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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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Q&A My Perspective: How Can I Avoid Going to Heaven?

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Q&A My Perspective: How Can I Avoid Going to Heaven?

QUESTION:

My four year old daughter has been thinking about what happens when one grows old, goes to heaven and why. I explained that taking really good care of your body and your mind is very important and when we are here, we need to take really good care of ourselves. Now she asks “will jumping on the trampoline make me not go to heaven?” I’m stuck…any ideas?

MY PERSPECTIVE:

Kudos! You gave a her a great response to an inevitable question! Developmentally, a four year questioning the unknown aspects of death is as common as gluten intolerance these days. And her follow up question is fabulous because it proves she is listening and ingesting your words. Excellent!

The tricky part is, in her mind, she asked a  simple black and white question. In our minds, the land of the gray, we hear a complex question filled with varied emotion and multiple answers. Immediately, we may recall our own fears and discomfort with death, our experiences, others’ experiences and even what could be our experience if our minds let us go there.  Yet, all she really asked was “So I need to stay healthy to not go to heaven. Is the trampoline my ticket to stick around?” (Or some 4 year old version of this question)

A response as simple as “Jumping on a trampoline doesn’t mean you won’t ever go to Heaven. We will all go to Heaven. The trampoline is great for your body and keeps your mind happy, so when you do go to Heaven someday, you can be proud of yourself for taking such good care of yourself while you were here.”  The key is to answer in black and white, not the gray we get stuck in.

If she wants more and seems to have fear associated with it, this could be an opportunity to explore with her what she thinks Heaven is.  The key to decreasing anxiety is making an unknown a known.  Ask her what does it look like, smell like, feel like? If its supposed to be so wonderful, why are we afraid to go there and trying to avoid it?

And perhaps she’s giving you an opportunity to explore this yourself.

Either way, if you speak from your heart, you can’t go wrong. And if you don’t speak from your heart, she’ll likely ask you over and over again until you do.  They’re funny little creatures like that.

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20 Reasons to Live Today

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20 Reasons to Live Today

Today would have been my mother’s birthday and this year I feel like celebrating her life as opposed to remembering she left too early.  In fact, I just feel like celebrating life in general!

So in honor of my mother’s life and how awesome life is, I will share with you an activity I just did with one of the fabulous teenagers I work with.

Recently, said fabulous teenager was approaching a planned death date she had selected a year ago as the day she would take her life.  As the date became closer she was apprehensive as to how she would respond to the day.  She has come a long, long way since planning that date, but still it loomed and with it, her concern.

To acknowledge its passing, we decided to celebrate after the date by each coming up with a list of the reasons to live.  We multiplied my favorite number with her favorite number and we had to come up with 60 reasons of why life rocks.  It was a quite a list and it was fun!

We shared our lists with each other a few days ago and I have to say , not only was it a great experience to write the list and focus on all the good, but to share with someone with 23 less years of experience than I do and discover we all have way more in common in our perspectives when it comes to appreciating life than we don’t, was very cool.  I will be doing this same activity with my own kids and can’t wait to see what they come up with.

Without further ado,  I share our favorites from our lists. Can you tell which belongs to who? I even changed up the order. 🙂

Food. Food is awesome. Every flavor teaches us something about what we are drawn to and what to steer away from.

Kids. You can raise another version of yourself and love and care for it.

Clear, starry nights. A reminder that the world is so much bigger than we see.

Laughing. Nothing feels better than a big, belly laugh.

Falling in love. Love is so amazing and a crazy feeling.

Family. You can’t always choose them, but you can choose what role they play in your life.

Quotes. They are something I can relate to.

Friends. Trusting in another is like finding a second version of yourself that doesn’t make you feel crazy when you talk to it.

Be a Role Model. Knowing someone looks up to you.

Hugs. Connecting to people feels good. Unity feels awesome.

Dance Team. They are my family, my support, my girls.

Fall leaves. The reminder that change is inevitable and transition can be beautiful.

High School Reunion. I can show them that THEY WERE WRONG.

Cars. Much faster than a horse and keeps you dry in the rain.

Making someone smile. I feel happy that I made someone feel good.

Rainbows. Nature’s way of saying there is always hope.

Moonlight. The light that beams through darkness without expectation of being turned off.

Fireflies. Because they are magical bugs.

Make someone proud. It is the best feeling in the whole world.

Honesty. People are drawn to honesty and the truth. You speak it and they will listen.

 

What are your reasons to live?

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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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How Mental Illness and Emotional Disorders Impact Our Children

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How Mental Illness and Emotional Disorders Impact Our Children

I am one of those people who purposefully doesn’t watch the news, follow politics or read the newspaper.  I used to, avidly. It gave me something to think about, worry about, obsess over and be angry at.  The injustice is everywhere, as is crime, deception, and panic.  I have consciously chosen to take no part in it because I find that in no way, does mainstream media enhance my life.

I had been feeling this way prior to obsessively watching the news after the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy.  But once I heard what happened, I could not stop watching, thinking or trying to wrap my mind around it. I wanted answers, so I looked to the news to give them to me.  I believed everything they said, absorbed it all, took in the “facts” to process it and then found myself infuriated when half of what I was told was a “fact” was not even close.  Twenty four hours of someone else’s strong influence on me was powerful.  It shaped my views and opinions and reiterated to me just how powerful the influence of the media really is.  I haven’t watched the news since…right up until the other day.

Restless on the treadmill, I turned on MSNBC and started watching a heated debate on gun control.  Still gun control? Still debating? This hot topic started right after the tragedy as did the changes in our school safety procedures and the widespread panic that accompanies it.  Still, no one is talking about the REAL issue, the underlying issue, the actual cause—a misunderstanding and lack of knowledge of mental illness and emotional disorders.  It is not normal to hurt people, to want to hurt people, to allow yourself to perform harmful acts.  Before the guns, knives, fire, and fists are used, something is out of balance, something that needs to be addressed- desperately.

It bothers me immensely because I see it every day in children, I hear about it, I lived with it, I know the detrimental impact of mismanaged mental illness and emotional disorders. I also know the fear of it, the misunderstanding of its causes and treatments and the intense judgment that writes people off as hopeless because their brain connections aren’t working properly.

You can’t see the lesions, you can’t see the scars, you can’t see the pain, but it is there and it is deep. Clinical Depression, Bi Polar Disorder and Anxiety Disorders run rampant amongst our populations and they are kept under the radar often to protect the judgment from those around them.  Without professional help and intervention, these illnesses and disorders can drastically affect a person’s life in horrible, negative ways, causing them to feel worthless, angry and living in a constant state of fear and distress in varying degrees.  Each person is different and how their illness or disorder manifests itself is different, but the discomfort and angst that accompanies it is the same.

Addictions, Eating Disorders, and Self Injurious Behaviors are also way more common than we would like to acknowledge and neglect of their symptoms can have extreme short term and long term impacts, both physically and emotionally.

So what can we do to help as parents?

Get the Facts–Know and understand the basics of mental illness and emotional disorders.  You don’t need to know how to diagnose a problem (although many try to do so with the limited knowledge they have) but having an understanding can help alleviate any concern of what you think you know and may be afraid of and offer you facts that are real.

Teach–Teach your children what they need to know as developmentally appropriate.  Young children may only need to know that while some people’s brains are good at learning math problems more than others, some people are better at managing their emotions more than others.  Teaching them if a peer cries more often doesn’t mean they are a “cry baby” but rather it helps that child release their sadness and frustration, the same way it does for them. And it may just be that the child who cries more or even yells more may feel those frustrations more easily than the child sitting next to them and they are learning what to do with those feelings.

Older children will benefit from the same lessons, but also will require understanding the facts and a reiteration that a chemical imbalance in the brain, is just that, an imbalance.  With proper treatment and intervention, balance has a great chance of being recovered.

Do Your Part–Stressing the importance of acceptance and openness to their peers differences can not be over emphasized. If they don’t like the way someone is acting or responding, help them identify what it is about their behavior that makes them uncomfortable.  Teach them that the best way to combat behavior you don’t like, is to model behavior that works better.  It will be helpful for them to recognize how much power they have to teach positive behaviors and control their situation rather than judge it and be bothered by it. And they may be teaching their peer a very positive lesson they won’t get elsewhere.

Connect–Know and help your children understand that we are all in this together.  Whatever effort you make to help another, helps you and everyone around you.  It’s just the truth.

Learning the facts and teaching our children how to respond to other children who struggle is one of the very best ways we can help children living with mental illness and emotional disorders. Every human being wants to feel accepted for who they are and when children feel accepted and cared for by those around them, they feel safe, loved and content.  Children who feel safe, loved and content, are far less likely to grow into angry, hurt and aggressive adults.

Just because the media and the politicians have yet to see the power of fixing the real problem, doesn’t mean we can’t influence it in our own ways.  It’s time to see the truth and it’s time to act.  And what better way to protect our children than to teach them how to be kind, loving and accepting human beings?  Oh right…argue over gun control. How could I forget?

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Swearing in Front of Our Kids- Yes, No or Maybe So

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Swearing in Front of Our Kids- Yes, No or Maybe So

As practice, I do not swear in front of my children because I believe that $h!t is wrong. They hear enough potty talk on the bus and on television, that I choose to refrain from adding to it.  Now around my friends, I use enough foul language to make a sailor blush, so it all evens out.

Okay, I don’t really believe swearing in front of your kids is wrong. I just choose not to… most of the time.  I do believe all words serve a purpose and I like to practice thinking before I speak…most of the time. Because on the rare occasion when I do throw in an “inappropriate” word when making a point to them, it packs a power punch like no other.  Their eyes light up in sheer horror that I must REALLY be mad to unleash one of the top no no’s on the naughty list.  And I can feel the power of the word when it comes out of my mouth. Tall, mighty, dominating, do not mess with Mom right now, words.  They are not used by accident. And they are heard.

Like all other words, swears have their place. Sometimes, no other word can get its point across like an F bomb.  I know you know what I mean. Other times, swears make a dull story that much funnier.  How many stand up comedians are rated G?  Anyone you’ve ever heard of? There’s a value there and some people make a living utilizing it.

I work with teenagers, who by the ripe old age of 14 have heard them all.  So when the conversation seems to be stuck and I’m trying to relate, I pull out the big guns.  Okay, they are not that big, maybe a small, ankle pistol.  When I tell you that every time I use a swear in front of a teenager their entire demeanor changes, I am not kidding. They laugh or smile, their shoulders go down and they sit back in their chair a bit.  I have crossed the line and invited myself into their underground world of inappropriate.  And then the real communication begins.

I run an anger management group for teenage boys.  Can you imagine if I didn’t allow swearing or swear with them?  We would sit for 45 minutes each week silent. No joke…raw, angry silence.

My point, there is a place and an appropriateness for even the “inappropriate.”

Not too long ago, my 9 year old daughter was watching a political drama with me that was really interesting and educational in a lot of ways.  I wanted her to watch it so we could talk about it.  However, every other word was a swear.  And every time they swore, which was every 15-20 seconds, I felt a pang of guilt and disgust that she was ingesting all these words and their context.  But when I looked at her, she seemed totally unfazed.  After awhile, I said I thought we needed to turn it off because their choice of words was making me very uncomfortable and I didn’t think she needed to hear them, to which she replied, “It doesn’t bother me, Mommy.  I know those words aren’t okay for me to use and I don’t use them. It’s not a big deal.”

Huh, wasn’t that what I wanted her to learn after all? They are words that have a time and place to be heard, but it doesn’t mean they have to be our words or be used at all? And she is choosing not to use them.  At least in front of me, perhaps she makes a sailor blush when she’s around her friends. I guess it’s not for me to know.

But she made a good point, and one that sticks with me.

As parents, we get so caught up on what we feel is “right” or “wrong” based on our experiences, which form our opinions.  But what’s “right” for me, may not be “right” for you, and it doesn’t deem it “wrong” either. It just Is.

Some parents swear in front of their kids constantly, never giving thought to how their children may respond.  And their children may not respond at all.  While other parents are horrified at the thought of their little ears being contaminated.  What makes one better than the other? I have no idea. Do you?

How lucky we are to be surrounded by so many other opinions and experiences to give us the opportunity to look at something in a way we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. And also the ability to embrace what we learn or discard it.  Education at its finest.

Hell yeah, mother lovers!

Smooth, I know. I’ll let you choose your own word.

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Parenting In the Midst of Personal Chaos

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Parenting In the Midst of Personal Chaos

What I like about writing my blog is the ability to share my perspective, both personal and professional.  The professional piece is what I know to be true and the personal piece is what I think to be true.

Ever notice how easy it is to feel confident when making decisions in your professional life that you know are well founded based on experience or what feels like common sense? Or how easy it is to look at a friend’s situation and see the obvious conflict or problem and solution when they can’t seem to wrap themselves around it?

And yet when it comes to our own lives, our own personal decisions, which impact our children and those we love the most, our emotional investment seems to let the clouds roll in blocking the sun which once illuminated all we thought we knew.

Frustrating isn’t it?

I’m at one of those points in life.  A place of discontent, sadness, anxiety, and confusion.  It sucks.  And yes, I realize it now feels like one of those Facebook posts where someone says “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” leaving you hanging, wondering what’s up, and then annoyed that you have to wait to find out what’s wrong, just to satisfy your curiosity. I get it. That drives me nuts. But the why right now isn’t as important as It Just Is.  And I’m betting you can relate.

So here I am in my place of confusion and sadness which has been slowly taking over my life.  The stress is beating on me and I’ve allowed it.  I am now taking the turn towards giving myself permission to just be freaking sad and get on with it.  Hear the hint of frustration there? I have such little patience for misery and yet, I KNOW in order to get past it, I have to FEEL it all so I can move on.  Turns out, its not easy, even when you know how to take care of yourself, take the steps to do so, continually search for the positives and still your heart is saying, “uh, still hurting here.” Yeah, I know, can we just move on already??

In the meantime, I have these beautiful children who need me and watch my every move. They look to me for support and are gauging how to feel by what I show them.  In the beginning, I felt compelled to show them only my strengths, my happy moments, that everything is okay.  But everything is not okay.  At least not right now. And life can be hard…very, very hard.  And that is a truth that they are learning and will continue to learn.  And I want to be the influence that shows them the truth in a way that protects them and exposes them at the same time.

I made a decision to teach them what Living while managing personal pain looks like.  Some days I cry, some days I keep to myself, some days I make their favorite meals, and other days I ask them cook for themselves.  Some days I give them extra hugs and some days I don’t want anyone near me. But every single day, I tell them I love them.  We talk about how our transition feels. We problem solve getting through it.  We identify our emotions and we apologize if we sense we’ve overstepped our limits.  Are we doing it right? Yes, for us, we are. Is it text book? Nope. But it’s still right – for us.

My kids are learning personal boundaries, ways to cope, how to express themselves and what unconditional love looks like.  Through our pain and sadness, it’s a life lesson supported by hope…hope that we will get through it, come out stronger and learn something amazing about ourselves when we reach the other side.

As a professional I know which techniques work and which ones don’t work, but I don’t know which will work for each kid and each family.  It’s all trial and error.  Parenting too, is trial and error and after the various trials and accompanying doubt and guilt have subsided, sometimes Faith that we are doing it well is all we really have.  Today I have Faith that this mother is loving her children the best way she knows how. And that my friends, feels good.

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Q&A My Perspective: Healing the Parent/Child Relationship

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Q&A My Perspective: Healing the Parent/Child Relationship

QUESTION

As I sit here and try to think of the best way to convey my question, my heart is in anguish with tears pouring down my face. About a year and half ago I became addicted to pain medication that I was prescribed for a back injury I sustained in a car accident. It spiraled out of control last February ending with a protective order being filed so I couldn’t contact my 12 year old son’s mother or him and I ended up choosing to go into a 9 month substance abuse program that helped veterans. This was clearly my fault. Up until this point in time his mother and I had never really disagreed on anything and we haven’t been together since he was 2. We had never been to court. We just agreed on visitation and child support. I paid her child support every week and I pretty much got him whenever I wanted. We were VERY close. I coached his little league teams from when he was 4 until he was 9. I was always very active in his life. Well, long story short I graduated the program and got a court order to get some visitation back. I have not been able to have any contact with him for a year now and have not been able to see him at all.  My question is…I have supervised visitations starting next week and while I’m ecstatic that I am finally going to get to see him, I am very nervous and I don’t even know what to say to him. I know the number one thing is being honest. I just want to make sure I do everything right. I know it is going to take a lot of time and a lot of consistency to earn his trust and respect again. I’m just hoping you may have some helpful advice to give me going into this.

 

MY PERSPECTIVE

First of all, you have already done the hard work.  You recognized that you chose a behavior that was not working for you and made the decision to change it.  It doesn’t matter why or how, it only matters that you did.  Blaming yourself for your wrong doings is only helpful to get you to the point where you are now…in the process of recognizing that change needs to take place in order to heal yourself.  Its time to let the blame go.  It no long serves any positive use in your life.  You are where you are by choice and the more you choose forgiveness and acceptance for where you are now, the more you will heal, and the joy and purpose in your life will grow with you.

The changes that you have made and will continue to make will not only be the greatest gift to you, but also to your son.  You are teaching him that even our heroes and the people we look up to make mistakes, that it’s okay to be human.  But more importantly, you are teaching him that when you recognize you choose behaviors that don’t help you, you dig in and find the strength to change those behaviors into ones that DO work…there is no greater lesson than to teach by example.  It is equally important for us to know what doesn’t work as it does to know what does so we know the difference.  By choosing to change you are teaching him a lesson he wouldn’t learn anywhere else. What a true gift for you both!

From what you have described, you have built a foundation of love and respect with your son, followed by a painful period of transition.  What is most important is that you built that foundation together and the love that you have for him and that he has for you still remains strong, it just needs to be revitalized…and it will be.  It has already begun by you reaching out to him.

Of course there are mixed emotions between the two of you and you can speculate how he feels, but the bottom line is that people innately want to love and be loved and you both have that desire.  He wants his father just as much as you want your son.  If you both have the same goal, the obstacles between you will dissipate as your hearts reunite.  Does this mean he won’t be hurt and angry still? Absolutely not.  He needs to work through his own confusion, distrust and insecurity, but the more you prove to both of you that you are in this for the long haul, his feelings will slowly, but steadily change.

You mentioned that being honest is the best thing and that is true. It will be good to speak from the heart as much as you can, but that does not mean you have to use words to do this.  Say what you feel you have to say, but only that.  Your presence, the hug you give him, the look on your face, will be communication enough without the need to fill the space with words.  When you speak from your heart, you will speak your truth and he will know that you mean it, in spite of any lingering discomfort he feels.

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Lessons in the Wake: Thoughts on the Sandy Hook Elementary School Tragedy

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Lessons in the Wake: Thoughts on the Sandy Hook Elementary School Tragedy

Like many other parents I sat glued to the news yesterday crying, grieving and just wanting my children to be home after learning about the horrendous acts of violence at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

I felt like I needed more information, more insight, more understanding to piece how a human being could ever hit a point so desperately low that they could do what this young man did.  I hesitate to even call him a “man” because my intense anger of his actions puts him in categories that a “man” could not fit in.  Yet I know the only thing anger gives me, is anger in return.

Yesterday, I questioned my faith in the simplicity of human behavior, my belief in the death penalty, my understanding of gun laws and school safety, and the ability for our fellow humans to face horrors we can not identify with words.

Living in Connecticut, one of the smallest states in our country, made the world seem even smaller and as though the unspeakable occurred in my backyard…because it did.

In my everyday life, I continually search for the good. I whole heartedly believe there is an opportunity to learn from every hardship we face and I am determined to find it whenever it is presented to me.  Yesterday, I was at a loss.  I scoured my mind looking for the missing link. I listened to the reports on the news searching for the understanding, the silver lining or the light ahead.  I could not find it. How could anything good come from what feels and is so very, very devastating?

Today, I recognize that there is no end of grieving for the families who have lost their heart and for the children who experienced the violence that we strive to protect them from every day.  But there is a lesson and gift in this level of grieving and tragedy for everyone.

For a moment or a day or a week or in the months ahead:

We acknowledge that life is precious.

We live in the moments and stop thinking about what we need to do next. We sit in our pain, hold it and then release it as we start to look around and see what we do have in front of us.

We appreciate our children, our families, our friends and our supports that hold us up.

We grow closer to our neighbors and strangers we meet as we discuss the common ground of disbelief and sadness that we walk on together.  We embrace how similar we are and take comfort that there is more good than bad in the world when we allow ourselves to see.

We watch communities unite and thrive in the desire to support each other and experience love in any form it comes in.

We gain new role models of strength as we watch those our hearts break for take one step in front of the other with poise.  As we watch them stand, we admire that the human spirit is more strong, more courageous and more accepting than we ever dreamed possible. We learn great knowledge from these people, both young and old, and in turn, we lift them up with our outpouring of love both physically and energetically.

When all else fails, we hug one another, allowing us to be one with another, to exchange the energy of love and beauty and kindness and if only for a moment, know that we are never, ever alone.

Although we may never fully grasp a sense of understanding of why horrible things happen, we always have the ability to grasp what we will do in its wake.  It is our right as human beings to choose our path, to guide our children, and to love each other in whatever ways we deem fit.

Today, my friends, I send you my love. May we all find peace in the days ahead and appreciate the gifts bestowed to us each day.  May we also find solace with the knowledge and understanding that we are in this life together, every single one of us.

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Q&A My Perspective: How Old is too Old to Believe in Santa Claus?

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Q&A My Perspective: How Old is too Old to Believe in Santa Claus?

QUESTION:

How old is too old to believe in Santa? (Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Etc.) Do we tell them the truth before they hear it from other kids? My daughter is in 5th grade and still believes.

MY PERSPECTIVE:

Honestly, I still believe in Santa. In my mind, Santa is truly the Spirit of Fun and Giving at Christmastime.  In fact, once I had children, Christmas seemed even more exciting to me when they began to understand and believe in the story of Santa Claus. I mean the belief that this person generously gives to others expecting nothing in return except the hope that we will choose good behaviors…brilliant!

I want my children to believe in the Spirit of Giving and Fun, so is there ever a specific time to call it a belief and not an actual living, breathing person? I don’t think so.

I believe that is a personal decision for all parents that is determined by when it feels right for them and their situation. The reality is they will find out, at some point, so how do you want to structure your response for when they do, whether you are the one telling them or not?

Now is the time to determine what you want them to walk away understanding, including an explanation of why the “secret” of Santa’s (or the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, etc) non physical identity is kept in the spirit of fun…just like planning a surprise party.  The intent of the secret is meant to keep things interesting and exciting, not as a dishonesty where someone can get hurt.

Until then, enjoy living in the moments of their wonder and fun and embrace the truth that they won’t be little forever…why not hold on for as long as we can and enjoy the cookies and milk while they last?

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