Archives for December 2009

23Dec

What I Want Most for my Adult Kids…

I was 30 years old before I figured out that not all mothers loved their children like mine loved me.  All of my life, without fail, I felt loved by the people who made me and raised me.  My father was a nurturer who was involved in his children – he may have been a miserable failure as a provider – but I never doubted his care and concern for me.  My mother’s love was a very special love that carried me throughout a precarious childhood and young adulthood.  I remember as a young woman that I had to be safe because I could never hurt my mother’s feelings by bringing harm to myself.  It was a warm soft glow that never left me.

I was lucky to meet a man who not only fell in love with me, but who proceeded to love me passionately for decades.  Without a doubt I felt loved and secure for many years.  On countless occasions he showered me with gifts.  He sincerely expressed himself on every occasion.   I had a feeling of being loved and treasured.  That feeling has kept me and nurtured me in too many ways to count.  My husband and I divorced and then he passed away.  He remains, now and always, as a source of feeling loved, of knowing deep down inside that true love is possible and as a standard of care that I must have for myself.

More than anything else, I would like for my adult kids to have this confidence in love by way of experiencing it.  I would want to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they feel loved, treasured and cared for.  At the end of the day, this requires two things: courage and gratefulness.  Courage to risk love and gratefulness to acknowledge it when it is present.  As with anything there is a cost, but exceptionally, love is well worth any effort given.

23Dec

A Comment About Change

There is this miasma that follows me around about relationships and it goes something like this “you’re always getting the same kind of man and feeling the same kind of way you have always felt”. There is a kind of failure inherent in this thinking. I mean that if I am just going to draw the same man (with a different body) every time, then what is the point of trying to move forward? What is the point of making a new beginning if I am sure that I will just fall into the same old traps and the same old thinking?
I read some powerful words last night that are having a profound affect on me today. Joyce Meyers says that God puts people in my life to challenge me and to help me learn what I need to learn to work through whatever it is that I need to learn. She reframed my entire paradigm. I know, I know, this is all stuff that the gurus are preaching, I’ve even heard Oprah comment that if the same old feelings are back, that means “you haven’t learned the lesson”. Here is the difference: my God, in a loving way, is leading me through my education to be human. That is a far better belief system than: I am a loser, because I can’t seem to learn this lesson…

22Dec

Denial is not just for Addiction

I’ve written about this concept before.  The concept of being challenged, the concept of feedback dished out and either received or not received: can have a profound effect on my life.  I wrote about it when I wrote “Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely”.  That story heralded the ending of some childhood idealism.  Idealism that I had no idea was following me around.  So here I am again pondering the idea of denial and how our loved ones play a significant role in sustaining and maintaining the denial, OR making significant disruptions by puncturing the denial with truth.

There is some science that says folks who don’t have severe hangovers are more likely to become alcoholics.  Well I’m one of those people who have severe consequences and I just cannot drink.  So addiction to alcohol – or really anything- has just not been my thing.  However, I can say that the disease of denial has firmly entrenched itself into my life, in oh so many forms.  One, I am guilty of believing that I KNOW how to raise kids and there is this specific formula that is correct from diaper to college and only I have the formula.  I developed a know-it-all attitude that in spite of feedback about my attitude, I would say things to myself like “yes they have a point, but I AM doing it right”.  So I’m not really addressing my parenting skills here, or even addiction, what I am addressing is my forcefulness about being absolutely right about everything I do and say.

Now the truth is, we as humans, will only think and do things that we believe are right.  In all of those TV shows about criminals, you will always hear some justification from the criminals for their horrendous acts.  That is the mind manufacturing evidence to justify their actions.  As humans we want to be right.  Being right allows us to march on continuing our activities, good, bad and ugly.

I have brought a “force” with me to everything I do.  I needed that force when I was raising all of those kids.  It takes tremendous strength and energy to herd so many young people around.  I needed that force to be a fierce protector, many of those years I was a single parent, so strength of will was critical.  That “force” is all unnecessary now.  These people that I was raising and protecting are all grown up.  They actually need to spend some of their time protecting me… So here I am with all of this righteousness and force with nothing to apply it to.  I don’t even know how to raise children anymore.  My kids, who have kids, are teaching me a thing or two about the flexibility of parenting.  They are demonstrating to me cool new ways of raising kids that do not require many of the things that I absolutely insisted on.  The sky is not going to cave in if a child drinks some Sprite, hell is not going to overflow with brimstone if the laundry is not completed on schedule.  Most importantly; learning to trip, fall and cope with it is a necessary basic of becoming adult.  I know that I preached allowing consequences, but that’s where the denial is hot and heavy for me.  I wanted to protect my children and I kept on holding their hands, trying to ameliorate any hurt and remove any obstacles to their happiness.

What foolishness I have practiced.  It’s not like I wasn’t challenged.  Those who challenged me received such angry rebuttals, because of that “righteousness” bubble that I have resided within.  I see now, in the 20-20 hindsight type of vision – that people will only challenge me because they love me.  Who would tangle with the tigress if they didn’t give a damn about the tigress? 

Like the addict living through the intervention, I have clawed and maimed the people who love me the most.  I can’t completely surrender, because living through what others think of my life is just not my style.  I do have to come to grips with this new perspective.  People who challenge me do it out of care and concern for me.  If the same theme repeats itself over and over again with different folks the probability that I am living in denial is close to 100%.  So, was I wrong all those years utilizing my “force” to raise kids?  No!  Things change, time changes, raising children right now is very different than raising children 25 years ago.  We did what we did and these new parents are doing a darn good job.

My place in the universe is different, it is I who must move on and let go of what was.  That requires that I hear the challenges that others throw my way and that I respect that only those who love me will throw those challenges at me.  I don’t want to be like those people I know who – in positions of power – surround themselve with sycophants who wouldn’t dare give honest feedback.  I want to be surrounded by people who love me, who will challenge me and who will keep me out of denial and firmly fastened to the path of truth and honesty.

05Dec

The “Job” of Parenting

I’ve met so many people who genuinely believe that parenting is about making their children happy and it really scares me.  Parenting is about assisting children with their growth: physical, emotional, intellectual, personal and spiritual.  The concept of physical health with the component of good nutrition is an easy concrete concept, but the concepts of emotional and personal growth seem to be difficult ones for parents to grasp.  Often, the parents I meet are all about making their children “happy”.  They buy all of the latest cool stuff, they transport to all of the sports, choir, club events, and they sacrifice, sacrifice and go into debt – to be the best parent.  There is a lot of hard work involved in making a kid “happy.”  I’m sorry but I see this as ego serving for the parent rather than parenting.

When it comes to the concrete concept of physical health, everyone seems to understand that potato chips, dip and canned sodas are bad for you – I’m sure it doesn’t change alot of behavior – but still everyone at least undersands the concept.  Personal growth seems to be a mystery to most parents.  Basic ideas like, children must learn that there are consequences for actions, seem to be overlooked by a lot of parents.  There is a reason for this, many parents today want more than anything to be “liked” by their children and they equate being liked with saying yes.  This is a terrible mistake.  It’s part and parcel to the economic hardship we face today.  It leads to empty consumerism which has no good ending.

I think parents do this because they don’t want to face the consequences for saying no.  Children punish their parents when their parents say no.  This is negative reinforcement, because parents will jump through financial, emotional and mental hoops just to keep their child happy, to keep their child from exhibiting bad behavior because the child cannot have their way.  How unfortunate.  These children will not understand the conepts of coping or discipline, they make poor workers in the work force and they invariable struggle terribly with college.  They just never got external discipline and internal discipline is an elusive concept for them.  If you want your child to have personal growth, to grow emotionally and mentally, you must allow disappointment, sadness and responsibility to play a significant role in your parenting of them.   You must pay attention to their development and increase expectations as they get older.  A child of 6 should have a habit of brushing teeth daily and that habit should be well ingrained.  A child of 8 should expect to complete homework on a regular basis, possibly not independently, but surely it is part of the routine.

The flip side of this is that true parenting takes quite a bit of work, certainly more personal, emotional and mental work than the “yes” parenting approach.  It is work – that perhaps is unexpected or unclear.  But the old cliche that children do not come with directions is quite untrue.  Barnes & Noble and Borders and any other bookstore on the planet will bear witness to that.  When I was very young I went to the same parenting class twice, just in case I didn’t get it the first time.  I’ve often wondered why those classes are not packed.  Parenting is a tedious and arduous process and it is not for the cowards of the world – if parenting is to be done well, it must be done with effort and courage.  Some times parenting is completely unpleasant, if for no other reason than because your teenage daughter wants to go out on a date when she is 14 and she hates you because you know better than to allow it.  Parenting is unpleasant because it is easier to do the dishes myself than to make the kids do them and teach them – very carefully – how to do a good job.  Kids don’t want to do a good job, after all you are making them complete an unpleasant task.

While we cannot ask them to have awareness of electricity bills, we can carefully explain the financial and ecological cost of energy.  We can require our children to behave appropriately by turning off lights when they leave a room.  We cannot ask them to have awareness of the world of business, but we can require them to act politely to others at school and to perform work that is age appropriate for them.

To “make children happy” is a slippery slope that ends with ineffective and undisciplined young adults who are doomed to failure because of their own inability to cope with disappointment, perform quality work and to be responsive to other peoples needs.  Perhaps you know some adults like these – and though their parents made a valiant effort to “make them happy”, they never learned to be responsible for themselves and that – that is a tragedy.

04Dec

How Do You Manage Yourself – When Yourself is Wrong?

Okay a couple of things, first I am in this weird situation that I got myself into right?  I just moved 842 miles to get out of two very difficult situations, yet here I am wishing I could run away again.  I’m here to tell you it is far easier to get away from a boyfriend than it is to get away from your kids and your OWN thinking.

I want to BE single.  In my mind that means that I can go out, hang out – maybe in a night club.  I can meet new people, there might even be an interesting man around.  I could have a conversation with people my age.  I envisioned this whole scenario – the only reason that I included my daughter (Johanna Jr) is because she is a bartender in an upscale restaurant.  Perfect place, I could be safe (because she is near) and I could relax with like minded people in their fifties (my age), who might also be single, like me.

Okay so my daughters conversed and my Jo Jr, who is the mother of an infant son, decided she would like the baby (Jaxsun) to come to see her so that she could introduce the baby to her friends at work.  Then my son (Travis) got involved because he cares for the baby.  So my daughters made a plan to bring husband, infant and brother with ME, mother to dinner.  So, here I am trying to be single…  And, I have an entourage.

I had it all planned out: last month I bought myself size 10 slacks and a new shirt that is styled for evening wear.  For the last six years, all of my clothing allowance has gone to work clothes and I really don’t have much that looks good just for the sake of looking good.  What can I say?  I’m a practical woman. 

So there I am in my evening attire (not too fancy) and Travis, my son, wants to go with me and bring Jaxsun, with my daughter (Rhea), with her husband (Rick).  Okay, let’s have a family evening, at least I can get out of the house and feel pretty.  I’m even going to drink a beer.  So we go.  The baby is awesome, he sleeps, my daughter Jo Jr, gives great service, the food is sumptious, well prepared and delicious. 

Good going, then Jo Jr sends her “friend”, the man she is dating, to our table, so that he can introduce himself to me.  Her friend also works at the restaurant.   Back up a minute, my daughter Rhea, is also pregnant.  Okay, so when my daughter is pregnant there is a pervasive thinking that lingers in the back of my mind.  This pervasive thinking goes something like this: “is she comfortable?” “is she eating right, does she feel okay, is she getting enough to eat?”  Okay – so that is the background noise.  We are enjoying this beautiful meal and Rhea does not have enough sauce for her fish and Johanna Jr’s friend comes to the table.  He is the epitome of charm and grace, he takes my hand, introduces himself and smiles and he really does impress me.  He then asks how the meal is, rushing through my head is this pervasive thinking: my daughter is pregnant and then this other thought, she’s not happy, she doesn’t have enough sauce for her fish!  So I say to Jo Jr’s friend, “will you please get some sauce for my daughter, she doesn’t have enough for her fish.”

Jo Jr’s friend is the epitome of professionalism and rushes off to get the sauce.  WELL, apparently I should not have abused him in such a way.  My kids say he came “to hang out with us.”  My kids say I’m “throwing his job in his face.”  In a few minutes Johanna comes rushing over and wants to know what I said to him.  Again, Jo Jr’s friend continues to be the epitome of professionalism and promptly delivers the sauce and I am happy because my pregnant daughter is happy.

It dawns on me that I spend far too much time worrying about and thinking about my kids.  They rule my world.  I cannot escape from me,and I am the one who puts them in the center of my universe.  Not only did I not get a night out, but I also committed a faux pas because I cannot take my mind off of the comfort of my pregnant daughter.  I must figure out a way to have me be different.  So, after two months of sitting at home alone, I finally had a night out, but not as the new single me.  In fact it’s 8:30 pm, and I am at home in bed.  I looked beautiful, but I am still concerned with something other than me.  I really need to get concerned with me, how else will I find a he?