense fear I have of my own pre teen daughter growing into adolescence.  I may have even said a few silent prayers to the Universe asking that my daughter be spared of raging hormones, latent insecurity and a need to be liked by anyone other than herself.

And like an Irish prayer (because my daughter is Irish and I think I am–even though its only true on St. Patrick’s Day) I pass on my wishes and lessons to the pre teen girl, as she works her way into blooming adolescence…

At the dawn of transition, may you find the truth in these lessons:

May you notice that for every one person you think doesn’t like you, there are 25 more who are so thankful to have you in their life.

May you learn that when your heart feels broken, that feeling of sadness will only be two blinks worth of time in your life span.

May you recognize that everyone has an ounce of pain in their life, if not more. When you think you understand them, ask again, they may only show you what they want you to see.

May you have an understanding that you are NEVER in control of what other people say and do. You can manipulate those who will buy into it, but they still call the shots as to how they will respond.

May you taste the words that are sweet and the words that are bitter as they come out of your mouth, so you know which ones feel better to use.

May you realize that your brain is by far the most attractive thing about you, because when you use it openly, suitors will follow you around and recognize you as the Goddess you are.

May you always know the difference between the story to share and the story to keep to yourself.  In the world of friendship, it is the sacred keeper of the stories that holds the key to real trust.

May you see that relationships are more about how you see yourself than how others see you.  When you see the beauty in yourself, truly see it, it won’t matter who sees it as clearly as you.

May you remember that the love you give out will always be the love you get back, but the way you define love may fluctuate.

May you experience that every ending is simply the beginning of something else to learn.

May you discover that the only limitations in life are the ones you create.

And may you always know that the earth will continue to rotate, the stars will continue to twinkle and the sun will continue to rise each day, whether we choose to see it or not. But when we choose to see it, life is so much more fun.

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You Will Get Into College

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You Will Get Into College

Dear Teenager Thinking About College,

This will mark the time you look at yourself and judge your place in the future and the past.   Many of you will start wondering where you could have done better and start kicking yourself for not producing all you think you could have.  This letter is for you.

First let me tell you, YOU WILL GET INTO COLLEGE.

Whoever started the phrase, “with grades like these, you won’t get into college” might as well have said, “You are loser and you might as well accept it now.” It’s just inaccurate.

Where you get into college does not determine who and what you will be for the rest of your life.  It just doesn’t.

There is a college for everyone.  For those of you who bombed your first years of high school because you discovered your ability to ignore the advice of everyone around you, there is a college for you.

For those of you, who swore you never wanted to continue your education because you didn’t see the value earlier, but now you see it like it was always there, there is a college for you.

For those of you who had to work long hours because you had to support your family and were unable to focus on school work as much as you could have, there is a college for you.

For those of you who have learning disabilities and feel like you will never be on par with your friends, you are already on par and there is a college for you.

For those of you who feel you can’t afford college on your own income, there is a college for you.

For those of you who had long illnesses, were depressed or had emotional struggles that blocked your vision and motivation at times, there is a college for you.

There are truly and honestly options for EVERYONE.

The only person who determines your path is YOU.  If you want to continue your education you can. If you want to wait until you are ready, you can.

If you want an education, there is an education available for you. If you have a dream or a goal, there is a path to it.

You can get a “good” education anywhere, its how much you invest in it and what you choose to do with it that will determine its benefit and where you let it take you.

If you are waiting for circumstances to change, today is your lucky day. Welcome to your life.

Sincerely,

Your High School Counselor

 

For further truthfulness, be sure to read College Planning- The Prerequisite Course

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Peeling the Layers to Understand Kids and Those Around Us

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Peeling the Layers to Understand Kids and Those Around Us

I am a people person.  I like people. They intrigue me and I like to understand what makes them tick.  One of the benefits of being a high school counselor is that I get to meet all different types of kids.  I see the high achievers, the not so inspired, the funny, the bright, the anxious, the depressed, and everything in between.  A natural analyzer, I have the luxury of having multiple personalities at my disposal to read and understand, helping me craft my skills.

What I like the most about meeting people is peeling their layers in an effort to understand where they are coming from.  Each of us has layers of our personalities, of what we are willing to show and what we are more comfortable hiding.  Typically, what we hide is well protected and is revealed only at times or moments we deem as safe.

Kids are not quite as good at hiding their layers and that is an advantage  for those of us trying to get in to understand and help them.  And depending on what they show, their layers are more transparent than they’d like to think.  The high achievers have the secret underworld of insecurities, waiting for those around them to find out that they are not as perfect as they portray.  The not so inspired haven’t found their niche or their passion yet, so they choose behaviors that either keep them under the radar or keep them in full view for all to see they are struggling.  And the everything in between kids probably protect their layers more than the rest, and they are so good at keeping them hidden, they may not even notice how interesting each of their layers are.  Once you peel off the layers and see them for who they are, they each have their own brand of beauty to add to the world and their needs are basically the same…to be loved and to give love.  It’s just innate.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that I spend more time getting to know the kids who face heavy challenges.  I’ve run multiple groups for teens including Anger Management, High Risk Behaviors and Grief Groups.  Although individual counseling provides insight into the person, group counseling provides insight into the person and how that person works in a society, obviously a much smaller society, but none the less, their interactions with others is quite telling.

We’ve all watched people socialize in groups, how they interact, the way they position themselves and the body language…its what makes people watching so fun.  We’ve been annoyed with how one person presents themselves in groups and wished they’d go away.  We’ve also been surprised on occasion when we’ve talked to the same person one on one and they really weren’t that unpleasant or annoying as we originally judged them to be.  Once we let go of our assumptions and invited them to do the same, it’s amazing how the image of one person can instantly change into one we can accept and even like.

And that’s because of our layers. It is my belief, that we each have five layers.  The first layer protects us with words and actions that shelter us and portray whatever image we think will get us what we need. This is the layer we see after knowing someone for five minutes.

The second layer has increased protection with meatier words and behaviors to back up the first layer. We use our behaviors in this layer to mold others perceptions of us and assess how much more we want to share based on their reactions. This is the layer revealed after talking to someone for an hour.

The third layer holds our beliefs of other people and the world, the way we see them and talk about them. For example, do we speak of life experiences and others with a positive tone or a negative?  Do we live our lives with optimism or pessimism, or a combination of both? Our negativity exposes our fears and insecurities and our optimism shows that we are able to find faith and acceptance.

The fourth layer reveals how we see ourselves. Even to those who know us well, we keep this layer well protected as it creeps into the layer where we are most vulnerable.  Our insecurities, our pride, our truest belief in what we feel we are able to do lie here. This layer takes quite a while and a lot of trust to be revealed to others.

The last layer, our core, the culmination of it all, is the essence of who we are and this is the layer we only expose to those we trust the most. In order to see this layer, you will have to prove to us repeatedly that we are safe in your presence and we do not feel judged.  Overall, the more we trust, the more layers we’ll show.

It is typically the most annoying, the most rude, the most outwardly dysfunctional, whose layers are the most transparent, but because of their unpleasant persona, they are most often rejected as the “bad seed,” “loser” or “lost cause.”  Yet, if you take the time to peel off that first layer and then the next, you will more likely find the scared little boy or girl who got hurt somewhere along the way and recognized the need to protect themselves. And what better way to protect themselves than to choose behaviors that repel others from getting close to them and setting them up to be hurt again.

One more layer down, you will see the same little boy or girl who, like everyone else, really does want to be cared for and accepted, but just doesn’t trust enough to allow it to happen. You will also find the self loathing and sadness that peppers their mind with negativity and creates an inability to understand that different behaviors and thinking can create better outcomes.  They just get stuck in their own head which keeps the cycle going strong.

But “lost cause?” “Loser?” “Bad Seed?” I think not.  Broken maybe, but not irrepairable.

We all have layers, therefore, we all have the ability to see the layers in others.  It can take time and patience to wait for others to be comfortable enough to unpeel their layers, but our natural instincts and insight can speed up the process when we allow it to.   That young boy that lives down the road and teases the kids on the block has layers.  That teenage girl who struts around in skimpy clothes has layers too.  The quiet kid who the other kids say is “different” has his own layers.  And each of them has a need to be cared for and accepted.  Just like you and me.

One of my students gave me a card at the end of the last school year that read…

“In a world that’s easily impressed with “star quality,” it’s a rare person who sees the promise in quiet souls. Who sees beyond a shy exterior and recognizes a hidden talent.”

I was honored that she saw me this way, but in reality, it’s not a rare person who sees it. We all have the ability to see the promise in others. We just have to be willing to open our eyes, let go of the judgments that muddy our vision and have faith that our efforts will pay off…and one layer at a time, allow the beauty to shine.

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College Planning- The Prerequisite Course

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College Planning- The Prerequisite Course

This is a re-post in honor of my very favorite senior who was just accepted into the school of her dreams after waiting it out and the college finally acknowledging they’d be fools not to bring in her fantastic-ness.  And for all the teenagers and their parents beginning their quest- you’ve got this.

 

Let me begin with an Opinionated Fact.  Furthering one’s education is a near necessity to get to where you want to go in life.  We are fortunate to have so many options of colleges and universities with so many opportunities that allow our children to learn and thrive and grow.  However, I do not believe where one goes to college or how they get their education determines how successful they are going to be.  It’s what they DO with their education, that will get them where they want to go.

So, what’s my issue?  I don’t believe in the college admittance process.  I think it stinks…which is the kindest word I can come up with right now.  How does it make sense to rate a person over a four year period in their most hormonally driven, self reflecting and often deprecating, continuously adapting to change, time of life?  From ages 14-18, many kids are often dealing with their first major loss.  It could be over a breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend or their parents divorcing or losing a loved one to death.  They are navigating the challenges of peer pressure and learning what “friendship” really means.  They are often pulling away from their parents influence and begin modeling other influences which may be good or bad.  They are like chaotic beasts really. All the while, they are going to school and expected to put all distraction aside and “do your very best because if you want to go to a ‘good’ college, they want to see you have high grades and that you are challenging yourself proving that you will be successful in life.”  Seems fair right?

Opinionated Fact #2. There is something to be said about putting on your big girl/boy pants and dealing.  That’s the ultimate goal right?  But in a society where we are so often sheltering our children from the dregs of our neighborhoods and hardships of real life, how are they supposed to know what to do when they are slammed with an unpleasant reality with no prior exposure?  They have to figure it out, of course, but with what skill?  Unless you have parents or caregivers who allow you to feel your own feelings, fight your own battles and make your own mistakes, this may be a challenge.  Sometimes the way we think we advocate for our children is really a disservice to their sense of ownership and responsibility. We need to expose them to life and support them in their journey, not walk the journey for them.

But here’s my real issue.  It’s not the kids who cry when they get rejected from their top choice school.  I actually never see them.  It’s the kids who cry from the overwhelming stress of not feeling good enough while they are applying to their list of 25 colleges, who they feel are judging them of how they managed their four years of school (in actuality, its typically 3 and half) as they were trying to figure out who they are and what on Earth they are doing here, all while they are learning the historical importance of the Great Wall of China and how not to blow up your cat when mixing some obscure chemicals you may come into contact with.  As if how they “performed” in high school defines who they are and what they hope to accomplish.

So I now prep my students in our preliminary college talks with the advice of going into the process with the framework that “it is YOU who are judging them, not them judging you.  There are thousands of colleges out there that can offer you what you need.  They all have strengths and weaknesses and you have to pick the ones that support what YOU are looking for and want to invest YOUR time and money into.  At the end, yes, they may be comparing you with other students because they only have so much room, but if you don’t get in, you can accept the fact that they missed their opportunity or you will find a way to get in if that is what you truly want. There are always two paths to every destination.” That’s Opinionated Fact #3.

When preparing our kids for college, it’s important to be realistic about our expectations and helping our kids figure out what is important to them.  Let them choose their options based on how they feel when they are there.  Personally, I tell kids never to apply to a college where the name won’t look cool on a sweatshirt.  Especially because you will wear that sweatshirt for an awfully long time.

(Insert mental image of John Belushi in College sweatshirt here)

The process doesn’t have to be as stressful as it’s made out to be.  Do a college search, visit the schools on your list and choose which ones fit.  Put your best foot forward when completing the application and see how it pans out.  It’s a lot of legwork, no doubt, and a big decision, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the ride.  At the end, you are still doing the choosing as to which option you want to take.  And the power of choice rocks.

Okay, Rant over.

Thoughts??

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Q&A My Perspective: When Your Child Doesn’t Value Personal Hygiene As Much As You Do

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Q&A My Perspective: When Your Child Doesn’t Value Personal Hygiene As Much As You Do

QUESTION

Why can’t my ten year old daughter take responsibility for her own personal hygiene?  If I do not remind her constantly, she leaves too much conditioner in her hair, does not brush her teeth (even though she has recently experienced getting a cavity filled), does not put on her deodorant, brush her hair or wash her face (even though acne is becoming an issue).  She is also unable to comb or brush her hair to get the knots out.  I have a checklist on the back of the bathroom door which does not help. Short of standing at the bathroom door to police her – I do not know what to do!!!

 

MY PERSPECTIVE

Its not that she can’t, it’s that she doesn’t want to. 🙂

Not too long ago, she had the luxury of not needing to shower or bathe every day, someone either brushing her teeth for her or reminding her to brush her teeth, not needing deodorant and someone who would gladly brush her hair and maybe even throw some bows in it!  That was her routine, her pattern, her expectation and now that expectation has changed, but not on her terms.

Think of it like someone washing the dishes for you every day after each meal and then one day saying, it’s your job to do it from now on.  It has to get done, you need clean dishes, but it’s not that fun.  So what happens? You let the dishes stack up a little longer in the beginning, maybe for a day or two, they get stinky, you run out of dishes and then you have to wash them so you can eat again.  After a while, you start to notice that it’s not that bad if you do it once a day and eventually right away…you just have to figure it out for yourself on your terms.

Although your daughter has experienced direct consequences for her sometimes lax attitude on consistent hygiene (acne and cavities), it is likely not uncomfortable enough for her to truly change her habits…yet.  Hopefully you won’t have to wait till the big drills come out for her teeth and she’s on a first name basis with a dermatologist until she notices the influence her behavior plays on her health and hygiene, but they are a stubborn lot these kids.

With that said, I have a 10 year old who needs CONSTANT reminding as well to cut her nails, take a shower, brush her teeth, etc, etc…and also personally know the nagging/reminding is essential in helping them develop the new pattern of taking responsibility for their own hygiene.  I also notice my own frustration that she’s not picking up the habits I’d like her to develop nearly as fast as I’d prefer.

The checklist is always good.  It’s a helpful reminder of what needs to happen.  If her lax attitude is really bothering you, then I would suggest attaching a consequence for not completing whatever is on that checklist, but make the consequence as related to the behavior as possible….like no friends over until you consistently get in the habit of taking care of your body because no one wants to hang with the smelly kid.  Maybe that seems extreme, but the key is to help them identify a way to create a new habit that works for them and some type of reward system can be helpful in motivating that.

I am a big fan of making sure my kids know what their list of responsibilities are…which includes personal hygiene and making healthy food choices, as well as knowing what their list of privileges are.  The rules remain basic, if you don’t maintain your responsibilities, you don’t earn any privileges.  And privileges include all kinds of things like playing with electronics, having friends over, participating in extra curricular activities and having dessert. Cause and effect, a lesson in life.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a poem inspired by my own dirty children.

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“Just When You Think You’ve Hit You’re Limit….”

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“Just When You Think You’ve Hit You’re Limit….”

I am in the middle of re-reading one of my favorite books.  You know the ones that you read and they just make you happy being completely pulled in to another world?  I read this book a few years back and loved it and decided to re-read it in my quest to bring in some revived joy.

As I’m reading it, I laugh at the same parts I once found funny, I smile at the style of writing that I enjoy so much and I am amazed at the similarities of the stories and desires that are so much like my own.  And I realize, I am reading this book as the Old Me with the New Me’s eyes and perspective.  Eyes that see different, clearly, focused, and knowingly.  A perspective that has new insight, experience and wonder.  My life has changed significantly since I read those words the first time around and my view of living with it.  Same book, same affinity, different perspective.  Fascinating.

It is also the beginning of the month of my children’s birthdays, which is always a time of reflection of where we’ve been and who I am and who they are since their conception.

I love reminiscing with them about what life was like when they were babies.  How we had no idea what we were doing, how I never changed a diaper before my first child, how I had to read how to give a bath, and how I screwed it up with distinction.  I love talking about being pregnant with them and making their baby food and how I was so much more of a nut than I am now…they, of course, find this hard to believe.  I tell them how I read one book after another trying to understand what I was doing and then found that the books didn’t birth my babies and they didn’t always follow “the plan.”  For a controlling mother who felt lost, this was frustrating.

I remember, vividly, sitting on my couch, reading multiple books, searching for answers, searching for understanding, wanting someone to tell me I would figure it out.  And then it happened, on a day with 2 hours of sleep, debating if I had what it took to make this whole parenting thing work, my cousin gave me the best advice…..”Just when you think you’ve hit your limit, that it can’t get any worse, you won’t make it another minute, everything will start to get better.”  She couldn’t have been more right.  With time, I figured out what parenting meant to me, I was calmer than I ever expected and I loved them more than I could have imagined possible…right up until this very day.

What would I do if I re-read those books now, experience under my belt, survival techniques listed on my resume, faith restored that I am a functioning parent with two functioning children who actually are pretty fine human beings I’m proud to know? Would I laugh at the same parts I found funny, smile at the parts where I thought they might be right, and be amazed at the similarities that all parents have when we are just trying to figure it all out?  Would I read it as the Old Me with the New Me’s eyes and perspective?  Of course.

Experience is our education.  Memories and Intuition are our text books .  And Love is the guarantee that we are doing it all “Right.”

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