It’s okay to be wrong

Not a single one of us is perfect. Not a single one of us knows everything. And not a single one of us is getting through this lifetime without making a whole lot of mistakes. Admitting you are wrong to your children when you make a mistake or get a fact wrong, goes a long way to sharing the power with as opposed to holding power over.

I don’t know about you but I really like to be right. I was raised in a house where you were laughed at and made fun of when you got things wrong. So I hold tight to my sense of rightness. However, this journey of parenting has really humbled me. The world of the internet means my children often come across facts, tidbits and information that counters what I know to be true. And sometimes I am dead wrong about the things I thought to be true. Engaging from the place of  “Wow, I had no idea. How did you figure that out?“ opens the doors to conversations that can expand on knowledge, redirect understanding and open minds. Shutting it down with, “That’s wrong” only does that SHUTS IT DOWN, for both of you. ‘

As well, our children are going to go out into a world of opinions and ideas without us. And I want my child to be able to hold down a healthy debate, stand up for what they believe to be true and consider new information. This here is my chance to model that for them. In doing so I am also saying to them nonverbally you matter and I love you.

Pulling this off for me means paying attention, listen a little bit more than a speak and having the sort of open heart that’s okay with being wrong and owning that. What might you be wrong about today and how will it open up a conversation with your child?

 

 

The EXTRA-ordinary is required

 

Want to add a little extra love to your day why not add whipped cream it! It’s my favorite way to add a little extra magic to the day. Who doesn’t love an extra dollop of whipped cream on their hot chocolate, strawberries or ice cream. Use your imagination here, whipped cream tops many things.

Another fun addition is to turn the whipped cream your child’s favorite color. Or the color of a special celebration, pink for Valentine’s, green for St. Patrick’s. One super secret fun way is to invite you child to make the whipped cream with you and hide that food coloring. Dip it in the bowl before the cream, or a few drops on the beaters and watch with delight as your child is amazed by the magic color changing whip cream.

I use whipped cream here as an example. The goals really is to simple turn the ordinary into EXTRA ordinary to up the love that is spilling out between you and your child.

Together, we do hard things

My TimeHop app reminds me again today that I left my homeland seven years ago. I think about letting the day pass without notice or celebration. I mean come on it’s been seven years at what point do you stop noticing. But then I remember why.

The first reason is obvious. I mean come on who doesn’t need a little extra cupcake in the busy-ness of being all grown up in a work focussed world. I know i am all for any excuse to shift my focus from obligation to celebration.

Next up the amount of courage it took for all of us to leap into a brand new far from home country is no less impressive seven years later. I know that is it true that in the moment of yes, none of us were super clear on what we were getting ourselves into. More so for the then five and seven year old who were coming along with us. I have held both of them in the years between then and now as they wept over statements like “Can we please move back now?” “I didn’t agree to this long,” and “I F***ing hate this place.”  Truth be told I myself have wondered the same thing more than once and found myself at loss for words when questioned. I have wept over my own grief as the dates have passed marking the time when each child has lived in the US longer than they have in Canada. And wondered if this will potentially stack up against me as their mom when they reflect back on their childhood. That’s a tough one to swallow, it wasn’t in my original game plan. So it’s not just the courage it took to say yes that we celebrate, it’s the courage we use each day to find the joy in a place that still feels unfamiliar a lot of the time. The courage it will always take to live too far away from family in a place that measures temperature in fahrenheit when all you’ll ever know is celsius.

At the same time we celebrate the depth of opportunity for learning, adventure, joy, connection and epic stories that our California living has gifted us. It has become our normal now. Too hot weather, not enough rain and constant pokes at our invisible accents, don’t disrupt us as much as they used to. We boast with great pride to each new person, with in the first few minutes of meeting, that we are indeed Canadian. Some may say we are far prouder Canadians living away from home. We celebrate how hard we have worked to keep roots, not only in the land but in the hearts of the family and friends we left behind. We celebrate the strength it still takes to reach out to build new friendships when we feel like the dear ones we already have might just be enough.

But the biggest thing we celebrate is our ability to do hard things together. The bond that brings us over and over again, from the edges of self despair back into the folds of our combined strength. The love that holds us up when anything threatens to tear us down. The promise to never leave a member behind but instead to rally together to lift each person to their highest potential. How we choose always to stand side by side holding hands, as we did seven year ago, to walk into the unknown buoyed by our combined power to do hard things.

A Deepening Understanding of my Privilege

It feels like a long time since I have turned to these pages to share my passion for parenting. Since the election in November my understanding of the world around me has been turned on it’s head. There has been a lot of guilt to wade through, hours of education to be done and a whole lot of privilege to spread out for serious examination.

To think that the issues each person is fighting for today, under this new administration, are new is so deeply naive. Me showing up to the fight, that part is new. But the issues are not. People have been fighting a long time and I have been sitting in that place of blissful ignorance. I am owning that and it has been a tough hard bitter pill to swallow.  But it’s about damn time I got to swallowing it, moving on and rolling up my sleeves to dive in.

A huge part of this for me has been looking at my own privilege in a way I never have before. I would come to these pages to write with passion about the ways I think children should be treated, how we should parent from a place of partnership and throw down a whole lot of stories about how to go about doing that. Which is all so very nice in my white stay at home mom bubble of a fair world where we all have the same opportunity to do this. But that is just not true. We as mothers don’t all have the same opportunity to show up for our children in the ways we would like to. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe each and every child deserves all the love and respect I have written about over the years. I still stand behind my words. I see now clearly how covered in privilege they are which has be considering things in a whole new light.

I have know for years that being able to be home with the boys outside of the school system is a privilege. I likely would have argued that we gave up certain things to live as a single income family, which is true but does not take away the privileged piece of this. I was already ahead of the game by having a stable enough income to make this choice. I also did not have to worry what people would think about me out in the world with my children during school hours because of the color of my skin. I did not have to worry that folks would think my choice was harming my children because of the color of my skin.

But this goes deeper. My children can launch out into the world of work, college and choice from their homeschooled background with more doors open to them than can some of their peers simply because of the color of their skin. My sons will  be given a wider field of opportunities because of the color of their skin. It could be true that the unconventional schooling path will make for a door or two that closes on them but since ALL the doors were wide open because they happened to be born with white skin and a penis will make this almost unnoticeable to them. Begin able to consider an unconventional path to education was a privilege in and of itself. I didn’t have to consider how this would close more doors to them. I didn’t have to look at the world around them and choose school because it was a path most folks would respect and stood to open some doors that were closed to them because of the skin color they were born.

Understanding this privilege on this deeper level truly has left me a bit at a loss for words and unsure of how to move forward with my own work in the world. It has been for all these years about loving up these children with the best of our ability, undoing our own stories to show up for them over and over and over again without any foundation of understanding of all the steps up in the world I had giving me this pretty little pedestal from which to preach. Now that I can see where I am standing I need to re-evaluate what I am saying.

I think the answer comes, still in valuing the treasure that is each and every child in this world. The missing piece is how we come together and help each and every parent in the world become that parent for themselves. How do we join together to combine our resources so they can be distributed a little more evenly? So as you see here, I’ve only come up with questions which I suspect will be the basis for a slight direction change in my own journey as passionate parenting writer. I do hope you come along for the adventure.

The children are watching : on becoming an activist.

This space has been silent for a while. Something happened when the place in which I live elected a misogynistic, racist to be president. If you are reading this please don’t tell me that had nothing to do with why you voted for him. Because to vote for him you had to decide to look away and that those issues were not important to you. I am not saying you hold those values I am saying they weren’t deal breakers for you and that is terribly disappointing.

I was also wildly ignorant. Believing the media the played before my eyes assuring me this man would not become president. I looked away and listened to their well rehearsed denial that quoted sources that were flawed. I hid underneath the line “well I can’t vote anyways so this mess isn’t mine to deal with.” My privilege created a bubble that wrapped me up safely to believe that the world around had left racism, sexism, ableism and heteronormativity behind. I turned a blind eye to the pain, the struggle the fight that my peers of color deal with each and every day just trying to be in this world. I was ignorant. So very ignorant.

I woke up that night when the unthinkable played out on my television screen. I woke up to realize how uneducated I was. And that is where I have been ever since, educating myself. I am far from a full understanding or education. I only just figured out who my senators and representatives are. I’ve only scraped the surface of knowing what institutionalized racism is and all the ways it benefits me. My white privileged backpack is still full of things that need to be unpacked. But I am not waiting to be perfect at this before getting my boots on the ground and showing up for those much more vulnerable than myself. I am not sitting on my couch yelling at the TV about what is wrong any longer. I am instead going to local counsel meetings, I am talking to my neighbors I am LISTENING more than speaking to those who do not wear my same  privilege. I have left behind mainstream media to seek out alternative news sources. I am rallying with those in my community to further educate myself in how best to use the resources that I have unjustly earned. I committed to becoming as comfortable as I possible with DISCOMFORT. I have had 44 years to be comfortable, I will not let another pass with my head buried so deeply in this skin that was born upon my body.

We have children to protect. They are already far better than those gathering up to lead the United States right now. They were born free of any of these isms. I see it. In front of me everyday. The ease with which my children use new pronouns and ask as easily “what pronouns do you use,” as they do “what is your name?” I see it when they watch a television program or movie that I enjoyed as a child and say “whoa that’s pretty racist.” I see it in their willingness to learn, to questions to grow in their understanding. And I see it in how fiercely they stand behind their own knowing of how each child, each person has a right to the same privilege as every other person. And I remind myself that they are watching right now. They are watching our every move. It is not enough any longer for them to know that what is happening is wrong. They are eyes peeled on me looking to see what happens when a bully moves into the white house. When policies are tossed around that threaten to strip rights from their friends. They are with their eyes, ears and hearts watching to not only witness but to know what to do in the face of great injustice.

It is with that knowledge that I stand up. I add my voice louder than every to the call for justice for all. I educated myself in how to be the best white ally to my community of color that I can be. I become their truth seeking, activist, will not rest until ALL HUMAN beings receive the full respect and dignity that is our birth right, mama.

I wish I could throw down right here my golden plan but if you read a little above you will see I am still scrambling up hill to get all the information. I can sprinkle to the ground here a few resources that have gotten my feet moving toward a better future for all the children. I can beg of you to join me in this fight, in the ways that you can, to fix this mess so that we may be proud of the world we hand over to our children.

Resources (please send me one that you are standing behind so that this list can grow!)

Planned Parenthood – they need our help with the new administration planning to defund them and promising to limit women’s access to abortion and birth control, consider a monthly donation. You can also become a Defender which gets you direct action information on how to protect this resource.

Stand Up For Racial Justice – there are many local chapters that you can connect with for both direct action and education.

15 Books for Fighting for Justice in the Trump Era

We are his problem now – be a part of the direct action that will get in the way of the Trump agenda.

ACLU – they need our support. Stay informed. Consider a monthly donation

The Trevor Project – Founded in 1998 by the creators of the Academy Award®-winning short film TREVOR, The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24.

Learn how to have dialogue with those of differing opinions here. This is where we start to move the conversation forward.

37 days of activism – this is a course I recommend for all. It’s affordable and filled with true actions and education. It’s where I started.

This is only a beginning list. I am committed to coming back to it over and over again as my own education strengthens. Please send me your resources so we can build a more just tomorrow for all the humans.

I didn’t know

I feel like the post reads well out loud. I’ve provide both a read aloud and the audio. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghwT53p01i4

Before becoming a mother I was keenly aware that I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  My husband and I talked about what if’s and maybes without committing to much since we had never been parents before and no one was selling a blueprint. We listened to other people’s advice with the sort of glazed over eyes one gets when there are no hooks upon which to hang the well meaning advice. And though I walked in eyes wide open to the fact that I had no idea what was about to unfold, I am certain I was clueless to how wide spread and long lasting my wobbly legs of inexperience would last.

Of all the advice I was handed no one warned me that these human beings charged to my care would break my heart in ways I never knew existed before our eyes met  for the first time. Or that I would sit behind bathroom doors weeping over spilled milk in order to gather the strength to clean it up while keeping their fragile sense of well being well constructed. Because, especially in the beginning, their wide innocent eyes would always be looking into me for their own sense of self worth. And that while I was sleepless, unshowered and floundering in this new role, I would have to deconstruct everything I knew about myself to rise a better human being so that I might pass a piece of that on to this new person I’d give my own life for. Or that my insides would be a constant demolition site of building after building destroyed in the search of solid ground.

I wasn’t prepared for my heart to beat in the outside world with the most delicate protection pretending to guard it. As monsters and disasters formed around each corner proving my own inability to every keep it safe from what promised to hurt it. In the beginning I though this courage would grow alongside their own independence. That some how my heart might find it’s way back inside the walls of my chest where the sturdy ribs would once again protect it. This was untrue. My courage is just as wobbly today though my delivery of belief in them has gotten better at masking the quiver in the words I share to support their wild adventuring.

I mistakenly thought my competence would grow alongside the years of practice being a parent. It might be the most humbling lesson of them all to realize just when I chomp down on my own sense of confidence life saddles up with a slap to the face that reminds me just how temporary it all truly is. Falling to my knees in near despair I see the sliver of hope that pulls me back. The temporariness of it all is the true beauty. It promises me a chance to choose over and over again just how I will show up. One moment does not guarantee the next and that is where I can pick up my own misplaced pieces and set them right in the eyes of these tender human beings.

I didn’t know I was capable of a love more fierce than exploding volcanos and tsunamis. Or that I would be able to use that love to send messages of worth deep into another human being simply by sitting side by side in the hard places of being a human being. Also that that love would be the reassurance we each fell back on over and over again when we misstepped along the mine field of living a fully emotional life with one another. And that this love would be loud, quiet, unpredictable, ever growing but most importantly always constant. Before their arrival I was under the impression that love was conditional. But this fierce love is mine to give them over and over again no matter what falls in the space between,  how deep the divide becomes or high the mountain, the love always arrives.

 

 

 

Gather the love

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As we sat watching hockey last night and discussing family travel plans, I said to my first born son “Oh that will fall on your birthday.” To which he responded “and then I’ll be 15.” It took the breath clear out of me.  I know how old he is right now. I know how old he will be on his next birthday. But the speed of time and what it all means just winded me. Here is this human being who I have focussed the majority of my time and energy on reaching the sorts of ages and milestones where launching out in the the world is a very really before I know it thing.

The panic spread quickly from the pit of my stomach, to my throat and into my brain. That magical machine that does it’s best to send me into a whirlwind of self doubt. The dialogue sounded something like this “Have I done enough? Will he ever call when he leaves? did I break him? Of course you broke him. Should he have gone to school? Will he be able to do al the things he wants? Did I screw it all up?” And on and on and on.

Breath in. Breath out. Connect to something right now. Looking out from my panic stricken mind, I saw my fourteen year old son bouncing on a yoga ball while encouraging his favorite hockey team to put the puck in the net. His dad sat behind him and I to his side watching hockey together. This was all that was true. This which I could see. The rest was story old old story threatening to pull me into an imaginary world with a viewing audience of one. In the true right now all is awesome.

I can easily slip into a world of worry. It’s hard wired in my DNA. What I am working to remind myself each day, is that I can just as easily slip into the right now moment. The skill that works well for me is to take a breath and look around for something concrete in the environment. To really see it. Replacing future fears with a description of what is happening before my eyes. It’s not always pretty but it is tangible and full of choice. Choice about how I will react. Choice about what I will say. Choice about how I will remember. Choice between fear and love. This ability to drop into what I can describe in front of my eyes kicks in the unconditional love that has always flowed from me and pushes fear to the sidelines. Even if the fear stays, it’s on the sidelines and not running the show.

It’s true that no matter what I do my children will be a moment closer to launching in to the world with each click of the clock, whether I am paying attention or not. The holding on, the pausing of time, comes with the ability to see it all happen. To take that extra breath that pulls me out of fear and into the presence of love. Because as I have said before it is the love that matters most of all. The love that will be our forever bond. The love that will last beyond our years together. It’s up to me in each moment to choose love over fear in order to gather the most of this journey as a mother.

Because I’m raising boys in a rape culture.

I stood on a street corner with both my boys returning from a routine trip to Starbucks. I had turned my body toward them and away from the man leering out his car window at me. My youngest son said “Mom that guy is totally checking you out. I gave him the stare down.”

Because I am raising boys in a rape culture I couldn’t sink in to my own shame and have the concrete swallow me up as I had wanted. I had to explain to them that some boys are raised to believe that women are objects for their pleasure. They are raised to believe that women ask for sex by how they dress or the volume of alcohol and drugs they consume. They are raised to believe their very own bodies are driven by sexual desires that they have no control over.

At this point the boys think this is ridiculous, stupid and what kind of idiot teaches boys this stuff. I am grateful that they so vehemently reject these ideas. It shows me I’ve done something correct along the way. And as much as I would like to rest here knowing they are not having similar ideas I have to carry on.

I explain to them that because they live in the same world as these ridiculous idiots they have to be on the look out. They have to speak up and step in because not only are these boys and their parents broken in their thinking so is the judicial system. It puts the onus on the victims to prove the crime happened. It takes a woman and rakes her entire life over the coals, revealing her sexual history, questioning her character as a human being, destroying any fiber of worth she might be clinging to. While at the same time raising up the rapist on swim scores and honorary achievements, (Unless of course they are of color but we’ve already broken your hearts with that disgusting truth.).  And that because of this system, rapists walk out the door free and are in the world around you.

I explain more. Now since you are one of the ones who knows the only cause of rape is a rapists and that the judicial system does nothing to protect woman, you have to be fierce protectors of the girls and woman you encounter in the world. Team up with them, have their back, watch their drinks, escort them safely home and step in whenever a man forces any part of himself on a woman.

I don’t want this heavy burden for you. I wish I didn’t have to shatter your innocent beliefs about this world we live in. That I could release you into the world with out knowing these horrible things happen. But I simply cannot because we currently live in a rape culture and educating you is the only thing I know how to do to make a difference.

Let’s Be Vulnerable Together

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My sister in law has given me some serious gifts over the years. Beginning on Mother’s Day, about eight years ago now, when after a few sort introductions she jumped off the back deck and started playing with my boys. She didn’t know it at that time but the quickest way to my heart is through wanting to know my children.

Then she gave me the gift of committing to love my brother for the rest of her years. My brother has been one of the heroes in my life and I wanted nothing more than for someone to see his giant heart and commit to tending to it.

Then there was 2012 when she birthed her first son and again in June of 2015 when she brought another little dude into our family. Lately, though the gift she has been given me is bigger than I think she knows. She has been handing me the most vulnerable parts of her mothering journey and trusting me to witness her there.

In this world of mommy wars, tiger moms, helicopter parents and whatever trendy terms I have missed listing, mothering takes on this sort of competitive edge. Where one can end up building a wall of “I got this” all around themselves and quietly struggling through the days that challenge our own sense of value in this important role. It can lead to the sort of isolation that make us feel unworthy of the title mom, incapable of doing it well and lost in our heartbreak as our hearts walking on the outside of our bodies take us to places we never even knew we hurt. And I know these places exists because I have been to all of them, more than once.

When my sister in law picks up the phone and calls to talk to me from that place, she creates a space for both of us to be real and raw about the struggles that come alongside the celebrations.  I get to remember back to what it was like to be in the dark places, admit to her that they still show up even 14 years in and together we support each other. With the sorts of reminders that say “You are a good mom because you care enough to notice when things feel a little side ways.” And “it’s okay to have a bad day, in fact it’s probably modeling some stellar coping skills to your children.” But wider and bigger than that we get to witness one another heart to heart in our most vulnerable places and walk away better human beings. The more often we are willing to choose vulnerability over shame, as mothers, the stronger we come out for our children.

So let’s all decide today, just around the corner from Mother’s Day, to stand side by side in all the hard places and the celebratory places and hold each other up instead of tearing each other down. To set the course for more confident, compassionate caring human beings, both in ourselves and our children.

Learning by the seat of my pants

There are days on this journey that have me learning by the seat of my pants. And this was one of those days. My youngest son loves to watch the YouTube channel Feast of Fiction, which I highly recommend for cool ways to bring some of your children’s favorite in game, anime, pop culture recipes to life. He showed me three videos all of which he wanted to make. I keeping with my commitment to Yes energy agreed. Here’s where it all got super interesting, he meant right now!

The other piece of this day that challenged what I know about following a recipe is, that my son is gluten free. So I would need to on the fly watch the video, read the recipe and adjust to make it all gluten free. Everything in me wanted to say, “but I don’t know how to to do this, can we find something easier.” But his heart was set on making Cinnamon Butterscotch Pie from UnderTale, Poro snacks from League of Legends and Rare candy from Pokemon (the links are included in case you are inspired to head off and make these treasures yourself). So I was staring down making a gluten free pie crust because even though in the video they purchase pre-made crusts I have yet to track down a gluten free one that is worth eating, butterscotch pudding for the first time ever and a pizza dough that was gluten free and pliable enough to roll up like a cinnamon bun. Now for those of you that have not worked in the world of GF baking there is not a lot of give or room for error when handling these things. In general I roll out everything onto the surface it will stay for the duration of it’s cooking and then say a little prayer that it will not crumble to tiny bits on route from plate to mouth. Oh and I’ve never made candy before either.

It would have been easy under these circumstances to make my son pick one on these recipes for us to tackle. Or explain to him how recipes are just impossible to make gluten free. But he was keen to learn how to cook new things. He was excited to explore recipes that were actually from some of his favorite games. But most importantly he fully believed all of this was possible. And that is what I call a motivated learner. If you want something to stick in the mind of young person, having them show up self motivated, eager, with confidence and full enthusiasm is that way to do it.

So I rolled up my sleeves and we watched the videos again and talked about what it would take to make some of the things gluten free and then began a whirlwind day of preparing foods and learning on the spot. The beauty of tackling a task together that neither one of us has done before is that we get to learn together. Which is great modeling for the ways in which  I seek out information when I am wanting to learn something new. It’s also a chance for me to get a peek into how my son tackles new information. Back and forth together in the heat of the “oh no grab it before it boils over moments, “ and the “ack we forgot to add the vanilla is it okay to drop in now, “ we saw each other side by side learning through mistakes and finding on the spot solutions.

It is true that when things were looking to wrap up my son ran out of steam. He wanted me to finish up without him. It would have been easy to ruin the whole day, the whole experience by saying something like, “this was your idea you need to stick around and see it through.” Or to myself, give up and walk away with projects unfinished. But he still wanted to eat the tasty treats. He had simply reached the end part of his learning.  It’s true that the brain can only take in and retain so much new input at one time. I remember a university professor giving us all the tip, when we were studying, to take at least a ten to fifteen minute break for each hour of studying we were doing so we could make room for the new information to come in. So, I happily stayed in the kitchen to finish up the projects because truth be told I was completely committed and I wanted to see it all through.

We nailed the pizza dough and as a result found the best way for making gluten free pizza dough after years of trying. The Poro snacks were a HUGE hit. The pie, oh, the pie, it was delicious to three out of four members of the family and terribly disappointing for the one person who was most excited to try it. His little heart crumbled when after three hours of cooking and waiting the pie didn’t taste good to him. It’s devastating when you put in a lot of hard work and end up not happy with the results.

Again, it can be easy at this point in the exhausted day to snap at the person in front of me that is crying and angry after all my efforts. But it has been one of my biggest lessons in this journey to remember that when my child is devastated and upset it’s not about me. It’s not about my hurt feelings, or my fatigue, it’s about showing up for them. It’s hard to find a recipe you really want to try, to put in hours of prepping and waiting only to discover you’re not a fan of a cinnamon butterscotch pie. That’s what’s really true here. He’s not ungrateful for my time and effort. He is simply sad that this pie tastes bad to him. And it doesn’t help that everyone else likes it. It just means he is missing out on having that yummy feeling.

And so there is another day in our lives. Filled with embracing the eager learning, supporting the passion, making big messy mistakes and holding the heartbreak that comes with disappointment. Personally,  I wouldn’t change one of bit of this wild ride of emotions and broken egg shells on the floor because it’s a chance, over and over again, to show up and connect with these precious human beings I am blessed to have as my children.