by Cindi j Jeffrey | Jan 9, 2021 | childhood, Depression, Fear, mental health, parenting, Relationships, school, self-care, Uncategorized, Wellness
Ugggg…what a fuckin nightmare. It is different for everyone, yet no one really understands what it is or where it comes from.
I have experienced anxiety since I was a little kid, however, I didn’t understand that was the underlying condition. I could (and still can) rationalize it away. Like most kids, I would be afraid of what was under my bed, or what could be lurking in my closet. However, I took it a step further and began to unplug every electronic device in my room, so a fire would not emerge. Futhermore, I would be afraid when my brother ate alone, because I didn’t want him to choke. Additionally, there were days I went without eating because I was sure I had a lump in my throat. It took the doctor telling me I was fine before I ate some real food (therapist friends, analyze that one, I have).
What you see is not what is happening
Perhaps the biggest and most creative thing I pulled off was the following: One day I was playing in our attic, (which also kind of became a toy room, as it was a small room off directly off of my bedroom)…I discovered we had rat poison in there and I freaked out. From that point on, I would not touch anything from the attic as I associated it with that poison and was terrified I would become poisoned. I associated the rat poison with harm to my own person.
Eventually, this manifested into me my touching my food and I even made a game at the school lunch table…I wanted to see who could eat without touching their food. I can’t remember how long this went on, but even as an adult, I can remember how strong those feelings were and how I was sure something bad would happen if I couldn’t control my surroundings. Side-note: I am pretty sure I never stepped foot in in that attic again.
Often, anxiety stems from a lack of control of your world. It’s no secret that life is chaotic and as a child who needed structure, I began to internalize my anxiety, often leading to racing thoughts and dysfunctional though patterns. I would begin to doubt my worthiness, or I would begin to exhibit Obsessive Compulsive Disorder behaviors. I wondered why God didn’t love me enough to protect me from the things that were happening around me.
As I grew into a teenager, those OCD behaviors manifested. I would draw crosses on my homework, or I would feel the need to avoid certain foods, drinks, or places for fear of something bad happening to me. Little did I understand that I was creating my own little world of negative thinking and fearfulness.
I was typically home alone from the time I got home from school (when I attended) to when I went to bed, leading me to be terrified of something happening. To ensure I would know if anyone ever entered my home and to feed into my OCD, I would place all of our throw rugs a certain way. If they had been moved, I would know someone had entered my home. I remember one day I arrived home from work and saw the first rug scattered by the front door…as I walked trepidisciously through the large, two story home, each rug was moved…I was so fricken terrified that I ran out the front door, only to discover, my best friends parked down the street laughing at me.
I knew my brain was wired differently, I just didn’t know how to handle it. I did the best I could to control those thoughts, but it was exhausting. This once A student and pretty good athlete began to fail classes and lose interest in sports. I began to self medicate with alcohol as it would numb my senses. I slept more. The cycle began and contrary to my own interference, the guilt, self loathing and anxiety continued to increase.
Looking back, the adult me wants to hug the child me so tightly that little me understands she is not alone. This was during a time period when my parents were either working or not home and my brother was trying to figure out his next chapter. I was the lost child. The one that drifted just under the radar and did enough positive things to walk the line. I needed help, but even I couldn’t recognize that, nor could I ask for it. And when I did, or when it was offered, I was not the easiest patient to work with.
Anxiety looks different in everyone
The grown up me looks back and recognizes my delinquent behavior for what it was…anxiety and depression. I was begging for attention, regardless of positive or negative. My interactions with adults were minimal, as my dad worked nights and I didn’t live with my mom. My teachers saw very little of me, as I only attended school sporadically. When I was there, I was apathetic and/or disrespectful.
There is a saying “All it takes is one person to believe in a child for them to be successful.” Fortunately for me, I had a teacher and an associate principal who both saw past my emotional walls and believed in me. I pushed them away and I definitely tried to maintain my boundaries, but they prevailed, and because of them, I did graduate from high school.
Adult versus child perceptions
Conversely, the other thing the grown up in me can see is that my parents were doing the best they could do. Divorce is devastating for all involved, no matter what steps brought a family to separate (I could write another piece on this). We can question the why’s and the why nots, but at the end of the day, we can’t change anything. It’s really fuckin hard to parent when you are struggling to take care of yourself, trust me, I know this for a fact.
Grant yourself GRACE, my friend. I am.
just call me, anxiety girl
by Cindi j Jeffrey | Jul 12, 2020 | childhood, grief, Inspiration, parenting, Relationships
Parenting Moment Pause
At the age of ten, my child is such a character. He is funny, kind, and continuously makes us smile.
When I was ten, I was a fantastic student and a people pleaser, if not a tad bit of a brat. It was at this age that I learned that death is real. It was the summer heading into 5th grade when two of our neighborhood boys were killed in a motorcycle accident. To this day I remember where I was when I heard about it. I was with my best friend and we were babysitting her niece when her parents and aunt came and broke the news.
These friends were also her neighbors and the reality of what had happened was crushing. We would never be the same and our childhood innocence was shattered. Watching our friends parents grieve and watching the community come together to support them was incredibly overwhelming and our childhood minds didn’t realize these moments would stay with us forever.
I want to preserve that innocence in my ten year old for as long as possible. Has he experienced death? Yes. That’s unavoidable. However, as a parent, it is my job to also instill hope, love, and grace.
As I look at my oldest child, I see myself at that same age learning that families don’t always stay together. At 12, my parent’s divorced and life as we knew it was changing. Looking back at that situation as an adult, I see things so differently than I did as a child.
At 12, I took an amazing trip across the country with my brother and my father to celebrate my brother’s graduation. The memories are priceless and still make me smile. For example, crushing my brother at Circus Circus in Las Vegas and him accusing me of cheating ( it sucks when your little sister can kick your ass at the water guns).
Unfortunately, the return home was awful. First my dad moved out, then they traded spots and my mom left. Dad worked nights, so I went from having someone home with me constantly to coming home to an empty house and putting myself to bed. While my brother was there he was living his own life and moving toward his own goals.
At 12 I began parenting myself. As I look at my beautiful 12 year old hormonal son, I can’t imagine him having that responsibility. Granted, there are times he probably would love to be on his own, however that isn’t a choice he is developmentally able to make.
As a child, I was grief-stricken by these events. As an adult, I can look back and recognize the events that forever imprinted my life. As a parent, I can’t imagine the pain my parents and the parents of our friends were going through. “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle you know nothing about” is one of my favorite quotes and I still believe this to be true. We are all hiding behind our smiles and putting our brave faces on for the world.
As a parent, I have experienced my share of grief and I have tried to shield my children from the crushing affects of it. That doesn’t mean they have not seen my cry, for they have. They have lost their beloved pets, uncle and grandmother and they know the circle of life.
And as their parent, I want to protect their innocence. I want to shield them from the ugliness of our world, however that may look. But, as their mom, my job isn’t to do that. It is to equip them and empower them so they can handle whatever comes their way. God help me in doing that. There is a reason they say it takes a village…
Just remember, my friend that we are all doing the best we can at any given moment. Let’s practice grace, not only with one another, but with ourselves as well.
by Cindi j Jeffrey | Nov 11, 2019 | childhood, Dreams, Fear, mom, Momfail, parenting, Relationships, self-care
The Favored Child
If you have more than one child in your family, the chances are great that you have the favored child. Whether you think so or not, I guarantee that your children think you do. This is a tough one to swallow, isn’t it? As parents, we try so hard NOT to focus our attention on just one child. However, the truth is that it may be beyond our capacity to show love and more about how our children internalize our actions.
I did a poll on my Facebook page a few days back asking if people have a favorite child. They had two choices…Absolutely not and it depends upon the day. The vast majority agreed that it depends upon the day. So let’s explore what may be the resoning behind that answer.
A day in the life
Look, I get it. Parenting is hard. As moms, we are expected to put aside our own needs to meet the continual needs of others. I have always said that becoming a parent is putting your needs aside for your child’s wants. Truthfully, that is sometimes easier said than done. And let’s face it, each child is different and each child has good days and bad days just as we do.
But wow…when we all have those bad days together, things can go from perfection to destruction in a matter of seconds. My two boys are like night and day. Their demeanors are so different from one another. Honestly, I try to respect their differences regardless of how trying that can be. The irony is that when we found out we were having another boy, I was stoked because I thought i knew what I was doing.
Let’s just declare right here that I was wrong.
Where it all began
My family loves watching Last Man Standing. We get such a kick out of watching another famiy work and often laugh at their antics. We also talk about how we would handle those same situations. If you are a fan, you already know that Mike, the father always claims that Eve is his favorite daughter.
I took this to a whole nother level in our home and began telling the boys that they were my favorite child after they did something helpful or amazing. This little interaction resulted in them trying to outdo one another in order to be “mom’s favorite child.” Fast forward a few months and I began wondering if there will be any psychological ramifications to their adult psyche. Both the social worker and mom in me is always worrying that I am jacking these boys up. That struggle is real.
Which led me to my thoughts as an adult. I always though my parents favored my brother. After all, he was rarely in trouble, he was the first in our family to go to college and he went on to be a very successful and respected professional. I, on the other hand was the difficult child and while I used to joke with my parents that they would have been bored if I had been more like my brother, they didn’t necassariy agree.
Looking back, he may have thought that I was the favored child. After all, we grew up very differently, as he was raised by my grandmother, my mom and dad and I was primarily raised by my mom in the younger years and my dad and brother as I grew older.
Grandparents and the favored child
The favored child doesn’t just stop in one generation. That favored child’s kids will also feel the difference in how their grandparents interact with them. Where the grandparents choose to spend their time and the relationships they may or may not cultivate say more to the next generations than they may have ever thought.
According to an article on Owlcation, there definately can be long term ramifications when children do not feel as though they are always being compared to their siblings or are always in continual disagreement with their parents. Wow, no pressure, right?
The truth is that as parents, we need to be aware of how our interaction are delivered AND how they are being received. each child responds to interactions based upon their individual experiences and expectations. And, as parents, we are responsible for interacting with each child according to their own indivudal needs.
What if you clash
Let’s face it. There will be many many times where our kids will do something that just make us shake our heads. And there will be times as parents when we make a decision and shake our heads. As parents, our job is not to be their friends, rather our job is to teach them about how they fit into the world around them. It means that sometimes we all lose our shit and we can model how to apologize and own our actions.
It also means focusing on the postives and letting our children know they are loved and accepted for who they are…not who we want them to be. Maybe that is the key. Allowing the children to be who they are rather than holding on to a dream we had for them. Allowing them to fail so they will learn how to work through the tough times. It’s been said that it takes seven positive statements to undo one negative statement. Those are some big numbers, however I think we can do it.
I will leave you with one last thought. Don’t push yourself so hard that you have nothing left to give. These children didn’t ask to be brought into the world, we brought them here. Take care of yourself, mama because these littles are only little for a short period of time. Grant yourself some grace and model setting boundaries so your child can also learn to do the same.
by Cindi j Jeffrey | Sep 30, 2019 | childhood, Fear, mom, Momfail, parenting, Relationships, school, self-care
As an empowered educator, I communicate directly with kids via classroom settings. Furthermore, our topics of conversation can be difficult to process. My experience has taught me that children react differently to the tough topics that hit them close to home. Because of this, I am always alert to the signals from my audience. Incidentally, a few weeks ago, as we talked about “consent” a young man responded with something that still makes my stomach flutter.
To set the stage, as I present, I often share stories from my own experience to provide context. On this particular day, we were discussing how our parents often instruct us to hug other adults, even if we don’t want to. When I asked the students what this experience teaches us, this kiddo responded “we need to do what adults tell us”.
As a result, I stopped in my tracks. I was mind blown. First of all, not because he said anything wrong, on the contrary as I looked at the larger picture, I mentally asked myself if we (as adults) help our children create their own boundaries or create uncomfortable situations for them. Even more so, the look in his eyes was haunting and the social worker in me wondered what had triggered fear for him at this particular moment that he was remembering.
Likewise,I know that as a child there were certain adults I felt comfortable with and others who I didn’t. Even at a young age, I could recognize who I was not comfortable with…even if my parent’s didn’t.
What if we empowered
Conversely, as I procrastinated by scrolling through FACEBOOK, I watched a video of a teacher welcoming her children to class. Ultimately, she provided the children with a choice of options on how they wished to be greeted. What an empowering way to begin the school day! These students were given choices based upon how they were feeling at that very moment. Above all, these children were empowered.
What if we allow our children to choose how they want to greet others. This doesn’t allow them to be disrespectful, in contrast, it empowers them to make their own choices. Above all, let us teach them to create boundaries and empower them to redirect others when their boundaries are violated.
Authors Note: For more information on ways to keep your child safe, please visit The Set Me Free Project.
by Cindi j Jeffrey | Sep 20, 2018 | childhood, Inspiration, parenting, Relationships, self-care
Are you an Asshole?
Wow, that’s a brutal opener, isn’t it? The question stands though, are you an asshole?
An appropriate answer could go something like this: “well, I guess it depends upon who you ask”. And while there may be some truth to that, it’s unfortunate. Human nature has proven again and again that we tend to lash out at those closest to us, at those we love the most. The social worker in me says that we do this because we feel safe with them and can let our guard down. The wife and mother in me thinks that is a cop out. Shouldn’t we model compassion for all?
However, what if you could diffuse the situation? Often times, being aware of our own behavior can assist in de-escalating the increasing anger of others…hence the expression “killing them with kindness”.
However, what happens when compassion doesn’t work?
That’s when we check our boundaries.
This is where it gets tricky. We want to be compassionate without becoming a figurative or literal “punching bag” and that isn’t always an easy thing to do. For many of us, we need to remove said asshole from our life before we realize how toxic the situation truly was. It is only at that time that we can look back and recognize said person for what they are…and thank God that we had the fortitude to remove said person or ourselves from the situation.
As adults, this is difficult to do, therefore, imagine the pressure our children go through. It can be difficult to empower our children to set appropriate boundaries when they witness adults being assholes to one another. This is where it becomes our responsibility to role model both compassion and setting boundaries.
I have two boys who view the world drastically different. One of my boys doesn’t personalize anythings while one of my sons is very sensitive and tends to personalize the behavior of others, often resulting in relationship issues with his peers. He is compassionate and wants to resolve any conflicts passively. While I commend this approach, it also sets him up to become the product of ridicule from his classmates and we talk about establishing appropriate boundaries. Essentially we have discussed the following:
- Show compassion, we don’t know what others are experiencing and perhaps he is acting out.
- Ignore him. Focus on YOU and don’t allow him to have any control over your time at school.
- Talk to the teacher about the situation.
- Punch him…while this is not politically correct, if my son has demonstrated the above coping skills and things have yet to change for him, where else can he take this?
My point is this: it is difficult to teach our children how to deal with assholes when they watch everything we are doing. Let’s try a different approach, shall we? How about we show compassion to others when we want to become angry and lash out. We need to give ourselves time outs to cool off and demonstrate appropriate interactions with others.
After all, when I call it a day, I want to believe in my heart that I wasn’t an asshole…nor did I punch anyone.
by Cindi j Jeffrey | Feb 12, 2017 | childhood, mom, Momfail, Valentines Day
As I am scrolling through FACEBOOK I see all of these absolutely adorable Valentine’s Boxes for upcoming class parties. Therefore I can’t help but wonder how everyone is getting their kids to participate. Are all of these other kiddos doing this freely? I have to threaten the removal of favorite objects to get my boys to even pretend to care about their Valentine Day boxes.
After literally three days of telling the boys they need to create their boxes, I taped my It Works boxes together and put them on our kitchen island. The next day they were still there. Being proactive, I provided the kids with paper, stickers, colors, markers, letters, and tape. Ten minutes later they were both finished with their Valentines Boxes and five of that was probably spent wrapping the paper around the box.
After encouraging them, coercing them and pleading with them, I finally gave in. Feeling a tad disappointed, I released them from the horror. I let go of the illusion they would be creating masterpieces like all of the other kids in their classes. Without belittling them, I let them decide how their boxes would look. While they made sure to cut holes large enough to receive valentines, the outsides are a tad “interesting”.
Perspective on Valentines Boxes
Looking at their boxes while rolling my eyes to my husband, he reminded me of why these boxes were not important to my kids. “It isn’t a guy holiday,” he said…you can’t make them be interested. (This from the same guy who made sure the kids were included in giving me flowers so they knew how to treat a special woman). Right then, it hit me. This isn’t about me. Their Valentines Boxes are not a reflection of me as a parent any more than my choices are reflections of my own parents.
I was allowing my emotions to interfere with my boy’s priorities. I was letting the fact that I will be a volunteer in their parties influence MY reactions to their choices. Consequently, I admit to feeling a tad embarrassed. How dare I compare my children to others. How incredibly silly is it that I even put pressure on them to participate in something because of how it would reflect upon me?
Since my boys were little, I have encouraged them to make their own choices. These two would learn from those decisions that every choice has a consequence. Some of their choices were amazing while others were definitely learning opportunities. The things that make my boys different from others are the very things that make me love them even more. I had always taught them to be different and now when they were, I wanted to force them back to being like others.
My oldest used to wear a stocking hat during the summer. He was my little Disney Thug and I loved it! My youngest loved to wear cowboy boots everywhere and I thought it was adorable! I embraced their individuality! So why in the world do I care about these Valentines Day boxes? In conclusion, forgive me, boys…lesson learned. However, when it comes to homework and schoolwork, that is a totally different arguargument