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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Possible and Preferable - Teens and Parental Friendship

I'm currently reading a study done in 2003 about teens. It's titled Hurt, inside the world of today's teenagers by Chap Clark.  I found it at Goodwill last week and thought it would be interesting to see what a professional's view on teens is. What I discovered is very sad.

This man has worked with mid-adolescents for 30 years.  Thirty years ago, our society only had adolescents for a period of 36 months. By 2004 (10 YEARS ago) it had stretched into 15 years of adolescents and he went about to find out why.

What he discovered disturbs me.  The entire book is pretty much dedicated to the fact that adults have abandoned their children, emotionally, by the time they child is 12 and yet expect their child to trust them and to respect them unconditionally.  Some parents even demand that the child respect and trust them, yet how can the child? They were pretty much left on their own to figure out the world by themselves so the adult could go off and have their own life.



Last night, I came across the following paragraph and it stopped me dead in my reading tracks: "Midadolescents desperately want what they know they cannot have: parents who affirm everything they do and leave them alone, and parents who care enough about them to be their biggest fans. Even midadolescent logic can, when summoned to do so, see that these two desires cannot coexist when it comes to parents. There is no way a parent can be a caring, involved parent who draws boundaries and makes certain a child is appropriately guided and nurtured and at the same time is such a great pal and fan that they never interfere in their child's life. This paradox is nonetheless what a mid adolescent believes is not only possible but also preferable."

Take a moment and absorb that, Reader. Read it over again. Please tell me why you think that it's not possible to be your child's friend and fan while also being able to place appropriate boundaries when needed?  I can't find any reason why it's not possible.

The fact that many parents do not even see this as a possibility breaks my heart. I am Honey Bunny's biggest fan and leave her well enough alone unless she is in danger of hurting herself or others, then I step in and put down boundaries. And guess what, Reader? Because we are FRIENDS, she listens to me and HEARS my boundary with love and concern, not retaliation or control.

I'm here to tell you it IS TOTALLY POSSIBLE to be your teens best friend, biggest fan AND their safe place to come to and find an appropriate boundary.  Honey Bunny suffers from depression and anxiety. We brought down her meds another 25 mg two weeks ago in hopes of starting to be able to graduate her off of them. She is taking a bunch of supplements and our ultimate goal is to get her off of medication and onto supplements as a life time intervention to her biology.

She was sick week 1 of the step-down and she was doing pretty well, but she also had some residual medication in her. The past 72 hours haven't been so good. She's been isolating, staring off into space, ignoring people or being rather snarky with her sister and I.  I knew something was wrong. The hardest part was waiting for her to tell me. You see, when she's like that, I know if I push her to tell me it will become a power play and although I might ultimately "win" and get the answer, I will actually lose because I will lose her trust.  Forcing someone to tell you something only creates a dynamic which is toxic to the relationship.

Last night, I could tell she was truly struggling. She was snarky to Boo Bear and was snarky to the puppy.  I finally sat her down and asked her what was going on. I sat on her bed, my hand gently resting on her leg and waited for the answer.  I had to ask a few times as she just wasn't there or clicking in.  Finally, she admitted she was really struggling and needed her meds to be re-upped again. She is feeling defeated because every time we try to decrease them, this happens. She was feeling like a failure. The key here is to note she trust me to tell me. She did tell her boyfriend first, as that is the way with teens, they go to their friends first but that didn't stop her from coming to me. We sat on her bed, tears running down her face, while I gently wiped them away. No thoughts of being anything other than supportive occurred to me. No shaming. No condemning. She was coming to me with bare naked emotions.

I was proud of her for being honest with herself and me and we went downstairs, hand in hand, to up her meds right then.  Not a big deal. An easy solution. And together, we faced her fears and her insecurities.

What I want you to hear, dear Reader, is that it IS possible to be their friend, their biggest fan and put down boundaries but it takes staying involved. It means staying clicked into their lives. It means keeping an open line of communication. It means always being there for them, even at 2am if they come in. It means starting when they are young, listening to everything they say and accepting every gift they give you (even if just a rock or pine cone) because they are giving you a piece of themselves and trusting you with it. How you handle those gifts, drawings, etc. is being watched. Everything you do is being watched as they grow up. Don't let them down, because if you do, you won't have their trust when you will need it the most
.

You can't walk into teenagehood, after abandoning them emotionally, and expect to be able to be their parent and put down respected boundaries. It just doesn't work.  Attachment Parenting isn't about just being a parent until they are 12. It is about being an attached and involved parent...for life.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

How Do I Unschool Back To School?

It's that time of year again when homeschooling Moms and Dads plan for the year. My inbox and FB feed are blowing up with requests for curriculum, advice on what is best for a certain age/grade, proudly announcing they are done planning for the year and are purchasing the books needed for the year. It's the time of year when the stores sell their supplies dirt cheap. The ads are about to start for back to school on TV.

I sit looking at my screen and wonder: "How is it these parents know what they are going to study for the entire year?!"  Yes, I have a guideline for my teen as she is in high school and we've discussed which "courses" she is going to take, but I know that may change if they don't interest her. It is an outline of sorts for her "school," North Atlantic Regional High School (NARHS) to follow so she can get high school credits for what she does.

Do I have a list of books to get to make her read? Um, no. I have some ideas of what I would like her to read as I feel these books are part of what makes up some of our pop culture and she should know the references. These books are The Great Gatsby and Lord of the Flies. Yeah, that's all. Maybe some Shakespeare in there too, but which one is her choice.

I can't fathom having my life figured out for 9 months of the year in advance. I am not knocking this. I am in awe of it. I simply can't imagine it. Our life ebbs and flows. This week, Honey Bunny has full blown bronchitis. We came home with a free puppy from the Walmart parking lot on Saturday. Our lives are now full of nebulizer treatments, making bone broth for health and training a puppy.  I didn't foresee that one even last week! How could I plan the year when I can't even see a week in the future?

Our life isn't one which some would be comfortable with. I plan out a week at a time and usually that plan gets shot to sh*t because something happens along the way: a new interest is discovered and suddenly our planned learning has done a spin off into a completely different direction. Someone wakes up sick. Apparently, puppies come home when not expecting them. Sometimes, we just need a break and the pool is calling and we must all be mermaids for hours at a time because that is what is needed.

Trusting that my children will learn what they need when they are ready to do so is scary. It's really scary. We are taught not to trust our children. Society has trained us that we are the all mighty adult and know what is best for our children. But, do we?

Has anyone else ever woken up and realized now that they are an adult, it was all a lie when they were a kid? We truly don't know anymore about how to live this life than we did as kids? We can't actually keep anyone safe. We can't actually stop the world from being what it is. We have to TRUST we instilled good values and accept that they have free will. Just because we gave them the training doesn't mean they are going to use it.  Just because you gave someone a textbook doesn't mean they are going to learn it.

You see, life and unschooling go hand in hand. We are forever learning our limits, testing them, expanding them, discovering there aren't limits on everything. Sometimes we learn we need limits (don't dive into a kiddie pool head first on concrete, bad idea) and sometimes we learn we don't need limits (read as much as you want, as often as you want, whatever you want)-expand your thoughts and mind.

How does one go "back to school" when they have never left it? We learn every day of our lives. We experience new things. We have new thoughts. If we don't just sit passively and allow life to happen TO us but instead grab life by the horns and say to it: "Take me with you! Show me all you can!" we open our eyes up to so many new thoughts and ways of being (or not being).

For me, my schooling for the past 5 years has been on gluten free eating which lead to eating no dairy or corn. Not because of what I learned about it begin bad for the body (that's for another discussion) but because through educating myself I was able to ascertain my elusive issues with those items within my own body and heal myself.  It is empowering when we discover a truth for ourselves.

Had I listened only to the doctors (teachers) and followed their advice, I would be surviving on Boost (nothing but water, corn syrup and sugar) because they told me that it has "vitamins added."  It's crap! I wouldn't have learned about how to nourish my body through real food. I would still believe that a "balanced meal" includes a meat, starch, small veggie and dairy. Well, newsflash-your body doesn't need starch nor does it need dairy. It needs protein and calcium. And protein from animal product can be hard to absorb as we are not meant to be full time carnivores (meat at every meal).

My own education about Celiac Disease has lead to a huge increase in knowledge which I never would have learned if I didn't believe in following my passion. Due to my unschooling my own education about Celiac Disease, eating Gluten Free, Paleo, Vegan and Raw I have been invited to speak at an online conference about unschooling and radical food changes - how to self educate about food. That never would have happened had I stayed in the box. To visit the site and participate in the free conference, click here: http://www.homeschoolconference.com/forum/topics/unschooling-and-radical-changes-in-eating

Readers, trust yourselves. Listen to your inner voice. Trust your child.

Be there for them when they fall down but don't hold them down or push them down, instead, give them your hand and assist them getting back up. Show them the options and maybe they will even surprise you and show you one you didn't even know existed. Be each other's facilitators in life. Be each other's friend.

If that little voice says to you: "Plan your entire year." Go for it. Get your books and get your curriculum. Try it. Explore it.

If your little voice says: "Wing it." Listen to it. Try it. Explore it. Together you will find what works best for you and your family.

But, above all, enjoy going "back to school" even if you never left.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Peaceful Parenting Part II: The Teenager...dum dum dummmmmmm

Ah, the elusive teenager. How does Peaceful and Attachment Parenting work with those strange creatures of the night?

Pretty well, actually.  Thanks for asking.

Let me back up a bit. First of all Honey Bunny was not always parented in a peaceful manner. She has early childhood trauma, not caused by me, but caused nonetheless.  It effects her to this day.  She was removed from the situation 14 years ago, but the effects of PTSD still reside in her.

Fourteen years ago, I was an abused wife and mother. I fled a relationship with a man who hit BINGO! with abuse: physical, verbal, sexual, economic, mental, and emotional abuse.  I was a mess. I could not be a peaceful parent because I wasn't living a peaceful life. I practiced attachment parenting, and that is what saved her life, but it wasn't stemming from a healthy foundation.  

We co-slept until she was 8 and I became pregnant with Boo Bear and remarried. Honey Bunny and I had our fights. She was a tough kid to parent. Sometimes, still is. She is one of those that if you put down a boundary, she will walk right up to it, say "F You" and push right through it. When I was recovering from abuse, that would set me off. That poor kid got sent to her room more than I can even count because I was afraid I would lose it on her. I had to recover myself before I could be a peaceful parent.

Many years of therapy for us both later, here we were. Peaceful and attached. It is beautiful.

Honey Bunny still sees someone to work on her PTSD. I'm doing pretty good. Puberty has set her stuff back in motion, as I was warned it would. Crap in our lives doesn't actually leave our lives until we decide to shuck out our own stall full of shit and walk away from it.  No one has a peaceful life when they are wading through the smelly crap over and over.  She has finally decided she doesn't want a shitty life and is beginning the journey of shucking her own personal stall of shit. :)

But, that brings me back to peaceful and attachment parenting of a teen. First, you have to trust them and they have to trust you. Whoa! Trust a teen?! Are you crazy? Maybe. But I DO trust Honey Bunny. She has proven to me that I can trust her. Sometimes, it is hard. Not that she's going to sneak out at night to go to a party. She has broken my trust a few times. She's misused the internet and gotten her phone taken away (she was arranging for a potentially dangerous situation to occur with a stranger) and she is a cutter. Yes, you read that right - my unschooled, peaceful and attachment led child is a cutter.

She is 13.3 weeks clean today!

Peaceful and attachment parenting are how I know she's a cutter. You see, she hid it from me. She hid 200 cuts from me last summer! On her arms! I felt like such a failure. How could I not notice my teen was wearing long sleeves in August? It was 90 degrees out. Oh yeah, she stayed in her room in the air conditioning. How could I not know she was upset? I did know. How could I not know she was depressed. I did know. How could I not stop the decent? Because I couldn't.

The hardest part of being a peaceful and attached parent is waiting for them to acknowledge they need help when you can so plainly see it. I had to wait for her to hit bottom before I could help her back up again. I knew something was wrong but I didn't know exactly what was going on. I knew she was on a downward spiral. I felt so hopeless. I lay in bed, night after night, praying she'd be alright.

Don't get me wrong, peaceful and attachment parenting isn't hands off. But when you are dealing with an addiction (and cutting is an addiction), you have to wait until the person is ready to receive help. What you can do is make sure you make the environment and your relationship is one where they know they can come to you when they are ready to accept that intervention and know it will be acted upon in a gentle manner.  It was one of the toughest moments of my life: waiting & watching her spiral out of control.

One night, at 11 pm, she came into my room.  Hubby was out of town, 4 hours away, and she told me she needed to tell me something.

Listen carefully, Reader, because THIS is where peaceful and attachment parenting goes into effect 100%.

A 15 year old girl came to her mother at 11 o'clock at night and KNEW she would be accepted, not judged but helped, and loved unconditionally.

She trusted me.

Honey Bunny lifted up the arms of her shirt and there they were. Over 200 cuts on both her forearms. I sat there stunned. They were horizontal, not vertical. That was a good sign. I checked that off quickly in my mind. I hugged her and thanked her for trusting me and coming to me. We went out to the couch and I made a cup of coffee.  I sat down and she curled up next to me, her head on my lap. She cried. I listened. She spoke. I listened. She held my hand. I held her's. She fell asleep with her head in my lap. I stroked her hair and forehead and stayed awake all night long. I was on alert and vigil. It was up to me to save her life. I wasn't going to let her down.

That was August of 2013. She was checked into a psychiatric hospital the next day. That was a horrible experience as it was state funded, not private. Hubby had been unemployed for over a year at that point and we were on state insurance. They kept her for 10 days, rather than 3. They were the hardest days of my life. They effected Boo Bear. They effected Hubby. They effected Honey Bunny. It's an experience I do not want to repeat ever again.

I share this experience with you because I want you to see that even if you unschool and allow them to follow their passion, even if you parent peacefully and attachment parent - you may fail - and it will have nothing to do with you.

You see, peaceful and attachment parenting isn't a foolproof way to avoid difficulty. It isn't a magic parenting technique that makes life full of rainbows and butterflies. It is a way of communication. A way of trust. It is a way which ensures your teen will come to you when they need you and they trust you will be there for them.

Just as you cannot stop a baby from falling down when it is learning to walk can we stop our teens from falling down while they are learning to grow up. Their world is different than ours. It is exposed to so much more with avid internet usage. We have to learn to navigate in their world, not the other way around.

Honey Bunny and I have a special relationship. One I truly cherish. I ENJOY my teen. I WANT to be with my teen. I am sad she spends so much time listening to music and watching movies in her room, but I know she needs that as part of her development. I miss her. I love waking her up each morning and we spend a few minutes talking. She spontaneously hugs me throughout the day
. She says she loves me. We  Snapchat each other silly pictures of ourselves during the day. Our relationship isn't perfect, but it is pretty damn good.

She still asks me to cuddle with her or comes to cuddle with me and Boo Bear when she is struggling or needs to be held. She still comes to me when she needs advice. She still asks for my company, one on one, at least once a week. She still participates in our lives because she knows she will be respected and loved unconditionally.

To me, that is the beauty of peaceful and attachment parenting.  It's a never ending road of love and respect. Neither of those should stop at age 5 or 6. They should continue throughout our lifetime.



Monday, July 7, 2014

Peaceful Parenting Part 1 - The Untold Truth About How It Affected My Marriage




There is a lot going around these days about "peaceful parenting" and "attachment parenting."  I could talk about these for hours.  I do peaceful parent and I attachment parent, even with my teen. But I'm not here to talk about those.  EVERYONE talks about those.  I'm here to talk about Peaceful Parenting in my marriage.

You see, like many peaceful and attachment parenting households my marriage has been put on the back burner for quite some time.  I know, I know...if you don't have a strong marriage what are you teaching your children?  Some say to put your spouse first. I don't. My first child came before my spouse. She came first. My children come first. I won't deny it.

I married Hubby because he put his children first. It was why I fell in love with him. We are both okay putting the children first; but that doesn't mean we don't miss each other.

Things have gotten particularly bad recently. I'm not talking fighting or arguing or even disagreeing. I'm talking like two silent ships passing in the night, not even knowing what country the other is from. We have become good friends who co-habitate. He earns the money. I pay the bills and raise the children. He helps out around the house when he's home. I do the rest of the stuff. It's a comfortable arrangement. There is no pain. There is no upsetment. There is no....passion.

I miss passion.

So, while I was sitting by the pool the other day listening to Boo Bear and her friend play, I had a moment to reflect on my life and peaceful/attachment parenting and here is the thought which came into my mind.  I'd like to share it with you.

Peaceful and attachment parenting both end with the word PARENT in it. Wow. Epiphany moment for me.  Okay, it sounds stupid and so obvious, but we have been neglecting to be "parents" to on another. Not mother/father parents - but peaceful, accepting and loving with one another.

I have grown irritated at Hubby for not finishing up his projects, whether it be folding laundry or cleaning. He leaves things half done all the time.  Leaving something half done, to me, is worse than not doing it all. To me, leaving something half done means you are purposefully leaving it for me to finish. I wish it had never been started in the first place.  Example: we did our big spring cleaning where all the furniture is moved around. We have a portable fireplace. He moved it into the middle of the entranceway...for days. When I asked him when he was going to bring it out to the shed (where he said he had wanted to put it), his response was: "Eventually."  To me, that pissed me off. HE'S the one who wanted to move it out to the shed, not me. Why didn't he just finish it right then?! I was left with this heavy fireplace, in the middle of my entranceway, and a passive aggressive husband.

I had two choices at that point: get angry OR be peaceful and attached to my husband.  Gotta be honest, the former is what I wanted to be but I chose the latter. You see, I wouldn't get angry at my children for doing the same behavior. I would talk to Honey Bunny or Boo Bear and remind them that when something is left in the front entranceway, it makes it difficult to walk in and out the front door and I would like it very much if they would please put it away. Yet, my first inclination was to not give my husband the same respect I give my children. WOW! Another epiphany moment.

My husband and I were raised in authoritarian households.  I'm going to wager a guess and say you were too, Reader, weren't you?  In my household, my father's favorite line was: "Because I said so."  Yep. That was the only explanation I got. If I asked how to spell a word, he would call out to me: "D.i.c.t.i.o.n.a.r.y." We learned, after I graduated, that I have severe learning disabilities. I never could find a word in the freaking dictionary because I can't hear the difference between the soft vowels!  It was horribly humiliating. Hubby's father, to this day, is critical and enough is never enough. Nothing is ever good enough.

So here we are, two imperfect humans, who weren't raised with unconditional respect and acceptance trying to raise our children with it.  We sometimes fail, but more often with each other rather than the children.  We forget that our inner child is still there.  He/She are still looking for love. Looking for acceptance. Looking for unconditional respect and it is very easy to fall back into our old ways with one another.

To peaceful parent is also to be peaceful with the other parent.

So what did I do about that damn heater? Well, first I hauled it back into the front room because that is where it belongs. I would do the same for the kids. I should do so for Hubby.  Leaving it there would only shame him and the intention would be to shame if I could move it on my own.  When he came home that night, we shared our nightly glass of wine and I told him it really annoyed me when he told me he'd move the heater "eventually." I would prefer in the future if he was going to start a project like that to please finish it. He sat there in dumb silence. Not that he's dumb but because he didn't know how to react. There was no drama. There was no manipulation. I'm not known for either of those, but I can seethe inside.

A few days later, we arranged for a date night. I decided if our marriage is going to get back to being a marriage we needed a date night. I'd arraigned with Honey Bunny to watch Boo Bear for about 90 minutes so he and I could just go out. She said sure. Boo Bear, on the other hand, ended up flipping out and having a massive manipulative panic attack. It started out as pure manipulation and ended as an over the top panic attack. We couldn't leave. I was pissed at her. Hubby wasn't. He was cool as a cucumber. I'd made a beautiful dinner. I'd made a cake. I'd made it all special and here was Boo Bear freaking out. And there he was, being a peaceful parent. I had gone into the garage, after Boo Bear had gone inside, grabbed Hubby by the shoulders-shook them, and through gritted teach said: "All I fucking wanted was 90 fucking minutes with my fucking husband so we can get our fucking marriage back on track!" Then, I composed myself, went inside and held Boo Bear while she cried.

Hubby and I  poured ourselves a glass of wine, ate our cake in the front room, watched a movie there (she pretty much left us alone) and admitted we both miss each other. We miss our marriage. We miss sex. We miss being held. We miss laughing. We miss cuddling. We truly don't even have a marriage. We have a friendship that lives together. Peaceful and attachment parenting has gotten in the way of our marriage.

It's time to take back our marriage.

But not in a forceful way. We asked Boo Bear if she'd like to sleep at the foot of our bed on a cot. She said yes. On weekends we now sleep together as husband and wife. Boo Bear starts off on the cot and usually ends up as a little furnace next to one of us while we are cast off to the sides of a king size bed and she is the post between us, eventually turning us into a human the letter H.  But we're back to falling asleep touching feet, like we used to. We both even woke up early one morning and went up to the guest room to do the naughty and had time alone...until we both thought we heard feet, leaped out of bed, threw back on our pajamas and silenced crept down the stairs only to find out no one was awake but us. We laughed, put on the coffee and 3 hours later, the children woke up. LOL

Yesterday, he began to rub my back early in the morning hoping for a repeat. Instead, he was greeted by an Orc like creature from Lord of the Rings because I'd gone to be 3 hours after him and was not up for a 5am romp in the hay. Poor guy. He did know better when I growled at him. Again, peaceful parenting means respecting the other person's boundaries. Don't touch me if I'm sleeping. He'd forgotten about that one. :)

The point is, in my opinion, we can't be practicing peaceful and attachment parenting with our children if we aren't modeling it with ourselves and our spouses.  We are the model for our children to chose their spouses. If we are raising them to be respected and to expect gentleness yet we are modeling for them that we don't respect our spouse or we accept not being respected by our spouse, then what are we really teaching them? To me, to peaceful parent means to also be peaceful with your inner child and your spouses inner child.

I suppose all of this is just a new experiment and maybe I'll change my tune on this if it doesn't work. What I CAN tell you is if I treat my husband like an adult to be respected, my children will treat him the same way. If he treats me with respect, they will treat me with respect. If he respects them, they will respect him. If I respect them, they will respect me.

Peaceful and attachment parenting isn't just for children. It needs to also be done between the parents. It IS called PARENTing, isn't it?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.

"SOMETIME THE QUESTIONS ARE COMPLICATED AND THE ANSWERS ARE SIMPLE."
Dr. Seuss

Come to think of it, isn't most of life like this?  Last week, Honey Bunny was participating in a week long rock and roll camp in Charlotte. This meant that Boo Bear, Honey Bunny and I had to get up around 6am and had an hour drive into the city with traffic and then Boo Bear and I had to find things to do on the cheap.  Granted, we found MANY things to do on the cheap in Charlotte and had a wonderful time learning and living; but what sticks out most in my mind is a short interaction I had with one mom at Imaginon, the children's library.

It was a hot day, about 90 degrees out.  Boo Bear really wanted to go to the children's library because it is so much fun. 8 hours in a library. Okay.  It should be quiet and low key, right? NO!  It was full of screaming babies, yelling parents and unhappy people.  I was in shock and over stimulated. All I wanted to do was go outside into the city for quiet!  An oxymoron, I know: city/quiet.  Well, compared to inside Imaginon, even a NYC subway would have been quiet!

I loved that Boo Bear was able to work with me and my needs for some peace because I respected her need to play at Imaginon. Due to our relationship being based on mutual respect, there was no arguing or disappointment when I told her I needed a break and was over stimulated.  After taking a respite from the crying babies and yelling parents, I felt better.  Who wouldn't after some affordable sushi, a vegan/gf chocolate cookie, a walk in the sunshine and a visit to a quiet library?

When we re-entered Imaginon, it was a bit more quiet.  Perhaps it was nap time?  I don't know. What I do know is Honey Bunny found another little girl to play with and did dress up and had a wonderful time in their Fairy Tales theater set up.  Then it happened. The crowds began to come back in.

By this point, I was on overload. Too much visual stimulation. Too much auditory stimulation. Too much human interaction with people who were not respectful of one another. That stresses me out. I truly dislike it.

I heard massive screaming. The scream of a child who does NOT want to be there. I was beginning to get annoyed. How couldn't the parent there not hear what was going on? Why would they ignore it? I went to investigate.  There, around the corner, on the floor was a little guy screaming his head off. The mom looked totally flustered.

I walked over, smiled at her and said: "I feel the same way. I'm overstimulated and want nothing more than the fall down on the ground and scream. I've had enough."

The mom looked at me and said: "He's always like this when we go out. I don't know what to do. His twin sister is nothing like this. She's off playing. He's laying here screaming. I can't be in two places at once. I don't know what to do. Do I punish him? Do I discipline him? Do I spank him? Do I pick him up and cuddle him? I feel so lost." And she put her head down. Complicated questions. Simple answer.

Mom to mom, we all know this feeling.  The feeling of being lost. Lost in our decision to parent. Lost in our decision to do public school, private school, homeschool. Sometimes even lost in the decision of what's for dinner.  Sometimes, parenthood is just full of feeling lost.

This was a feeling I knew well.  Honey Bunny was one for full fledge tantrums.  When she was younger, she couldn't handle crowds or unpleasant company. She and I are what are known as "empaths."  We actually pick up other people's emotions and feel them. When in a large group, that usually means there are those there who are not nice, who are unhappy and we are overwhelmed with these emotions and get cranky.  At over 40, I've learned to deal with them.  At 16, Honey Bunny is learning. But at 2, (the age of the little guy above), she couldn't. She would throw herself on the floor and bang her head. Honey Bunny would scream. Honey Bunny would melt, anywhere.

I remembered those moments and looked at the defeated mom. I remembered being there.  I remembered spanking Honey Bunny.  That didn't work. It made it worse. I remembered punishing her. That didn't work either.  I remembered disciplining her. Yep, you guessed it. It didn't work either. When I had Boo Bear, I was 9 years smarter and knew none of those worked. With Honey Bunny, I did what society told me to do.  With Boo Bear, I did what experience and intuition told me to do.  And know what? Boo Bear felt safe and loved and trusted me.

I turned to the mom and said, "Love him. He's already overwhelmed. He's already scared. Gently pick him up, snuggled him in your arms, and go find a quiet place to be. Your other twin can come along and read a book.  When we feel like he does, we just want to be loved, not made to feel worse."

And with that, I walked away to go play with Boo Bear. I had an important role to play: Queen of the Castle or the Big Bad Wolf, depending on the moment.

I noticed the screaming had stopped a few moments later. The rest of the playing went well.  Yes, there was kid noise but it was happy noise.  When Boo Bear and I left the Fairy Tale display, I noticed the mom snuggling her little boy in a quiet corner of the library.  Her daughter playing nicely at her feet with some blocks.  The screaming boy not screaming but feeling loved and cherished in his need for less stimulation and the mom? Well, she looked so much more relieved and relaxed.

When we respect our children's needs and treat them as we would another adult in our life (respect wise), they feel listened to, cherished and can give back.

Think about this: if we treated our friends and spouse the way we treat our children (hierarchy oneupmanship)we would lose our friends and spouses.

Our children are a choice in our life. They are a guest for only a handful of life's years.  That doesn't mean we won't get frustrated nor does it mean we won't get irritated at the challenges in life that come with children/parenting. What it does mean is they are here because we invited them into our lives by choice by birth or by adoption.  Treat them as such.