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Be Open; Be Real; Be You

A few days ago, as I scanned a school hallway to make sure I knew where my daughter, her friend, and my “get-away” second child were, a friend stopped me. She had read my blog.  To my surprise, what I assumed would be small talk turned out as first glance to be praise.  She said she loved it (thank you!!!).  Then it got a little deeper.

“Thank you. I know it probably can be a bit much,” I giggled out.  I have never been really great at just letting the compliment settle in.

“No, really,” she went on.  “It is just that my friends always tell me I am too real; too honest.  I wear what I am feeling too much on my sleeve.  It was refreshing to read it.”  This I was not expecting.

“Well, I just think… there are plenty of perfectly made up people playing the part.  I just…” sometimes searching for the right words in the moment fail me miserably…so I tried again. “I just, I think people need to know that others feel what they do.  They need to know they relate.

What she said replayed in my mind for the last few weeks. In our most poignant, telling moments, life can paint the memory.  True to this, when I think about that moment, her face is clear as the day she stood in front of me. A sign I should be listening to the lesson.

So what purpose and meaning did this brief interaction pose that made is so prominent? For me, there is one solid lesson it came to – we need to be real.

The battle of a facade and the exposure of depth.  To reveal what is true is to risk criticism.  To blend, be pleasant and likable is to feign perfectionism.  The balance is to recognize the tug-of-war between both sides and yet, I repeat, we need to be real.

We need to see the pain.
We need to share the tears.
We need to laugh so hard we snort.
We need to expose our insecurities.
We need to show ourselves overcoming.
We need to let the wounds breathe.
We need to allow the compliments.
We need to ask for help.
We need to be the first to give it.

Know, please know, I don’t care what shape you come to me in.  I want your heart; I want your truth.  The good, the bad, the deep, the contemplative, the confused, the happy, the everything.  We were given emotions, truths, pain, and strength.  It all can get so mixed up when we are trying to fit what the molds say are best.  Don’t be the mold. Be who you are.  Be YOU.

Truth bomb – this year has sucked. 2017 has delivered it’s share of punches and many others have it worse.  Despite it all, I get up.  I put on clothes. I drive to work. I put one foot in front of the other. I move forward.

It isn’t always easy.  What makes this possible is knowing I do not have to be perfect. If I don’t have makeup on, those that matter don’t care. If my hair is in a ponytail for the third day, no judgments are made. When my nose is bright red from crying and I am doing all I can to type, a message will come through saying “I’m there for you.” During the times I spend three hours on a bed because a new item has brought me to tears, hugs are given and books are read together under the covers.

Life isn’t made for the weak but it is a lie that weakness is showing what you feel. To show your breaking points, to show your excitement, to expose any part of your inner self is strength because in a second someone could tell you how wrong it was for you to do just that.  Be brave.

Find those who allow all of you, that relish in who you are..the real you. Perhaps at one time, the carefully placed perfect walls were needed. In those times, we grew, but find those individuals that don’t require them. Invest in those people. Those are your crew, your tribe, your besties, your people.  They will fail you from time to time, as you will them. Allow that and allow the make up. Realness comes with risk and pain but the payoff is worth it.

Perfection isn’t the answer; you are.
Be you.

 

 

 

 

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Nine Years Old

Face reddened by emotion,
her eyes scoured the gym for her mom.
As obvious as the pipe cleaner hanging from her ear, she
was trying to keep it together.

Just as she spied her sanctuary,
her waterlogged eyes met mine
and carried the weight of a crushed spirit,
perhaps not yet broken, but pierced.

Mending a soul now became her mother’s work
deepened by the words of the scratched record
repeating over and over to be heard by
her daughter’s ears alone.

What biting, damning secrets did those silent
knives carve into her?
Did he even care?
Would his parents?

Youth shapes and shifts the course….and the
best taught lessons are privy to the
unobserved voice of a stranger.
Does its owner recognize another’s suffering?

Empathy is lost to anger when words
no longer are recognized as power.
Or is this Survival of the Fittest where
the winners learn the lesson of becoming Hard?

Intentional or not, a day will be where the one
in tears causes another’s.
Youth is a playground to entice away from
the known, the safe, the kind.

Today’s tears to be used, in time, as medicine or venom,
for growth, creation or drowning.
To be swallowed in self loathing or
to be welding to a new, protective tool.

The impossible task of ensuring a masterpiece
still be created, with brushes missing
bristles and half used dry paint,
now is handed to the mother.

But broken walls and ripped canvases can
hold Beauty.
Fallen trees can be used to build houses
or to light the darkness.

At nine years old, an unfolding subconsciously begins.
Will it lead to a shell, an exterior so
tough that in time a human connection
seems trivial and a luxury of those untouched?

Or the opposite…to forgiveness and the recognition
to Love, to Live, encompasses and understands
pain… and scars are bi-products
in sorting out Experience.

The choice begins and we are all responsible
Do we wrap our arms around the invisible wound,
allowing it to seep out until time to heal…
or stare at it and ignore the very essence of being human.

Humanity is not found in the unfeeling, the numb.
Alcohol can serve that purpose.
Strength is found in the engulfing,
uncomfortable and welcomed connection.

At nine years old, her eyes met mine.
With pursed lips and sad eyes,
I gave her the only gift I could, an understanding smile.
We are the Survivors of Youth.
and it’s Ours to teach her how to be.

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I’m Failing

I am failing my kid.

Without question, this is how I feel… and I am not alone.  At least two other moms have said this same phrase to me in the last 48 hours.

Those who have followed some of my story know I have an incredibly sweet, high energy child.  He is beautiful and bright and a boundless ball of blinding, beaming bounciness.  He is Joy.

Imagine Joy. What does it feel like?  What type of child would Joy be?  If I close my eyes and see joy, I see a child spinning, arms out, wind flowing through hair.  I feel the sun on me and laughter in my soul escaping through my open, giggling mouth.

This is the spirit of the child I am entrusted to turn into a capable, controllable, considerate adult…and I’m failing.

Socially-speaking, the logical way to control joy is to put it out… but despite my understanding of expectations, I cannot extinguish my child’s spirit.

Socially-speaking, the logical way to control joy is to put it out… but despite my understanding of expectations, I cannot extinguish my child’s spirit. Because he yearns to please, he is aware of his inability to conform, and in little kid language he expresses it.

“I’m bored.”
“My brain is going crazy.”
“The focus oils are wearing off.”

And now lately his clues to his inner world and struggles are changing to these…

“He says he hates me.”
“He hit me.”
“I had a bad day.”

And here we are into a hard week at school where I am starting to hear that he isn’t being himself at all.  He even hit a kid.

This is not Joy.

After hearing he hit a child, he got the mean-mom lecture on our expectations and was sent to his room.  He felt bad for most the night and walked with his head down, eyes sad.  Before he left the next day, we reviewed who he needed to apologize to and that we do not hit.  It was going to be a good day.

Before noon, it was clear from school reports, it was not a good day as he had already pushed and hit a child.  How?  He is my kind-hearted child.  What is going on with him? Why can I not help him control this?  How can I not find what he needs?  I am failing him… again. One step forward, two back.

Like we all do with WebMD when we believe we are dying of an unknown ailment, I instantly googled a few articles (Psychology Today and  Dr. Sears), took in as  gospel-truth considered their insights and talked with far too many friends who humored me by assuring me it would be okay – my child was normal.

Yet, it didn’t feel normal.  I felt like I was the worst mother in the world because I couldn’t help him and now he was going grow up to be a punk/bully who hit other children, wouldn’t be liked and would probably end up completely adjusting his personality to be recluse, with no spark. Joy, suffocated.  Hardball was not working.

Joy, suffocated.  Hardball was not working.

Two hours of a conversation condensed now into a sentence, essentially, a kid told him he hated him and that my son was stupid/dumb because his skin/hair were not the color said child preferred.  When questioned, my son said it made him feel “sad” and he hit the kid because, well, at five years old, what other way would he respond?  At thirty-five years old, I was not sure how to respond to this.

This all leads to a which-way-is-up-or-down type situation.

Although my son did not respond in an appropriate way, he heard a person state that based on color, he was hated and it caused a reaction. Something inside of him said, “that is not okay,” and a response took over when the words failed. Please do not misinterpret; I am not condoning physical assault as a response.  More conversations will follow but that is just it – more conversations will follow. This is growing; this is teaching; this is creating a dialogue and not shutting him off to stew on feelings and be confused on the fact he called out hatred (yes, in not the best of ways…remember, five years old not thirteen) but was now in trouble for it.

So are we failing?

Are we failing when we research?  Are we failing when we talk to friends to try to figure out an alternative approach?  Are we failing when we take a look inside to see what it is we need to do differently to solicit a new response? Are we failing when we are teaching five year olds that skin color doesn’t dictate if a person is a friend and how we react appropriately to statements that judge based on an appearance factor outside of a person’s control? Are we failing when we sit down with our children to talk about the why’s… why the child maybe said what he did; why we don’t use our fists to solve the issue; why skin color is not a friendship factor; why…why…why?

And if we are failing, if we are screwing up on the way to attempting to get it right, if we notice our approach was poor and our technique needs adjustment and we do just that… doesn’t that follow the Mickey Rooney quote “you always pass failure on the way to success?

You always pass failure on the way to success.

There’s no manual made just for your child and even if you had one, it probably wouldn’t work with the next.  What we hope is the lesson will make its way into their mind so they can think through situations and come to the best response possible.  When I told my daughter the situation, she instantly said, “that is stupid.  Skin color doesn’t matter.  It is just skin – it’s a thing.  It isn’t a person.”  About a year ago, she made me an apology card after being especially hyper that read, “We will figure it out.  We are family and we will figure out what works for us.”

Maybe that is the lesson – maybe that is the success.  Figuring it out.. figuring out what doesn’t work for your family and what does.  Figuring out what shuts down the conversation and what grows the dialogue/person.  Figuring out what allows someone to look at a situation and say, “I am going to respond to this with Love.”

You see, my child is Joy; he feels like summer and just like the intense summer storms that roll in, so can his reactions.  Our job is to teach him how to respond with the best tools to ride out the waves of energy – positive and negative both – so in the end, his soul remains a portrait of joy.

In doing so, I am going to fail him time and time again.

And that is okay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Be You

I love her for making this. Since before high school, I have watched my peers do anything they can to be liked, to be loved, to make the impression. Every magazine on the shelf tells you to drop weight, to trim down, to change who you are. Even those masked with “health” typically are full of articles on make up and beauty supplies. When you start to notice all the marketing telling you that you are not enough, it is impossible to un-see it.

YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. You. Just You.

We have all fallen to it – who has not. My father told me once, “if you stand naked in a field with nothing around you and you can be okay with you, then you have it right.” Wisdom in those words.

Our daughter told me at 3 or 4 years old, she wanted to wear eye shadow so she could be “beautiful.” Where did this come from? I barely wear make up. Naturally, I corrected her, “No, sweetie, YOU are beautiful. Makeup just makes you colorful. YOU are beautiful.”

Then after thinking on it, added the words of my mother, “There are very pretty people who are very ugly. The most beautiful part is on the inside.”

There are very pretty people who are very ugly.

Over the past few years, there has been an increased number of videos showing what photoshop does… it distorts reality. It gives our daughters an unnatural picture of who they should strive to be.

How about instead of teaching the importance of perfectly groomed nails, we teach how to extend a hand to another? How about we teach them to hug in a way that our bodies touch and tells someone “you are not alone,” as opposed to worrying about how their body may feel under another’s hands? How about we show them how to quiet their minds so they can touch their own souls and another’s, as opposed to only hearing the constant sound of “not good enough?” How about we teach how to find our sanctuary in friends, and not just the internet, alcohol or drugs?

Perhaps if we listened we would stop judging each other and care. We would see we are all living our own battles, making our own mistakes, falling and learning. What we need are those who will love us for our hearts, for our struggles, for our strength…NOT for our judgments. But if our biggest critic now lives in our own head, true compassion will never exist.

If our biggest critic now lives in our own head, true compassion will never exist.

“You don’t have to try.” You were made to be bigger than your physical person. We do not weep at funerals because her clothes were immaculate, her hair was precise, her teeth were blinding, makeup flawless, boobs perky, and her stomach flat.

Be real. We are wasting our lives buying into it.

Be You.

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A report card made me cry

Today was a first – a report card comment section made me cry.

Our son regularly has hard days – he is a wonderful, kind soul. Last year I said to who would be his kindergarten teacher, “please just remember he has a good heart.”

See – our kiddo goes at about 1000000 miles faster than anyone else in our family and it makes focusing really quite difficult. It is why I can’t just put him in a camp or daycare for summer and why I won’t often let him go out with others to the store or a park. Consequently, this is why it’s really stinking tough to trust a nanny. He will get away and not because he isn’t listening to the rules but darn it – that wheel has water and something is making it turn and he needs to figure out why and the world fades out until he can. That or he will push them to their limit and I’m not willing to gamble either way.

Take today, getting ready for school to simply eat and put on socks was a major task because he needed…NEEDED…to build a wall. This isn’t entitlement or spoiled behavior – more like tunnel vision. Imagine being incredibly tired and you cannot focus at all on what the person is saying because all you can focus on is keeping your eyes open. I imagine that is his brain but at a constant race pace and not quiet.

His ability to be completely captivated and determined to a single cause is something that will serve him well, likewise will his endless energy, but as a parent, it is my challenge to help him figure out how to direct that in a constructive way.

This said – he cannot be an easy student and his saving grace is his spirit and the incredibly kind and caring child that he is. Regularly, he says with a head lowered, “I had a hard day today,” as he greets me after school. The reactions to this have morphed throughout the year as I have come to realize that I am somewhat failing because I’m not giving him what he needs. Sure, this is because I don’t know what that is and I’m searching and trying different ways…but as a parent – it sucks to watch your kid struggle to follow the classroom expectations and feel like most every new try doesn’t reach par.

Lately it seems maybe I’m starting to uncover bits and parts – but it is slow going and the feel of one step forward, one or two back.

So today was report card day….

And the first line read with such kindness, even naming him “my jumping bean,” that I instantly started to cry. It went on to give a thankfulness for his ability to have her come up with new ways to teach. She took his challenges and turned them into growth points and not begrudgingly.

He could be the kid she couldn’t wait to get rid of.

He could be the kid she couldn’t wait to get rid of, but she didn’t at all look at him that way. She looked at him with the set of eyes we do – to see his heart and see his mind is constantly working out the puzzle around him…and to be willing to try to help me find the right solution that isn’t just give him to someone else. She has gone above and beyond what she would need to and is continuing to day in and out.

So thank you, thank you, thank you to whatever power placed my son with this wonderful, compassionate, dedicated, creative, selfless individual who cares for our littlest ones in the way we would… for advocating and reading and researching when she could settle and say it is just the way the kid is. Thank you being so kind in your comments in his report card.