I’ve seen this video pop up twice, and both times didn’t watch it because of the length. Then I was on Dan Pierce’s blog and he had posted it, citing my same reason for him almost not watching it. I gave a little laugh and decided to watch the first 5 minutes and go from there. I’m not really a video-watcher, so it’s hard to keep my attention. But this one did. It’s powerful. And I don’t use that work lightly. I sobbed.
Truth be told, I wanted to share it with you immediately, but then thought of a thousand reasons not to do so. In the end, I feel like it needs to be seen. Parents, watch alone before watching with your kids. You know your kids better than I, so I’m not even going to attempt a rating. I don’t know that I’ll watch it with Daniela. She has a beautifully sensitive soul and it would tear her apart. Maybe in a few years.
Last Tuesday Daniela and I went on a Mommy/Daughter Date. This doesn’t happen often during the week because of homework and theatre, but there was nothing scheduled after school, Marco was working late, and I didn’t want to make dinner. You would have thought I handed this girl a blank check. She was so ecstatic at the prospect of our date! 10 year old girls have a gift for showing enthusiasm and I was eating it up. I suggested she do some homework on the way to Barnes & Noble so we could at least get that out of the way, but she asked to do it later, saying “I just want to talk to you” awwww. heart melted.
We browsed our way through the bookstore and settled on a few books. (Obama’s Of Thee I Sing is fabulous. Our new favorite book, hands down. We’ve read it at least 5 times since!)
On our way to dinner, I handed her one of her new books because she usually spends the car ride reading after we leave the bookstore. She took the book, but continued to chat with me. We sat down at the pizza parlor, and I noticed she didn’t bring in her book. Normally when Daniela gets a new book, you can’t pry it out of her fingers. She reads in the car, she reads while waiting for the pizza, she is voracious. I asked if she wanted me to go get the book from the car and she said “Can we just talk? I’ve been craving just talking to you!”
My momma heart exploded with love and pride (and teensy bit of guilt!). After she went to bed that night, I thought long and hard about how my time with Daniela looks and it made me sad. After theatre gets out (anytime between 5 and 8 during peak practice) it’s rush home, rush dinner, rush homework, rush bedtime routine, rush sleep. I am more of a home manager these days than a momma and my baby feels that. Even at night when I lie down with her, I’ve been cutting the conversations short because it’s important to me that she be rested for her full days. We need a break from the rush. School is gearing up for finals and theatre is working hard toward their production, life at home must balance the chaos. It’s necessary and healthy.
This weekend is going to be my life break. Absolutely no work of any kind shall take place. No writing, no editing, no filing, no, no, no. This weekend (and maybe Monday too, if I can drag it out that long) will be for relaxation and family. I won’t stress about dinner; we’ll eat whatever is in the refrigerator. I won’t stress about cleaning; crumby floors never hurt anyone. I won’t even stress about missed bedtimes; she’ll survive with an hour less of sleep. I will make time for conversation and hugs and lots of cuddles. Remembering the important things this weekend. The rest can fall away.
I want to tell you a story from my sophomore year of college. The freshman year stories are way better, obviously, but this one stuck with me instead of fading away as beer fueled stories tend to do.
I went to a very conservative Christian college. Think of the stuffiest church you’ve ever been to and add a college to it. Skirts below the knee, no open-toed shoes, and those gawdawful pantyhose. True story, first week of freshman year I took a pumice stone to the top of my foot until it bled horrendously just so I could get a note from the campus Dr excusing me from the pantyhose requirement. The note was only good for two weeks, but I strategically changed the date so many times that it lasted me the whole two years I was there. Naturally, I majored in debauchery and canny deception.
Anyway, each Spring semester, there would be a campus wide Spring Cleaning. Now, it’s not the type of spring cleaning that involves chemicals and scrubbing. This Spring Cleaning was more of a spiritual Spring Cleaning. More students were expelled during the first 2 or 3 weeks of the Spring Semester than any other. This house cleaning, so to speak, made it very easy to get expelled; too many “bed not made” demerits, doodling a voluptuous fairy instead of taking notes during chapel, staying at Cordova Mall past 5pm, visiting a Blockbuster — all of these petty offenses resulted in friends being expelled from college. Somehow, I made it two years. It still amazes me. (And no, I wasn’t kicked out!)
The spring semester of my sophomore year, I sat in the lobby of my dorm waiting for a friend. A girl down the hall had been kicked out of college the day before for sneaking a kiss with her boyfriend and I saw her there in the lobby, in the middle of all her boxed up things, looking lost, alone, and scared. Naturally, I watched her and imagined myself in the same situation. Her face was puffy and her eyes were terribly bloodshot, the tear stains still on her cheeks. She was barely into her 5th month of college, and now she was expelled. The front desk clerk walked over and somberly said that her father had just checked in and would be around to pick her up shortly. The poor girl burst into fresh tears and buried her face in her hands. I felt sick for this girl and wanted to comfort her, but there were strict rules against talking to students in the process of expulsion. I dared not risk it.
Sure enough, a dark SUV pulled up in front of our building and a middle aged man got out. He looked road weary and anxious, squinting into the sun to make sure he was at the right place. He walked around the far side of the car and opened the back, preparing to load all his daughter’s things back into the car that took her to college just a few short months ago.
That Dad, saddened, frustrated, and probably a little angry with his daughter, walked into our building carrying flowers. Freaking flowers, people! He didn’t lecture or glare like I’d seen a lot of the parents in that situation do, he tenderly handed his daughter flowers and held her while she cried. I could hear him saying “I love you so much” as I walked out the door, swiping at my own tears.
I never saw that girl or her dad again, but I’ve always kept that story close to my heart and felt privileged for having witnessed such an intimate moment.
There are so many things to take away from this story, but no matter the situation in your life today, live your story with compassion and love. It will make more of a difference than you will ever know.
When I was 16 years old I lost my parent’s trust. I told them I was going to work when really I was going out for girls’ night with my best friend. We saw a movie and went to the mall. Totally innocent stuff, but I wasn’t allowed to go to the movie theatre. Baptist upbringing and all. My dad found out — as dads do — and I was grounded for months.
He drove me to and from work (which is the ultimate humiliation when you’re 16 and your dad is the probation officer), I had no social life outside of church, and even that was strictly limited. Even after he gave me back the keys, he watched my mileage to make sure I was going where I said I was going. I’m pretty sure this lasted until the summer before college.
You know how on cheesy sitcoms there is a theme that runs through every episode? Uncle Jessie lies to Rebecca, Michelle sneaks extra dessert, and DJ stays out way past curfew with her boyfriend. In the end, Danny has a big family meeting about earning trust. If you don’t know who these people are, Netflix Full House pronto. Yes, I used Netflix as a verb. Roll with it.
In life, these themes are rarely that obvious. Our cause and effect are often spread out over a lifetime and nothing is ever resolved in 30 minutes minus commercial breaks.
But The Madrid’s House of Awesomeness had a theme yesterday. From the time Daniela got home from theatre rehearsal until we were lying in bed with the lights out, the subject of trust kept reappearing.
Daniela told me that she didn’t want dessert because they had sweets at school. Yes, I have the most health-conscious child you ever did meet. For real. I told her how great it is that we can trust her to eat sweets in moderation. She beamed.
Later, I was helping her with math homework and I noticed that she had answered all the questions correctly, then erased them. I asked her about it and she told me that she’d asked a friend for help and the friend had instead just written in the answers. Daniela knew that wasn’t right so she erased them. Even though she really struggles with that particular math concept, she was honest in her work! What I would have given for a friend like that in school :) Again we talked about honesty and how much trust we have in her.
Two more times the subject of trust popped up like that. Marco and I chuckled about it as Dani was getting ready for bed then he shrugged it off. I kept thinking about it though, and it occurred to me how easy it would be for Daniela to lie and we would totally believe her. It wasn’t long ago that I was a teenager abusing my parents’ trust. Not often, but enough to get caught.
So we talked.
As I was lying in bed with her, I told her my story and she was horrified. I’m not sure at what, though. She probably sided with her Grandpa Mark. Freaking kid.
Moral of the story was that trust is a delicate badge of honor. And not just with parents, I told her. Trust with friends, teachers, and significant others is something to be earned and cherished. Not taken lightly or carelessly. There will come a day when she wants to lie to me. And if she chooses that path, I’ll probably believe her. But I’m cultivating a relationship with her that values honesty, trust, and open communication above lectures, groundings, and imposed consequences – though I’m sure they’ll find their place in there too ;) I just don’t want her to feel the need to lie to me.
I thanked her again for being trustworthy and finished my story: As angry and suppressed as I felt having my dad drive me to work because I was grounded, those few minutes in the car with him were some of the best conversations I’ve had. I began to see him as a person, which I think he was always a little afraid of me seeing; his humanity. I began to see that maybe he enforced rules with such gusto because underneath all the stern parenting was just a dad who was scared he wasn’t doing a good enough job. Parenting is the most rewarding job you will ever feel insecure in. That’s how you know you’re doing a fine job.
I don’t think I earned my dad’s trust back by making curfew and going where I said I was going. I think we earned each other’s trust by peeling back the layers of frustration and exposing our vulnerability. 12 years later, I love my dad for the humanity he showed me. One 10 minute car ride conversation after another.
Friday Phone Dump! Hashtag your Instagram photos #ltbtl and I’ll include them in the round up!
“Baby, why are you crying?” Marco, Daniela, and I were sprawled on our bed talking about the upcoming school olympic games, which she takes very seriously.
Daniela choked back a bigger sob and with tears now rolling freely, whispered “Because I’m a bad person!” My heart broke.
Daniela has never been very good at accepting criticism. It’s one of the things we’re working on. As soon as I heard her sad words though, I instantly knew how she got to that dramatic conclusion.
Daniela has a hard time separating her behavior from who she is at her core. If I were to tell her that she did something bad, she hears that she is bad. That drastically changed my parenting style, but occasionally something will slip out that I didn’t catch. Such was the case here.
A few days ago I posted some pictures of Marco and Daniela training for the various competitions. Marco is amazing with her. He coaches her with love and compassion, but she is hard on herself and gets easily frustrated. I just want to swoop in and remind her that it’s more important to be a kind athlete than to be the best, but Marco turns her discouragement into motivation to do better. Daniela can be fierce; she doesn’t like to lose and Marco’s competitive nature loves that spark. Meanwhile, I worry that Daniela will be so focused on winning, that a defeat will crumple her.
Daniela is what you would call a sore loser. Competition is highly emotional for her and when she’s ahead, her laughs and silly dances are infectious. But when she falls behind, her shoulders slump, her face falls, and her frustration is evident through her scowls and body language. She feels everything intensely, and that’s a beautiful part of who she is – a part I am still learning to understand every day. But I also feel strongly that she should be taught how to lose. Try as he might, Marco just doesn’t quite grasp this the way I do. His attempts come across more as “On the off chance you happen to not be in first place, (wink wink), be proud that you did your best. (Wink, wink)” While it’s good advice, it’s not exactly what I was going for :)
After they came in the house the other day bragging about a particular long jump measurement, I called a family meeting. I’m totally the downer, I know. Well, Daniela doesn’t respond well to criticism. Even the most innocuous remark can wither her in a flash. We talked about what a kind and compassionate person she is and how that should transfer to sports. I told her what a great winner she is, always proud, but never cocky. Then it slipped. I segued into the criticism with a smooth “One thing you could work on though, is being a good loser. Because let’s face it (insert giggle) you’re a sore loser!” Then Marco told a funny family story about a game she lost when she little. Which normally makes her laugh, but I had already done the damage.
Sore loser –> bad action –> bad person.
Of course I immediately pulled her onto my lap and rocked her as if she were still a toddler. All I could say at the moment was “No, no sweet baby. No.” I apologized a thousand times and tried to help her grasp the idea that her behavior is entirely separate from who she is, but I’m not sure she really believes it. I tell her constantly, and I told her again that I would give anything for her to see herself the way I see her. Compassionate, smart, clever, and so very loving. She smiled that adorable half smile of hers and life went on, but it got me thinking about how fragile a child’s self esteem can be.
Alvin Price, author of several parenting books including 101 Ways to Boost Your Child’s Self Esteem, said “Parents need to fill a child’s bucket of self-esteem so high that the rest of the world can’t poke enough holes in it to drain it dry.”
What scares me is that often its the adults poking the holes.
I recently volunteered as a Guardian Ad Litem and am representing the best interests of 7 (seven!) siblings. These children have been through a lot, and for obvious reasons don’t trust the adults involved in the removal from their home. My heart just breaks for them. I’ve made it a priority to spend a few minutes with each child just speaking life into them individually, praising their characteristics and encouraging their abilities. It’s our one-on-one time, and their caregivers tell me they look forward to it. One young girl in particular has really come out of her shell. She used to shrink away when I told her how brave she is, but now she lights up. She quipped, “I told my teacher I was brave!”
Kids believe what we tell them. When we believe in them, they bloom! They watch for our reactions and adjust accordingly. This is showcased beautifully in one of my favorite books, To Kill A Mockingbird:
Smoke was rolling off our house and Miss Rachel’s house like fog off a riverbank, and men were pulling hoses toward them. Behind us, the fire truck from Abbottsville screamed around the curve and stopped in front of our house…
“Don’t worry, Scout, it ain’t time to worry yet,” said Jem. He pointed. “Looka yonder.”
In a group of neighbors, Atticus was standing with his hands in his overcoat pockets. He might have been watching a football game.
“See there, he’s not worried yet,” said Jem.
Kids look to us to form their opinions of themselves and their worlds! That’s a mighty responsibility to shoulder carelessly. They rely on the adults around them to keep them safe and let them know that everything will be okay. That they are okay. As adults, we need to be conscientious about the words and ideas we speak over our children! I read on Pinterest somewhere that the way we talk to children becomes their inner voice. I think that is accurate to the -enth degree. I have a fabulous inner voice. For real. My mom was very vocal growing up about raising me to be confident and independent. She instilled in me a self assurance that absolutely shaped my personality. In some respects I may be overly confident (ha!). But I credit her with building up the qualities in me that helped me slide into marriage and stepmotherhood without batting an eye. I wasn’t perfect at it, but I wasn’t second guessing my every move either. I was confident that I could add another dimension to Marco and Daniela’s lives and that we would blend as a beautiful family. And we did.
But how different my story would read if I had grown up with constant ridicule and jeering. The life and Light she spoke into me propelled me upward.
As life is wont to do, the cycle now repeats itself and I am responsible for the life I speak into Daniela. One of the things we have adopted in this empowerment journey is reading little quotes while lying in bed at night. Right now it’s this one by Jada Pinkett Smith on the backlash of why she would let her daughter cut/dye/shave her hair.
The question why I LET Willow cut her hair. First the LET must be challenged. This is a world where women, girls are constantly reminded that they don’t belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power or self determination. Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair…even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother’s deepest insecurities, hopes and desires.
This blew me away. While I believe that ultimately Daniela belongs to God, I agree that there is no person on this earth who should be making Daniela’s decisions for her. As parents, we are to teach our children to think for themselves, empowering them to be their own advocates. This has a boomerang effect too, for when kids do have a problem they can’t face alone, they turn to the people who have supported their independence all along. They’ve been taught by example that they can trust and depend on their parents.
I want Daniela to be confident enough in her self worth that she could dye her hair blue. Or green. Or even fuscia. I don’t want society to dictate what is “pretty” for her. If she feels good in leopard velour hotpants, I want her to rock those hideous things. Of course I will be taking pictures for future blackmail, but that’s beside the point :)
Another way we empower Daniela is recognizing guilt trips. She was very young when Marco started doing this, maybe 5 or 6 years old. He taught her what a guilt trip was, showed her how people use them to manipulate, and how to deflect them. She’s a pro. Every so often he’ll say something with even the slightest hint of guilt dripping off it and she’s all over that sucker. “Papi! Don’t guilt trip!” I can’t tell you how that warms my heart. People will try to use her, to take advantage of her generous heart, but if her life reflects all the value her adults have poured into her, she will not only recognize it for what it is, but she won’t let the ugly make her bitter.
Constructive criticism is a necessary learning tool in life, but should be used with caution on children, if at all. There are so many other, more meaningful ways to teach children and I don’t want to be the parent that resorts to criticism. I pray constantly that Daniela’s spirit is so wrapped up in kindness and love and compassion that mean spirited people wouldn’t even make a dent. The life we speak into our children ultimately becomes them. It’s imperative to make sure it’s nurturing their spirits.
“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots” — Frank A. Clark
I’ve been thinking a lot about empowerment and rules and speaking life into kids lately. Until I sort all my thoughts out in my head, I want to share a few quotes that have started to spark a direction to the thoughts. I fully plan on Daniela and I memorizing the first and at least frequently reading the rest of them, they’re that good :)
Via a text from one of the most awesome people I know and get to call family, Tyrna. Before that it was Pinterest :)
Via Jada Pinkett Smith on her daughter Willow’s hair cut.
Via Hannah Brencher, who rocks life.
And of course, our Friday Phone Dump! Hashtag your Instagram photos #ltbtl if you want to get in on the fun Fridays :)
Daniela gets back from her cruise this weekend and I am so ready to squeeze her and never let go!!! Enjoy your weekend!
Sometimes, after a highly anticipated experience, the following day can seem hum drum. Blue, even. Not so today.
I sashayed my way into 28 years old this weekend and woke up today with a sense of purpose. Nothing fancy, just cleaning up the weekend festivities, but purpose can be a powerful force even in small doses.
Today I cleaned the kitchen. Today I washed and folded laundry. Today I picked up the living room. All with this inexplicable sense of peace. Cleaning & Peace rarely walk together in my house. While the last load of laundry tumbled around the dryer, I took my “Mama Only” beach chair outside and sat with my magazine. Talk about luxurious. My heart was full to bursting and creativity was lighting sparks inside my brain faster than I could jot them down in Evernote. Life on fire. Is there a storm coming?
Yesterday morning we said goodbye to Daniela as her mom loaded her up in the car for a Spring Break cruise to the Bahamas. I am giddy with the fun she’s having. Not only is this her first cruise, but her first international trip – excluding a trip to Peru when she was six months old :) As excited as I am for her, it’s disconcerting to be so far away from my baby. The only other long distance trip she’s gone on without us was to Nevada. Same country, same big ole chunk of land. Today she’s at sea, heading for Grand Turk Island where she’ll be docking early tomorrow morning. Marco started getting uneasy when he was preparing her travel document, but I saw only the adventure in it. He maturely researched emergency care and international insurance coverage while Dani and I shopped online for swimsuits and sandals. I wasn’t worried about her being an ocean away, it was all too exciting. But as I watched that car drive away, and heard the clock tick closer and closer to her ships departure time, I began to feel that parental concern kick in. I found an app that tracks cruise ships and I’ve been watching that sucker all day long. Ha!
One day they’re these teeny tiny babies and the next thing you know, they’re in the middle of the ocean on spring break. Yes, I understand she’s not, like, on her own out there, but she’s still so far away!!!! It just reinforces the fact that soon she will be taking spring break vacations on her own. And we all know what those look like. Little by little we relinquish control as they grow up, and we have to trust that we’ve raised them to make good decisions. It’s as if I got a quick preview of what’s coming and it gives me the opportunity to fine tune my parenting. Sometimes I get so caught up in the day to day parenting that I forget to look at the big picture. What am I teaching her today that will make her a more compassionate, loving person when she’s grown? What am I teaching her today that will keep her from midnight- beach-bonfire-stripping games? Fun as they may be.
Throughout all this, I still feel an inward calm. My surface energies are shooting off here and there, but my inner self is strumming along, content. It’s the first time I’ve felt different after a birthday. I’m living well. Living joyfully.
I don’t normally read those long essay things that people post on Facebook, but for one reason or another I read this one today. Maybe it was the title that caught my attention: To The Mom on the iPhone. (Sidenote: I just spent 38 minutes searching FB for this article. And I can’t find it. It’s elusive. Like unicorns.)
The gist of it was, iPhone Mom, your kids are running around and playing in the park and you’re not watching them. They’re looking at you each time they climb to the top and you’re not watching them. They’re smiling and laughing and you’re glued to your phone screen. Only, it was a lot less judgmental and bitchy. It really got me thinking about how much I’m on the phone when spending time with Daniela. Tonight we had a little Mommy/Daughter date so I decided to stash the phone away and just be with her, 100%. I caved and pulled it out for pictures, but didn’t let myself instagram them until after we were home :)
In the 4 hours we were gone, I reached for my phone 13 times. That’s not including when I took photos. 13 instances where I would have spent maybe 1 or 2 minutes returning a text, scrolling through IG, or adding to my grocery list. That’s a half hour or more of my already limited time with her. I was surprised.
And while I don’t feel like we had any epiphany mother/daughter moments because I wasn’t on my phone, it did serve to make me more aware of what she sees me doing. Of course I’ll still find myself IG’ing her photos next time, but I’ll think twice about how often I do it. I want to be the Light in Daniela’s life too, and one of the best ways I can do that is by being present for her.
They’re only this little for a short while and when she’s 16 with her own phone, I’d like to be able to tell her to put her phone down and have a conversation with me without being completely hypocritical :)
You can find me over at Nomad Parents today sharing one of my favorite stories about step parenting. While you’re there, check out Lynn’s writing too — she’s phenomenal! One of my favorites of her posts is Me Time: Why It’s Important. Every mom needs to remember that.
Click on the photo below to take you to my story!