Breathing

I have the word “breathe” tattooed on my left forearm.  (Snoopy at his typewriter is on my right. :))  I felt the word was important enough to get permanently etched on my body because it is literally the first answer for EVERYTHING.  Yes, there are going to be problems to solve.  Yes, there are going to be actions that need to be taken.  But the first step, the step you need to take before you do anything, is breathe.  It’s one of the first things you learn in yoga (indeed, yoga IS breathing).   The physiological benefits of mindful, deep breathing are real, and plenty.  It slows your heart rate, sends more oxygen to your body, calms your nerves, relaxes your muscles, strengthens your lungs and your heart, and lowers your blood pressure.  Plus…. it just feels good.

I see a lot of people who need to breathe right now – and I’ll include myself in that, because it’s never not a good time to breathe – so I give you the following two tools to help.  Do one, or do them both.  DO IT.  The first is self-explanatory.  Breathe along with the graphic.  One slow, deep breath in, and one slow, deep breath out.  And repeat.

The second is something that always helps me to breathe:  the sound of running water.  I took the little video at the cabin I go to up north, and still return to it from time to time to remind me.

Don’t overthink it.  Don’t try to feel anything special, or get any particular result.  Just breathe.

 


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Happy Things

A sweet meme texted by a sweet friend

I had two separate people tell me today that my blog has been extra dark and bleak (dreary? I forget the exact words) lately.  In my defense, I think it’s just been real.  Regardless, it’s been coming across as dark to at least a couple people, so rather than pull down half my November posts  – which is always my first inclination, and I know, I know: it’s my blog and I can post what I want and I shouldn’t let other people’s comments get to me and etc etc etc – I decided a straight-up happy post would serve as a nice balm (and hopefully a reminder to people that I’m… nice?  Or not dark?  Or something?)

A little bit of happy:

~ This is Sophie ^ Today is Sophie’s Gotcha Day, which I wouldn’t have known, had Facebook not told me.  We adopted her nine years ago today.  Tegan was especially happy to learn this, as she’s always keen on celebrating…. well, everything, but particularly her fur-babies.

~ My house is clean.  It’s nice to have a clean house ANY time, but it’s always particularly nice on the weekends, because it means I get to wake up to a nice, clean, organized house at the beginning of the week, which greatly cuts down on the Monday blues.  It’s like New Years.  But without the “I ate way too much junkfood” hangover stomach.

~ Mike and I have been working on building a (cardboard) jukebox for a 50’s diner scene for Tegan’s latest play, and we got it just about finished today.  There are just a couple things being added to make it more 3D.  Finished projects make me extremely, extremely happy.  Something about having a vision and making it come to life.  I live for that kind of thing.

~ Tomorrow is Sunday, but it’s really Saturday, because Mike has a three day weekend that ends on Monday.  So today’s really Friday.  Or something.  And Tegan has a theater showcase on Monday (not the play that the jukebox is for), that she and her friends have been working really hard on, and we both get to watch it.

~ Next week is Thanksgiving!!!  I also have an eye appointment next week, which I’m actually really looking forward to, because I definitely need a prescription adjustment, and being able to see is always nice.  But I’m not looking forward to it as much as Thanksgiving.

~ Right now, right at this very second, the house is quiet and peaceful but: I can hear the 17 year old laughing with a friend through the magic of the interwebs, the 20 year old talking very sweetly with the 9 year old, and the 13 year old feverishly and happily tapping his keyboard as he plays a cooperative game.

And it’s all very, very good….


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Friendship, Tegan-Style

I was looking for something on my phone today, and I came across this picture of Tegan with one of her good friends.  I adore this photo.  They’d just wrapped their final performance of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and were still very much riding their post-performance high.

What’s remarkable about this picture is that it’s not remarkable.  What I mean by that is that if you’ve ever seen any picture of Tegan with her friends, you’ll see that they all have the same joy, the same authenticity, and the same fierce, fierce love.

Of all the lessons that I’ve learned from Tegan (and there have been, and continue to be, a LOT) this lesson of friendship is one of the most powerful.  I look at her and I see the kind of friendships I want to have.  I look at her and see the kind of friend I want to be.  I’ve truly never seen someone love so completely, so purely, and so unabashedly.  That girl would walk through fire for her friends and not give it a moment’s hesitation.

I think part of what makes it so fascinating to me is that she is a true extrovert, where I’m the most introverted of introverts.  She lives, and loves, out loud.  She’s affectionate.  She’s bold.  You never, ever have to guess where you stand with her.  If she knows you and loves you?  You’ll know it.

I’m much more cautious, and (as much as I hate to admit it) far more jaded.  I can’t love like I’ve never been hurt, because…. well, because I have been hurt.  Deeply.  And recently.  I have trust issues.  I have intimacy issues.  I just have issues.

Tegan, though:  That girl is fearless when it comes to friendship, and I so, so admire that!  Here are just a few of the things I’ve learned from her about being a friend.

  1.  Don’t be afraid of making new friends.  To Tegan, every new person she meets is a potential new friends.  To me, every new person I meet is a potential new person that is going to eventually kick the shit out of me, or perhaps even worse:  a potential friendship that I am eventually going to screw up, wreck, or otherwise sabotage because that’s just what I do.  (I told you.  JADED.)  But I’m learning from Tegan to not be afraid.
  2.  Be generous.  Tegan is one of the most generous and thoughtful people I know.  She loves to write her friends notes, give them little gifts, send them emails that will encourage them when they’re down.  She is so purely generous, with no conditions, and no ulterior motives.  The girl just has a huge, huge heart.
  3. Be transparent. Like I said up above, there is absolutely no mistaking it when she knows and loves someone.  She is so beautifully open and honest about her feelings, about her relationships, and about her love.  If she loves you, you know it.  She’s not afraid to say it, and she’s not afraid to show it.
  4. Be affectionate. Somewhere along the way, I got the reputation of not being a hugger.  But I am, I am a hugger!  I think it’s just that it doesn’t come as naturally to me as it does to Tegan.  It’s hard to catch a picture of Tegan with her friends where they don’t have their arms around each other, or aren’t hugging, or aren’t holding hands.  I’ve tried to be more open about this for myself as I’ve gotten older – I am a hugger! – and lo and behold it turns out that platonic affection is actually really, really nice.
  5. Love deeply. I’m actually good at this one.  It might take me awhile, but once I love, I love hard.  I trust hard.  I’m deeply loyal.  The difference between me and Tegan is that she does so with no caveats, and no reservations.  For me, no matter how good or how right a friendship might feel, I always start with a tiny voice in the back of my head, ranging in intensity from a quiet whisper of “Tread with caution; you may get hurt here”, to a loudly screamed, “Abort!  Abort!  Nothing good can possibly come from this!!”  And even if things do go well, I’m, well I’m paranoid, especially in the beginning.  Did I say something wrong?  Is she upset with me?  Have I been too annoying lately?  It’s … sad.  And I’m so happy for Tegan that she has no such hang-ups.  That is perhaps my favorite part of watching her with her friends.  She is ALL-IN, with tiny no voices advising her otherwise.

One of the many (many many many) things I never knew before I became a parent was how much I would learn from my kids.  How much they’d teach me.  How much they’d inspire me.  Watching Tegan is helping me to be more open.  More trusting.  More loving.  More authentic. More bold.  And it’s one of the best things I never knew I always needed.


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The Gratitude Alphabet

I keep seeing these gratitude posts come through my Facebook newsfeed, one for each day of November.  I’ve participated in the past, but I skipped it this year.  I couldn’t even keep up with the 7-day black and white picture challenge (I think I made it to day three), and I’m quite honestly rather impressed with myself for making it to day 17 of blogging every day.

But the gratitude posts made me think of something that was recommended to me a few weeks (months?) ago, to help shift mood, negative thinking, etc.

The concept is simple enough:  List something you’re grateful for for every letter of the alphabet.  I haven’t tried it until right this very second (because I’m stubborn and it’s cheesy and oh my GOSH don’t tell me what to do), but for whatever reason, it’s been persistently and annoyingly in the back of my brain all day.

So, I give you my very first gratitude alphabet.  I’m resisting the urge to fill half of it in with the names of my family/friends/pets, because that feels like it would be too easy, and therefore cheating, and also… it goes without saying 🙂

A – Amazon Prime

B – Bullet journal

C – Caramel M&Ms  – and of course, COFFEE, and chocolate, but those also seemed too easy.

D – Drugs  (I debated, hard, but it’s the first thing that came to mind, and yeah … I’m thankful for drugs.)

E – Elephants

F – Free to Be

G – Grace

H – Hugs

I – Inside Jokes

J – Jammies

K – Kitchen Tables

L – Land Cruiser

M – Mozzarella Cheese

N – Netflix

O – Oxygen

P – Pens… but also, my prefrontal cortex.  In equal measure.

Q – Quiet mornings

R – Running water

S – Starbucks

T – Television (I really struggled between television and tattoos)

U – Unschooling

V – Video stores.  I don’t know if they exist anymore?  But I have happy memories of the corner video store when we lived in Andover.

W – Watching movies

X – X-rays (There are just so few words that start with x!  But I really am thankful for x-rays.  They’ve been quite useful a time or two)

Y – Yoga.  And yoga pants and yoga mats.

Z – Zoning out

_____________________________

Three things:

  1. It was harder than you’d think
  2. I had to censor a little, because sometimes my very first thought was not PG rated.  Ha.  I’m not sure what that says about me.
  3. I really do feel sort of warm and fuzzy now.

Now you go.


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Seeing Each Other

I write a lot about the importance of hearing our kids, of putting ourselves in their shoes, about really stopping and taking out all judgment and meeting them where they’re at.  I talk a lot about just SEEING them.  Really seeing them.

And I think that while most of us can agree on its importance for parenting well, that as adults, when it comes to dealing with each other:  We are, as a general rule, spectacularly bad at it.  We just don’t see each other.

And it is for sure a two-pronged thing.  When I’m depressed (and I know that a lot of you can relate to this) I feel completely alone.  Isolated.  Like nobody sees me.  Like nobody hears me.  And then, of course, the irony of that is that pesky little tendency to isolate yourself further, which makes you feel more alone, which makes you isolate yourself more…. ad nauseam.  But that stuff is just a symptom of depression.  It’s not real.  I have lost some friends this year – or at least, I learned who my friends truly are – but I have a couple of friends who will not leave me alone when they know I’m depressed.  And I love them so much for it!!

Yesterday, I was sitting in the waiting room for a therapy appointment that I was crazy freaking out about (last week’s went really really badly). I was having two conversations through text, with two different people, and they were both in essence, “You can do this. Of course you can do this.”  Literally just a few minutes before he opened the door and called me in, these two friends, unbeknownst to each other, sent me the exact same text:  “I wish I was there to hold your hand.”  How unbelievably cool is that?  These are people who saw me.

I wish we could all see each other that well.

And I don’t think this lack of genuine connection is intentional.  I really don’t.  I think that we get caught up in our own… stuff… and then we fail to listen – to really listen – to other people.  I think that we see people through a veil of our own prejudices, and judgments, and ideas of what they should or should not be doing.  I think we want to fix.  (Oh my GOSH with the fixing.)  We see people as we want them to be, and not as who they are.  Right now, right in this very moment.  We get uncomfortable with the yucky stuff.  And I get that.  I was suicidal four months ago.  That’s uncomfortable for people.  It’s pretty damn uncomfortable for me too.  It makes people run.  And I get that too. That’s why the people who see the yucky stuff, who sit with you right in the middle of the yuck, and say, “I’m not going anywhere” are so, so invaluable.

I think that the answer, besides occasionally having to get comfortable with discomfort, is presence.  I actually think that presence is the answer for a lot of things, and it is one of many lessons that I’m having to learn over and over again.  But it’s not just about presence for ourselves.  It’s about presence for the other person as well.  Really being there with them, right in the moment.  Taking out all the ego, all the judgement, all your own crap about the way things are “supposed” to be, and meeting them exactly where they’re at.  ACCEPTING them exactly where they’re at.  Not trying to fix, not trying to change, just accepting.  I think until we’ve done that, we can never truly see each other.  Never truly hear each other.

Whenever I’ve gone through a hard time – any sort of hard time – the most helpful, comforting, and reassuring thing, hands down, has been the people who say, whether directly or indirectly:  I see you.  I hear you.  

May we all see each other a little bit better.

(And offers of hand-holding never hurt, either.)


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The One In Which I Tell Perfectionism To Take A Hike (Part Two)

(You can read Part One here. )

I grew up feeling like I had to be perfect somehow, or everyone would be disappointed.  It wasn’t even everyone else now that I think about it, it was me.  Because the amount of self-flagellation I would do when I fell below my own ridiculous self-imposed bar was far, far more severe than any punishment or any “I’m disappointed in you’s” I could ever receive.

And now, all these years later, I’ve had to face the fact that it hasn’t changed.  I haven’t changed.  I was recently talking to a friend about why: why one person would hold herself to such an impossibly high standard, and another (even with the same parents) would not.  The ultimate question of nature vs nurture.  We decided that it’s probably both… a combination of some innate personality trait that went a little haywire, and a product of how a person was raised.

But at this point, the “why” doesn’t matter.  Because it just… it just is.

And can I tell you something else?  It is EXHAUSTING living that way.  I put myself in these self-imposed exiles, and I cope in a myriad of unhealthy ways.  And I can’t breathe, and I can’t think, and I can’t see anything except the box around me.  And I treat people poorly (which of course makes me feel terrible because I know I’m not a terrible person) because I’m treating myself poorly, and then I think, “I’ve been in therapy for EIGHTEEN FREAKING MONTHS, and I’m still not over all of this?  Why am I not over all of this?”  And then I think, “Wow.  It takes a special kind of failure to fail at therapy.”  And then I feel bad for being so hard on myself, instead of gentle on myself, which of course just makes me spiral further into my self-loathing.  And around and around and around I go.  I know it’s not all true.  I know it’s just old stories, old tapes playing in my head (I learned that from my therapist, on one of the days I wasn’t, well… failing at therapy.)

I’ve decided I don’t want to do that anymore.

I don’t want to keep avoiding all the things I’m bad at.  I don’t want to unreasonably beat myself up for all my mistakes.  I don’t want to keep punishing myself for something long after that something’s been apologized for and forgiven.  I don’t want to take ALL the blame for all of the things at all of the times.  I don’t want to continue to hate myself, like genuinely, literally, hate myself just because my College Algebra class is so difficult for me. (“What is wrong with me?  How can I not even do a basic math class?  How am I going to do the really difficult upper level classes that will come later?  What about the science classes?  Am I too old?  Am I just not intelligent enough? Should I just cut my losses and quit now?  I should probably just cut my losses and quit now.”)

I just don’t want it anymore.

My therapist tells me that perfectionism is really the other side of the same coin as narcissism.  Which offended me at the time – because I spent a lot of the last 18 months being offended, another thing I continue to beat myself up about – but makes perfect sense if you think about it.  What makes me so special?  Everyone else is allowed to make mistakes, everyone else is allowed to have strengths and weaknesses, everyone else is allowed to be HUMAN …  and I’m … what?  A superhero?

And it’s not like I haven’t had these realizations before.  I have.  But usually I have them after I come out of a depression, when the sun is all shiny and the world is all squeaky, and I’m no longer viewing things through the haze of my black-tinted glasses.  I’ve never actually had these come-to-Jesus moments in the middle of a depression.  Like right smack dab in the middle of the muck and the mire.

So I’m trying something new.

Allow me to (re)introduce myself:  I’m Jen.

I kill every houseplant that every comes into my house (but I have two at the present time so I’m still trying.) I can’t snorkel because I get freaked out and I breathe too hard and my chest feels like it’s going to explode (but if ever given the opportunity, I’d suck it up and try it again.) I really struggle with math and puzzles and technical stuff (but I’m allowed to struggle with stuff, and it will give me that much more of a sense of accomplishment when I make some sort of stride.)

I have a terrible sense of direction. I burn a lot of things in the kitchen. I take things way too personally.  I have a tendency to sabotage relationships.  I’m an avoider. I trip over my words when I speak.

But I’m good at some stuff too!!!

And the stuff I’m bad at?  I can get better (indeed, the things in the realm of personal relations can and should continue to be addressed).  But the rest of it?  Who cares if I’m bad at bowling?  Who cares if I never did get the hang of stopping at the bottle of the ski-slope and basically just … fall .. to end my descent?  Who cares if Mike gets triple my score at Scrabble (if I’m being conservative)?

I want to be able to honestly say that I’m willing to do things badly.  To embrace the fact that I royally suck at something, and do it anyway, and then get better (or not!). I want to be able to make a fool of myself, and not let it ruin my day – or my week, or my life. I want to be able to screw up, and apologize, and then leave it the hell alone.  I want to be able to dive into life, like really DIVE, and not worry that I’ll get water up my nose, or that the top of my suit will fall off, or that I’ll get one of those seaweed things wrapped around my legs.   I want to dive into life full of its messiness, and its imperfections, and its foibles, and its beauty.  My God, it’s so beautiful!

I feel like I’ve missed it sometimes.  Because I’ve worried.  TOO MUCH.  I’ve worried too much and I’ve sequestered myself too much, and in a sick and twisted way, I’ve comforted myself with the very thing I was running from: self-loathing.  Like if I did it first, no one else could beat me to it, and screw you, you don’t get to call me out on all my stuff because I’m already doing it in spades, and you don’t get to make me feel bad about myself, because no one could ever make me feel more badly about myself than I already do.

I. Don’t. Want. To. Do. That. Anymore.

But it’s easier said than done!  That’s my answer for everything.  It’s not like I can write a tidy blog post, make a big proclamation, and ta da!  All better.  Because it doesn’t really work like that.  But what if….  what if it did?  What if it just took a decision?  What if I just tried?  What if, instead of pondering the “what if”s, I just did it.  Or YOU just did it.

Just stepped out of the box and into the light.  I’ve tried it the first way.  For 43 years I tried it the first way.

And living in the light looks a lot more fun.


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The One In Which I Tell Perfectionism To Take A Hike (Part One)

For your perusal, here’s a (partial) list of things I consider myself to be at least reasonably good at:

  • Being a mom
  • Writing
  • Drawing/Painting/General Crafty and Creative Stuff
  • Baking
  • Yoga

And here’s a (partial) list of things I consider myself to be spectacularly bad at:

  • Math
  • Scrabble/Sudoku/Really, any sort of puzzle game
  • Direction (Like, when I’m driving.  Or when it comes to knowing where I am. I’m not bad at taking direction.)
  • Not taking things personally
  • Healthy confrontation, or… any kind of confrontation
  • Relationships
  • Bowling
  • Most sports
  • Computer-y stuff beyond basic web-related stuff and Microsoft word
  • Making fried eggs
  • Keeping plants alive
  • Snorkeling
  • Skiing
  • Talking on the phone
  • Dealing with stress in healthy ways
  • Public speaking, and really… speaking in general

A few initial questions (that aren’t really to be answered, but just put out there into the cosmic void);

Why is my “bad” list so much longer than my good?  Why could I have kept on going indefinitely for the bad, and had to really search and struggle to come up with the five on my good list?  Is this really how I view and quantify my skills or lack of skills, or are they being filtered through a veil of depression (I know the answer to that)?  Does it really matter if I’m not good at bowling?  Do I have to be good at everything?  Who said I had to be good at everything, and why did that carry on into adulthood?

I have a point here, but it’s lost in a cloud of physical and mental fatigue at the present time.  Part two, tomorrow.


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Gratitude On The Four-Letter Days

I write in a journal daily, but that wasn’t always the case.  I started journal writing when I was old enough to hold a pencil, and have kept up the habit somewhat sporadically ever since.  I filled several in junior high, several in high school, and then just went in phases, sometimes skipping years at a time.  But at the beginning of this year (January 1st in fact, because I’m cheesy like that), I committed to daily writing again, and haven’t skipped a day yet.

Some days, I write multiple pages.  Some days I write a paragraph.  And some days….. some days all I can muster is a single word.  And it’s usually not a polite word.

Today’s a single word kind of day.  And I decided – in a flash of inspiration as I drove to CVS to get something the nine year old needed for a project – that I would counteract the day (both in my journal, and right now in this blog post) – with gratitude.  I do that sometimes on my personal Facebook page, but not with any real regularity.  And I should, because it helps.  It sounds very woo, and corny, and Oprah-esque, but there really is always something to be grateful for.

So I hereby give you my first four-letter-day gratitude list.  (And I encourage you to write your own!)  I’m listing five, for no other reason than the fact that it’s a nice tidy number.

1. New friends.  Of course, I’m grateful for old friends too, but today’s about new friends.

2. Familiarity.  You know how when you’re at your own house, everything’s just…. familiar?  I’m sitting in “my” spot on the couch. I’ve got my laptop on my lap. I hear the hum of the fan. I’m drinking tonic water (which became my “fancy” drink after I gave up alcohol) My daughter’s singing.  There are sounds of someone cooking in the kitchen. It feels familiar and it feels like home.

3. Technology.  This one’s a mixed bag, for sure, because I seem to spend just as much of my time frustrated with technology as I do enjoying it.  But Technology. Is. Amazing.  It allowed me to complete and submit all my schoolwork today (including a resume, the first one I’ve ever written).  It allowed me get about a million questions answered.  It allowed me to chat with a friend, on and off, for the entire day.  Technology helps my life to be better, fuller, and more convenient.

4. The desert. I never knew I’d enjoy the desert as much as I do, but the desert in general has become one of my favorite places.  The desert is my church.  Yesterday, we went for a nearly 8 mile hike, and came home exhausted, dusty… and clear-headed and relaxed.  Desert hikes are easily one of the best things about living in Phoenix.

5. Tomorrows.  Yes, we’re never guaranteed a tomorrow, but I like to think about tomorrows because 1) It’s just hopeful, and hope is good.  2) Tomorrow means I’m still here, and 3) Tomorrow is a new day, and a fresh start.

This is the quote that greets me when I open my bullet journal:

  “Courage doesn’t allows roar.  Sometimes it is the quiet voice at the end of the day, saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” ~ Mary Ann Radmacher


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6 Rules I’d Never Use For My Toddlers

  1.  I have evil friends who send me links to articles that they know I’ll want to refute, especially articles that are in list form.  I can never resist them.  They just make it too easy.  And,
  2. My obligatory disclaimer: This post is about ideas, concepts, and philosophies.  It is not an attack on an individual.  I don’t know the author of the original article.  In fact on a second look, I couldn’t even find an author credited.  It was published by a Montessori School.  They gave their point of view;  I’ll give mine.  It’s kind of how the internet works.

Having said that:

The article in question is one titled, Six Unusual Rules For Disciplining Your Toddler That Are Effective.  The author and I…. disagree.  🙂

I don’t have a toddler anymore (at the time of this writing, my youngest is 9), but I remember the toddler years very, very well.  The author and I do agree on one thing:  toddlers definitely require a very specific type of parenting.  But we part company on what that specific type of parenting might entail.  Toddlers need a ton of patience, a ton of understanding, and a ton of grace.  It is HARD to be 1. 2, 3 years old.  Their list, unfortunately, takes none of this into account.

Here are their six rules, and why I’d do things differently.

Rule #1: “If you’re in the room while I’m working, you need to work also.”

What’s the goal? As you complete your chores, your children should stop bothering you or help ….  Tell her she doesn’t have to help you, but she can’t just sit there and watch you; she must go in another room. She’ll have the option to help you with your chore and be with you or be by herself.

Oof.  This genuinely makes me sad.  First, kids (and toddlers especially!) love to be with their parents as they work, whether it’s on laundry, sweeping the floor, or making dinner.  They also generally love to “help” – help is in quotations only because a 12 month old unfolding your freshly folded laundry to put it in a new pile isn’t technically helping… but she sure feels proud about doing it!  As they get older, more able to follow directions, and more dexterous, they’ll enjoy helping in more and more ways.  And if they don’t want to help?  Maybe they just want to be with their parent.  Maybe they just enjoy your company.  Maybe they want to chat.  Good grief, let them!  Don’t banish them to another room. Life is short.  Time with your kids is precious and fleeting.  For real.  In a couple of months, my oldest “baby” is turning 21.

Perhaps one of the most disturbing parts about this point is when they say that this rule works because “she’s given a choice so she’ll feel as if she’s in control of the situation even though she’s really not.”  What’s described in this sentence is manipulation…. and manipulation of someone we love is never, ever a cool thing to do.

My alternative rule:  If you’re in the room while I’m working, you’re welcome to help.  If you don’t want to help, you’re welcome to just keep me company.

Rule #2: “You get whatever you get so don’t get upset.”

What’s the goal? It ends the bargaining over such things as the color sippy cup he gets, which kids TV character is on his paper plate, which sheets are on his bed, etc.

This is just being controlling for the sole sake of being controlling.  I ask you, seriously, WHY can’t your child have the sippy cup he wants, or the paper plate that he wants, or his preferred sheets on his bed?  The answer to that question generally lies somewhere in the vicinity of, “Because they need to learn that they can’t always get what they want!” And/or “Because they need to learn that life isn’t fair!”  Yes, sure.  We can’t always get what we want.  And life isn’t always fair.  But guess what?  These are lessons that life and circumstances will, unfortunately, teach them… ideally with you as the parent at their side to help them navigate.  You don’t need to actually CREATE harsh lessons for your kids just because you can!  On the contrary, home should be the safe space, the soft spot to fall, the place where you can drink from your favorite cup.  I have a favorite cup (actually I have several of them, depending on my mood, what I’m drinking, etc) and I always make sure to use it.  Am I so inflexible that I literally can’t muster up the emotional fortitude to drink out of another one if need be?  Of course not. But you guys:  we all have likes and preferences.  A favorite cup is such a simple, simple way to honor your kids’ likes and wishes and show them through that one small gesture – which feels like a BIG gesture – that you love them.

My alternative rule:  I will always try to listen to your needs, respect your requests, and YES… you can have the purple sippy cup.

Rule #3: “We aren’t going to argue about money.”

What’s the goal? Prevent your toddler from pleading and begging for things.

Here’s the thing about money (and I have been married for nearly 25 years and we have run the full gamut when it comes to our money situation):  There are three general scenarios when it comes to requests at the store.  1) Sometimes you simply don’t have the money for something.  You just don’t have it.  In which case, it’s entirely appropriate to tell your child, “I’m sorry, we can’t buy that today, but we can put it on your wishlist/get it next payday/save up for it”, whatever.  This is both honest and fair.  Might your child still be upset or disappointed?  Sure!  I’m sometimes upset and disappointed when something’s out of my price range too.  But you honor their feelings, you help them through it, and you move on.  2) Sometimes you do have the money, and you don’t want to part with it for some reason.  Maybe you’re judging how they want to spend it.  Maybe you want to spend it on yourself.  Maybe you just feel inconvenienced by the whole thing and saying “no” seems the simplest option.  If that’s the case, I’d gently suggest doing a little work to find out why you’re saying no.  Maybe you have a perfectly valid reason.  Or maybe you’re being a hypocrite who’s telling her child, “We’re not buying extras today,” at the very moment that you’re paying for your overpriced Trenta caramel iced coffee with an extra shot of espresso.  (True story) Getting at the “why” is important, for both of you.  3) You do have the money, and you say, “yes!”  This is honestly one of my simplest pleasures as a parent.  I love being able to be in the moment, and gift my kids with something that will make them happy…. whether a pack of gum, a cake pop from Starbucks, or more slime supplies from Hobby Lobby.  There is nothing wrong with saying yes to your kids.

Learning to say yes more often to my kids was one of the simplest, single most life-changing parenting decision I’ve ever made.  We are designed to want to give to those we love (in both tangible and non-tangible ways)  It feels good to give because it IS good to give!  It is a win-win for both parties.  The author’s takeaway from this point is, “The way this works is if she asks for you to buy, say, a toy then you say “yes” or “no” and nothing more.” I think my kids, even as young kids, are always deserving of honestly, the right to ask questions, and the right to a discussion.  (P.S.  A discussion isn’t the same thing as an argument.)

My alternative rule:  If we have the means, I will try to say “yes” to your requests as often as possible.  If I say, “no”, you are absolutely welcome to ask why, and I will always give you an honest answer.

Rule #4: “There isn’t any such phrase as ‘I’m bored’.”

What’s the goal? This teaches your small fry to entertain himself.

So, first of all, I have taken some long (LONG), required history classes in college with really, really dry teachers.  BOREDOM IS REAL.  Let’s just start there.  It’s not a bad thing to be bored (some great ideas sometimes manifest themselves out of boredom), nor is it a bad thing to help your child think of something to do to alleviate said boredom, if he desires that help.  We all get bored from time to time.  As adults, we’ll often say, “Hey, I’m bored.  Want to go for a walk, go see a movie, go get some frozen yogurt?” This rule is another example of expecting your child to be a robot, rather than a human being… AND expecting more of him than you do from adults.  People get bored!  It’s okay!  Your “small fry” will learn to entertain himself all on his own, all in his own time.  It’s controlling and cruel to tell him 1) that he’s not allowed to feel something 2) that the something he reports feeling doesn’t even exist, and 3) that you refuse to help him with the problem – if he does in fact, view it as a problem.  If one of my children announces that they’re bored (which they honestly don’t do all that often, mostly because they do know how to entertain themselves, despite my not having ever implemented rule #4) I’d ask if they wanted some help thinking of suggestions.  Oh and by the way, making your kids do chores when they’re bored – a popular suggestion in mainstream parenting – is also controlling, and cruel, and completely counter intuitive to actually helping them learn to navigate boredom in a healthy way.

My alternative rule:  If you’re feeling bored, feel free to ask me to help brainstorm.

Rule #5: “I’m not working after 8 pm.”

What’s the goal? It creates established bedtimes as well as time for yourself …Tell your little ones that a new rule has been developed by the U.S. Department of Labor that states you must not do any “mom” work after 8 pm. But hold firm to your conviction and pretend that it’s out of your control.

From the “It should go without saying” department:  Parenting is a 24 hour job.  I hate to break it to you.  Yes, time for yourself is important, and yes, as kids get older you’ll be able to have more flexibility in this area.  But when kids are little, especially when they are toddlers, they might need you at 9:00.  Or at midnight.  Or at 2:00 in the morning.  I’m really glad that this was a rule we never implemented in my family, because some of my favorite memories of the kids were snuggled up on the couch watching TV together, sitting around the kitchen table for endless amounts of time, piling in bed to watch a movie.  Chatting. laughing, having deep conversations.  I wouldn’t give any of it up, for any amount of missed sleep.  I’M THE MOM.  I’m always the mom, and I don’t stop being the mom just because the clock strikes a certain hour.

Also, telling “your little ones that a new rule has been developed by the U.S. Department of Labor that states you must not do any “mom” work after 8 PM” is a flat-out-unabashed lie.  Like manipulating, lying isn’t something you should do to people you love.  It’s just not.

My alternative rule:  I’m your mom 24 hours a day.  Full-stop.

Rule #6: “When you talk that way, I can’t understand what you’re saying.”

What’s the goal? It helps to stop screaming, rudeness and whining.

This is the only rule that I (kind of, sort of) agree with, only in the sense that it’s okay, and preferable, to set boundaries for yourself, and for how you’re treated.  But – and it’s a big but – just like adults, kids are allowed a full range of emotions, of feelings, and of opinions.  Sometimes strong feelings come out sideways (this does not just apply to kids).  Sometimes we whine when we’re upset (this does not just apply to kids).  Sometimes we say things in the heat of the moment that we might not otherwise say (this does not just apply to kids). And sometimes we take things out on the most convenient target, even if it’s someone we love (again… this does not just apply to kids).  We are HUMAN BEINGS, and we possess a giant array of feelings, of behavior, and ways of expressing ourselves. In a perfect world, we’d all behave politely and communicate maturely every second of every day.   But it doesn’t always work like that.  Which is where grace comes in.  Sometimes heaping amounts of grace.  Yes, setting boundaries is important, and yes, it’s absolutely okay to talk to your child – in much the same way you’d talk to an angry spouse or friend or family member – about their delivery (for lack of a better word).  But their feelings, like ALL their feelings, have validity.

Finally, the author says, “When toddlers do any of those things, they’re only looking for drama or attention.”  Maybe so.  But if they’re looking for attention in such a volatile way, perhaps it’s because they’ve failed to get it elsewhere.  Perhaps their “screaming, rudeness, and whining,” is in fact, a literal cry for help.  Behavior never exists in a vacuum.  Find out why it’s happening, and you can address your issue.   Ignoring your child, shutting him down, or insisting he stay quiet will ultimately only make the situation (and your relationship) worse.

Children are to be seen AND heard.

My alternative rule: Come to me when you’re upset, and we’ll figure it all out together.

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The article closes with this:

We’re sure there are more fantastic rules like these out there—or perhaps you can create some of your own. Yes, it’s true that some of these (or maybe all) aren’t really rules but rather an announcement of policies in your home. Either way, whatever you call them, they’re sure to make your life (and your toddler’s) go a bit smoother.

Sure, it’ll make your life go a bit smoother if your goal is to have quiet, compliant, obedient children.  But if you want to have…. REAL children?  Children who feel valued, and confident, and loved?  Children who know who they are, who own their feelings, who stand up for what’s right? Children who are capable of healthy and genuine connections with their parent/s and with the people around them?  You might consider doing the exact opposite.


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Clocking Out

Solely for the cuteness factor

It’s been such a week. With the exception of my little adventure yesterday, and maybe the time… nope, that’s it, just my little adventure yesterday… it’s been a highly stressful, highly emotional, highly anxiety provoking week.  And I’m tired.

Today I spent the day – the whole damn day – working on school work.  If you’re reading this and are unaware, I went back to school to study psychology this past summer.  I was really selective about who I told in the beginning, mainly because of bubble-bursters, but it’s not really a secret.  I went back to school, and it’s an adjustment, and I love it and it’s hard and it’s scary and it’s stressful and it’s liberating…. all at the same time.

But I don’t really want to talk about school.  I just wanted to clarify that it is ME who is going to school, because I got a comment a few posts back asking, “If you’re an unschooler, then why do you have a planner with lesson plans in it?”  I have a planner with lessons in it because I’m in school.  My kids are not.

So to sum up:

I had a hard week.

I worked on school work all day.

I’m very tired.

It’s 7:00 at night, and we’ve announced a yoyo dinner (I totally just googled whether or not that was a universal phrase or something just my family used, because it occurred to me that I didn’t know.) The Google says that lots of people use it.  Anyway, I finished my school work, it’s yoyo for dinner, and I. Am. Done.  I would actually go to bed right now, except that I am already waking up way too early and going to bed at 7:00 wouldn’t help in that regard.  Also, the two younger boys are in Tucson with friends, and won’t be home until very late.  As any mother can tell you, I won’t be able to really sleep until they’re safely home anyway.

So, I’m just clocking out.  I’m washing my face and putting on my Snoopy pajama pants and I’m reading a book.  Not a school book, or a book that I’m reviewing for my blog, or a book that tells me how to be a better me, but just a book-book: with drama and intrigue and pages and pages of escape-from-real-life bliss.  I might read it in the bath tub.  I don’t drink anymore, but maybe I’ll make myself some tea.  Maybe I’ll go all out and light a candle.

And just like yesterday, I know it doesn’t actually fix anything, but it’s still a piece.  A piece in the intricate web of self-care that has for some reason found itself unraveling as of late.

I’ll be okay.


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