Parenting

Just Like Their Dad

At the center of the universe.
There is family on the left that
equals the family on the right.
They go before.
They come behind.

Together, they get the job done.
And make their father proud.
Telling His story is their task.

It’s not the attendees,
but their father,
who was listening,
still very much alive,
that should give pause
at the enormity of task.

Be honest.
Be kind.
Be faithful.
Be brave.
Be super-human.
We should all want to be
just like him.
No pressure.
Whatsoever.

The nights might be slumber-less.
What story to tell?
The scaling of buildings?
The flying through skies?
The magic better than duct tape?
The smile of his eyes?

Our Father,
is a man full
of great power
and even greater love.

He will tell us what to say.
Brother one is a leader: faithful and wise.
Brother two: generous and kind.
Sister one: loyal and capable.
Sister two: organized and creative.
Brother three: handy and humble.
Sister three: enduring and strong.

All of them are
JUST LIKE MY DAD.
All, flawed by earth,
yet still,
perfect inside
seeking the right,
and
a remarkable force for good.
Our favorite people are
family.

Jolting our hearts
and paralyzing our tongues
is often one pathetic truth
that we dare not say.
No matter how remarkable we are,
It takes all of us
to make one of him.

Dad is a superhero.
A mortal and a God.

When people question Him.
Why doesn’t he alleviate
all the war?
all the suffering?
all the pain?

I think of Superman.
Who always did.
But, sometimes,
just like Dad,
maybe Superman is busy,
not dead.
He’s waiting.
On us.
To do His job.

Perhaps
it’s up to
His formative children,
to fill his shoes.

When one child suffers,
maybe
his brothers and sisters bury their heads
instead of praying for the strength necessary.
To be just like their dad.

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*Dedicated to my dad and my Father: the best Superman who ever lived. And, to the God of the Universe who also calls me His daughter.

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Dear Mom [Week 6]

Hi mom,

Wow, it amazes me at how much your voice has become a healing balm for my soul. I wish I would have recognized that more for dad before he was gone. Thanks for my pep talk on Wednesday night. Oh, how validating it is to just talk with someone over the phone who can see straight through the cellular airwaves. “Alice, you sound so tired. I hope you can get to bed  early tonight.” Even if I didn’t, just hearing that you wished it for me gave me greater strength to endure. Thank you, mom. For Wednesday and all the thousands of other times just like it. How fortunate I am to have you in my corner.

I was out walking Olive last night at 10:30 PM and a truck hauling a trailer full of stuff drove by. I had to sit down on the curb for a bit because my heart and mind felt like dad had just passed by showing me that he is still hard at work and happy. Then, I had a dream last night. It is my first I’ve had of dad since he passed away. I was showing a friend a video of my dad of how healthy he was on the day he died. He reached out from the cell phone screen jumping and hopping, waving and smiling. He was laughing. I never recognized the  full value of his smile until he was gone. While I dreamt, his smile filled my whole soul with light. It illuminated from his eyes and mouth to his face and everything beyond.  I woke up so happy. I felt like dad was telling me not to worry because he is right back to his old healthy happy ways. How much fun we always had with you and dad! Compared to our neighbors’ possessions, we had next to nothing, but we sure did have everything. I felt like we really got the best of both worlds. A third-world country carefree closeness combined with so many first-world conveniences.

I’m sorry these letters are getting harder to decipher.  I am so tired all of the time, and it is hard to write. I can’t even seem to think straight. When you called last Friday from the DI crying, it truly broke my heart. I wish I could take away your pain, mom. I hated (and still hate) that you were (and still are) lonely, but then when you said, “I feel better, just hearing your voice,” it made me so humbled and grateful that even though I can’t take it away, I could provide a little comfort in the moment. I am so glad Adam could come visit. I am partially jealous that he has the kind of freedom to do that, but I am more grateful than anything. I need to make it a priority to come visit very soon, no matter how crazy busy I am. Adam is just as busy, if not more so.

It’s Friday, therefore I should be getting homework done. It’s 1:13 PM, and I have yet to even start. I’ve had a great day. I woke up and listened to President Uchtdorf’s talk from Women’s Conference, and consequently I just wanted more. I then listened to Elder Holland’s talk from the Priesthood Session. In between my new visiting teacher came over. God has been with me today. He answered my prayers. He never answers in the way that I want Him to, but He does answer. I’ve been really preoccupied with LG and Abigail lately. One of my questions going into conference was how I could help both LG and Abigail with their individual struggles. I get so impatient, and I know a majority of the time I just exacerbate stuff. When I asked the question, I hoped God would tell me exactly how I could MAKE them do what I know is best. Ha. God has never answered me one time, in all my almost 43 years, to tell me anything about anyone else. Today, has been true to God’s pattern.

Between Sunny (my visiting teacher), Holland, and Ucthdorf I got three witnesses all telling me that same thing. I need to have more faith, I need to love better and deeper, and I need to be patient and kind. They all sounded just like you, mom. Maybe someday Abigail will actually write me a letter that says, “Hey, mom, thanks for telling me what I didn’t want to hear. I know you love me. And, you were right. My entire life.” Well, there you go, mom. There is everything you ever wanted to hear. You know me well. I know that you love me. And, I hope I can learn to love like you do, more devoutly and patiently. Why does it have to be so hard? I wish I could just make everyone else change to my liking, instead of having to work on making myself more like-able.

As I sat pondering how I could make the changes I needed to make, I saw a video a friend of mine posted on facebook. It was a song by Andrea Bocelli and Katherine McFee called “The Prayer”. As I watched and listened to the beautiful lyrics, I started praying along.

I pray you’ll be our eyes
And watch us where we go
And help us to be wise
In times when we don’t know

Let this be our prayer
As we go our way
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
To a place where we’ll be safe

I pray we’ll find your light
And hold it in our hearts
When stars go out each night
Remind us where you are

Let this be our prayer
When shadows fill our day
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we’ll be safe

We ask that life be kind
And watch us from above
We hope each soul will find
Another soul to love

Let this be our prayer
Just like every child
Needs to find a place
Guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we’ll be safe

Need to find a place
Guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we’ll be safe

I almost felt like I was praying to both God and dad. I hope that doesn’t come across sacrilegious. When I got to the part where it says, “Let this be our prayer, just like every child, needs to find a place” I got a fourth witness. It was an answer from God, about me, about you, and about dad. It was jetted straight through my skin and brain and arrived straightway to my heart. “Create a place for every child, just like your mom and dad. Be their place. Be their safe place.” That means, I have to do that for everyone. Not just my kids, but my husband, too. It’s a daunting message. How can I ever do that when I am still such a child needing such a place? But, I will try, mom. I will try. How I love you and dad. You both have issues, but you both keep trying. You are children who need a safe place, but despite your own needs being met or not, you always created that place for others. You know how to love. Thank you for showing me what that looks like. I will try to be like you, mom. And like dad. Because ultimately I know I will end up looking like God.
Two more songs followed as I typed to you just now while listening to “The Prayer” again trying to muster my strength to get up from my laptop. I don’t want to. I just want to stay here where it is safe, and I won’t mess anything up with my controlling, impatience, criticism, or aggressiveness. The songs were “Time to say Goodbye” and then “Hero.” I could hear dad’s voice singing. He told me we will go together again in a ship, and that even though he knows he’s my hero, he was just an ordinary dude who kept trying and loving. I could hear him say, “Alice, you can keep trying. You can keep loving.”
It’s not Wednesday night. You aren’t on the phone. It’s Friday morning, and for the second time this week I got a pep-talk from my parents. My dad called all the way from heaven. How about that? I didn’t even have to ask you to talk to him. He just knew I needed him.
I love you, mom. Until next week… here are the lyrics. I hope you get to hear dad telling you about the ship you will sail again, too.

 

Excerpted from “Time to say Goodbye”
When I’m alone
I dream on the horizon
and words fail;
yes, I know there is no light
in a room where the sun is absent,
if you are not with me, with me.
At the windows
show everyone my heart
which you set alight;
enclose within me
the light you
encountered on the street.
Time to say goodbye
To countries I never
Saw and shared with you,
now, yes, I shall experience them.
I’ll go with you
On ships across seas
which, I know,
no, no, exist no longer,
with you I shall experience them again.
I’ll go with you
On ships across seas
Which, I know,
No, no, exist no longer;
with you I shall experience them again.
I’ll go with you,
I with you.

“Hero”

There’s a hero
If you look inside your heart
You don’t have to be afraid
Of what you are
There’s an answer
If you reach into your soul
And the sorrow that you know
Will melt away

And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you

It’s a long road
When you face the world alone
No one reaches out a hand
For you to hold
You can find love
If you search within yourself
And the emptiness you felt
Will disappear

And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you

Lord knows
Dreams are hard to follow
But don’t let anyone
Tear them away
Hold on
There will be tomorrow
In time
You’ll find the way

And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you
That a hero lies in you
That a hero lies in you

A Simply Marvelous Life

caroline-harpWhile going through old class notes for my current paper, I found this story I wrote last spring. I remember how it made the student that presented after me cry. I felt so bad as she approached the podium upset. She explained that my story was especially tender to her because her dad had passed away recently. How was I to know that within months I’d be in the same “dad gone” boat?

I remember telling my dad of our plan to take a gift to the orphan boys and how he loved it. He wholeheartedly sanctioned it to my kids and he shared an inspiring story of his own. He cried. What a tender memory. He believed in the art of compassion. He lived the art. How grateful I am for him and his  example. He inherently knew that the true joy of life was within our relationships with others.

I am grateful to have come across this story today. I’ve been in a school slump, not feeling up to the writing task. Today’s discovery reminded me of the importance of storytelling. Even if I am not the most eloquent storyteller.

A Simply Marvelous Life

“Those poor, poor boys,” Mother said loud enough for the room to hear as she read the newspaper. I asked her, “What boys?” She explained. Twenty years before she used to work with this guy. They were nothing more than acquaintances. “But still, it’s just so tragic.” He was dead now among the remains of his personal jet. It crashed on take-off in Colorado. The crash also killed his wife, and two of his five children.

Mother seemed obsessed over the three children left. It was hard to understand how complete strangers to her sabotaged her heart for months. She talked about them to everyone. Her friends. Her kids. Sometimes she would even talk to random strangers about how grateful she was to be alive. “Shopping with a toddler is hard, but it makes it easier when I think about how blessed I am to be alive.” When the family knelt in the family room every night, mother would sometimes pray out loud for the family. “Bless those boys.”  When I complained about chores or homework or getting my phone taken away, she would remind me to be grateful. “You have both your parents, and all of your siblings. Remember, life is marvelous.” When Christmas neared mother told us that in the quiet of one morning she heard a voice in her mind. It was a woman begging, “They must have a gift from us under the tree.” Asking our forgiveness mother said she hoped we’d understand her stealing from us. She had withdrawn from her Christmas account, upsetting her carefully budgeted plan, to buy something for the orphans. She apologized and explained that we might have a little less this year. “But, I just feel it my duty to provide a gift for them from their dead mother. I can hear her voice as clear as day. I can’t ignore it.”

As Father drove us to the next town over, Mother watched her five elves stretch and giggle among the large sack of gifts in the back. The wrapped gifts would be left anonymously. “Because that is the best kind of giving,” mother said. The boys’ names, the ones their mother gave them, were monogrammed on their blankets. A note was included reminding them of their mother’s love, all the way from heaven. “She had found a way to hug them, through the mind of a stranger.”

Mother had done some serious sleuthing to get the names and address of the boys, but could hardly believe her eyes as they pulled up. When they verified the house number to the information on the paper in mother’s hand, everyone voiced their utter shock. A chorus of “no way” echoed the yelps of surprise as the vehicle reached the top of the mountain. The boys lived in a literal mansion. Mother laughed. “What in the world?” We all told her we should take the gifts back home, but she directed her elves to drop the gifts on the doorstep. “Be quiet. Don’t let anyone see you. Hurry up before someone calls the police.” As we sprinted our way back to the modest minivan that cowered under the massive gate, my little sister spared a glance for a golden harp glowing through the windowed fortress. We jumped in. The tires peeled. My baby sister described the harp’s shine to her amused mother. How badly Caroline wanted a harp. She had even written to Santa for one. She didn’t know what I knew.  Santa had already bought her a harpsichord. It was the last Christmas purchase she had made right after the wrapping for the boys’ blankets.

We never knew it, but in those first few moments driving home, mother deeply questioned the meaning of helping where help didn’t seem to be needed. Those boys had more than she or hers ever would. The answer came quick, at the traffic light on the way home. Flashing behind her eyes, red and green, it spelled one word. C-o-m-p-a-s-s-i-o-n. Mother turned to dad and said, “I guess tonight we got to help meet an emotional need, not a physical one.”  Yes, compassion knows no class structure. Or biases. Only pure love. And that night both mothers had managed, from separate realms, to teach their children the true meaning of Christmas.

The next day mother listened as her baby girl, surrounded by her parents and four siblings, transformed our family’s condo into a two-bedroom castle with music from her harpsichord. As Mother closed her eyes to enjoy the marvelous moment, a familiar angel voice spoke to her mind one last time, “It sounds just like my harp.”

 

The moment we dread. And after.

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My oldest daughter will be a senior in high-school next year. Look at her. Isn’t she just every mother’s joy!? I find myself in the middle of the day just rummaging through her things, trying to learn more about her. (I hope she doesn’t read this or that might kind of freak her out.) When she is zoned in on her phone, I sneak in more peeks just because I can. I think of her, and mentally check to see if I have her memorized. I think about the cans of Spaghetti O’s she forages. I mentally replay her body in motion racing around a track. I trace every line of her hairdos. At homecoming. That choir concert. That morning when she just got out of bed.

Favorite candy=hot tamales. Check. Most proud moment=hmmm. I’m not sure. I better ask her. Favorite color=green. Check. Biggest fear=birds. Bigger fear=being judged as less than. Talents=soccer, design, hair, fashion, math, anaylzing, singing. There are too many. I think about her voice and how it sounds when she sings next to me at church. I smile. I think about her voice when she was 10, 5, 2. Then I have to stop because it hurts too much.It makes me cry, knowing that she will never sound like a two-year-old ever again. She will never give me sloppy kisses again. She will never come crying because she just scraped a knee and she believes my kisses will make it all better. She will never navigate a new high-school or be at the wheel for a first time or learn to walk.

I don’t want her to leave. I don’t ever want her to go because part of me will go with her, and I am not sure how I will manage having part of me wherever she ends up. I know from observing others that I will figure it out. I just don’t want to. Not at all. I want to keep her all for myself. But, there is a world that needs her. A world I’ve prepared her for. A world that she needs. There are things she can’t learn from me. It has to be someone else to teach her physics and quantum life. I don’t know that stuff. There are jobs just for her. There are people waiting to know her and love her. There are people she is meant to love. There are little monkies of her own that she gets to recycle this  life experience with. All I can hope for is that she lets me visit once in awhile. Maybe she will even come home when she can,  and give me a hug. I will like that.

But honestly, every time we part ways, I will feel a little like Jane Goodall. Appreciated. Happy. Proud. And in excrutiating torment to see her go. She will take a part of my heart with her. And the day I die, after giving her one small piece at a time for decades, I will leave the last piece of it with her, so she will have more heart to give to her own monkies.  And I will wait in heaven to hug her on the other side when she comes stumbling through the veil with her own empty heart. And when we hug, in the touch, somehow, our hearts will miraculously ressurect. And the torment will be no longer. All that will remain will be the Pride. And the Joy.

They Coached the Coach

“What better way is there for me to spend quality time with my kids than to be their coach? I have to take them to practice anyhow.” That was my reasoning at the beginning of this season when as a  mother of five and a part-time college student I was already feeling stretched. Little did I know that my kids didn’t need me to be their coach as much as I needed them and their team to be my trainers.

volleyball head

I’ve loved volleyball since I can remember. I played on the JV team in high-school, and quit before I had the chance to reach any braggable level of competetive skill. But for a recreational league I knew I would be “good enough”. When I showed up to coach training they didn’t even warn me that coaching has very little to do with skill and a whole lot to do with modeling and mentoring.  They let me learn the hard way. Best gig ever.  Learning the hard way is my super power.

Let me just start by confessing our season record. 1-7. Yes, that’s one win and seven losses. And, yes, you can stop reading now if you are anything like I was eight weeks ago in believing that the wins are all that’s important.

You see, my lesson #1 was this:
Winners are not those who never fail but those who never quit.

I started with a really inexperienced team. We got our butts kicked over and over again, but I taught them the basics and told them to master them. I promised them if they could just get down their bumping and serving we would be good for the tournament.

These girls never quit. They kept working. And on Saturday we have our last tournament game. We go into it 3-0. Yes, three wins. Zero losses. If we win tomorrow, we will be the league champions. They never quit. And I’m so glad I never did either.

winners

Lesson #2: Actions speak louder than words. Actions are determined by thoughts and beliefs.

One time when we were losing badly, I hurriedly sent the team back on the court without the traditional team cheer. I was distracted, frustrated and worried about how as a coach I was letting my team down. I had just ran on about mechanics and with the impatience of the official raining down on me, I pushed the team along without any encouragment, a sweep of the hands and a, “Just go.” My daughters informed me on the way home that Olivia had looked at them both with anxiety all over her face. She felt bad. Coach was mad and disappointed. My lack of positivity brought the whole team down.

what you say

That brings me nicely to my third lesson:
You can only teach someone who wants to learn. You can only learn when you want to be taught.

My daughter Bella has been struggling with her serving the entire season. Last night before the game I was determined to get her serving perfected before the game started. I took her aside and dug in. “You need to keep your arm straight. Hold the ball steady. Don’t start so far back.” She refused to move up six inches. The more I tried to explain how her balls were falling short that exact length, the more she shut down. She ended up in tears. It’s not a proud moment.  Thankfully my husband came over and asked me, “Alice, is it really worth it?” She didn’t want to learn what I had to offer, yet I still wanted to stuff it down her throat. Both she and I had really fragile feelings for the whole first set. It wasn’t worth it. Unless you call her first two perfect serves from too far back worth it. Like her mama, she is out to prove a point. For the record, I know now I was wrong. I’ll never forget the horrible sinking feeling I had while watching her sit on the bleacher and cry.

learn.jpg

Lesson 4: Change is progression.

I’m the kind of person that holds my ideas and opinions tightly. I feel like if I need change I failed. Volleyball has reminded me that the only thing that defines failure is being too rigid to progress. At the beginning of the season I was using a lot of practice time on cardio and strength building. I realized early on that my team needed more time on the ball. I had to completely change our practice outline.

change

And last:
Always, always, always focus on the positive.

It took me six losses to figure this out, but on a positive note, I guess there are slower coaches to be found somewhere. In the beginning of the season, I kept harping on the girls about what they were doing wrong. They couldn’t  bump the ball for the life of them, and so I determined to force competancy on them.

Meanwhile, the other teams were not just mastering bumping, but also learning new skills too.  Or so it seemed to me. I decided that I had to change my approach. I started finding ways to compliment each player. I dished out praise like Halloween candy. I demonstrated and allowed time for practice and encouragment. I continuously repeated how much I believed in them. I told them the could win. They started to believe it.

accentuate-the-positive

I can’t really explain the beautiful experience it is to jump around a court like a crazy kid with a team full of girls that you know you helped to learn the lessons of champions.  Last night, as I watched them high-give and congratulate each other with joy written in each smile line, my heart swelled. I was so grateful that they coached me way more than I could have ever coached them.

Update (next day)

We won. My favorite part was when we all sang “We are the Champions” in celebration.

champs

 

For the athletes on the bench

abigail one

My dearest Benchwarmer,

I hope you know how truly proud you should be of yourself.
We are extremely proud of you.
You have given your team all of your effort this year.
It has required a lot out of you.
Even though you received very little in return (as far as playing time is concerned)
you never quit fighting, and practicing, and learning.
You have had an amazing attitude.
Much better than any of us, that’s for sure.
Your parents whined about everything.
The two games every game day about killed us, and we weren’t even dressed out.
You only got to play on junior varsity,
but still had to commit an enermous amount of time to varsity, too.
And you did it gladly.
You have stayed positive.
Every day. Every second. Every grueling minute of game day.
This year’s goal was that you could hopefully improve.
And improve you did.
And miraculously, you were also our teacher while doing it.
Because in athleticism and life the improvement is what matters most.
Not the score, or the other players, or any glory.
Your glory came every time you knew you were better than yesterday.
Your victory came in the form of perfected humility
while just being there to give the starters someone to play against.
Day after day.
Week after week.
You have been there to cheer on your teammates.
You have been genuinely happy for them and proud of them.
You have gone above and beyond to follow the directions of your coach.
And honestly, all of those things are what the test of life is really about.
I wish that as your parents we could have given you more.
I wish we could have afforded all the fancy gear and coaching
that all the other girls on your team have had.
But, the way in which you outshine them in your heart makes me almost
glad that we weren’t able to give you more.
Because you, with no advantages at all, with just pure love of the game
and committed effort over ten years, made your dream of making varsity come true.
It doesn’t matter that you may never get to play in a game.
It doesn’t matter to me if your team takes that state title tomorrow.
What matters to me is that you are the best that you can be.
What matters to me is that you are happy and healthy.
What matters to me is that you are my most amazing kid.
If we leave the game tomorrow with victorious smiles,
or we (your dad and I) leave with just small ones that the season is finally over,
what you need to know is that YOU always make us smile.
YOU are the best thing that has ever happened to us.
And you are also an amazing athlete with incredible character.
Stand tall and proud, my child.
You make us so proud.

Love,
Your biggest fans

start here

startMy hubby and I have interviews with our kids once a month. We take about an half an hour to meet with each child privately and talk to them about their personal and family concerns. We take time to express our love, remind them of their strengths, and set goals for improvement.

It’s really just our way of implementing “therapy” into their lives. We hope by working with our kids on emotional well-being now, we can give them the tools that we’ve paid a generous amount of money to professionals to teach us as adults. Hopefully this habit will also save them from repeating a lot of our heartaches. Doing this also helps us as parents to know how we need to improve. Each time the kids leave with one goal and we do too.

Besides teaching them the importace of faith and how to do their own laundry, I think this little practice is the most effective thing I’m doing as a mother. I highly recommend its implementation. I wonder if so many senseless tragedies could be avoided if all parents would invest just a little time to talk to their kids about emotional, physical, spiritual, and psychological nitty-gritties. We have noticed a huge difference in our relationship with our kids after our consistent first Sunday of the month interviews.

If anything it gives the kids the chance to be acountable to themselves for self-improvement.

So, yesterday we had a pretty intense interview with one of our girls. She does not want to discuss a sensitive subject that is causing her a lot of heartache. She just totally shuts off and tunes the whole experience out. Her tender little heart can’t deal with its vulnerabilities and broken parts. After trying repeatedly to coax her out unsuccesfully we ended up just cutting the session early and encouraging her to think about things on her own so we can readdress next month.

As she exited and closed the door behind her, with discouragement and feelings of utter parent failure, I turned to my husband and said, “I think that we might have to do this every time until she realizes what closing herself off is depriving her of.” He agreed, but more than anything, we wish we could help her be strong and face herself because we know it’s essential for her peace and happiness.

This morning I read this and was reminded of my own journey in self-awareness. It’s a lot easier to address our weaknesses if we first start with the foundation that we are divine beings with divine potential.

“Satan uses our weaknesses to the point that we are discouraged from even trying…We don’t need to be “more” of anything to start to become the person God intended us to become. God will take you as you are at this very moment and begin to work with you…If we look at ourselves only through our mortal eyes, we may not see ourselves as good enough but our Heavenly Father sees us as who we truly are and who we can become.”

The moral of the story, kick those fear-based lies in the butt, and start where you are. Don’t be afraid. You are not supposed to  be perfect. Yet. But, if you aren’t willing to take a honest look, you never will be.

Royal Teenagers (And I’m not talking about their pain in my @$%)

Just the other day, one of my girls said to me, “Mom, your blog used to be cool. Now it’s all boring. You never tell any good funny stories anymore.” I laughed. Agreed. And then threatened her to go public with her latest shenanigan. She immediately understood what I meant when I said, “I can’t tell everything about you guys anymore and you guys are all my funny stories.”

I thought I was the only one who had quit telling stories about my kids.Then it was brought to my attention that there is a lack of material about what it is like to parent teenagers on this here web. I can’t find the first article I read, but here is another one. It’s a legitimate concern. As a veteran blogger I get the very real struggle. As your kids get older, you can’t just air their dirty laundry. I mean, really, now their dirty laundry is actually bras and underwear. And boys. And other people’s kids. And raging hormones. Bad decisions. The list goes on. Any good parent should be careful. (Unless their kid is making millions in the movie industry, of course. JOKING)

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My two teenage daughters and the one coming right up on 12 would NOT appreciate me being totally honest. I can’t tell you everything. I can only tell you the good things. This is a problem for me because I am all about making the internet an honest place.

I can tell you that this meme

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is not exaggerating.

When it comes to raising teenage girls, a hurricane does hit the bathroom every single morning without fail.

Raising teenagers is hard.  Personally, I think taking care of babies is harder. I should know, I have both right now. Ha! Babies are physically exhausting, but teenagers are engaged in emotional warfare at all given times. It’s not that they want to be bad, it’s just that they need so much reassurance. You know the saying, “Those that need love will ask for it in the most unloving ways.” Well, it’s true. Teenagers are some of the worst culprits.

Teenagers ask for love with eye rolls, insults, self-depracation, rebellion, etc. They make stupid decisions because of their overriding programming for belonging. They are desperate to know that they matter. They want to be told everything is going to be o.k. They just need to feel safe. (Kind of like us adults but add in lethal doses of hormones, acne, and bullies.) Makes me think of this skit.

Yet, when teenagers act like they do, they make everyone around them want to run for the hills instead of giving them hugs. I actually like the mental challenge that they present. Call me crazy, but I’d take the mental marathon over the monotony of diapers and feedings any day….except yesterday. Yesterday was really bad. Sometimes your teenagers will make you wonder if they have any brains at all….that was yesterday. As a parent who is left screaming, “Have you heard anything I have told you for the past 15 years?” I can assure you that like with all phases of parenting some days are way better than others.

Getting to the point of the post in 3,   2,   1.

In all my three years of teenage experience, I have actually figured something out. My job is to OVERLOVE my kids. I need to love them to the point that they won’t need to ask for it in the most UNLOVING of ways. It’s so hard to do. It requires a lot of sucking it up on a parent’s part. A lot. It feels good to have figured out my job: to train my teenagers out of asking for love ineffectively, but it is also a daunting task…especially when they “hate me.” (That was yesterday.) I am supposed to 1- help them inherently know that they are worthy and loved. No matter what. And 2- If and when they are feeling unlovable, downtrodden, and like a screw-up, they need to know how to effectively ask for and *receive the love that they need and it is my job to teach them. (*We all know those people who need way too much love. I think this is a result of them not learning how to receive what is given to them.)

[You should read that last paragraph again because I honestly think it’s the secret to a happy life. Not just for teenagers.]

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When all else fails, and I am ready to ring my kids’ necks, I remind myself. They are royalty. They are princesses. Even if they are acting like evil stepchildren, I remember that I am going to have to answer to the King when I get home. He is going to ask for a play by play. If I pass, I will earn a place in the royal family. Not just any old place. I will be adopted in and be made a queen. I don’t know about you, but I desperately need to be royalty.

wpid-photogrid_14248156443752.jpg.jpegOne way I give myself this daily reminder is when I play taxi. Every time I pull up to the school, the field, the kids’ friends’ houses, the church…wherever I am picking them up, I text them an acronym.

YCA

Your carriage awaits.

They are royalty.

wpid-wp-1424969976432.jpegYesterday, I employed a new tactic. It’s called the special dinner. I thought, “If she is acting this bad, she must be really desperate,” so I pulled out the linens, the glassware, and flowers. I made a nice dinner. We all toasted her. We wrote down what we loved about her. Just because she is grounded for five weeks it doesn’t mean that we should quit loving her. If I’ve learned anything I’ve learned that they need the most love when they are in trouble….which is often as a teenager.

I guess we’ll be having a lot of special dinners.

When I explained the reason for the new tradition of a special dinner, one of my kids declared, “So, when we are slamming doors, crying, breaking rules etc…we are going to get a special dinner….l guess I am getting a special dinner every night.”

Teenagers!children of god

Had I Remembered {a reflection on motherhood}

 

wpid-wp-1424717239819.jpegHad I remembered…..

the nights that I have to retrieve a pacifier at least every hour

and the mornings where I just want to read a single chapter of my book but the multiple feedings, epic dirty diaper, bath-time and the fact that for whatever reason he won’t go to sleep without being held make me give it up all together because it’s already noon

the teething

the whining and crying whenever I put him down

the poop that spills out of at least every other poopy diaper and up his back

the cost of diapers, wipes, and formula

the expense of changing wardrobes every three months

the spit up on every imaginable surface

the nap-times that are always too short

the date-nights that happen less frequently and for shorter spans of time

the little fingers that want to help my type

the impossibility of going to a movie as a family

the sex that only happens in a state of pure exhaustion

the weight of 20 pounds in my arms all day every day

the lugging of a car-seat everywhere I go

the sacrifice of about 90% of my free time

the difficulty of finding the time to just keep the house clean

the regular appointments to the pediatrician

and the fussy days after immunizations

the inconvenience of cooking a meal with a monkey on my back

the drooling like a puppy

the frustration of unloading a dishwasher when he grabs at everything

the impossibility of eating a meal with him in my lap

the fact that no matter how hungry I am he always needs to be fed first

the walking around like a zombie feeling that never goes away

the arduousness of Sunday mornings

{the list could go on and on}

…..but I’m so glad that I forgot. Had I remembered I probably never would have had him, and without him I would have missed out on….

his huge smile (that cheers everyone he sees – including the ornery old guy at church)

the fun times that his sisters play dress-up (see video below)

the cute way he sucks his lower lip and looks like a turtle

all the times he learns something new (he’s playing the piano below)

watching his face light up every time he sees his daddy

the euphoria of peekaboo (cutest video ever to be shared in the future whenever I get it off daddy’s phone)

his love of music

his fascination with the TV

the way he covers his eyes with his arm when falling asleep

rediscovering the softness of baby blankets and the way he likes to hold them against his face

getting to smell baby scent any time I want

watching him kick and squirm like crazy any time he’s naked or in the bath

his stubbornness and laziness that surfaces every time he refuses to hold his own bottle

his piqued curiosity every time he catches eye of our dog walking close by and how he loves to grab his ears

the way he screams instead of talking

the feeling when he finally relaxes and falls asleep in my arms (and sometimes sucks on his invisible pacifier like below)

his chubby cheeks….and legs…and fingers

his adorable laugh

The 3 Keys to Managing Your Kids’ Emotional Hypersensitivity

I am not a licensed therapist,  but write this post as a very experienced mom who understands emotional sensitivity.

Some people say to do nothing at all if you have a child who is overly-sensitive. They argue that to tread on a child’s emotions is to kill their spirit. Others try to break their kids of it as if they are a rodeo horse. As an overly-sensitive adult and a mom of 5, I say the best thing you can do to help your child with their hypersensitivity is to give them 1- awareness, 2- tools, and 3- model healthy behavior.
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1 – Awareness sounds like it should be so easy, but it can be really hard to approach a sensitive child about their sensitivity. hurtyfeelingsThat’s where Hurty Feelings by Helen Lester comes in. It’s a cute and fun easy-to-read picture book that will keep your kid’s attention. It is also packed with an emotional-wellness-punch. Fragility the Hippo is super-sensitive. This book explores what happens when one takes offense too easily and it also offers a great outcome in overcoming the problem…I’ll give you a hint….the answer has to do with Fragility finding her own voice. You can find the book at Amazon, here. I highly recommend it for its entertainment value as well as for the great opportunity it will provide to approach a sensitive (ha!) subject with your sensitive child.

My only other piece of advice with awareness is DO NOT approach your child with this subject when they are in hypersensitive meltdown mode. Wait until things have calmed down….way down. Maybe even broach it over a special dinner. Definitely make sure you are showing love and support and not criticism. Ideally it should be a constant dialogue. “Uh-oh, here comes that flood of emotions. What should we do about it?”

2 – Tools. There are all kinds of tools that your kids can learn when it comes to over-sensitivity. I’ve been going to therapy for years to learn and really internalize them. Here a few of the ones that I have found most helpful:

1- Self-esteem. This is NOT giving your child something to be proud of. That can help temporarily, but will not solve the problem long-term. Self-esteem is rooted in an inner dialogue which consists only of the message, “I am worthy.” Period. Every individual has worth. Not because of what they accomplish. Not because of who loves them. Not because of anything except for the fact that they are an individual and they are of worth. Religious people might call this being a child of God. I am not sure what atheists call it, but whatever you teach your child, just teach them that they are of infinite worth just because THEY ARE.

2- Order of love – This goes hand in hand with the self-esteem. It is something my current therapist harps on in every single session. It is a principle that has slowly changed my life and the life of my husband. The order of love should be like this: from God, from self, for others, from others. Many people get this screwed up and they seek to find their worth from the latter places first instead of giving it to themselves. It screws them up. Royally.

3- The victim triangle – In the triangle you have a victim, a pursuer, and a rescuer. Learn about it. Change it. If you are being bullied or your kids are being bullied, congratulations, you have perfected being the victim. Change.

4- Boundaries – Usually your kids are struggling with this because you haven’t taught it to them with your own behavior. Boundaries can be tricky, but I have found they are VITAL to emotional health. Essentially, you have to learn to say no. You also shouldn’t be an over-pleaser. You need to honor other people’s boundaries. Here is a good place to read the basics. I also highly recommend the book Boundaries by Townsend and Cloud.

5. Get rid of the shame! Feelings are feelings. No one should be made to be ashamed of how they feel. They literally can’t help it. Always validate feelings (for others and yourself) and teach your kids to process them healthfully. One of my daughters processes well when doing sports, the other by painting. Sometimes we all just need some alone time.

One of my husband’s cousins contacted me a while back and asked me for advice about one of her kids who is highly sensitive. She said, “You seem to have a good handle on processing your emotions.” I busted a gut. If she only knew! The reason I have a handle on it is because if I didn’t learn to process my overabundance of emotions I literally would have been locked up years ago.

As a mother I completely get her concern. One of my daughters is overly sensitive too. {I won’t say who or things could take a downhill real fast.} As a mother it is very very concerning to see her create this huge black hole around herself. Even as her family we are afraid to approach her a lot of the time. This daughter takes everything to heart and she gets hurt by the most random stuff. You have to walk on eggshells around her. She doesn’t fully realize that because she is so sensitive she is actually hurting her ability to connect with others. She is holding herself hostage with her emotions all of the time. Because she is sensitive she is perfect prey for bullies and the equally emotionally unhealthy. We are constantly trying to raise her awareness and give her tools to help.

This brings me to my last point: 3 – Modeling healthy behavior. If your child is struggling with being emotionally healthy it is very likely that you are too. I get my overly sensitive daughter. I am just like her. Over the years I have learned how to manage the sensitivity. I’m always practicing at it. I’ve also learned that being sensitive is not always a totally bad thing. In some ways my sensitivity is a huge blessing: I can see things going on around me that others don’t. I tend to appreciate beauty more. But more often than not my hypersensitivity has caused me trouble.

Recently after being in a social situation with some friends, one friend lamented to me that two of the other friends were making fun of her. I hadn’t noticed it. I asked the friend, “Are you sure they were talking about you? Could you just be overly-sensitive? Whenever I see two people talking, I always think they are talking about me. No matter who they are. Even if they don’t know me I think they are out to get me.”

I’ve learned to calm my sensitive inner dialogue in these types of situations. Awareness of my over-sensitivity has probably been my greatest aid in overcoming it. The second best technique I already mentioned above. I have worked hard on loving myself and letting go of whether or not others love me. I’ve had to stop living my life to please other people. It was literally making me insane.

As I’ve learned to be emotionally healthier I have noticed my kids improve also.

The good news is that your sensitivity makes your beautiful self even more beautiful. You can learn to manage it and as you do, you will have greater happiness and so will your kids.

I recommend going over here and testing yourself. And here and here you will find some good suggestions on managing your emotions. Here is a great list of what NOT to do. Here is a great list of what optimal emotional health looks like. If all of this isn’t enough, do not be afraid to find professional help. For you Utah County Utah locals our therapist Joyce is really great. For the rest of you, ask around. Make sure you get a good therapist. There are a lot of quacks out there.