Jul 05

Chasing Your Passion

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I don’t really remember what I wanted to be when I grew up when I was six.   Sure, I have fleeting memories of pretending I was Wonder Woman for a time in Kindergarten, and later on, Spiderman (apparently super heroes were a big thing for me).  I remember being enthralled with the movie, Splash, and having a dramatic and theatrical panic attack every time it rained, lest I accidentally get wet and people discover that I am, in fact, a mermaid.

As I got a little bit older, I was sure I wanted to be an Olympic gymnast.  Then it was a hair stylist and make-up artist – though I’m fairly certain that that one was merely peer pressure, as that was the popular career aspiration amongst my little friends at the time.  Sometime after that, I had a great teacher who got me interested in science, and I fantasized for a long time about how cool it’d be to be a scientist, or work in a lab of some sort, making those important discoveries that would save all of man-kind from its certain fate.

The only one that really remained consistent though, from the time I was in second grade until the present time, was my desire to be a writer.  That was the one that nagged at me, the one that stayed even during the moments of self-doubt and flagellation.  I was a writer, dammit. Maybe not sexy or exciting to the world’s standards, unless you’re a Stephen King or a John Grisham, but it was (and is) my passion nonetheless.

Thinking about writing at 40 still gets me as inspired and excited as that little girl pretending to be a Mermaid.   And as a side note, a shampoo bottle stands in beautifully as an Oscar statue, when you’re in the shower imagining you’re accepting your award for best original screenplay.

But I digress.

Tegan is six at the time of this writing, and her life’s passion at the moment is to be a performer, particularly a dancer.   Now I don’t know if it is a fleeting interest, or the one that’s going to “stick”, but it is real and it is strong. And the thing is, it doesn’t matter if she’ll forget all about it by next week, or if it’s a fire that will stay inside of her the rest of her life.  Right now.   Today.  That’s her passion, and it’s my job to support it.

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I think one of the best – and most important – things I get to do as a parent and an unschooler is to help provide the people, places and things that help facilitate my children’s passions. When Tegan first expressed such an interest in the Arizona Sidewinders, and dancing/cheerleading in general, I started looking around to see what I could do.  Was there a class she could take?  A Wii game she’d like?   We looked up YouTube videos for hours, we watched interviews with the girls, we studied clips of their auditions.  And then, in an answer to my unspoken prayer:  I stumbled on an ad for a clinic to 1) have a meet and greet with the Sidewinders, 2) learn a dance with them, and 3) perform it at the next Rattlers half-time show. Are you kidding me?  It was her dream come true.

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It was almost two months ago now, and she still talks about it pretty much daily.  She loves to work it in to casual conversation…. “you know that time I performed in front of 10,000 people…”  The pride she feels in having done it is immense and indescribable.    She still looks at her pictures of the Sidewinders all the time.  Still draws pictures of them.  Still watches videos.  Still talks about the day when she can officially try out (12 years and counting).

Our girl's easy to spot.  She's the one with the biggest smile of the bunch.

Our girl’s easy to spot. She’s the one with the biggest smile of the bunch.

And if the interest eventually fades, and she moves on to other things, it won’t matter.  Nothing will take away from what’s she’s gained from this time in her life.  And as a parent?  Oh.  My. Gosh.  The pure, unadulterated, flat-out joy I get in helping my children pursue their dreams and explore their passions, knowing that they know I took them seriously, that I shared in their excitement, that I believed in their goals … there is nothing better.

It’s even better than a shampoo bottle Oscar.


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Jun 17

Flexi Clip Giveaway

It has been a really long time since I’d done a giveaway on my blog, so when Mary Vogel (who’s also, coincidentally, my mom) asked if I’d help her out with her new business, I said “sure!”

Have you tried Flexi Clips yet? Flexi Clips, by Lilla Rose, are a unique hair solution that are just as beautiful as they are functional.    Their pictures don’t even do them justice… they are gorgeous, shiny, and high quality. Super strong, yet delicate and comfortable to wear, you just bend the main clip around your desired section of hair, slide in the pin to secure it, and you’re ready to go.  There’s no sliding or uncomfortable pinching, and your hair stays exactly where you put it.

They are super easy to use, even for people like me who can usually barely manage more than a ponytail.

Incredibly versatile, you can use a Flexi Clip for anything from a simple ponytail to an elegant up-do.  They come in lots of different styles too, so you can find one to fit any occasion.

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And, since they come in a variety of sizes (you can visit this link for sizing help), they work beautifully on my daughter’s silky curls, my own big thick dreads, and everything in between.

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Check out Mary’s Independent Consultant website for more information and photos.

Want to win one of your own?  Enter below!   There are lots of ways to get multiple entries, so make sure you check them all out.  Mary is giving away one Flexi Clip of the winners’ choice, up to a $16 value.  The giveaway is open to US residents who are new to Lilla Rose.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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Jun 13

Book Review: Jesus, the Gentle Parent by L.R. Knost

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“We are our children’s first experience of God.  How we treat them, how we respond to them, what we model for them, those are all images of parenthood that are imprinted on our children’s hearts from the moment of birth, and they will carry those images with them for life.  God’s unconditional love, his gentleness, his compassion, his acceptance, his sacrifice…. those are the images our children need to see reflected in our parenting, to have tenderly woven into the fabric of their childhood, to carry forever as whispered memories etched on their hearts, echoing the heart of God.” ~ L.R. Knost

 

I was so excited when I first heard that L.R. Knost was releasing a book about gentle Christian parenting.  I absolutely adored her previous books – all of which I’ve reviewed here on my blog – and I knew that this newest offering was one that was sorely needed in the landscape of gentle parenting resources.  Far too many well-meaning Christians (and I do believe that they are well-meaning) mistakenly believe that the Bible instructs parents to parent with harshness, when the opposite is true.    Jesus was in fact all about love, grace, and gentleness, and Knost understands this oh so well.

In what I believe is her best book to date, L.R. Knost combines personal experience, well-researched scripture, and inspirational testimony to take the reader through what the Bible does (and does not) have to say about how we should be parenting as Christians.  With the same straightforward yet warm and conversational tone I’ve come to appreciate in all her writings, she guides and encourages, teaches without preaching, and gently corrects and re-directs the misguided and often harmful messages given through the years by Christian parenting “experts” such as Gary Ezzo, James Dobson, and Michael Pearl.

So much more than a book about a personal opinion, Jesus, the Gentle Parent digs deep into scripture and doctrinal belief, examining the main tenets of mainstream Christian parenting advice, debunking widely-held beliefs about what it means to parent in biblical way, and providing practical and scripturally sound alternatives to guiding your children with unconditional love, grace, and gentleness.

Not shying away from any of the tough questions, she tackles such issues as spanking, sin, authority, obedience and submission…. and what it all means (and doesn’t mean) –  to a gentle parent whose desire is to parent in Jesus’s footsteps.

I have been a parent for 17 years, and this beautiful book has truly touched my soul like none other.  It simultaneously taught me something new, and strengthened what I already knew in my heart of hearts to be true.  Jesus was a man of endless compassion and grace – more grace than we can ever understand – and the only way for our children to truly experience it is if we, as their parents, give it to them.   I am deeply indebted to L.R. Knost for getting this very important message out there, and into the hands and hearts of Christian parents around the world.

You can buy Jesus, the Gentle Parent here.

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Best-selling parenting and children’s book author, L.R. Knost, is an independent development researcher and founder and director of the advocacy and consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, as well as a monthly contributor to The Natural Parent Magazine.  She is also a babywearing, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, homeschooling mother of six.  Her children are a twenty-six-year-old married father of two;  a twenty-four-year-old married Family Therapist working with at-risk children and families; a nineteen-year-old university pre-med student on scholarship; fifteen- and eight-year-old sweet, funny, socially active, homeschooled girls; and an adorable and active toddler.

Books by award-winning author L.R. Knost, include Two Thousand Kisses a Day:  Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages, Whispers Through Time:  Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood, The Gentle Parent:  Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline, and her newest release, Jesus, The Gentle Parent:  Gentle Christian Parenting, the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook parenting guide series; as well as her children’s picture books:  A Walk in the Clouds, the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series;  and Petey’s Listening Ears, the first in the Wisdom for Little Hearts series, which are humorous and engaging tools for parenting, teachers, and caregivers to use in implementing gentle parenting techniques in their homes and schools.

 

 


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Jun 03

Big Plans and Sticky Notes

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Photo by riNux

There are sticky notes all over my desk.

And when I say “desk”, I mean the corner of the kitchen counter that I’ve commandeered for my laptop, because there’s no longer any more room on my desk.   I fear the additional weight of a single sticky note would send the whole thing crumbling like a house of matchsticks.

I have sticky notes in the vain hope that getting some of the mental clutter out of my head and transferring it to… well… physical clutter, will somehow help clear my head and maybe even help me sleep.

Emails I need to send

Questions I need to answer

Appointments I need to make

Book reviews and other various… things… I need to write

A growing amount of conference work I need to take care of

A million house projects I’ve been putting off

So. Many.  Emails!

It’s June 3rd, which means the year is almost half over, and because of the sticky notes, I’m not any closer to completing any of my goals for the year (Finish that book?  Take that personal trainer test?  Pssh, not when there are sticky notes!) than I was on New Years day.

I wake up, and the bevy of sticky notes looks even bigger than it did the night before.  I feel pulled in so many directions by so many different things.  I have a small little window of time before the kids get up, and I don’t know where to start.

I make a cup of coffee.

I fear I will drown in it (the to-do list, not the coffee).  I worry sometimes that I’ll just get swept up in the details of life, carried away by the inertia of it all, and forget to actually LIVE while I’m at it.  I sometimes wake at night in a panic.  Can I do it?  Can I get it all done?

You can’t be all things to all people at all times.  God speaks to me over the noise in my head. I hear it, but I ignore it.

I’m a MOM, dammit.  I can do it all.  I MUST do it all.

I pour another cup of coffee, then hear Tegan calling me from her bed…. “Mama, come!”.. the sound that signals the official start of my day.

I give her a piggy back ride out to the living room.  She snuggles up on my lap, rests her head on my shoulder and she sings “Soft Kitty.”

The sticky notes wait.

Gradually the boys get up too:  Everett, who at ten, still tells me he loves me several times a day.  Paxton, at fourteen, with his quiet, calming presence.  Spencer, seventeen, who’s excited to share with me about the newest game he just bought on Steam.

I struggle sometimes.  My attention’s pulled away.  I try to be gentle and forgiving with myself as I come back to the present moment.    Come back to my kids.  Season’s change, and I won’t get this season with my children back again.

You can’t be all things to all people at all times.  You’ll get to the to-do list, or you won’t.

Our day is full.  It’s busy.  It’s interesting.  It’s joyful.

I breathe.

The sticky notes will still be there tomorrow.  And for the moment, that’s okay.


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May 30

Giving Our Children Everything They Want….

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Ah, the negative parenting meme.  Reinforcing stereotypes, giving in to the myth of the “spoiled child”, and keeping parents stuck in a cycle of further disconnect from their children.

It doesn’t have to be that way.  Parenting can be positive.  Joyful.  It can come from an open place of love, not from a place of fear.

With that in mind, I took the liberty of making a few small changes:

 

“Giving our children everything they want as much as we can…. of our time, our attention, and the people, places, and things that make their lives fun, interesting, and colorful makes them demanding feel valued and ungrateful loved. It creates a feeling of abundance for both parent and child.  And they in turn never learn how to be self-controlled generous, and how to give freely of themselves to others, and in the future, to their own children.  Think about this the next time you give in to a screaming child. a knee-jerk “no” to your child’s request.

 

As parents we’re so often bombarded with the message of, “Your kids need to hear the word, “no!”" Well, I’m choosing differently. When it’s at all possible (and it is so very often possible) I’m saying “YES” … with no excuses, strings, or apologies.


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May 19

What is Good Parenting?

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I have been thinking about this for a few days now, ever since I shared a post about the family that was given a “well-behaved child” discount on their restaurant bill.   I was not a fan of the idea, for a variety of reasons (and for the record, all four of my kids are and have always been a joy at restaurants) but opinions were mixed when we discussed it on Facebook.   One common pattern that I saw emerge was that people in favor of the discount generally thought that it promoted/encouraged/rewarded “good parenting.”

That doesn’t sit right with me.

For one thing, I don’t judge my parenting based on how “well-behaved” my children are.  What does well-behaved even mean?  More than that though, is the fact that I have friends who are amazing parents, whose children (again, for a variety of reasons) are not what society at large would deem “well-behaved.”  And let’s just be honest for a minute:  It’s easy to parent when kids are being sweet and compliant.  It’s during the tough moments that we see what kind of parents we are.

So then I started thinking… maybe that’s how you spot a good parent…. how they react and respond and interact with their children when they’re having a hard time.  I quickly rejected that as well though, because lots of great parents (re:  ALL great parents) have had moments with their kids that they wish they could do over, moments that they’ve lost their cool, or lost their patience.  Moments that they need to apologize for.

Then I thought:  a good parent is an imperfect parent.  A parent who is real.  A parent who realizes and admits that she makes mistakes and vows to do better.  A parent who isn’t afraid to learn better ways.  A parent who loves her child unconditionally and without question.  A parent who isn’t about trying to mold her child into something of her own choosing, but someone who accepts and supports and embraces who that child is RIGHT NOW.   A parent who realizes that a child is not a second class citizen but a person, worthy and deserving of the same gentleness, kindness and respect that you would give to any other loved one.

But a good parent is all of that and so.  much.  more.

So I asked the question, “What is your definition of a good parent”? on my Facebook page, and I was not disappointed with your responses.  I am sure that every single blogger says this, but I seriously have the best people reading my page!    I had a difficult time narrowing it down, but these were some of my favorites.  I agree with every single one of these beautiful definitions (not one of which includes the manner in which your children conduct themselves at IHOP ;)):

 

A parent who not only allows but encourages and assists a child in being exactly who they want and need to be, and then loves that person unconditionally. ~ Lisa J

Someone who is not afraid to learn. From their children. From their failures. From their past. From those around them… ~ Alysha B

Someone whose priority is to really hear their child, to support them in getting their needs met and supporting them in their passions. ~ Sylvia T

Embracing our children for exactly who they are and where they are developmentally. ~ Ashley K

Allowing them to be who THEY ARE, not what a parent wants them to be. I have no need to be a puppeteer. I learn as much from them as they do from me. ~ Heidi S

Responsive, respectful, connected, loving ~ Fiona C

Allowing each child to just BE, celebrating them and knowing their perfection in each moment. ~ Lisa H

Being a good parent is…. Knowing I don’t have to strive for perfection! ~ Amie M

A good parent is one whose children feel wanted and secure, know that they are free to be themselves, have a safe place from which to explore, and know real love from the example they are taught. ~ Heather G

Being willing to figuratively (and literally, if needed) lay down my life for my child. ~ Paula G

Someone who is committed to constantly learning and growing for and with their children. Someone who can take a hard, honest look at themselves and choose to model what they want to see in their kids. Someone who give grace to their kids and themselves. ~ Rachel C

Treating your children as you would like to be treated. ~ On The Train With Sophie

Ahhhhh.

Thank you, for being such honest, real, and yes…. GOOD parents.  You all inspire me, and encourage me to do better.

 


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May 08

The Boy on The Corner

Photo by SamPac

Photo by SamPac

I’ve lived in Phoenix for 8 1/2 years. I’ve seen a lot of homeless people. In fact, as terrible as it may sound, they’re part of the landscape. They’re there every time we go out. They’re there under the bridge. They’re there at the end of the frontage road. They’re there on the median at the exit ramp. They’re there at the entrance to the Walmart parking lot. Particularly lately, it’s difficult to venture out into the city at all and not encounter at least one homeless person.

I’ve given water to a homeless person before. Or money. For a time, we kept kits in our car filled with things like non-perishable foods, water, warm socks, and toothbrushes that we could give out when we passed someone in need.

And in all those years, and all those days, and all those stops… I don’t think I ever saw, really and truly looked into his eyes and SAW, a homeless person until very recently.

I was coming home from a yoga class, waiting at a red light about to get on the highway.  The first man I passed was shuffling up and down the median, his head down, and his hands holding his sign.  There was another, sleeping or passed out under the bridge, a rolling cart of his possessions on the ground next to him.  And then I saw the boy.

I say “boy” because he just looked so very, very young.  He looked like a teenager, but he could have been in his 20′s.   All I know is that I could have been his mother, and he could have been one of my own boys.  He was carrying a sign that said that he’d lost his job and his housing, and was homeless and hungry.   He looked right at me as he passed my car, looked me right in the eyes, and sort of waved.   I smiled at him, all the while panicking that it was the wrong kind of smile. Did I look pitying?  Condescending?  Kind?   Sympathetic?

He smiled back …a sweet, tired smile … and I’m not kidding when I say I felt my heart rip right open there in the middle of the street.  In those few seconds that passed before the light changed, I felt…. heartbreak and desperation.  There are no other words to describe it.  I looked around my car to see if I had something, anything, to help him, but I didn’t.  I had no cash (I almost never carry it), no water nearby to hand to him, nothing to eat.  I honestly think if I’d been wearing my watch I would have taken it from my wrist to give him something to sell.

But the light changed, and the seconds passed, and there was nothing to do but follow the line of cars getting on the highway.  To him, I was undoubtedly just another car that passed by and didn’t help.   But to me, he was the human face of something I’d witnessed but never truly seen until that day.

I won’t ever forget his face.  I really won’t.  He had big soulful brown eyes that had undoubtedly seen too much. Crazy, wavy dark hair that stuck out at all angles.  Freckled skin that had spent a lot of unprotected hours under the scorching Phoenix sun.   Innocent.  Young.  So very young.

I found myself fighting tears the whole way home.  Not just because I’d done nothing to help him, but even more because I suddenly felt like a giant, inadequate, ungrateful ass.    Driving in my big SUV, after a nice yoga class, in my over-priced Lulu clothes, going home to my safe, middle-middle-class neighborhood, where I’d enjoy a nice home-cooked meal and a couple of glasses of wine, before I retired to watch some meaningless drivel on one of our house’s five TV’s.

While that boy would still be standing on the street corner.

I tried to relate my experience when I got home, but it just didn’t translate into words.  I found myself completely unable to explain why such a brief moment, containing just a look and a smile,  could have such a profound effect on me.  I was still shaking when I walked into the house, but no one really understood.

 

Well, I saw this homeless kid

We see lots of homeless people.

I know, but I really SAW him.  We made eye contact.  He smiled at me.  And I didn’t help him.

You can’t help everyone you pass.

 

And around and around  it went.  Intellectually I know that yes, I can’t physically help every single person out there.  My husband, who is used to and patient with the occasionally spewing from my poor bleeding heart (but who is absolutely not driven by his emotions the way that I am) said something to the effect of, “What are you going to do, give away all your money?”  There’s a balance, and I understand that.   I also understand that no good can come from feeling bad, or guilty, because we have things that other people don’t.  I never want my kids to feel that way, so it’s not something I”m going to model for them.

I can’t help everybody.  But Good God.   I see that kid’s face, and I want to.

Where is the balance?  Where is that “sweet spot” in between driving past a homeless kid and giving away all of your possessions to help?  IS there a sweet spot?  Or is there always more to be done?  Always another way to help?  Are we supposed to give away all our possessions in order to aid others?

Those aren’t real questions, at least not questions that I expect anyone to answer.  Just a cosmic wondering, going out in the great deep void.   I need to do more, and I don’t know what that means yet.  Today, when I finish this post in fact, I’m going to go get the package of bottled waters in the trunk of my car and put it in the front seat. It’s getting hot in Phoenix, and if I put them in the front, I can quickly and easily grab one to give away the next time I’m stopped at a light.  It’s a small thing, but it’s something I can do.

And the first time (and every time) I’m able to hand somebody a bottle of water, I’m going to look them in the eyes. I’m going to look them in the eyes and think of that boy, that face… and do it for him.

 


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May 05

Phone Fear and “Real” Relationships

I saw this link about a dozen times on my various newsfeeds before I decided to watch it.   Titled, “Look Up”, its tagline reads that it’s a video “everyone needs to see.”   It would leave me “speechless” with its important message, it promised.  And if some of my friends were to be believed, it’d leave me in tears as well.  It’s heartbreaking!  It’s life-changing!

Well.

I hate to spoil it if you haven’t already watched it, but it didn’t leave me speechless.  It certainly didn’t make me cry. It didn’t break my heart, and it didn’t change my life.  Mostly, it just left me…. annoyed.

Designed to emotionally manipulate people into giving up social media, it was extreme, presumptuous, and steeped in fear.

Look up from your phone or you’ll miss your entire life!  You’ll never have a real relationship! You’ll never fall in love!  You’ll never have kids!  You’ll never see what it’s like outside!   I think my favorite bit was the part that showed a sad empty playground, because – of course – kids have lost the ability, desire, and skill-set necessary to play on the playground since the advent of modern technology.

In short, it is ridiculous, short-sighted fear-mongering.

One thing I will not argue is that relationships are important (absolutely!!), and that they need and deserve our full attention.  And I won’t deny that if anything is taking precedence over said relationships – no matter what it is – that it needs to be checked and evaluated.   This is true if it’s your phone, or your knitting, or a book, or your time spent at the gym.   Relationships matter.

But that’s where the author and I part company.  Because while he states (rather insultingly I might add) that any connection we make online or through the phone is not a “real” connection, I find that my connections are richer and fuller and more meaningful largely because of the aid of this new way of communicating, not in spite of it. Particularly as an introvert, the ability to be able to meet, talk with, and yes…. connect with other like minded souls in so many ways is a God-send.  Indeed, most of my and my kids closest confidants are those we mainly communicate with online.  Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Skype, or text, having someone there who you can reach out to in an instant is nothing short of a blessing;  not a curse.

Does that mean then, that we never see anyone offline?  (I’m purposely avoiding the oft-used term, “in real life.” IT’S ALL REAL LIFE.)  Of course not.  I love spending face-to-face time with family and friends.  I love playing outside, hiking in the desert, and camping in the woods.  I love going for long walks with my husband and my kids. I love joking and playing with the family around the dinner table.  I love pushing my daughter on the swings.  I love laughing over drinks with girl friends.  I love being a shoulder to cry on, and I love being an ear to listen.

I also love that when life circumstances or finances or geography prevents the above from happening in person, that technology helps provide the next best thing.

Just a few weeks ago, I made a new friend.   Tegan and Everett made fast friends with her children as well, and it’s been really lovely chatting and getting to know each other while we watch the kids splashing in the pool and jumping on the trampoline.

Know how we met?

She found my blog… which showed up in her searches for unschooling because I’ve promoted it through social media. Which I manage through my phone. Which, when she happened to meet another of my friends, made it super easy for the first friend to quickly contact me through text messages.  Which made it convenient to invite us both to her house at the last minute for a get together.  Where we exchanged numbers and emails so we could keep in touch.  Which promptly led to the aforementioned pool splashing and trampoline jumping.

I love my phone.  I love the internet.  I love social media.  I do.  They are truly blessings in my life, for which I am grateful.   They do not however, take the place of real relationships with real people, as this video suggests. Because what it fails to recognize as it attempts to shame everyone into giving up their devices, is that at the other end of that text, and on the other side of that screen…. is a real person…. a real friend, a real connection, a real relationship….  deserving of our attention just as much as anyone else.


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May 02

To Everett… On Your First Full Decade

Ten Years

Ten Years

One of my favorite things I ever post on my blog are the posts I do for my kids’ birthdays.  For one thing, they are non-controversial (no one ever has a negative word to say about a happy birthday post :)).  But more than that though, is that they are a celebration of these amazing lives… these incredible kids that I have the privilege of raising… and another reminder to not take a single day that I get to spend with them for granted.  Today, I celebrate Everett, who is somehow turning 10 years old.

Dear Everett,

Ten years old.  An entire decade.  I am having trouble with this one.  Maybe because you’re the third (third!) to hit double digits.  Maybe it’s because your sister, the baby, just turned 6.  Or maybe it’s just because you’ve always been the little one, and your turning ten is forcing me to realize that you’re growing up.   Whatever the case, in the midst of my excitement, I’m finding myself feeling weepy and nostalgic and emotional.  

Ten years old.

You were such a happy, sunshiney baby and toddler, Everett.  A complete and total joy. You’re a happy and sunshiney 10 year old too.  There were a couple rather rough spots somewhere in the middle there… but you came through them stronger.  More confident. More self-assured.  More YOU.  I admire you and your spirit, in so very many ways.

At ten, you’re a loving, kind-hearted, gentle-spirited, faithful brother, son, and friend. You’re fun-loving, goofy, and full of energy.  But If I had to pick just one adjective to describe the Everett that you are today it would be enthusiastic. Your enthusiasm for life, for the people and pets and things around you, is so, so inspiring.  

Whether you’re practicing your karate, playing with your friends, jumping into a pool, opening your arms up for a hug, or showering affection on the cat, you are ALL IN, all the time.  I love that you’re a lover of life.  I love that you love to try new things.  I love that you love to meet new people.  I love that you love to physically express yourself in different ways (can’t wait to bleach your hair for you again later!)  

I love that you’re you.

Thank you, for choosing me as your mom, and for blessing me for ten beautiful years.

I love you Eb, more than you’ll ever know.

 


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Apr 27

Five Words & Phrases We Need to Stop Saying About Moms and Motherhood

It’s a tricky thing, parenting.  We’re often our own worst critics, berating ourselves for our mistakes, and second-guessing our choices.  Add to that the near constant barrage of opinions from society at large, and we have a recipe for confusion, self-doubt, and self-flagellation. In this current era of blogs, social media, and instant information, we have the unique opportunity to be able to connect with and support other parents like never before. We can help each other explore new ideas. re-examine old ones, and make healthier choices for our children and families.

But we’re sabotaging the conversation, in a big way… and it might not be the way you think. The following are things I hear on my Facebook page on a regular basis, comments that are not only not helping, but are actively hurting (and in some cases, outright stopping) the dialogue on parenting, and preventing others from hearing new perspectives.

1.  Mommy Wars –  You guys.  We really need to retire this phrase.  ”Mommy Wars” just don’t exist. There is only a war if you choose to engage in one.  Motherhood is a journey, not a competition, and every mother you meet is going to be in a different place in her journey.  If you come across a person or an article or a blog post with a different opinion than your own (which, by the way, is not the same thing as a “war”), and it makes you angry, you have a CHOICE. Every time.  Remember, you don’t have to attend every fight you’re invited to.  You can walk away.  You can realize that one person’s perspective is not the same thing as a personal attack on you. You can take an honest look at yourself and try to determine why your feelings and reactions were so strong in the first place.  You can open yourself up to learning something new.  You can use it to further your own dialogue on good parenting.  Oftentimes the best, most productive discussions arise from people who disagree and can do so kindly…. people who can put aside their own egos, discuss the issue at hand, and learn from it. But that can only happen if you stop crying, “Mommy wars!” every time someone has a contrary opinion to your own.  We are not in a war, and continuing to insist that we are only stops you from being able to move forward.

2.  ”Sanctimommy” - This ridiculous word is like “Mommy Wars”‘s modern day cousin.  A mom shares an opinion or a perspective or a counter to some popular bit of advice, and toes get stepped on.  A nerve is struck, and someone inevitably says it: “Stop being such a SANCTIMOMMY!”  It is silly and juvenile.  No good ever comes from name-calling.  Let’s just start there.  It’s pretty much just good manners 101.  Beyond that though is this pervasive belief that the sharing of an opinion that may make you uncomfortable is the same thing as being sanctimonious, or judgmental, or out to prove that “my way is better than your way.” This is not a competition. (See number one)  Just a couple of nights ago, I shared a popular parenting article about a “creative” way to ground your kids, along with my reasons for choosing to do things differently.  A respectful conversation followed, until it was abruptly interrupted with, “You need to butt the hell out of other people’s lives.  Stop being so judgmental, and making others feel inferior.”  Clearly, I struck a chord.  But here’s the thing:  I can’t make someone feel inferior.  Can’t do it.  No one can.  The only person who’s in charge of how she feels is the person who owns said feelings.     If you’re feeling judged or uncomfortable from something you’ve read, those are your feelings to have and to examine.   Sharing opinions does not equate to being sanctimonious and judgmental, and frankly, if it did, the accuser in this scenario would be just as guilty as the accused (actually, moreso, because she was rude on top of it.)  Do people ever share things in an inflammatory way?  Sure.  And if and when it happens, we can choose to walk away.  Let’s stop this.  Let’s choose to stop taking everything as a personal attack.   Let’s choose to assume positive intent.  Let’s choose to help one another.  Let’s choose to actually dialogue. Let’s choose to stop throwing around words like “Sanctimommy”  and “judgmental.”   The reason I continue to write about parenting issues (quite honestly, sometimes the only reason) is that I want to help new and/or questioning parents to find healthy ways to have closer, more joyful, more connected relationships with their kids. The only way any of us can do that is through conversation…. conversations that peel apart ideas, question the status quo, and really dig into why we do and do not make certain parenting decisions. Effective conversations simply cannot be had with people who come out of the gate calling names and making inflammatory accusations, and such behavior does nothing to help other parents.

3.   To each his own.  I completely understand why people say this.  I do.  It’s important to respect individual decisions when those decisions aren’t infringing on anyone else.  And there are many, many areas in which it could apply….  what a family chooses for education;  where they live;  whether or not they choose to practice a religion;  what kind of jobs they have, and whether or not they choose to have both parents working or one of them staying home.  Etc. But “to each his own” can be a remarkably unhelpful comment when it comes to parenting, and this is why:  it encourages complacency,  a shrugging of the shoulders, and an attitude of “Eh, whatever works for them.”  And when kids are being treated in disrespectful ways, we should never be satisfied with complacency.  Children unfortunately aren’t often given a voice.  We have to be that voice on their behalf. A lot of times parents aren’t aware of alternatives.  A lot of times they haven’t received the support or the resources to realize that they have other options. A lot of times they just haven’t stepped outside themselves long enough to really see what it is they’re doing, why they’re doing it, or what kind of effect it’s having on their relationship with their children.   The way – the only way – we can help each other with solutions is by talking about it.  And that can’t happen if the conversation is summarily dismissed with a flippant “to each his own.”   

4.   Different methods work for different kids.   I understand why people say this too.  I have four very different children, which is what I imagine parents are referring to when they say things like this.  But while they all have different personalities, different ways of relating with myself and others, and different learning styles, my core value of aspiring to parent gently and with respect remains unchanged among the four of them.     Much like “to each his own,” falling back on a “different methods work for different kids” as a reason to spank for instance, can lead to a failure to investigate other options.  People will tell you that some kids need to be spanked, but that is not the case when you’re aware of alternatives.  And while lots of things may “work” in the moment, it doesn’t mean they are the healthiest, most respectful choices. As an aside, my one child who conventional parenting would have dictated “needed” to be spanked is now the most gentle, laid-back teenager you could ever hope to meet.    Our kids are not ours to experiment with.  They are human beings, and our “method” of relating to them should be treated with the same care, attention,  and respect as it would with any other loved one.  Our efforts are best put towards partnering with them and helping them come up with solutions, not in trying out new ways to punish them.

5.   I was _________ and I turned out fine.

Oh how this one frustrates me.  Often used in defense of spanking, it rings as a very strange and stubborn refusal to learn something new.  First, I would argue that if you’re advocating for something like using physical force against a small human being who is 1/4 of your size, you’re probably not as fine as you believe.  Secondly, don’t we want better than “fine” for our own kids?   I know I do!   Previous generations have done all kinds of things that we now know to do differently.    Babies used to be held on their parents laps in cars, not secured in car seats.  We now know that car seats save lives.  I used to drive my bike all over creation without a helmet. We now know that helmets save lives, too.  My mother in law tells a story of how she remembers being in the hospital after giving birth to my husband (in the 70′s)…. her new baby in one arm, and a lit cigarette in the other.  Of course, that’s no longer allowed, because we know that it’s not exactly good for the baby.   And I say this not to fault our parents…. not at all!  I have great parents.  My husband has great parents.  Like the rest of us, they loved their kids and did their best with the information that they had at the time.   But one of the wonderful things about life is that there are always new things to learn, always new information to be absorbed.  And when we know better, we should do better.  To refuse to do so in an effort to cling to old ways is categorically unfair… unfair to ourselves, unfair to our kids, and unfair to the generation that’s coming up behind them.  We can do better.  We can always do better.

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Despite the naysayers who continually try to get me to feel otherwise, I have faith in my fellow moms.  I do.  I believe that everyone reading this is smart, and strong, and willing to cut through the BS, drop the ego, and ask the hard questions.  I believe that we can put our focus on parenting, and parenting well; and that we can do away with the unhelpful words and comments up above, which, at the end of the day, are nothing more than noise.

 


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