Thursday, December 25, 2014

Why I'm Glad She Expects More Gifts

Sometimes I feel as if I am the only one going the other direction when it comes to small children and their egos, worldview, and self-images.

Since it's Christmas season, we're generally seeing a slew of articles on how to MAKE our children be grateful, humble, and unselfish. You can quickly find plenty of articles telling you how to reduce, how to minimize, how to repress, and overall how to deliberately change the hearts and minds of your children. The message is clear: children NEED you to change them or they won't turn out "good" by societal standards.

Meanwhile, before Christmas, Dear Daughter (DD) snuck into the closet to "oh and ah" at all the wrapped gifts. I was watching her quietly. She then counts only two gifts with "her" wrapping paper. I pause, don't say anything. She mulls it over, then she declares, "All the rest of mine must be hiding behind that stack because I know you're getting me tons of gifts."

And you know what? I was cheering for her in my heart. I teared up at the situation. I know it was a tiny glimpse, but it was precious to me, to know that my little child automatically ASSUMED she was being given an abundance and that she was SURE the universe had more for her.

Right away, I know parents out there are already confused or even judgmental about this, asking how in the world she's going to show empathy for others, or how she's going to withstand difficulties in life.

Here's the thing...knowing her...if she only opens two gifts, she will turn to her stocking and be happy about how full it is, or turn to the "all kids" gifts and be excited about games to play with her siblings. Life cannot "beat her down" because in her heart she is SURE that she is loved. She doesn't have those damaging, insidious scripts that many of us adults carry around from our childhoods, such as, "I got hurt because it's what I deserved" or "Life is hard because I'm not worth anything."

What I've come to realize is that those who have the inherent expectation that they are good, worthy, and that abundance is coming their way will not only weather the tough spots in life better, but they will somehow *find* what they expect out of the world and from others. It's a contradiction, similar to what we see with attachment parenting. The more you GIVE to your children, the more you fill up their cups, the more they are able to be that humble/grateful/unselfish person that society demands. Whereas, people who feel deprived, denied and neglected end up feeling too much pain and neediness to easily help others. They are too busy licking their wounds to spread goodness to others.

I was thinking about this using the analogy of Cry it out (CIO). Think about how parents believe that their babies have to CIO to learn to self-soothe, when in reality, babies need responsive parenting to establish security and they need time to develop skills as they get older. CIO doesn't make them mature and self-regulated, it just breaks them enough to be quiet for the parent. The outcome looks the same, but internally, the landscape is very different.

Similarly, many parents want to push that J.O.Y. concept (Jesus, Others, You), or they promote the twisted versions of humility and gratitude. They think they have to deprive, and hurt, and break their children to somehow get wholesome, loving, giving, grateful children.

Stop. Think about it. It just does not compute. You can't break something and expect a whole piece from it. You can't break the extremely complex and unique personhood of your child and realistically piece together the jagged leftovers to build your own masterpiece. Nor should you want to do that. Your child is already a masterpiece.

The truth is, a joyful, loving, giving person comes from a place of knowing joy, love and unconditional giving.

Children learn to be grateful by watching their parents model gratitude in daily living.
Children learn to be unselfish by receiving unselfish behavior from their parents.
Children learn to give unconditionally by receiving unconditionally in their family.
Children learn to empathize and think of others when parents empathize with and think of them.
Children learn to respect others when they are shown respect.
Children learn to appreciate life and to see the wonder of every tiny bit when the adults around them appreciate life and share the wonder of it.

If you fear that your children are selfish, spoiled, entitled, and arrogant, then the place to look first is in their hearts. A heart filled with unselfish, unconditional, unlimited love has no room for being entitled or selfish. A child who is not showing love to others is a child who needs her heart filled to the brim with more love. If a child does not have enough to go around, you cannot magically make more by subtracting love from her.

This Christmas, celebrate giving and loving others by giving to and loving your children.

More on this topic...

Seeing your child in a positive light:

Sharing the bounty:

Safe emotional expression:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

1 thing you need to do if you survived sexual abuse, assault, rape...

I was chatting with someone today about the experiences I've had in sexual violations. And it turned out the person I was chatting with had also been violated in a certain way. She asked me, "What helped you the most? Why are you functioning?"

Hands down, the most important factor in healing and being able to live, was DH learning about sexual violation and being a supportive partner. I highly, highly recommend that if you are in a relationship with someone or intend to be in a relationship, you ensure that the person is:

OPEN to learning about the topic and becoming educated enough to understand basic related concepts, treatment and healing options, normal emotional experiences, and other things that are part of the journey

SENSITIVELY HONEST so that frank and important discussions can be had with tact, while still being clear so that unintended hurts don't occur.

100% RESPECTFUL of every iota of your being, committed to healthy boundaries physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Do NOT sacrifice these aspects because the feeling of violation can linger such as by being triggered from unintentional behaviors, or by fighting to be acknowledged, or by being misunderstood. Smaller cycles of unhealthy behavior, such as threats, harshwords, gaslighting, etc, can all cause an amplified feeling and bring back past hurts quickly.

From being in this discussion with many people, one thing I frequently note is that survivors tend to think they can close the door on that experience, and completely black it out of their romantic relationships. Many of them do not tell their partners anything at all happened, or if they do, it's a very brief description devoid of tangible meaning and influence.

Unfortunately, sexual violation of all kinds impacts us, and plays into the way we act, think, and love in our relationships. If your romantic partner is unaware of your experiences and how they influenced you, then it can lead to a lot of misunderstandings and unintended harm to both people. Even if it's hard, it's really important to develop radical honesty in this area.

If you're unsure how to go about it, relationship therapy could be a great way to feel safe and to have a 3rd party guide you. If you feel unsafe sharing, this might indicate a need to carefully evaluate the relationship.

There are a plethora of books available on ebay and amazon, and probably at your local library right now written just for the partner of survivors. Consider ordering some and having an open discussion with your loved one soon.

Support for Partners

Secondary Survivors

Primer for partners of survivors

A guide for intimate partners

Survivor Parents

Saturday, November 29, 2014

How to Stop Helping Pedophiles

Grr, someone just asked me why sexual abuse continues, if it's genetic, a sign of our times? Those might be worthy discussion topics. But, I couldn't help wanting to get the main issue out of my system.

Why is sexual abuse rampant? How is it that a sexual abuser can have several, even dozens of victims? How do sexual abusers continue to find new victims?

Children continue to be sexually abused because the adults around them don't give a shit about them.

There, I said it.

Oh, they might think they care. They might say they care. They might get angry if accused of not caring. And yet, sexual abuse continues at epidemic levels. It's time to stop saying we don't know what to do or we can't do anything. It's time to stop being apaths and bystanders. It's time to take the initiative, to break through the discomfort, to shout above the silence and to change for the children.

Adults around the children being abused care MORE about other things than protecting the children.

They care more about image than they do about a child crying himself to sleep every night, knowing what's coming, They care more about their feelings of discomfort than they do about a child who thinks she deserves abuse and that's why everyone ignores her signs for help.

They worry more about involving authorities than they do about a child dropping into depression, self-harming, considering suicide to escape. They more about upsetting their smooth little lives than about the child's life which is being destroyed. They care more about "what the neighbor might think" than they do about what children are being taught to think about sex, boundaries, dignity and suffering.

Then if the abuse is finally forced into their faces, if they can't hide from it, twist it, or otherwise ignore it, they start with the excuses. "Oh, he was such a nice man!" "But, she's a good Christian woman. She donated to the needy!" "I never thought anything like that was happening. I thought he was a problem child." "I thought she was just copying what she saw on TV." Blah blah blah...deep down they know they are lying to themselves.

You've decided you don't want to be like this. You disagree with protecting the abuser. Maybe you experienced abuse and subsequent dismissal at the hands of other adults and have vowed to stop the cycle.

So, how can you STOP abuse?


Stop camouflaging what you see, stop turning your head, stop closing your mouth, and stop walking away. When everyone is talking freely and openly about grooming, about parental abuse and neglect, about gaslighting, and more, when everyone is open and honest about boundaries, when everyone is INVOLVED, AWARE, and ACTIVE in children's lives, then the monsters slink away because they know the children are not vulnerable prey for the taking.

Pipe up in conversations. Bring up the topic of abuse. Talk about respect for children, regarding sexuality or anything. Talk about your parenting methods. Say penis, vagina, prepuce, vulva. When monsters see that the adults around children are informed about parenting dynamics, oppose abuse, and can speak freely and comfortably about sexuality, they know these adults can't be manipulated into working for them.

If you observe new, unusual, erratic, or compulsive behavior, don't quickly jump to any answer EXCEPT abuse. Go ahead, consider it. RULE IT OUT as opposed to ignoring it or refusing to think about it. Here are some examples:

 Anxiety and depression, self harming, anti-social behaviors, emotional/sexual maturity beyond years (knowing and talking about things you or a teacher didn't share with them), acting out sexual play, genital stimming beyond exploration, fear of being alone, fear of being with certain people, control issues especially surrounding bathroom and eating habits, screaming and crying over using the bathroom (not talking about illness here are we? AGAIN, RULE IT OUT), fear of certain objects/toys (from being used on them), porn addiction, substance abuse, etc.


How can you PREVENT abuse?

Tell your children or any children you interact with that you will listen to them. Model listening to them. Show them that you are listening and caring. Tell them if they feel something is wrong, or if they hurt in their tummy, or if they are scared of someone, that they can talk to you.

Name their body parts. Say the names out loud. Name their emotions. Out loud. Practice acknowledging and protecting a child's no. Carefully use methods such as wrestling and tickling to build boundaries by practicing no and stop instead of incorrectly using them to break down a child's space. Read books about body boundaries with children. Work on your own boundaries.

Remind them that their no is powerful and shouldn't be ignored. Demand healthy boundaries from other adults around the child, such as friends, relatives, teachers, and people around town in authority positions. Stop the grooming even if the person doing it is not an obvious abuser. Show children that their bodies and feelings are important, that you care about them, that they have a voice and permission to use it. Monsters don't like children with a voice.

They don't like it when children are comfortable with their bodies and comfortable discussing issues with adults. They don't like it when children are bonded with a caring adult. Bonded, confident, unashamed, educated children are not weak, vulnerable, easy to manipulate, or easy to groom for abuse.

Adults, stand tall. Stand strong. Stand together. Make it clear that your home, your school, your playground, your community is not going to idly stand by in silence while your children are eaten by monsters. Show them your teeth, show them your intelligence. Raise your children with the same qualities. It's time to stop helping pedophiles. This isn't a fairytale castle and you aren't a flying monkey working for a witch.

Learn more about signs of an abuser and signs of a victim here.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Secret Soup for the Sick

When children are sick, especially with the vomiting variety, you want to get some nourishing foods into them during the recovery period. But, whether from normal toddler finickiness or from recently puking their guts out, often children refuse to eat what could benefit them the most.

A mama asked me what I do when faced with children who refuse to eat healthy after being sick. I, too, have heard of the super-kids who beg for cod liver oil or happily chew on raw garlic like candy. I don't have children like this. My kids see a spoon of manuka honey and run screaming. My son says manuka honey tastes "like sparkles" for that matter. Garlic is spicy. Vitamin C is tart. Elderberry is eyed very suspiciously. And you get the picture.

So here's my secret soup recipe, tailored for tummy bugs:

1 can of Campbell's chicken noodle soup with a character they like such as Mario or Frozen. (Basically any soup you know your child loves.)

3 cups of bone broth

1 tablespoon manuka honey

4 large cloves of organic garlic: raw, peeled, crushed and minced or grated to activate the antibacterial properties

2g lipospheric vitamin C

Bring the soup and bone broth to a boil together. AFTER IT COOLS DOWN to a tepid/lukewarm level, stir in the manuka honey, garlic, and vitamin C.

If your children balk at garlic, grate it to reduce the size even more while still getting the crushed chemical reaction.

Remember to tweak according to your needs and preferences. For example, I can use one can of soup and several cups of bone broth, along with adding my own finely chopped veggies, to make a big enough pot for the whole family. The cup of soup is just enough of a concession to look appealing to the kids so they taste it, realize it's delicious, and slurp it up instantly.

You can also customize what you put into the soup. Soups will generally take a lot, such as DE for parasites, clay for detoxes, chia, fiber, flax, cell salts, elderberry syrup, OLE/OoO in powdered forms, etc. Choose what you need and mix it in to taste. The manuka honey, besides being antibacterial and healing also adds sweetness to cover any of the harsher things you add.

Are you exclusively breastfeeding a baby and want to nurse her to health? I also have a list of things to do in this case (along with links to studies on why these ingredients are helpful). Read here.

Friday, November 7, 2014

No Means No - Birth Rape Trigger Warning

We seem to have a problem when it comes to basic comprehension of what birthing women say during and after labor. Despite being sentient, adult humans who can usually speak or communicate in some way, people seem to think the definitions change once labor starts. Let's refresh some basics.

No means no mean no. No matter the circumstances or excuses.

No means no regardless of location. If she's birthing at home, at a birth center, at a hospital, in a car, no still means no.

No means no regardless of where she is laboring. If she's in the shower, or in a pool, or on a ball, or on the OR table, no still means no.

No means no regardless of her mood. If she's crying, or screaming, or angry, or scared, or at peace, no still means no.

No means no regardless of her pain level. If she's in a little pain, or searing, unbearable pain, or no pain at all, no still means no.

No means no when she says she'll consider a medical intervention later.

No means no even when you feel you have a good reason.

No means no even if you feel tired, rushed, or impatient.

No means no even if you think it's something she'd like.

No means no even during an emergency.

No means no when she asks to stop offering an intervention to her.

No means no when she crawls away from you during a contraction.

No means no when she kicks at you as you force her legs into stirrups.

No means no when she cries and screams as you force your hand into her vagina.

No means no when she tries to turn her head away from a spoonful of herbs or a syringe of medicines.

No means no when she squirms and pulls back as you attempt to pull on her baby or cut her body.

No means no when she's too medicated to talk and tries to moan and hit your hand away.

No means no when she says to stop touching her and you hold on tighter.

No means no when she pushes you away and you lean onto her with all your weight.

No means no when she screams out and you cover her mouth so as not to scare the other laboring moms.

No means no when she tries to get off the bed and the nurses hold her down.

No means no when she's rolling away from you on the bed and you're moving after her.

No means no when her partner tries to step in to protect her and you get annoyed.

No means no when she clearly has no written all over her birth plan.

No means no even if you scare her by claiming she's an evil mother or pulling the dead baby card.

No means no when she desperately holds onto her baby and you grab the baby without medical reason.

No means no when she screams that she can feel the scalpel or the needle and you keep going.

No means no when she gives you vaccine exemptions and you vaccinate anyways.

No means no when she writes no formula on his bassinet card and you give it to him in the nursery.

No means no. Always has and always will. Your excuses don't change it. Your desire doesn't change it. Your intent doesn't change it. Your medical degree doesn't negate it. The cost of your services doesn't reduce it. Your OR privileges or dedicated home visits don't entitle you.

No means no. Review and remember.

Photo credit: Kirsten Sargent

Kirsten shares her experience:

"Things changed very quickly after this photo was taken. This is my first baby, a home birth, hospital transfer due to a retained placenta and severe hemorrhage. I was held down by 4 nurses while the retained placenta was removed manually, without communication/consent or pain medication after a 28 hour long natural birth. Nothing was explained to myself or my husband. I was separated from my baby for 12 hours because he wasn't born at the hospital and therefore was a liability. This was a little over 4 years ago and I still have horrible nightmares of that night."

When Big Family Comments are Reversed

Photo credit: Joanna Higgins

If you have more than 2.1 children, chances are, you've heard something strange, rude, crude, or overall inappropriate. While the chuckle and elbow poke might have been funny the first 500 times, and while you try to forgive and forget, telling yourself that you're just being sensitive and that the other person means well, in reality, many of these unsolicited comments are disrespectful and wouldn't be tolerated in another scenario.

What happens when you take some of the common quips aimed at big families and reverse them? See how many you can recognize. When it's turned around like this, how do you feel? Do you think the person asking this mom is kind? Just trying to make a friend? Secretly loving her small family but saying something silly? Do you think they are acceptable comments to random strangers? Do you think adults should say these things in front of children?

Well, I bet you're an atheist now, aren't you?

He must've been planned.

I guess you're building a figure skating family, huh!

Maybe you should try taking off your clothes once in awhile.

Are you sure she is yours?

You only have sex with ONE man?

I bet you feel empty handed!

You hands sure are empty!

I bet your husband is one unlucky guy!

Why did you only have two children?

What in the world made you stop at two?

Don't you know how unhealthy birth control is for women?

Aren't you scared of dying from your tubal ligation?

You must be so bored!

I guess you read a book on what causes that.

Maybe if you told your husband yes once in awhile...

If you would just open your legs, you'd have a larger family you know.

Women's bodies weren't made to go years without children.

You aren't trying hard enough to impress others.

Did you stop because you got an ugly one?

Doesn't your child ever feel lonely?

Hey Kid, tell your mom to get to work with your dad!

Sleep naked, it will get him interested in you.

Try spending more time with your husband, your family is too small.

You must've stopped at one to protect the environment!

Are you sure you aren't an atheist? Maybe a satanist?

I guess the Lord didn't bless you!

You must laze around all day.

It must be really quiet at your home.

I can take care of 13 kids just fine, I don't know why you'd stop at 1!

At least you're not on welfare.

I'd go insane with only one child.

I'll say a prayer that God inspires you to have more children.

I know you're not busy, so could you....

Your child is SO well behaved for being an only child! I'm surprised!

Your child can talk well for being an only child!

Wow, only one child? You look tired!

Photo credit: Nicolle Young
Gonna build your own soccer team, eh?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

7 Ways to Prevent Homeschool, Stay At Home, Natural Mom Burnout

I'm still on the young side, and only have 4 children as a mother. But, I've been MY mom's helper since a child, raising 10 children to adulthood, going through countless experiences in the natural, SAHM, homeschooling worlds. I've grappled with things from ECing while teaching older students to changing math curriculums to help a struggling student, to juggling multiple dietary needs in one large family.

Basically, having been homeschooled in a large family and now raising my own children in a similar community, I've seen more than my fair share of parenting burnouts and wrong turns that lead to moms breaking down and families experiencing chaos. I've watched train wrecks occur in families while growing up, and I see some happening now as an outcome to those childhood experiences, too. And I've made my fair share of oopsies (sorry, little siblings!)

I look around sometimes and see a lot of people in the early stages of burnout. What can you do to prevent it?

1) Stop trying to fit you and your family into a perfect picture on a harsh deadline. It doesn't exist. Start loving you where you are right now. Start loving your children for who they are right now. Stop comparing yourself to other moms. Stop comparing your children to other children. Stop looking at other homeschool set ups merely for the goal of feeling emotionally negative. If you don't feel inspired and positive when looking at others, then it means you're in a damaging loop.

And if you're focusing on constantly comparing yourself to others, chances are you've said some things in front of or to your children which can be very harmful. Such as, "Look at the Smith Family! THEY all entered the science fair!" or "I wish you guys were like the Johnson family. Those kids are always studying." Stop. Just don't do it. It benefits no one and harms everyone.

Photo credit: Chrys Kirby

2) Change your goals from unattainable to realistic. For example, instead of saying you will have the family on hardcore GAPS for a year, try slowly moving each food group to a higher quality over a year, or testing the GAPS intro for 2 weeks.

Instead of wanting all the the kids lined up in homemade school uniforms at your kitchen table, happily studying 3 grades ahead, focus on providing enough time to transition from traditional school to homeschooling. Focus on each child and the individual needs. Focus on one lesson at a time if needed.

Feeling as if you are constantly failing can be a red flag that you need to change your goals. Taking on too much, too quickly, won't make you feel more accomplished. It'll make you feel more incompetent. Make small goals. Map out a large, end goal for inspiration, but ensure you have several small and realistic goals to get there.

3) Stop trying to do it all. Your value as a human being and your parenting are not measured by how much busywork you pound out in a day. Effective parenting and homeschooling is efficient and prioritized. It's not how long your to-do list is, but rather how you organize it and complete it. Start to question where your time is invested.

Several hours trashing the kitchen, yelling at the unsupervised kids in the other room while you cook for a party? Time to let go of your insecurity or pride and buy premade or request a potluck.

Are you spending hours each week organizing schedules, working out assignments, putting together a curriculum? Have you reviewed your state law recently to find out exactly what is required? Have you reviewed your homeschool family plan to see exactly what your goals are and what's required to meet them? Spending hours stressing out on paper pushing means hours not spent on your family.

And for what end? If you counted all the hours spent on making cute invites instead of emailing or pre-mades for a birthday, on all your home ec projects, on sewing instead of buying, on trying to make something instead of looking for something secondhand that will work, would you really feel your time spent in this way is truly beneficial to your family? Do your children really view it as beneficial, or do they feel second to the household projects and homeschool paperwork?

Photo credit: Kirsten Sargent
4) Speaking of focusing, focus. Focus on the task at hand. No more, no less. Don't accept new projects until your current projects are completed. If you find yourself constantly rotating through endless fermented recipes, the latest natural diet fad, the new canning idea you saw on Pinterest, ten different knitting jobs, five potential curriculums, a book report idea you heard from a mom at school, and you feel that familiar sense of whooshing along in the current of chaos, it means you need to stop and go back to steps 1, 2 and 3.

Remember your self worth. Remember that your children are lovable as they are at this moment. Less is more. Less ensures quality, not half completed quantity.

5. Address the anxiety. If you realize you're constantly in a loop of taking on too much, scattering it around in a mess, and then fighting with the kids, it's time to look for the root issue and address it immediately. Is it buried grief over the loss of a loved one? Is it something from childhood? A chain of mother-daughter narcissism or a mother-wound? A chronic physical situation such as thyroid issues or gut health issues?

Stop trying to climb out of a muddy hole with your bare hands. Reach out. Ask for help. Build a firm foundation. 

If you experience symptoms of anxiety or depression, stop pinning the plates faster and faster. You cannot distract these issues away. Life must be slowed down for self-care and restarting on firmer footing. Stop looking at your newsfeed if you constantly feel inferior or anxious. Stop browsing pinterest if it makes you get off the computer angry, ready to bark at the kids. Stop signing up for events and activities if you or the children end up with meltdowns, or even physical illnesses.

6. Enlist your partner. I'm not talking about a vague, inclusive idea here. I put this one on the list for a common and specific problem: married, stay at home, homeschoooling mothers who are slowly killing themselves and harming their children while the husband is at work all day and then comes home and sits in front of the TV.

He works too hard already? He can still help. He doesn't do it the way you like? He can still help. He complains? He can still help. The kids complain? HE can STILL HELP! (You're afraid to ask? Get marital assistance and domestic abuse help ASAP.)

Parenting, running the home, implementing natural practices, and homeschooling all your children on your own is not a recipe for admiration and success. It's a recipe for complete disaster, burnout, emotionally neglected children, and a trashed mom.

Stay at home moms tell me here, "But, I have a single friend who works and homeschools!" Yes, and she has help, such as someone to watch her child for 8 hours a day. Does your husband watch his children for 8 hours a day? (And if she doesn't have help, she can easily burn out, too, and that is a common concern for single parents.) At any rate, go back to step 1. Stop comparing yourself to others.

7. Evaluate. Just as children have minor regressions or go through stages, our homeschooling and parenting can have dips and go through stages. But, if that stage is lasting too long, impairing the health of family members, or otherwise interfering with your family life, it's time to take a second look. Don't tell yourself to just try harder when you might be beating yourself senseless against a brick wall.

Remember, the goal is to prioritize, to be effective and prudent. Throwing yourself into something for years because you are scared to admit a mistake, a perceived failure, or address financial or other costs wasted, etc, only means that many more years of damage to your family.

Please, stop the exhausting work of being a super mom. Stop the endless job of trying to make yourself feel as if you are enough. Good enough. Smart enough. Mom enough. Parent enough. Cool enough. Accomplished enough.

Stop letting this black hole of inferiority bleed its way into your children's hearts. Don't raise them worried that they aren't enough, that they can't be enough for you or others. Don't let a suspicion linger that somehow what's important is how we look in the eyes of others.

The busywork will always, always be there. The house will always need just a little more cleaning. The second you finish every scrap of laundry, someone will poop in a cloth diaper.

You can bury your nose in school schedules, but in 16 or 18 or however many years, when you're done making schedules, what will stand before you? What will be the sum worth of those papers?

Where are all your hours going during the day? Every strand of your life is woven deliberately, and it flows from you. Sometimes we feel helpless, as if we are blindly stumbling through the chaos, trying to pick up a cup here or put on a sock there. And yet, if we really could pause time and stand outside of it, looking at the entire tapestry for one moment, would we not quickly pick out the strands running towards some end? Would we not instantly see the pattern we're knitting daily, knot by knot, as precisely as the instructions we follow when making a pair of booties for a baby?

Every day is a fresh start. Every day is a new chance to put a knot in the link with our children. Each new morning is our chance to undo the knots chained down with anger, fear, anxiety, and inferiority. Each day that closes is a day we can close by putting one foot in front of the other, pointed towards our family and not away from them.

When you feel as if you aren't enough, when you feel as if you must do something more, rush instead to your children. Hold them, hug them. Play with them. Smile, laugh, and sit in the middle of the chaos. And be enough simply as you are in that moment. That's what your children need from you.

After all is said and done, the kids will learn. They'll potty train, believe it or not. They'll figure out how to read. They'll balance a checkbook. They'll even go out in clean clothes and matching shoes someday. All of that will happen, and it won't happen any sooner or better just because you pour your entire self and soul into those things. Instead, you'll miss the fleeting opportunity to connect with your children and build up your family.

There's a common warning about midlife divorces, that couples spend their lives overly absorbed in raising children and working, choosing to neglect their marriages. They choose to weave a tapestry, knots leading away from their relationship. You've heard the quip: "When your children leave the nest, your marriage still remains. Is there going to be anything left?"

Similarly, when school is over, the family still remains. If you spend your best talents, your brightest peaks of energy, your emotional investment and more by focusing on busywork, when your children graduate, will their family still be there? Their mom?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Does the voice in your head berate you or affirm you? Start noticing the good.

Ever have a day where you catch yourself thinking you've failed? Do you ever go to bed at night running through all the things you failed to do and all the things you messed up or skipped?

Although I can say I love motherhood, I still grapple with the general cultural messages that parenting is some kind of lowly, unproductive waste of our time. I have a doer personality and the grind of parenting young children can make me lose sight of what's most precious.

This past week, I took on too many projects and said yes too many times to too many people. Unsurprisingly, my house is a mess and most of the projects are overdue or half done. Let's not even talk about the activity of my blog lol. (Thank the FB Gods for the ability to schedule links at least?)

I was really feeling a good pity party coming on when I decided I needed to calm down with some mental affirmations. I decided to go to bed thinking about all that I had done, and all that had gone right.
Here's what I worked out:

I didn't list my box of items to sell last week. The box is still sitting here, staring at me. Am I disorganized and inefficient? That's what I could call myself, sure. Instead, I choose to remember that I committed to going on not one but three playdates with a new mom group, meeting new moms and introducing the children to potential new friends. I choose to call myself friendly and open to new experiences instead.

I didn't finish redecorating the living room. I had a whole plan, including new furniture, securing the TV to a different wall, building a table top for the train table, hanging photo frames, and more. Am I just flighty, unable to finish what I start? Or, could it be that I was prudent and went over the finances carefully with DH, and decided to halt the project until a later time? I choose to say that I can moderate my desires and communicate honestly with my spouse instead.

Once again, I forgot to pull out the fancy paints I bought ages ago and to do special stenciling with the children. I was going to go through the alphabet with them, and their numbers, and incorporate rhyming songs, and be a superstar home educator! I failed. But, did I? Today, we ran around the woods for hours, and the children excitedly ASKED to learn about tree identification. And we found an orb spider and talked about building spider webs and spinning silk. And then we climbed a hill to see a beautiful view of the lake. Learning happened, just not in the perfect and fancy way I was trying to create.

Another day went by and I didn't write the articles I promised to write for some people. I felt embarrassed. Unreliable. An annoyance to others. But, I know I answered some heartfelt PMs today and worked with someone who was really feeling alone and scared. I choose to remember that I can be trusted when someone is in need.

I barely skimmed over the house before bedtime, wiping down surfaces, shoving toys into piles, sweeping pathways. I started a load of laundry, but there are 3 more behind it. I washed a load of dishes, making room in the sink for the dishes waiting on the countertop lol. I could wallow in the self-loathing hatred of not being a primadonna housewife. Or I could realize that we painted Hallowe'en photos while waiting for their daddy to get home, and laughed together, and talked about costumes and made plans. The kids didn't go to bed thinking about laundry and dishes, so why should I?

No, I'm not saying to justify weaknesses or ignore mistakes. The thing is, when it comes to mothering and wearing all the hats women tend to don in their lives, the issue is not denial or justification, but rather too much criticism and a focus on failure.

If that voice in your head isn't motivating you to be a better you the next day, then it's time to change that voice. If you don't feel uplifted and inspired when you're talking to yourself or about yourself, then it's time to change the wording. Go to bed remembering all the good things and see how it changes you the next morning.