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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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Making A Big Decision When You’re Not Sure Which Choice is Right

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Making A Big Decision When You’re Not Sure Which Choice is Right

I am proud to announce that I recently had an article published on Tiny Buddha, a fantastic website which shares the wisdom and experience of others, and I am honored to be a writer added to that list.  This article teaches how to make major life decisions that are right for you…my latest forte. The opening quote comes from one of my favorite authors and psychologists who solidified my belief and understanding that we have the opportunity to learn from every experience in life, the identified “good” and the “bad” and how we view those experiences will determine our satisfaction and our personal growth.

“When we can no longer change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” ~Viktor Frankl

Over the last two and a half years I have made some big changes in my life. And by big, I mean enormous.

First, I moved with my husband and our children from a home I loved for ten years. Shortly after, my husband and I ended a twenty-year relationship and marriage. With that separation, I made the decision to buy the house we had moved to, which on paper, I shouldn’t have been able to buy.

Apparently ending a long commitment and beginning a large financial one on my own wasn’t enough for me though. The following year I resigned from a secure job to pursue a dream I hadn’t fully envisioned and started a business without projected goals.

When I list out all the changes, I start to question my own sanity.

I have never been one to make quick decisions, especially ones that I hadn’t thought through. I was raised by my father, a self-proclaimed workaholic, who spent his career as a high powered executive for a high risk industrial insurance company.

I was not bred to believe in taking chances, to live on instinct alone, and to leave anything that resembled security. You just don’t do that. But something was stirring in me that kept me unsettled.

I knew it was time to make changes, and I knew those changes were absolutely not guaranteed to work in my favor. I was scared—no, terrified—to alter the course of my life, but standing still gave me even more anxiety.

How do you make the decision to change your entire life and know it’s truly right for you?

I have a secret, one that I’ve used consistently in recent years when making decisions that weighed heavily on me.

It’s a technique that simplifies the agonizing back and forths of “should I or shouldn’t I?” One I wished I learned when I was younger to ward off some major bouts of indecisiveness and internal torment. Although in retrospect, I would not have been ready to use it until I was actually ready to hear it….Keep Reading

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Teaching My Children to Live

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Teaching My Children to Live

I was eating dinner with my kids last night and we were literally eating the last of what I could find in the house to make. I was waiting for money to go to the grocery store and we had been waiting for what felt like an awfully long time. We talked of our temporary situation…more so, the temporary situation I put them in. I am constantly checking in with them about how they feel about my major life change and the decisions I’ve made. And every time, whether they mean it or not,  they seem completely unfazed and answer with cheerleading responses such as “you’ve got this Mom.” “I’m so glad you are doing what you love, Mom.” “It’s not a big deal, Mom” And with every little success I share with them, they act like I just discovered a new sugar cereal.


Our temporary situation is meant to be an upgrade and making the decision to upgrade was quite a risk. I resigned from my very stable school counseling job back in August and have been working to create a new career since. I had to take a couple of classes and study for an agonizing licensing board exam, but I am now a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice. I am also a Master Instructor and practitioner of a very intense energy therapy which facilitates deep healing. And I’m beginning to slowly follow my passion for writing. Clearly very slowly, since I haven’t even written for this blog in many months! But life change will do that to you, throw you off track and go into overdrive trying to figure out what it is you’re doing. At least that’s what it does to me.

When I made the decision to leave my job and completely start over, I knew it was not a “smart” move. In fact, on paper, it seemed irresponsible. I have a mortgage, two dependent children, and no real end goal of where I wanted to be. Who leaves a secure job with a consistent income to follow a dream that materialized over night? Apparently, me.

I didn’t sleep for about a month as I plotted out my every move and how it would impact my children and myself. The flow chart of what if’s was well highlighted and new avenues of dead ends were developed nightly. I was filled with fear, but I knew underneath the fear, it was absolutely the right move. I distinctly remember questioning what it was that I wanted to teach my children during this time of transition. I wondered how my decisions would impact their view on life.

I know they watch me, trust me and see my strengths as infallible. Yet I also know they witness my weaknesses, frustrations and what it looks like when I sit in my fear. And I had to come to grips that it’s okay for them to see me as human, as long as they know and trust that I will rise above those weaknesses and make happen what I set out to do.

So what am I teaching my children?

~That trust is essential, especially trust in yourself and your own abilities.

~That life is full of choices and each of them offers us an opportunity to grow into ourselves.

~That you will always know how you are by listening to the way you feel.

~That progress comes from action. When you feel off, change it up. When you feel good, keep going.

~That the world supports you if you support yourself. Keep your intentions positive and when your perspective shifts to the negative, look at it, acknowledge it, and then prove it wrong.

~That nothing can take your power away, unless you hand it over.

~That if you can embrace your fear, you can also embrace your bravery.

In the moments I get stuck questioning myself, I must constantly reframe and look at my role as their teacher. Would I rather teach them to settle for what is comfortable in its discomfort or take the chance to be themselves in a life they personally create? And then I pray that we will all look back at this time of transition and appreciate the unwavering faith that keeps us going.

I have made mistakes, no doubt. But I have created more successes than I knew I could. And today, I am going to the grocery store and tonight, we will celebrate every one of those successes that have added up. I’ll take it.

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Learning How To Recognize Our Own Voice

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Learning How To Recognize Our Own Voice

As a child, there was nothing more familiar than the sound of my parents’ voice. That voice guided my every move. I knew what the expectations were and what they wanted from me, and I knew exactly when I was ignoring it. Even when I was in trouble, the tone of disappointment was still proof that I was thought of and cared about and it was that tone I heard the next time I went to make the same mistake questioning whether it was worth it.

The voice of my parents was loud and prominent and as I grew older it was hard to decipher which voice was speaking to me when I was making decisions in my life. Are those my thoughts or the recorder of how I should think? It was hard to tell. I’d listen for the tones, but sometimes they all blended together.

As an adult and a parent in my own right, I hear the words of my father fly out all the time. They are tones of respect and expectation and authority. They speak words that symbolize strength and insight and responsibility. They are dominant words and I speak them with pride. Yet, there is a side of them that requires a softer touch and an explanation to compliment them. Those words have a tone I know distinctly as my own. I have grown to appreciate the balance between my words and his, and I’d like to think my children do as well.

The confusion for me sets in when life shifts in fast paces and I’m wavering on my feet. I hear my frantic voice looking for answers and instinctually the voice I grew up with pops in and guides me exactly where to go. But the older I get and the more life experience I gain on my own, I notice that those guides don’t fit me like they used to and I start to question that voice and wonder if it needs more independence, more depth and more of its own vocabulary to match the person using it.

And then the questions begin….

Is this the voice I want my children to hear?

What do I want to teach them?

What is the role I want to play in their life?

And most importantly, what do I want to teach myself?

So I step back and listen for the answers and sort through the words and listen for the tones and meanings behind them. And within those voices, I hear the not so distinct sound of my own. Softer and less confident, she’s in there and she actually has a lot to say. And when I listen, I really listen, I hear comfort and familiarity and honesty and bravery and I hear a woman who, in fact, is not wavering on her feet at all. And that’s her, the mother, the parent, the role model, the voice I want my children to hear and hold on to until their own voices are the loudest they hear. I like her, I respect her and I trust she will teach them well.

My hope is that when I hear my children use their own voices, which they give me snippets of often, I will make the effort to turn up the volume and let them explore just how loud they can be. And when it’s time to turn them back down again, show them that sometimes a harmony is exactly what we need.

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Taking Our Life Back

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Taking Our Life Back

It’s time to take back your life.  Yes, I’m talking to you.  You know the life you always talk about? The one with the free time? The one where you see your friends, read a book, take a bath, journal, go for a walk, drink coffee in quiet.  It’s your life I’m talking about…and mine.

We are in this together, this life of ours.  We cry at the same movies, watch the same news reports, empathize with those in pain and laugh at the same jokes.  Maybe our level of acceptable is different, but humor is humor and pain is pain, no matter the degree.

I know it’s time for you to take back your life because it’s time for me to take back mine.  And of course, we’re all connected, so I know you are feeling the strains and aches and pains and heartache and joy and peace.  Maybe we feel them at different times, but we still feel them. All of us…every single one.

But today, you take our life back.  Today you will make a list of what its’ going to take. On that list will include making a date with a friend.  On that list will be drawing up your vision of your dream vacation. On that list will be exactly when you plan the time and day you will sit alone for 10 minutes and drink that coffee, tea, or chocolate milk by yourself in silence and breathe this week.

On that list, you will come up with the ideal job where someone pays you to do what you love.  On that list, you will write the names of all the people you want to thank for making your life special and filled with joy. On that list you will add one dream you can’t let go of and why. And on that list you will tell your significant other just what that dream is…and if your significant other is currently you, tell yourself.

If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for me. But today is the day. Its Go time.

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The Day the Grass Grew

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The Day the Grass Grew

The week after my husband moved out, I knew the real test would begin and the questions were always the same, “How are you and the kids?” And my answer equally consistent, “We are fine.”

All my fears of being alone and how I would manage as the parent they lived with showed their ugly faces and challenged me head on. I waited for Incompetence to settle in next to me and remind me of my weaknesses.

I looked for Incompetence when I first changed the light bulb to the exterior light fixture that I had been holding off on. Nothing. I expected its presence when I changed the water filter in the basement, but it didn’t show up when I walked away dry. I knew for sure it would make an appearance when I started digging up the overgrown landscaping, but it turns out my kids know how to use a shovel and so do I. Little by little, I picked tasks I shied away from fearing that Incompetence would surely give me the lesson I needed and put me in my place. Working, making “healthy” dinners on the fly, and chauffeuring the kids around to different sporting events daily, while working my ass off trying to figure out the inner workings of my brain, feel my emotions and keep myself together, I knew Incompetence was lurking around the corner.

Six weeks later, it showed up in my back yard after I dug up the last portion of overgrowth, and decided to plant grass. I did not want to plant grass. I was terrified to plant grass. I KNEW that grass would not grow because despite the fact that I was doing it, I was living this life I feared, I was navigating through the sadness and loneliness, I was keeping tabs on my children and their well being, I was working and paying the bills and staring uncertainty in the eye…I still knew the grass would not grow because I did not know what I was doing. Insecurity told me so, fear laughed at the thought of me having a green thumb and even my intelligence doubted my ability to do it even after being given clear instructions and told it was easy.

But thankfully, I’m stubborn, so Incompetence stood by my side and whispered in my ear as I threw down the topsoil, spread the seed, covered it with hay, and walked away. Screw you Incompetence, what do I have to lose?

It rained for the next five days and when I finally made it to the backyard to consider removing the hay, I noticed a blade- or 100! Grass!! Beautiful, healthy looking grass was coming up! Pride came jumping through and knocked any sign of Incompetence right out of the way. Hope walked her pretty little self in and said “I’ve been here all along if you’d notice” and Joy gave me a high five and reminded me I’m always a rock star when I allow myself to see myself as such.

Just like the grass, we don’t need experience to help us grow and flourish and remove any threat of incompetence. Doubt and fear are only residents in our lives when we welcome them in and give them a place to sit.

And even though we know it…we always know it, we can all use  the reminder that a little Hope, a little Pride and a lot of intention to find the Joy will always get us where we need to go. Even at times when our lives feel in constant transition and we are not always nourished, encouraged and cared for by ourselves in the ways we’d like to be, the stability of knowing we are loved by someone…anyone, will keep us growing even when we think we may not.

And that is how I know, without a doubt, that we are are just fine.

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Facing the Fear of Parenting- A Celebration of Mother’s Day

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Facing the Fear of Parenting- A Celebration of Mother’s Day

Just a few days ago I found an old journal I once pretended to use. I’ve never been a good journaler and had about a dozen long, detailed entries over the course of a few years. Two of the entries that stood out were when I was finally considering having children and when I was pregnant with my daughter (which incidentally was the last entry).

I never had an urge to have children right up until I did. Truly, it was out of the blue- I was ready- but I was terrified!

I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have a person grow inside me.  I couldn’t imagine what it was like to be completely responsible for someone else. I couldn’t imagine loving someone more than my husband and sharing myself to yet another person.

I read my words of fear- and that fear was intense.  But some part of me encouraged myself to face it- after all, everyone said having children was the best thing ever. I felt like I needed to discover why for myself.

I also had to face my fear of how my body would react.  My mother’s first mental breakdown came shortly after I was born. I worried that the hormonal changes would result in the bloom of a looming mental illness that was developing without my knowledge. It didn’t matter that I had no signs or symptoms, I was afraid it would all change.

Fear- lots of it. But I wanted this experience and the only way to live it was to walk through the fear and do it anyway.

Had I not faced that fear of the unknown, of taking on the highest responsibility possible and allowing myself to be open to the deepest love I might ever know, I would never have experienced what came next—even more intense fear!

During pregnancy and after their births came more fear.  The fear of not being able to care for them well, the fear that they might feel pain and I couldn’t ease it for them, the fear that they might get sick, the fear that they could be hurt by someone else and God forbid, that they might grow up one day and leave me!

All this fear came in after I’d discovered that I could not stop myself from loving them. I could not avoid it. I was exposed and none of my normal tactics of defense would come close to protecting me.  I had fallen in love with them without boundary and that put me at high risk of getting hurt as well.  All this risk, all this fear, all because I faced my initial fear of bringing them into my life.

So when I nervously drove my son to the emergency room yesterday because his asthma reaction was more than his inhaler could handle, I again challenged myself to face my fear of lack of control in their lives, and in turn, my life.  Because he is my strong and positive little man, I asked him if he was scared, expecting his normal “No, I’ll be okay” response. Instead, he said, “Yes, I’m scared I’m going to die and I’m scared that I’m too young to die. I’m only 7.  I would think I’d be at least 20.”

I fought my instinct to melt into the fear of his words and unhinge and responded with an assuring, “There’s no way you’re going anywhere, sweetheart, I need you with me….and 20 is not old!”  And I meant it, I need him with me, and 20 is not old.

Instantly, I felt thankful for this fear experience, for not knowing what’s next or how to fix it, but having the opportunity to find out.  I felt thankful for all the pain they’ve created in my life and the panic and the annoyance and the frustration and the exhaustion.  I felt thankful for exposing my heart to them, wide open, so I know how to live despite fear, and love despite risk of loss.

And as I lay next to my son last night, keeping my hand on his chest while he slept to ensure he was breathing okay, I was thankful for the fear that I walked through before his existence that allowed me to feel this fear, more powerful, more risky, and one that led me to a life more whole.  I welcome the fear of loss because with it, comes the realization that I have walked through all the other fears to gain a love so pure and beautiful, I can’t fathom its absence.

So on this Mother’s Day, and many, many more to come (well past when my son is 20), I applaud the bravery of mothers everywhere for facing their fears to bring more fear into their lives and do so without hesitation- all in the promise of continued frustration, annoyance, anxiety and more love and laughter than our hearts are designed to hold.

Cheers to us!  Happy Mother’s Day!

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Is it a Bird, a Plane, or Perry the Platypus?

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Is it a Bird, a Plane, or Perry the Platypus?

A few weeks ago, I was enjoying the warmth of an early Spring morning on my front porch, saturated in peace and looking up at the sky. For some reason, I very randomly snapped a photo of a cloud formation that struck me as beautiful…maybe to capture the moment. Although I like to document events I find interesting with photos, candid cloud shots is not typically my thing. The other night, I was sifting through my photos and came across this cloud formation again. It still looked so beautiful to me. And then I saw it, vivid and bold, and couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed the figure before.

 

What do you see?

I sent the picture to a few of my friends asking what they saw. Spongebob Squarepants, God looking at an elephant, Perry the Platypus, someone praying, people dancing and a child with a backpack were some of the visions my friends saw. Yet when I pointed out what I saw, they too, saw the figure as well.

I see the profile of an angel. A child angel specifically…with wings behind the head, holding a harp or perhaps a bow like Cupid, and legs dangling underneath. A reminder for me to look up, to notice what’s around me and to recognize that life isn’t always what it seems at first glance.

But this is my perspective. This is what I want to see. It’s also what I want you to see and I will try to help you see it. I want you to see it because I feel it is beautiful and I feel we all could use a little more beauty and spontaneous awe. So I share it with you.

Sharing our perspective is also the definition of parenting. When we are parenting our children, we are simply offering to teach them the ideas and values we believe in. We are teaching them our view of the world. We want them to experience bliss and comfort, just as much as we want to protect them from our learned fears and perceptions of angst.

When we teach them what we feel they need to know, we are educating them based on our experiences, our visions and our ideals. If we value honesty, we will teach them that lies taste bitter when they roll out of our mouths. If we value control, we will teach them that a tight grip is the equivalent of safety…even if its not. If we value independence, we will teach them that standing on your own two feet is possible, even if it means scuffing your knees a bit when you inevitably fall.

We will also teach them our perceptions of how we think life treats us. If we feel like victims, we will teach them to blame others. If we feel entitled, we will teach them to push others out of our way. If we feel gratitude, we will teach how giving is actually receiving. If we feel hope, we will teach them that although faith is invisible, it is the most prized possession we own.

Even when we want to offer them the scope of the world, we are limited by what we know and have been exposed to. We teach them our favorite past times in hopes they will share our joy. We teach them the difference between right and wrong the way we view it. We teach them what to fear based on what we were taught to fear by others or by our own experience. We teach them what we see and how we see it. And then ask that they mimic it back to make sure they are learning it well.

When we look around us, we notice that other people’s perspectives are different than our own. They parent based on their values, their experiences and their visions. It will always be different than yours and it will always be different than mine, because our experiences are designed to be different.

Just because I didn’t see Perry the Platypus doesn’t mean that I don’t see humor and that Perry doesn’t rightfully own his place between the clouds. His figure is still there and someone sees it, which make their perspective valuable and true. And if someone points it out to me, I get to see the humor too.

I chose to see an angel because I love angels. But I can also see the child with a backpack, Spongebob and even Micky Mouse if I squint my eyes. If you show me something I wouldn’t normally see, I am taking in your perspective and learning something new. I don’t have to like it or agree with it, but even if I don’t, I still get to learn something I didn’t have the vision to see before. If we all had the same perspective, what would we learn from each other…and really, what would we talk about?

And at the end of the day, don’t we all have similar goals for our children? We want to show them the angel in the sky, the child with a backpack and Perry the Platypus….the Hope, the Practical and the Fun.

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