Getting Over Ourselves to Get Help

“Life is too short to waste on hating myself, I won’t waste another day.”

It’s a line from one of our family’s songs. It’s just about my favorite line.

It’s a line that, after having written it, led me straight out of my church, a cult we’d lived in for just shy of 11 years.

It’s a line that, as we sing it in concerts, resonates with parents and kiddos alike whether they’ve heard us before or not. I’ll sing it with tears in my eyes. I simply can’t help it. Every, single time.

I look out at the people in the varied audience and see a few parents sigh, look down, or look me straight in the eye with the recognition that they want to believe it as well.

Sometimes I look certain parents in the eye after we do a concert, and I can feel their questions.

The life that I know that I have is quite short. I don’t want to spend it on self hatred.

But leaving the indoctrination of self-hatred behind is excruciating. It hurts. Many of us have had the idea that “nothing good is in me” drilled into us from such an early age that it can seem to be in our skin.

Self hatred is a crippling disease.

Shame is it’s name. The lovely Brene Brown says that the difference between shame and guilt, respectively is “I am bad” verses the thought that “I did something that was less than my standard and need to correct it.”

For me, after 38 long years of genuinely believing that I was a piece of shit, my wife proposed therapy.

My gut cried out, “See, you’re ruining your family and now you’re in for it.”

It made me feel like a disgrace of a man. It made me feel that, once again, I was a disappointment that, were I to be “out of the way” then the lives of those I love would be better.

The thing is, you can’t just shake off shame. It’s called the swamp of the soul. It’s a deadly and treacherous wasteland that perfectionism and self-righteousness are birthed from.

Living with it, and doing the *guy* thing of grunting through and trying to “make things work” was taking its toll.

It simply wasn’t sustainable.

So 4 months ago, I went to that first therapy session. And gratefully, it was one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made in my life.

Now I’m a couple months in on a pretty intensive journey of treatment, tackling darkness and leaving it behind. 

So, is this just a humble brag?

No, I really hope not. Rather, I want you to know that your kiddos are watching.

I want you to know that it’s ok to be broken, vulnerable and fragile in front of them.

It’s no easy feat to break down crying in front of those you love and try to protect, and put your power on the line. You risk judgment.

 

To my amazement, they’re encouraged. They want me to have a healthy heart and mind.

I believe that it’s because they want to have a healthy heart and mind.

Which example would we prefer to lead with: Stuff the emotions and pain to just “get by,” or to dig deep, admit that we need help and revolutionize our thinking?

 

I’ve had to ask myself whether or not I actually want to believe that I’m a worthy human, a worthy parent and have some self respect. I’ve been having to look myself in the mirror and decide if it’s actually *safe* to not think that I suck.

If I actually respect myself, will I still get things done?

If I actually value myself and my time with honor, will I still make things right?

Shame was my driving force.

I’m not by any means on the other side, but now being multiple months in, here’s a few beautiful side effects I’m beginning to see.

1 – an ever decreasing desire for self abusive behavior.

2 – a major decrease in the desire to numb and self-medicate.

3 – clearer and less confusing communication with my partner and children.

4 – more trust growing between all family members.

I won’t gloss over the fact that therapy is hard work. It can be brutal some weeks. But its good work. Concluding, clarifying and moving forward can give us the freedom to actually belief that we have a life that is truly *worth* the living.

Life really is far too short to waste on hating ourselves. Take the stigma off of your family’s idea of asking for help and show your kiddos that it it’s a perfectly helpful and outright good thing to do.

Enjoy the song and read on below the video for a couple of resources.

In a later post I’ll discuss the benefit of *secular* therapy specifically. See below the video for a resource we find particularly useful.

 

If, like us, you’re recovering from religious trauma or confusion, I highly, highly recommend the resource of www.seculartherapy.org

 

 

Let The Kid Be Player One

Oh, the struggle of control. We parents love to be in charge and boss everybody around. Often, I find that my “bossiness” is for my own convenience, and not for the good of all.

 

I’d like to talk about a particular one that can often be indicative of bigger problems. Here’s the scenario:

At our house, we have a ritual that we do on a lot of evenings. When all is said and done, when teeth are brushed, kitchen is clean and we are too we like to unwind with a little Mario Kart.

I love this game.

A also love to be in control of this game.

Nearly every time that we go to play, one of the girls will ask if they can be “player one.” Historically I have said, “No, let daddy set it up.”

Recently, my conscience is getting more and more bothered by this. I’ve noticed that the more I’m in control of the stuff, whatever it is, the less my kids learn. Whether it’s the computer, the Wii-U, my tablet, my phone, whatever… if I do it for them, they won’t learn.

Sure, it’s common sense, right?

But you know that you do it too. We like to be in control because it’s easier. It’s so much easier and quicker to do it myself.

Every time that I do this I am taking away their freedom of my children to choose, express, mess up, learn, grow and so much more.

It may not seem like that big of a deal. But day after day, month after month and year after year of this will turn into a problem. Our kids need to try under our watch. They also need to mess up, figure it out, work it out right in front of us without us taking over.

This mentality creeps in so slowly, but before you know it, it’s everyone. It takes over everything. We think we’re too busy to be kind and patient with our kids.

I know very well that if I let my 9-year-old be player one, she’s gonna take for-stinking-ever to pick which kart, which track, which way to set up the game. It feels like an eternity.

I’ve got way too much to do for this! I have important adulting to do and things to complain about!

 I find the need to look myself in the eye sometimes and say,

“Hey, this is your job. This is the number one thing that you have to do. It comes before almost everything else. You are a parent!”

Let’s challenge each other to let them get in the drivers seat. I just stumbled across this post on Man-Vs-Pink, (a site I’m going to really need to explore) about raising empowered young women. I feel that what I’m saying here is part of that conversation is allowing them to take the lead with us backing them up.

We’ve got to give our kids the bravery to lead out, try, fail, succeed… whatever. But it starts with the little things. It starts with every single little thing.

It starts with letting them make the fried egg with the hot skillet while you stay by their side.

It’s them *actually* getting to pick the movie.

It’s them getting to decide where you go out to eat with no fight back because you hate that restaurant.

It’s us allowing them to have a will of their own. It’s so important. The little things will always lead to the big things.

Where do you struggle with being a control freak? Let’s talk about it.

On Mercy and Accusation

I teared up while writing this… sort of a confession, but with hope. This topic is pretty heavy on my heart.

In my impatience, in my rush to try and handle all 5 girls and support my wonderful wife, I have on many occasions blindly and hurtfully accused, blamed and shamed by family for things that they really didn’t do.

I hate it when I do it. I feel the words vomiting from my mouth like bitter bile. It’s terrible. Things aren’t right in the house and I want blood. I want SOMEONE to set it right.

I get that surge of indignant adrenaline and want to defend myself, but I know it’s a lost cause because I have no ground to stand on. I know that I’m being a jerk.

I hate those moments.

I hate looking around the room and seeing their sweet eyes staring back at me as I demand an answer from them. They’re pleading against my wrath, but someone has to pay.

I feel the shame coming out of my mouth.

I flash back to when I was a kid and the helplessness I felt when a “grown-up” went at me, sure of their righteousness. They would stand over you, insisting on their mental superiority. They glower and town over you asserting a sort of emotional violence. “You did it, you know you did it, but you’re too stubborn to admit it! What’s wrong with you? Why did you do this?”

But you didn’t do it… you know you didn’t. Arguing and fighting back will only make the situation worse. You’re filled with panic and are helpless against them. They’re the adult. You’re the kid.

Maybe they’re right. Maybe I just don’t know me or what I did.

I lived with this in a lot of situations as a kid. I’m sure that I’m not the only one. I’d wager that in one way or another it happens to everyone.

The problem is that we adults believe that we’re right. We’re bigger. We’re tougher. We have important things to get done. I think, in the back of our mind, that sometimes we adults truly believe that our thoughts, feelings and agenda are more important than what the kid is feeling.

In this back-of-our-mind belief, we mistakenly and violently shut down and dismiss the emotions, struggles and honest communication of our children.

I don’t think we mean to do it. I really don’t. But it takes some real pride swallowing to fight it. It’s hard to back down from a good lecture or rant and go, “Oh )(*$*, I’m way off.”

This happened to me 3 times in the last couple of days with my 13-year-old. We’re getting ready to move. We’re rehearsing for a big festival this weekend. There’s so much on my mind and I JUST DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THEIR EMOTIONS. But they’re there.

One example was last night, someone had left a light on in our van. I wanted to know who. Of course, no one knew who did it, it was just on.

NO ONE EVER KNOWS WHO DID IT! NO ONE EVER DID IT!!!!!

So I said, “Alright, we’re just gonna sit here until someone admits they did it.” I proceeded to give a calm, yet oppressive lecture about the merits of fessing up.

(I know, I said it. I felt it as the words came out. Oh dear Father, how stupid it sounded)

Then I remembered that 15 minutes before my wife had been in the van looking for a phone charger in the dark. My wife has an… um… tendency to leave lights on and things of the like. My mind immediately imagined talking to my tired, nursing mama of a wife in the same manner I was condescendingly talking to the girls.

That wouldn’t work.

So why is it okay for me to talk that way to my kids?

It’s not. It’s not okay to be a condescending jerk to anyone. Sure, it’s okay to be honest, but that’s different.

I hate the assumption of blame. I hate the feeling of it. I hate the desire to get a pound of flesh from the culprit. It never helps anyone.

Again, it’s the difference of getting things right verses making things right.

Later that night we had another incident, but this was with my friend’s daughter who is staying a few days at our house while her father is hospitalized. I’m actually proud of how this one went down.

I had asked her to brush her teeth, then, about a minute later had come back to tuck them all in. She was already in bed. No chance she could have brushed worth anything yet. But she was all snuggled in.

I asked her if she had brushed them, “Yes” she said calmly. I was skeptical.

“Go brush your teeth again, sweetie. This time, let’s do a really good job.”

She climbed down from her bunk. She starts digging through her stuff, looking for her tooth brush. I became quite curious about this whole thing.

“Hey, why are you looking for your tooth brush? I thought you just brushed your teeth.”

Everyone was watching, and she knew she was busted. She tried to maintain composure.

I asked her gently. “Hey, did you lie to me?”

She hung her head. It was nearly 11 at night, we were up too late and no one wanted a fight. Quietly and sheepishly she said, “Yes.”

I paused, remembering my stupid lectures over the last couple of days, “Do you think that this will help me trust you?”

“no”

“Okay, let’s try again… Did you brush your teeth?”

“No, my mom forgot to pack my tooth brush.”

I smiled, “No problem, we’ve got extras! Let’s get you fixed up.”

We moved on and didn’t speak of it again.

This once, I treated her the way that I want to be treated, and I went to bed feeling like a pretty decent dad. I think she went to bed feeling loved…

_________

If you enjoyed this, please take a sec to grab a FREE copy of our ebook on 4 thoughts on how we can avoid making ourselves an enemy to our kiddos.

The Abuse That We Love To Use

I long so badly for a world that genuinely celebrates diversity.

No. I want more than that. I want a world that celebrates and draws out diversity. A world where we notice when one another are wearing masks to cope, survive and fit in. When we do, we stop, and gently remove those masks to set the captive free that lies underneath.

Our masks are prisons. They are judgments and lines that keep us from expressing the rainbow of life that the earth certainly seems intent on expressing.

Maybe that’s a bit too abstract, but, I think it’s real.

I don’t care if you’re a kid or adult, one day we all wake up and find that we’ve mistakenly followed along and put on someone else’s mask in order to cope with our situation. We desperately try to convince ourselves, “This is who I am! I belong!”

But do we only belong because we’re wearing a mask that someone else put on us?

Do we just belong because they took our name and gave us a new one that would fit in?

The more cringeworthy aspect of this is the FACT that we are also culprits in the abuse. It’s social survival skills. If someone is too different, it can be a threat to who we are because we’re not confident enough in our own beauty. We’re not standing strong on the reality that we are worthy of love and happiness like anyone else.

We remove the threat of those who are different than us by coercing one another to lay down our names and faces and take on the ones we assign them so that all may feel comfortable and safe. We ofter couple this with our own self-hatred, and willingly lay down our own uniqueness as well.

This is the subtle abuse that we use. We steal one another away from ourselves. We slowly rob each other of color and light in order to control and make each other “safe” and “manageable.”

We’ve been fed a lie that somehow we need to hate ourselves and our beautiful colors. Some will even go so far as to say that no good is in us.

Think about what this does to a culture. Think about what this does to generation after generation…

Now, think about the reverse. What if ONE generation could be raised with the foundation that they ARE in fact worthy of love and respect, and therefore all are. Imagine the empathy, kindness and honor that would spread. Think about it!

Maybe I’m dreaming, but I think it’s a noble life, a life of purpose to spend our days helping each other remove our masks in order to let the colors underneath shine.

I think we need to help one another reclaim our names and shout them to the sky.

So, we wrote a song about this. It’s based on some real struggles we went through as a family. But I have a hunch that it is something that each and every one of us goes through year after year, young and old alike.

The song bears the name of “Eleven,” the main character from Stranger Things. She goes through her own self-realization in the tale. We thought it was fitting.

This is probably my favorite song that we’ve ever had the privilege of bringing to life. We hope that you love it and are encouraged by it. Below you’ll find two videos, one is the official music video that we filmed in Mead’s Quarry in Knoxville, TN. The other is the lyric video so that you can read along.

As for the video, we did our best to infuse the meaning of the song into action. We hope it will encourage you. And please, tell us what you think. (below)

If you’d like to learn more about our music, visit www.chibikodama.bandcamp.com

On “Headship” and the Myth of the Man in Charge

Let’s talk about two different stories…

I’m about to land in Knoxville from about 5 days on the road. I’m so, so excited to have my wife in my arms. I cannot stinking wait to kiss her lips.

I can’t wait to hold my daughters and tickle them and snuggle and play.

I live for my family.

As we hit the runway in Knoxville and begin to taxi to our gate, I turn on my phone to let Yvonne know that I’ve landed.

The response that I get is one of great disappointment. She’s very discouraged.

You see, she had intended to pick up our 10-year-old from school a few minutes early and be waiting for me at the airport.

Today, life had not gone as planned.

The house was chaos. The toddler and 4-year-old made messes and sometimes it’s just damn hard to keep up with them.

She wanted the house to be nice when I got home so that we could just focus on being together with no pressure.

Those were the plans.

The reality, however, was that she got to the school late. So late that she was now in the pick-up line for end of day.

It had slipped her mind that she needed to get gas as well. The tank was empty.

It was going to be a long while before she got to me.

We’ll get back to this in a minute…

___________

As I was walking through the airport in Denver I hear this woman behind me with very sad tones. I turn around and she’s a tall, tough looking lady, and is desperately apologizing to a shorter, lanky fellow.

I will not call him a gentleman.

She was dragging two suitcases, and struggling to keep up with him.

He had a backpack and was striding along and berating her quite boldly and with great volume.

Things had not gone as he had planned for him.

“When I say to be at a certain place at a certain time, I expect you to be there without question!” he declared in front of all of us.

She was nearly in tears.

I wanted to punch him. It occurred to me that she could easily take him too. For some strange reason though, she seemed to be submitting herself to this puny, poor excuse of a man.

How had this “relationship” begun?

What is the story of how they both got here?

Why in the name of all things good did this fellow believe it was appropriate to behave as he was behaving?

That’s that whole story.

____________

Now, back to Yvonne…

It’s amazing how sometimes you can feel the intensity of a short text. I felt her desperation in her brief and apologetic messages to me.

Was she chasing after me like the woman at the airport?

Would I declare that I wanted things such and such a way and when I say it, that’s what I expect?

Personally I believe that I felt her desperation so much because I know that in the past, I’ve been that guy to some degree.

It turns my stomach to admit it.

Now, maybe I never went full macho pig like that guy did, but the mentality is there. The root problem is in place.

This mindset is something that a lot of us have been taught, isn’t it?

The man is the head and the woman is his helper… she’s there to please him. 

In my experience, this does not work long term, and I don’t believe that it ever will if we want civil, mutually giving relationships to model for our children.

I am not the head. 

Here’s a rabbit trail: There’s a great movie from 2002 called Whale Rider. It’s a family favorite. The story encompasses traditions of the Maori people of New Zealand.

They have a practice that I absolutely love. When greeting one another sometimes, they’ll put their foreheads and noses together in what is called the Hongi. It is a bit of a metaphor for sharing in the breath of life. This is ofter accompanied by a hand shake as well as another arm reached around one another.

This practice struck me. It is inviting and vulnerable. You share breath, and you are equal. In fact, another aspect of the tradition is that you are inviting the person in to share in equal care and duties during the length of their stay.

Your home is now their home.

I love the idea of husband and wife, child and parent, putting their foreheads together to share in the breath of life. In order to do this, however, everyone must be able to take full ownership of his or her own head.

I have a head, and it sits on my shoulders. Yvonne has a  head as well. It’s right there on her shoulders. She is in charge of her head and what it does. 

And without a doubt, if I behave as this man does, we will not be able to put our foreheads together and breathe as one with ease and safety. 

Are you protesting inside?

I get it. I understand.

Maybe you’re saying things like, “But that’s the way God designed it” or “That’s how cultures have done it for millennia.”

It’s true that a great deal of cultures have behaved this way. Men would hunt, protect, demand and fight. Women would nurture and feed.

Sure, the structure of the man at the top and the umbrella of the wife and children below *can* work like an efficient machine. It can cause the cogs to fall into place and everyone behave and act accordingly to move the machine forward.

But just because it’s the way that iron age folk set things up does not mean that it’s the way that civilized and evolving society should.

I have to ask myself a couple of deep, deep questions.

Do I want to run my family as a machine that performs at optimal efficiency, or do I want a living, breathing organism that is teaching all of its members to give, take, care for and love? 

Am I teaching my family to perform tasks or am I cultivating an environment where we will all take turns lifting one another on our shoulders to reach for our dreams?

____________

So, here I am. I’m sitting at the airport writing this. I’m grateful that Yvonne was late. My partner is the best, and does the best she can. She knows that I do as well.

I’m so glad that I had the time to sit, cry a bit about the old mentalities that I need to grieve away and write out my thoughts so that they could be clear for you to read.

I’m excited that she’ll be here before long, and we’ll share a deep, deep kiss… we’ll share in the breath of life.

Just a Few Steps to Failure

Do you teach your kids that failure is just a part of success?

Do you teach them to accept that it’s an absolutely, unavoidable part of growing and learning?

I do, a bit, but not nearly enough. There’s one big reason why?

It’s me… I’m in the way?

Take a listen and let us know what you think.

 

 

My Daughters Aren’t a Problem – But YOU Might Be

“Wow, what a handful!”

Does that ever get said to you? Do people feel bad for you for being a parent?

As a father of 5 little girls, I’ve heard many a commentary on this fact. Everywhere that we go I get comments. I’ve noticed that my wife doesn’t get them nearly as much. (correction… she filled me in on this – SHE DOES)

A couple of weeks ago I was at Costco with my girls, eating pizza. (I can feed them all for just over $10 there!!!) Per the usual, someone stopped by, gleefully explaining to me what hardship I have with 5 girls, and boy oh boy, when they become teens…

It’s always said with this sympathetic smile on their face. It’s as though I’ve been sentenced to death or something. They cock their head a little, look into my eyes. “Well bless your heart. Wow, 5 girls.” They shake their heads with a giggle of pity.

I typically reply to their defense, “I’m the most well snuggled man I know.” or something like that.

My girls ARE my life. They are the driving reason and inspiration for EVERYTHING that I do. If I can help them to grow up and be good, kind, open hearted and free-thinking citizens who will overthrow the patriarchy, then I’ve done my job well.

What was that you ask? That whole “overthrow the patriarchy” thing?

Yeah, I mean that. And I’ll explain. Because there’s a problem here, and it’s even illustrated in the fact that for years I hadn’t had the wherewithal to consider how these comments effect the girls. I simply defend their honor and move on. That’s what us dudes do, right? We defend, and often forget to consider check on how those we defend feel about our coming to their rescue.

But that evening at Costco, for once, I had the presence of mind to ask the girls how they felt when people say things like that to me. It happens quite literally, EVERY time we go out together, more often if I’m alone with them. I looked over at my pizzavours and asked, “Hey, how does it make you feel when people say stuff like that to daddy?”

My ever-the-blunt-one, the 12-year-old immediately said with her big hazel eyes, “It makes me feel like we’re a problem.”

I’ll be honest, I don’t recommend having lots of kids to anyone. It IS in fact quite hard. Jim Gaffigan’s quote about it, that having 5 kids is like drowning and then someone asks you to hold a baby, is pretty spot on.

But it’s not their fault.

I signed up for this. My wife and I didn’t HAVE to have this many kids. We could have stopped it. But we have them. And they’re utterly, completely fascinating. They imbue purpose and drive into my selfish life.

They are powerful, wonderful and beautiful from the inside out.

And they are NOT a problem.

Yes, my hands are full, but THEY are not a handful. They are simply humans, learning to be good humans.

More importantly…

I am outright disgusted at the ongoing and perpetuated view that little girls are a problem.

I find the idea that “boys are easy” and that having all of these girls is this soul-sucking curse of emotionalism and hormones to be a fallacy of generations of male privilege. And frankly, we need to overthrow the whole mentality.

You know who’s the emotional one in my house?

Me.

Well, me and the 4-year-old… we trade off.

I’m also disgusted with the fact that people feel that they can just say these things to parents, in front of their kids and not even consider the belittling, heart breaking way it comes off to them as they listen.

YOU DON’T HAVE THE RIGHT TO SAY MY KIDS ARE A BURDEN OR A PROBLEM.

They’re a blessing to my life, and have given me purpose.

In the end, it comes down to us changing our entire view of this whole situation. If you’ve got kids, you’ve got to accept that YOU’VE GOT KIDS. If you’re spending your days ONLY wanting to build your little comfort zone, then, yeah, they’re pretty inconvenient.

But…

If you understand that EVERY SINGLE BATTLE with them, every fight, every beautiful breakdown is them studying their world to find out what is true and where their boundaries lie, you’ll find a well of patience, empathy and compassion that you never knew you had.

They need us to respect them and not hold them under any antiquated idea of who they should be and what stupid molds they are supposed to fit into. Have you ever thought about how many BAD molds we try and stick them into?

Have you ever considered that we often EXPECT OUR KIDS TO BE BAD AND INCONVENIENT?

I’m tired of this mold. I’m tired of the expectations of girls to be “girls.” I don’t know about yours, but my girls have it in them to be freaking wonder-women in their lives. They are conquerers in various ways, and I WILL NOT LET THEM BE TOLD THAT THEY CAN’T JUST BECAUSE OF THEIR GENDER. Let alone that they’re bad, or more inconvenient to my life because of it.

So… there’s my rant. I hope it was coherent.

What do you think?

Failure is Essential to a Healthy Family

 

Every single one of us parents wants to do a good job. I have a hard time believing that anyone out there gets up thinking, “I don’t care. Forget it.” Maybe I’m naive. But I don’t want to think about the hardened soul that would do that.

Last year on the Plaid Dads site, Christian, one of said dads, posted a confessional, heart wrenching post last week about being a fraud due to a simple mistake. His kid had done something insane, and frankly, I feel that I would have reacted worse. Really, you should go listen to it if only for the gore factor.

But his mistake was a mistake of passion. That passion comes from love, that’s its birthplace. Sometimes, our love runs away with us and turns into fear. That passion fueled fear can really cause us to make mistakes.

In my passion for my kids, I can get very afraid:

  • ARE THEY WELL FED ENOUGH?
  • DO OTHER PEOPLE LOOK AT THEM AND THINK THEY’RE WELL FED?
  • ARE THEY EMBARRASSING THEMSELVES?
  • ARE THEY EMBARRASSING ME?
  • ARE THEY HURT?
  • DO THEY HAVE WHAT THEY NEED?
  • DO OTHER PEOPLE LOOK AT US AND THINK THAT I’M PROVIDING FOR THEM AND ACTUALLY GIVING THEM WHAT THEY NEED?

The list could go on. It’s all fear induced. I’ve come to the conclusion that pretty much any action I make with my kids, or life in general, out of fear will drive me to failure.

Fear begets fear.

Fear creates fear.

Think about the look in their eyes when you intervene out of being afraid. It only creates fear in them. The biggest regrets I’ve had, the biggest missed chances and overall lousy choices in my days have all been due to fear.

Let me give an example. You’re in a grocery store, in the checkout line. 3-year-old starts to dance and sing. She gets in the way of someone walking by.

Fear will lead you to erratically yank them away from the situation in order to preserve what the passerby may have been thinking of your child rearing skills. This fear will also teach the kid self-consciousness, awakening in them the idea that they shouldn’t dance and sing in public for *fear* of what people will think if you get in their way.

I’ve done this over and again, but not so much anymore. (sheesh, only took 5 kids) I failed in the times I yanked them out of the way. I had to confess this to my kids, too. Now, when in that situation, I am learning to gently put my hand out to guide them to where they can dance and sing in my little sphere of influence, and to take notice and care that they were standing in someone’s way.

I find that usually that person enjoys the song anyway.

I’m learning gentleness through failing with my fears.

In fact, I’m trying to develop a new motto for my family and I, and it is “Failure is your friend.”

Instead of allowing ourselves to be overwrought with regret and frustration, we can invite the failure in to sit with us and teach us. Greet it with a smile. I have to learn to not indulge my self-hatred, but to enjoy the opportunity life has presented.

The fact is, we’re going to blow it, over, and over, and over as parents. Will our kids see us become increasingly addicted to self condemnation, or will they see us train ourselves like an athlete to say, “Wow, I really screwed this up… Let me back up and learn here!”?

It’s a powerful statement to them. It changes their lives. We’re ALWAYS teaching them one of two things:

  1. THEY HAVE TO PERFORM IN LIFE. THEY HAVE TO GET IT RIGHT. FAILURE IS WEAKNESS. FAILURE MEANS REJECTION AND LONELINESS.
  2. THEY GET COUNTLESS OPPORTUNITIES TO MAKE IT RIGHT. ACCEPTANCE AND EMBRACING OF FAILINGS IS THE VERY FOUNDATIONS OF GENUINE STRENGTH, SUCCESS AND THE BUILDING BLOCKS OF A RICH AND PEACEFUL LIFE WITH OTHERS.

I’ve heard it said that many that we look up in achievement have often failed more times than we have ever tried. There’s something to be said about that.

So, I leave you with a comic that was done on Doodle Alley a few years back. Seriously, take the time to read this and take it in. It’s worth every precious second.

***One side note that my kids were encouraged by was learning that Mark Ruffalo, their favorite Hulk, was rejected roughly 600 times before getting a paying job. The guy is a great fellow, and if you’ve seen any interviews with him, not arrogant in the slightest. ***

originally posted on www.chibikodamamusic.com

You Say You Hear Them… but do you?

Do you talk to your kids?

Wait…

Let me ask a different question: Do you ACTUALLY LISTEN to your kids?

I like to sometimes think and believe that I’m this immensely open and long-suffering parent.

I’d like to think that I’m on the cutting edge of “getting it right.” But the reality is that, more times than not, I am preoccupied, easily angered and overly critical.

a lot.

I mean, a lot.

I hate it.

I hope that you do as well. (hate it, I mean)  I feel it as it comes out of my mouth. I find myself picking them apart for some seriously stupid things: not cleaning up fast enough, dragging their feet, mishearing directions, leaving yet another can of LaCroix half drank on the floor in the living room where the baby can find it and dump it… you know, normal life.

What I really hate is when I pick em apart and don’t even look them in the eye. I say my piece and move on, leaving them emotionally bleeding and hoping to get it right.

I get so sick of functioning like this. And you know what? I’m getting better about fighting it.

Lately, I’ve been reading an amazing book called “Mindsight” that I highly recommend. 

It takes many of the concepts of the practices of mindfulness to an entirely new level. The book is all about how we physiologically effect one another, especially our children. It’s all about the formation of the brain, and how we can repair it. Yes, we have the power to repair our brains after trauma, devastation, hurt, pain, loss and grief.

By “repair” I mean to literally give ourselves the ability to remap and utilize our frontal cortex to greater ability, to actually be in charge our hearts, minds and emotions, rather than them ruling over us. It’s not pseudo-science, it’s legitimate, actual tools that can aid each and every one of us in taking control of our minds instead of feeling that we are victims to them.

In the last year our family has gone through some pretty major upheaval. These situations, decisions and life changes have caused a great deal of stress. Or, rather, they *could* cause a great deal of stress.

But do you know what one of the number one ways we can help our children to have a properly functioning brain?

To sit there, calmly, and listen to their sweet, terrified hearts.

Let them see your eyes.

Let them lay their heads against your chest as they cry and LET THEM GET IT OUT.

Let them feel the breath go in and out of you as you hold them tight.

Listen to them. Hear them. Even if you don’t have any advice or you think that your advice sucks. (which it likely does) Listen. Don’t fix.

Be with them.

This act alone, on a daily basis, can LITERALLY save their lives and be a first step in them taking control of their wild and raging emotions and urges.

So, do you want to change your kid’s life? HEAR THEM OUT AND DON’T TRY TO FIX EVERY LITTLE THING.

LISTEN.

Scared of What You See?

Never underestimate your influence as a parent.

I gotta get blunt this morning. I’m writing this for my own benefit, because it’s MY PLACE in trying to make our world a better place.

Have you stopped to consider the fact that you and I as parents are shaping the world with each and every seemingly mundane action we take?

Have you considered the power that you and the other adults in your child’s life wield in the direction of our country and the way it cares for the poor, hurting and needy?

You, parent… you are the hero in this story.

And I see you, I see you clearly. You get up, scrambling to set the day on a course toward something meaningful. Toward something that resembles order and not mindless chaos. You think a bit the night before about how tomorrow will play out. You look yourself in the mirror and tell yourself the truth that you have one of the best jobs on the freaking planet: YOU ARE MOM OR DAD!

Or, maybe you don’t.

Maybe you phone it in. Maybe you get up and start a cycle of frustration that only perpetuates itself. Perhaps you crawl out of bed and only think of the things you’ve got to get out of the way so that you can have “me time.” Maybe you’re eager to get the fam out of the way so that you can be *you. *

I get it. I want some me time now and then too. Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the current of life and forget who you are. But I want to dare you to look yourself in the eye and remind yourself, being a parent IS WHO YOU ARE! At least for the moment.

I see these memes of parents talking about how their kids are “assholes” and so much worse. I get it, sometimes they’re stinkers. Sometimes I’m quite stunned at their ability to be seemingly evil.

But right now, our world needs us to stop checking out as parents.

Right now, one of the greatest and most impactful things we can do for our culture is to tune in to our children, love them relentlessly, and train them to love others with unashamed compassion and empathy.

“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.” and Wonka said.

Our children are the product of our intents, dreams, words and, most importantly, our actions.

Our children act out what we demonstrate.

Is your child hateful and disconnected? It may be that you’re hateful and disconnected from them.

Is your kid a light-bearing ball of sweetness? Well done.

How do you talk about others, about politics, about people who differ from you? Are you teaching hate or understanding?

Never, ever underestimate your power.

If you don’t like what you’re seeing in our culture, then I challenge you to do some self-motivation and realize that you have the power to wake up before the kiddos, seize the day and fill it with life, love and encouragement.

Don’t feel like it? Yeah, I get that. I don’t always either. When I don’t, I have to take the time to assess what I’m feeding on. If I’m not encouraged to be the best me that I can be, then I sure as heck won’t do the same for my family. It’s that old, garbage in, garbage out thing, you know?

So, what will you do to make our world more beautiful?

I’ll tell you about one thing our tribe is doing in the next post.