Seeing Parenting through Another’s Lens

How do you compare your parenting style to others?

It’s hard, right? I think I’m like many who assume others parent like I do. I certainly see flaws in myself and have areas for improvement in how I parent, but like to think I, like my peers, are parenting in much the same way.

My oldest son plays sports at his school. He’s brought one of his buddies with him to the car after practice, and asked if we could give him a ride home. I agreed, though would have been more comfortable getting this child’s parents approval before doing so. My son is at the age where everything I do embarrasses him, so instead of denying the friend, I agreed to take him home knowing I would want/need to discuss this with his parents. After the boys were in the car, the boy told me how to get to his house and then I mentioned I’d like to meet his parents. He agreed then shared,”I live with my Mom and Dad. Their actually my grandparents, but I call them Mom and Dad because they adopted me as a baby.” I could tell by the way he shared the information he’d said all he was going to say about the situation and I understood. We got out of the car so we could meet his (grand)parents. They were lovely people. The boys went off to his room. The (grand)mom gave me background on the situation without any prompting from me. Over sharing to the point of personal discomfort for me. The boy’s mom had struggled with addiction and wasn’t in his life. Nor was his father. They were doing everything possible to give him as normal a life as they can but it’s tough given their age and the situation.

I left the conversation feeling a range of emotions — I felt a bit overwhelmed hearing so much detail and not knowing what to do with it (the woman had been so open with me even though I didn’t know her), I felt empathy and compassion for the boy (I can only imagine how he deals with his mom and dad not being in his life), and grateful (that he had such loving and willing (grand)parents). I was see parenting from a different lens. I thought of other kids in similar situations that aren’t so lucky. It made me feel guilty and uncomfortable–feeling a need to find ways to better help such kids, but not being sure how to in our ‘it’s none of your business’ culture.

The conversation reminded me that we do not all parent the same, situations and how people approach raising kids are different. And different is okay. No judgment. As long as what’s best for the child is what drives our decisions and behavior.

How do you view the parenting of others? What do you learn or do differently when you’re confronted with seeing parenting in a new way?

I will be away for a few weeks enjoying time with family for Spring Break and Easter.

Kids Choice – Dealing With Loss

When have you had to console your child when they experience loss and there is no way to soften the impact? It’s heart wrenching, right?

I had one of those moments on Tuesday night. While I was shocked as the results were coming in (and trying to handle my confusion and intense disappointment as discretely as I could), I wasn’t expecting my kids reaction. When I went to tuck them in, my youngest asked me if Hillary won. I told him “it doesn’t look like it.” He got fear in his eyes. He started to cry in a way I’ve never seen. What he said next jarred me. He didn’t say, “Why?” or “How could this happen?” That would have been expected. Instead he said, “Oh my gosh. We’re going to go to war! The country is going to be so bad.” War? I thought. Where did that come from? He’s really scared to think we are going to war. And how in the world did he grasp my own fears? That our country is taking a huge step backwards for women and minorities, the sick, the poor and mentally ill and all other marginalized groups. My older son joined in the conversation, he was equally distressed. “Why can’t kids vote? We never would have let someone like him be President.” My son made a good point.

Children have a wonderful inability to filter themselves when they are young. And they have an even greater ability to filter through BS. Politically correct is, well, not in their vocabulary. While there are certainly situations where you can grimace as a parent for what your child said out loud, there is something very straightforward about their views. They see things for what they truly are and convey them in black and white terms: you are nice, you are not nice; you are good, you are bad; etc. This ability came through Tuesday night. “I hate that I’m not allowed to vote until I’m 18. That’s ridiculous. If you asked the kids, none of us would ever vote for someone who was so mean, hateful and a bully!” my oldest said. While there was a big part of me that wanted to join in and bash the results and those who voted for the other side, I could tell what my kids most needed was for someone to tell them that everything is going to be okay, even though as their parent, and a woman, I’m not sure I believe it.

“It’s going to be okay. We’ll get through this,” I said. My youngest son didn’t buy it. He looked me in the eyes with that same terror pleading me to tell him I was kidding, or somehow the election results were going to turn out differently.  I didn’t know what else to do but to hug him. We were both experiencing a huge unexpected loss. We both felt the impact, and while they say time heals all wounds, this seems like a wound that will be opened for the next four years at a minimum.

I am grateful for educators at my kids school that brought the kids together to talk through the results and let the students voice their opinions to help them deal with their feelings. I am grateful for where I live and how people here are willing to stand up and say #notmypresident. And that many business leaders and local government officials have publicly said that won’t tolerate discrimination and hate, and are trying to give grieving adults the same message I gave my boys — we’ll get through this somehow. We just have to stick together.

Sometimes you can’t make sense of things, and sometimes you have to figure out how to make the best of a situation. I love the quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” There feels like a lot of darkness right now and I, as a parent, need to figure out how to light a candle. I can’t let an election determine how my neighbors, or my kids classmates and their families are treated, we all are more alike than different and we all have to figure out how to come together and work together. No more division, no more fear.

How do you console your child when you are in an inconsolable situation, regardless if its the loss of a loved one or the results of an election?  How are you helping your child when you are experiencing your own grief?

 

How to Avoid the January Blues and the Resolution Cliff

Each New Year I start off in a blue kind-of-state.  The holidays are over, the decorations are down, and the magic of the season is quickly fading away. Top that off with the expectation that each of us are to come up with a resolution to keep during the New Year makes it all the more depressing.

The end of 2012 brought a lot of talk, stress and anxiety around the fiscal cliff and the importance of avoiding it. I offer up that we need to do the same with resolutions. Resolutions tend to involve a lot of talk, which can create stress and discomfort around changes desired in our own lives. Guilt is often the motivating factor. Add that to a difficult task (e.g. get a new job, lose 20 pounds in a month, give up sweets, etc.), and then beat yourself up, or throwing yourself over the “resolution cliff”, when you fail or are derailed early on, is something we should all be trying to avoid.

The New Year is a good time to reflect and think about what’s working in our lives and what isn’t, but I’d suggest we should be reflecting throughout the year, not just at the beginning. Resolutions that require change—job, weight, living situation, relationship, etc.—can be very stressful. Any change can be. Adding new stress to your life when you just got over all the stress that comes with the holidays doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

Instead of resolutions, my husband and I decided to talk about our hopes for the New Year, hopes for our children, hopes for our family, hopes for us as a couple, and hopes for ourselves.  These hopes will require action on our part to make happen, but because we want them to happen, we’re motivated.  Not out of guilt, but desire.

And that’s a much better place to start any New Year.

What are your hopes for 2013?

Hope through great sadness

I had my weekly blog written several days ago and was prepared to post it this morning prior to the tragic events that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday morning. It’s hard to know what to say when something like this happens. For a large majority of us the world stopped for a while on Friday. A wave of grief came over us for the children and their families involved in the tragic events. It is impossible to comprehend and will never ever make sense what would drive someone to do this.

The holiday season is a time of hope. Hope for seeing the best in each other, and hope for what’s possible. My hope was suspended momentarily on Friday. It’s starting to return, as I see communities coming together, reaching out to each other; to discuss what happened; share our sadness and anger; and discuss possible solutions to avoid something the like happening in the future.

I hope one day violence isn’t the solution for resolving an issue. I’d prefer a world without guns, but in the absence of that hope we will finally figure out how to allow people to bear arms without endangering law-abiding citizens. I hope we will figure out as a nation how to work together as one and solve our problems together.  I hope we will learn how to take better care of each other physically, mentally and emotionally.

I still feel great sadness over the situation in Sandy Hook and probably will for some time to come. But the holiday season is about hope, and I grateful to be feeling a glimmer of it again.