compassionate parenting


Remembering The Value of Suffering

AUTHOR: | POSTED: 10/20/14 1:32 PM
CATEGORIES: Blog, compassionate parenting, perspective, Resilience

Sean and I have spent our entire parenting careers trying to instill certain values in our children.  They are the same values that were instilled in us by our own parents and to us they are platitudes to live by and remember.  And, my guess is, they aren’t all that unique.  Good people don’t become good people without walking a certain talk and sharing certain values.

The values of dedication and diligence; honesty and integrity; and compassion and humility have always been common threads of our parent-speak.  Those lessons are so well-intended but, I fear there is one lesson about reality we forgot to instill in our kids.

An unpleasant one at that.

Teaching our kids to live a good life–to be a good person–always includes the aforementioned virtues.  But somewhere down the line, I allowed my children to assume that if you live a certain way;  if you walk a certain talk; if you work hard and consistently;  if you tell the truth and live honorably;  if you are kind to others putting their needs ahead of your own the people around you will value your efforts.  You will be rewarded.

And that isn’t always the case.

Because life is often unfair.

I suppose teaching our children about the unfairness of the world  is something that we, as protective parents, have a hard time doing.  We want to shield our children from pain, and we fear that if we lift the veil on the randomness of loss, we’ll scare them–or discourage them.  Teaching about unfairness is also kind of tricky.  I can tell a six year old that if she practices her piano her teacher will be happy; or explain to a fifteen year old that his academic efforts will  be rewarded when it comes college admissions time.  Those lessons are  fairly objective.  But the world isn’t always black and white.

Subjectivity can be confusing.

We all know that unfairness always comes.  Sometimes because of random acts of nature.  Other times at the hands of people. And what makes it scary is that we can’t explain it. The “why” is absent.   So we struggle.

Struggling is difficult.   Watching your child struggle is excruciating.

Obviously, Sean and I are currently experiencing a situation with one of our children that has rattled us.  I think one of the reasons it’s been so unsettling is because the rationale behind the situation flys in the face of the virtues we’ve worked so hard to instill.  In this case, our child’s dedication and diligence; honesty and integrity; and compassion and humility was completely disregarded.  The situation was a blindside and like everything unfair–the “why” is absent.

Kids are resilient, though. I keep telling myself this.  I will admit my child isn’t handling the situation the way I would handle it.  But—that’s okay.  My child isn’t me.  I have to honor that.  All I can do is be present;  be respectful;  and be willing to listen and guide if the need presents itself.  I also have to repress my urge to rip the face off of the person who has led us down this path.  That, my friends,  is a feat.  (Ahem…I am nine months pregnant.  I’m guessing I might be able to plea temporary insanity in the event of losing control.)

Of course, that would help no one.

Last week Sean and I were recounting times in our lives where the virtues we live by didn’t seem to matter.  As a result, the lesson about life being unfair came up.  I also confided in my dad.  He reminded me that unfairness usually leads to valuable life lessons.  Of course, at the time, I didn’t really want to hear it—sometimes I need to wallow a bit— but deep down I knew he was right.

Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls;  the most massive characters are seared with scars.

Kahlil Gibran

Being screwed over always hurts.  Watching your child get screwed over is even more painful, but time does manage to heal.   If there is healthy support the lessons of suffering can pave the way to a deeper understanding of the world and the people around us.  Suffering builds strength and,  if channeled positively, can give the gifts of compassion and perspective.  Good can come of this.  It still hurts, though.

Of course, this won’t be the first unfair thing that happens to my child.  It also, probably–and sadly–won’t be the worst.  It’s an important lesson.  One that I hope causes a double down of efforts to be dedicated and diligent in work; to live honestly and with integrity in  life; and treat others with compassion while remembering the importance of humility.

That’s where I’m hanging my hat this morning.

Now onward.

*****

I know, I know.  This was a heavier than normal post for me.  Rest assured, tomorrow I’ll return as my normal, silly self.  Just needed to get this off my chest.  There.  I feel better now.

That “Cover Yourself Up Teen Girls” Post…Some Thoughts

AUTHOR: | POSTED: 09/5/13 1:15 PM
CATEGORIES: Blog, Communication, compassionate parenting, Daughters, Health & Safety, Little girls, perspective, Prayers, Resilience, twins

So, unless you live under a rock or don’t have access to social media, you have likely seen  the viral blog post written by Kimberly Hall.  It was all over my Facebook feed yesterday and it seems to have struck a chord.  A most unexpectedly divisive chord.

Read Kimberly’s post here.

Interestingly, not every reader thought the article was awesome.  Many took offense and pointed out the dangers of “slut shaming”.  Personally, I didn’t find the article to be shaming at all.  I thought it was encouraging young women to make better choices for themselves.  Frankly, the post read like something I could have written.

That being said, when I was perusing the comments on GivenBreath.com (Kimberly’s blog) I came across a link to a post about the same topic written by Nate Pyle.  It was a conversation that he hopes to have some day with his young son about how women should be “seen”.  The topic is in the same vein as Kimberly’s post, except Nate goes a step further by placing the responsibility to view members of the opposite sex with respect—regardless of what they are wearing—on the person doing the looking.

Please give it a read here.

I worry about the culture in which my three young daughters are growing up.  The all-to-common onslaught of  hyper-sexualized messages go against everything I want for the futures of my children.  I know that it’s my job, as their mother, to raise them in a counter-cultural manner.  In the Savage house we swim against the stream of provocativeness and disrespect that is peddled as acceptable in mainstream society.  So far, so good with regards to our sons, but these three little girls?

View More: http://photos.pass.us/savage

They scare me.

I know Sean and I have a lot of parenting ahead of us.  I also know our charge to guide them into an adulthood rooted in goodness is going to be a battle.  That’s why I’m so grateful to writers like Kimberly and Nate.  Regardless of whether I agree with them, they share their thoughts which causes me to hone in on what it is I want to teach my children.

I need all the help I can get.

Savage-Carolyn-0030

What a blessing.

****

More from the twins’ two year pictures.  They were taken by the amazing Allie Darr from Allison Darr Photography.  I love Allie’s work.  You can learn more about her photography at her website.

Isabella

Isabella

View More: http://photos.pass.us/savage

Reagan

Reagan

View More: http://photos.pass.us/savage

View More: http://photos.pass.us/savageView More: http://photos.pass.us/savageView More: http://photos.pass.us/savage

For Drew...

For Drew…

Yup...that's about right.

Yup…that’s about right.

Happy Thursday…the weekend’s coming!

Magic Love Bullets…I Need A Stash

AUTHOR: | POSTED: 08/29/13 10:59 AM
CATEGORIES: Blog, Compassion, compassionate parenting, perspective, Resilience

Do you ever wonder why people are the way they are?  What makes them tick?  Why they approach the world armed with smiles or frowns?

I do.  All the time.

Of course, this shouldn’t surprise you.  I’ve admitted before that people watching is a favorite past time of mine.  This is more than people watching, though.  It’s people analyzing for the sake of self-defense.  I’d so love to know why some people are always so damn happy and why others aren’t.

I tend to start thinking about this topic after a random interaction with someone, usually a stranger, who catches my attention like the woman I recently came across during a routine errand.

I was at Walgreens.  It’s a store I don’t go into very often because of it’s location.  (Busy corner;  Wrong side of the intersection for my daily route; Scary left turn when you leave the parking lot.  You know what I mean.)  Anyways, I think I’ve been in this store less than five times but every time I’ve been there I’ve interacted with the same employee.  Her name is Veronica and she is the epitome of happy.  In fact, Veronica’s picture should be used in the dictionary as a gleaming example of the definition of ‘delightful’.  She cheerfully greets every customer as they enter.  She buzzes around making sure patrons are finding what they need and every time she’s  rung me up she’s engaged me in a conversation that compelled me to smile.

I have no idea if Veronica is healthy, but I can attest to the fact that she takes Walgreen’s slogan seriously.  This woman truly lives at the the corner of happy and healthy.

Cue wonderment.

Why is she so cheery?  Who raised her to be so happy?  How did they raise her to be so seemingly content? I want to know because I want to raise my kids to be happy, cheerful, positive people.  I want them to walk through this world with a cup-half-full attitude, and most importantly to compel others to smile because of their kindness.

Of course, I strive to do this too.

I realize that demeanor is somewhat innate.  Some people are born good-natured and it’s my job as a mother to nurture the rest. Kindness, positivity, smiles;  strong work ethic, determination, perseverance;  humility, graciousness, and patience are all qualities I work to instill in my children.  It’s a daunting task and sometimes I question whether any of it is sticking.  I guess that’s why I hyper-analyze a person who bleeds all of these qualities.  I want to know how they got to where they are.

As I thought about all of this last night I kept circling back to one thing.  I’m betting positive, happy people have a lot of love in their lives.

Is love is the magic bullet?

If it is, than why are some people, who I know are very loved, so sour?  You know the type.  They are the cup-half-empty folks who suck all the oxygen out of the room when they enter.  They’re the difficult relatives who never seem satisfied.  Nothing ever goes all-the-way right for these people because they can’t help but focus on the fly in the ointment.  They are the nit-pickers; the nay-sayers; and they take nagging to a level of relentlessness.  Coping with people like this is exhausting because they require so much patience, attention, and compassion…oh…and love.

There’s that word again.

I have people like this in my life and after forty-four years of contemplating my interactions with them I’m convinced that love is the only way to deal with them.  I still always leave my go-arounds with negative nellies trying to figure them out so I can work like crazy to make sure my kids don’t morph into them, but I try and throw love back at them as if it’s a shield.  (Picture Wonder Woman and her bullet proof wristbands but instead of blocking bullets she’s deflecting nastiness.  I know…weird visual aid but it works.)  Of course, a good old fashioned vent with a trusted confidant is also helpful after a frustrating exchange but in the end dealing with negativism requires compassion…which requires love.

Love is the magic bullet.  I’m convinced of it.

Now…if I could just figure out how to tap into my magic love bullets every time I’m frustrated with a negative person.

If you know the secret, please share.  I’d like to arm my kids.

I’m Excited for Him to Go, but I’m Dreading Him Leaving

AUTHOR: | POSTED: 05/6/13 11:20 AM
CATEGORIES: Blog, compassionate parenting, Focusing on The Joy, Resilience, Teenage Trouble

Having you ever been looking forward to something and dreading it at the same time?  Have you ever wanted to attend an event but not wanted to go at the same time?

I have…on both counts.

Last Thursday night held one of those events for me.  The “to do”was called A Senior Mom’s Reflection.  Held at Drew’s high school, the purpose of the evening was to set the tone for a prayerful goodbye to our sons.  I knew it would be a lovely evening full of anecdotes and images of my son and his classmates navigating the halls of his high school. And I am eager to celebrate this whole graduation milestone for my first born.  I’m excited for him.

But…

I’m dreading Drew leaving.  I mean really…really  dreading it.  I never thought I’d be that mom.

I’ll never forget the day my parents dropped me off at college.  I was so excited and not at all devastated when they left.  Sure, I’d miss them, but I couldn’t wait to exercise my independence in my new world with new people.  I don’t even remember our goodbye scene.  It all must have been very blase’.  That’s why I was so stunned when later that evening  I watched my roommate and her family tearfully say goodbye.  Not only was Amy crying, but her parents and younger brothers were crying.  At the time I was baffled.  This entire moving to college thing seemed so natural to me.  How could this be giving my roommate’s family so much trouble?

Fast forward to Drew.

I am so over-the-moon excited for his future.  Everything about Ohio University is a great fit for him.  He’s running cross country so he’ll have instant friends that share a common interest (obsession).  He’s going to study journalism which I know is exactly what he should do.  (Drew is a natural born newsie who starts at least half of his sentences with the words, “Did you hear?“).  Hell, he’s even met his roommate and I’ve met his roommate’s parents and all of them seem like first class good folk.  I couldn’t be happier for him.

Drew's senior picture that he gave me two minutes to take.

Drew’s senior picture that he gave me two minutes to take.

But, I’m sad, too.

Reagan and Isabella are just starting to say his name and Mary Kate adores him .  Then there’s Ryan.  I have flashbacks to when Drew headed off to kindergarten and Ry stood at the front door waiting for the school bus to bring his best friend home.  The two of them are extremely close.  They never fight.  They hang out all the time.  I know Drew leaving may open up a side of Ryan we’ve never seen before which could be a great thing, but I also know they will miss one another.  Deeply.

Running buddies.

Running buddies.

Ryan handing off to Drew in a track meet.

Ryan handing off to Drew in a track meet.

Of course, then there’s me.  It’s hard to put into words how much I’m going to miss Drew.  He’s been such a pleasure to parent.  In some ways, I think God tricked us by sending Drew and Ryan first.  The two of them have truly been the easiest kids to raise.  I’m so proud of the people they’ve grown up to be.  I can’t imagine our day-to-day lives without either one of them.

When I mentioned the Senior Reflection to Drew he said, “Oh yeah.  I had to write a letter to you.  You’ll get it there.”  That news brought me even more angst.

Now I have to worry about blubbering with an audience.  I prefer to cry in private.

So, yes.  I wanted to go, but I didn’t want to go.

I went anyways.

When I walked through the door for the reflection I was surprised to see my friend, Cindy Hoeflinger.  I didn’t expect for her to be there.  Her son, and Drew’s friend since kindergarten, died in a car accident three months ago.  Suddenly I felt like an ass.  Talk about someone who has probably been to countless events over the past twelve weeks that she didn’t want to go to, but went anyways because she knew she needed to.  I was so glad to see her.

We sat together during the program.  We chatted about stuff moms shouldn’t have to chat about.  She misses her son so much.  There is anger and anguish.  There is grief that could swallow a mother whole, but somehow she’s keeping it at bay.  I remember thinking to myself that I had no idea how she was finding the strength to move forward.  Then she shared this…

I’m trying not to focus on why Brian died.  I’ll never know why.  Instead, I’m trying to concentrate on why Brian lived.  What was his life supposed to teach me?

Wow.

When it was time to read our letters I was delighted to see that some of the boys had written Cindy letters, too.  We all laughed at the funny stuff our sons wrote.  We teared up at their gratitude.  It was special.  Very, very special.

When I arrived home that evening I thought about what Cindy had said.  In the midst of her grief, she’s trying like hell to direct her focus in a productive direction.  If she can do that when struggling through the death of her child, surely I can put my big girl panties on when thinking about Drew leaving us for college.  Yes, things will change with him being away, but the experience of parenting a child in college will teach me if I concentrate on the lessons at hand.

Big smiles after Drew PR'd this weekend in the mile at 4:29.2.  (That's his rival...a great kid.)

Big smiles after Drew PR’d this weekend in the mile at 4:29.2. (That’s his rival…a very talented runner.)

I’m still dreading Drew leaving for college and with all the upcoming graduation festivities his exit from our lives is weighing heavily on my mind.  However, that event that I didn’t want to attend, but went to anyways held gifts of wisdom, inspiration and perspective for me.

Thank goodness I went.

What a gift.

*****

I humbly ask that all of you continue to keep Brian and Cindy Hoeflinger, their three surviving children, and all of Brian Jr.’s family and friends in your prayers.  Cindy tells me the prayers are helping.  Thank you.

Those Darn Toddler Tantrums…Compassion Always Helps!

AUTHOR: | POSTED: 03/5/13 9:13 PM
CATEGORIES: 1015 The River, Blog, Compassion, compassionate parenting

Every Wednesday morning I appear with Rick and Mary Beth on 101.5 The River to chat.  This week we are talking about toddler tantrums and when we, as bystanders should help, and when we, as parents should drag our kids’ rears out of the venue.  I’ll be on at 7:30 am.  For those of you not local, you can always catch me on I Heart Radio!  Tune in if you can! 

*****

We’ve all been there…

You are in a check out line, cart full of an hour’s worth of shopping, when suddenly your toddler, for no good reason, wants something he or she can’t have.  First come the pleas for the unattainable–for us it’s usually a candy bar perched on those clever little shelves that line the check out lane–or worse the tantrum is triggered by some unknown reason.

Then comes the quiet begging.  “We are almost out of here, sweetie.  You’ve been so good.  Just a few more minutes and mommy will take you home so you can watch TV and eat cookies.” Reasonable statements that in theory should work, but rarely do.

As the tantrum escalates, so does your blood pressure, because you are trapped.  There’s no way you are going to leave in the middle of checking out a week’s worth of groceries, so you bow your head  vowing to push through it because you are the parent and you WILL win.

Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse you make the mistake of looking up and meeting the eyes of a stranger.  You hope for a look of compassion born out of a healthy “don’t worry…been there done that” attitude, but instead get a scowl indicating that the person doing the scowling thinks you–and your child–are the worst kind of people.

To which you start sweating which your now freaking out toddler can sense, hence heightening their stress and making the public tantrum even worse.

******

One would think that because these kinds of tantrum incidents are fairly commom, that we, as mothers or past mothers of toddlers, would be more compassionate.  It amazes me how easy it is for some people to forget what those moments were like. 

Children commonlyget upset when they feel they aren’t communicating effectively.  Sometimes they aren’t and their parents have no clue why their child is acting out.  Sometimes they are but their parent isn’t willing to comply with the child’s wants.   Regardless, it is a stressful situation for both parent and child and the sneering of an onlooker can only add fuel to the fire.

I would suggest, instead of  throwing dirty looks in the direction of the parent involved, that a compassionate gesture would be much more effective.  For me, that may mean sympathetically  smiling at the parent in a manner that conveys that I get it.  “Don’t worry.  These kids get the best of us sometimes.   Just carry on and hopefully you can have a big glass of Pinot tonight.”  There are other times when it may be appropriate to offer some help.  That may require you to push a cart full of groceries to some other mother’s car while she wrestles a two year old into her carseat.  Or once, on a plane, I dug into the bag of activities that I’d packed for my toddler and shared a few crayons.  It’s amazing how someone else’s toys, even if they are the same damn toys that child’s mother packed. can distract a very disgruntled three year old. 

Compassion is always the best way to go. 

And…

Compassion goes both ways…

*****

We’ve all been there…

We are on a much needed evening away from the kids.  Just you, your significant other, fine food and finer  liquor…when a screaming child a few tables over makes his  presence known.  At first you’re compassionate.  You suppress those nasty thoughts about why anyone would drag a child that  young, to a restaurant that nice, at that time of night.  Yes… you check those feelings because you are compassionate.  After the third, fourth and fifth interruption, however, you get aggravated.  You figure that you’d have removed the child by now.  Your compassion for the kid’s parents has run dry, and instead, you wish that child’s parents would show you some compassion.

And they should…

*****

The saying “a time and a place” has relevance for young children.  I’m certainly not insinuating kids should be banned from fine restaurants.  I realize that sometimes situations dictate a young child’s presence, but when a child needs to be in an environment that isn’t kid friendly, some contingency plans need to be in place.  Sean and I have been in this situation before.  Drew was the ring bearer in my brother’s wedding which required him to attend the rehearsal dinner. I knew there’d be some toasts that would mean a lot to the wedding party, so Sean and I discussed beforehand that Sean would exit with Drew if and when he acted up.  We packed a “bag of tricks” to hold Drew’s attention during the evening but knew if he needed to go, he’d go…even if it meant Sean would miss something he really didn’t want to miss. 

Being a parent stinks sometimes.

It sucks to walk out of an event that you really don’t want to miss because your young child can’t behave appropriately, but sometimes that what we, as parents, need to do.  Hell, I don’t think I’ve sat through an entire church service since the twins were born because, out of respect for the other people in the pews, I leave when my kid becomes a distraction. 

I think that’s the respectful and compassionate thing to do.

So, yes, compassionate parenting goes both ways when it comes to misbehaving toddlers.