Dear School System…..

To the School System,

This year has been an extremely tough one for our family.

I’ve been a parent in the School System for 15 years, and was a student, myself, for 13 years (K-12).

I had no issues.  I found school to be easy….probably too easy.  I definitely didn’t try hard enough and still got mostly great marks.  Sure, I re-did Math 10 (3rd times the charm, right?) but I didn’t care one bit about sin/cos/tan or graphing.  Never have used it.

I believe that over the past 11 years, my sons (and I) have been repeatedly traumatized by the School System.

I understand that is a weighty sentence, but I fully believe it to be true.

Trauma is described as a deeply disturbing or distressing experience.  It doesn’t have to be a death or violent event for someone to perceive a situation as traumatic.

Complex trauma is:

  • Chronic
  • Begins in early childhood, and
  • Occurs within the child’s primary caregiving system and/or social environment

Typically, complex trauma exposure involves the simultaneous or sequential occurrence of child maltreatment and may include psychological maltreatment, neglect, physical and sexual abuse, and witnessing domestic violence.

Exposure to these initial traumatic experiences, the resulting emotional dysregulation, and the loss of safety, direction, and the ability to detect or respond to danger cues may impact a child’s development over time and can lead to subsequent or repeated trauma exposure in adolescence and adulthood without supports that might buffer the negative effects.

 

I have two sons that have experienced repeated distressing and disturbing experiences within the school system.  They both have a diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorder, Anxiety, ADHD and Learning Disabilities.

Cognitively, one son is average and the other is superior…..that also brings in another layer of complexity.

We have fought on behalf of our boys, for the last 11 years.

There has been misunderstanding of their specific disabilities and needs.
There has been mistreatment by well meaning but un-informed teachers.
There has been GROSS misjudgment of stress behaviors.
There has been repeated segregation, alone, in medical rooms.
There has been denial of child specific supports as defined by diagnosis.
There has been brutal bullying with no consequences for the bullies.
There has been denial of access to opportunities because of disability, with no support.

There has been repeated emotional and mental trauma which has also resulted in physical strain on both of my boys.

It doesn’t stop there.

What affects my boys, effects our entire family.  Our family of 7 is precariously balanced on the best of days….Neuro-Diversity, and Mental Health are tough loads to carry.  Throw in any mental and emotional upheaval and there is no balance….we come crashing down.

My boys are resilient in the fact that, they get up every morning full of anxiety for what the day will accost them with.  Every social interaction is fraught with anxiety; and requires that they must decode idioms, expressions and body language.  This “social language”, that we take for granted, is foreign to them; and they struggle with learning it.  Not because they don’t try or  want to understand, but because they have a neurological difference that makes it difficult to do so.

EVERY DAY is filled with stress…..with anxiety……with sensory overload.

They don’t get a break from it.

And yet they carry on.

My boys keep walking into your schools EVERY DAY knowing that at some point they will be mentally, emotionally, or sensorily assaulted.  Maybe not on purpose, but it happens just the same….

If I slam your hand in a car door by accident and then apologize, does it make your fingers any less broken or painful?  No, the trauma is still there.  Imagine how you would feel, if people repeatedly slammed your fingers in doors.

You’d probably end up extremely jumpy and tense; and mistrustful of those around you.  It doesn’t matter how much they seem to like or try to understand you, “survival brain kicks in and reasoning and logic shut down.” In fact, you’d probably not want to go where people and doors are.

But everyday, my boys continue to enter your doors, and try again……it’s insanity, really.  And I feel like I’m perpetuating the insanity….the trauma…. by encouraging them to continue to “go and trust”.

They are so very tired.

And I am so very tired!

  • I am tired of holding them when they come home crying because someone misunderstood their diagnosis and their heart.
  • I am tired of fighting every year to say the same thing and not being heard.
  • I am so very tired of being seen as someone causing conflict or someone on the “other side”.
  • I am exhausted from scraping up a weeping child who has been judged incorrectly as defiant or non-compliant.
  • I am exhausted from dealing with meltdowns as a result of pressures placed on them at school, to live up to “typical” standards.
  • I am so very weary of encouraging my children to go back to their teachers and EA’s to work “issues” out, when I believe that my child is being hurt (however unintentional) as a result of lack of knowledge and understanding.
  • I am angry that I have been fighting for 11 years for people to “see” my children….to see beyond the the stress behaviors and see their heart.
  • I am so exhausted  and traumatized from the past 11 years, that I cannot even fathom continuing to advocate for my children.  I cringe at the very thought of connecting with the schools to advocate on behalf of my boys and yet….. I must advocate for them because I am SO concerned for their mental and emotional well being, in regards to their care and treatment within the school system.

 

Dear School System,

How can we change this?

How can we affect change within our school system, so that children like mine are not traumatized on a daily basis?

How can we affect change within our school system, so that children like mine are recognized for the value they bring?

How can we affect change within our school system, sooner rather than later?

  • Do our children have the right to access a place where they can be encouraged to love to learn?
  • Do our children have the right to have the same opportunities as their “typical” peers?
  • Do our children have the right to access safe places, mentally, emotionally and physically, to learn and grow?

Right now, this is not the case….my children (and many others) are not being taught, trained  and encouraged in safe and meaningful ways, within the School System!

How can we fix this? How can we work together to accomplish this?

ps. It is not my intent to disparage any specific teachers that my sons have or have had.  I feel very strongly about the brokenness of the School system, specifically in regards to special needs children.  I feel that there is a HUGE lack of knowledge, in regards to working with children that are Neuro-Diverse.  I believe that there are a lot of teachers and staff are that are well-intentioned but unfortunately, unknowledgable regarding neuro-diversities.

There is a WEALTH of information available.  I’d strongly suggest Stuart Shanker’s Self Reg as a great starting point….not only to aid with Students but also with Teachers and all School System Staff, in dealing with their own stresses.

 

Just a glimpse….

I’m sitting in my living room, looking wistfully out the window, knowing that I’ve already spent my fair share of time outdoors, today.

I don’t want a sunburn and while I slather up when necessary…..I’ve never really liked the feeling of lotion on my body.  So I opt for some indoor time….at least until I need to pick up the boys from school and then I’ll greet the sun with smiles and a spritz of sunscreen.  Until then, I close my eyes and reminisce of the golden warmth soaking into my soul, revitalizing me.

When I open my eyes, I see evidence that Judah’s been here. 


The dregs of his Honey Nut Cheerios and Almond Milk make me smile.  This boy of mine is such a gift.  He is an incredible living paradox.  Verging on the edge of violence in his stance against injustice…….and yet indiscriminate in his compassion.  Have I told you about the time we took the boys to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and he cried when Ego was destroyed.  He clasped my hands to his heart and whispered through his tears,  “But WHY? Everyone deserves another chance?”

I don’t ever want him to lose that heart for others.  I will fiercely protect and nurture that empathy, tenderness, and humanity with all my being. He is such a gift to me, to us…..to the world.


I look over to my right and see glorious creativity within the chaos of these walls.  That stack of mail will become “creations” before it hits the recycling bin. I savour the moments when I can sit, drink my coffee and knit a few rows on a dishcloth.  I like small projects because I can finish them in between all the glorious distraction.  More often than not, that coffee grows cold and my knitting is interrupted but it’s ok because these moments don’t last.  

The screams to break up a fight or get a snack for someone……they are becoming fewer.  The yelling because there is no toilet paper on the roll and no one thought to look in the cupboard…….or because someone ate someone else’s ice cream.  It’s still there but I’m less needed than I used to be.  Which is good cause there’s still a whole lot of needy people in the family and I’ll take whatever reprieve I can get.  

Moose – aptly renamed – as he’s not the smartest cat in the world……but he’s exactly what we needed.  He gives his love freely and unabashedly.   He allows for over excitable autistic hugs and purrs louder than I’ve ever heard from a cat.  It’s like audible Valium to soothe our souls from whatever anguish and trauma we may be experiencing.


I need to pick the kids up.  To leave this cocoon of quiet chaos.  I don’t want to.  

Connection

I posted a picture the other day….


And my thoughts keep returning to this…

We have an appointment on Wednesday to go and talk with someone at the School Board about this most recent incident with Jeremy. 

I haven’t overshared about this situation for a number of reasons.

  • I’m utterly exhausted and traumatized by it all.
  • It requires immense energy to barely hold together a sweet boy who has been traumatized by it all.
  • I alternate between anger, apathy and anguish on an hourly basis. 
  • It’s almost surreal to me except that it altogether , too real.
  • This is a culmination of years of educationally based trauma for Jeremy and us.

My brain keeps hurling words, thoughts and feelings at me and this is my attempt to capture some of those words and make sense of them all so that we can share consisely on Wednesday.

At the very Center of all of this is Jeremy.

My sweet boy.  He struggles immensely as a young boy and that was the one thing that he ALWAYS had going for him.  He was SO sweet and charming.  Couldn’t focus if his life depended on it.  Couldn’t read or write.  Couldn’t decode social situations…..but he was absolutely darling.  That was probably his biggest saving grace. 

For all of his struggles, Jeremy has been desperate to connect…..desperate for relationship.  He hasn’t been very good at it and when he was finally diagnosed at 13 years old, during his second attempt at an assessment, with Autism…..so many things made sense. 

I find it interesting and so very incredibly frustrating that the older he gets, the less patience, support and care, people seem willing to offer.  It’s like they expect him to have “gotten” it (whatever “it” is) and are more likely to judge that he’s just not trying hard enough. 

Let’s break it down extremely succinctly:

On a daily basis, with NO RELIEF, Jeremy deals with:

  • Social/emotional deficits (Autism)
  • Severe Executive Function disorder (ADHD)
  • Faulty sensory perception (sensory processing disorder)
  • Constant worry and stress (Anxiety)
  • A huge discrepancy between his academic abilities and his output (Learning Disabilities)

That’s a HUGE load to be carrying…..and he’s been carrying it for 16 years.  Its an incredible testament to his resiliency that he keeps trying every day.  That he gets up and in spite of his worries, in spite of inaccurate and hurtful judgments, in spite of constant internal and external pressures…he gets dressed, packs his bag, says “bye mom, I love you!” and heads off to school.

On an aside, Jeremy has been looking for a job.  He’s handed out a lot of resumes, but between a “special needs label” and a service dog….his job hunt hasn’t been very successful.  We’ve heard SO many positive comments about how Polite and Courteous he is.  How he is SO respectful and seems incredibly keen to work…..but nothing has translated to actual employment.  

This past week, in the middle of this chaos, Jeremy got a job.  He got a job because someone gave him an opportunity to show them what he is capable of.  The feedback we got, was that he is probably the hardest working person they’ve had.  

THAT……….THAT is who my son is.  He IS hardworking.  He IS responsible.  He IS respectful. He is DESPERATE to please and to succeed.  He WANTS to do his best……not just for you, but because working hard, being respectful, and doing your best are characteristics that we have consistently and tirelessly impressed upon him as critically important to his very being.

Down to his very soul, to the core of who he is…….Jeremy is desperate for connection….for relationship.

If you were to ask me what he wants most in this world…I would say that relationship trumps everything. 

If you were to ask me what he struggles the most with….I would also say relationships.

This is where his disability comes into play…..

Would you get angry or frustrated if a person who was missing a limb couldn’t climb a ladder as fast or as nimbly as someone with complete functioning limbs?

Would you be short tempered with someone who had a cleft palate or was in a wheelchair?

Now I realize that every disability has people who are cruel/uncaring and judgmental…..but that’s not what I’m referencing here.

How about someone who is blind…….but you didn’t realize they were blind?  You may be frustrated that they weren’t as fast and nimble at everything but as soon as you realize they are “differently abled”……more often than not, we have an “AHA!” moment and our compassion increases.

How often do we see a child having a temper tantrum in a public place and judge?

Or is our first thought, “oh I wonder what’s stressed that sweet little one to their breaking point?”

How often do we hear that a child in our child’s classroom “freaked out” and they had to clear the room; and judge that that kid is spoiled and gets away with too much?

Or is our first thought, “what perfect storm of physical/mental or emotional triggers overwhelmed him till all of his energy and ability to “hold himself together” was depleted?

Do we judge the behaviours or see the behaviours as communication? 

It doesn’t matter who you read, Stuart Shanker, Ross Greene, Gordon Neufeld, Gabor Mate, Brene Brown or countless others……..CONNECTION is CRITICAL!

We crave connection and acceptance on a very deep level.  Disconnection and rejection have a HUGE impact on humankind. Without connection, we are more easily succumbed to addiction, depression, self harm, etc.  It’s hard to find the strength to carry on when we are alone.  But when we know that we have the love and acceptance of those who care for us……..amazing things happen.  We can shine and grow.  We can reach and exceed our expected potential. 

How many inspirational stories do you hear and read about where “someone believed in me so I believed in myself and accomplished great things? What’s at the core of those stories????? Connection.  We are hard wired for connection. 
 Will you look for moments to connect, this week? Especially with someone who is struggling to connect. Reframe “behaviours” from “a terrible child” to a struggling child and ask Why they are feeling and acting this way and what is instigating the behaviours. 

To see our children as struggling and not as defiant or problematic is the start of an incredible journey towards connection that will benefit you and I and the world.. 

So I sit…..

I stumbled around my house today, ever so grateful that I had no appointments and nothing scheduled to do.

There is always cleaning and tidying. Household chores that are mind numbing and can be done on auto-pilot; yet… never ending.

I threw some laundry in and loaded the dishwasher. Swept haphazardly and relocated some toys.

But mostly I sat…….

I’m, constantly, on the verge of tears; thoughts racing through the corridors of my mind. Simple tasks are too difficult to execute. I should be able to make a nail appointment. I was even there in the shopping mall. But I couldn’t…..it requires more energy than I have. How lame is that?

I can hear the words I need to say and know that my day is free tomorrow and the next, but…..”asking for something” is too much. Even if it’s just an appointment that I’ll be paying for.

I waste energy, questioning why I can’t do this…..energy that I don’t have to spare….am I scared they will be too busy (rejection)? Is it just the social interaction (introvert, much)? Am I just useless (negative self talk)? I dismiss that last thought as garbage but it still bothers me that the thought is there in the first place.

I look at the clock and realize that it’s almost time to pick up the kids. I’m praying that today’s been a smooth day and that no one will be too disregulated even though that prayer feels futile.

Jer called me twice and Jon twice on his walk to school this morning. The fact that he went, speaks to his resilience in the midst of this storm. But guaranteed it’s been a day spent on high alert and he’ll be exhausted when he comes home.

Siah should have gone swimming with his class today but didn’t. I’m not sure how much of it is anxiety and how much is autism. He loves swimming and water….so something’s up……

Judah went to school today, only because I let him have a mental health day yesterday and told him that the pay off was that he went for the rest of the week with no whining. He did whine this morning but went anyway.

I just want to run away. I’m definitely feeling the flight aspect of the “fight/flight/freeze” scenario but that’s not an option that I have the luxury of holding onto.

So I sit…..

To Be Known and Loved

This week has been a tough one.  One of my boys has been discriminated against because of a lack of understanding of who he is, what his struggles are and what supports he needs.

I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around what I’ve been feeling this week.  This situation could have been avoided had there been more understanding, more inclusion, more compassion, more knowledge, and less selfishness.

If people had taken the time, energy and effort to know my son…..to really know him……they would not have treated him the way that they did.

If they had looked for and discovered his heart and soul….they would not have judged his struggles as defiance or disobedience.

If they had looked for, and discovered his abilities….then his disabilities would have been overshadowed.

If they had looked for and recognized his intense desire for relationship and connection…….they would have been able to see beyond the anxiety and disregulation.

I keep coming back to this idea of “knowing” and of “being known”.  I believe there is a desire in all of us to really, truly be known.  Maybe that thought terrifies us….maybe it excite us…..

I believe that our biggest fear in being truly seen and known, is the fear of being rejected……of not being accepted. That’s what we, all, want…isn’t it?  To be known and to be loved, exactly for who we are. I’m not saying that we should never grow or work on areas of weakness. Growth and Personal Healing are critical, but being loved and accepted for who you are is so important.

I know that this is one of my deepest desires and yet, if I’m completely honest……I’m terrified that if you truly knew me, that you’d reject me.

I don’t know why I think that.

I don’t think I’m a bad person.  I try to be authentic, open, and honest.  If you only know me online, I believe that I’m the same person in real life.  I can be funny.  I can be serious.  I try to live with compassion and not judge.  I want to exemplify love in my words and my actions. I don’t shy away from the truth, nor do I want to hurt people with it. I share about the good and the bad. I speak with way too many exclamation marks and periods……..just like I type!!! I find it difficult to speak without my hands, without using facial expressions, and my whole body.

And yet……..

I often feel like I’m too “big”…….too “expressive”…….too “expansive”……

I feel like I’m constantly diminishing my true self because my true self is overwhelming.

I LONG for connection and yet, I’m terrified of it.

And maybe this is why I feel SO strongly for my children…….I see their intense desire for connection.  I see their yearning for relationship.  I see their hunger to be known………and accepted……and cherished.

And yet,  they are big……their personalities can be larger than life.  They can be overwhelming at times. But I SEE them……I KNOW THEM!

I see their hearts.
I see their souls.
I see their goodness.
I see their kindness.
I see their compassion.
I see their innocence.
I see their love.
I see their passion.
I see their zeal.

I KNOW THEM.

And yet, they’ve been hurt….too many times!

They’ve been hurt because people didn’t, couldn’t or wouldn’t look beyond the struggles and disabilities to see them…..to truly KNOW them.

It hurts.
It hurts them.
It hurts me.

I believe that we miss out on some of the most precious treasures in the world, if we dismiss those who may be differently abled.

Maybe in really, truly seeing and accepting others; we too, will be seen and accepted………..what would our world look like then?

 

 

Will you……

Can you imagine waking up in a remote village on an island somewhere? It’s a beautiful place filled with people very similar to yourself in looks. So, it’s not like you stand out as different.
But there are differences…..you don’t really seem to speak the same language as everybody else and you don’t really understand the customs or the social rules of the community. You want to fit in. You want to make friends. You are so lonely but no one seems to understand or accept you in the same way that they understand and accept each other.

You try really hard to communicate, but the harder you try to connect with the people, the more they seem to misunderstand you. They start to talk to each other, about you. Many of the attempts that you make, to connect and communicate, seem to highlight your differences and exacerbate misunderstandings.

Over time, your anxiety about being able to connect grows, which only increases your difficulties in interacting. Eventually, over time, you learn a few phrases, and a few of the customs…..but it’s really not 100% clear to you; and more often than not, the people are confused and/or offended by your attempts at relationship. Even worse, sometimes they mock and ridicule you.

Can you………no, WILL YOU…..?

Will you imagine if this was your reality for your entire life?

Will you imagine how lonely you would feel?

Will you imagine how desperate you would feel……….

For Acceptance

For Connection
For Understanding
For Compassion
For Love

Can you imagine not understanding the social rules of the world?

Can you imagine not being able to read body language or facial expressions?

Can you imagine not understanding “inferences”?

 

Please try to imagine.

Please be accepting of those with differences.

Please gain understanding.

Please have compassion.

Please show love.

Illusions of Beauty layered on Brokenness

Today’s been a hard day for me.

Jon and I have been discussing getting away as a couple.  We need it.  Desperately!

Trying to sort out care for our children is hard.  It brings up insecurities and hurts from the past; and while there are truths that I know, I struggle to move beyond the feelings.

So many tears today. So many feelings.

I watched a TedX talk today and while it was an incredible talk….it highlighted things that I stuff, in an effort to cope.  There are stressors, as special needs parents,  that we just can’t escape or lay down and walk away from.

Exhaustion
Inadequacy
Trauma
Rejection
Brokenness
Grief
Judgment

There are times when I feel capable to carry on.  Other times, like today, I don’t know what to do.  And the tears fall, uncontrollably.

In an effort to pull myself back together and because we are supposed to be going out tonight (to connect with other parents of ASD kids), I do my hair and put my make-up on.

I layer on cover up, foundation and powder, in a effort to combat the destruction of a day of tears.  I  paint on my best smokey eye and in whispers, threaten myself to not mess it up…..as if sheer willpower alone, could hold the tears inside.   I curl my hair and back-comb it into submission.  It’s something I can control, in this uncontrollable chaos that is my life.  I spray on layer after layer of hairspray creating a shell, a protective layer of armor.  Creating the illusion of beauty on top of a layer of brokenness.

That should be my new tagline……

Illusions of beauty layered on brokenness.

 

Don’t Pick Up The Rope

Imagine that you are a child, standing on the edge of a cliff. You look up and on the other side of a deep gorge is another cliff. You look over to the side and there is a rickety looking string bridge. You aren’t certain of its ability to carry you safely across to the other side, and so you refuse to move. All your friends are on the other side and it looks like they might be having a lot of fun. But you refuse! You aren’t really sure how everyone got over there, but that bridge looks unsafe and safety wins out over fun, every time. You decide that you are not going ANYWHERE.

People suggest that you come over to the other side. You want to but……….refuse!
They tell you that you have to come over. You really aren’t sure if it’s safe…….so you continue to refuse.
They start to insist that you come over. That isn’t helping, you feel pressured and uncomfortable…
Voices get louder, more commanding and more demanding. You continue to dig your heels in and refuse to comply.

The harder they pull, the harder you pull…..just trying to remain safe.

 

All of the sudden you realize that people are pulling and forcing you towards the bridge.

You resist.
You yell.
You’re scared.
You scream.
You panic.
You start to thrash and flail.

You do anything to protect yourself from the uncertainty of what’s before you. In a blind panic, and completely incapable of rational and reasonable thought, you bolt. You run. Or conversely, you curl into a ball and cram yourself into the smallest corner available, so that no one will be able to force you into, what you are sure is, an unsafe situation.

How many times have we asked a child to do something and then been frustrated when the situation devolves into anger, defiance, rage or physicality? You don’t really understand because what you’re requesting is not something weird or terrifying. It seems a pretty simple request and yet……..the child is labelled oppositional, non compliant or defiant.

I hate those three words. Very rarely are those accurate adjectives to apply to a child.

I believe that we need to approach children from the viewpoint that they WANT to please and they WANT to succeed. If behaviours arise that appear contrary to them pleasing and succeeding, WE NEED TO PAUSE.

We, as the adults, need to question “What is at the root of the negative behaviours?”

Why this this child feeling anxious?
Why is this child feeling insecure?
Why is this child feeling less than capable?
What is feeling overwhelming to them?
What is feeling uncertain?
What is unclear?
What information are they missing or unsure of?
How can I help?

Going back to our picture at the top of the post…. Here is a different view of that situation.

You are, a child, standing alone on one side of the cliff. You are aware that you are missing out on what seems like fun on the other side. You feel alone, anxious and unsure. You are desperate to feel accepted and safe; and while you wish you could go over, safety wins over fun, every time. You realize that someone is calling your name. They crouch down beside you and ask if you’d like to join the rest of the class on the other side. You aren’t sure how to answer because you are scared. They start to explain what the rest of the kids are doing and it sounds SO fun. It’s too bad that the bridge is the only way over. They explain how the bridge was made and how many pounds it can carry; and that makes you feel a bit better but you’re still not sure you can believe them. They call another kid over, who crosses that scary bridge, and together they show you how two people can cross the bridge. You are still unsure. They tell you that it’s okay and that they will stay with you on this side. That makes you feel a bit better. They share a time when they felt scared and uncertain. You want to join your classmates but you really aren’t sure. You realize that the person isn’t going to force you but will stay with you and that makes you feel a little bit safer and a little bit stronger. You eventually agree to try to cross the bridge even though you still feel scared. It might take you longer, but with acceptance and relationship you can accomplish amazing things.
Instead of calling for the child to take action and then labeling them as non-compliant, what if we made the effort to understand and accept?

What if we stopped pulling on the children, which is only increasing their anxiety?
What if we didn’t “pick up the rope” in the first place?
What if we joined them, and validated their feelings and emotions without having to fix or change them?
What if we made sure they knew and understood the facts and information? 
What if we found out what they were fearful of?
What if we explained how the bridge was made and why it is, in fact, safe to cross?
What if we explained exactly what was happening on the other side?
What if we told the child that we would cross with them?
What if we gave them the power to make the decision and until they did, we sat with them and gave them the opportunity to feel safe and accepted?
What if we built relationship instead of building conflict, opposition and disconnection?
What if we allowed the time and space for a child to feel safe?

I believe that this scenario plays out, at some point, with all children but that it’s especially true for children with anxiety, special/high needs and neuro-diversities.

It’s important to recognize that the majority of opposition and non-compliance stems from anxiety and insecurity.; and that we have the ability to make a difference in the way we view and approach children. We need to look beyond the bravado and indignancies of anxiety and insecurities; and see the cries for help.

We need to build trust and relationship instead of building conflict and disconnection. We need to join with them, where they are at; and when we have built a solid relationship founded on trust, we will go so much further than we, or they, could dream or imagine.

Don’t pick up the rope!

A Letter to my Children

photo from 2015 (we definitely need an update)

To my Children,

I love you with all my heart and I only want the very best for you.  This world we live in, now,  is a funny place.  There was positive Peer pressure when I was growing up that I don’t see happening, now. Not that there aren’t good people out there, but it seems like some of the “common sense” life lessons don’t hold the same weight now as they did then.  Those “life lessons” are just as important now, in fact, they may be even more important but they aren’t as prevalent.  I realize that talking like this only widens and exaggerates the age gap between us but I feel that there is a limited time for me to influence and instill  these values within you.  I know that I tell you these things, ALL THE TIME (insert massive eye roll here) but I think these are too important for me to remain quiet.
1.    Work Hard

I don’t care what anyone around you is doing or how hard they are working. Your employer is paying YOU for your time. Give them your best.  Lead by example.  Set the bar high.  You will get noticed and your efforts will never be in vain.  Your best may look differently than that of others around you.  I’m not holding you to someone else’s standards……YOU do YOUR best.  And always be aware of what around you is needing to be done.  Pick up the slack. And if you don’t know…..ASK!  Communication will be your best tool, in ALL ASPECTS of life.

2.    Be Respectful

Let the virtue of Respect emanate from  every cell of your being.  Be respectful in your actions, with your words, to your employers and fellow employees, to customers…..to humanity, in general.  But also be respectful of yourself.  If you respect yourself, others will respect you.

3.    Set Boundaries

Setting boundaries is critical.  Work hard and then let it go, when you are done for the day.  It’s not your job to carry the weight of the world.  You are not responsible to do more than you can.  If you work hard, and work smart; be proud of what you’ve accomplished and don’t carry the weight of what you couldn’t do. Take care of yourself, because YOU are responsible for your well being. Setting boundaries is something that needs to be learned and exercised in ALL areas of life.

Get good at setting and enforcing YOUR boundaries.

It’s critical to know what things that you are responsible for and what things you are not responsible for. Take care of the things you are responsible for and learn to be okay with letting the things you are not responsible for, go.  As your Nana says, “Not my pig. Not my Farm.”

4.    Be okay with saying  NO.

It’s okay to say no.  If you work hard, and are respectful…..then setting and honouring your boundaries is ok.  You do not have to accept every shift or help out everytime you are asked.  Do what you can/want/need to do, but also know that too much is not a good thing. Being available is one thing but being “used” is completely different.  Practise saying “No.”  I know that sounds silly, but it’s an important skill to learn.  Unfortunately, too many people haven’t learned to say it, and then end  up burned out and resentful towards others, when it’s their own lack of ability to set and enforce personal boundaries.

5.    Know your Value, Your Worth and Your Principals

Yes, I know you are still figuring your self  out BUT……You do have value.  You do have worth.  and You do have principals.  Knowing who you are and what you stand for will make a huge difference between allowing yourself to get pushed around and being a leader.

  • Know what you want or don’t want
  • Know what you are okay with or not okay with
  • Know whats important  to you and what’s not important to you

These things require actual thought.  If you do not make a decision, you have still made a choice.  Every choice has a consequence.  Its that whole Newton’s Third Law thing……

6.    Weigh Your Choices and Be able to Live with the Consequences

When faced with a decision, look at all sides and determine the likely consequences.  Think through what you are willing to deal with and move forward confidently.  Choices have consequences, some positive and some negative.  You may need to make a decision and have to choose which negative consequence you are willing to live with.  But allowing things to happen and saying its “out of your control” isn’t respectful to yourself or others.  Own your choices and the resulting consequences.  Be Purposeful in your actions and words.

7.    Choose Your Feelings and Emotions Wisely.

You are responsible for YOUR feelings and emotions.  Choose wisely.  To say that someone else “makes you so mad or angry” is giving them the control over your emotions.  Take responsibility for your own feelings and emotions. Don’t allow the “emotional weather” of a place, person or situation dictate your emotional response.   Only you have the power and ability to dictate what you feel and how you choose to respond in any given situation.  Choose to make the best out of every situation and allow others their right to their own feelings and emotions.  Other peoples negativity should not define your life.

8.      Balance

Finding balance is so important.  Family, Friends, School, Self and Work  (Listed in Alphabetical order not in Position of Importance)  are all important.  You must work to find the balance.  It requires effort to do so.  Again, not making the effort to “find balance” is still making a choice……and probably one with negative consequences for yourself and those around you.

9.    Community

Finding your Tribe, Village, Community, or whatever you want to call it, is also important.  These days, we seem to be so caught up in the busy-ness of life.  But it is critical to have people that you can give into and draw from.  We all go through ups and downs, but having the opportunity to give and receive love, support, advice and even challenges, helps us as we navigate this crazy journey.

10.    Rest

I’m mentioning Rest, because it’s something I believe that we need to be intentional about.  Whether its a long bath, a walk along a river, journaling, art, etc……..I believe that it’s critical to disconnect from the busy-ness of the world, to do something that “feeds” your soul; and recharges us, wholly (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually).  Your cell phone wont work without being charged and you won’t either.  It may be possible to limp along for a bit but in the long run (and life is a long run) you have to recharge, you might as well be intentional about it.

My Darlings,

You have been given an incredible gift.  Life is a gift. You have the opportunity to make it incredible or to squander it.  Be Purposeful! Be Present! Don’t stand by, passively, and allow life to carry you along.   Be intentional!  You have an incredible opportunity to create a life that you love and can be proud of, regardless of the ups and downs that life brings your way.  

I promise that I will continue to remind you of these things but know that I see you. I see  the incredible people that you are, and that you are becoming; and I am so very VERY proud of you. You are amazing.  You are incredible .  I am confident that you will grow and impact our world positively, just because of who you are.  Keep on Keeping on, My Loves! 

Momma

Authority & Respect

Things have been a little messy inside my head and in an effort to clear it all out and put it in some semblance of order, I’m gonna start writing to try and make sense of all the thoughts I have.  Most of this will be in regards to how I parent and raise my kids.  Some will deal with Special Needs Kids, some with Anxiety but I find that having to write it out concisely helps me to package up the million thoughts running around in my brain.  Please feel free to ask questions or to share your own thoughts on the matters.  I’d love to dialogue about these issues.

 

It’s often difficult for us, as adults, to make a call and then go back on it. We often view those scenarios as allowing the child to get their way or to dictate the situation.

I’d love to offer a different viewpoint.

Your authority is as strong and irrefutable as you believe it is;
and as you stand in it.
I believe that too often we parent, teach or lead from a viewpoint of fear. Fear that those under us will no longer accept our authority and then we will have to fight twice as hard to get it back, if it’s even possible. That understanding assumes that my authority is fallible.

Now, I don’t have authority everywhere in the world…… But I do have authority over my domain…..and the only way I can lose it, is if I abdicate that authority.

I used to think that if I told my kids something and then changed my mind, that it would undermine my authority and that I would lose all sense of control because they would feel they could do whatever they wanted by whining more and wearing me down.

For example…

They‘ve been whining at me all day and by late afternoon, my instinct is to just say no to everything. Finally one of them asks, can we have popsicle and go outside to play.

I say NO, because it feels like rewarding them for their bad attitudes and actions; and it’s so much effort to get them all ready and to drag all their crap out of the garage. I say no because its my first instinct after a tough morning and I am exhausted from their constant efforts. Even more whining and squabbling ensues…..

I pause and think about it for a moment and decide, The popsicle is liquid that they need (well, maybe not the sugar). The mess will be outside (YAY) and they really need to get outside and burn off some energy. In the end, we will all be happier.

So, I say, go get your shoes and coats on…..they say YAY! and that’s the end of it! They play and come in refreshed and I’ve had a moment to regroup and its all good.

Is my authority undermined because I changed my mind, NOT A CHANCE!
Are my kids going to continue to try to whine at me to get their way? ABSOLUTELY
Are the two connected? MAYBE BUT…….
Have I lost or damaged my position of AUTHORITY? NOT IN THE SLIGHTEST

Most likely, they are going to continue to whine in the future because that’s their immature attempt to gain control over a situation and get a favorable (for them) outcome. Their immaturity has a huge selfish, self-centered component to it. It’s my job to show them other methods and ways, to ask for what they want.

I’m not a fan of whining and will often stop the whining and ask my kids to try asking in a different voice and see how that changes things for them. I don’t get upset that they are whining, but I continue to train and reinforce the acceptable behavior. I tie so many of my parenting ideologies back into real world situations, because that’s what I’m raising these ones to do.

I’m raising my children to be respectable and respectful, contributing members of society.
 

They shouldn’t whine at their boss or teacher. They shouldn’t squabble with their fellow employees or students. I have the privilege of working them through these situations in a safe space and giving them lots of opportunity to practise, so they grow up and it becomes first nature to be respectful.

My entire parenting style is based on respect. I want to be treated respectfully. I will treat you with respect. My desire is to train young children into adults who are respectful of others and who’s very being, draws respect back to them.

I want to model how to react when you are not treated with respect; and to teach that a lack of respect shown towards you does not give you to right to match the level of  disrespect and dish it back.

Knowing who I am and the position of authority I hold,
within my family, is a game changer.
 

Yes it’s possible that someone might challenge my authority or be disrespectful but their words, thought, or actions don’t change the reality of my authority.

….their words, thoughts or actions don’t change the reality….
 

I’ve shared this “nugget” with my kids for years. Just because someone says something to you or about you doesn’t make it true or real; and you get to decide the power that those words have over you.

For Example, if Judah calls Josiah stupid, does that make Josiah stupid????

Nope! Let’s change the word stupid for something ridiculous like a cupcake head……..

If Judah says that Josiah has a cupcake head, does that make it true?? Does he all of the sudden have a cupcake shaped head???

Nope! Here’s another example, if Judah says that Josiah has green eyes, does that change the fact that Josiah’s eyes are brown?

NOPE! So a child yelling at me that I’m not in charge, doesn’t diminish my authority.  It’s most likely an indicator that he or she is feeling out of control, desperately wanting to regain some form of personal control and often needing some help to process some overwhelming feelings and emotions.

Words and/or actions don’t necessarily change the reality, especially when it comes to your authority.

I’m the mom (and therefore I have authority within my family), regardless of whether my kids want to live within the boundaries that I’ve set for them, or not.

If I decide to change my mind about something that I had previously decided, that does not make me weak. In fact, I believe it’s exactly the opposite. There is an incredible strength in openly admitting that you’ve made a decision that needs to change. By doing so, you are modelling to those under your authority that it’s okay to rethink something and come up with a better plan. It shows them what transparency and openness,(especially in a position of authority) looks like. It models that its okay to not be perfect. It shows them that mistakes will happen; and how to own your choices and change them if necessary. It shows them that not everything is black and white; and that sometimes you need to reevaluate for the grey situations.

It’s ever so challenging to bypass the thoughts that whisper……

“They’re gonna think they can run all over you. They are going to think you are
weak and that they can change your mind by whining and wearing you down.”

It takes courage and strength to say to your kids, your students or your employees…….

“Okay, just a moment, I’ve thought this through and I think we are going to do it this other way. Which I know is the opposite of what I just said but this is why it will work better to do it this way……..”

Kids and Teens, especially, can see through people. If you make a call and are sticking to a previous decision even though it doesn’t make sense; and you’re doing it because you fear losing the appearance of control. They can see it. They can sense it. And THAT undermines you more than anything.

Model Humility. Model Imperfection. Model Flexibility.
Model Communication. Model Respect.

The Key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are,
what you are about and what you value. – Stephen R. Covey