Your parents have all the answers.

Your parents are judging you.  And there is nothing like spending time with your family over the holidays to remind you that you have not yet achieved perfection.  Whether it is said out loud or completely unspoken, we know what our parents want and expect from us.  “What do you mean you aren’t going to church?”  “How can you even think about leaving your job in this economy?”  “How did you pay for this new car?” “What happened to that weight management plan you were on?” “Don’t you think my grandchild should be wearing a jacket, eating healthier, playing fewer video games, respecting others?”  “Shouldn’t you just ……”

The problem isn’t that parents judge, the problem is that when they do, what we are hearing is “I’m not good enough”.

No matter how old we get, we still want our parents to be proud of us.  We want our Moms and Dads and in-laws to believe we walk on water.  Because if they believe we are awesome, amazing beings of perfection, maybe we can believe it, too.

But when the holidays roll around and we are reminded that we’ve gained weight, grown wrinkles, have unflattering hairdo’s, mismanaged our money, careers, marriages, and children, it’s pretty hard to believe we have achieved perfection.

But we have.  Because life isn’t about doing everything right.  It’s about making mistakes.  It’s about using those mistakes to move closer to being your most authentic self.  It’s about realizing you were perfect all along.

My children, right now, are specimens of perfection.  Gorgeous little angels.  But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.  In fact, I can tell you exactly what they should wear, eat, and play.  I know who they should play with, how they should study, how to treat their friends, other adults, and each other.  I know which shoes go with which outfit, how to shave 10 seconds off a mile time, and how to point your toes in a cartwheel.  I am an expert on what my children can do to achieve “perfection”, and yet they already are.

So how do we untangle these ideas?  How can we be both perfect and flawed at the same time?

1-    Accept the fact that your parents will judge you, but recognize that it’s your parent’s way of wanting the best for you.  When they see you happy and enjoying your life, it will help them let go of their little instruction book of how to achieve happiness.  Unless……..

2-    Your Mom or Dad is the kind of parent who isn’t happy unless everyone around them is suffering.  In this case, living well will only annoy them. Realize their inability to accept you and your choices, is about them and their need to be needed and need to be right.  Choose happiness for your own benefit and thank your parents for catalyzing your personal growth.

3-    Imagine how you would react if your parent told you:  “I really think you should become a puppet master.  I saw this great show about it and it sounds like such an amazing career choice and would be so perfect for you.” Can you notice how little energy you have around it? Notice how it doesn’t bug you AT ALL that they think this?  Now imagine they are telling you:  “You really aren’t making wise choices with your money.”  Or, “I really think you are screwing up your kids by treating them this way.”  Why does this piss you off more than the other?  When parents tap into a fear that is already there, we get angry and defensive.  Defensiveness is your clue that something is misaligned.  Set the intention to feel good about yourself by this time next year.  Hire a coach, create a vision board, fight through the resistance and get it done.  There is no substitute for the ease and satisfaction that comes from living aligned with your best self.

4-    Perhaps you believe you aren’t good enough because you haven’t yet decided for yourself what it means to live a successful life.  Define it for yourself.  How will I know when I’m happy?  What does success look like to me?  Who determines whether I’m perfect or imperfect?  If your answer to these questions is, “I will be happy and successful as soon as everyone else tells me I am”, it’s time to do some soul searching.  I consider myself successful if I am using the gifts God gave me to make the world a better place.  Spend some time thinking about how you determine successful living, and let your parents do the same for themselves.

I am hoping some of you more enlightened parents will help me tear up the little instruction book I’ve been writing for my own children.  I’ll give a few tips but I’m gonna need advice from those of you who are relaxed in the areas I am not.

My first suggestion is to repeat these phrases often, out loud and to yourself.  “I have no idea what is right for my kids.”  “I could be totally wrong here.”  “I love you and trust that you kids will make the right decision for you.”  “I’m sure you will figure it out.”  “When left on their own, my kids make good decisions.”  “I have no way of knowing where their journey is leading them.”

When you think and talk this way, your brain will look for evidence to prove that it is true and your kids will rise to this expectation.

Second, look around at other parents who are relaxed and letting their kids make their own choices.  I watched my nieces prance around in tank tops and shorts in while I was in agony trying to force my daughter to wear ‘weather appropriate’ clothing.  My sister was relaxed, her daughters were happy, perhaps I can let this one go?  I know parents who could care less about their kid’s grades and test scores.  They don’t make their grades mean they are a success or a failure, in fact one Mom told me “The A students will work for the B/C students.”  If you find yourself stressing you and your kids out, trying to achieve perfect report cards, maybe this is an area to relax around and let your kids experience life their way?

Just noticing that these little instruction books for perfect living exist, is a big first step. When I chose to major in family life education and accepted a job with Planned Parenthood, I ignored a pretty big chapter in my parent’s book. What chapter in your parent’s book have you decided not to abide by? I’d love to know what page in your book is your child not reading?  I’ve got a whole chapter on social graces I’m still hoping my kids will read some day.  Thirty years from now you might hear me say “Honey, did you hear Mrs. So & So ask you how work is going?  What do you say?  Look her in the eyes when you answer.” HELP PLEASE!

Why do you do this?

I am holding the phone in my hand, sweating and pacing around my bedroom.  I’m 21 and I’m working up the nerve to call my parents.  I am going under general anesthesia in 14 hours for minor, elective surgery, and I figured they should know.   I am terrified to tell them because the surgery is something in my private area, you know, the down there region that we don’t talk about in my family.  I had been suffering with vulvar pain for a while and my OBGYN suggested this surgery might help.  If I tell my parents about Vulvodynia and the problems I’ve been having, they might draw the conclusion that I am sexually active.   And we don’t talk about that in my family.

So I make the call and it goes fine.  And I have the surgery and it goes fine (although it’s not how I cured Vulvodynia but that’s a story for another day).  What was not fine with me was how ridiculously nervous I got to tell my Mom and Dad.  I was willing to go under the knife and not even tell them?  What was I afraid of?  Ruining my good girl image?  Making them uncomfortable? My parents are kind and loving and they went outside their comfort zone to give us “the talk” and tell us what we needed to know.  Unfortunately, what came through more clearly to me, was their discomfort with the subject.   I learned that my parents weren’t the people to go to, to talk to about sexuality.

At 21, I decided this wasn’t okay and I created a mission: To help open up the lines of communication between parents and children on sexuality and other difficult topics.  It can be hard to teach age appropriate sex education that is factual, relevant and relaxed, if you’ve never seen it done.  (I knew for sure I would not be imitating my 6th or 8th grade teachers!)

What I didn’t expect was how much this field of family life education would change in 20 years.  The quantity of sexual images and content on TV has skyrocketed.  The information today’s 9-12 year olds have, blows me away.  (I’ve had 10 year old girls asking about penile dysfunction (pharmaceutical commercials are big educators) and for a few years, everyone knew about the “man who had the baby”. One savvy, 12 year old blew me away with her correct spelling of “pseudohermaphrodite.”)  These kids have lots of information but they need help with filtering all the messages in a way that works for them.  Kids need to hear their parents talk authentically about their values.  Kids are hungry for information on intimacy, relationships, listening to their instincts, and solving problems with peers.  This new ability for kids to mass distribute private information over the Internet, requires a whole new set of values and etiquette and parents don’t even know where to begin.

I do not teach sex ed to parents and kids because it’s easy for me (although I do find it ridiculously fun).  I do it because I feel called to.  I relate to parents who want to do the right thing but get embarrassed, put it off, giggle or tease rather than educate.   I also relate to the kids:  embarrassed, curious, and grateful that someone explains it in a way that makes it entertaining and relevant.

You never know what mistakes you make as a parent, will turn out to be your child’s greatest passion.  We do our best, we ask for help when we get stuck, but perhaps the rest of our shortcomings are meant to be.   Whether your kids have to deal with divorce, debt, bullies, or disabilities, you never know how they will turn that challenge into their way of helping the world.

Thank you to all who help me fulfill my dream of bringing parents and kids together in meaningful and authentic ways.  If you are interested in attending my free, parent night tonight (Monday, Oct. 24th at 7pm) or would like more information about my parent/child sex education workshop, let me know.  I am here for you.

How do you take your compliments?

I was at a networking event with some fabulous small business owners and one of them, an esthetician, said something that blew me away.  She said, “When people are quiet in my chair (during a facial), I take that as a compliment.”

Really?  Silence is a compliment?

It made me realize, how totally arbitrary compliments can be!

When my kids bicker, I can take that as a compliment that I was a wise enough to give them a sibling in which to learn conflict resolutions skills.

When my house is a mess, I can take it as a compliment that I prioritize people over property.

When I overdraw my bank account, I can take it as a compliment that it is a rare enough occasion to bug me.

How do I take my compliments?  Usually with a scoop embarrassment and a dash of denial.

Friend:  “You look cute today”

Me:  “Oh, gosh, I don’t even have makeup on”

Friend:  “You are such a good Mom”

Me:  “If you saw me yesterday you wouldn’t think that.”

How about you?  When your boss tells you, you are an asset to the team, do you believe him?  When your spouse tells you they are grateful for your hard work, do you take the compliment in or push it away?

My son thinks he is an amazing soccer player, the best on his team.  His Dad and I could debate with him on this.  Some honest self-reflection and a little modesty seem appropriate, but we decided to leave it alone.  Think about it……If you believe you are awesome, amazing, the best…..do you think you will play better or worse?  If you think you are average, aren’t your abilities going to match your beliefs?

If you believe you are an amazing parent, and your kid throws a fit, chances are you will handle it in a way you are proud of.

If you believe you are a good provider, and you lose your job, chances are you will quickly find ways to support your family.  Those who switch their thinking to “I’m a loser who can’t support his/her family” will have a harder time.

So go ahead and take your compliments.  Believe you are amazing, valuable, beautiful, talented, hard-working.  We can’t wait for you to see what the rest of us have been seeing all along.

Here’s a little exercise:

What would you most like to be complimented for?  Your intelligence?  Your looks?  Your creativity?  Try this:

It would make my day if my Mom told me this ……………………….……………..

It would make my day if my Dad told me this …………………………..…………..

It would make my day if my partner told me this ……………………………………

It would make my day if my kids told me this …………………………………………

It would make my day if my boss told me this …………………………………………

There is no point in sitting around waiting for someone else to compliment you if you aren’t going to take it in and believe it.  You have to believe it first.

So tell me, how do you take your compliments?  When people post on my blog, I take it as a compliment that they got something out of it. But perhaps, this time, I’ll take silence as a compliment as well.  🙂

 

Want to give life coaching a try? Schedule a free discovery call at www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me

The Blame Game

I tripped on something and banged my knee something awful.  It hurt.  My initial reaction was to yell “Ouch!!” my second was to blame my husband.  “Damn you!  If you had removed what I asked you to remove, I wouldn’t have gotten hurt!  It’s your fault!”  What I noticed, immediately, was how good it felt to blame him.  Why does it feel so good to blame others for our problems?  “My kids behavior makes me crazy” “My boss won’t let me take time off” “If I could just earn more money, I would be happy” Or in my case, “If my husband would just do what I ask him to do, my life would be peachy.” Which of course, is ridiculous.  I will still hurt myself whether my husband does what I ask or not.

I think the reason blame feels so good in the moment, is you don’t have believe that sometimes, bad things just happen.  If we can point the finger and say, it’s you, it avoids the truth that, at any time, without warning, we could get hurt.  It’s hard to admit that without the fault of any one person or group, economy’s change, kids disobey, people ignore us, money comes and goes, and no one is going to rescue us from this big bad world of reality.  Blaming allows us to revert back to childhood.

So why don’t we view blaming as a good thing?  Why not encourage our kids to do it, find a scapegoat?  “You’re right honey, all the teachers at your school are out to get you” or “I’m sure it WAS the ref’s fault your team didn’t win”.  Oh, wait, we kind of do that! We blame the budget, the mean girls, the teacher, the coach, our mothers, the curriculum, the preschool, the boss, the job market, the democrats, the media, you name it, we blame them.  Yet if I was to ask you, if blaming other people for your problems is a good idea, intuitively, you know it isn’t.  Why is that?

Blaming is a child’s way of going through the world.  To acknowledge that you could error, make mistakes, or be imperfect, requires maturity.  To admit that life can be unpredictable and our future is uncertain, requires trust and confidence that you can handle it.  When we blame, we give all our power away.  If it’s the teacher’s fault that the child isn’t learning, you are stuck!  You can’t make somebody be a better teacher.  If you accept your child’s teacher isn’t the greatest, but there is a lot you and your child can do to learn, it gives you immense power.  You take charge of learning, seek out opportunities, other teachers, other modes of instruction, work hard and do your best.  You learn to accept reality and adapt to the situation, always claiming your own power and working with what you DO have control over.

So often my clients have the belief that “If my child would just behave, I could be happy.”  This is never true.  Children will always “misbehave”.  Blaming your child’s actions for your happiness, always leads to suffering.   I decide I’m going to be happy by the thoughts I choose to believe.  “Kids misbehave.  I can figure out a good way to handle it.  I’m a good Mom.  Health problems happen.  Social Problems happen.  ‘Misbehavior’ is a message to me.  What can I learn from this? She’s looking to me to guide her.” Thinking this way helps us enjoy parenting way more than, “my child disrespects me and there is nothing I can do about it.” Accepting responsibility for your own happiness is a very grown up thing to do and gives YOU lots of power.

So for me, I am accepting that my husband will NEVER do everything I ask him to do.   In fact, I don’t want him to.  I married a man, not a robot.  If he did everything I asked him to do, I’d probably get annoyed at him for not having a mind of his own.  So instead, I change my thoughts to “injuries happen” and “people aren’t perfect.”  My power lies in my ability to decide how I want to think about it and I think seeing the world as a mature adult, feels really good.

 

Want to give life coaching a try? Schedule a free discovery call at www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me

Welcome to the Land of Crazy

Do you have friends telling you to take a break, relax, get a massage, hire a babysitter?  Do you have a doctor telling you your ailments are related to stress?  Or maybe you relax too much and your friends keep encouraging you to get out more, exercise, do something exciting.  It’s easier to notice other people living in the land of crazy than it is ourselves.  Yvonne just had her first baby and is completely in love and so grateful to be a Mom.  She also is a wreck and feels completely out of sorts.  She can hardly think straight.  She feels stressed and anxious all the time. She is quick to complain or get mad at those around her.  Friends keep telling her she needs to sleep when the baby sleeps, but it’s too hard.  Her husband sends her for a massage but she can’t relax.  She tries to take deep breaths and she just can’t do it.  Something is lost.  Is it her sanity?  Is it her sense of herself?  Sleep?  A feeling of accomplishment?  Social circle?  Support?  Confidence? YES, YES and YES.  She is missing all these things and more.  Even though she wanted to be a Mom SO desperately, she is in a stage I have learned to call, SQUARE ONE.

Square one sucks, even when you it’s a change you really wanted.  It feels like everything you once knew has changed and you are hanging on to sanity by a thin thread. If we were to record Yvonne’s thoughts it would probably look something like this.  “Holy &%*#!”  “What the #%&@ am I doing?”  “Why did I do this?”  “How am I going to do this ?”  It’s what I call “the land of crazy” and my teacher, Dr. Martha Beck calls it, “nobody nowhere with no one and nothing.” If you haven’t been through this stage yourself, I’m sure you’ve witnessed others going through it.  It is a qualitative change in who you are in this world and it’s really normal.  Most people go through about 5 or 6 of these transitions in their lifetime.   Becoming a parent for the first time is a major change in identity and involves grieving the loss of your old, pre-parent self.  If you’ve ever seen anyone who can’t get past an old relationship or keeps recreating the same bad situation over and over, you know what being stuck in square one looks like.  Moving through square one requires patience, kindness and acceptance.

Perhaps you survived new parent crazy land, but you are finding yourself in square one due to economic changes, the housing market, divorce, family illness or death. The best way to get through the crappiness of square one, is to allow yourself to be completely in it.  To grieve the loss of your old self and feel the feelings of sadness, fear, anger, frustration, resentment, or whatever else comes up.  Pour it out in a journal, find a compassionate listener, and stop “shoulding” all over yourself.

“I should be happy”,  “Something’s wrong with me”, “This should be easier”,  “It shouldn’t be this way”, “My husband should be more helpful”, “My Mom should be ____” ,“My kid shouldn’t be so ________.”  “My boss should be ______.”

When you argue with reality, you never win.  If it’s hard, let it be hard.  If you are sad, let yourself be sad.  If you miss that job you couldn’t wait to leave, so be it.  If you are mad, be mad.  Be where you are and feel what you feel.  A forced smile and pile of denial will only keep you stuck in square one longer. Instead, start reclaiming some of your power.  The feeling of helplessness is one of the worst things for the human psyche and we do it ourselves all the time.

Write down a list all the things you feel you “have” to do.  Here is mine:

I have to do the dishes

I have to pick the kids up at school

I have to make dinner

I have to write my newsletter

I have to pay bills

Now change “I have to” to “I intend to”, “I choose to”, or “I will” and see how much better you feel.  In reality, there are very few things we have to do, but when we think that way, we feel trapped & awful.  Realizing you have choices helps to move you into a feeling of personal power.

Here is my revised list:

I will do the dishes because the thought of them piled up for days creates a feeling in me that is worse than doing this repetitive task.

I choose to make dinner because I believe in healthy eating, table manners, and family dinner conversation.

I intend to pay my bills because I don’t like late fees & extra charges and ignoring them will not make them go away.

I will up pick my kids up at school because it is aligned with my values of the kind of Mom I want to be.

I will write my newsletter, oh look at that, it’s done.  Now it’s your turn.

 

Want to give life coaching a try? Schedule a free discovery call at www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me