I’m Not The Meanest Mom

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I realized something recently.  As adults, we like to hear stories of other adults performing some sort of kindness.  We like the feel-good stories of people helping their fellow man, standing up to injustice, or showing love to a total stranger.  It restores our faith in humanity.  It makes us feel good, and it motivates us to be kinder ourselves.  Kinder.  Gentler.  More compassionate. You know what we don’t see all that often?  People sharing about the times they weren’t all that kind, or respectful, or compassionate. And sure, we’re human. We’ve all done it:  We have a bad day, and we inadvertently and regrettably take it out on some poor nearby soul.  But we don’t rush to share those days, because we recognize – both on an intellectual level and on a heart level – that it’s not exactly something to brag about.

But when it’s a parent being unkind towards a child?  We* (as a society) not only tolerate this bad behavior, but we embrace it.  We actually cheer it on.

When it comes to kids, we glorify violence.  We celebrate cruelty.

So while we seem to have it right when it comes to adult on adult behavior, our collective treatment of our children is abhorrent, and getting more concerning by the day. Baby, we’ve got a long way to go.

I feel like it started with the laptop shooting dad, but it has multiplied at an alarming rate since then.  This trend of publicly parenting through bullying, shame, and intimidation is everywhere.  I feel like I can’t go a single day anymore without seeing another one.    Parenting has become a contest, but a sick one.  A contest not to find the sweetest mom, or the most competent mom, but the meanest mom. Everything is backwards.  Meanness is exalted, spitefulness is praised.   Parents boast about how mean they are to their kids, and instead of gently suggesting alternatives (or possibly better yet, denying them any attention at all), we put them on a pedestal.  We feed this very cycle of unkindness.  A quick perusal of the comment threads on any one of these public shamings tells us everything we need to know.  Hundreds, and yes, thousands of positive comments, singing the praises of meanness, shouting their rallying accolades, and devouring anyone who dare stand up for the children.

How can we do this to these little ones, the most vulnerable members of our society?  The people who need the most empathy and the most tender care, are being maligned, minimized and mistreated.

And we’re watching it happen.

I don’t know the answer.  I don’t.  I know we need to keep talking about it.  I know we can’t quietly sit back and accept it.

But it starts at home.  It starts with our own kids.

And listen, I’m the first one to admit I’m not a perfect mom.  None of us are.  I struggle sometimes with patience.  I sometimes let sleep deprivation get the better of me and am unnecessarily short with my kids.  I have to constantly remind myself to live in the moment.  I have to constantly remind myself not to sweat the small stuff.

Yes, I apologize to my children often.

But the big difference between me and the “meanest mom” supporters is that I’m saddened by mean behavior (by or towards anyone), not buoyed by it.  So no, I won’t pat you on the back for celebrating meanness.  No, I won’t be offering any “Atta girl!”s or “Way to go!”s or “Good job, mom!”s.  No, I won’t praise you for being unkind.

And I get it.  My opinion is the unpopular one.  The cool kids are all worshiping at the alter of childism.  Well, I opt out.  I don’t want to be a part of your club.  I don’t stand in solidarity with anyone who rallies around the idea of mistreating children.  I don’t care how loud your voices are.  I don’t care how many members you have.  I don’t care how good your cookies are.

I Opt Out.

In my life, in my world, I will celebrate kindness.  I will cheer for compassion.  I will stand up for grace, and forgiveness, and gentle communication.

Children learn from our actions.   Throwing away a child’s ice cream (because in his childlike excitement he forgot to say “thank you”) doesn’t teach him to say thank you, it doesn’t teach him what it means to be polite, and it doesn’t teach him gratitude.  It teaches him that if someone doesn’t behave in the way we want, that it’s okay to bully them, and that it’s okay to take someone else’s things.

Children learn from our actions.  Spanking a child for misbehaving doesn’t teach him right from wrong.  It teaches him that “might makes right”, that pain and fear are effective motivators, and that it’s okay to use physical force on someone who’s younger and more vulnerable than you.

Children learn from our actions.  Sending a child to time out when he’s having a hard time doesn’t teach him to think about his actions. It teaches him that mom is going to isolate him from her attention, her love, and her touch, at the very moment when he is needing them the most.

Children learn from our actions.  Publicly shaming a child a for making a mistake doesn’t teach him not to do it again.  It teaches him, again, to use bullying to solve his problems.  It teaches him that he can’t trust the one person he should be able to trust the most.  It teaches him to feel worthless, and ashamed, and humiliated… making him even MORE likely to repeat the behavior in the future.

Children learn from our actions.  Punishing a child (as opposed to kindly communicating, listening, and guiding) does not teach him respect.  Or responsibility.  Or accountability.  It teaches him to be bitter.  To be angry.  To be spiteful.  It teaches him to be extrinsically motivated by the fear of mom’s negative repercussions, rather than intrinsically and positively motivated by his own internal sense of right and wrong.

If you want to raise kids that are polite, respectful, and kind, start by being polite, respectful, and kind to your kids.

It starts with you.  It starts with us.

Let’s stop glorifying bullies, and start treating our kids the way we’d like to be treated ourselves.

Kids are people too.

#NotTheMeanestMom


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Today, I Climbed A Mountain

*Full disclosure* I actually climbed the mountain yesterday, but today flowed better. Also, it wasn’t really a “mountain” mountain. It was more like a hill.  Okay, technically it was rocks. I climbed a pile of rocks.

Now that we have that out of the way…

I climbed a mountain yesterday, and it was a long time coming.  May 3rd is just a few weeks away, and it marks the one year anniversary of when I finally went to the ER when the symptoms I’d been experiencing for months reached the point of unbearable, and thus began a year of the worst health (both mental and physical) I think I’ve ever experienced.  It was chest pains, lower back pain, and nausea that finally made me act, but it was crazy relentless unexplained bruising, swollen lymph nodes in my clavicle – and eventually in a whole bunch of other places, – chronic flu-like symptoms, exhaustion, dizziness, and a racing heart that would confound my doctor and send me all over the city to no less than a dozen specialists.

In hindsight, it was most likely a panic attack that I had had that night we went to the ER (the first of MANY such panic attacks over the past year).  We’d gone out that evening to watch an arena football game, and I already wasn’t feeling well when we left the house.   The fear of any sort of medical event happening in public prompts my anxiety to kick in, and anxiety prompts my body to freak out, and a freaked out body does bad, bad things.  The worst part of the evening, besides the fact that it took the EMTS five tries to get the IV placed, was that my then 7 year old asked Mike if I was going to die.   I feel guilty about that, while simultaneously telling myself that it wasn’t my fault.  Could I have willed myself better if I’d tried hard enough?  I don’t know.

Chronic illness and pain (most of which is still unexplained, though some can finally be attributed to disc issues) is exhausting.  And when I say, “exhausting”, I don’t mean very tiring.  I mean it sucks the actual life out of you, to the point that you’re a shell.  A human shell that can intellectually understand that things could be worse and that there is much to be thankful for…. but who is too lost in the muck and the mire to acknowledge it.

What I’ve realized over the past few months though – again, through the magic of hindsight – is that it isn’t the physical symptoms that have been my undoing.   The much greater burden, beyond a shadow of doubt, is the depression and anxiety.  I’m not a stranger to either one, but the past year has seen them both reach heights that I didn’t know were possible.  Depression made me not care, about anything.  Anxiety made me care too much, about everything.  Too much, and not enough, all at the same time.  One made me unable to get out of bed, the other made me too afraid of being alone with my own thoughts not to.  In the past 12 months, I’ve gained and lost and gained again the same 30ish pounds, partly because eating/not eating helped with some of my physical symptoms, but mostly because I’m still that damaged 16 year old who believed that food – either restrictive, careful monitoring like a wrestler trying to make a weight class, OR eating ALL the things, all the time – was the answer.  To everything.

I was hurt by friends who seemed to vanish when I needed them most, and pissed off at friends (and strangers) who offered solutions. Partly because unsolicited advice and people telling me what do make me crazy, but also because – and I’m not proud of it – I was pissed off at everyone.  And everything.

Yes, I’ve been tested for Lyme disease.   Yes, I take vitamins.  Yes, they ruled out lupus.  NO, it’s not all in my head.  Yes, I do meditate. Yes, I understand the importance of sleep and nutrition.  Yes, I’ve tried an elimination diet.  Yes, I use essential oils.  Yes, I’ve looked into non-pharmaceutical solutions.  NO, I am not interested in your naturopathic doctor, or your liver flush, or the special drink that changed the life of your sister’s best friend’s coworker’s cousin’s ex-girlfriend. Leave me alone, leave me alone, LEAVE ME ALONE!    Wait, I can’t do this alone.  I take it back.  I need someone.  Please listen. Don’t leave me alone.  Come back!!!

There was no winning with me.  If they didn’t keep their distance because they didn’t know how to deal with me, I just pushed ’em away myself.  Really, it’s a wonder if I have any friends left at all.

I think one of the most painful paradoxes of depression (really, of mental illness in general)  is that it is excruciatingly difficult to interact with, to talk to, to be physically touched by others, at least in an authentic way …. and yet in equal measure lonely and terrifying to live in its self-created world of isolation.

I don’t believe that my depression and anxiety caused my physical symptoms, and I don’t believe that my physical symptoms caused my depression and anxiety. But mental health and physical health are of course irrevocably yolked together, and as such I know that any attempts to address either one need to be multi-pronged.

Which brings me (finally) back to my mountain.

I have a friend who posts lots of pictures of her hikes… these amazing day-long adventures up in to the mountains (mountains-mountains) all over Phoenix and its surrounding cities.  I keep telling her – in my double-life, put-a-smile-on-my-face-and-pretend-I’m-not-falling-apart-inside alternate reality – that we should go hiking together sometime.  But in reality, I am not able to do that right now. Side note:  In yoga teacher training, which now feels like a lifetime ago, we had to give our teacher 25 cents every time she caught us saying, “I can’t”  After losing a few dollars each, most of us broke the habit.  Instead, we were told to say, and think, “Not today.”  It’s not that we CAN’T do it, it’s just that we can’t YET do it.   That stuck with me in a major way.  Lengthy mountain hikes are not my reality today.   Both because of my physical state (simple walks around the block render me out of commission for a day or days afterward), and because of the real possibility of a sudden mountainside panic attack that would leave me begging her to just go on without me.

But I really do want to start hiking again.  The desert is my happy place.  I can breathe easier there than anywhere else.  The solitude and the wide open spaces feel healing, not oppressive.  In fact I’ve pretty much convinced myself if I ever moved back to New Hampshire (or anywhere else surrounded by trees), that I would effectively suffocate.   My mental health thanks me whenever I venture out into the desert.  Plus, I miss my old butt  regaining a higher level of physical fitness is good not just for my body, but also for every other area of my life.  I know this.  I do.

And still, it took me a month of pep-talks to do it.  There’s a nature preserve that’s a five minute walk from my house, and I decided that I would start there. I’d gone for walks on its trails a few times in the past several weeks, but it had been years since I’d climbed to the top of its not-quite-a-mountain.  It suddenly became really important that I do so, as a literal AND symbolic first step.  But first I had to get there.

It’s way too hot.

It might hurt.

I don’t have anything appropriate to wear.

What if I trip on the loose rocks and fall and hit my head and knock myself unconscious?

What if I’m not knocked unconscious, and think I’m fine, but later suffer a brain bleed?

What if I’m near a drop-off and  get light-headed and can’t sit down fast enough to keep from toppling over the edge?

What if I forget to pay attention to where I’m walking and I startle a rattle-snake who thinks he needs to bite me?  (In my defense, of the three live rattlesnakes we’ve come across in the ten years that we’ve lived in Phoenix, one of them was at that very park)

What if I don’t bring enough water and I get dehydrated and can’t go on?  We like to joke about it because of the quote in The Breakfast Club, but I really do have a low tolerance for dehydration.

What if I lose my cell service at the top, and have a medical emergency and can’t call anyone for help?

Etc.

There were a million reasons not to go, and two really really good ones to suck it up and make myself do it.  I deserve to practice self-care.  My kids deserve a healthy mother.  All the people who’ve suffered the collateral damage of my unintentionally treating them like shit for the past year deserve some atonement.  (I guess that’s three reasons.)

Hiking to the top of that ridge wouldn’t cure me.  But it would be something.

So I made myself go, and with each step I repeated a mantra that was more feelings than words.  If it had had words, they wouldn’t have been sweet and flowery, but more like:

Screw you, depression.  Screw you, anxiety.  Screw you, bad discs and chronic migraines and muscle pain and achy joints.  Screw you fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome or whatever the hell else they want to call my mystery ailment this week.  You don’t get to make the decisions for me.   Not today.  All the way to the top, and all the way back down again.

I wish that I could conclude this post with a mountaintop epiphany, or a defining moment of catharsis.  But, you know… sometimes life is epiphanies and defining moments, and sometimes life is just a red-faced, slightly overweight, sweaty middle-aged mom scrambling her way to the top of a rocky hill in Northern Phoenix on a random Wednesday in April.  A girl who felt okay for a moment, but who knows she still has a lot of work ahead of her.

It took 45 minutes, to the top and back down.

I climbed a mountain and I lived.

Today my calves hurt, and I find it delightful because I haven’t done any sort of level of activity that would lead to sore calves for an entire year.  Delightful is good.  Delightful is rare.

And now (if you’ve gotten this far, and if you have, thank you) it’s 12:45 in the afternoon, and I haven’t yet left the couch, but I will. Later I’ll take the 12 year old to football, and the 8 year old to the playground, and I’ll smile politely at the people around me, and they won’t know my secret.  They won’t know that I hurt, in so many different ways.  But they also won’t know my other secret.  They won’t know that I decided I’m stronger than all of it.  They won’t know that I climbed a mountain, or HOW MUCH FREAKING EFFORT it took to do it.  I sometimes often tell Mike how hard it is to be me, how hard it is to live inside my brain, and over the past year inside my body as well.  But I wouldn’t want to be anyone else.  I really wouldn’t. Because the wiring that makes me prone to depression and anxiety is the same wiring that makes me passionate, and creative, and someone who loves and lives and feels deeply.  It’s the same part of me that allows me to express myself through writing! I realized a long time ago that it’s kind of a package deal.

I think there’s a sort of poetic and beautiful and bittersweet synchronicity to the fact that my least favorite part of my psyche comes inextricably linked with my favorite.  I wouldn’t take the magic pill (if such a pill existed) to take away all my problems, if the price was also taking away the very essence of who I am.

So I have to resolve – again and again and again – to do the work I need to do to be well, whatever wellness is going to ultimately look like.  I can’t WILL myself well, this much is true.  But I can take steps, both literal and figurative, towards wellness.  I can.

I CAN.

I have the sore calves to prove it.

P.S.  This article is the most apt description of depression that I’ve ever read.  He so eloquently puts into words what I’ve so often tried – and failed – to write myself.


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Filed under about me, anxiety, depression, health

My Dear Daughter, Your Value Doesn’t Change With What You’re Wearing

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The following was recently passed around Facebook.  (Emphasis at the end is my own.) The author is unknown:

A girl bought an iPad, when her father saw it, He asked her “What was the 1st thing you did when you bought it?

“I put an anti-scratch sticker on the screen and bought a cover for the iPad” she replied.

“Did someone force you to do so?” “No” “Don’t you think it’s an insult to the manufacturer?” “No dad! In fact they even recommend using
a cover for the iPad” “Did you cover it because it was cheap & ugly?”

“Actually, I covered it because I didn’t want it to get damage and decrease in value.”
“When you put the cover on, didn’t it reduce the iPad’s beauty?”

“I think it looks better and it is worth it for the protection it gives my iPad.”

The father looked lovingly at his daughter and said, “Yet if I had asked you to cover your body which is much more precious than the iPad, would you have readily agreed???” She was
mute…..

Indecent dressing and exposure of your body reduces your value and respect.


May God guide us all.

My first reaction was one of disgust.  As my eyes scanned the comments looking for other people who felt the same way I did, I was just met with “Amen”s and “How true!”s.  More disgust.  Had we read the same thing?  The tome that reduced a girl’s body to a physical object?  One that lost its value if it wasn’t clothed in a certain fashion?  One that wasn’t worthy of respect if it wasn’t properly covered up?  I think the thing that bothered me most of all (“bothered” isn’t even the right word… it creeped me right out) was that the father “looked lovingly at his daughter,” before he gave his edict to cover up, like she’d covered up the iPad.  Misogyny and control aren’t love.

Ultimately, reading things like this makes me so overwhelmingly sad.  Sad because they illustrate how far we still need to go.

Sad because they remind me of the prevalent thinking of girls being somehow “less than.”

Sad because they only cheer on the patriarchal society that sees to it that the men get to dictate what women should or should not wear… or do… or think.

Sad because it speaks to the larger issue of a world that somehow simultaneously heralds women as nothing more than sex objects, and disparages them for said sexuality at the same time… calling them whores.  Or loose.  Or easy.

Sad because this is exactly the kind of teaching that leaves girls feeling devalued and worthless, like they don’t deserve love.  They’re nothing more than their bodies, right?  So if they showed too much skin, or looked too attractive, or God forbid engaged in premarital sexual activity… who would want them?  (Many abstinence-only trainings go so far as to compare girls who’ve lost their virginity to used chewing gum.)

Sad because it contributes to a culture of victim blaming that leaves the 1 in 4 women who will experience a sexual assault in their lifetime feeling ashamed, as though it were somehow their fault.

At the time of this writing, my daughter is only eight.  But I fear for her future if this is the kind of thing that people aspire to teach their daughters, and pass on to their sons.  Is this really the message we want to send to today’s young girls? That they’re nothing more than a body?  A body that must be properly covered lest it “lose its value”?

My message for my daughter is very different.   At the end of the day – away from the white noise of society, and the church, and advertising, and television, and social media, and politics – this is what I want my daughter to know:

You, my dear daughter, are amazing.

You are strong, and kind, and creative, and intelligent, and funny.  You have a big, beautiful, giving heart.  You make people laugh. You take care of those around you.  I don’t doubt for a second that you can achieve absolutely anything that you put your mind to.

I hope you know how incredible you are.  I hope you know how much you have to offer.  I hope you know that your value, your worth as a daughter, a sister, a friend, a human soul… it’s infinite.  The world is a better place just because you are in it.

At some point in time, society is going to try to reduce you to just your body, but you don’t have to listen!  I need you to know that you are so much more than your body.  Your body is just a physical place to house your beautiful soul.

I don’t mean to diminish it though, because your body is pretty freaking amazing too!  It lets you run, and jump on the trampoline, and pump yourself high on the swings.  It lets you swim like a mermaid, and give fierce hugs, and bake cookies with your brother.  My hope is that you are kind to your body: That you will treat it well, and feed it good foods, and give it plenty of exercise.  Not for me!, and not to reach some aesthetic ideal, and certainly not for society, but for YOU, so you can keep it healthy and strong so you can do all the things you want it to do.  I hope you take your body on grand adventures.  I hope you build and create things with your hands, I hope you aren’t afraid to get dirty, I hope you use your skills and your time to help others.  Maybe one day you’ll climb to the top of a mountain, or ski down one instead. Maybe your body will one day give birth to a baby, or carry you onto a plane to go adopt one.

Yes, your body will take you to amazing places.  It is is going to grow, and hurt, and heal, and love, and fight.

One day you’ll feel the thrill of a first romantic kiss, and the physical ache in your heart at a romance gone wrong.

It seems grossly superficial and irrelevant to even think about how you are clothed (really, in the grand scheme of things, what on earth does it matter?) but sooner or later someone’s going to make you think that it’s important, and I want you to know this:  I hope you dress in a way that makes you feel beautiful and comfortable and confident.  I hope you dress in a way that reflects you.  I hope you dress in whatever makes you feel best able to grab life by the horns and leave your own unique, indelible mark.  The one that says, “I was here.  And I mattered.”

You will change lives just by existing.  I know, because you’ve already changed mine, and you’re not even nine years old.

And the thing is, no matter what you’re wearing, no matter how much you weigh, no matter what your hair or your face or your body looks like, you STILL HAVE JUST AS MUCH VALUE.

Because your value?  Your worth?  That’s inside of you, and no one can take it away.


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When You Can’t Walk Into Their Room Without Tripping

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Photo Credit:  Matt Gromes

The newest parenting-related picture to go viral on Facebook is a photo of a huge stack of filled trash bags.  Mom captioned the photo with the explanation that her teenage daughter wouldn’t clean her room, so the mom bagged everything up, and was making her daughter pay her $25 a bag to get her stuff back.  It was hard to tell just how many bags there were, as they were all stacked on top of each other, but there were clearly enough for the daughter to owe her mother at least a few hundred dollars.

As is usually the case, the comments were overwhelmingly positive, and the mother was almost universally praised.    I’m always kind of amazed at the feedback on these things.  I’d like to think – really, I need to think – that there are people out there who don’t feel right about it, but who just don’t know what else they would do in that situation.   Or maybe there are people who want to offer some alternatives, but they are shamed into silence by the “Stop being so judgmental!!” crowd.  (By the way, when you publicly boast online about how proud you of are how you’re punishing your children, you are explicitly inviting feedback.   It’s the way the internet works)

Dialogue is a useful thing.  Lots of parents can relate to the struggle of kids and messes, but not every parent chooses punishment and/or shame as a parenting tactic.  There are alternatives to navigating even the messiest of messy rooms, that do not involve bagging up all their stuff and throwing or giving it away, or making them earn it back.

As with everything else, it all begins with relationship:

1. Recognize that everyone is different.  Personality and individual constitution play a big role here.  Some people are naturally very tidy.  Some make a mess everywhere they go.  I am very much the latter.  And while I’ve come to appreciate how much better I operate in a clean, uncluttered environment, it is something that I have to continually work on.  I am 42 years old, and I still have to make a conscious effort to keep things picked up.  Harping on me or shaming me would not only not encourage me, but would also make me angry, and even less likely to put forth the effort.  Kids are no different!  If you make them feel badly about themselves, they’ll live up to the negative.  Instead, help and encourage them, and see what a difference it makes, both in their behavior and in your own peace with the situation.   Accept them the way they are, and resist the urge to compare and pit one against the other. Comments like, “Why can’t you be more like Henry?” are hurtful, and leave scars that last well beyond childhood.

2.  Adjust your expectations.   I am not a big fan of the phrase, “Pick your battles,” but bedroom cleanliness is one area where it may apply.  It’s okay – and yes, even a positive thing! – for them to have the freedom to keep their own personal space the way they like it. Some things shouldn’t be negotiable, for good reason (for example:  leaving food or trash laying around can attract bugs;  too much clutter on the floor can become a safety hazard)  But there is a whole range of happy compromise in between hospital corners and things-are-growing-faster-than-bacteria-in-a-petri-dish.  Adjusting your own expectations and working with your child, rather than against him, go a long way towards both keeping the peace in the home and your relationship intact.

3.  Model taking care of your own things.   I have found, again and again, that when I’m in a good routine myself, the kids tend to magically follow suit. Show them what it looks like to take pride in your home.  Pick up after yourself. Put things away after you use them.  Don’t grumble about housework.  Treat it as an act of service for yourself, and for your family.  Your kids learn far more from watching you than they do from any speeches you may give them about cleanliness.

4.  Ask them to pick up before things get out of control.  I think we have a tendency … (and when I say “we”,  I mean “I”) … I think we have a tendency to let things fester and not say anything about them while they build.  Then, we inevitably get resentful, the situation gets blown out of proportion, and we finally burst.  We finally say something, or ask for help, and we’re not very nice about it.   It is a whole lot easier – and more peaceful for all involved – to say, “Can you please pick up these legos on the floor so I can tuck you in without hurting my feet?” than it is to deal with the fallout of a room that’s reached a level of “We need to rent a dumpster and fill 87 trash bags if we want to see the floor again.”   Getting into good habits, working together, and talking to your kids instead of barking orders helps the entire household run more smoothly and peacefully.  Plus, it is far less work to deal with little messes as they happen than it is to deal with giant messes that have been accumulating over time.

5.  When it does get bad, ask if you can help.  So, you’re thinking, “Picking up before things get out of control sounds nice in theory, but that ship has already sailed.”  I so get it.  Speaking as both a mom and as a person who has a natural tendency to let messes take over:  I think that when it gets to that point, it isn’t so much that your kids don’t want to pick up as it is that they are overwhelmed at the enormity of the project and don’t even know where to start. The struggle is real!  Ask if you can help.  Break it up into smaller jobs and tackle it together.  Do whatever works well to get the job done.  Make it a game, set timers, play some music.  If they don’t mind you touching their things (some of my kids would rather do it themselves, some welcome the assistance), you can even surprise them by doing it for them.  It’s a huge gift to give them, and my daughter in particular is always so thankful.  Then, once you’ve gotten it under control again, re-visit #4.  Repeat as necessary.

6.  Help/encourage them to periodically cull through their belongings.  The less “stuff” you have, the easier it is to keep it organized.   Every so often (ideally a couple of times a year, or at least before big gift-giving occasions like Christmas) help them go through their things to see if there’s anything they don’t want anymore that they can then sell, donate, or give away. Personality plays a large role here too.  Some kids have no problem giving up toys that they don’t play with anymore, even if they just got it a year ago. Others really like to hang on.    Respect where they’re at, and work with them on solutions.  Help them find new homes for the things they don’t want, and help them organize and store the things that are staying.

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It is a frustrating feeling indeed when messes get out of control.  But giving into that frustration and unloading it via yelling, punishing, or shaming your kids doesn’t help anyone… not you, and certainly not your child.   Instead, take a deep breath, – or 10 or 100 – take the emotion out of it, and work together on solutions.   You’re not going to change your child (and really, would you want to??!!), but you can help him with strategies he can use, both now and in the future.

And as for you as the parent?   Remind yourself as often as necessary that kids are all different, and that that’s okay.  Tell yourself that you’ll respect your kids where they’re at.   Work with your kids on keeping their rooms tidy, but recognize that the space is ultimately theirs, and that that’s okay too.  Decide what is non-negotiable and let go of the rest.

And if all else fails, just shut the door.

 

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New Projects

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I’ve been unfaithful.

I’ve been working on a little side project lately, and while I’ve still got work to do, I wanted to share it with you even in its early stages. Visit Work From Home Oasis, my new site for links and information for free (and legitimate) ways to earn an income online.  It’s been a lot of fun for me, so I hope you love it.

And not to fear, The Path Less Taken isn’t going anywhere!  My focus gets a little divided sometimes, but TPLT was, is, and always will be my baby.  In fact, I’ve been hard at work on some behind-the-scenes stuff here too, and I can’t wait to share it with you.  I will be back with new blog posts here soon.  In the meantime, go check out the new site and let me know if it helps you.

xoxo

**Edited to add:  You can now follow Work From Home Oasis on Facebook as well!**


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When Your Kid’s a Bully: Why Bullying The Bully Is Never The Answer

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There’s a new post going around Facebook, in which a mom outlines the response she had when she learned of her daughter participating in the bullying of another student.

Mom must have been devastated.  Let me just start there.  As a parent, it’s incredibly hurtful to know that your child was the cause of someone else’s pain.  I feel for this mom.  But her reaction, while no doubt well-intentioned, was… misguided, at best, and will only serve to contribute to the cycle of bullying.

Here’s what the mom shared, what kind of effect it’s likely going to have on her daughter, and what I would have done differently:

The first thing she did was “pull(ed) over in the middle of the street and whoop(ed) that ass.”  Next, she walked her into school, and forced her to apologize to the girl she’d bullied.   Then, she made sure she was kept inside from recess, where she had to write a letter of apology to the girl’s mother.  Finally, she shared the whole story online, so I’m assuming others could “learn” from it.  In short, she 1) used physical violence to solve a problem, 2) shamed her daughter in front of her friends/classmates, and 3) shamed her daughter online.  If any of those three things were done by another child, we’d all recognize it for what it is: bullying.  Why do we have such a hard time recognizing it in adults? And why, when there are so many other options available, do we not only accept said behavior coming from a parent, but we praise it?  This mom is now being lauded as mom of the year.

Incidents like this one (and indeed, it’s unfortunately not unique) shine a light on the ever-present hypocrisy of mainstream parenting. Your kid physically hurt someone?  Physically hurt them back.  Your kid shamed someone?  Shame them back.  Your kid humiliated someone?  Humiliate them back.    In as simple of terms as I can put it:  This does not discourage bullying behavior.  It enforces it. The saddest part of this is that the mom realizes that the key to stopping bullying begins with us as parents… but ironically fails to see how she’s contributing.  She ends her post with this:

Parents teach your kids that bullying is not okay!!!
Kids are committing suicide these days!!!
I WILL NOT RAISE BULLIES AND NEITHER SHOULD YOU!!!
IT STARTS WITH US…. LETS BE AWARE!!!

She and I agree on these points to be sure.  Kids do need to learn that bullying is not okay.  The suicide rates are staggering and alarming.  It does start with us.   But you cannot bully a kid into not being a bully.  It doesn’t work that way. Bullying your child erodes your relationship, breaks your trust (at a time when they need it more than ever), and overtly teaches them that  bullying is okay. Your children learn far more from how you treat them then they could ever learn from your words.   Physical punishment, forced insincere apologies, and public humiliation cause more disconnect, more resentment, and more self-esteem issues…. issues that will no doubt surface later in a possible myriad of ways, one of which being:  yup, bullying!  Hurt people hurt people.

As parents, we have a choice.  We can take all our own issues, and baggage, and hurts out on our own kids, and effectively continue the same negative pattern. OR, we can be the grownups, do the work we need to do, and treat our children how we’d like to be treated. The cycle can be broken.

And I know what many of you are thinking:  Well that’s all well and good in theory, but WHAT DO I DO if my child is bullying someone?

It’s a fair question, but it’s unfortunately not one I can answer definitively for anyone else.   There are no surefire prescribed steps to curb bullying. Kids are different, relationships are different, circumstances are different.  If it were my kid though?  This is where I’d start:

1)  Find out why it’s happening.   Behavior doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  Is someone bullying them?   A classmate, a teacher, a sibling, a parent?  Are they feeling unheard?  Anxious?  Stressed out?  Feeling poorly about themselves?  Is it peer pressure?   Is something going on at home, or in their lives in general?   You cannot even begin to help them until you understand why it’s happening.

2) Listen.  Keep an open, safe, line of communication between yourself and your child.  Hint:  One of the best ways to halt healthy communication is to come out of the gate with harsh words and punishment.  If your child is hurting someone else, chances are he’s hurting too.  Let him tell you about it.  Be his soft place to fall.

3) Talk about how the other person must feel, help your child understand empathy, but don’t force apologies.   You can’t make your child feel sorry until/unless he IS, and forcing the issue is going to cause even more resentment (possibly towards you, and possibly toward the one to whom he’s delivering the apology)  An insincere apology is just empty words.  If my child was unkind to someone else, *I* would be sure to apologize – because I would absolutely be sorry – to both the child and the parent.  I would tell them I was sorry, and let them know that I wasn’t going to ignore the situation.

4)  Model appropriate relationships and kind behavior.  I will say it again.  Your kids learn far more from your behavior than from any words you could ever say.  Show them what kindness looks like.  Show them what friendship looks like.  Show them what respect looks like.  Don’t make fun of others.  Say you’re sorry when it’s warranted.  Treat people (including your own children!) the way you’d like to be treated.

5)  Connect.   Above almost all else, a child who is bullying someone else is needing a healthy connection.   Be that person for your child.  Be the person that your child trusts with his big scary feelings.  Be the person your child can count on, unconditionally, no matter what.  Be the port in your child’s storm.  Nurture your relationship.  Make it a priority.  Make your child a priority.

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A child who is acting out with unkindness towards someone else already has some pretty big upheaval going on.  He NEEDS you to stay calm, he needs you to help him problem solve, he needs you to talk to him, to listen to him, to love him.  He does NOT need to be shamed, or humiliated, or physically harmed.  Most of us recognize that that wasn’t the right course of action for the daughter in this story…. so why on earth would it be the right course of action for a parent?

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Sick Kids, Easter Weekend, And An Upcoming Q&A

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Happy belated Easter to those of you who celebrate!  Easter was…. odd… I guess is the word,  for us this year.   It was quiet and low-key and lovely, but it was still odd.  It was the first time since we’ve lived in Arizona that we spent it alone. Usually we do church followed by a whole family thing at my sister’s, but this year she was out of town, so we decided to celebrate it next weekend instead.  It was just as well, as two of the four kids were sick.   There were no happy, smiley pictures on the couch of us in our Sunday finest (the kids and I never changed out of our pajamas) but there were colored eggs, and chocolate, and Steam gift cards. There was an unplanned run to the grocery store for paper towels and toilet paper.  There were naps by pretty much all the kids, who are mostly currently on a vampire schedule, and whose bodies couldn’t handle the shock of being woken by an excited Tegan at 7:00.

Last night, Tegan’s fever and cough – which she’d mostly fought off up until that point – returned with a vengeance, and this morning I took her to the doctor for the first time since 2011.  Her lungs were thankfully clear, but she was diagnosed with a sinus infection. I never underestimate that mama’s intuition when it comes to whether or not to take my kids in the doctor.

In related news, want to know how to make an introverted homebody grumpy?  (That sounds like a set up to a joke, but sadly it is not) Make her have to give up a coveted, lazy day at home in favor of unplanned trips to the grocery store, the pediatrician, and the pharmacy – twice!

And finally, tomorrow – Tuesday – at 10:00 AM Mountain, I’ll be doing my very first Q&A on Periscope!!  Username = _pathlesstaken. I just very recently learned that Periscope was a thing, and the idea of it terrifies me.    Having my face on camera, while I have to simultaneously convince my mouth to make sounds??  The stuff of nightmares.  But I’ve always* tried to live by the immortal words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said, “Always do what you are afraid to do.”  (*Okay, not always.  I spent the vast majority of my years vehemently avoiding things that scared me.   But I’m working on it.)  So, help me feel better about the whole thing, and come chat and say hi.   I will see you there!

funny-picture-being-introvert-comics

 

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Monday Musings

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I have trouble with Mondays.

You’d think that as a stay-at-home parent, Mondays wouldn’t be as difficult.  I mean, it’s not like I have to get up and get out the door for another work week.  But they’re still…. hard.  Having to get back to the real world after having had a partner home all weekend, having to get back to adulting after what was (ideally anyway) a weekend of fun, having to get the housework back under control, and having to finally deal with all the emails and appointments and grownup things I’ve put off as long as I can.  The to-do list looms large, and the energy with which to tackle it is low.

So, I decided to try something new, and purge all the random Monday thoughts that are distracting me into a nice, tidy little blog post.  (And maybe some of you would like to Monday Muse with me??)

Here then are five random things that are cluttering my brain this Monday morning*, and keeping me from Doing All The Things.

1.  I’m even more sleep-deprived than normal, because I was up multiple times with the dog with diarrhea.  (To be clear, the dog has diarrhea, not me)  It might have been five times, but it could have been seven or eight.  I sort of stopped counting after the third or fourth time.

2.  I almost pulled down my Facebook page four separate times this weekend.  I’m working hard to not be so quick with my trigger finger, and instead take a step back for some perspective before I react.  Because ironically, this is a season that I was all set to spend more time on my blog, not less.  And taking out the whole Facebook piece would not have been very helpful in that regard.

3.  I’ve been on an elimination diet for a month now, both as a last ditch effort before I see another doctor who tells me, “I don’t know what the heck is wrong with you, but I’d be happy to refer you to a specialist”, and in response to all the friends and family who keep telling me that I just need to eat better.  For over four weeks now, I’ve had no gluten, no dairy, no sugar, no soy, no nuts, no citrus, no caffeine, no alcohol, no red meat…  Basically, I’ve purposely been avoiding some of my very favorite things.  The impact it’s had on my symptoms?  Zero. No change whatsoever.  Does that sound grumpy?  It’s because I’m grumpy.  I blame it on the lack of caffeine.  And frustration.  But mostly the caffeine.

jendesert

4.  I’ve been walking.  I can’t do anything more strenuous than walking at the moment, and actually, there are for sure days where even walking is too much. But if I can do it, I do it.  I like walking, especially if I can do it in the desert.  A half an hour alone in the desert with my headphones, and I’m like a new person.  I like to walk with Mike too, but since walking’s my therapy, I tend to vent slash complain slash verbally spew on him when we’re walking so it might not be as fun for him as it is for me.

5.  20160314_174904I had a problem.  I was running out of space for my books.  I cull them as often as I can, but you know, some books you just NEED to keep.  I told Mike my problem, and last weekend we went to Ikea for a new bookshelf.  I obviously still have a lot of books to transfer over, but I am taking my time, dusting everything off, getting it all organized.  The project has made me sublimely happy.

How nice if all problems were so easy to solve!

*  I started this post at about 7:00 in the morning, and it’s now after 6:00 in the evening.  Because… Mondays.  But tomorrow is Tuesday and I’m home all day.

I have big plans to play Minecraft with my girl, and eventually I’ll start looking at that to-do list.

After a good night’s sleep with hopefully a whole lot less diarrhea.

 


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An Open Letter to Candace Cameron Bure

Fun fact: I write letters to people in my head. A lot. I’ve done it for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid (back in the dark ages before email and internet), the ones that absolutely needed to get out of my brain and onto paper were carefully written on a piece of loose leaf that I took from my Trapper Keeper, folded up, and stored in a little pencil box whose only purpose in life was to house all the Important Letters That Aren’t Actually Meant To Be Sent.

These days, those letters might be written in a journal or, in some cases, become a blog post.

The following has been rattling around my head since Candace Cameron Bure’s new show, Fuller House, debuted on Netflix. Or, to be more accurate, since her armchair critics started raising their collective voices. It’s been screaming at me, and keeping me up at night. So, in an effort to quiet my own voices (and hopefully to spare my poor husband yet another “You know what the Christians are doing now??” diatribe), here it is in its entirety. Hopefully in a more coherent format than that the exists in my head.

Dear Candace,

I grew up watching Full House on TV. To be fair, I grew up watching a LOT of shows on TV, but Full House was one I distinctly remember, and remember fondly. I remember your changing hairstyles – and all the hairspray that kept them that way. I remember Kimmy Gibbler. I remember Uncle Joey and his voices, Danny and his obsessive cleaning tendencies, and Uncle Jesse and that song he would sing to Rebecca. I remember Stephanie’s “How rude!” and Michelle’s “You got it, dude!” I remember an episode that hinted at your character developing an eating disorder. I remember your sweet relationship with Steve. I remember the episode with your cousin Steve too, because for some reason I always get a little bit excited when real-life family members guest star on each other’s shows.

It was silly, and light, and I enjoyed it. Good family fun.

I watched it with my own kids too, particular my daughter, so she was very excited when Fuller House was announced. We both followed you (and your lovely daughter) on social media, so we felt like we knew you by the time it aired.

We blitzed through all the available episodes in just a couple of days. My review – greatly summed up because it really isn’t the point of this letter:

It was fun and goofy. I liked that it relied heavily on nostalgia, that it didn’t take itself too seriously, and that it wasn’t afraid to break the fourth wall. My daughter and I both enjoyed it.

And then I started to see the comments. Oh my word, the comments. Not aimed at the show, but aimed at YOU specifically, for daring to be part of it. The skimpy outfits! The sexual innuendos! The drinking! The cursing! The dancing with Kimmy! And the worst part: the personal judgments. The “I’m so disappointed in you”; the “How can you call yourself a Christian?”; the “You need to repent for this”; the “You’ve sold out to the world”; the “You’re nothing but a hypocrite.” That kind of self-righteous stuff makes me crazy, and is exactly the reason I’ve distanced myself from mainstream Christianity. And I can’t really understand it either. I mean, if you don’t like the show…. don’t watch it. Easy peasy, right? Why make it personal? Why attack someone?

And as a side note, I still haven’t figured out what people mean when they complain about cursing. Unless they mean Jesse in the first episode when he said, “Damn, we still look good.” And c’mon. Let’s be honest. Damn, John Stamos DOES still look good (as do all the rest of you). And since I’m being real… if I had Jodie Sweetin’s breasts, I’d want to show them off too.

But I digress.

In the grand tradition of promoting what you love instead of bashing what you hate, I don’t want this to be about “those” people at all. I really don’t. I want it to be about you. As I said earlier, I have followed you on social media for a long time, and have read your books. You are one of the few people in the public eye that I think of when I think of someone “walking the walk.” The way you live out your faith is admirable, and the amount of grace with which you deal with the backlash is amazing. I so respect the way you handle yourself in such an unforgiving industry, and have learned so much from you in following your journey.

Interestingly, we seem to have very little in common… our parenting philosophies, our political views, our theological beliefs are all markedly different. The thing we share though? The only thing that really matters? Our love for Jesus. Our desire to live our lives in a Christ-like way. There are so few prominently Christian people that I follow online, particularly conservative Christians (sorry), mainly because of so many people’s overzealous need to preach. And often, to judge. But you don’t preach. You don’t judge. You just… you just live it. You love people. You practice kindness. You practice grace. You’re real, and honest, and are exactly the kind of Christ-follower that I aspire to be.

And that’s all I really wanted to say. In the midst of the judgment and the nasty comments and the hatred veiled in Christian love: keep doing what you’re doing.

You’re wonderful. And a little cleavage and a scene with tequila shots doesn’t change that.


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The Best Sites For Taking Surveys And Making Money Online

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Once upon a time, I had a blog where I talked about paying off our debt.  The blog still exists, but it’s largely neglected now.  Partly because we’ve been credit card debt-free for awhile now, but also just because my attention’s been elsewhere.  One of the things that I liked to post about was ways I found to either save a little money, or make a little money…. without having to actually put on real clothes or leave the house.   One of my favorite things to do was sign up at those (free) survey sites, where you can take surveys, sample products, read emails, etc, and get paid for it.  I had it down to a real science, and was actually making a bit of consistent money from it.  But then, you know…. life interfered.  Well, lately I’ve been working on a big project, and when I work on big projects I need lots of breaks. I (sadly) usually aimlessly wander around Facebook when I need to rest my brain. But Facebook, despite all its benefits and social engagement is a HUGE time-suck, and it’s not always the most productive use of my time – especially during election season, amiright? So I recently decided to go back to my survey sites, and actually get paid for twiddling around the internet.  It’s great for when I’m watching TV and/or just need a few minutes to decompress.

I am constantly adding new ones, but these are some of my favorites.  It works best if you sign up to a whole bunch, because then you can pick and choose what you want to do, and there is literally money to be made daily.  You do get a lot of emails, so it’s nice to either use a different email than your primary one, or set up a folder just for survey mail.  I use gmail, so I set a filter that allows them to skip my inbox – so they don’t clutter it up – and go straight into their own dedicated folder.  Then, when I have some time to work on them, I can open the folder and have them all in one place.

There are two types of sites on this list….. the first are sites that have surveys, but also pay you for a bunch of other internet activities, such as searching, watching videos, playing games, reading emails, viewing ads, signing up for newsletters, etc.  There is always something to do to make money, which means that those sites are generally a little busier and flashier, with more going on.  If that’s not your thing, the second list contains straight survey sites, that just send out emails when there’s a new survey available.

By the way, all of these are 100% free to join.  (Never sign up for one that isn’t)

Here’s the list!

 

Swagbucks  – I looooove Swagbucks!  I cash in my points for a $5 Amazon gift card every few days.  You can cash out with even less if you want.  You can get points for surveys, searching, viewing ads, viewing videos, playing games, signing up for offers, shopping… and they also give you daily codes for extra points just because!  And if you meet your daily goal, you get bonus points.  Plus, the more days in a row you meet your goal, the more bonus points you get.  Love, love, love it.

Inbox Dollars  –  Like Swagbucks, Inbox Dollars rewards you for a whole bunch of different things.  They give you a few cents (which sounds silly, but adds up quickly) just for confirming that you opened their emails.   And you get $5.00 just for signing up!  With Inbox Dollars, you can cash out once you’ve reached $30.

Send Earnings  – Send Earnings is set up exactly like Inbox Dollars, including the $5.00 bonus for signing up, and the $30 minimum for cashing out.

Cash Crate  – When you go to the Cash Crate site, you can go through nice organized lists of everything they currently have to offer, from surveys, to offers, to shopping, to bonuses.   You can request a check once you’ve reached $20.

Treasure Trooper  – Like the others, Treasure Troopers pays for a whole bunch of different activities like surveys, games, completing offers, etc.  They give you $1 free just to sign up, and you can cash out at $20.  The whole site is built around a treasure/pirate theme, which you may find fun or you may find totally annoying, but it’s easy to rack up money quickly if you visit them daily.

Quick Rewards  – Another favorite, Quick Rewards does what its name promises, and allows you to earn money quickly in a variety of ways.  One of the cool things about them is that there is no minimum to cash out.  If you’ve earned $2, and you want it… you can get it. One caveat to Quick Rewards is that they send a LOT of emails, so definitely make sure you’ve set something up so they don’t clutter your inbox.

Earning Station – I am still new to Earning Station, but they’ve been great so far.  You earn points called Station Dollars, and you are able to redeem them (for a variety of gift cards) once you reach 1000 SD ($10)

———-

These are the more straight-survey sites:

 

Toluna – I’m still pretty new to Toluna too, but it looks to be a great site, and I’ve already earned several hundred points.  You can cash in your points for either gift cards (to a variety of places), or use them to enter drawings and sweepstakes.

Panel Place – Panel Place is a nice, clean-looking, easy to understand site.  They reward you in points, which you can then cash in for a Paypal payment.

Clear Voice Surveys – I love Clear Voice.  I seem to qualify for surveys with them more often than some of the others, and even when you don’t qualify, they still give you a little bit of money just for trying.   You can cash out once you’ve hit $10 (which you can do pretty quickly), and you can choose between a pre-paid Mastercard debit card, an Amazon gift card, or a restaurant gift card.

Ipsos I-Say – I-Say is a nice site that rewards you with points that you can redeem for things like Starbucks cards, Amazon cards, and restaurant cards.  One cool thing about them is that you can also choose to have your points go towards a charity!

Survey Savvy – Super clean and simple site.  They will email you an invitation when they have a survey available.  They pay by check, and you can request a check for as little as $1.

My Survey – The cool thing about My Survey, which rewards with you with both points and sweepstakes entries, is that it gives you a TON of options on how you’d like to redeem your earnings.  You can cash them in for products, gift cards, e-certificates, vouchers, and cash.

Opinion World – Like My Survey, you can redeem the points you’ve earned by taking surveys for a whole bunch of different things, from gift cards, to vouchers, to cash paid through Paypal.  Another nice feature is that you can adjust the frequency of which you get their emails.

Say Bucks – Say Bucks pays between $2 and $10 per survey, and you can cash out through Paypal.  One nice thing about Say Bucks is that if you don’t qualify for a particular survey, it lets you keep trying until it finds you one that’s a match.

Paid Viewpoint – Paid Viewpoint is another nice, simple site that will email you when they have surveys available.  They give you $1.00 just for signing up.  One huge plus is that with Paid Viewpoint, you never get “screened out” of a survey.  Once you’ve started a survey, you’ll be able to complete it, and get paid.

Vindale Research – I love Vindale.  It’s just a nice, classy site, and as soon as you sign up you have an opportunity to earn $4 just by filling out your profile and taking the welcome survey.

Opinion-Central – Opinion Central rewards you points that you can then cash in for a variety of different items… from flash drives to calculators to cappucino machines and iPods.

Mindfield Online – Mindfield is another nice, simple site that emails you when it has surveys available, and then pays through cash.  You can cash out once you’ve reached a minimum of $5, and you can receive your money either by check or through Paypal.

And finally, these are a few that I only recently signed up with, so I don’t know much about them yet.  But they look promising, so I wanted to include them too!  :)

 

One Opinion

Zoom Panel

My View

 

Happy earning!!!

*Some of these included affiliate links*


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