When I Won’t Agree To Disagree

“Let’s just agree to disagree.”

It sounds nice, doesn’t it? A neat, tidy, and respectful way to end an argument or debate. You have your beliefs, I have mine, and we’ll just set them aside as neither right nor wrong. We’ll both go on, happily secure in the knowledge that our opinions are equally valid and okay.

It seems foolproof. It does. And in many, many cases it is the kindest solution to disagreement.

But I’m not always going to agree to disagree. I’m not always going to “respect your opinion.”

I won’t agree to disagree with you if you think hitting children is okay. I will continue to speak out about children’s rights, and their right (like all people) to bodily autonomy, and to decide who puts their hands on them, and when, and how, and for what reason.

I won’t agree to disagree with you if you think it’s okay to make jokes about, disparage, or treat anyone differently because of their race, their religion, their gender, or their sexual orientation. I won’t agree to disagree with you if your position is racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise unkind. I will continue to speak out about fair and equal treatment to all.

I won’t agree to disagree with you about religion, unless your religion (or lack thereof) teaches you to love, to include, to show compassion for all. I will continue to speak out about a Jesus that walked in love for all people, but especially for those who are marginalized by the rest of society.

I won’t agree to disagree with you if you think that mental illness is all in your head, or something that can be cured with “positive thoughts.” I will continue to speak out about awareness, education, and breaking the stigma for those with depression, anxiety, bipolar, and other mental health conditions.

Agreeing to disagree has its place, to be sure. Cannot stand my favorite band? Cool. Hate my favorite movie? Okay. Like nuts in brownies, pineapple on pizza, or caraway seeds in your bagel? Your choice to make.

But there’s a certain point where choices are not equal, where a person has to decide what’s right and wrong, and good and bad, and worthy of taking a stand. A hill to die on as it were.

Speaking as someone who is an entirely different person than she was 25 years ago, I know my opinion can be changed about many things. But not about this. Not about anything above.

Does that mean then that I’m a closed book? That I won’t even discuss it? The opposite is true. I think it’s important to talk about. I think that’s how seeds are planted. I think that’s how people grow.

But just know, if you choose to talk to me or fight with me about any of the above …. I will never, ever agree to disagree.

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To The Frustrated Mom At The Movie Theater

We were standing in line at the movie theater. We were about to see Breakthrough, which really requires its own post because, wow. There were raised voices a few people behind us, and while I couldn’t tell what I was going on, I did very clearly hear a mom snap out the words, “If you don’t stop, I’m going to spank your heinie right here in front of everyone. I don’t care.”

Tegan looked at me with wide eyes, and we both glanced back to see the pair: a boy of about 6 looking nonplussed, and a mom looking…. well, looking very, very tired.

There was a time my little blogging fingers would have rushed home to tear out a post against spanking, and about respect, and about treating your kids how you want to be treated.

And to be sure, my stance hasn’t changed. Violence – and yes, spanking is violent – against children is wrong. Kids should be treated with respect. Kids should be treated the way we want to be treated ourselves.

But I keep thinking of that mom, and feeling a whole lot of unexpected compassion. Because the thing is, I’m tired too. And that deep-in-your-bones mom fatigue? Sometimes it comes out sideways.

I don’t know that mom. I don’t know what kind of day she’d been having. I don’t know what kind of life she’d been having. I don’t know if she has support. I don’t know if she’s grieving, or if she hasn’t slept for a month, or if she’s struggling to put food on the table. I don’t know if she’s single, I don’t know if she has a partner who hurts her. I don’t know what it was that drove her to snap with a threat to her son in the line at the movie theater. Maybe she knows no other way. Maybe she’s parenting the way she was parented, and the way her parents were parented. Maybe she lacks the tools she needs to know that there are alternatives.

So tired mom at the movie theater? I see you. I see your tired eyes, and I see your frustration. I see your love for your son. I see you doing the best you can with what you have at your disposal, and I see you struggling.

I will always advocate for the children. That will never stop. But to the mom at her wits’ end? I’m on your side too. I see you. I hope you know you are strong. I hope you know you can do this (and that you don’t have to resort to spanking). I hope you know that you have other moms in your corner, rooting for you to succeed, and I hope you know that we understand. That we’ve all been there. That we know what it’s like to be frustrated, to be exhausted, to be at the end of our proverbial parenting rope.

Parenting is hard sometimes. Sweet baby Jesus parenting is hard. But if you can hold on, then it’s beautiful.

I believe I can make it through the hard moments. And mom at the movie theater? I believe you can, too.

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What I Learned From Rachel Held Evans

Rachel Held Evans died on Saturday, May 4th. She was only 37 years old.

If you didn’t know of Rachel, she was one of the good ones. She was a progressive Christian author, writer and speaker who challenged the evangelical culture so vocally that the Washington Post once called her, the most polarizing woman in evangelicalism.” She left evangelicalism herself in 2014, and started attending an Episcopalian church.

I share that little bit of history for some background, but that’s not what I’m thinking about right now.

Rachel was honest about her own walk with God. About her struggles, about her doubts, and about her revelations. For someone I never knew personally, she was about as real as you could get. She wrote beautifully, with grace and with humor. She wrote like she was your girl friend, sitting next to you sipping tea, and not some untouchable leader from behind an ivory pulpit.

She provided a much needed bridge for people like myself… people, particularly women, who’ve left evangelical Christianity, and didn’t know what to do next. She asked the hard questions, she challenged the big topics, and her courage? My word, if she was ever afraid she certainly didn’t let it stop her. She just kept on going.

She gracefully took on conservatives. She wrote about racism, abortion, evolution, women’s roles, LGBTQ rights, Donald Trump. She shied away from nothing. She had a heart for truth, and love, and justice, and she wasn’t afraid to use it.

I didn’t know Rachel Held Evans, but I admired the hell out of her. She had that rare gift to be able to speak with truth and passion and authority…. and still be so kind, and humble, and lovable. She was adored by everyone from evangelicals to atheists alike.

And sure, she had her few detractors, like anyone in the public eye, but she didn’t let it stop her. She kept going. She just kept on going, right up until her death.

I’ve been hiding lately. Someone I have to see in 3D life told me I wrote as though I thought I was better than everyone else. For some reason, that comment hurt me more than just about any other unkind comment I’ve ever received (and there’s a large pool from which to choose from). I retreated into my introvert-writer-turtle-shell, and vowed to stay there.

But Rachel wouldn’t have let it stop her. She would have had a response that was likely both witty and gracious at the same time, and she would have moved on.

I don’t know what I’m doing with my writing. Hell, 99.7% of the time, I don’t know what I’m doing with my life in general.

But I know this.

Life is precious. Life is fleeting. Life is too damn short to be afraid to speak your truth. Rachel spoke her truth. Over and over and over again.

So until I’m ready to write for myself again, I’ll write in her honor. It just feels like the right thing to do.

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An Open Letter To Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon

Jeremiah is a Top 20 contestant on this season of America Idol. He’s also a young man who, when he came out as gay, was not accepted by his pastor father and mother. What follows is in response to his most recent performance, in which he sang Landslide in their honor, and heartbreakingly told the camera that he loved them, and that he was sorry he disappointed them.

So, American Idol! I have watched every season of American Idol since it premiered. I even saw them perform live once, when my oldest was little. Like any talent-related show, some seasons were better than others. Some seasons it seemed like the judges, and then America, made all the wrong choices. I’m excited for this year though. There is a tremendous pool of talent in the top 20, and I can’t wait to see who makes it to the final five.

You, Jeremiah, are one of the most talented. You have an incredible gift that you have honed well. One of my biggest pet peeves is singers who try too hard, and over-sing the song. You don’t do that. In fact, you almost do the opposite. You let the song sing through you, and the result is real and pure and raw and beautiful. You’re not disconnected when you sing. You ARE the song… with all its heartfelt story and emotion.

From your very first audition, you talked about your family’s story. I can relate. I can. I too grew up in the church, grew up feeling as though everyone was watching me, grew up feeling like one misstep would cause great disappointment. My father wasn’t a pastor, but he was an Elder, so I hope you’ll give me a pass on that one.

Being true to yourself, and coming out as gay in that environment was incredibly brave. You should be proud of yourself for that alone. What a hard decision it must have been, knowing what you would face in response! But you did it anyway, and that took an immense amount of courage.

I can see how much you love your parents, and how much it hurts you that they cannot accept you. But their refusal to accept you the way they are? That’s a “them” problem, not a “you” problem.

I heard you apologize on national TV. But what do you have to apologize for? Being human? Falling in love? Being perfectly wired to be exactly who YOU are?

I would like to believe that your parents love you, and that they have a very misguided way of showing it. I’d truly like to believe that. But I don’t know them, and I don’t know if that’s the case. Here’s what I do know:

You are beautiful, talented soul who is going to go far, not just on American Idol, but in life.

You are a gift.

You are loved.

You are perfect the way you are.

As a parent, it’s heartbreaking for me to see you sing up there without their support in the audience (I did see your boyfriend though, and am so happy that you have him!) As a parent, it’s difficult for me not to feel angry at them for not accepting you. As a parent, I can’t imagine anything that would make me withdraw my love for my children. As a parent, I can’t imagine anything that would make me do anything but continue to love them… fully, wholly, and unconditionally.

And I’m so very very sorry that you don’t have that.

I truly hope that they see the damage that they are doing, and the harm that they are causing. But please know that even if they don’t, you have a whole nation of people lifting you up, rooting for you, and loving you from afar. Know that we, a diverse group of strangers, are all in, and accept you exactly the way you are.

Know that this mom in Mesa, Arizona thinks you are special, and strong and brave and talented. I know it’s not the same. I know. Because we want our parents’ support. We never stop wanting that. But I’m in your corner, and I stand beside you.

And until and unless your parents come around, I – along with thousands of other moms and dads out there – will consider you my honorary son/nephew/family, and will support you accordingly.

Love,

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The Heartbreaking Art of Making Mom Friends


When we first moved to Arizona, I was befriended by someone in a homeschool group when our boys hit it off. She invited me to church, they invited us to dinner, we went to each other’s birthday parties.

But we’re not friends anymore.

When Tegan was in gymnastics, I was befriended by another mom when our girls hit it off. She invited us for a playdate, we went to each other’s birthday parties, we did yoga together.

But we’re not friends anymore.

When we went to our first homeschooling conference, I was befriended by another mom when our boys hit it off. (Sensing a pattern yet?) We became very good friends. We got tattooed together, we got pierced together, we flew across the country to visit each other.

But we’re not friends anymore.

Repeat, ad infinitum.

To say it’s all left me a little gun-shy is an understatement. I don’t make friends easily as it is, it takes me forever to open up, and I’m constantly afraid of getting hurt. And let’s just be real for a minute here. Making friends with other moms is HARD. Join any sport or lesson or class, and there’s that one group that already knows one another, that may or may not be receptive to outsiders. There’s that one person who (though you know intellectually it is not the case) appears to have it all together, and therefore feels way too intimidating to approach. Then there are the ones like me ….. the other outsiders, the ones that sit so quietly on the sidelines that it takes an act of God to work up the nerve to strike a conversation, let alone a friendship.

And it’s a weird and almost backwards way to make friends when you think about it. You may literally have nothing in common with these people other than the fact that your kids have something in common. But how else do you make friends when you’re a mom? By and large, for better or worse, you make friends through your kids.

And it’s scary out there. Especially when, like me, you’re in constant fear that you’re going to f*ck it up.

Tegan (11 at the time of this writing), has been in theater for 3, 4? years, and I am just now getting around to make friends with some of the other moms. She’s so proud of me too:

“Look at you, making mom friends!!”

If she only knew how hard it was. My one true extrovert, she’s never met a stranger, and she doesn’t know the fear of a friendship ending. But I watch her and I learn something. I learn to be more open, I learn to let my guard down a little bit, I learn to let myself be vulnerable, I learn to let myself speak.

Even if it means another crash and burn.

And so, finally, I’ve made a few local friends (I’m super, super good at making long-distance friends, but in person friends is a whole new realm of terror). Does it make me happy? Yes. Does it scare me shitless? Yes.

But here’s the thing. Life is hard. And relationships are incredibly hard. Especially when they basically start off as relationship by proxy because your kids are in some sort of activity together.

There’s an art to making mom friends that I just don’t naturally have. Sometimes I feel like it takes a Herculean effort just to appear like a normal human. (Am I making the right face? Did I say the wrong thing? Do they think I’m stuck up? AM I MAKING THE RIGHT FACE?) But just because it’s harder for me doesn’t mean it’s impossible for me. Just because I struggle with it, doesn’t mean it’ll never happen. I’m learning. God knows I’m a slow study, but I’m learning.

Because if I’ve learned nothing else, I’ve learned that if I’m willing to put in that effort – effort, by the way, sometimes just means saying, “How are you?” instead of smiling and eye contact – it’s really, really worth it.

Even when it’s scary.

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Seven Things Not To Say To a Friend With Mental Illness

I have been open about mental illness since the very beginning. As I tested the water here on my blog, I received nothing but support, and it encouraged me to continue to write about it, continue to talk about it, and continue to be vulnerable about it. I’ll gladly talk to anyone about my experiences, and I’m always up for answering questions.

The problem with such transparency? The well-meaning (and truly, I do believe deep in my heart that they’re all well-meaning) comments intending to help, but which ultimately hurt.

Here are a few such comments, in no particular order.

Cheer up/Don’t be sad/Just think positively. Oh were it that easy! The biggest problem with comments like that is that they assume the problem is a choice. Just try harder! Just choose to be happy! That’s not how it works, and it’s condescending and insulting to imply otherwise. No one CHOOSES depression. No one chooses mania. No one chooses anxiety. And if it were that easy to stop, no one would suffer from them in the first place.

But you have so much to be thankful for. Yes, someone’s life might appear to be problem free. Great job, great marriage, healthy happy kids, etc. I would say first of all that no one knows what happens behind closed doors, and even if someone’s life was as picture-perfect as it seemed? Mental illness does not discriminate. It crosses all borders, and doesn’t care about your gender, race, religion, or socio-economic status.

I know just how you feel. No, you don’t. If you’re fortunate enough not to be affected by mental illness, you have no idea how I feel. Please don’t believe otherwise. If you are one of the unlucky ones, chances are you really can relate…. but even then, I think there’s a risk in assuming that we completely understand how another person feels. No two situations are alike, no two people are alike. Ask questions, share experiences, but tread carefully with phrases like, “I know how you feel.” Never say you understand unless you truly do.

Everyone feels that way sometimes. One of the most disheartening experiences I’ve ever had when it comes to sharing my experience was about a year ago. I’d hit a bump in my recovery, my meds were being all switched up, and my diagnosis was being expanded to include Borderline Personality Disorder. I was a mess, I confided in a friend, and she asked me to describe what it all meant. I did my most vulnerable best, she looked at me with almost a shrug and said, “Oh. We all feel that way sometimes.” Oof. It is extremely minimizing to dismiss a very difficult mental illness as something that we all experience from time to time. I worked, and continue to work, hard – HARD – to do the things I need to do to be well. It’s hurtful for that work to be rejected with a flippant refusal to believe that there was even a problem in the first place.

You need to exercise/get outside/heal your gut/eat these foods/take these supplements/use these oils/try this product. I know that you want to help. I do. But I PROMISE you that anyone dealing with a mental illness has done his or her homework, knows the options that are out there, and has made decisions and determinations about what does and does not help them. They’re also (one would hope) working with a team of professionals whose job it is to help them get well. What your friend needs from you is friendship, not advice.

My brother has bipolar too. He’s in jail. I used this as an example because it was something that was said to me once. (And by the by, how was I supposed to respond to that? I still don’t know.) But it speaks to a larger issue of making assumptions and comparisons. Not everyone who has bipolar ends up jail. Not everyone with schizophrenia is violent. While those things certainly are the reality for some people, every illness is different, and every individual is different. Yes, there are patterns of behavior, and there are shared symptoms… but it’s a slippery slope when you start to believe that the character you saw in Silver Linings Playbook is the epitome of mental illness. Everyone is different.

You just need to turn to God. I saved this one for last, because I think it’s the most damaging on the list. Too many people think that if you just believe hard enough, if you just pray hard enough, that God will take away your illness. This belief is so, so harmful for believers. It leaves those struggling with mental illness feeling as though it’s their fault, that they’ve fallen short, that their faith isn’t strong enough, and that they’re just not TRYING. It is NOT their fault, it is not a sign of weakness, and it can affect anyone. Anyone. Regardless of where they do or do not stand with God. Regardless of how much they believe, regardless of how hard they try.

It can be a delicate thing, dealing with mental illness – dealing with any kind of illness – when it comes to your friends or family. And while it’s true that there are missteps that can easily be made, there are things to be said that can help, immensely.

I’m thinking of you.

I love you.

I’m here if you need me.

I hear you.

I see you.

Simple words that go a long way to let someone know you care, that you don’t think it’s their fault, and that you know they just can’t “snap out of it.” When all else fails, you can never go wrong with just Being There.

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I’m Not a Mean Mom… But I’m Not a Nice Mom, Either

Yesterday, a friend sent me a link to another Mean Mom blog post. The internet is full of these, and their praise is rampant. Moms virtually compete to see who can be the meanest, and backs are pat when the bar is raised.

It makes me tired.

I’ve written several times about why I’ve opted out of being a “mean mom.” ( You can read a few here, here, and here)

But the thing is, I don’t want to be a “nice” mom, either.

Nice is common. Nice is superficial. Nice is what you are to the cashier at Target, and the waiter at Cheesecake Factory. Nice is what you do when you follow polite societal norms. With a little bit of practice, anyone can be nice.

When it comes to my kids (as to everyone I love), I want to be kind. Kind comes from somewhere deeper than nice. Kind is precipitated by caring, by genuine feelings, and genuine desires. Kind makes me want to treat my children the way I’d like to be treated, and kind makes me want to put my children first.

Being kind is not the same thing as being a doormat. In fact, it’s the opposite. Kindness comes from a place of true connection. A place where there’s room for give and take, for honest communication, and deep relationship.

Kindness puts someone else’s needs above your own, and kindness begets more kindness. The beauty of kindness is that it spreads. The more kindness that you pour onto your kids, the more kindness they’ll pour onto others.

The more you show them you care, the more they’ll care about others.

The more you give, the more they’ll learn to give to others.

The more you model forgiveness, and grace, and understanding, the more they’ll respond in kind.

The world, especially these days, desperately needs more kindness. The world does not need more “mean.”

And as with anything else we’re trying to change in society…. the best place to start is with our kids.

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Luke Perry Is All Of Us

For a long time, I didn’t understand mourning a celebrity. Sure there were some that hit harder than others…. Robin Williams, Patrick Swayze, Phillip Seymore Hoffman are a few that come to mind. But I didn’t actually know them. I knew their work. I knew their public personas. I knew what I read about in articles and interviews. But I didn’t know them. How do you mourn someone you didn’t know?

And then something changed. When you sit across from someone who tells you he doesn’t want you to go home, and instead thinks you should be hospitalized because you’re a danger to yourself, your awareness of mortality makes a hard and drastic turn. It feels real, and it feels scary.

Ever since that day, celebrity deaths break that most tender part of my heart like nothing else. Particularly when it is suicide, for obvious reasons, but regardless of the cause, it genuinely hurts. No matter who it is.

Yesterday Luke Perry died. I’ve seen him in Riverdale, but like so very many people my age, he’ll always be Dylan McKay. The 90’s version of James Dean, Luke’s Dylan McKay was every girl’s pretend boyfriend: Cool, brooding, gorgeous, and sensitive. A bad boy on the surface, but one with a soft spot. He was the perfect foil to Brandon Walsh’s squeaky clean boy next door. I think of Dylan McKay and I think of being 16. I don’t just remember being 16. I remember how it FELT to be 16. I remember falling in love for the first time, I remember having my heart broken for the first time, and I remember how all of life felt like an emergency. I remember it all with such a vivid acuity that it takes my breath away. I think of teenage angst and high school drama… and of looking forward every week to losing myself in the pretty, fantasy world of 90210. A world that was at once more perfect and more tragic than anything I’d ever experience in real life.

Luke Perry was a part of one of the most pivotal times of my life. Now he’s gone, and that makes me sad. What makes me mourn though? It has nothing to do with Dylan McKay. It has to do with Luke Perry, the human. A human who had kids and family and friends and people who loved him. A human who had hopes and fears and flaws and inside jokes with those in his closest circle. A human who – like me, like you, like all of us – was mortal.

We tend, consciously or not, to view celebrities as larger than life. But just like the rest of us, their time on this earth is inevitably limited, and no one knows when they’ll take that final breath. Luke Perry was only 52 when he died, too young by anyone’s standards. But death can be swift and cruel and unexpected. And that’s what scares me. That’s why I mourn.

I didn’t know Luke Perry. But he was all of us. Fragile, precious. An immortal soul in an all too mortal body. No matter who we are, how well we’re known, what we do for a living…. we’re all connected by our humanness. Both in life, and ultimately, in death. I mourn for Luke Perry today, but I also mourn for all of us. For the pain, for the sick, for the dying. At the same time, I rejoice. For the beauty, the love, the connection of those still here. We don’t know when our physical bodies will leave this earth, but right now, if you’re reading this? You’re alive. You’re breathing. There are people who’re glad you’re here. I’m glad you’re here.

To those who knew and loved Luke Perry, I offer my deepest most heartfelt condolences. I wish for peace for his soul, and comfort for his loved ones.

For the rest of you…. Life is short. Love hard.

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Dear Sports Parents, Your Only Job is to Cheer

This week was the 11 year old’s last volleyball game of the season. She’d never played before, so it was really cool to watch her growth and improvement over the past eight weeks (including scoring several points in her final game!)

I really enjoy watching the kids play sports. Between the four of them, they’ve at various times done football, baseball, gymnastics, volleyball, karate… the list goes on. It’s fun to watch them enjoy themselves out there (I remember when our now 14 year old was about 6, he was easy to spot as the little-league player who couldn’t wipe the smile off his face the entire game), it’s fun to watch their pride in their burgeoning skills, and it’s fun to watch them improve.

What’s not fun? That one parent.

Or three parents or five parents. You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones that yell at their kids from the sidelines. The ones that critique. The ones that never say, “Good try”, but instead holler, “You should’ve had that!”

They break their kids, and they break my heart.

One of the saddest things I ever witnessed was after a little league game – and keep in mind, these are YOUNG kids – when a father reached his hand out to his son. The son thought he was about to give him a high five, so with a smile on his face he went in with the swing…. and his dad pointed in his face and let out of torrent of what he’d done wrong. I’ll never forget the look on that kids’ face.

There’s one girl on Tegan’s volleyball game who I’ve always sort of watched closely. She’s incredibly talented and good at the sport, but she looks pretty perpetually unhappy. I finally decided that maybe she was just one of those people who had an unhappy resting face, until my husband pointed something out to me during the last game.

“Look at how she looks at her father after every single play.”

I watched, and indeed, every single time she hit the ball or missed the ball or was anywhere near the ball, she looked over at her father. He shouted critiques, gave instruction, or, in the case of her missing a play, just shook his head in disappointment.

These are 10 to 12 year olds. In a recreational, instructional league. They’re there to learn to play the game, learn to work together, and have fun. That’s about it. They’re not training for the Olympics. And, honestly, even if they were training for the Olympics, that’s why they have coaches!

The negative, sideline coaching hurts my heart. The look on that girl’s face every time she sought her father’s approval hurts my heart. The fact that these parents are missing this fleeting – it is so, so fleeting! – time in their child’s life hurts my heart. What is supposed to be a fun learning experience turns into something else entirely. It turns into a lesson of “Mom/Dad doesn’t support me.” “I’m not good enough.” “I’ll never earn their approval.” Not to mention the fact that no kid is going to enjoy a sport – or anything – if they’re being criticized while they do it.

Those scars are lifelong, and they run deep.

If your kid plays a sport, he has a coach. With any luck that coach is supportive and fair and equally instructive and encouraging. But they’re the coach. They’re the ones who give instruction. They’re the ones to listen to on the sidelines. They’re the ones to give gentle corrections when they’re needed.

Parents? Your job is to cheer. That’s it. To clap for your kid, and the other kids. To model what good sportsmanship looks like. To encourage. To support. To sink into the joy of watching your kid do something they (hopefully) enjoy. To appreciate this short time in their life when the most exciting day of their week is showing off their new skills on the volleyball court. To celebrate with them when they get the perfect serve. To lift them up when they miss a bump. To generally serve as a cheerleader … a bright, smiling presence, so when your kid does look at you over in the stands, they feel nothing but supported, and see nothing but a thumbs up.

Kids look up to us as their parents. They look to us for approval, they look to us for support, they look to us as an example. While I’d like to believe that the critical parent means well, and just wants their child to get better at the game, they are doing so at the expense of their relationship, and at the expense of their child’s self esteem.

Words hurt. Think about what your words are really doing.

And please. PLEASE. If you raise your hand to your child after a game? Let it be that high five for a job well done.

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Your Teens Are Normal

“Have you been reading about what’s going on between India and Pakistan right now?” That came from my 14 year old last night, sparking a little light dinner conversation.

I have loved my kids fiercely at every age, but I really think the teen years are my favorite. The above is one of the reasons why. They’re just so cool, able to discuss grown up things, and allowing us to interact with them on a whole new level.

But oh how people stress out about having teenagers! They worry about it, they even dread it. And then when their teens go through perfectly normal stages of development, parents through up their hands in frustration, and say, “See?! Teens are impossible!”

But they’re not. They’re humans, going through an incredible stage of growth, and certain… peculiarities… are part and parcel of the process.

Here are just a few (totally normal!) things you might experience as your kids adjust to teendom.

Hibernation.  This is the first thing that really threw me for loop with #1 (who’s now 22). He slept ALL THE TIME, and I felt like I never saw him any more. At one point, I remember wondering if I should take him to the doctor. But when #2 came around (now 18), and started doing the same thing, I went, “Oooooh, I remember this!” and I relaxed into the inevitable. Hibernating and cocooning are real. They may sleep a lot. They may spend all their waking hours in their room. They may pull away a little. You might forget what they look like. You may just get a grunt here and there when they wander to the kitchen to make themselves a sandwich (And while I’m on the subject of food, a ridiculously huge appetite? Also totally normal for growing teens.) This is normal and healthy. Don’t take it personally! Stay connected as much as you can (I remember a very long phase of bringing #2 cookies and other treats while he played at his computer), but otherwise give them space. They WILL emerge, and they will emerge all the better for you having respected their needs at this critical time.

Unpredictable moods. So here’s the thing. Being a teen is hard. You’re being flooded with hormones, your body is changing, everything feels like an emergency, and the world expects you to be an adult one minute, but treats you like a child the next. It’s enough to make even the most tender hearted a little salty from time to time. It’s not about you. Let me say it again. It’s not about you. And if things escalate to the point of your teen being cruel or disrespectful, it is of course appropriate to set a boundary, (ie: “I’m not going to let you talk to me that way”) just as you would with a spouse or a friend. But this is a time for a whole lot of grace and understanding, not defensiveness. Being a teen is hard.

Unpredictable behavior. Teens have one foot in adulthood, and one foot still firmly entrenched in childhood. And the way society treats them tends to be pretty abhorrent. Grow up! Get a job! Do something useful with your life! AND You’re just a kid! Sit down! No one cares what you think! So which is it? Burgeoning adult, or innocent child? The fact is, teens are BOTH, and parents who are paying attention know that either one may show its face at any time. Your dinner time teen might be making mature conversation about current affairs…. or he may be making a pyramid out of his peas. It’s normal, it’s okay, and while it may give you whiplash from time to time, it’s not something to freak out about. Meet them where they’re at, and don’t try to force them to be something they’re not quite ready for.

Can parenting teens be frustrating sometimes, maddening even? Sure. Just like parenting 3 year olds and 7 year olds, and just about any other big transition age. But it’s also rewarding, and heartwarming, and a hell of a lot of fun. Getting to hang out with my teens and watch as they mature into young adults has honestly been one of the best parts of being a parent. It requires patience, sometimes a lot of it (“Seriously, how much longer is he going to be holed up in his room”), but it is so very worth it. A little grace and a lot of understanding goes a long way. And the benefit? A great relationship with some of the coolest and most interesting people you’ll ever have the pleasure of knowing.

Teens are awesome, and don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise.

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