Welcome to my life. It's a whirlwind of kids, chaos, pets, people, family, art, and being home (most of the time; I like to get out here and there). We unschool, so the unexpected is, well, expected...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Prevent Running Away

I found this list of ideas for parents of kids that could potentially run away. What I find interesting about it, is that if ALL parents behaved this way towards their kids, their kids might not ever run away! What happens when they have already run? Sometimes parents don't get do overs! If your child has runaway and comes back, really really, follow these directions! Kids who run will often run again and stay gone longer and go farther away. Why risk it?

That list is so basic in parenting skills I find it almost appalling that there are parents that don't do these things. Why even be a parent?

The North American Missing Children Association says that developing a strong foundation of open communication with your child is the key to preventing most runaway cases. Try these tips to improve your relationship with your child:

Pay attention. When your child is talking with you, listen. Don't just nod your head while you're watching television, reading the paper or using your computer. Don't just pretend to listen - kids know the difference.
Give respect. Acknowledge and support your child's struggle to grow to maturity.
Understand. Try to sympathize with what your child is going through. Look at life - at least occasionally - from his or her point of view. Remember that when you were his or her age, your ideas seemed to make sense to you.
Don't lecture. All children hate to be lectured, especially teens. But all kids respond to clear information and direction, most of all when they know that the questions they ask will be answered.
Don't label. The throwing around of useless labels will only confuse the real issues that you wish to address.
Discuss feelings. Talk about what you, as a parent, feel and what you need. Allow your child to talk about his or her feelings, too.
Create responsibility. Give your child choices, not orders. Help him or her to understand the consequences of his or her actions.
Give positive praise. Describe your child's positive and negative behavior and how it affects others. Be specific, and give praise to reward good behavior. Do this at least as often, if not more so, than you criticize behavior that you don't like.
Stop hassling your child. Asking your child too many questions often shuts off information. Give him or her the opportunity to volunteer his or her thoughts and feelings while you show a sincere interest, without probing.
Don't always give the answers. You want your child to be able to find his or her own answers or solutions to problems. You can help by not giving your child the answers all of the time.
Use Teamwork. Work together with your child to evaluate the problems and find a mutually agreeable solution.
Provide support. You must tell your child that you will always love him or her, no matter what.

To All Parents of Runaways,

Kids do not run away from homes that are wonderful and full of love and respect! Make your child's life so wonderful that they never want to run from it or you! Don't be cruel or manipulative. Don't yell or nag. Don't lecture and be rude to your children. Be kind and thoughtful and compassionate. Tell your children that you love them, tell them often and then show them in actions. Build them up and empower them, be their mirror that reflects the beauty that exists inside of them, so that they can see their self worth.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How mothers lose and how they can win

I have more than a few friends on facebook who are teenagers. I love reading the things they post, their excitement of life, their despair of things gone awry, their jokes and links, all of it. It's fascinating to me. If only I could have used facebook as a teen! One of my friends posted this on Tumblr, via facebook. This particular girl is a new friend. She writes some really beautiful things. This little bit touched me and tied in with what I've been writing about mothers. I asked her if I could quote it and she said I could, so here it is:

Dear mother,

I know you try your best, but that just does not make up for all the wrong you have done in the past. I am sorry but I don’t think I can ever forgive you completely. I love you but some things never change. I hate the fact that you took my father away and gave me strangers apartment couches. Honestly if you brake up with my current step dad, I am not leaving. ~Christa Lee Anne Colt
~~~~~~

The fragility of relationships is so stunning to me. Even a very loving mother can do tons of damage, irreparable damage to their children. Forgiveness is a strange thing. Some people never completely forgive their parents. It's true, I've seen it. Some kids grow up and change and forgive and move on, but some wounds are too deep, too much, too heart breaking. Sometimes the best a person can do is try to forget, try to do things differently, try to heal.

I feel so blessed to have found a way to not inflict damage onto my kids. They will never need to heal from their relationship with me. They will never need to find it in their hearts to forgive me of a great wrong. When I do wrong, I apologize and change the way I do things.

I started writing about mothers because of one mother whose daughter ran away. It's heart breaking. So many broken hearts. Yet it isn't just that mother and that daughter whose hearts are broken. One broken hearted mother has reached out with her grasp to control, to touch dozens of lives, but not in a happy or positive way, in a heart wrenching sad way. Stories keep coming to me from the friends of the daughter, of sadness over the loss of her, the loss of her friendship, the cruelty they see this mother doing to her daughter, and to Chamille. Some of those kids have been able to communicate with this girl and even see her, but it's bittersweet for them because of all the sadness that it creates since most of them are also friends with or know Chamille.

Like Christa's mother, this mother took away a father and replaced him with herself. I don't know Christa's story, I have yet to meet her mom, but I have met her step dad. He was willing to drive all the way out to our side of town to pick her up at 1 am (about a half hour drive) so that she could go have fun doing a haunted house. Not a lot of parents will do that!

It is simply not good enough to try your best. One must rise above what they think their personal best is and reach for something even better. Kids get only one chance at being a kid and parents get only one chance at being the mom or dad of that kid. What we do matters! It matters a lot!

Mothers can lose their children, perhaps not physically, but emotionally. If a mother causes too much damage to the relationship, even if they are well intentioned in doing so, children will guard themselves, put up walls for their own emotional security and well being. They do it to their parents and often it gets carried onward into personal relationships.

So how can a mother win the hearts of their children? By putting their children's hearts first, by looking towards what will make their relationship better with their children. If what a mother does, isn't relationship building, she should not be doing it. Sometimes mothers can trick themselves into believing in a greater good and bypass the here and now of their relationship with their children. Raising children is ONLY here and now. There is no tomorrow more important than what is right there in the moment. Life is precious. Sometimes kids don't live to adulthood, sometimes, when they do, they move far away literally and figuratively, and sometimes they don't wait until adulthood to leave.

IT DOESN'T NEED TO BE THAT WAY! Did you hear that? It really doesn't! Life can be beautiful RIGHT NOW. In any moment a parent can stop what they are doing and do something different, something kind and gentle and soft and loving, something that creates happiness, something that creates a stronger relationship. Any parent can find a way to do what is better, one step in the direction of what is happier.

If your default is to be angry, calm yourself, if it's to yell, silence yourself, it it's to criticize, say something kind, if it's to guilt, assume positive intent and examine your assumptions.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

mothers... and parenting... onward

In all things that a mother can do, the most important is to build a relationship with her children.

That relationship can look so many different ways. Just like a mother who shushes her children or soothes them, a mother can create a relationship that is beautiful and lasts a lifetime, or one that is bumpy and difficult. Sometimes it's really bumpy for many years and people change and it gets better.

There are things one can do and ways to be with your children where it starts beautiful and stays that way. Mothers can and should be friends with their children, giving advice as needed, helping in times of need, laughing together, and playing together. It never needs to be otherwise.

Like any relationship, if there is unbalance there will be problems. If one person attempts to control another, there will be problems. If one person's ideas trump the other, there will be problems. So how does a mother go about NOT doing those things?

The very first thing is to recognize that other person as a full human being, that child right in front of you, who is growing and changing right before your eyes IS another human being. That person deserves trust and respect, the same kind of trust and respect that adults give other adults as a default benefit. In doing so, you also earn trust and respect, it's mutually beneficial. If you can trust and respect your children, you will not be able to, in good conscious control and belittle them, not even for their own good.

Parents have all the rights within a family, they get to say what goes and what doesn't. It's powerful, and power can be used to control others. Mothers do it all the time to their children. They do it by enforcing their own mandated rules. It's easy to do. Since a baby is completely dependent on it's mother for everything, what mom says and does, goes. What happens is that, as that baby grows, it becomes independent of it's mother, it walks or crawls away, comes back for it's dependence and goes back away.

As that little one grows it moves farther away and stays gone longer, and all the in between times can be little bits of maintaining closeness or alienating that young person. By the time that child reaches puberty, if alienation has happened repeatedly, that child will remain a secret to their mothers. Alienation happens every time a parent demands something of their child that is in any way hurtful, disrespectful, or tears down trust, as seen through the eyes of the child. That's important to see that a parent can do these things and not recognize that their child feels very different about the actions being taken.

Here's where it gets tricky though... sometimes a mom might not even know that they are doing something that their child dislikes, because the lines of communication have broken down over the course of years of not being trusting or respectful of that child's voice. In the case of the mother of the runaway that I recently posted about here, the daughter had been made to feel guilty so many times that she just simply agreed with anything her mother said, just to get her to stop talking. The mother sensed compliance, agreement, and being on the same page as her daughter, but it simply wasn't the case and hadn't been for a very long time.

There is a way to change that. The very best way is to give ample opportunity to listen, not just hear what you want to hear, but really listen and stop yourself from making comment. Listen without judgement and without giving your own opinion, ask for theirs, and only give yours if you are asked.

If you haven't torn down the relationship, advice is freely accepted and welcomed, even if you give bad advice that you later need to retract. There is nothing like open honest communication between a parent and a child. Without it, a parent is navigating blindly. With it, lives are shared and transformed in ways that I never thought possible. With it, a mom gets truth and respect, without it she gets half truths, secrets and lies.

Underneath a mom's attempt to control, lies fear. I see it every time. Fear steals away a person's ability to rationalize without bias. What is there to be afraid of more than the loss of a relationship with your child?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Joy

Open your heart and things happen.
Life swirls around and beauty surfaces.
Joy is always there pushing itself into the open to shine and breathe in life.
Live life.
Feel it all, the tears and suffering, the healing and love, and above all let there by joy.
Let there be joyous thoughts and joyous life.
Let it sit there like a glowing light in the dark waiting for you to bask in it.
Be in the light of joy and let it surround you, all around and carry you away.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

mothers... continued...

My daughter's best friend ran away from home this last July. By all outward standards this girl's mother is a good mom. She lets her daughter go to concerts, buys her clothing that she likes, and pays for dance classes. Sounds nice right? I mean, they have a nice house, and the mom makes nice food, they go to church and have everything looking JUST right. The mom also makes sure her daughter has the "right" friends and wears the "right" clothes and takes the "right" dance classes and is a chaperon on outings to make sure that her daughter is behaving "right", meaning, not doing drugs and getting into trouble.

Somehow, someway, that mom started shushing her daughter. She shushed her daughter when her daughter expressed interest in things the mother didn't think were "right". She shushed her daughter by fearing that her daughter would do drugs in her absence. She shushed her daughter when her daughter expressed the desire to hang out with friends. She shushed her daughter by trying to be a louder voice and hoping with all hopes that her voice would be so loud and so right that her daughter would see her wisdom and take it and use it in exactly the way the mother wanted her to do.

It's so stifling for a kid that just wants a little space and freedom to breathe and be her own person. Everything, for that kid, had strings attached. Some kids will comply to these things, some kids will simply cope knowing they can't change their circumstances and put up and shut up. Some kids simply won't and this kid didn't want to. Her life felt unbearable and crushing, to the point of needing to get away from that oppression.

There was a moment while this girl was at our house, and she was in Chamille's room and they were sitting, laughing, listening to music, and making things, and they were just happy, relaxed and happy. For the last 2 1/2 yrs that they have known each other, they have NEVER been able to do that. Two teen girls, best friends for over 2 yrs and they had NEVER had the opportunity to sit and laugh and listen to music and make things. Every time they spent together was measured and timed with conditions. Other than when this girl was here when she ran away, she had only been able to stay the night at our house 3 times. The first time she ran away (and here)from home, a little over a year prior, was because of the sheer disappointment of not being able to stay the night at her best friend's house, it was the "last straw" for her at that time. In the space of a year she was allowed to stay the night 3 times, clearly not enough to create a happy existence for this girl.

Moms can shush their children or soothe them. Sometimes the consequences of shushing are simply not worth it.....

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

A story about mothers.. completely unedited with many parts...

This is a true story with thoughts mixed in.

If there were any way that I could persuade all parents to be kind to their kids, I would do it. I would shout it from the mountain tops and sprinkle magic dust on all parents on the day their child arrives.

When a baby is born, they are perfect and whole and beautiful. A bundle of joy! Somehow new mothers in the midst of their sleepless nights and busy days, get through and still love their little babies and change their diapers and rock them in their arms.

I'm not talking about the mothers that don't do that. There are plenty of mothers that don't, but they are the exception and the heart breaking parts of humanity, broken people trying to raise children.

Every mother tries to start out doing everything just right for their perfect baby. Every maternity check up is in anticipation for that child to come and be with you. That excitement of watching a child grow inside of you and come out and then watching and waiting for that child to grow into an adult. Every step of the way, most aware parents try to do what is right and best for that young person.

If that mother can let go of expectations of their child, of what they should do or be, it's easier to do what is right and best for that child because what is done is directly for that child, not for the mother and through that, you will be the best mother you can be. If a child cries and a mother soothes, she will be a better mother than one who shushes her child.

Mothers can and do soothe or shush their children in so many different ways. I want to always be the kind of mother who soothes.