May 172017
 

lilacs in bloomIt was the second Sunday in May, a lifetime ago. I had developed solid relationships with many of the women in the locked facility so, standing in front of the entire patient community, I sensed the need. And, as was the habit of most women in mandatory addiction treatment, they were prepared for disappointment.

“Good morning ladies. Before we start, I need to get something off my chest.” I rarely addressed the group this way. I had their attention.

“I have concluded that, despite any evidence to the contrary, Mothers’ Day was invented by a man. After all, no woman could be oblivious enough to come up with something so powerful it makes us feel like inadequate mothers AND crappy daughters at the same time.”

...so powerful we feel like lousy mothers AND crappy daughters at the same time. Click To Tweet

About a hundred women let go of the tense, collective breath that hung heavy over us all. Some nodded. Some giggled. Almost everyone in the room relaxed: they were neither going to have to pretend to feel wonderful nor would they be expected to spill their guts about painful experiences on this Mothers’ Day.

And, although it has been some years since I consulted to that facility, I think of those women every Mothers’ Day, especially when I’m on social media. This year, in addition to addicts in treatment, I thought about many other women.

How cruel is the social media environment for women who have lost a portion, if not all, of their motherness through miscarriage, illness, accident, addiction, or other tragedy? Do those who care for them ignore their grief and loss? Or, still worse, try to fix it by offering well-intended faux-comfort pearls like “everything happens for a reason,” or “they’re probably better off.”person with face in hand

And what about parent-child pairs who are burdened by separation: incarceration, institutionalization, some adoptions, homelessness, violence, or the foster care system? Or those who are denied legal protection for their families simply because they are gay?

Do they offer well-intended faux-comfort pearls like “everything happens for a reason”? Click To Tweet

Although there are facts to contradict my initial statements, I’m convinced that Anna Jarvis, the holiday’s founder, would approve of my rant.

I’m not anti-Mothers’ Day — like most people, I’ve participated in wonderful celebrations and some awful ones. What I *am* opposed to is making things harder for people who already struggle. Or exclusions that border on exile. And extreme insensitivity. Are women who choose childlessness the selfish, driven stereotypes often portrayed in our media? Or, are they simply people who exercised choice about how to allocate the time allotted on the planet? Unfortunately, it’s tempting to point to exceptional contributions that have birthed movements or nurtured companies. Why unfortunate? A woman does not have to be an outlier to validate her choices.

At some point this Mothers’ Day I thought about the women who hoped their children’s demons (violence, poverty, health) would take enough of a day off to allow a casual coffee date or an upbeat phone call. I thought about adult women who no longer have wonderful mothers… and the adult survivors of abuse. Both can turn to total shut-down mode to make a cheerful-sounding call, a brave form of denial to keep them safe.

And how should we honor those who became mothers through rape or incest? What must any of those women be feeling on this, the largest of commercial high holy days? How does a woman manage the intricate mental and emotional gymnastics linking violence and violation to an innocent child? Does she have to go a little bit crazy in that process?

How should we best honor those who became mothers through rape or incest? Click To Tweet

During the first half of May, there is little evidence that such people exist. Many of us have drunk the commercial cool-aide and vigorously post our parental highlight reels for our friends, fans, and followers.

I can’t help wondering what Anna Jarvis would have done with social media. Back in the early 1900’s, she spent three years and a lot of her own money lobbying for a holiday honoring mothers and their contribution to society.

And, soon after that happened? She dedicated much of the rest of her life and her wealth trying to stop the commercial juggernaut. A Jarvis researcher tells us she thinks Miss Anna would be pleased for the holiday’s popularity… and equally horrified by the associated commercialism. (By the way, she was reportedly equally appalled by charities that tried to leverage the day.)

Several years ago, many of our family members collaborated in a decision to cut holiday stress. We replaced obligatory gift-buying with experiences and the occasional spontaneous “I thought you’d love this” gift. And while we sometimes choose to go against another tide and skip certain holiday travel nightmare scenarios, somehow we’re all finding more ways and times and places to connect. More “Hi, how are things?” phone calls.

I love being a mother and a mentor and a grandma and an auntie, but it may be time to stop the madness. Whether we consider connections to our mothers or those from our own children, what’s so special about the second Sunday in May? How can we better honor one another on other days?

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Andrea Patten’s first book, What Kids Need to Succeed: Four Foundations of Adult Achievement, was written with all parents in mind. Her most recent release is The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head.  Both are available on Amazon.

 

 May 17, 2017  Posted by  Parenting, Self care, Thinking 8 Responses »
Aug 172016
 

This video of family members spontaneously drumming makes me ridiculously happy. I don’t know if it’s the actual drumming, the spontaneity… maybe it’s just that fact that I remembered to use the phone’s video feature for a change… but it makes me laugh out loud, every time I see it.

It was insanely hot but why wouldn’t it be? It was summertime and we were visiting a theme park in Florida. It’s a family activity that gives a whole new meaning to the word “hot.” But, so far, Uncle Lou has only been able to visit in the summer and he wanted to see the sites with his little niece. He’s always interested in doing whatever he can to strengthen his ties with the American side of his family; the nieces and nephew are his only tie with very small people.

As Mom 2.0 in an extraordinarily blended family, I love the moments like this. They are moments of mindfulness, joy, and volition. They are the moments we choose to love and connect. They are moments that help us all grow in some of the best ways.

I would be surprised if the grandgirl remembers this trip. I would also be surprised if she didn’t remember that Uncle Lou loves and enjoys her. And that they always have fun.

 August 17, 2016  Posted by  E, Happiness, Parenting No Responses »
May 242016
 

 

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How many of us approached parenting with all the love in a plan like this?

We know for sure that OUR children will never feel “apart” from other family members. They will always understand how very wanted they are and this will create a closeness unlike  other families we know. They will be happy because we understand them so well.  Their basic needs will be so well-provided for that they’ll be able to direct their energies toward passions like sports, the arts and, of course, their educations.  They will excel. And, of course, this overflow of love will inspire them so much they will gladly share their prized possessions with their siblings….

That optimism is a wonderful thing and reflects the almost overpowering unconditional love that parents can feel.  It’s a love that motivates us in ways that are hard to understand. It makes us want to do the impossible. It can also be a little scary and make any one of us a touch crazy.

We hover and helicopter and try to control every interaction in our children’s days.  It’s almost as if we have come to  believe that discomfort equals disability and that letting our kids learn from trial and error (their own — NOT ours) will bring about permanent injury or harm. Fantasy and reality don’t quite match up.

This morning I heard a woman speaking about one of her most embarrassing moments. Unfortunately for her? It was televised. (Yes, fellow introverts, my skin is crawling and I’ve got giant butterflies in my gut just from imagining typing that.) The speaker was one of those remarkable, outgoing, super sales-y direct sales people who used the story to explain the role of failure in her life. Her embarrassing, unprepared-for-TV-moment never, ever came around again. In fact, it taught her to treat many other moments as if she were about to be beamed onto millions of screens all around the world. Good lesson, no?

 

crying baby

 

What does this have to do with loving your kids? Reality isn’t always pretty and it’s probably pretty darned close to perfect. Relax.

Think about the things you know for sure.  How easily did your own big lessons come to you? If you’re anything like me (and this morning’s speaker), I’ll guess at least a few of those important life lessons came as a result of a big belly flop off of life’s high diving board. Splat! Unfortunately, lots of life’s best lessons come to us that way.

To grow as parents we are required to grow as people —  the lessons we model through the way we live our lives carry much more weight than the ones we try to create with rules, words or even our well-intended fantasies.

It’s painful to watch kids struggle, but let’s be realistic.  Can we love them enough to put our own feelings aside? To let our kids be kids? Can we trust that our love — in all of its’ messy imperfection — is perfect enough?

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Today I am a “Love Ambassador” for my online friend, Intuitive Psychologist, Dr. Debra Reble and her newest book. We’re celebrating the release of Being Love: How Loving Yourself Creates Ripples of Transformation in Your Relationships and the World just released by Inspired Living Publishing.  Order your copy today and receive over 50 gifts from Debra and her community.  www.BeingLoveBook.com

 

May 162016
 
self-esteem

Self-esteem (Photo credit: Key Foster)

Like it or not,  parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors  occasionally embarrass the kids in our care. We don’t mean it, but our most loving intentions can become a problem, especially when attending their sporting events. Standing on the sidelines seems to make some of us to care too much — and too loudly —  about their self-esteem.

Loving our kids is not a competitive sport. Rather than such intense focus on the impossible job of creating self-esteem, what’s wrong with “just” letting the littles play their sport? And explore and experience their own strengths and resilience?

Wait… did I just say that creating self-esteem for our kids is impossible?

I did.  Self-esteem is an inside job.  As much as we’d like to, we can’t do it for them.  A child’s self-esteem grows with each successful interaction, each job well done, each goal met and every obstacle successfully overcome. Those feelings and experiences that can’t be taken away.

Over-parenting, while well-intended, can create more anxiety than it prevents.

On the way home from baseball, my son told me he felt sorry for his friend, the team’s star player.  When I asked him why, he said it was “because of the way his Mom acts at the games.”

I remember thinking “Oh boy, am I in trouble. This gal is the gold standard. The Team Mom. She never misses a game or even a practice…. and she’s not cutting it?” I asked him to tell me more.  

“She cheers at him for everything. It’s like she thinks finding his way to home plate for his at-bat is as big a deal as getting a hit or a big play in the field.  I guess she doesn’t think he can do anything right. He’s a good player. It’s embarrassing.”  

The eight-year-old boy envied by most of his teammates had told at least one of his peers that Mom’s excess cheering makes him feel self-conscious and incompetent.  Maybe this over-involved, over-praising thing isn’t such a great idea after all.

Letting kids participate in team sports is a great way for them to experience successes and failures, to learn discipline and practice self-control. To simply serve as witnesses — and allow the process to be about the kids  — requires adults to model many of the same skills. Maybe our littles already know we love them and are proud of them. Maybe our excessive displays of support really are just embarrassing.

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TICA-Front-Cover

Does your inner critic heckle your parenting skills from the sidelines? Want to make it stop? Check out The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head

 

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