When?

Silence

Silence

When to be a parent?

When to be a friend?

When to speak the truth you feel?

When an ear to lend?

When do Moms and Dads step in?

When Jack or Jill are hurting?

When do Moms and Dads bow out?

When they’d rather you were averting

When is it okay to speak?

When they’re obviously in pain?

When it reaches the point of no return?

When there’s nothing left to gain?

When Moms and Dads knew what to do

When hugs & kisses soothed

When Jill or Jack were little ones

When life’s wrinkles could be smoothed

When two in love be-came one

When the sun set on that day

When is it the time to speak your heart?

When all you’ve done is pray

When confusion, hurt, and anger come

When sorry just won’t do

When their hearts hurt you know it well

When your heart breaks in two

When to be a parent?

When to be a friend?

When to learn it’s not your concern?

When they tell you so

That’s When

 

Mommy Dearest

I’ll go out on a limb here and say for most of us, being a parent is, quite literally, the hardest job we’ve ever had or ever will. And, at the same time, it’s the richest, most fulfilling, most rewarding contribution to our own lives and always will be.  alex

One of the most surprising aspects of parenthood’s lifelong journey is finding out that one split second is all it takes for you to come to know the best and worst of being a parent…the span of that second is the distance between loving another being so much it hurts, to wishing you’d gotten a dog instead!  True dat  🙂

angry_baby11

But in looking at this most difficult most rewarding dichotomy, it’s not so hard to understand when you consider first, our tendency to place the highest value on that which was hardest won, and second, our amazing capacity for forgiveness (as parents at least).

But what is it that takes parents to the depths of the difficult to the heights of reward when it comes to loving our children? How do we survive the splintering of our brains in a thousand directions trying to figure them out, yet tarnishes the love in our hearts never?

I don’t question the reward; I think it’s obvious. I do, however, ponder the difficult. Is it because we love too much?  Is it that even possible?

I don’t believe so…

However, could it be that we love too much for too long?  Is that it?  Does parental love need to be doled out in stages or degrees?  Or fit into categories in order to not overload these little overlords once they come into their own?

So what (you ask) are these stages/degrees/categories you ask?

I’m a little cuss who can’t (and don’t want to) function without you so love me, love me more, love me most!

I’m a teenager so love me lots, and with patience, but for God’s sake, don’t let my friends see it!

I’m a young adult now so love me from a distance, but not too far ’cause I may need the car!

I’ve met someone and we’re going to get married.  Can ya help, can ya pay, can we have it there? (ps Mom and Dad…you’re gonna love him/her!)

I’m going to have a baby so love me, love me most, and love me now ’cause we’re going to need babysitters! (ps Mom and Dad…you’re gonna love it!)

Mom? Dad? I’ve never felt this way before…I love this kid so much my heart hurts!
(ps honey…we know!)

And so on…..

The short answer to the too much / too long question is…yes, okay, maybe, a little bit. But we parents come to this conclusion naturally I think. We instinctively know (or learn soon enough if our instincts are not as honed as they will be), which stage or category we’re dealing with or which degree of parental love to douse them with, simply by living it. Organic knowledge.  We just have to choose to go with it.

Does that stop us from loving the same soul-deep way we did when they were newborn?

No.  Perhaps it does in theirs though.  For a time.

I know that they love us the same way we do them…in the beginning.  Outside of themselves, we are their world. Their universe. Their moon and their stars, and they are ours.

Parents and kids grow up together.  That’s a given.  No matter if you’re 18 or 45 when you have your children, you have to grow up with them to be able to give and receive all that these little selves need, and later, need to share.

We may grow up more with our first.  Then again, it may just be that we grow up differently with the next one or two or three.

But…if we’ve played our hands well, we are love.  All of it.  Every stage, every degree, every category is of the love, by the love, for the love.  And they are right there with us.

Completely (in the beginning)

Mostly (in the middle)

Until (still in the middle but getting further towards the…the…well shit…not the end, but you know what I mean right?)

Until…they find out there are more people to love and to be loved by; more stars to shine the light of love on their heads and in their hearts; more room in their world for other loves.

As it has always been.  As it was with our own parents to be sure.  Just another way of experiencing the circle of life.

Consider…

Our children are loved as only a child can be loved and they in turn, love as only a child can love. The universe is secure.

As time goes on, they thrive and grow in that forever, universe-spanning, parental love and love them right back. But as they continue to grow, they s l o w l y  recognize that their world is expanding to include the many, many different kinds of love; each addition a glimmering star to their universe thus far.

But their recognition is as single-minded as their love for us was in the beginning. When they venture out from underneath the love-cloaked expanse of their parental universe, they don’t at once realize that their hearts are big enough to add new loves without setting aside old ones.

Our time will come again (usually around the time the grand-kids show up!), but as parents, it’s only natural that we do feel the initial loss of that connection when our love is no longer the moon and the stars in our child’s heart.

BUT…

Facing this fact head-on is hard, but absolutely necessary.

For our own well-being as well as theirs.

If we don’t, we run the risk of pushing them further out into the expanse by clinging too close, depending too much on their always being there, pining away for their childhood days when they aren’t there, regretting what we didn’t do, or forgetting what we did. Even romanticizing the harder times and not counting our blessings.

We all can probably think of a parent in our experience who has done, or does, this. Think back to the last time you witnessed a parent who cannot let go and re-live what you felt. It’s a very uncomfortable feeling.

I’m certainly not completely innocent of it still.  I sometimes catch myself feeling guilty for not being ‘that mother’. The one who always can, always will, never says no, never says can’t. Who wouldn’t want to be considered ‘the perfect mom’?  But that’s not perfection. It’s limiting to both your life and those of your children.

However, even knowing I am not (and never could be) that mother…(nor is their Dad ‘that guy’) it nevertheless hurts (and in the dark of night, makes me wonder if they’ll still love me enough to ask again- I know, just silly ) to know that we are the ones disappointing our children.

But we get over it because we know we are good parents who have raised good people.  We all deal with disappointments in our relationships.  We have difficult conversations followed by deafening silences.  But we’ve loved each other long enough and well enough to know what’s really important.

So there is hope. Once we’ve matured enough in our parenthood to realize this fact of life, we can recapture that sense of oneness, specialness, absolute love not felt anywhere but in your parents’ heart of hearts.  It is, after all, our hearts that need to make preparations for the day when our children learn there is a love flow-chart.  This will fluctuate during their life spans, but it will always show a solid heart-red line for us.  Mom and Dad.  Steady as she goes.  What more could we hope for?

And an added benefit to this stage of parental maturity is…we can (and hopefully do) look back at our own parents with a new appreciation for all they’ve done, all they’ve been through, and all we’ve learned from them without even knowing it.  Score!

Cheers and happy parenting (and I mean that!)

Dearest Mommy

Dedicated to my Mother and Father and to my Sons
I’m proud to be one of your stars

it’s not easy

IT’S NOT EASY IS IT?

trying to find a title for a discussion of this magnitude is not easy.

trying to find a way to speak openly and frankly about this subject is not easy.

trying to come to grips with teen and young adult suicide is not easy.

trying to understand the minds of those that bully, in real space or cyber space, is not easy.

trying to find a solution is not easy.

seeing signs or hearing that your child may be a bully is not easy.

taking responsibility is not easy.

OR IS IT?

justifying their actions is easy.

saying that’s just how kids are is easy.

victim blaming is easy.

changing the channel or turning the page is easy.

giving a silent prayer of thanks that it’s not your child so not your problem is easy.

judging others is easy.

but…

facing facts is not.

easy.

WHERE ARE WE GOING WRONG?

Mattie Yates:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2607248/Im-doing-world-favor-Heartbreaking-farewell-video-girl-16-posted-YouTube-committing-suicide.html

Amanda Todd:

Ryan Halligan:

http://www.ryanpatrickhalligan.org/index.htm

Megan Meier:

http://www.meganmeierfoundation.org/megans-story.html

Phoebe Prince:

http://www.truecrimereport.com/2010/01/phoebe_prince_15_commits_suici.php

Jessica Logan:

Tyler Clementi:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/sep/30/tyler-clementi-gay-student-suicide

Shannon Gallagher: (this one is especially hard to fathom…the teen sister of a cyber bullied suicide victim)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/13/shannon-gallagher-sister-cyberbullying-suicide-erin-gallagher_n_2296488.html

Rehtaeh Parsons:

 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/09/rehtaeh-parsons-girl-dies-suicide-rape-canada_n_3045033.html

Audrey Pott:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/reports-3-teens-admit-assaulting-norcal-girl-who-later-killed-herself/

this list is far from complete, but I find I can look at no more.

those families left behind have not been idle.

they’ve formed foundations, initiated awareness campaigns, and again, the list goes on and on.

as do the suicides.

additionally, we now have, literally at our fingertips, the following, just to name a few of the resources available, as a direct result of this problem:

  • no bullying websites – one example

NoBullying.com features many pages dedicated to parents, teens, teachers, health professionals as well as posts related to cyber safety and the latest news about law making concerning curbing bullying worldwide as well as inspirational bullying poems and famous bullying quotes

  • suicide prevention blogs – one example

http://www.activeminds.org/our-programming/awareness-campaigns/suicide-prevention-month/suicide-prevention-month-blog

  • national suicide hotlines – one example

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

  • cyber bullying studies and statistics one example

http://cyberbullying.ua.edu/index.php/casestudies/

wherein they recite:

The National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center estimates that nearly 30 percent of American youth are either a bully or a target of bullying

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people with approximately 4,400 deaths every year

(and those stats are just here, but this is not an American problem.  this is a world problem.)

PLUS:

  • child protection software
  • web filtering software
  • social media safety programs
  • free teen safety e-books

so…what are we missing?

what are we doing wrong?

or maybe the better question is…

what are we NOT doing right?

I am no judge

I am no jury

I am no winner of any super parent of the year award

however…I am a survivor.

and living proof that

‘it’s a phase’

belongs at the top of “The Worst Things A Parent Can Assume” list

STOP!  DON’T ASSUME!  ASK!  LISTEN!  PAY ATTENTION!

no one knows your child better than you do. and no one does or will ever, care more.

and then there is “The Worst Things A Parent Can Say” list
(and I’m as guilty as the next guy for saying most of these things because I heard those things):

“that’s just how kids are”
“you’ll grow out of it”
“you’ll get over it, you’ll see”
“go find something to do”
“it’s not that important”
“ignore it, they’ll get bored”
“you don’t want to be like everyone else do you?”
“you’re too young to understand”
“sticks and stones…”

i am not being a Monday morning quarterback, at least, I hope you don’t see it that way.

i am not blaming all parents for all things as I certainly couldn’t look myself in the mirror if I took the blame for everything my children did growing up.

what I am trying to do, is shed some light on a few of THE most common, albeit loving, words of advice and/or wisdom we impart to our kids in an attempt to make them ‘feel better’ about themselves.

it doesn’t work.  I know, that’s harsh.

but it doesn’t work.

our children know we love them. they know we’ll say anything to make it better (in our own minds).

but we need to stop putting acne cream or liquid foundation on what WE PERCIEVE to be our kids’ source of their low self-image, and I say that because, if they saw themselves as WE do, this would not be the fucking horrific problem it is.

they don’t see themselves through OUR eyes.

they see themselves through the eyes of their peers.

just as the majority of all of us did.

no…this is not a new war.

it’s an old war on a different battleground.

an anonymous one.

one that affords bullies (who otherwise might not ever have dreamed of pulling the trigger) a haven of relative safety with which to thrust their swords of misguided judgment and fire those malice filled bullets.

all in an attempt to…what?

you know the answer.

to hide their own insecurities, to assuage their own feelings of inadequacy, to belie the perception that they are lacking, to feel big, and most importantly…to mask their own pain.  to make themselves feel better than…by making someone else feel worse than.

this is not a new concept.

and it’s certainly not only employed by teenage bullies.

knowing this…is it a stretch to think that the corporate bullies, the ball field bullies, the ‘my kid is better than your kid’ bullies, were bullied as youths?

nope.

OR

on the flip side…

if not bullied…were bullies as children, left to their own devices because ‘that’s just kids being kids”?

sadly, there is no easy solution.

it’s not easy, after all.

but…there are things we can do, as parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, friends…

stop making assumptions
stop making excuses
stop enabling our kids by ‘trying to be friends’

be a parent now and a friend later.
if you feel the no…say the no.
if ‘but johnny has one’ or ‘suzie gets to’ arguments sway you…get to know johnny and suzie a little better so you can perhaps point out to your kids the things they have that johnny and suzie do not.
allow your children to suffer the consequence of their choices but always offer an alternative to better ones. don’t take away the responsibility of their actions because you feel sorry for them.
if they say they hate you now…they’ll love you later, especially when they have their own kids.

no amount of money you spend ‘keeping up with…’ will ever make them feel pretty or popular on the outside if they don’t feel it on the inside. give them reasons to feel it on the inside. teach them compassion and empathy by living it. teach them to see beyond by doing it.

temper the time spent praising their feats by counting their blessings, whatever they might be.

teach them that each of us are blessed in our own way, some on the outside, some on the inside, but it’s all worthy of love and respect.

help them celebrate our differences by being well-rounded, informed, engaged, and interested parents who take the time to get to know their school, their teachers, their friends, and their friends parents.

yes, this is a different age. parents today have very little free time.
but…that was our choice yes?
say what you will…but every generation’s evolution is a direct result of that generation’s choices.
we cannot use ‘I have no time’ as an excuse to not raise our own kids.
we cannot blame society or teachers for ‘not giving’ our children the values we should be giving them at home.

our children need us.
they will never admit to this, but they do.
not just the first 10 years or the next…
it is a lifetime job.
and the job of a lifetime.

let’s help give our kids that lifetime, that looooong lifetime.

please

i dedicate this post to the fire starter, you know who you are, and you know what you mean to me…and i thank you for knowing i had something to say, no matter how small

Five and Twenty

Five & Twenty years today

What seems like only yesterday

You made our family whole that day

Baby Matthew

Second born & second son

But unique you are, second to none

Matthew the Light

You favor both your Dad and Me

Your brother? Lord, you two are like peas

Gramp? Ha, have you seen your ears?

With lobes like that you could fly, I fear

IMG_0317

Your nose though, even I must admit

Raised an eyebrow or two (whose nose is it?)

Not Dad’s, nor mine, and not your brother’s

Not Father’s Grand nor Grand Mother’s

IMG_0248

But we’ll leave the nose, we’ll just call it yours

‘Cause it fits that face we so adore

To celebrate this special day at hand

Our babe, our boy, our teen, our young man

Matthew

You’ve made our lives rich with love and laughter

We share your hopes, the dreams you’re after

You were just a boy when you left and began

The next leg of your journey toward becoming a man

Matt at the North Pole

But you found your life, your love – your way

Thousands and thousands of miles away

It’s never easy to watch your kids go

When you are a father, this too you will know

007

But we couldn’t be more proud of you, our dear son

For the courage you’ve shown, the battles you’ve won

You’ve proven your mettle, your strength, your grit

You did it alone (mostly?) (a bit?)

Matt in anchorage

As you keep moving forward, new challenges will come

But our faith in you grows with each passing sun

Though, an old soul you have, there is plenty of time

To live for the moment, those moments sublime

Matt at Alyeska

We know you do and you always will

Without taking for granted the glorious thrill

That life has to offer to you who are willing

To live what they feel, and feel life fulfilling

Promises? Never. You’ll learn as you go

That heartache and pain are a part of the show

IMG_9068

004

Our best wish for you is to live ‘no regrets’

The more fully lived, the better life gets

We know the depths of compassion you hold

Your empathy, compassion, and emotions are bold

Matt at Portage Glacier

This day of your birth, this twenty and five

Is as miraculous now as the day you arrived

We love you dear Matthew, with all that we’ve got

(Your present’s in the mail…oops…I forgot)

IMG_7371

Sorry honey
Didn’t anyone ever tell you?
25 is the Poetry year
We Love you 😉

Number 3 – RAPE: Rise Against Punishable Eccentricity

The third and final post in the RAPE:  Rise Against Punishable Eccentricity challenge to join the movement to raise our voices in the fight again Rape and Sexual Assault, as well as lift our voices in unison toward helping women feel empowered to take charge and take action.

I particularly love this one because it’s quintessential Susan (the Green Thumb Goddess).  She can always pack a wallop in her poetry but I think she especially nailed this one.  The seed planted here is powerful, visual, and easy to relate to.

I would also like to thank my daughter-in-law Lindsay for allowing me to use her beautiful face in this image.  While she’s not a victim of sexual abuse…she absolutely ‘gets’ it!

A side note:

Women do not have to be victims of abuse to feel like and see that ‘stranger’ in the mirror…sometimes lost, sometimes less than, too often unrecognizable.  Because I know that feeling all too well, not just as a survivor, but as a woman in general, there’s an added incentive to lead by example; to show that we must not be silent; we must not become part of the backdrop of someone else’s life; we must not lose sight of who and what we are…special, unique, and empowered to change the world by virtue of our voices, our minds, and not the least, raising our children.

We must step up and out of the supporting role and take the lead when we need to; show our sons and daughters that just because we plant and tend the garden, it does NOT make us gardeners.

And our choice to be housewives, does NOT mean we are ignorant of the world outside our four walls.

If our choice is to be stay-at-home mothers, it is just that – a choice.  NOT an open door to disrespect, condescension, or a sign that we feel ourselves unworthy.  If anything…it’s the complete opposite. 

Here then, for her, you, me, us….WE 

Stranger by Susan Daniels and Rhonda

Stranger

Number 1 – Rape Hurts     Number 2 – She

Thank you Susan, it was an absolute pleasure to be part of this with you.

And, thank you all for reading.