I have protected my children, like you, from many massacres. From Sandy Hook to the Navy Yard Shootings, I have hid newspapers and shut off the TV. I talked about the Baltimore riots with my eleven year old, but I mostly hid it from the rest of the children. I personally followed the events with passion and interest, but did not discuss it with my husband or children.
Something in me popped.
I saw the baby-faced murderer, I stared at the beautiful faces of the people who were praying when they were killed, and I knew it was over.
The time of looking away was over. The time of shaking my head and wondering how, why, who? was over.
We know how this happened.
We know this why this happened.
And we absolutely know who it is happening to.
The time of playing shocked is over. And the time of staying silent is over.
In The Rule of St. Benedict, the main lesson is: always we begin again. This gives me great comfort. Whenever I have screwed it up, not been brave, averted my eyes, I remember: I can begin again.
We can all begin again. We can allow the murders in Charleston to define us, or we can own this story. We can either proceed with our lives as usual, or we can bring witness to pain. We can either allow our children to not understand racism and how alive it is, or we can begin a gentle discussion. We can either avert our eyes from suffering or we can look at it. Head on. Eyes unblinking. Fully seeing. Without excuses. Without shame.
The improvement people are coming for me…and fast.
The clock is ticking into 2015 and it is time to start improving. And now, goddammit.
Get your lists.
Get your workouts ready.
What are your positive goals?
How are you going to change?
How are you going to markedly improve yourself?
Don’t you dare allow 2015 to come in the door remaining as you are.
I am calling bullshit.
You are going to wake up January 1st the same beautiful hot-mess you were December 31st.
You may have some big notions, big plans, big goals….sure.
But the reality? Everything will be the same.
Maybe with a slight hangover.
As I walked the dog today, I started to feel some of the typical worrying I experience as the year draws to an end.
“What should I do about the business this year? I know my numbers…but should I go harder? Bigger? Smaller? Stay the same?”
I shuffled along and stared at the birds in the sky.
They were headed…well, I don’t know where the hell they were going. But they *knew.* Thousands and thousands of years…they get up and fly. They follow each other, form a V and go. They aren’t worried about going bigger or smaller. Just trying to get from A to B, you know?
I decided to not decide.
I am going to feel it out.
Do what feels right. Pay the bills. Help some parents.
I am not making any lists or goals that will mock me, guilt me, worry me. Have me fail or overshoot my own arbitrary yardstick.
Like those birds, I *know* what I am doing. I know.
Having a fearful and worrying kind of day.
I have a loved one visiting doctors, catching up on scary diagnoses.
I have an almost 11 year old visiting the middle school that she will attend next year (Mom, is this shirt ok?)
I have a 7 year old on the Metro, headed downtown to DC for a field trip.
I have a 4 year old in a school bus, in the rain, ALSO headed downtown for a field trip.
My worry was emanating off of me like waves this morning, every move touched with its own anxiety.
“Mom, what is wrong with you?” my middle asks.
I stand up, sigh, and smile.
“Ah, well. You know…getting ahead of myself, Louise. Getting ahead of myself.”
Isn’t that what the worry is?
Sometimes fear is right on the money: “That alley is dark and I am alone and I should go down another street.”
Often, fear is whispering about things that will probably never happen: “Buses crashing, metros bombed, mean big middle school kids, cancer everywhere…”
The thing is, it COULD happen.
I know a woman who works with a man. A father.
Yesterday, a plane fell on his house and his wife and two out of three of his children are dead.
It is him and his one remaining child now.
He went to work, like you and me.
And now, almost his entire family is gone.
All that worrying I do?
It HAPPENED TO HIM.
Because I cannot do both.
You cannot LIVE in this life…see what is front of you, love your people, smooch your dog, see the bright pink jacket, and smile at your neighbor…you cannot do these things if you are kidnapped by worry.
To honor this man and lost family, I am going to be right HERE.
Do I have concerns? Yes, I am not a robot.
But I can see them, acknowledge them, and KEEP LIVING.
How many times have you said that to your children? Once, twice, hundreds of times?
Children join us in our beds during times of real need. Maybe your young one was really sick for a couple days and needed extra love; maybe there has been a change in the family (new sibling, new move, new school, etc.), and the child has been feeling nervous and needing attention. Maybe there have been nightmares, or their imaginations have gotten the better of them. All you know that is that it has been a month, you are being kicked in the ribs every night and don’t sleep for more than an hour straight. And forget about intimacy with your partner!
And beyond the sleeping hardships, you have the nighttime drama. You bathe them, you read to them, you snuggle, you tuck them in and POP. There they are! In the hallway. In the family room. In the kitchen. Needing “one more drink” or “one more hug” or “It’s too dark” or “I think I see something” or “If you get into bed with me, then I will sleep…”
Hours and hours pass, and your anger increases. You have things to do. And more than that, you desperately want to be ALONE. Your jaw clenches, your hand may grasp their upper arm a little too tightly; you may begin to threaten. You yell. You really yell. The child cries. The baby wakes up. The night has gone to pot. Meanwhile, your partner is hiding somewhere in the house.
Or, rather than yell, your anger gives way to desperation and hopelessness. You give up and get into bed with the child, or allow them to come in with you. You stare at the ceiling, wondering, “Will I ever be a normal adult again?”
Oh, I’ve been there.
What are you supposed to do?
You know the quote, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women are merely players.” You, my friend, are involved in some pretty serious theater, and you are performing with a professional! In order to exit this drama gracefully, you need to decide to do something different.
Firstly, you need a plan. When I work with my clients, I customize each bedtime routine for what works for them, but most plans have the same key elements:
1) You solve the problem at another hour (that is nowhere close to bedtime). Tell the child he or she will be sleeping in their own bed, and that you are going to help them to do it! You will create a bedtime chart, and this can become a fun and creative activity between parent and child! Display the chart where the child can see it, and let them know we are going to stick to it!
2) You increase the special one-on-one time, but NOT DURING BEDTIME. During the day, after you come home from work, in the mornings: start spending some one-on-one time with your child. As this becomes more and more of a habit, your child trusts that you are available and will start to go to bed more smoothly. When a child receives positive attention for positive behaviors, those behaviors are likely to repeat. When the child receives attention for popping out of bed, whining, crying, begging and threatening, THOSE behaviors are likely to repeat. So, fill that attention cup up when the time is right!
3) Get ready for the nighttime. Have your partner on board and ready to help. Mentally, you need to get ready for a potentially long night. Keep calm, do your routine chart, and then keep putting lovely child into bed. Don’t talk, don’t make too much eye contact and don’t interact too much. Bigger don’ts? Don’t huff around, don’t become angry, don’t eye-roll and don’t glare. So, yes you need to be calm. This is why you need your partner to step in; you are going to need a break. The first thing in the AM, you go into their bedroom and say, “YOU DID IT! YOU SLEPT IN YOUR BED!” There is lots of love and hugs and celebration.
4) BUT! This could be hard. You may quit. You may give up. You may have to start again the next night. IT IS OKAY. Really. Life is short; you don’t have to choose this battle if you are not ready. If it is causing MORE fights, more drama and more strife, then STOP. Your child WILL sleep in his own bed, one day. Of this, I am certain. Do you have the right to your personal boundaries, to a childless night, to your own bed? Yes. But please do not sacrifice your relationship with your child to establish that boundary. Love, patience and repetition…keep it up and your child will sleep in their own bed.
Photo Source (top right): Thinkstock/Pixland
With summer fast approaching, a chief complaint among many parents is worrying about boredom!
“My children are always complaining about how bored they are! We have millions of toys and activities, but if our children have 15 minutes free minutes, they are lost. I am dreading summer!”
As a parent coach with young kids myself, I know it can be tough to allow your children to be bored. And I also know that the answer is as simple and as it is difficult.
You have to allow your child to be bored.
But how? “How do I allow my child to be bored?” you ask. Well, you just do. You have to not get sucked into the whining and complaining. You have to not get sucked into, “All of my toys are stupid” or “I have plaaaaayed that game a hundred times, mooooom.”
To begin, start small with allowing boredom!
“You have time between 1-3 PM to find something to do. I can give your one or two ideas. Let me know.”
Then you have to hold on for dear life. Your child is going to follow you around, whining, crying, and muttering about his or her extreme boredom. As the parent, you will have thoughts like, “This child has everything, how can he possibly be bored?” Or, “I work and work and work and still, these children are sucking me dry. I NEED A BREAK.” Or “I never bothered my parents like this when I was younger.”
As these thoughts cycle in and out, you must simply breathe. Rest-assured that as you weather this storm, the child will eventually tire and find something to do. The more you have interfered in the past, the longer this process may take, but it is worth it. Why?
When children are bored, their creative juices start to flow again. The BBC recently published an article citing the importance of the boredom-creativity link.
“The academic, who has previously studied the impact of television and videos on children’s writing, said: “When children have nothing to do now, they immediately switch on the TV, the computer, the phone or some kind of screen. The time they spend on these things has increased.
“But children need to have stand-and-stare time, time imagining and pursuing their own thinking processes or assimilating their experiences through play or just observing the world around them.”
It is this sort of thing that stimulates the imagination, she said, while the screen “tends to short circuit that process and the development of creative capacity’.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-21895704
The irony is that the more we don’t allow our children to be bored, the more accustomed they become to being entertained. The more entertained the children are, the deeper the brain habits are ingrained. Their young brains are literally conditioned to constant entertainment, whether it is from a parent or caregiver or technology!
Look at this summer as an opportunity to break your children from this cycle! Go on technology fasts and, while I love enrichment activities, think of holding a firm boundary on only one or two.
Stay strong, don’t give into the whining, and watch what happens. Creativity will bloom before you know it!
As I dumped pasta into Tupperware, I thought of all of the parents I know who don’t have anyone to “tag.”
They are parenting alone for a variety of reasons.
Spouses who have road-warriors partners.
Spouses who have judgmental, abusive, or just plain mean to the kids-partners (so one spouse has to run constant interference and get the kids away from mean spouse).
Spouses who have to remain with a sick family member while the other one does the heavy-parenting lifting.
A spouse who is in school and away a lot.
Single parenting by choice
Single parenting by not choice.
The list could go on and on for why someone is parenting alone.
Tonight, my patience ran out and someone was here to help me. To save me from my children. And from myself.
For everyone “alone” out there, please know that while you dig deep for one more book, one more cuddle, one more smile…you are not alone.
You are not alone.
You are NOT alone.
And if I could come and tag you out, I would.