I know why animals eat their young?

I know why animals eat their young?

So just like many of you we have been in close quarters these last few weeks and I would say the first 10 days were probably the most difficult as we all tried to find our places.

I went from a parent who allowed my child to act responsibly and independently to a mother who felt compelled to micro-manage all activities including school work, personal hygiene, and meal times.

I officially started the cycle with my behavior change, and in turn my children retaliated with attitude. You all know what I am talking about. And this probably would have continued had we not just a week prior engaged the services of a youth mentor for our son. Little did I know how valuable this was going to be as we headed into the uncharted territory of Covid-19 shut down.

The voice of reason came in the form of extremely knowledgeable, articulate man whom at first glance looked more like a skateboarder/snowboarder dude as he sported long hair and some facial stubble. Clearly he was way too cool for me, but he would be perfect for my skateboarder/snowboarder son.

Christian, mentors young men in the Salt Lake Valley area, and upon our initial meeting he greeted me with a warm smile and projected a sense of energy and optimism that I felt I let wither away in the last few months.

What I wanted to know very simple. How he was going to help?

Christian’s plan was on target with what we were looking for, for our son. We wanted to provide to our son, a person to trust, someone other than us, his parents to confide in, someone to help him tackle some tasks that were overwhelming him, and help him create a vision for his next steps; employment, or additional education beyond high school or both.

It has only been a few weeks and I can already see the sense of relief that has come over my son, and very unexpectedly the same has occurred for me.

I didn’t expect to learn anything from this process other than my son will listen to anyone but me. And even that isn’t correct. My son does hear and even listens to my words. But those words are really hard to hear through the noise of demands and micro-managing.

What is the moral here? Not really sure there is one other than to say, I have benefited from my son having a mentor. It takes some of the stress and panic off of me, and it allows me to be the person and parent I like being. One who is back to allowing my child the room to be independent and make mistakes, with a little safety net that isn’t mom or dad.

So I no longer identify with the need to consume my young, and instead I am extremely content to let my children continue to live and learn and flourish.

Mentorship is an amazing concept that I never considered for my child, even though I have had personal experiences with it. I guess I felt is was a cop-out, as in letting someone else deal with the issues. But that was a false premise on my part. Mentorship for my son has brought a different perspective, that of an adult that is not his parent, and in turn very unexpectedly it has made me a better parent.

Like many things, resources are often limited by location. Utah is the hotbed of mental health resources and mentorship models. I am very blessed that I live in an area where it wasn’t difficult to find what I needed.

But if it doesn’t look that way where you live, don’t give up. Continue to search your area for your Christian or a company similar to his Youth Mentors SLC.

Stay safe. And if you enjoyed this post I ask that you please share it with friends.

Coronavirus is about to teach my kids an awesome lesson.

Coronavirus is about to teach my kids an awesome lesson.

So today is the first day of social distancing for my family. The boys are home from school for a minimum of three weeks. School doesn’t restart in an online capacity until Wednesday.

Honestly when we were notified that school was going to close, I was a bit overwhelmed with the concept of me being around them 24/7. After a good nights sleep, I am still overwhelmed but can see a bit of an opportunity today.

My children are forced to have to deal with me, by a virtue of a state mandate. They can not blame me for the fact they are bored, or can’t see their friends, for them it kind of feels like a punishment, but one not given by me. For that I am ecstatic.

So we devised a plan to keep us all sane. Mornings are devoted to online school work. If they don’t have any great, then stare at your brother, clean your room, address your person hygiene, but there will be no tv’s, phones, or video games before 12:30, so don’t even ask.

I am going to use the fact they are home to get some larger projects done that otherwise I would have had to tackle alone. I already made the list so they can choose what they feel like doing that day, oh but you are going to do something physical.

Do you want to overturn the soil in the chicken run? Or are you feeling it is a clean out the garage day? Hey, maybe you just want to go for excruciatingly hard, but quickly completed task , by moving the old appliances into the basement? Hey its your party, pick the game.

You want to jello wrestle your brother, roll around in the mud outside, have at it boys. Or maybe you want to help with some yard-work, or do your laundry. The list will continue everyday until they are back in school, hard work never killed anyone, the time has come for them to work 1/4 of what we did in our youth, and it just might feel like they are dying, but they won’t.

And after you finish the task you picked for the day, the rest of the day is yours; do what you want. If that means xbox, phones, computers have at it.

We learned last night that with all the kids home the xbox live system almost came to a grinding halt, not going to lie, there was some humor in that for me as my son came stamping up the stairs.

The power I hold for the next two-three weeks lays in the palm of my hand. It is called the Xfinity app-which can suspend the wifi on every house device with the touch of a finger. Listen boys, don’t make me take out my phone!!!

I know one thing, this will give me the opportunity to be around my sons more, and hopefully not annoy them, but grow with them. It will also share the depth of what I do on a daily basis with them. Mom does not sit around all day watching TV, I actually do lots of stuff, that you now are going to become intimately aware of.

I prefer to see good in even the worst of situations. And right now I am watching my teens whip a ball at each other from across the living room, laughing and joking and having a good time, not sure if its soccer, rugby, or some mutated game they made up, no matter what it is they have just unwrapped a gift simplicity, calm, and connection.

I could be yelling at them for playing ball in the house, (shout out to Carol Brady), but all that comes to mind right now is a smile that my boys are healthy, and I have this opportunity to work on connection.

Check back tomorrow, as this optimism may only last a day. Hey, but I am trying.

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Good things happen when we make relationships a top priority.

Good things happen when we make relationships a top priority.

Last night I was attending a Taco Tuesday women’s get together in my neighborhood. It was a night filled with good food, games, laughter, and some pretty amazing women.

My history with women wasn’t always pleasant. I found women to be catty, and backstabbing, and often out for their own good. Now I am not saying this is how all women are, it just seemed to be my experiences.

As I aged, I became wiser, less rigid and judgmental, and I also became more confident and a better judge of people. I found myself choosing to surround myself with some pretty fantastic women. Back when I lived in New Jersey I found a small group women with whom I bonded with on a spiritual retreat. We all clicked and to this day, despite the fact I moved across the country, I continue to feel as close to them as if I continued to live next door. We often referred to each other’s as “Sista’s” and yes that is how we spelled it. I am not 100% sure why, but I think that may have started because we performed a skit to the movie Sister Act and dressed up as Nuns or it could have been as “Sisters in Christ”. Go with whatever makes you feel more comfortable.

So I moved to Utah, never thinking that I would find a group like that again. I was going to be open to new friendships, but honestly how likely would it have been for me to find that twice in my life.

Well I am overjoyed to say that I found a group of great women in Utah. How does this happen, am I so fabulous that people are dying to be my friend? Nope, not even close. I have figured out it has to do with a few simple things.

  • The First: The desire to be part of a group.
  • The Second: Give 100% and be vulnerable
  • The Third: Give much more than you take from the relationship.

Back to Taco Tuesday. One of the organizers of this event got up in front of about 35 women and explained with tears in her eyes why gatherings with women were so important to her.

She has a great husband and kids, but there is something about the power of women that is necessary for her. She also explained that sometimes the connection is not meant for you, but for you to pass along to someone in the future. She often jokes that the reason I ended up as her neighbor was because she needed me, little did she know how much I needed her.

Last night I had the pleasure of enjoying my taco salad at a table where a teenage girl, about the age of 15 or 16 sat.

I laughed about how my anxiety was trying to convince me to bail on Taco Tuesday because I didn’t want to go in alone. I asked a friend for help and she offered to pick me up. And while some people might think my anxiety over such a simple thing is stupid and I should just get over it, it doesn’t work that way. I acknowledged my anxiety, I addressed it, and I worked through it with the help of others.

So after I finished telling my little story about how anxiety almost kept me from doing something I wanted to do, this young girl openly shared that she too suffered from anxiety and a few other things that always seem to hitch a ride on the anxiety train.

I gave her my full attention as I listened to her share what was going on with her life. As like many people with anxiety, we shared some of the same struggles; Adhd, anxiety, the inability to shut off our wandering minds, we wondered if everyone worried about stuff as much as we did, we used humor as a coping mechanism, and the list went on and on.

I shared some of my experiences as a teen, and the expression on her face was one of relief. She told me that while she could explain things to people she hadn’t found someone who truly understood it. We both described the inability to sleep at night because our minds raced, either anticipating the next day or re-living the one we just had, and the constant self doubt that plagued us.

All I kept thinking was, what would have happened had this dynamic young lady chose not share? She wouldn’t have learned that there are other people who understand what she is going through. Being a teenager is hard enough in this world without adding on diagnosis’. I didn’t solve her problems, because I can’t, however I did provide her with some comfort that it doesn’t always have to be this way. I also shared some tips and resources that I have gathered over the years.

We talked about sleep quite a bit, as it is so vital to being able to function, and it effects so many people, not just those with anxiety. I even shared my sleep routine, which to some might be weird, but includes; a sleep mask, a very cold room, some meditation, a scheduled sleep time and the mother of all things, a very expensive, but amazing weighted blanket.

I told her how impressed I was with her ability to be vulnerable and share with me, a virtual stranger. I shared that I only learned about my anxiety a few years ago. Had I chosen to share my feelings with people in my youth, things might have looked different for me. But you know what they say, “If it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger.”

I was impressed with her ability to recognize it at a young age, and her desire to deal with it and ask for help. I was thrilled to see that she trusted her mom enough to share and confide in her, she has an ally in this journey.

Her mom made a conscious choice to listen and hear what her daughter was telling her. She didn’t dismiss it, she didn’t attribute it to hormones, she didn’t push her away and tell her to get over it, she didn’t think her younger kids needed her more. She listened and was ready to provide help.

Sometimes our kids just need us to listen and focus as much on what they are saying, as what they are not saying. As parent’s we have the tendency to focus on the parts that will set them up for the future, like school, staying out of trouble, sports, etc. Sometimes a parent needs to put all that stuff aside and focus on the core of the child. It is hard, very hard. I was the parent who was more concerned with grades, and appearances than I ever should have been. I got lucky, in that I learned our relationship trumps all else. Because I want my kid to trust me as much as this girl trusted her mom. For us, we are still working toward it, but it was very nice to see how it can be, it gave me the resolve not to give up.

People often suggest, actually they don’t suggest it, they say it outright; that I talk to much, or share to much, or I am just too much. Yeah, they are probably right most of the time, but not last night.

I make the choice to share, because I never know who I might help by sharing the story of my struggle, it might be directly for them, or it might be for them to share with someone they know at a later date. My simple hope in sharing is; maybe there is just one person out there who may have the chance to avoid the struggles I have had. So yeah, I am a blabber mouth, but I like me this way.

Later that evening, I hoofed a 25 pound pink weighted blanket around the corner and knocked on their door. I handed it to her and said, “Try it out for a few days and let me know what you think?

I slept great last night, because I was under my own weighted blanket. I wonder how she did? It’s pretty amazing that by sharing stories and feelings, your own weights can be lifted.

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When to ask for help, when dealing with teenagers?

When to ask for help, when dealing with teenagers?

Asking for help is not an easy thing for me to do, but I have learned it is a necessity for me to survive parenting.My social media footprint may lead some to believe that I may handle everything with calm and logic, unfortunately this is not always the case, and every so often there are times I struggle and have moments that render me useless and require me to reach out for help.    

The last few days have been very needy days for me.  It seems like I can hold my shit together only so long before I crack.  My definition of cracking means I retreat to my bathroom; I get in the shower where I can have a cathartic cry that includes ugly, loud, snotty sobbing. 

I adopted the bathroom as my “go to place” years ago as it has the essentials for a good stay.  I have water to stay hydrated, the toilet for when you have to go, and the shower which I can turn on to drown out any primal noises that erupt from deep within my core; or I can choose to get into the shower and let the water wash away whatever caused my melt down.

Yesterday I retreated to the bathroom.  Thus doing what I am constantly telling the kids not to do, took the longest shower and used up all the water.  At times I stood in silence, other times I just wept covering my face with my hands in disbelief that I am feeling this way.  I got my prune skinned body out of the shower, dressed and hopped right back into bed.  I decided I was going to spend the day there, maybe just feeling sorry for myself, I don’t know, I didn’t have a plan. 

I worked up the nerve and I sent out two texts;  to people that I trust with my entire being. The first one, couldn’t have been simpler it read…  “R U free?  I need to talk” and the other “Can you find some free time in the next day or so to talk with me?

I then got under the covers and turned on the television.  I have to say right after I hit send on both of those texts my first instinct was to somehow suck them back onto my phone.  I DO NOT, and yes that is capital letters, like to ask for help or want people to see me as “less than” capable.  I am the strong one, I listen and help others, and I am not the one who needs help.   Thank God, I am not enough of a moron to actually listen to myself, as I needed the backup of those two people in my life yesterday.  No, I was not suicidal or anything I just hit the wall of stuff I could handle.   

I snuggled down, pulled the covers up to my chin and started to watch the Chicago Fire, Med, and PD trilogy I had on my DVR.  I vacillated between watching tv and cat napping until both people reached out to me with back to back telephone calls.

My reaction to hearing each of the voices across the line was to burst into tears.  Did you ever have that happen, you think you are okay and then someone just says your name and you lose it?

Both conversations where short, but powerful and it helped me get out of my funk and move forward.  Both are parents who understand raising teens is hard, and both were profound. 

The first was a simple statement that clicked for me, “You are doing okay, stay the course”  I needed validation in my right to feel this way, and that I was doing the right thing. 

The second person said, “I am here, let it out, I will listen.  You are always helping everyone else, I am here for you.” 

Even as I type these words my eyes get a little wet, as I am so thankful that I have finally allowed myself to share my feelings without worry, because if I didn’t I would be losing the opportunity to have the one thing I needed the most for myself, which is the support of others.

I spent the remainder of the day in bed until my husband came home from work, at which time I felt like myself again.  I told him about my conversations and how I spent the day in bed.  His response; “That’s good I am glad you took care of yourself.”  His words were the tri-fecta of awesomeness for me yesterday.

Today I am back to feeling like myself, and I know it is only because I allowed myself to experience the vulnerability of needing people, asking for help, and showing myself some compassion.  Today, I am feeling like one lucky duck. I hope you are as well.

THANK YOU!!! I am thrilled to be able to say that Letters to My Son has been viewed over 6,700 times in the last four months, by almost 3000 people. Thank you for the continued support, interest, and feedback. Cheryl

THANK YOU!!! I am thrilled to be able to say that Letters to My Son has been viewed over 6,700 times in the last four months, by almost 3000 people. Thank you for the continued support, interest, and feedback. Cheryl

Why does my teen have no sense of time???

Why does my teen have no sense of time???

The definition of “on-time” and “late” has not changed the last time I checked. I understand that on-time for me means 10 minutes early, and I will acknowledge that the true definition of “on-time” means; at or before the appointed time and “late” is anything after the appointed time. Fairly simple concept I would think.

In order for me to ensure I am “on-time” especially going to a new location, it requires some planning or anticipating on my part.  I ask myself a few simple questions;

  • Where do I have to be? 
  • What time am I supposed to be there?
  • How far is the drive?
  • Do I have to park the car and walk?  How far would that walk be?
  • What time of day am I traveling?  Will there be traffic?
  • What is the weather like? Will is slow me down?

At my age these questions are rote, and it takes me all of a minute to cycle through them to determine the time I will leave one location to get to another location.  I often add about 10 minutes of wiggle time in case something pops up, but hey that is just me.

So why is a bug up my ass today about being on time; because it is a concept that seemed to completely vanish from my child’s vocabulary and brain.  Yesterday was a two hour delay in the schools due to the weather.  That means it gave my child two entire extra hours to get himself together to get to school on time, seriously how could one be late with that window, right?  Yeah that is what I thought.

Well, not setting the alarm clock and oversleeping is probably the first step.  My child rolls out of bed at 9:08am for a start time of 9:30am.  He missed his ride so now I have to drive him to school, which is about 17 minutes away on a regular day, and now there was snow on the ground.  I tell my son I will be in the car waiting, I do this to provide a sense of urgency to him, and more importantly so I do not continue to have my blood pressure rise as he moves around the house like a sloth, a sloth in slow motion mind you.

9:50am, at 9:50am, it is 39 minutes later that my child ambles to the car and climbs in.  He had that cowboy slow motion saunter down pat.  He sits down and mumbles, “Sorry” as I am throwing  the car in to  reverse and pulling out of the garage before his door is even closed.   We drive in silence, which is a good thing because I am seething.  I am seething not because he is late for school AGAIN, that is on him and he will have to deal with the consequences of that in school. 

I am irritated to say the least because he showed no sense of urgency to get himself together to get out of the house quickly, never considering that it is an inconvenience to me to have to wait for him and drive him.

What is rattling around in their brains that causes them to get derailed for 39 minutes in their bedroom when the only task they have to complete was to get dressed.

Seriously, 39 minutes to put on sweatpants, sweatshirt, socks, sneakers, and brush his teeth.  In 39 minutes I could have taken a shower, dressed, cooked dinner and thrown in a load of laundry and had time to spare.  I wish I could see what he was thinking like on the cartoons that have the little bubble above their heads.  So frustrating!!!! 

So I reached out to some of my friends for solace, they had none, and could only offer their own stories about their sons.  It appears that time stands still for a large majority of the male adolescent population. 

Some boys think they can walk home at 10:56pm and get in the door for their 11pm curfew when their friends live a mile away.  They show up late, and you ask them when they left to get home, and in all seriousness they think 4 minutes was enough time.  There must be a magic teenager world where time stands still for a select lucky few.  

My kid is always the last to saunter out the door, into the car, or wherever he needs to be.  I get exhausted watching him move so slowly, as I think it must take a ton of energy to function in slow-motion.  Though when he is late for something he wants, like hanging out with friends, going snowboarding or whatever, he turns into an adult all of a sudden stressing the importance of not being late.  I give up, I truly do.

P.S.  I got so wrapped up in writing that I was 15 minutes late meeting my friend Erica for coffee this morning.  I had to do the shame walk and explain that I was late because I was writing a piece about being late.

Share the funny stories of your kids “slothiness”, I really need to know it just isn’t in my house.

I do not want a cat, I have teenagers.

I do not want a cat, I have teenagers.

Yesterday I adamantly refused to leave the house; and it was not because I was so devoted to the Super bowl, or that I wanted to have a lazy day.

I refused to leave the house because I don’t want a cat.  For the last several months my husband has become fixated with getting a cat. 

I blame Animal Planet’s television show My Cat from Hell hosted by Jackson Galaxy (seen below) You would think that with a title like that it would be a deterrent, no, not in my house.  My husband has been watching this show for what seems like forever, but in actuality has only been less than a year.   

For some strange reason he thinks since we have moved to Utah we should get a cat.  I do believe, he believes he will be the next  Jackson Galaxy, the cat whisperer.  He will be able to tame any cat if he only follows Jackson’s advice.  Now I actually have no doubt that Jackson’s techniques work, I do however have doubt that my husband will be able to mimic those techniques and as a result he will be a very disappointed man when the cat doesn’t just sit in his lap so he can pet it for hours on end.  The boys and I laugh hysterically at this concept.  Our bet is if we let him get a cat, he will pick one that has ADHD like the rest of us.

And much more importantly, for some insane reason the man whom I have been married to for almost 18 years thinks all of a sudden I am going to shift gears and say yes to a cat.  Now before you all get your knickers in a twist, I am not anti-cat or anti-animal, (remember we do have nine chickens).  I am anti animals in my house. I already have enough to clean up after, coordinate, and take care of- one husband and two teenage boys, plus trying to write a book, maintaining a blog and working on consulting projects.  I do not have time to cat wrangle, do vets, entertain said cat, or empty litter boxes that we would apparently have to place in numerous locations throughout the house along with scratching posts and toys??????

So I am trying to hold firm, each week my husband asks me if I want to go look at the shelter cats, and each week I say no.  Sometimes he will wrangle one of the boys to go with him, and sometimes he will just go himself.  No matter alone or with someone, he always texts me pictures of cats, whom are cute, and writes things like, “If we don’t save him today, he will die”.   I usually ignore him.

So, back to why I wouldn’t leave the house yesterday; it is simple; because I feel my resolve weakening, and not because I want a cat but because I like to see my husband happy.  So yesterday, as he always does asks me would I like to take a ride to look at cats; and I like usual say no. 

But yesterday he takes a new path and starts in on me like a cute adorable little pre-teen boy (you know before they get nasty and hate you); smiling, and laughing and teasing me that I really want a cat. Coming over and hugging me and nuzzling me, very cute behavior coming from a 53 year old man.

I told him no, he starts begging, asking, trying to convince me to go and finally I say, I am not going with you because I might break and let you have a cat because you seem so happy about it.  Yes, he thinks he won. He promised me that we wouldn’t get a cat, we would only look.  Yeah, famous last words.  I held steadfast and declared that I would not leave the house with him under any circumstances. 

He then attempted another angle and said, let’s just get out of the house, we will go to Home Depot and look at ladders, you said we need a ladder.  Yes, we need a ladder, but no I am not going with you, because you will re-route us and we will end up looking at cats.  He offered to let me drive, thinking I would then go, but because I have no sense of direction I know we would have ended up at the shelter.

Nope, not going, no way, no how, just not happening.  He left the house, alone.  I win another round, or so I thought. 

Several hours later he comes back and I hear meowing outside our bedroom door.  I am thinking I am going to kill him, he got a freakin’ cat. The door creaks open and he comes into the bedroom laughing holding up his cell phone as meowing is coming out of it.  Uggh… 

Well where’s the ladder I ask?  Oh, yeah, he didn’t go to Home Depot.  I guess no cat, no ladder. 

Sometimes life is about nothing other than having a good laugh.

I am a frustrated parent!!!!

I am a frustrated parent!!!!

Have you ever been so frustrated and beaten down by parenting that there were days that you regretted the decision to have children?

How about this one? You wish they would run away and not come back; or the low of all lows- wondering if it was possible to get into a minor car wreck without major injuries, but it would keep you in the hospital a few weeks so you could have some peace- however you quickly rule this one out because your self-preservation tactic is too great, and you can only imagine what state the house would be in when you get out.

Laugh as you may, ALL of these thoughts crossed my mind when our family was in the height of crisis with our teenager.  You know you are in parenting hell when you think a few weeks in the hospital might be better than dealing with your child. 

Almost two years have passed since that unstable time and I have to say, while I can clearly recall when and where I had those thoughts, I can’t summon up the feelings of despondency I felt at that time that would make me think that way.  I have come a long way, done a lot of hard work and now feel like my children are getting a much better version of me.

I recently shared with someone the moment that I realized why so much has gone wrong in our relationship of mother and child. One night, during his stay in wilderness I couldn’t get him out of my mind and sleep eluded me. I though writing a letter to him might help me. I sat down to write around 4:30 am, needless to say five hours later I got out of my seat and was holding an 11 page single spaced document, which I named the Mom Manifesto, as to call anything eleven pages long as a letter seemed ridiculous.   It was in this stream of conscious writing to my son that I came to find my truth. 

That letter was the true catalyst of the massive shift that was about to occur in our relationship.  It was the start of our healing, and I am pretty damn proud of myself for having the courage to actually send it to him; I am even more proud that my son read it, accepted it, appreciated it and was willing to restart the rebuilding of our relationship.   I now like the mother that I have become, and I am well aware that the work must continue every day. 

Excerpts from my Mom Manifesto

“I realize now that what you needed from was so very simple, and well within my ability to provide it to you. You just needed my unconditional love and acceptance, 100% of the time. You needed it on the days you did your homework with speed and accuracy, and you needed it on the days you refused to do it as well. You needed it on the days we cuddled in my bed as much as the days you struggled with friends, and the list can go on….”

“I needed to see beyond myself, and to give you a sense of security that a parent should provide. To some degree I was really more worried about myself than you. I somehow connected if I did everything right, you would turn out “right” and in turn I would be a successful parent.  I put conditions on my love. I doled out my acceptance and love to you as a reward when you met my expectations of success. That wasn’t fair to you or to me. That was wrong for me to expect you to validate my parenting. The times you couldn’t meet my expectations, I blamed you for what I considered to be my failure as a parent. I know that I did you wrong with that, and I am sorry that I chose to put that burden on you.”

“Yes, you were right every time you accused me of being afraid. I always got annoyed with you when you said that, and I never knew why, and now I do. I feared you doing something that would reflect poorly on me as a parent, and then I wouldn’t be a successful parent. I am going to try to pack that fear away, and allow you to fail or make mistakes, they will be yours to own. You will make mistakes, let’s hope they aren’t huge and life altering, but either way they will be yours to own, not mine. I can finally release myself of the fear. This does not mean free reign, as you are still the child, and I am still the parent, but it does open many more opportunities and doors for us. For this new knowledge and understanding of myself has set me free, and while I am sad that it has come to this with us, I truly believe that by me sharing my story with you, it is an important part of my healing as a person, mother, and wife. It has been a long time since I have felt this at peace. My hope for you is that you can find some peace for yourself as well.”

“I became consumed with being a successful parent, instead of just being the parent you needed. For many years of your life I convinced myself that some of the things I was choosing to do where for you, but in reality they were about me being a “successful” parent. I made my need to succeed the focus and not your emotional needs.”

“Instead of me learning to accept the unique and good person you are, I tried to change you to meet my expectations. My actions, I suspect resulted in you feeling that you disappointed me, that I was ashamed of you, that you were a lesser person, and that you weren’t loved by me. While I may have never actually said those things, I am sure my actions silently sent those messages to you. So this is where the cycle began. I made you feel bad, you acted out, I got mad, you felt worse, you act out more, I got madder and it goes on that way for years, until it breaks. It finally broke for both of us this year, and I am really glad it did, we needed to fix it.”

The Smartphone, the Teenager, and the Parent = a nightmare.

The Smartphone, the Teenager, and the Parent = a nightmare.

Smartphones were meant to help us, so why as a parent do they cause so many issues between me and my kids?

According to my children I must be stupid; not that they have said this directly, but they must be thinking it and I have come to this conclusion based upon the following event surrounding, shocking I know, the smartphone.

We are 15 days into the new year and my son thinks that by complaining, slamming doors, taking up permanent residence on the couch, and outright refusing requests to complete simple tasks like bathing that I am going to break down and return his cell phone to him, which he lost the privilege of 10 days ago. As I watch the behavior our exchange plays out like this:

Me: “You do know that I am your mother right?   Son: “Yeah”

Me:  “Now, do you really think all of this behavior is going to make me give you your phone back?”   Son:  “No”

Me:  “Has you acting like this ever resulted in you getting what you wanted from me?”  Son:  “No”

Me:  “So what makes you think it would work now?”   Son: “I don’t know, okay?”  (said with a sneer and malice”)

Me:  “So, why do you continue to do it?”   Son:  “Because I am angry and it makes me feel better.”

Me:  “Well, it doesn’t make me feel better, and honestly it only pisses me off more, and it makes me not want to give you anything you want, and even take your cell phone and smash it on the floor.”   Son:  Blank stare of horror, and the face of decision, does he say something snarky back or not or walk away??????

Now this scenario doesn’t play out too often in my house as I try not to be the person who wants or has to take stuff away, not because I don’t think it works, but because that is what I did all the time before the newer, better, more control version of me arrived. However, it doesn’t mean that I won’t go there if I need to.

I love technology, it is what gets my word out to all of you, but I do think that the smartphone has posed its own issues mostly in the fact that it is portable and has become a fixture on our bodies as much as a hand or foot. I make no bones that I was convinced that technology would make us all stupid, I now know this not to be true. I do however believe that constant access to Youtube, Memes, Snapchat, (aka Snapcrap in my home) diminishes relationships, and will cause all people to isolate. It is not unusual to have either son come home from school and retreat immediately into their bedrooms with their phones and not see them again until dinner.

Asking anything of my children once never results in action, it must be numerous times because they are so engaged and distracted by the phone. It is almost like they are afraid to put it down, because they might miss something, because in the 15 minutes they aren’t on it, some rapper might have died of “natural causes”; some new brand is “dropping” some outrageously priced blue T-shirt, or some jerk on Youtube is blowing bubbles out his ass and it is an absolute immediate must see. I also know that the content they are watching is suitable for all family members as they are desperate to allow me to look over their shoulders and see what they are doing.

With all that in mind, I have been convinced to understand that this is how kids communicate with each other today. However, when I attempt to have numerous conversations with my child expressing my concerns about time spent on the cell phone texting, snapping, viewing, and insta-ing and the isolation it is causing, I get deep sighs and groans. I have gone as far to say, I want you to think about what you can do to reduce use so I do not have to step in. I want my boys to be able to problem solve this situation, I want to give them the tools-but guess what, it hasn’t worked.

So in my last attempt to have a conversation about this, sitting at the dinner table with my son, the cell phone a mere 6 inches from both our hands, I start the conversation and casually pick up the phone to put it out of his arms reach. Can you say, Hello crazy, crazy kid? He reacted by him coming half way out of the seat, raised voice telling me not to touch his phone.

At that instant all was thinking, “Are you shitting me? You are 14, you don’t own anything. Actually, I think I own you.” But instead I calmly state, “the reaction that you just exhibited is why we are having this conversation, and right now the only thing I am going to do is take this phone and put it away, you need a detox”. Needless to say that did not go well, there were some F-bombs dropped, some doors slammed, and if I had told him to breath deeply, he would have held his breath and passed out just to defy me. My last statement on the issue was, “In seven days we will talk about the phone, it doesn’t mean you are getting it back, but we will talk about it.”

Day one and two were horrible. Nasty, nasty, nasty he was. My husband wanted to know if I could withstand it. Very much like what I said to my son, I said to my husband, “You do realize who you are married to right?”

Day three through six were much better. He watched a lot of tv, but at least it was in the common area of the house, he talked to us, and was more engaging. I was thinking this is great, I am awesome, I got this. Yeah no, then there was day seven.

Day seven started with a nasty, “Well are you going to give me back my phone or not.” and then the next exchange began:

Me:  “Now do you think that is the best tone to use with me when you want something from me?”   Son:  “Yeah, what is the problem, you said I could have my phone”

Me: “No, I said in a week we would talk about you getting your phone back.”   Son: “No, you said I could have it back.”  (nasty, angry kid has surfaced again)

Me: “No, I said we will talk about this, and it doesn’t appear that you are ready to talk calmly so we will revisit this in two days.”   Son:  apparently learned something from the first exchange and kept his mouth shut and walked away.  

I have formulated a cleansing and reintroduction plan for the phone, checked it with my husband, and another adult to ensure I wasn’t being completely unreasonable, and was ready to present in two days.

In one day he shows back up in my bedroom to ask very nicely if he could have his phone back today. I asked if he was ready to listen, he believed he was: I then proceed to present the first level of negotiations starting with this statement: ” I suggest that you contain yourself and do not react to anything that I am going to say, no disgust or horror, we will calmly talk about it when I am done reading this: (he remained silent but I could see him trying to hold in the anticipatory rage.)

  • Overall Daily Limits: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday 2 hours; Friday and Saturday 3 hours.
  • Snapchat Daily Limits: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday 1 hour; Friday and Saturday 2 hours
  • TikTok Daily Limits: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday 1 hour; Friday and Saturday 2 hours
  • Games- may keep one game on his phone- all others removed.

At this point, he hadn’t said a word, and I am thinking, I got this, I so got this, I am out of the woods; obviously the thoughts of an overconfident parent. It was the last item that got him, and he flew into a rage, and all I heard was this: “This is so stupid, I can’t believe it”, blah,blah, blah. My response: “We are done. Clearly you are not ready to have this conversation. We will talk about this another day. You may leave my room, and don’t slam the door.” He left and slammed the door.

I know you wonder what that last item was, seriously what could be worse to a teenager than having a two hour daily limit, right? Well apparently having certain times during the day to access the phone can:

Daily schedule you will be permitted to use your phone: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday- 7am to 8am, 3pm to 5pm, and 7pm to 9pm. Friday up to 11pm instead of 9pm and Saturday all day up to 11pm and Sunday all day up until 9pm.

Day 10- the child approached me and asks if he can have his phone back again. My response is, “Are you ready to talk like a human being?” He says yes, but I am not sure., but I proceed by repeating all I had said before, and added in the daily schedule, along with the fact that I installed an app on his phone that will shut the phone down at non-scheduled times, and the phone will also shut down when the limits are met. The only exception is the ability to call or text his father or I.

Deep breath as I look into the eyes of the totally dissatisfied teen, trying to kill me with his stare. His response: “I thought we were over the app thing?” My response: “I did too, but obviously you haven’t mastered it. “

Stalemate, no words are being said, and then it happens, a smirk and smile and the simple words, “Okay I agree, can I have my phone back now?” I smile and smirk and say, “You can have it back tomorrow morning, oh and by the way, if you screw around with the phone or try to remove the app, I will suspend the phone with Verizon and you will be carrying around a brick. Are we good?”

He was given the phone back this morning; and between 7am and 8am he burned 36 minutes of his daily one hour allotment of Snapchat letting the troops know he was back online.

Parenting sucks at times. It is exhausting. It would be so much easier for me to just let him have the freakin phone and do whatever he wants. Don’t these kids realize that, my parents job was to ruin my life and in turn I get to ruin my kids lives, and they will get to pass it along. It is the cycle of parenting. His final words to me were: “I still don’t see why this is such a big deal for you, I get really good grades”.

I in turn responded: You are correct in that in the past that is all I would have cared about, you getting good grades. However, I now know better that grades aren’t everything, they are only a part of you and I want you to be a sociable, engaged young man, and I care about ALL of you, not just your grades. No backtalk on that one, just a head nod.

Right now, feeling pretty good about my ability to hold my ground and not becoming a crazy person in the process. I am not going to lie, I just got an alert he burned the 2 hours by just constantly trying to access things on the phone and I am dreading how he is going to come through the door and the enormous attitude that will come with it. I suspect that there will be some crying, whining and begging, and I still really have no idea how he will react. 🙂

These Holidays are killing me.

These Holidays are killing me.

The holidays are supposed to evoke feelings of warmth, comfort, joy and happiness. For my family Christmas has always been steeped in tradition. We would do the same thing year after year and I often recall it as memorable and wonderful and everything I could have imagined as a kid.

When I had children I wanted the same amazing Christmas experience for them, and in my mind that meant continuing to do the same as I had done in my childhood. Logic told me if I followed the same activities I could expect the same outcome, makes sense right? Each year I did just that and didn’t get the outcome I was expecting from my children, yet I continued on the same path year after year. I had officially moved from logic to the insanity definition-continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different outcome. Yup that was me, year after year.

Last week, in the midst of all the Christmas celebrations going on, I attended an RTC graduation for one of my sons friends. I sat and glowed at the progress this one young man in particular had made. He held a special place in my heart from the first day I met him, he reminded me of me when I was young. And after the ceremony was over his Dad and I had an opportunity to catch up and look at what the last year had brought to our families and us as individuals.

And very much like Christmas traditions I just mentioned, we discussed the traditions of raising children. Basically as parents we learned to parent from our parents, and so on and so on. For generations following the template that preceded us, and it really seemed to work. And with that, we always wanted more for our children than we had. Our reward for parenting was to see our children live better lives than we did.

However after the long journey both of our families have been on, we both acknowledged that the current bracket of teens aren’t following the “tradition” the way we expected them to.

You see as parents, we didn’t know any other way, I often joke that the parent manual I was given wasn’t updated for my kids generation. We knew that our way was the right way. Our thinking was the correct thinking, and we were going to instill that in our offspring, and often it worked. Well sometimes it doesn’t, but damn that, I was going to follow my traditions. But then I realized I have now waded into the insanity waters.

As our discussion continued we both realized that our families did great jobs, and we were just trying to honor them in following the same path. However what we didn’t take into consideration is that our standards, ideas, and rules, were based on a different societal norms, and most importantly on our possibly flawed thinking that: 1. Our way was the only way 2. It was the right way and 3. Kids today are the same as kids of yesteryear. Yeah, I don’t think so.

It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact I was wrong. As shifting my mindset felt very much to me like I was abandoning not only my ideals but my family traditions. Simply said, sticking to “traditions” are amazing and wonderful, but as Kenny Rodgers would say, you need to “Know when to fold them”.

Both this dad and I realized that the true strength and wisdom comes from recognizing that there are multiple paths to the desired outcome. I realized it doesn’t always have to be my “right” way; there are other “right” ways and being open to new “traditions” or modifying old can be the link to the closer relationship I was seeking with the people in my life.

Back to my children and Christmas. I was still on the insanity path of forcing upon my children the Christmas I had in my youth. The reality is my kids never fit into the mold of my Christmas version. I love my family and I wanted my children to feel the excitement and happiness that I recalled in Christmas’ of my youth. I loved all the people coming to my house when I was young, I thrived on the more the merrier, the loudness and chaos, every time the doorbell rang I ran to get it. Looking back I think I was also thinking that every person who came to the door had a gift for me as well.

My children were never like that. They were uncomfortable around larger groups of people, even if they were family, and they didn’t like all the activity. I will say they did like the gifts people brought, but hey what kid wouldn’t.

Christmas mornings were good and every year I would make Pillsbury biscuits to eat while we opened stockings. And then like clockwork it ended with a huge thud as I made the announcement it was time to get ready to go over my parents house. And don’t get me wrong, my kids liked my parents, but for them the traditions were too “much” and caused stress and anxiety for them and in turn caused me to be “crazy” And the cycle of the day began. They got more stressed, I got crazier, etc etc.

So each year the Christmas day war would commence around 11 am in my house in anticipation of trying to get in the car for 12:30pm. This included me explaining for the 100th time that it is Christmas and we spend Christmas with our family, and why I wanted them to look nice, blah blah blah. We would get into the car and then I would spend the entire ride in lecture mode reminding them to “be social-able” and adding in about a dozen other instructions.

By the time we got to my mother’s house we rolled out of the car with moods and attitudes that could have rivaled Scrooge. Let’s just say we didn’t hide it well and when we walked in the door the first question was often, What’s wrong? I would wave it away, feeling angry that my family just suck it up for one freakin day. My kids would then hole away in some part of the house by themselves, causing family to question, Why don’t they socialize? And every time someone said something a new wave of shame washed over me. Often by the end of the night I was exhausted by the mental mambo of shame and disgust that I had dancing in my head for the last 5 hours.

I never ever ever considered anything but Christmas at my parents house, despite it wasn’t joyful for us. I was too stuck in the tradition to even question it. And I only really thought about all the feeling associated with it last year when we chose to spend Christmas in Utah supporting our son who was in residential treatment at the time.

So instead of an extended family Christmas in New Jersey, Christmas was spent with just the four of us. We shared a room in the Hampton Inn in a small town in Utah. There were less presents, there was no tree, no decorating, no stockings, and no extended family. This was the furthest thing from any previous Christmas I had experienced. At first I was a bit sad for myself and then as the day wore on I realized it was one of the best Christmas’ my kids had ever had, and in turn it was one of my best with them as well.

Christmas had to look different, we had no choice. Ironically the only “missed” tradition were the biscuits, which funny enough was one of the easiest. The lack of being able to do certain things allowed made us explore new things; like all my men dressing in light-up Christmas pajamas, very tacky maybe, but very funny with tons of smiles. And our sons delivered us breakfast in bed from the hotel buffet.

We opened gifts and savored them so much more than in years past, as much thought had to be put into them because of the restrictions of travel, packing, and school rules. We laughed and smiled, and of course missed our family home in New Jersey. This was a practical lesson me learning and understanding in having to make choices and finding compromise in all situations, including both Christmas and parenting. Who would have thought that Christmas was going to teach me a parenting lesson? Not me for sure.

So now we are on the cusp of our second Christmas in Utah, but this year we are in our new home. I don’t feel the pressure to replicate the Christmas of my childhood, even though I can. We are creating the Christmas of my children’s childhood. The tree is up and decorated, the stockings are hung, the gifts have been bought and all of this without stress and strain.

We are choosing to celebrate in new ways. I will not even call them traditions, as who knows how we will spend it next year. This year Christmas Eve is going to be in Salt Lake City touring the grounds of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon) and looking at the light displays, followed by a nice Italian dinner. Simple yet good for us.

Christmas day plans includes Pillsbury biscuits while we open stockings, (couldn’t give up that one, as we all love it). We do not plan to leave the house, so there is a thumbs up to spending the entire Christmas day in pajamas. We are going to hang out, hopefully play some games, watch Tv, and then eat a simple dinner I cook. All are welcome, but be warned, if you plan on stopping by on Christmas we suggest that you throw on your pajamas so you don’t feel over-dressed.

Traditions are legacies that connect generations and they are beautiful. I never want to abandon the essence of them, but me it is time to review some of the assoicated activities and make sure they are serving my family well. I hope your traditions are wonderful and passed down to may generations.

So I wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, or anything else I may have missed. Enjoy your holiday, be well, and Happy New Year. May 2020 be better than you hoped.

Why is it so important for women to have a support system.

Why is it so important for women to have a support system.

I want to take the time to thank everyone who has been reading and commenting on Letters to My Son.  I started this to simply let people know that they were not alone; as I often felt like I was alone and no one could possibly understand what I was going through.

The analytics prove otherwise, I am definitely not alone on this journey.  I was shocked to learn that almost 1600 people have viewed the blog to the tune of over 4500 times. I am so touched that anyone would take the time to sit and read my stream of consciousness writing.  I don’t think I could have anticipated the deep soulful honest responses that have been shared with me, I have been honored and humbled by each and every one.

Every time someone gains the courage to share something with me, I take on a bit of that courage for myself. My insecurities lessen a smidgen each time, and it helps me know that I am on the right path and should continue to do this.  Many of your responses brought both tears and smiles to my face.

As we get closer to my holiday, Christmas, I am reflective of the last 18 months of my life and how much I have grown.  It made me think what made it different this time, that I was able to have “gotten it”.

The honest answer is that my family has been more successful than ever before because I changed.  I made the choice to not only look at my son, but to really look at myself.  And one of the helpful aspects of this that led to my metamorphosis was that I had found a tribe.  And for me, in the oddest of places, a small group of six other women. I can tell you historically I do not gravitate to women groups; I am too intimidated by them and often feel insecure and inadequate.  It didn’t happen because I was looking for it, it happened because I made the decision to reach out, be honest, and let them know I needed them.   It not only was right time, it was with the right people at the right place.  I was lucky, I know this to my core.

It started with two and then it grew to seven of us.  We clicked, we understood each other, and we were a team.  The only common thread was Red House as  nothing else in our lives would have had us crossing paths or bring together; certainly not geography as we spanned the entire US from coast to coast.; we were of different faiths and cultures; and none shared the same job industry.

As our children progressed and regressed we supported, and we listened. We also all shared and chose to be vulnerable.  We held each other accountable for our actions and behaviors, we cheered on the wins, and often would just listen with support through sniffled teary phone calls on the bad days, I fully cop to this one myself. We were a resource and support for each other like no other persons could be.  We understood each other.

I believe one of the main factors in why I am doing so well is because I know that I have my tribe.  They are awesome at pointing out my bad behavior, or the rearing of old patterns. They are also amazing at finding what I have done right, and telling me so.  I often, like many people have the tendency to focus on the 5% failure instead of the 95% success.    These ladies are like bloodhounds and will immediately find the success among the crap and point it out.  Every conversation and interaction has the underlying knowledge that we have all struggled, none of us is any better than the other and we all need help.  These amazing women do this with full empathy and without judgement.

Currently five of the seven boys are home and graduated out of program with the other two happening in probably the next four to six weeks.  Our sons are all doing well, and that does not mean without stumbles, setbacks, or some questionable behaviors, it means they are far better off then they were a year ago, and we as parents are learning to work through whatever comes our way, to continue to communicate, and to continue to build on it for healthier relationships for the future.Preview(opens in a new tab)

I encourage all people, not just parents to look for and develop a tribe.  It will not just show up at knock at your door, it requires work on your part, the hardest work; to put yourself out there and start to be vulnerable and share, people will respond to it, as you all have for me.

I dedicate this post to my tribe and every other man and woman out there with whom I have texted, spoken, emailed and met for coffee or will connect with someday.  

We are all warriors.

Why do I allow others bad moods to effect my good mood?

Why do I allow others bad moods to effect my good mood?

I am a morning person. unfortunately I am living with three males of whom which NONE are morning people. This is a challenge for me as I wake up cheery and happy;and very ready to start the day. They do not.

And in the short distance between opening my eyes and engaging my family members my mood would go from the penthouse to the basement with the first interaction. I am met with grumbles, heavy brows, and mute people who glare at me when I say good morning. More often than not, my families lack of enthusiasm for the morning would put me in a bad mood, and all I would think was, “Thanks for ruining my day.”

This conundrum really isn’t about who is a morning person or not. It is about me allowing others moods to dictate or change my mood.

It took me a long time to understand that even though our relationship is personal, I didn’t need to take it on as my own. I can’t control how others act but I can control what I take on from others.

That concept seems simple, but for an insecure person who suffers from anxiety, let’s just say it felt like you were asking me to climb Mount Everest.

This started early in my childhood and continued to my adult life with my own family. While it might seem so easy to see for some, for me it was hard to see. My family had been in turmoil so long that every minute of everyday was taken personally. It was impossible for me to see that some behaviors had nothing to do with me. I was so unsettled that I took on all the responsibility of each persons happiness as my job, because I wanted my family to be happy so I could be happy. The more I felt responsible, the crazier I got. The crazier I got, the more my family reacted, and the cycle continued.

On a daily and sometimes hourly basis I fight the urge to suggest, correct, and guide at every turn to ensure that my family may have the best possible experience.

As I sit writing this my sons 16 and 14 are off on their own skiing at a stunning Utah slope. I issued what I believed were some basic guidelines hoping that they listened; Stay together, be patient and empathetic to each other, and please don’t go stupid, we don’t want to end the season on the first day.

In retrospect I wondered did I issue those words so they would be safe, or was it about my desire to avoid having them both show up bitching about what the other did, and they would kill my mood? Honestly I am not sure.

However even before I finished my little speech, one of my lovely children had the audacity to roll his eyes, and truthfully at that moment, it sent me right back into my old patterned reaction to allow it to effect my mood, and I have the tendency to go to right to angry. I immediately thought, You my son are a total dick. I bought you a season pass, rented season equipment, drive you to the resort, and you can’t allow me a little grace?

I am frustrated with myself that I can go back to those emotions and reactions so quickly. When this happens I feel like a therapy failure, I know I am the adult and have to take the higher ground, and not get sucked in, but it feels so personal, and that makes it so hard.

I have spent the better part of my almost 50 years operating like this, taking on other people’s junk, my parents, siblings, husband and kids. It is a pretty sucky way to live your life. It was and can still be exhausting, but I am learning. I am a happy person, I am an optimist, a total glass half full kind of person. I believe that almost anything is possible, and as a result will continually try at something even when told, it’s not possible. And guess what at least half the time it doesn’t work out, but I still feel a sense of accomplishment for trying.

So for today my goal is to be kind to myself and realize that patterns are hard to break and that I too should give myself some grace. And remember, to allow yourself some grace as well.

Sometime referred to as intuition-learning when to trust your gut.

Sometime referred to as intuition-learning when to trust your gut.

So can you recommend a good therapist for me? Those words have been spoken by millions of people in the world. Most often it is asked of people we trust, as picking a name out of a book just doesn’t feel right. Hey it is not to say that it won’t work. My last therapist in New Jersey was picked from a website and she was one of the best I have had to date. But now that I am in Utah I need to find a new one.

I dread it, I really do. It feels like I have to go through it all again, family history-who was nuts, who wasn’t. How is my marriage, how are my kids, blah, blah blah. I realize it is my desire to avoid that process, which is why it has taken me over three months to even ask the question. Today is the day that I needed to ask the question because I saw some stuff in myself this last week that had me feeling like I was falling back into some old patterns, and I want to stay on top of it.

So today, as I would say, “I sucked it up buttercup” and reached out to the two people that I trust the most with regard to my mental health and the relationship I have with my family. The first is my sons therapist from residential treatment and the second is my parent trainer. Not only do I trust them impeccably, but I am hoping that they know someone with whom I would “Click”.

“The Click” is hard to describe, you know, you just click. It is vital and necessary for me in any relationship, especially in a therapeutic one. It would be great if there was a checklist for it, but there isn’t, it is a feeling. I know it when it happens. I meet a new person, and automatically feel like she has known me forever and “gets me” and the words flow easily back and forth. It feels more connected than say a neighbor or co-worker, and the element of trust is heavily involved. When I feel that someone “gets me with all my weirdness” and doesn’t judge me that is when the Click happens.

In the past I failed to listen to my inner voice telling me the therapist I chose wasn’t right for me or my son. I ignored the “click” and instead focused on the education and the list of diagnosis’s they treated. I figured it must be me, and I went against my inner voice and continued forward, wasting everyone’s time.

The funniest or saddest situation, depending upon how you look at it was the time my husband and I were in couples counseling. At that time the only thing that we were agreeing on was that the therapist we were seeing was judgmental and neither one of us really cared for her. And after each session we would decide which one of us was her shit list that week. Talk about messed up, we were bonding over our common disgust for the therapist-Funny yes; brought us closer, yes; helped us with our issues, no. Does that mean she was a bad therapist, no-she just wasn’t good for us.

This dance over the years made me feel like I was a bit nuts. When I attempted to pursue the concept that something was being missed, I was continually dismissed and made to feel like I was overreacting and being one of those nutty helicopter parents. When I said the medication didn’t work, they looked at me like it wasn’t possible. I was intimidated by almost all of the mental health professionals we sought treatment from, for both myself and my son.

I now know the truth. I never really trusted them and because of that I was never fully honest about how I was feeling. I didn’t speak up and let them know that I felt that my needs weren’t being met, that I was intimidated, and felt dismissed. For me- No Click, means No Trust, which means No Progress.

Through this journey I lost confidence in myself and my ability to be a parent. I often joke, you never want to piss off the guy renovating your house because you never know what he is going to stuff behind the sheet rock. I felt similar with therapists. I didn’t want to make them angry, question them, or piss them off because they were inside both my sons and my head and I didn’t know what they were going to leave in there. I know is sound weird, but hey no one said every feeling is rational or logical.

So again I am on my quest for a new therapist, and this time is isn’t because I didn’t click with the last, it is because I moved across the country. However what is different now is I trust the people whom I am asking a recommendation from, and I have much more confidence in myself and my ability to speak up than I did over a year ago. I know that I have the power to say Yes or No and I am the one who gets to decide. I will no longer feel intimidated or afraid of speaking my mind. My hope is, that all the others that have ever felt similar find their courage and voice as I have.

How I was so impressed by my 14 year old son.

How I was so impressed by my 14 year old son.

Not a week goes by that I am not on the phone with a parent talking Wilderness Therapy or Residential Treatment.  I would like to believe it is because I am just so amazing and who wouldn’t want to talk to me right?

The reality is, the majority of people who reach out to me just need to talk with someone who understands what it means to have a child in treatment. Someone like me who knows first hand the crazy, uncertainty, fear and doubt that is reeling in their heads on an hourly basis.

My most recent conversation was with a mom who wanted to know how much family support I had at the beginning. I in-turn asked her, “Are you getting any family support?” Her immediate response was; “No, that is because I haven’t told anyone.”

This is all too familiar, and I did the same when my son left for wilderness. The idea of how to share this news is overwhelming. Do you tell people over the phone, in person, or consider sending an EviteHey welcome to my life, it is a disaster right now, let me tell you what has been going on for us, pure sarcasm, yes, but in truth figuring out how and when to tell the important people in your life that you did this is never easy.

It wasn’t that I didn’t love or trust my family and friends enough to tell them, it was just so raw, painful, overwhelming, and I was numb. I felt all alone as I did not know of one other person who had done what I just did. I was going to stay “underground” as long as I needed to feel safe.

Eventually I shared with a few people and on one very melancholy day a friend stopped by and her daughter handed me a letter and told me it was for my son and asked if I could make sure he got it.

I lost it right there in my driveway. The air was sucked out of my lungs, and I started to sob; loud, gross, snotty sobbing that actually had me bent over with my hands on my knees gasping for air, for what felt like an eternity. This looked like a scene from a TV drama where someone was told a loved one died.

I was so overwhelmed with emotion. I didn’t realize how much I needed someone to tell me that they still loved my kid. I never expected it to come in the form of a stunning, both inside and out, 15 year old young lady.

The three of us stood and hugged in the center of my driveway that day. That one event gave me strength for what I was going to have to do in the very near future. I was going to have to share the news with my family that he really wasn’t at “camp”, he was in treatment; and he would not be coming home, but instead be continuing on to Utah.

The day came to drop our son off at Catalyst Residential Treatment and the morning of, we went to this cute little restaurant J and D’s Family Restaurant where we tried to act normal, despite what we were about to do was anything but “normal” for us.

While seated in the booth, I slid a piece of paper across the table and explained that I would like to send this note to our family, that is if he was okay with it. He read it, said it was good, and made the request to omit one line. Not more than a half hour later we said good-bye and parted ways, not knowing the exact next time we would see our son. Two days later I was able to come up for air and it was time; time to share with our families what an extraordinary young man we had. The email went out with the -the subject line reading- The Ultimate Measure of a Man.

Blessings Cheryl

The Ultimate Measure of a Man

Martin Luther King Jr said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”   

Our beloved son has exemplified this beautifully this summer. On May 19th in the early morning hours, he was awakened and escorted to Clayton Georgia with only the clothes on his back to be an unwilling participant in a therapeutic wilderness program.

He had been struggling with severe social anxiety, and recurring depression all of which are related to his Adhd. However, his rapid decline in April made it quickly evident to us, that without swift intervention the likelihood of a permanent detrimental effect on his future was guaranteed.

He has thrived in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia.

  • For 88 days he has hiked miles from campsite to campsite using nature and all it had to offer as a healing tool.
  • For 88 days he built his shelter every night from a tarp and cord.
  • For 88 days he has slept in a sleeping bag with only the stars and moon as protection.   
  • For 88 days-everyday he built a fire and prepared his meals over it. 
  • For 88 days there were no bathrooms, showers, toilets or sinks.
  • For 88 days he has withstood Mother Nature subjecting him to a tropical depression, a heat wave, an unusual amount of rainfall and numerous swarms of mosquitoes.    
  • For 88 days he has teamed with nine other young men in similar circumstances forming their own community called G5, working, arguing, problem solving and healing.
  • For 88 days he worked on ‘Busting a fire” with a bow drill
  • For 88 days he backpacked from location to location.
  • For 88 days he did simple daily chores, complicated by the wilderness.
  • For 88 days he worked on relationship skills
  • For 88 days he worked on problem-solving
  • For 88 days he participated in daily emotional check-ins
  • For 88 days he participated in group and individual therapy
  • For 88 days he journal-ed for himself, and to us.
  • For 88 days he addressed life’s hurts, wants, joys, failures and successes. 
  • For 88 days he stood a little taller each day.
  • For 88 days he has started to learn how to be vulnerable.
  • For 88 days he has started to like himself a little more.
  • For 88 days he proved the ultimate measure of the man he is.

On day 89 our son has exited the woods, with brighter eyes, a little more self-confident and the beginning of a willingness to be vulnerable.  He is grateful for the opportunity that was thrust upon him, and he is tentatively ready for the next leg of his journey.  He has accepted the next gift that we have given him, which is to continue working on himself in a safe nurturing environment. 

On day 90 he transitioned from the wet woods of Georgia to the beautiful majestic dry mountains of Utah. He will continue his journey at a small therapeutic boarding school, where he will reinforce the skills he has learned in wilderness, but this time in a more traditional setting.

While intellectually we have no doubt this is the right decision, it pains us to have our family remain incomplete for an additional length of time. A separation like this is not easy on anyone, in spite of the willingness of all parties. 

We have made a very conscious decision not to share this information with many people.  We made this decision in deference to our son; he deserves the right to tell his story when and if he is ready.  He did not ask to have this happen to him, and he deserves the respect of privacy, which we chosen to grant him.

So we in turn request that you not share with others; and please limit your explanation to the kids to he went to boarding school to deal with his ADHD, they do not need to know all the details.   

So at this time we ask for your support as we navigate new territory.    Feel free to offer support by occasionally asking us, “How is he doing”. But please know that you shouldn’t be hurt when you might only receive a simple response of ‘good, thank you for asking”.  As we continue to navigate the healing process for our son and family, it comes with both an emotional, mental and physical exhaustion that doesn’t leave much desire or energy left for us to share information with others.

So for right now,we know he is safe where he is, as he continues to work on being a healthier person. He has truly embodied Martin Luther King Jr’s  definition of a “Ultimate Measure of a Man”  He got knocked down, he didn’t give up, and instead he chose to embrace the gifts that were handed to him and he continues to work the process every day.

May God continue to bless our son.

Have you ever been Parent shamed?

Have you ever been Parent shamed?

This is an issue that all parents come face to face with at one time or another; however for parents of kids receiving any type of mental health treatment it hits deeper and hurts more. The issue is Parent Shaming. Whether it is un-intentional or intentional-it still stings- a lot.

What kind of society have we turned into where people feel compelled, forced, duty bound, obligated, or required (pick anyone, they all work) to tell you what they think, about a situation, that you didn’t ask their opinion on and that has no direct impact on them?

My first post to this blog was exactly 7 days ago.  In that short time I have over 200 followers on my Facebook page. I have numerous emails and messages from people thanking me because they no longer feel alone.  I have business interested in my writing. My son has told me that he is proud of me.  His friends from treatment have read it and really like it. Most recent statement was “It’s awesome, Cheryl.  when are you going to write about me?”  And countless practitioners from the mental health field have applauded my efforts. 

I am proud of myself for having the courage to do this.  I have thought about sharing Me with the world in one capacity or another for many decades. I just didn’t know what I was going to share; but now I do, and I am doing it. 

I am not naïve, but I do choose to be vulnerable. I agree in the freedom of speech and opinions. However, what I do not agree with are people who must tell you what they think, it’s like a compulsion for them, they must do it. I do not recall a statue that states, “One must convey every thought that enters your mind to others”.  

I started a Facebook group months ago to support myself and other parents whose children completed wilderness and then advanced to a residential program.  There have been hundreds of parents in and out of that group and I can honestly say there has not been one incident of mean or catty behavior. 

When a member posted something controversial, the other members didn’t jump on him or malign him, they just ignored it.  So how did my Facebook group get so lucky to have 100% of our members treat each other so well?  We didn’t get lucky; we were just a group of parents who have been beaten down, and shamed, most often by the people closest to us, and we didn’t want anyone else to feel that way. It is called compassion, empathy, and sympathy.

I have heard countless stories from my Facebook members of people being “judgey” with their conversations. A comment made in haste doesn’t disappear, it lingers for days in a persons head, toying with their emotions and confidence.

Here is a tiny sample of some of the most insensitive things that have been said to my Facebook parents by non-treatment parents-they were talking about others people’s kids, not yours, right?

The kids are “bad” because they must have bad parents. * The parents didn’t try hard enough. * Mom should have quit her job. * Dad should have quit his job. * Those parents spoil that child. * The parents aren’t strict enough. * The parents are too lenient. * They have too much money. * They don’t have enough money. I could go on and on and on.

So why do I bring up this in my blog. Well, I received my first, let me say confusing communication via a private message. After I completed reading it, my first reaction was, “How dare you.” My almost immediate second reaction was, “Wow that person must be hurting a lot to lash out at me that way.”  I employed empathy and not anger, because I think you will all agree with me after reading some excerpts, that anger is not what that person needs- he needs compassion. Oh I did respond and it was vicious I wrote: “Ouch. Thanks for your thoughts.”

However the “quirky” part of me wanted to respond to some of the content with the following :

Is writing this blog the best thing for your family Cheryl???.... Ah, yes.  When I am at my best, my family gets the best of me.

I thought moving to Utah was sort of a LIFE Re-boot for you and your family so I was really surprised to see that you are entrenched in writing this very intimate account of 16 yo’s  journey.Intimate is telling you what kind of underwear I wear; my writing is raw and honest.

I am concerned that despite your son agreeing to your writing it, he might not respond well, to some of what you have written later down the road.  You mean letting him know I loved him so much that I put everything on the line to help him and our family.

I wouldn’t feel right if I wasn’t able to let you know how I truly felt about you writing it.  So, your writing was about making yourself feel better and not really about me or my family?  

I would have assumed you would want a fresh start, rather than rehashing a painful and dark time, that your family recently underwent.   Fresh starts does not mean ignore and hide from the past; it means addressing issues and moving forward.

I am also really concerned for your son 14 yo son  and think energy should be put into trying to make him as happy as possible rather than focusing solely on 16 yo and all that he has seemingly put you through over the years.   Parents are not responsible for their child’s happiness. My job as a parent is to provide a loving and stable environment for my children.  It is to guide them to make good and moral decisions; and when they don’t, stand by their side and support them as they deal with the consequences. It is unfair to ask a person to carry the burden of another persons happiness. 

Wishing you the best in whatever choices you make… they are never without consequences.    That was ominous, thank you.

I do find myself rather funny at times, not always, but sometimes. I try to laugh as much as possible, so I hope you are laughing right now with me.  So with all of this being said, my final comment is of this post is…

Be kind to people. You never really know the entire story. Replace judgement with compassion and empathy.  

A major way for a parent to help a child in crisis, is your willingness to look at yourself in the mirror.

A major way for a parent to help a child in crisis, is your willingness to look at yourself in the mirror.

The one thing that will be asked of all parents on this journey is to take a good look in the mirror.  It was not easy for me to do, but it was necessary.  I contend that I am NOT to blame for what actions my child took, I did not force him to make the choices he did, however I did need to take responsibility for my own actions and how they may have contributed to his and our situation.  I did not feel guilty, I did the best I could at the time, but now I was capable of so much more and I needed to work toward that.

About a month after my son entered wilderness I started to write him his weekly letter, generally my letters were on the longer side, about two to three pages, nothing crazy.  This time it was different, I had started to write and I just kept going, and going, and going. When I stopped typing five hours had passed and I was sitting in front of an document that was eleven pages of single spaced type. 

I was dumbfounded at this point I really didn’t know what I was supposed to do with it, this wasn’t a letter if was a manifesto.  What teenager is going to read an eleven page letter from his mother?  I figured I wrote it for a reason, I just didn’t know what that reason was; so I asked for guidance from the person who I trusted the most at the time, Jeremy, my sons Wilderness therapist and sent him the email below:

I have spent a lot of time thinking about him since I got your email on Thursday morning.  I was not shocked that he chose not to write a letter to us.  I know that he did that because he is feeling some form of some emotion.  

I believe what I find very unsettling is that he is me, I have said it often, and to some degree that frightened me, as I was a tough case as a kid.  I spent the last couple of days reflecting upon my childhood and as I did I couldn’t believe what I recalled.  I just started to write a regular Sunday letter to him and it turned into another whole world, it became the story of me that I wanted him to know about.  It kind of just happened and it is long.   I am not sure how you will feel about it, or if you feel that it is valuable or appropriate, But, if you think it is okay I would like to share it with him.  Maybe the timing is not right, I understand, but please let me know if it can be shared with him at some point. 

The reply was simple:

Cheryl, I think this letter is great, and the timing is good for me to take this to him today.

Thank you, Jeremy

As a parent I didn’t want my son to know of my failures and faults for various reasons, but if we were going to work this stuff out, I had to be honest.  For the first time ever he saw me as human and flawed with insecurities and uncertainties.   I felt a sense of pride in what I created, but I was so much more proud of the fact he was willing to read it and he chose to show me grace, by not throwing it in my face. This Manifesto was truly the turning point in our relationship.

Selected excerpts from my Mom Manifesto

…..I realize now that what you needed from was so very simple, and well within my ability to provide it to you.  You just needed my unconditional love and acceptance, 100% of the time.  You needed it on the days you did your homework with speed and accuracy, and you needed it on the days you refused to do it as well…….

…..I put conditions on my love.  I doled out my acceptance and love to you as a reward when you met my expectations of success.  ………

……….Instead of me learning to accept the unique and good person you are, I tried to change you to meet my expectations…….

……..I was a child who needed help, my being overweight was only the symptom of my deeper issues, issues that I didn’t even know I had or what they were.  I just knew that I felt like crap, I didn’t feel loved, I felt judged, and I felt like I couldn’t get out of my own way to help myself.  I knew deep down I needed help, and on the rare occasions that I tried to speak with my parents they shut me down and told me to get over it, buck up, toughen up or go on a diet, none of which I was capable of doing at that time……

….I religiously went to therapy once a week and on the difficult weeks I sometimes went twice. It was hard, really hard.  I cried a lot, and I mean a lot, both inside the therapist’s office and outside his office…… I learned that I was the only one who controlled what I did…..  I learned how to value myself, and that I couldn’t control what others think of me, only what I think of myself…..

…….. I knew that someday I would find my place, even if I didn’t know where it was at that moment…..

…..So you wonder why I am sharing this story with you now….A parent’s love for a child runs so deep, a depth you will never understand until you have children of your own, it is almost blinding.   Being a parent is so scary.  I was so afraid to fail you and to fail myself.  So much so, that I forgot all the good and important things I learned so long ago…..  I became consumed with being a successful parent, instead of just being the parent you needed…..   

…..So my son in the woods, I have done all I can with sharing my story, there is no more to it.  The future of your story is up to you.  I will remain open and available to you for when you are ready to open up to me.  You will control what happens next, however based upon my past experience, I would like to suggest for your consideration, that you take back control of your life and you learn to speak, share the pain, anger, shame and hurts that you have been carrying around with you.   Speak them aloud in the woods, to the sky, to Jeremy, the guides, your friends, anyone who you trust.  The truth as painful as it is really does set you free.  I lived it and I know it.   Try to leave the bad feelings and anger in the woods, or write me a letter and tell me, I can take it, I am way stronger that you think I am. I have gone through the fire and back myself, and I survived.  You are so strong and I know you can do it too if you want it, and you don’t need to do it alone, lean on your tribe, Jeremy and G5 are your people right now, they have your back.  Trust the process, I did a long time ago and it helped, I just needed to be reminded to trust it again now…..

I feel blessed that I had the nerve to overcome my fears and share my story with my son.  I truly believed it may have helped me more than it helped him.  Hug someone you love today.

Taking care of yourself is a must if you want to survive having teenagers.

Taking care of yourself is a must if you want to survive having teenagers.

Our first lesson as Blue Ridge Therapeutic Wilderness parents was to engage in Self-Care. This directive came from the family therapist Kayla. I am going to speak the truth here in that I thought it was a giant load of tree hugging BS. Where was the real therapy, I wasn’t paying a fortune for you to tell me to go spoil myself with manicures, pedicures, and massages.

As I had never heard the term Self-Care before, and I thought that words self-care and spoil yourself were synonymous. I was wrong, yet again. Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.

The light bulb went off in my head, and I realized that I stopped caring for myself a very long time ago. I lost myself somewhere in these past years, and in truth, I really did want to get back to being me.

I couldn’t recall the last time I laughed, like really laughed; like laughed so hard you are convinced you are going to pee in your pants laughing. The last time that the idea of socializing with family brought joy instead of anxiety and frustration had alluded me. I couldn’t remember the last activity we did as a family that didn’t end in slammed doors, raised voices and the war cry, “This is why we don’t do anything together”.

And most importantly, I couldn’t remember the last time I had fun with my boys. It was no wonder we were messed up. It became clear to me that I was going to have to work on myself just as hard, if not harder than my son was going to work on himself.

I was spending so much time trying to put everyone else and our family back together that I lost and let myself go. I am not talking about the extra twenty pounds I put on. And for the record, I believe there should be a formal term for the weight you gain while your kid is in treatment, like the freshman fifteen, maybe the traumatized 20, I don’t know.

A great article on self-care can be found on pathforward.org, it clearly explains that self-care is not an indulgence but a discipline. At first I was thinking about the activities I was going to partake in to care for myself. But it quickly became evident that the first level of my needed self-care was to start respecting myself, and to actually stop doing things.

I was a people pleaser. I had a deep sense of obligation and I did not want to let people down. I was going to have to start saying no. If it wasn’t required of me, I was going to stop doing it. I let go of clubs and extra-curricular activities, and volunteering. As each obligation fell by the wayside I felt a bit lighter and not so stressed. I finally got the to point that the only obligations I had were work and family.

The shift was even evident in my job. I was no longer going to work 2 to 3 additional hours each day. I was no longer going to take work calls or check emails after hours or weekends. My job wasn’t life or death so I had to stop treating it that way.

I started to ask for help from a select group of trusted people in my life. I cried a lot, and I mean a lot. That in itself was self-care, allowing myself to feel again, feel the pain and sorrow that I had become.

I started a crusade to be kind to myself, such as practicing positive self-talk, setting boundaries with things and people that triggered me, worked on my coping skills, went back to individual therapy, acknowledged and pursued treatment for a lifetime of anxiety, and only surrounded myself with people whom I felt safe. Let’s just say to some people it may have felt like I fell of the face of the earth, and in the past I would have obsessed over what they thought, but at this time I had to choose not to care, I needed to take care of me.

I became a voracious reader of all things wilderness (my favorite books are posted on Letters to My Son Facebook page), I consumed books like they were chocolate candies, by the handful. The stack of books on my nightstand was starting to teeter. Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict had the most profound effect on my ability to view things differently, and today it remains the most meaningful to me.

I started to break the silence and starting talking to other peer parents. At first they were hard to find, but we must emit a pheromone that allows us to find each other. I found peer parents in line at the grocery store, in the airport, and online just to name a few interesting places.

One parent in particular has literally been by my side this entire ride. We found each other through a “parents losing their minds because they didn’t know what to do with their freakin kid FB page”, that wasn’t the official title but it felt like it to me.

I posted about putting a child in Wilderness, and then almost as quickly I put it up, I took it down. I was afraid someone I might know would see it; at that point I was still embarrassed and ashamed of what was happening in my family. But in that brief moment Grace (not her real name) saw it and reached out. At that time was true grace for me, the first peer parent whom I deeply connected with. We spoke on the phone for over an hour and clicked immediately. No need to underplay our kids, no need to dance around or make excuses, we were in the same situation, and there was no need to try to pass it off as better than it was. We were able to lay it right out for each other, and we did.

The long and short of it was that Grace lived across the country from me. Our children went to different wilderness programs, but at the same time. We kept in touch over the months our kids were in the woods. And as fate would have it our sons ended up as roommates in the same RTC. We both feel that we couldn’t have made up the story if we tried. Both of our kids have graduated and are at home now.

Our children communicate regularly as much as we do. She is one of the most important people in my life along with several other peer parents. We formed our own little support community to handle the ups and downs. And I don’t feel like I could be any luckier. Our kids are doing well, and we have each other for continued support.

And just because my son is home, I haven’t abandoned the concept of self-care. I find that I am a better person, wife, friend, and mother when I take the time to care for myself.

Consider incorporating self-care into your life if you don’t already. It is a game changer.

When all else fails try writing letters to your kids.

When all else fails try writing letters to your kids.

Our son was now in the woods and there would be no opportunities to talk with him until a one-day visit half way through the program and then the day we were to pick him up. The only telephone communication to us was a weekly update with his therapist and a session with the family therapist. I was a concerned, not understanding how we, he and I, were going to “get better” without talking.

In 2015 Gretchen Schmelzer, Ph.D published The Letter your Teenager Can’t Write You. It was part of the introduction packet Blue Ridge Therapeutic Wilderness provided to me. I read it and then cried, maybe bawled is a better descriptor. I felt like I let my child down because I just didn’t see it, I didn’t see all the pain until we were too far in. It was then that I understood the real work was going to be accomplished through our letters.

I was desperate to connect with my son. I wanted him to know how much I loved him even though I “sent him away”. I loved him fiercely and just wanted it to” be okay” for both of us. I am going to share the very first letter I wrote to my son on May 26, 2018. He had been in wilderness 7 days. This particular one, I am sharing the entire letter, I can’t say that I will do that with any or all of them, but I think it is very appropriate, to understand the power of the written word over the verbal conversation.

05.26.2018

My Son:

As I sit to write my first letter to you while you are at Blue Ridge Therapeutic Wilderness (BRTW) I am not sure where to start; I guess I should first tell you how relieved I am that you are safe, and how much I love you.  Each day I wake up and the first thing I do is look at my cell phone to check the weather.  I do this because since the moment you left this house, I changed the weather on my phone to reflect the weather at BRTW.  By doing this I feel connected to you each day, continuing to love you and look after you, even if it has to be from a distance.

In the two weeks prior to you leaving, a lot of things were said between us, granted not in the best way, usually yelling; but they were important things.   I hope you were able to “hear” what I was saying, I feel they were important things that are worth repeating, so……  I want you to know….

  • I will use every ounce of energy I have to continue to help us no matter how much you try to push me away. My help may not look the way you want or expect it to, but I will not give up on you, or us ever.
  • I will spend every penny I have on getting and using the tools we need to help us, which right now means BRTW for you.

I do this because….

  • I love you to the moon and back and beyond.
  • I know that no matter how you act towards me you love me too.
  • I know you have the most loving heart of any almost 15 year old boy I have ever met.
  • I know you are compassionate, kind, and love little kids.
  • I know you have a wicked sense of humor.
  • I know that you are an affectionate teenager, always willing to give or take a hug.
  • I know that you are a talented artist both with drawing, and writing songs and lyrics.
  • I know that you are strong, both in your body and mind.
  • I know that you are not perfect, no one is.
  • I know that we all stumble and the stumble does not define our futures, we do.
  • I know that you are human; and sometimes being human is scary, not just for you, for all of us.
  • I know that we all need help at different points in our life dealing with the scary.

The truth is, I do not like my own “story” right now, and I am scared.  So I am choosing to work hard here at home to learn how to change my story.   I have been doing the assignments that Kayla and Jeremy have given me.  I am trusting the process that they have laid out for me.   I have started to journal to try to figure out how I feel, what I feel, and what I need to do to change my patterns.

I suspect I have rambled on too long already, but I want to remind you of something I said to you in the darkness of your bedroom a couple of nights before you left….Before you can expect others to like or love you; you need to like and love yourself first. I know that you are worth both liking and loving, my hope for you is that you can see it too.

Love you to eternity and back.                 Love  Mom

Today I encourage you to hug your child for no reason other than he is yours.

I refuse to get sucked into your non-sense- Not my Circus, Not my Monkeys

I refuse to get sucked into your non-sense- Not my Circus, Not my Monkeys

The first time I ever heard this phrase was in a Facebook group from an incredibly wise parent. Apparently the etymology of this phrase is Polish and means -one is not responsible for controlling or changing a volatile or delicate situation.

We were chatting about the emotional roller-coaster that we seem to get on when our kids aren’t doing well. When they are up, we are up; when they are down, we are down. I know it may feel like we just want our kids to be okay, but to tie our emotions and happiness to the frequent changing moods of a teenager will pretty much guarantee someone is going to go crazy; and trust me it ain’t going to be them, it is going to be us.

This was most keenly exhibited this past weekend. My son and I were in a comfortable flow each respecting the boundaries and routine we had established, or so I thought.

Our house rule is that cell phones and laptops must be charging in my room by 10pm. Penalties accumulate every five minutes electronics are not handed in- 5 minutes equals 30 mins less the next day.

I have to say both my boys have been great about it. But this past Friday my oldest son stood in the door way and went full blown lawyer on me-Why do I have to do this? It’s stupid! I need my independence yada yada yada. The more he talked the more I twitched.

All I kept thinking was, why are we doing this again, why now? He said he wasn’t going to turn them in and I could do what I wanted to him. He walked away with both the laptop and cell phone.

I was pissed off. I wasn’t pissed that he chose to not follow the rule, I was pissed at how it made me feel. His verbal badgering and attacking put me right back into an old pattern of hating his behavior, which in turn makes it difficult for me to see straight or think rationally, and like the kid. I chose to leave it alone for the rest of the night, I would address it fresh the next morning.

Pre-treatment, I would have stormed into his room, grabbed the phone, shutting down the Wi-Fi, which made everyone else angry. The cell phone is a huge trigger for me and I am ashamed to say that in earlier years I destroyed two of his phones by losing control and smashing them. I of course was only punishing myself because I had to replace them. When it came to the cell phone issue he and I could be considered golden glove contenders in the ring.

The year and a half of treatment wasn’t just for him it was for me as well. I had to dig deep and look at my patterns and history, often referred to as Family of origin.

Why did I get so crazy? Why did I have to win at all costs? Why couldn’t I take a breath, and not blurt out shit right away? So the next day I went used all the tools in my therapy toolbox and attempted to calmly talk to him about the cell phone. I got the cold shoulder and a declaration that he was still mad at me. Hey at least he was communicating clearly, I left him alone.

I will admit it really bothered me that he was mad at me and ignoring me. I sat on that for a day and then started to think, why am I allowing his displeasure with me, to effect my mood. I didn’t do anything wrong other than be a parent, enforcing house rules.

It also made me take a beat and think about what was going on with him that he did this 180 about the phone? Yet another new thing for me, in the past I wouldn’t have stopped to think beyond how I felt, to see how he felt. Agh…….. Good parenting is exhausting.

And the drama continued. I apparently got under his skin again last evening. At 8pm he announced he was going out. Now based upon past history I knew he needs some cool down time to get his thoughts together. It usually involves him taking a walk or skateboarding.

But there was no way I was okay with a 16 year going rouge in the dark at 8pm. I calmly stated, if you need to go somewhere dad or I will be happy to take you, but I do not approve of you going out in the dark at this hour. I calmly (or at least I think I appeared calm) turned my back and walked into the house.

This text exchange was the only contact I had with him until he walked back in the front door. I think I deserve kudos for not losing my mind or attempting to hunt him down and rip his face off.

8:00 pm                 Child leaves on a skateboard in the dark

8:47        Me:        Please be careful.  Thank you.

9:31        Me:        Are you coming home at some point?

9:33        Son:       Yes . Sorry. I need to blow off steam. I’ll be back soon.

9:34        Me:        I know and understand that.  Can you please tell me where you are?

9:51        Me:        It is almost 10pm I am getting worried.  Can I pick you up somewhere?

9:52        Son:       Can you pick me up at 10:30

9:52        Me:        Where are you?

9:55        Son:       So you can?

9:55        Me:        I do not know where you are, so until you tell me I can’t answer you.

9:59        Me:        I am going to go to bed now.  Get home safely please.

11:16     Me:        Will you be coming home

11:18     Son:       Yeah I’m on my way. I thought you were asleep?            

11:30 pm               Child walks in the front door

He then opens my bedroom door and I say, leave your cell phone. He does and says, I am sorry. He then mumbled I guess you don’t want to talk now? I asked him if he wanted to talk. He said yes, I invited him into the room.

He sat on the floor next to my bed in the dark and we talked for an hour. We talked about what caused his reactions and how trust is a two way street. We talked about what was really bothering him since Friday, and issue with a friend that had nothing to do with anything I did. We talked about ways to handle this in the future because I can’t go through with that again. We talked about how easy it would be for him to get killed by a car in the dark. He understood that one way too easily, which makes me think he had a fairly close call somewhere.

He told me where he went and who he was with. I asked if those kids vaped, and if they were good kids. His response was, “Are you saying good kids don’t vape?” Ahhhhhhh, he got me with all my judgement pouring out. I recanted and said to him, “We know good kids vape, but I am concerned about you being around them based upon this last year.”

He was honest and said, “Some do and some don’t, but they know my history and they they do not do it around me.

Whether I believe that to be true or not, I was impressed with his ability to admit that he was even around kids who vaped. I have come to terms with the fact that I can’t demand my 16 year old avoid every kid who makes the decision to vape. There are way too many of them, he would have trouble getting through a day.

The conversation ended at almost 1 am . I have to say it was pretty amazing we were family who were able to see each other as people and not as adversaries. Each time an encounter like this happens, we both develop a little more street cred with each other.

I adopted a new mantra this past year.

Open my mind and heart before opening my mouth.

A life changing moment-through a book.

A life changing moment-through a book.

The day I started to read the Anatomy of Peace was the day all of my relationships started to change, for the better. This is a literal page out of the book. Would highly suggest it as a read. I would love to hear your thoughts if you have already read it.l