Thursday, May 26, 2016

Say NO to Martyrdom and YES to Modeling a Healthy, Happy Life

This meme, and many others that are similar, spreads a small nugget of truth about the deep love parents have for their children, but also imbues several unhealthy scripts.

Do me a favour. Do yourself a favour. Do your children, and really our society overall, a favour.

Stop spreading this codependent, covert narcissistic, faux martyr crap.

Your children need you to model a healthy ego, strong boundaries, and respect for your body/mind/soul. They rely on you to show them how to live a balanced life. They look up to you to show them their inherent worth and value, and what it means to give to others, and how to do that in a loving and healthy way.

In situations of severe circumstances, in moments of sheer survival will we give our lives? Absolutely. Will we sacrifice when we have no other choice? Unquestioningly.

But, that's very different from overlaying your entire life with the unproductive anxiety of surviving as a theme. This is a disservice to developing children, who are creating life long scripts that teach them how relationships work and what is expected of them in society.

We want our children to thrive, not merely survive. We want our children to give, and to help, and to be a part of society in a healthy and productive way, not in a codependent or passively controlling way.

So today, I challenge you. Turn away from these small societal scripts that encourage mothers harm themselves as a form of love. And instead, commit to doing something for yourself. With a smile. Openly talk about it with your children.

Show your children that practicing self-care skills leads to a balanced life, giving you more opportunities to care for others and to make this world a better place. Point out your self-care today as an example that critical thinking and problem solving can create a family atmosphere where all family members are valued and have their needs met.

Emphasize an abundance principle. When we choose martrydom, we are sending a non-verbal message that our families don't have enough. Enough resources, enough food, enough love, enough time, enough energy. We are communicating to our children that someone has to lose for others to have basic human needs fulfilled. And we are communicating that the person who must consistently lose is the one who carries the least value.

Stop. And think about this. Especially if you have a daughter and you dream of a future where your daughter becomes a mother. You are specifically telling your daughters that the least valued person in a family and society is a mother. While simultaneously hoping she gets to experience motherhood in her future if she so chooses.

Today, break the motherwound. Cast off the artificial guilt game. Open up the windows to the family emotional home. Show your children that all people can be valued, loved, and fulfilled in a family. Sit down, brainstorm. Think positively about each person and how needs and dreams can be matched together or organized so that it works in your individual family.

Don't forget to include your partner/spouse in this transformation. All of these concepts I'm writing about have always applied to marriage. In fact, as you spend time thinking about these concepts, you might start to realize that this dynamic begins in your romantic relationship and slowly seeped into your motherhood with your children. Don't shy away from that, you can make conscious change in that area, too.

When you start to hear those cycling scripts of motherwounding and martyrdom, look at them straight in the face. When you are cleaning the dishes and muttering about how no one else cares and you're the only one who cleans. Stop. Stop doing the dishes. Step back. And ask yourself, "What do I need?" Pay attention. Close your eyes. Listen to your emotional temperature. Think back through the day (or other recent events in the past weeks and months) and start to see the connections between your human needs and your feeling of martyrdom.

Once you see it, you can't unsee it. Now it's up to you to choose to value yourself and to meet your needs. Yes, the dishes will still need to be washed. But, somehow when you've taken care of the basics and even spent a little time on the big dreams, doing those dishes goes back to feeling like a mother's privilege and a service of joy.

Take the challenge today. You have nothing to lose but negativity, resentment, sadness, guilt, and unhappiness.

Here are some ideas if you are in a harder stage of motherhood, such as post-partum, special needs, single/solo parenting. I know from experience that some days are so hard, and so dreary, that even the smallest and most trivial things seem as if they are 100 miles away from your reality.

Brush your hair slowly and do a simple style
Wash your face and steam with a hot washrag
Oil pull for 5 minutes with coconut oil or sesame oil
Paint your nails w/ a natural polish such as Zoya.
Bonus: sit down and paint your nails with your kids such as w/ Piggy Paint.
Spend 1 minute exercising. Do 10 jumping jacks, 10 squats, 5 pushups and 5 lunges. This will bring oxygen to your brain, release endorphins, and stimulate your lymph system which is especially helpful for those who are breastfeeding.
Read something new today. A medical study. A brief article. A short story. A poem. A comic.
Spend 15 minutes outside in high sun (10am-1pm). No sunglasses.

Why it's crucial to heal the motherwound

7 nontoxic fingernail polishes

Will I ever be good enough? Healing from narcissism in the family.

Here lies the mother with the cleanest house

What's your excuse?

Monday, May 2, 2016

Beachfront Baby Wrap Review

Babywearing is one of the enjoyable past times as a parent. Besides being functional, the versatility and style of carriers adds to the experience. You can purchase beautiful silky ring slings for a special wedding. Or a durable SCC with pockets everywhere for a long day at an amusement park.

What many parents still don't realize is that you can purchase carriers for water and sports/exercise. Or even just for easy co-showering at home!

Beachfront Baby provided their classic babywrap to me for review. I was excited to learn that it's from recycled materials! Innovative and functional always gives me goosebumps!

For parents who are unfamiliar with the reasons to babywear around and in water, these are the direct benefits you'll experience with a Beachfront Babywrap:

Safety. Small infants are slippery when wet! They are squirmy and they are quiet in water. In an instant, a small infant could be under the water, yes, including right in front of your eyes. While holding an infant in your arms, you might absentmindedly droop or lean over, and again, the baby could instantly aspirate water without you realizing it. (This can happen during water births, too! As a side note.) A waterwrap used correctly will keep your baby up higher, closer to your chest and face where you can watch carefully, and keep your baby secure even when wet.

Safety again. For parents who are watching more than one child, a waterwrap is a must. I actually consider it a necessity for safe water play. If you're busy holding onto your infant, your eyes are averted from your active children. When your baby is wrapped up high by your chest/face and secure, you have your arms and eyes free to keep your other children safe.

Sun coverage. The lightweight fabric although not UV resistant can still provide breathable and cool coverage in the sun.

Ability to regulate temperature. Especially during the earlier part of the season, little babies and cold bodies of water don't mix well! You can warm your carrier in the sun and then wrap your baby up high, allowing you to be in the water while your baby is dry and comfortable. Baby is getting hot? Just dip down into the water and you've got an instant cooling method as the material works much like sports clothes.

Nursing comfort and cover. I'm an advocate of NIP in whatever way is comfortable for you. A waterwrap can quickly provide a little coverage for breastfeeding poolside. It also lets you breastfeed hands-free while your baby is covered and sitting in comfort. And this makes napping effortless, too, as your baby can fall asleep right there after nursing and stay chest to chest for added security. This is a great bonus during busy events that can stress small babies such as going on vacation or spending all day at a loud, busy venue.

Beachfront Baby includes an adorable matching bag with their carriers. Everything is the right size to squeeze into the pocket of a diaper bag or purse. I especially love this part because it helps keep your carrier clean and preserves its life while on the go!

The only downside is one I've had to honestly note about all long woven carriers and moby wraps. When you're using a full size wrap, you'll often have a learning curve. It's not a style all parents appreciate. Some parents specifically want the flexibility and adjustability of a full size wrap. It will fit any body type and can do a variety of carries, including hip and back (and even tandem: twin carries.) If a full size wrap is not for you, Beachfront Baby also offers a ringsling with the same material. You can see all their styles and colours in their shop.

If you're looking for another versatile, stylish, and helpful carrier to add to your collection, consider a Beachfront Baby wrap. As someone who has used waterwraps with all four of my children, I definitely recommend owning one, especially if you're going to spend time in and around water during the summer. Drowning remains one of the leading causes of death for children up to age 4, and the majority of deaths occur in residential pools, with the next location being public pools and public bodies of water. You can never be too safe when it comes to infants/small children and water. The sun protection, convenience, and style are simply additional benefits!

From May 11th-20th, readers can use promo code guggie16 to receive 10% off at the Beachfront Baby store here.

Friday, March 11, 2016

When moms feel worthless and unproductive in society

"Of all the rights of women, the greatest is to be a mother." ~Lin Yutang
Photography by Erica Lynn Wolf Photography

One of the hard things about being a SAHP (stay at home parent) is the sense of isolation and drudgery. Our society has not done a good job at emphasizing the importance of every day service work for the smallest members of our family.

Sometimes, simply gestating for the day, or offering the breast to your toddler 100x a day, or playing Mommy Cat and Baby Kitten for 3 hours with your preschooler is one of the biggest achievements you've reached for the day.

Over and over, a mom comes to me and says, "Guggie, help me. I feel so lowly. I feel so useless. I feel unproductive and unworthy. I spent 12 hours today feeling completely exhausted yet completely bored. As I went to bed, I looked around me and realized I didn't even do the dishes. I'm failing. I'm not helping anyone. I'm not doing anything with my life."

Danialle Beck breastfeeding her toddler. We call this "gymnurstics.
Superheroes are a prominent theme in our society. Supergiving. Superloving. Supersized everything when it comes to charity and altruism. On social media, we applaud the people who carefully outline the major accomplishments they've reached for those who are impoverished or differently abled. Touching videos with matching music move us to tears daily.

The mom continues in her tearful message to me. "What have I done with my life? I'm worthless. I'm a drain to society. I can't even make my husband a meal when he gets home at night. I can't even show up on time to a volunteer event at my child's school."

Society forgot something important. Our society forgot that sometimes the most heroic action of all is the daily, diminutive act of service. It's actually easy to be a superhero. It's easy to give a big donation to a charity and snap a photo of your check for instagram. It's exciting and fulfilling to bring pizza to homeless strangers, shake their hands and smile while your friend youtubes it. It's satisfying to receive praise from thousands of strangers online while you show off your invention.

But, behind closed doors? When your 3 year old is screeching and you want to screech back? And you manage to grit your teeth? That's heroic.

When your entire body is aching and you haven't slept longer than an hour at a time for the last month, and you cheerfully play hide and seek with your preschoolers? That's being a superhero.

When your baby wakes up at night scared and alone, and you want to run screaming from the house but instead take a deep breath and offer your breast-your literal body- for the service of a little person who has zero concept of gratitude? That's amazing.

Your heroism is in the thousands of times you wipe a butt. Your altruism is in the millions of times you reassure a scared toddler. Your courage is in the hundreds of pounds of food, vomit, snot, poop, and dog food that you clean up off the floor every day. Your productivity is spending years. Literally, YEARS, painstakingly working on one of the most important, detailed, integral aspects of society's success: raising a human being to be empathetic, to be lovable and to love others, to be educated, to be fit and healthy, and to be a functioning part of this world.

IF you're getting ready to go to bed convinced that you are a useless burden to society, it's time to take a second look at what you're doing with your very body, breasts, and years of unconditional service.

You're a superhero. Your children know this.

It's time for you to believe it, too.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Don't get hitched to your OB/Midwife!

When people ask me if I could give one piece of advice, or one food for thought that could help the most expecting mothers. When women demand, "But, what do I REALLY need to know?" "What is the best thing I can do???"

Here's my answer.

Don't marry your doctor. Or midwife. Nurse. Or MIL.
The role changes, but the song is the same. When you're determined to emotionally attach yourself to this person and defend this person, then you will be unable to care for yourself and your baby.

I know that deep down women know this. Because they come to me, and they ask for help. They ask for another opinion. They ask for more ideas. But then when I suggest something or probe to learn about what HAS been tested/researched, I get the marriage statements.

"Oh. Oh, well, he's WONDERFUL. He's the best!"
"I'm sure she did all that. She's really smart."
"I have a GREAT OB. I couldn't think of doing all that stuff. I'm in good hands."
"My naturopath is amazing."
"Uh, I don't know if I can do that. I'll see if he will let me."
"But, if I do that, she would be so disappointed."
"I can't leave him! He's been with me since I got pregnant!"
"I could never do that. It's betrayal."

DO NOT MARRY THEM. They are EMPLOYEES who WORK FOR YOU. And if they aren't working for YOU and YOUR BABY'S ABSOLUTE best interest, then tell them. IF they don't respond apologetically, then fire them.

The victim/abuser cycle plays out in our lives in every relationship all around us until WE say no. If you're having second thoughts, if you're realizing your options are limited, if you're noticing that your standards are violated, then WALK AWAY. You are not married to this person. Demand better. Raise the rent, kick them out. You and YOUR BABY are worth it.

My toddler figured it would be helpful if I brushed my teeth.
I suppose the cute doulas don't need to be kicked out. ;)


Stop mothering your care provider

Our bodies are not defective

5 signs of a controlling assistant

Friday, January 1, 2016

5 New Year's Resolutions Without Dietary Restriction or Food Shaming

It's that time of the year again. Once again, people all over take stock of their physical health and emotional happiness, then commit themselves to new diets and new exercise programs. And nothing is inherently wrong with that. But, as I listen to the same complaints over and over again, I can't help wondering if other resolutions are more effective.

Defaulting to dietary restrictions, shame-based scripting, and intense exercise programs can give us a sense that we are improving. And maybe even give some people the sense that they are paying for their sins and beating themselves back into health.

I've noticed something interesting, though. When a person is surrounded by toxicity in all areas of her life, she transfers all of the anxiety, shame, loss of control, and fear onto food.

She might be disconnected from the people around her and lacking stimulating, intimate friendships. But, SUGAR! Sugar is BAD. If she cuts out all sugar, she will feel better. This constipation, weight gain, and mysterious fatigue is caused by SUGAR.

She might be in a stagnant romantic relationship. She's often living with a verbally or physically abusive spouse. But, it is this DARN GMO FOOD! She determines that cutting GMOs, nay, cutting all grains, is what will help her anxiety, insomnia, IBS, and brain fog.

She might be living a sedentary life, mostly indoors, eating food at stressful and odd times around a work schedule or children. She doesn't have hobbies, she doesn't have fun. In fact, she has somewhat of a disdainful tone when discussing "those women" who have fun. She's decided she needs to cut her calories in half and go on GAPS because her hair is falling out in clumps, her voice is hoarse, her skin is dry, and she has no sexual libido.

I could go on, but wanted to provide a brief snapshot of the most common scenarios brought to me. Let's make something clear before everyone raises the point. Of course, FOOD matters. Of course, DIET is connected to our physical and mental health. OF COURSE.

The problem as I see it, is that people are cyclically entering restrictive diets, and establishing shame and blame to stay in the diet (this is all my fault, I don't have strong will power, I eat too much bad food, I'm not being natural enough). And not caring for any other part of their life. Even using diet as a form of escapism to ignore their lives all the more.

So, here are 5 New Year's Resolutions that don't involve going on a diet, removing food groups, or shaming eating and food.

1. This year, resolve to write a letter to a loved one once a month. Put it on the calendar. Buy a pack of stamps. And commit to writing one connecting, intimate letter to one person every month. Be prepared for a new sense of intimacy, connection, and care from the ones who receive your letters. In fact, whether or not you receive a letter back, you will find yourself feeling more connected simply by devoting time to thinking about another person and organizing those thoughts onto paper.

2. Dedicate yourself to earthing daily for 10 minutes in nature. Did you shake your head in disbelief? Daily? Nature? If you can remove entire primary food groups from your diet, you can step outside barefoot for 10 minutes every day. Walk around in the woods. Wander along a creek. Climb up a hill or trail. Yes, barefoot. Yes, in the rain and cold. Over leaves, rocks, and uneven terrain. Whether or not you believe in the growing list of benefits related to putting your bare skin against the earth, on a purely biological level, this forces your brain to renew and regulate the nervous system. This in turn will stimulate your brain, which means a feeling of awareness, reduced sensation of fatigue, reduced brain fog, and potentially long term benefits such as reducing your risk of neurological diseases. Consider it a crossword puzzle for your feet.

3. Make it your 2016 goal to hug loved ones when arriving and leaving. Usually, kids are covered already as parents try hard to make sure they provide affection. Sometimes, even that has been lost in the chaos of work and school. Dedicate yourself to firmly and fully giving out a hug every time you say hello and goodbye to a loved one. If you're having trouble implementing this habit for your children, consider adding the car routine. Give a hug every time the child climbs into the car, and give a hug every time as the child leaves the car. Physical affection regulates cortisol and the adrenals, and therefore the entire endocrine system. It also releases endorphins in the brain, regulating neurotransmitters. It builds relationships quickly and simply through oxytocin. And it slows you down to remember to connect with others. Hugging is a potent medicine.

4. Participate in an event, class, meeting, etc monthly that is related to something you enjoy. Yes, this means getting out of the house. You can do it, and the benefits make the initial discomfort worth it. It's one thing to read about your passion, to talk about it online, or to enjoy it alone in your home. It's another thing to reach out to others and share it with the world. Take the initiative. Join a local club. Sign up for a community class. Heck, just find a few likeminded friends to casually meet at the park while the kids play. Encourage yourself to connect with others on a shared interest. Your knowledge will grow, your brain will grow, your life will grow. A monthly event incorporates all of the factors that keep isolation and depression at bay. You anticipate, you plan, you set goals, you connect with others, you learn new things, and you deepen your personal identity.

5. Select two real primary health goals for the new year. This year, make it real. If you're suffering from chronic fatigue, rashes, dry skin, hair loss, menstrual problems, organ symptoms, hormonal complaints, neurological or emotional symptoms, etc, commit to selecting two main issues and seeking out concrete assistance. Get complete lab panels for a clear picture. Look at actual treatment protocols. A legitimate protocol will have these main elements: diagnosis, definition of the disease, prognosis, specific treatments, and estimated time to resolution. Don't fall into the habit of guessing, trying out random dietary changes or herbal protocols for an indefinite amount of time, and being unable to see measurable change.

Nail down your complaints. Look at them directly. Is it transference? Is it anxiety about a toxic relationship? Is it an unfulfilled and sedentary life? Is it detachment and isolation? If you've set aside the cognitive defense mechanisms and you're seeing persistent, troubling symptoms, take care of yourself fully. Sometimes it's as simple as getting a small prick on the finger and learning that your vitamin D levels are low. You can cut sugar until the sun doesn't shine, or avoid all the "junk" food on the planet, but that will not miraculously cure actual maladies. Make 2016 a year of concrete changes.

Consider planting a garden with family and friends this year. It will easily incorporate
many of the tips here, such as connecting with others and spending time in nature. (Remember to go barefoot!)
Bonus: it will let you enjoy a bit of your dietary urges because you can plant non-Gmo, organic foods.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Is Your Child Being Gaslighted? Watch Out!

This is the second part in the child abuse series. You can read about grooming here.

Gaslighting is a potent, but often obscure form of psychological abuse. The term comes from a popular movie, Gaslight. In the movie, the husband slowly and progressively gains psychological control of his wife by employing various mental techniques that lead her to doubt herself, become isolated, and eventually feel as if she is going insane. Altogether, these techniques are referred to as the process of gaslighting.

Because gaslighting can be very slight and insidious, many people are unsure how to identify it and how to prevent it so as to protect their children. Like its sister, Grooming, adults often use gaslighting techniques routinely for a variety of non-violent reasons.

The problem is, even if Grams or the kindly neighbor down the street are falling into gaslighting behaviors innocently, the patterns set up in early childhood can leave a lasting impression on your child, creating a vulnerability for future cycles of abuse.

“Gaslighting occurs when a person you trust to tell you the truth about reality, is, in fact, bending reality with lies. When this happens consistently over a period of time it causes you to question your sanity.” (Anna Valerious, Narcissists Suck)
“Gaslighting is a form of mental abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making a victim doubt his or her own memory, perception and sanity.” (Theodore L. Dorpat, “Gaslighting, the Double Whammy, Interrogation, and Other Methods of Covert Control in Psychotherapy and Analysis“)

So, what is it, exactly? In as short a summary as possible, gaslighting is the method of making a person doubt herself and trust the person more than herself. This can involve rewriting history, implanting fake memories or distorting memories. It can involve questioning her motives and emotions or invalidating them. It can be as slight but profound as making her think she can't trust what she saw or heard with her own eyes and ears.

And although doing this to children might come from non-violent or even well meaning intention, as you're realizing, this is a precarious foundation for a child. We want to raise children who can trust their inner compasses, who can rely on their instincts, and who can accurately process what they see, hear, feel, and sense in the world around them.

The Primary Method

When it comes to small children, the primary method of gaslighting is emotional invalidation. Emotionally invalidating small children is a simple and fast way to gain control over or compliance from them. When you hear someone emotionally invalidating your child, it's a safe assumption that gaslighting has just occurred or is occurring.

"Chin up, Bud! I was only teasing."

"Hey, don't cry now. I didn't say anything mean. There's no reason to cry."

"You're not mad at him. He was only playing. Don't be immature."

"Why are you scared? It's just a mask."

"That means he has a crush on you! It didn't cause any blood anyways."

If you hear emotionally invalidating statements, quickly place yourself in the situation. Get down to your child's level, make gentle physical contact and gentle eye contact. Ask your child for details and listen closely. When you hear underlying emotions, pinpoint them, name them, and remind the child it's ok to feel them. Point out boundaries if they are involved. For example, "Whether or not Timmy likes you, it's never right to push you on the ground. Next time, tell him to stop and find an adult if he keeps chasing you."

The Secondary Method

The second process of gaslighting children will usually instantly sort out who is benevolent and who is planning to intensely abuse your children. This method might not be a common or frequent danger, but when it happens, it's time to take careful notice. It's the process of creating an alternate reality, often with emotional connection or emotional intimacy to the adult projecting the false reality.

Adults who do this for non-violent reasons typically are only using your child for basic emotional feeding. This is lightly related to objectifying people as "emotional supplies" in other topics such as dealing with personality disordered abusers. By creating and projecting a reality to your child, the person creates an artificial level of intimacy for bonding. This is very similar to the grooming technique that sexual abusers use, to create the "special secret" that only the abuser and the child know. The adult gets to "feed" off the positive emotions of the child, receiving joy, happiness, excitement, attention, love, and affection from the child in exchange for the projected false reality.

Wanting the child to participate in traditions, rituals, games or other "fun" play that is covertly imbued with a sense of reality is the main sign of secondary gaslighting. The important note here is that although the adult is playing a game, (or the adult justifies the method by telling other adults he's playing a game), the child is groomed to accept it as reality. Santa is real. Animals are really talking at night. Leaving food out for the Elves actually keeps them from turning evil. Etc, etc.

Signs of the second method include:

High levels of details about a tradition or ritual. So, it's not merely a fun game about Santa, but a careful description of who he is, what he will do in your home, how the child has to behave, where Santa lives...

A sense of secrecy, privacy, and intimacy. It's a special game just between your child and the adult. Others who "don't believe" have been tricked by a "bad" character in the game, or are lacking virtue (faith, hope, innocence...). Other adults can't be trusted to tell the truth or will try to convince your child to give up belief. The child might be encouraged to keep secrets or hide details from other adults and children.

Behavioral-based or focused. This might be when many parents start to notice something is happening. The child's behavior changes. The child might be scared to sleep at night because the elves are moving around in her room. Or the child tries to be "good" to earn the promised rewards. A sign that the person doing the gaslighting might have abusive plans is when the behavior involves the adult. For example, the child has to obey the adult. The child has to shower the adult with affection. "Give me a hug, remember, that's what good girls do!"

Breeds mistrust and doubt. The child starts to have trouble deciding what is real and what is not. Who is trustworthy, who is not. The child often begins to doubt himself, wondering if his senses work or if he's remembering things correctly. If another child or adult shares information contrary to the artificial reality, the child gets upset or anxious. If you try to affirm your child, you might realize your authority and trust is already eroded, and the child has already been warned that you are lying.

Includes other people. To help fortify an artificial reality, the adult will often enlist other cooperative people to prove to your child that she can't trust her own senses. This also creates a sense of isolation in the child, as she begins to think everyone else agrees and no one else has a different perspective. If you see other people playing along, the situation is probably pretty advanced at this point.

Combating these forms of gaslighting can be very difficult. They are slow, progressive, often hidden forms of manipulation. Adults from all walks of life and in all positions can use these techniques on your children. In the classroom, church nursery, at playdates, while babysitting, at family reunions.

As the child goes through the bonding process and her boundaries are broken down by the adult, she not only has trouble trusting her own instincts, but can then be taught to ignore or despise the input from other children and adults, namely you: the parent.

Once you've lost your position as a trustworthy ally, it can be a long and hard fight to save your child from this level of enmeshment. Although often times, this cycle is non-violent, such as a well-meaning Grandma trying to make Christmas "fun" for your kids, there are times where gaslighting is used deliberately to gain control of your child for additional abuse.

If this involves the adults in your life, the additional abuse might even be intended for you. For example, once the adult has broken down the natural barriers your child has, and gained control of him, he might then use the child to abuse you, and continue abuse that you experienced in your own childhood. You can read more about it here and here.

With your child isolated and artificially enmeshed with this adult, it leaves your child vulnerable to sexual abuse, emotional abuse/scapegoating, psychological manipulation, and more. It can also mean the child is forced to witness abuse of other children and told to keep it a secret. Sometimes, the witnessed abuse is woven into the story. For example, the adult might physically abuse another child in front of your child, then explain that the Elves told the adult to do it because the other child was misbehaving.

Whenever you notice gaslighting techniques, confront the person immediately. The sooner you confront gaslighting, the less damage your child can experience. This also sends a warning to the other adult(s) that you are watchful and will intervene. Ways to combat gaslighting:

Expose your child to a variety of beliefs, ideas, cultures, and people.
Encourage exploration and child-led fantasy, not adult-created stories.
Encourage your child to question the world around her and inside of her.
Find opportunities to affirm him and his impressions, beliefs, and conclusions.
Play the memory game, where she discusses a memory as SHE remembers it and you affirm it.
Spend time emotionally validating your child daily, accepting his emotions, especially tough ones. 
Promote a sense of authentic intimacy with caregivers, family, and friends so the child has his heart filled and isn't eagerly searching for someone.
Explain the difference between a surprise and a secret.
Create a word or gesture to share when the child wants to play fantasy and make something "real" instead of trying to convince the child it isn't real.
Deconstruct the projected reality with information. Research the history of traditions and rituals. Watch movies together, read books, attend cultural events.
Emphasize healthy disagreement versus control and overriding another person. Model healthy ways to hold many viewpoints and to respect input from other people. Remind your child that she can hold onto her own memory, her own emotions, her own viewpoints even in the face of controversy, and even when a bigger, stronger, smarter, adult disagrees with her. 

More resources on gaslighting:

Techniques and description

Repairing afterwards

Connection to narcissism

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

When Marriage isn't Beautiful

I know I'm not qualified to talk about marriage because my husband and I are coming up on 8 years. We've been friends since we were kids and we were highschool sweethearts, but the rough road only started 8 years ago. It's hardly a drop in the bucket.

But, I did want to get this off my chest because I've had a couple people mention how "beautiful" our relationship looks to them. Ha. On the outside.

Let me tell you something about marriage, or at least our marriage, although I suspect this is a generally true situation for most things worth experiencing in life.

It's not beautiful. It's not amazing. It's not a breath of fresh air or some lovely daydream.

Marriage is about walking into a person's deepest, darkest nightmares. Freely. Yeah! You make a public agreement to do this! It's about choosing every day to stand by that person's side.

Love isn't fun like an umbrella drink on the beach. Love isn't fresh and pampering, as if you've found someone to fulfill your every whim or make your life easier.

It's hard, sweaty, dirty, even scary work.

It's about going into the darkest part of your heart, something few people want to do on their own. And then INVITING another person into that room! It's about someone holding your hair while you vomit into the toilet. And not a clean toilet. It's about staying up all night with a toddler who refuses to wear a diaper, but wants to keep peeing in the bed. It's about the one thousandth time you asked your spouse to please close the drawer so the baby doesn't get into it, and the next morning, the drawer is open.

Marriage takes the absolutely worst, dreariest, boring, annoying, ugly parts of you and puts them on crystal clear, hi-def directly in the other person's face! And for them, the same to you!

When you're leaning against the edge of the birth pool, screaming that you can't and that you hate him, that's marriage. When he's worked 30 hours of overtime and makes monosyllable grunting noises then falls asleep, that's marriage. Watching your partner experience negative emotions, and make poor choices is marriage. Watching her age, watching her suffer, that's marriage. When the house is wrecked and the kids are screaming and fighting and you wish you could go eat at a fancy restaurant but you dig into leftovers, that's marriage. There's nothing glam about it, because the purpose isn't to make you look better or to get you what you want at the expense of your family.

Every twisted scar, every childhood wound, every dirty secret, is in some horrible way, a gift to the other person. And marriage comes into play because you've seen it all. You've bared it all and you've seen it all. You've been through everything from the awkward to the uncomfortable. You've said goodbye to loved ones, you've heard her sob in the middle of the night over a pregnancy loss, you've seen him walk in the door with a gaunt look on his face and known something was wrong. And you keep walking side by side through it all.

People are quick to say they would die for their loved ones. They would take a bullet. They would say, "Choose me" to the bad guy, to save their partner or children. They would go on a secret mission to save the world. They would be a hero.

And what they forget is that real love is dying a little every day in obscure and minute ways. In ways that no one else sees. You don't get medals for quietly doing the laundry when you'd rather be working on a personal project. You don't get medals for going to work every day to support your family. People don't stand on the side of the road and cheer for you after you've wiped the ten thousandth snotty nose and tucked your child in for the millionth time. When you make the choice to calm your ego and respond to an irritable partner with respect, no one sees in your home. When you clasp his hand in the middle of the night and choose to be there for him after a hard day, no one cheers you on for losing more sleep.

Love rarely requires us to be heroes and heroines. Hardly anyone is in the movies. Instead, we're living out the real deal of life. It comes with a steady drip drip drip of expectations, and those expectations aren't pretty. It's about looking at our own imperfections. Admitting we have imperfections, and spending every day working on them, asking the people who deserve the most from us to forgive us yet again.

And somehow at the end of the day when ever fiber of your being has tried it's hardest to keep mothering and keep cleaning and keep breastfeeding and he walks in the door grumpy and tired, marriage is the choice to walk over to him, and squeeze his sweaty, stinky, dirty, tired, scarred body close to your sweaty, stinky, dirty, tired, scarred body, and whisper that you missed him. That you love him.

Because somehow, despite all of this parenting and partnering being the hardest thing in your life. Despite feeling the drip drip drip of every day tearing apart at the selfishness in your soul, despite opening every square inch of your heart and baring yourself in all your imperfections...this is the best thing you've ever done. It's soul-twisting, heart-wrenching, bone-wearying work raising a family and solidifying a marriage. It doesn't come with parades and medals or immediate success. You can't even be sure you will make it. But, you know deep down it's the most valuable thing in your life. So you keep going.

It's a lot of things. But, fun, fresh and airy, pretty? Those aren't the right words.

Happy Anniversary, Hon. Here's hoping for the gift of eight more years, then eighteen and onwards.

I know I'm not qualified to talk about marriage b/c my husband and I are coming up on 8 years. Hardly a drop in the...
Posted by The Guggie Daily on Saturday, August 15, 2015