Women need other women, not to compete, but to lift one another up.

Women need other women, not to compete, but to lift one another up.

Girls versus Women

Do you remember when you were a little girl and you wanted to be friends with everyone? And I do mean EVERYONE. Furthermore, it didn’t matter what they wore, where they were from or what they looked like. When we were little, we didn’t care about our differences. We only cared about finding a common connection.

So what happened?

Girls learn to compete

At some point in our lives, we learn about our differences. And we give them more power than what holds us together. We begin to notice that others get more attention or adoration than we do and therefore, we tell ourselves that we are inferior. Furthermore, rather than embrace that other person, we allow our insecurities to control our thinking and we begin to shun others.

We begin to question ourself, and ultimately, we begin to question our own worth. This is the point of no return and from this point on, everything becomes a competition. Often resulting in the questioning of motives from other girls who want to become friends with us. The level of untrustworthiness we often subject others to is ridiculous, and is the energy we spend on it.

My Own Experience

Recently, I had an opportunity to utilize the services of someone I had not spoken with since high school. Keep in mind that we are talking decades (don’t judge me). Initially, I blatantly refused to contact her because we despised one another during our high school years. In a moment of wisdom, my husband not so kindly told me to get over it and we called her. Allow me to say that she was amazing to work with and we even had a few laughs over our ridiculouslessness back in the day.

People change, my friend…hopefully, you are one of those people who has changed. I know that I am NOT the person that I was in high school and honestly, I thank God for that. The years have shown me patience, experience, and grace. Hopefully, I can let go of my own fears and see past my own insecurities while embracing others for who they truly are.

We need other women

As we grow older and potentially wiser, we realize that most women are facing the same internal struggles that we are. We recognize their insecurities in the quick oneover glance, or the fake wave followed by, “I gotta run”. The signs may differ, however we all tend to have the same fears of being rejected by one of our own.

The years have taught me otherwise. I have learned that most other women are doing the best they can…just like I am. We need other women to reinforce our strengths and to remind us that we are not alone in the battles we face. Women understand women and we need those connections to lift one another up and call us out on our bullshit.

So, thank you to all of you who are in my tribe. Those who light up my world when I let the darkness in. Additionally, thank you to all of you who call me out when I begin to believe my own bullshit. We are stronger together.

 

The Empty Christmas Tree

The Empty Christmas Tree

The Empty Christmas Tree

It’s ten days from Christmas and our tree is still standing empty, begging for decorations and presents. It is awaiting a happy family to stand around while strategically placing their personal ornaments and alight it with joy. Incidentally, our house is in total disarray from the flooding of our kitchen and only half of the house has festive holdiay decorations. The tree stands empty.

We proudly brought our family tree home last week and  just haven’t found the time to decorate it. The kids have activities, dad has been ill, and honestly, mom just hasn’t been in the spirit.

Grief and the Holidays

Here’s what no one tells you about grief. Or maybe they do and I just wasn’t listening. Grief hits hardest in the least expected times. As a social worker, I understand the stages of grief and the roller coaster of emotions that we all experience. Additionally, I recognize the ability to personalize the most innocent statement from a family member while wondering what the hell they are thinking. For a licensed social worker, I really suck at feeling emotions.

I am just not as festive as I usually am. As a mom, this sucks, because I want to create amazing Christmas memories for my boys. I don’t want them to suffer because their mom is dealing with my own issues. So where do we find the balance? How do I let go of the avoidance?

Not Dealing is Avoidance

This season is the first one without my mom. While we had a tempestuous relationship and often failed to understand one another, she trusted me with her last will and testament. For me, that is an honor that I don’t take lightly. Granted, it is a total pain in the ass and trying to make things happen from another state is compounding the stress. However, she trusted me to carry out her final wishes and I will make that happen. My internal struggle comes from pushing through those demands and trying to put on a smile for my boys and celebrate our blessings in the hear and now.

Until my late 40’s, I had never had to be the responsible child. After all, I had a pretty amazing older brother who took care of the tough stuff and only filled me in when he thought I needed to know something. When he passed away, those expectations passed onto me. I am pretty sure my extended family thinks my mom was crazy for leaving these decisions to me…after all, I am the wild child… the one who does my own thing and who really likes to live in a bubble. In other words, I like avoidance.

Truth be told, I also wondered if I could step up. But I did, and I will. Because she trusted me to do so. Adulting is tough and watching your parent pass away, regardless of the relationship between you definately changes you. It changes how you feel about the world and it provides a sense of mortality that only comes from that experience.

Stay in the moment

My friend, I know you are grieving. Do what you need to do for you. Will others disagree and judge? Absolutely, but they are not walking your walk. They only know their own pain and grief. And we all grieve differently. We tend to focus on our own pain and forget that others are also struggling. Be kind and try to be gentle with others and with yourself.

Stay in the moment. Today, I am going to go shower, put on some makeup and gather my family around our naked Christmas Tree. Together we will create a masterpiece of memories and together we will smile as we remember the story behind each ornament. I will allow myself to cry when I need to (I really do suck at this) and I will allow myself to be happy and guilt free when those moments arise.

The passing of our loved ones creates waves of emotions that we may not be prepared for, however it also allows us to remember why we loved them in the first place. Never underestimate the connection between love and grief.

And for you? Merry Christmas. Celebrate how you need to for you and yours.

The Favored Child…which one is yours?

The Favored Child…which one is yours?

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.

Adult Relationships

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.

 

 

The Empowered child is one who sets boundaries.

The Empowered child is one who sets boundaries.

Empowered educator

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”.

Whoah. 

Mind blown

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.

Ultimately, by forcing our children to hug and kiss other adults, are we truly doing something good? Consequently, are we showing our kiddos have no voice over who or how they have physical contact with others? Click To TweetLikewise,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. 

 

 

 

 

I understand. No, you really don’t…

I understand. No, you really don’t…

I understand

Actually, you don’t. I understand are two words that I fucking hate to hear someone say to me. Don’t get me wrong, I truly believe those words are said with love and compassion. But let’s get something straight…You Don’t Understand. And to be honest, I don’t understand what you are going through either.

I understand is something we say when we don’t know what else to say. It is something to fill in the uncomfortable silence when we get too close to someone else’s tragic circumstances. Too often, we say “I understand” when we have similar experiences and want to let other’s know they aren’t alone.

Experiences

Your experiences shape your understanding. Considering this, there are no two people in the world who will experience the same event in the exact same way. This is one reason that law enforcement doesn’t give too much credibility to witness statements. If ten people are interviewed about an incident, all ten statements will differ in some aspect. People focus on events based on who they are. Smells, sights, sounds, and even tastes may change based upon who is experiencing them.

And if an experience induces a feeling of trauma, all bets are off. Emotions will dull your senses as your fight or flight kicks in and you will be in survival mode. Many times when a loved one passes away, those left behind are blinded by their own pain. They forget there are others hurting and often personalize the behavior of their family and friends. Everything becomes about them and words and actions are often miscommunicated. Thus the reason that many families drift away after the loss of a beloved matriarch or patriarch…it appears that everyone feels slighted by others. Unfortunately, this is not the intent, it is the by-product of grief.

How to help a friend who is grieving

When I lost my brother, it was devastating. He was my rock and the one who was supposed to outlive us all. I had no idea how many people I knew had lost a sibling and when they began reaching out, I realized I wasn’t alone. Were our experiences the same? No. However, we all became part of a club that none of us wanted to belong to and we realized we were not alone. We could bond over the loss and share our experiences, both positive and negative.

For me, some of the kindest things others have done is to just be there. I have one friend who knows that I hide away when I am struggling and she leaves messages for me, knowing I will call back when I am ready. I have other friends who often ask how I am doing and they call me out on my bullshit when I tell them I am ok.

I often joke that as a social worker, I suck at my own emotions. Truthfully, I am more comfortable with helping others, which are totally forms of denial and avoidance. So just let me know you are here. Let me ramble. Listen as I tell stories. Empathize with my situation, just please don’t tell me that you understand.

What helped me

I love the book “It’s Not Supposed to be This Way” by Lisa TerKeurst. It resonated with me. For so long, I have been stuck within my grief. Within a short time frame, many influential people in my life passed away and each one left a feeling of emptiness. However, as I explain to my children, this is the circle of life and as hard as it is to understand, it means we felt deep love. That is a blessing for I cannot imagine living life without love.

Prayer. I believe in the power of prayer. I have seen God work through people and I know He is with us. Furthermore, I believe we will once again be reunited with our loved ones. 

Being honest about how I am feeling. This is a kicker for me because as I mentioned, I suck at this. There have been times in the past few years that I have been treading water…simply treading. And occasionally I find myself back in that same place. I expend energy but I don’t move forward.

 

 

I see you…when the thread unravels…

I see you…when the thread unravels…

I know you

I realize that we may have never actually met in person, but I know you.

I know you because we share the same defeated spirit.  Right now you are wondering if I am fuckin crazy and that’s ok, sometimes I wonder that myself. What I am trying to say is that at some point in our lives we have done too much. We have committed to too many things. At some point in our lives (or maybe multiple times) we have put our needs behind every other person we know. And we are fricken exhausted.

I’m not talking about the can’t move my body because I am so tired exhausted. I mean we are brain weary, I can’t remember what I was going to say let alone why I walked into this room exhausted. Our minds are toast and our soul is screaming for a break. But we don’t give ourselves one because that would lead to feelings of guilt, which would lead to more commitments, which leads to being overwhelmed and the fricken cycle continues and the thread unravels.

The thread unravels

Have you ever tried to thread a needle? Those little needle holes are ridiculous and as you get older it becomes more difficult (I digress). Here’s the thing; if you don’t have the end of the thread bonded together, it begins to unravel. As that thread unravels, each little tiny piece of material becomes it’s own monster and demands attention and before you know it, you have multiple strands everywhere and none are working together.

The only way to fix it is to cut the thread and start again.

Stop. Cut the chords. Start again.

Real Resentment

Additionally, I understand the impromptu anger that comes when you see the dishes on the end table or the socks laying unmatched near the front door. There are times when I think I am the only person who is able to see these items, although I am most assuredly not the one who left them there.

Resentment begins when we feel overwhelmed by the tasks laid before us. Unfortunately, resentment can sneak up on us, even when we are doing things we committed to doing. It isn’t something that we wear proudly, nor is it something we often talk about. I will say it. There are days that I struggle with wishing others would do more so I could do less. Furthermore, I want to stomp my feet and scream at the top of my lungs to “pick up the fuckin socks.” But I don’t and the thread unravels.

Gratitude

For years I didn’t talk about these feelings, as I felt guilty doing so. After experiencing miscarriages and difficult pregnancies, I know what a gift having a baby is. For me, complaining felt like an affront to being a mother. Now I see it differently and realize resentment and gratitude can live together in the same world. When I begin to feel resentful, it is time for me to stop, cut the chords and start again.

It is time to take care of me and ask the family to help out. It’s my job to teach my boys to become independent, not do it all for them. Although sometimes it is so much easier to just do it myself, I realize that isn’t helping any of us. And when everyone begins to pitch in, I feel gratitude overpowering those feelings of resentment.

I see you

So, girl, I see how hard you are working. And recently, I feel as though I have experienced every emotion these past few weeks. Wondering if I am helping my kids make the right decisions… questioning if I am supporting my husband enough… hurting for those around me who are hurting. I have been grateful beyond measure, followed by waves of grief and questioning. Parenting is hard…loving others is hard…watching those you love hurting is hard.

This is for you and hear me as I say this…“You are right where you need to be and you are doing an amazing job. Cut yourself some slack and just be present”. Your expectations of yourself are so much higher than the expectations of those who love you. Say that again and believe it in your soul.
Cindi