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Archive for the ‘Parenthood’ Category

Divine support

“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back.” – Paul Coehlo

dadster

When I made the decision to spend time with Dad as he transitions from this life to the next, I was not prepared for the speed at which his illness would progress. News of his diagnosis came this past Tuesday, and I felt that getting there on April 13th would be soon enough. That gave me time to put my belongings in storage and get to Albuquerque. After talking to his parish priest on Thursday, who told me how weak Dad was, I moved up my departure to Sunday (Easter). This morning I got a text from the deacon who checks on him every day. Yesterday he was hospitalized because he was unable to get out of bed. Depending on who you talk to, he was either unconscious or sleeping when the deacon arrived. So he was brought to hospital next door where he refused medication of any kind.

Stubborn Irishman…

He is on IV fluids, and will not be released until Hospice care has been arranged and there is someone in the house with him all the time. He is frustrated that he is not home, and I am frustrated that I am not there yet.

This morning I went to the bank to let them know that I was relocating temporarily to New Mexico until Dad’s illness had concluded. Silly me forgot that one of the assistant managers is a former student and Facebook friend of mine. She came out and said everything would be taken care of and I just had to let her know when I got back. Then she hugged me and told me to take care. It was all I could do not to burst into tears right there in the bank. I choked out, “It’ll be alright, right?” and she responded quietly, “Yes.”

There has been such an outpouring of support for my sister and I over the past week. My heart is full of the love and compassion that have been directed toward us. I know that, as difficult as the coming weeks may be, I am not alone; there are hundreds of hands holding me up when I feel like falling. It is in those moments, when I am at my most raw and unprotected, I know that I am catching a rare glimpse of the divine in my friends and family. Each smile, each kind word, each hug, and each look of concern are windows to the Sacred and give me untold courage and strength.

Thank you. Just thank you.

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The Decision

“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” – Pema Chödrön

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My dad has cancer. There, I said it. He doesn’t just have some small, localized, fixable cancer. He has the kind that spread all over his internal organs, insidiously invading his whole body. There are tumors hanging on his insides like ripe fruit on a tree, but this fruit can’t be picked. There’s no way to operate and remove his cancer. It dangles, tauntingly, putrefying on the branch, destroying everything it touches.

So we have begun a waiting game. He, waiting for the inevitable reunion with my mother, my sister Maureen and his next adventure in a place unknown to us. Me and my sister Kat, waiting for the inevitability of losing a man whose presence has always been steady and unfailing.

The writer Jane Green, in her book The Beach House, said, “Nothing in this world happens without a reason. That we are all exactly where we are supposed to be, and then the pieces of the puzzle have a tendency to come together when you least expect it.”

There is truth here. Decisions made by a family member living close to my father, the breakdown of my marriage, the independence of my daughter, a contractual obligation that I move out of my apartment by the end of June, are all pieces of my puzzle that, when completed, reveal a perfectly clear picture of what I need to do in response to my father’s diagnosis. I will be moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the duration of his illness, which according to the doctors is expected to be between three weeks and three months. I will be vacating my apartment, putting my belongings in storage, and hitting the road with only the desire to make my father’s last weeks on this earth joy filled and loving.

This was a remarkably easy decision to make. There is, despite my poor skills at keeping in touch, nothing more important to me than my family and friends. I routinely forget to send birthday cards, frequently forget to update my family on changes in my life, and don’t have the best track record for staying in touch. However, that just means I’m a poor communicator, not that I love any of them with any less than my full heart.

It is my hope that this blog will afford me an outlet. It is a chance to chronicle my father’s journey as well as my own journey toward becoming a more whole, compassionate human being. I would like to talk about the lessons I learn, the things my father teaches me, and small moments of each day. I would like to share the joyful and loving moments, and the moments of heartbreak as well. I will share his humor, his stories, and reveal the lion among men that he is. My father has lived an extraordinary life, one that is part of a lineage that has its roots in Ireland’s County Roscommon. I am honored to have the opportunity to share the end of his life with him.

This is going to be a fairly raw journey, to pretend otherwise would be to lie. I have to remember, however, that there is still much joy to be had in my father’s life. There is still much living to be done, and so I will help his failing body accomplish what his strong soul still reaches for… And Life goes on.

“Before us great Death stands
Our fate held close within his quiet hands.
When with proud joy we lift Life’s red wine
To drink deep of the mystic shining cup
And ecstasy through all our being leaps—
Death bows his head and weeps.”
-Rainer Maria Rilke

Sanctity of WHAT???

 

One of the most used phrases heard in the media today, especially among political reporters, commentators and candidates is “the sanctity of marriage”. Most often we hear it used to describe that holiest of holy unions, brought before and blessed by God Himself, with all the angels and saints in attendance to witness the eternal love of a man and a woman – HALLELUJAH!!!!!

Seriously, though? “The sanctity of marriage” is just another buzz phrase used by today’s presidential candidates, political talking heads and church people masquerading as political talking heads. It is a phrase cloaked in the righteousness of a completely unprovable deity, designed to deny a portion of Americans full rights under the law. It’s a phrase tailored to hide homophobia (and occasionally homosexuality itself) under a blanket of moral superiority and push a theocratic political agenda. The word sanctity itself is a word meaning holiness, saintliness or godliness, none of which belong in the contemporary American political discourse.

Let’s be frank. I am a supporter of same-sex marriage. I have many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender friends and relatives, all of whom I wish the absolute best for. I want for them a life in which they can express the full extent of their humanity, and I am distressed to no end when their essences are reduced to the one issue of what is between their legs or happens between the sheets. That cheapens and demeans some of the most intelligent, compassionate, creative people I know. It also makes me sick to my stomach.

Marriage is (or should be) a close, personal, lasting, intimate union of two people. Period. Dot. End of story. Whether the parties in the marriage be heterosexual or homosexual is irrelevant. The pie-in-the-sky for-all-time sacred hetero institution described by the flag-waving religious candidates for president doesn’t really exist. The submissive wife and the dominant husband describe a union based on an imbalance of power, where the man (rightfully so, if you believe in the teachings of the Judeo-Christian bible) gets all the bennies and the wife gets a roof over her head and some love, if she’s lucky. Love is optional. You know that “love is patient, love is kind” passage from the Bible? Not describing marriage but, rather, a church squabble in Corinth. How about “wherever you go I shall go”? Nope – Ruth was talking to her mother-in-law Naomi. What about the “man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife” part? Jesus was actually talking about divorce in that passage!

If we were to examine the state of heterosexual marriage in countries around the world, we would find similar statistics. Between 35 and 60 percent of all hetero couples divorce at some point. For whatever reason. There are no reliable statistics for divorce of same-sex couples, because we are just getting to the point in our civilization when we are realizing the validity of same-sex marriages. It’s all rather new, so not too many people are keeping track. However, in Denmark (marriage is on the table there), one of the few countries to permit civil unions AND keep track of civil splits, the divorce rate among hetero couples is 39.8%. The split rate among same-sex couples is a shocking 14% for men and 23% for women. Those numbers are well BELOW the average divorce rate. Can we draw any conclusions on the sanctity of marriage from that? To which population is marriage more important? You decide.

 

I think if we are really going to explore the state of marriage, the breakdown of traditional marriage and the un-Constitutional denial of civil marriage benefits to same-sex couples, we need to examine the problem at its source: with good, old-fashioned heterosexual marriage and the contributors to its downfall. (Since the vast majority of marriages in this country are NOT of the same-sex variety, we can rightfully assign the lion’s share of the blame on heterosexual couples.) Heck, Newt Gingrich, one of the most popular Republican candidates for the presidential nomination, has been married three times, the first two times cheating on a sick wife and subsequently divorcing her for a younger, healthier model. With all due respect, he’s not exactly the man to be calling same-sex marriage “a temporary aberration”, when it appears that his are just as temporary! The following people – a small sample of men and women in the public eye and thus influencing public mores – have been married for a TOTAL of two and one half years (14 “marriages”).

  • Kim Kardashian – married 72 days
  • Dennis Hopper – 8 days
  • Britney Spears – 2 days
  • Mario Lopez – 118 days
  • Dennis Rodman – 8 days
  • Renee Zellweger – 128 days (over 4 months!)
  • Zsa Zsa Gabor – 1 day
  • Drew Barrymore – 29 days for one, 5 months for another
  • Pam Anderson – 68 days for one, 4 months for another
  • Cher – 9 days
  • Charlie Sheen (pre-Tiger Blood) – 4 months
  • Nicholas Cage – 3 months

This is a pathetic travesty. There is nothing sacred about these unions, although half of them were performed by a minister of one church or another. It’s spitting in the face of people like my friend Robert, who has been with his partner for well over 20 years. What should happen – what all these talking heads fail to address – is that marriage should not be treated as a social status adornment, as a fun way to spend a weekend next month. The wedding is not the end of the journey – it’s one day that BEGINS the journey. Girls should not be brought up to think that their only worth is connected to their husbands; that the only real and lasting contributions they can make to the world are through their husbands and children. In AA parlance, that’s stinking thinking and is counterproductive to real growth as a society.

Another argument for denial of marriage rights to LGBT couples is that marriage is “the optimal social structure for the bearing and raising of children”. If that were true, we need to outlaw IVF (if they can’t have them on their own, they shouldn’t be married), birth control in marriage, living together, post-menopausal marriages, single parenthood, poor parents (they can’t raise them right, after all), dual-career parents (someone else is raising the child), alcoholic parents (not raising the kid with good values), and on and on. Doesn’t that sound ridiculous?? These is the same twisted thought process that has led some social conservatives to trumpet that same-sex marriage will lead to bestiality and incestuous marriages. It’s utter absurdity!

Here’s what I think has really contributed to the breakdown of marriage in this country:

  • Long work days (no time for each other)
  • Reality TV (that’s not REALLY real life)
  • Expectations vs reality
  • Video games (the desensitization of humanity)
  • Soap operas (they’re not real, folks!)
  • Money (or lack thereof)
  • Low-rise jeans and transparent, cleavage-baring shirts on young girls (and we wonder why Newt Gingrich keeps trading ’em in…)
  • Boredom (in every aspect of life, especially sexual boredom that leads to affairs)
  • Deciding to stay mad for longer than a few hours (and it IS a controllable decision – communication is key!)
  • Online social media (especially when it’s more important to check your Facebook status than to eat dinner with your partner)
  • Selfishness (it’s all about me, me, ME!)
  • Inflexibility (ME? Change to suit YOU? Never!)
  • Apathy (Who gives a crap anymore? Just get me through to Friday…)
  • Lack of communication (nothing will work if you’re not on the same page)
  • A lack of support in our attempts to be our true and honest selves

Think about what the denial of same-sex marriage to Americans REALLY means. Is it REALLY a preservation of a time-honored and sacred institution, as the candidates and talking heads would have you believe? Or is it just possible that our patriarchal society has failed but doesn’t want to release its death grip on morality? Could we be at the threshold of a new American society that will truly recognize that “all men (and women) are created equal”, thus ushering in a truly just society?

My take is this: There is no society, no religion, no legislation, no legislator that can dictate what my path through this world should be. I have been married for nearly 24 years, have laws to protect me and support me should something happen to my husband. I chose to be married to this man. I am lucky. My friend Robert has been together with his partner almost as long and has nothing but the love that binds them. That is not enough, in my opinion. He and his partner should have full protection under the Constitution of the United States. Period. Dot. End of story.

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A New Project

There were so many posts I was planning on writing this summer. The new same-sex marriage law in NY, my sister’s wedding, an adventure I had with Louise in NYC, a lovely day spent with my friend Tee, my first food vendor job – I meant to share my thoughts on it all. However, summer life was so laid back and I was having such a wonderful time with my family and friends that it felt somewhat wrong to take time to blog. However, my daughter is going to college in a few days and my husband and I will be left to our own devices again.

Rewind nearly 20 years to life pre-Louise. I don’t remember what it felt like, and I don’t remember what we did. I don’t remember what I cooked or how we spent our evenings or if we had breakfast together. It’s all gone and I find myself in the position of figuring out how to create a life again that is most assuredly mine. I suppose it starts with finding out who I am again. Being so totally and completely absorbed in the process of raising Louise to be an independent adult, my identity has become fuzzy, as though perceiving it through a thick, murky pane of glass.

I decided to start the clarifying process with my favorite thing – food. (No big surprise there) About a year ago, on a trip to Great Barrington, VT, I bought a book called “1001 Foods to Die For”. It’s organized into ten chapters, from appetizers to beverages. There are some recipes in the book, but it mostly contains half page descriptions of foods that the editors at Madison Press thought were the quintessential foods from around the world that everyone MUST taste in their lifetime. Find my own recipes, find a restaurant that serves the foods, or travel to where the foods are made the right way; all are options to be considered.

Many of the foods in this book I have already eaten and enjoyed – from skordalia (from Greece, a garlicky potato mash) to rogan josh (from India, a Kashmiri meat stew – one of my favorite stews EVER). Those I will definitely eat again with an eye toward discovering something new about them. Others, I am really excited to try. Cod cheeks, Frango piri-piri (a chcken dish from Mozambique), haggis, Brazilian feijoada are all foods I would try in a heartbeat. Some dishes, however, I have actually crossed out in the book – steak tartare comes to mind (yuck – raw beef with raw egg? really?), as do raw clams and oysters and carpaccio. It is going to be a stretch for me to eat anything with runny egg yolk, but I will give it the old college try. Maybe I’ll find out that I like them – after all my friend Tony swears by runny yolks and I consider him to be one of the smartest foodies I know.

It’s going to be an adventure. I’m excited about the journey. I hope to find new, exciting foods and learn something about myself in the process. After all, why do I find sashimi so repellant? What makes some foods so abhorrent to me that I don’t consider them a viable food for sustenance? I want to know why. I want to know ME.

An ancient Chinese proverb (attributed to both Lao Tzu and Confucius) says, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” In my case, the journey of a thousand dishes begins with a single bite.

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Parenting 103

This week was a ridiculously stressful one. On Monday morning, a student falsely accused me of causing him bodily injury. His scratches and scrapes were self-inflicted, but it was clearly an attempt to cause trouble for me, one of the aides responsible for his educational experience at school.

It had to be investigated, naturally. I would want an investigation done for my daughter, should she ever make the same accusation. Fortunately, the whole incident was investigated and resolved quickly, and both the parent and my school administration believed what I and two witnesses related to them. However, I still had two sleepless nights and was fairly zombie-like for the early part of the week.

“Every single person you will ever meet has the same questions, ‘Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?'” – Oprah Winfrey, 5/25/11

I thought about this quote a lot this week. Obviously, this student was screaming out to be seen and heard. That much is clear. One doesn’t self-injure and tell whopping lies on top of that injury without needing some serious attention. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t look at my own way of relating to this student and figure out what I can change for the next school year, should he still be attending the school where I work. I have to ask, “DO I see him? DO I hear him? DOES what he say matter to me?” I think perhaps the answer to these questions is “no”.

He’s an extraordinarily oppositional little man. He rarely does what he is asked, rarely follows classroom rules (raise your hand, face forward), and is frequently antagonistic to the other students. In short, he’s a pain in the butt. However, I think, as the school year wore on, I saw less and less of the boy inside and more and more of the pain-in-the-butt-shell. I think that’s partly because he withdrew more and more as the year went on (as he chafed at the rules and had teachers tell him over and over that he was bad or wrong), and partly because his shell got thicker and more prominent as the year went on until that’s almost all we saw. Occasional glimpses of the intelligent boy inside showed through cracks in his shell, but those instances were few and far between.

Why did he choose me to accuse? There are lots of reasons floating through my mind, but none of them have legs to stand on their own. The only real answer is in that little boy’s mind and he’s not talking. I doubt I’ll ever know.

The thing that blows my mind about this whole incident is that there were NO consequences for his behavior. None. No detentions were given, no apology letters are forthcoming, no one explained to him that what he did was wrong. It was all conveniently swept under the rug and ignored. At what point in our history as a civilized race did we decide that wrongdoing carries no consequence? Since when do misbehaving children get coddled? When did adults in positions of power become all lily-livered and wishy-washy? When (and more importantly WHY) did adults lose their ability to point out to children the difference between right and wrong, the meaning of respect and civility? Are we unwittingly doing this to our children because we “love” them too much? Much more frighteningly: Are we doing this on purpose because it’s easier for us as parents to overlook bad behavior? After all, isn’t the pursuit of our dreams more important?

I am not my daughter’s best friend; I am her mother. She is also one of my favorite people in this entire world, and I like spending time with her more than just about anything else. She is smart, funny, caring, considerate, strong, and responsible, to name a few things about her that I appreciate. However, she also has some personality traits that still need work. I won’t describe them here, because that would be disrespectful to her. I don’t want to be that kind of mother. However, it is my job as a parent to recognize those things, help HER see and acknowledge them as deficits, and help her work on them/through them. I would do her a grave disservice to her by allowing her to think she was perfect and never made mistakes.

I believe this is our responsibility as parents and as educators. It is NOT the sole responsibility of either group. We all have to make a safe place for our children to recognize, accept, and work on their shortcomings. At home, this means setting boundaries and rules and enforcing them all the time, so when our children go to school, they are more successful. This also means teaching right and wrong. There IS a right and there IS a wrong, and it is NOT attached to any particular faith. Manners are important. Very few children have chores to do at home, because parents don’t feel like teaching that, in a family, everyone contributes. I’m as guilty of this as the next mom. We as parents MUST teach our children that the world will not be handed to them on a platter. That’s not realistic; Life doesn’t work like that. It requires great perseverance and effort to achieve our goals. If we’ve raised lazy, rude, amoral children, then our society is truly, unequivocally and irrevocably screwed.

Back to my errant student. I pledge that, from this moment on I will make every attempt to see, hear and listen to him. I owe him that much. I hope now that he’ll do his part as well.

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P.S. Before I get notes that start with “yeah, but…”, know that I am blogging about kids that do NOT have issues that require medication and/or therapy. If your child requires medication and refuses to take it, or needs therapy and refuses to go, that should be addressed by professionals trained to deal with that, not me.

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Parenting 102

This is the church where I work on the weekends. My church gig is funny. I have to sit and listen to the same sermon 3 times every Sunday. This usually means I half listen once and do something else the other two times. Sometimes I plan the coming week’s music and sometimes I write. It’s a quiet place to write. Even though the priest is talking, the words are familiar and soothing and lull me into a meditative place where thoughts come, sometimes unbidden, and get written down in a small journal I keep on the organ.

Recently I’ve been watching the interaction of families. There are some families that can be observed coming from a place of love. They hug each other, share a kiss of peace, and stand close to each other, comfortable in their togetherness. I love these families. Then there are the families that are dysfunctional. Some are too permissive, some are too strict. It hurts me to see the responses of the children in both kinds of families, because both sets of children are neither happy nor healthy.

Here is a set of guidelines to help you raise your kids. I’m not a professional – I just play one on TV… Therefore, this is in no way a complete list, but these things have worked for me. My daughter is a kind, imaginative, compassionate young woman. These are things I did when she was young. There is no order to this list…

1. Encourage Imagination – Children with PSPs in church? No! Children texting their friends in church? No! Limit your children’s access to television, video games, and the Internet. There are VERY few children who really need cell phones. Consider the guns and butter model when deciding what your children will have to play with. Boxes, art supplies, the great outdoors, books – these are all things that will help your children develop their imagination. L Frank Baum, creator of the Wizard of Oz series said, “Imagination has brought mankind through the dark ages to its present state of civilization. Imagination led Columbus to discover America. Imagination led Franklin to discover electricity.” We should take that to heart and realize that we are raising the next generation of Columbuses and Franklins. We need to let them discover as they are meant to discover.

2. Assumptions – Please don’t assume all children of either gender will act the same. Refrain from saying, “all girls are difficult” or, “Boys are easier than girls.” That’s bogus thinking. We should rather assume that all children will act individually, as guided by their conscience, experience and innate wisdom. Every soul is different; every child will react differently to the same stimulus. As a parent, be an observer. Learn how your children react in different situations. Don’t assume your 10-year old and your 8-year old will have the same responses, because they won’t. Also, don’t assume your 10-year old girl will respond the same way as the 10-year old girl across the street. They won’t. It’s not an age thing, it’s a soul thing.

3. Comparisons – Please, please, please, on all that is holy, don’t compare children with each other. “Johnny can do this, why can’t you?” is probably one of the most dangerous, insidiously self-destructive things you can say to a child. When I was a child and teenager, I was thrust into all sorts of competitions – real musical competitions where there was a winner and  a loser. While I learned the valuable lesson that hard work does matter, I also learned that I was never good enough and that I would never rise to the top of the pile. After hearing the same thing over and over, I didn’t want to try anymore. So when I was 19 and in Israel for an international competition, I sabotaged my chances by not trying to learn the final stage music. I just didn’t care. I knew I would never be good enough because I had never been good enough. My reward? My father said, “I’m disappointed in you!” This statement was one of the defining moments of my life. Here I was one of only a handful of Americans even permitted to perform in this competition and he said he was disappointed in me. So I gave up. I never competed again. I was totally done and never attained the success I could have had he said he believed in me. The bottom line is encourage but don’t push. Don’t compare children because there will always be disappointment – for them and for you. Appreciate the gifts your children have and allow them to develop those gifts or not. Tell them that you appreciate their achievements and that you are proud of them. It really matters.

4. Exploration – Encourage your children to do what they are good at. Praise them. Help them build up a “bank of positivity” that they can draw on when they fail. At the same time, help them explore new activities that they show interest in and DO IT WITH THEM! There is nothing more satisfying than being with your child when he or she has an “ah-hah” moment. That moment of discovery can be so supremely satisfying for you as a parent. When Louise was interested in astronomy, I would take her to the observatory at New Milford High School to work with the team there. I was there when her first photograph of an asteroid came out of the printer. It hung on our fridge for almost two years before it got so stained that it had to be taken down. That photo reminded Louise that she COULD go into astronomy if she wanted, and COULD do research and COULD follow her passion. It mattered.

5. Explain, explain, explain – Do not be afraid to use the word “no”. However, when you do, be prepared to explain in age-appropriate language why your kid can’t have what they are asking for. Kids have a built-in B.S. meter. It is highly functional beginning around age four. Therefore, think carefully before answering the “why not???” whine. They will know if you are telling the truth and they will be watching your nose for signs of growth.

6. There Is No Such Thing As Perfection – Please, with all that you are, resist the urge to use the bogus maxim “Practice Makes Perfect”. There is no such thing as perfection. It is a lie. It is a sham. It does not exist. Do not hold your children to a standard that is impossible to attain. It does not encourage them to succeed, it only pushes them to please you. Children know that there is no such thing as perfect. They also know that parents sometimes dole out acceptance and love based on performance. This is wrong and parents who do this should be ashamed. Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes better, sometimes it makes excellent, and sometimes it makes outstanding. We as parents must resist the temptation to push our children to a higher standard of performance than that which we are able to push ourselves to. Remember that we are the examples that our children base themselves on.

7. Integrity Matters – Our kids see and hear EVERYTHING we do, whether we think they do or not. If we lie and cheat on our taxes, our kids will think that lying and cheating are OK. If we stop at a stop sign at 2 am when there is no other traffic present, and no police officers present, then we are demonstrating that the law matters. If we drop ‘f’ bombs and call people ‘retards’ or ‘stupid’, we are demonstrating SO clearly that it’s OK to label others. There’s a small book by Don Miguel Ruiz, a Mexican Toltec shaman, called The Four Agreements. Everyone should read this book. The first agreement is “Be Impeccable With Your Word”. We as parents need to use the spoken word only to say exactly what we mean, and always speak with integrity. We must avoid using words to speak against ourselves or others. The spoken word can be magic – it can build up or it can tear down. Your words can create the most beautiful dream or they can destroy everything around you. I would expand Don Ruiz’s agreement to include “Be Impeccable With Your Action.” It matters – it really does.

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Parenting 101A

Today a 13 year old cried in front of me. She hid her face in her arms and sobbed and wailed as though her heart was broken. If you hadn’t seen the whole episode, you would have thought that her puppy just died. She blamed it all on a coworker and I, of course. We were guilty of the unpardonable offense of calling her out on being a bully. Say WHAT???

Truly, honest to goodness, we pulled her and a friend of hers aside separately and told them to stop picking on a very sensitive boy who wouldn’t hurt a fly. They had been teasing him during lunch and my coworker heard what they were saying and told me. Sick to death of hearing this student tease other ones, I called her on it. After the standard denial, I told her I didn’t believe her, nor did I believe the denial of her friend. Neither one could come up with a plausible explanation for the boy’s distress, and so realized that they were caught. They resorted to that most inefficient weapon, tears. They put their heads down on the lunchroom table and shot us dirty looks for the remainder of the period. An hour or so later, this teenager also told another teacher that we called her a liar. Ugh. So we went through the whole incident again with her and told her to not twist our words to suit her purpose. That’s when she burst into tears – when she was realized she was completely and totally without any valid defense, because she was guilty of being a bully. The truth hurts.

I wish all parents would read “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” to their children and teach them that the truth is ALWAYS the better route. When a child tells half truths and untruths all the time, they are setting themselves up to not be believed at any time. We need to teach our children that they are, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, being judged “on the content of their character.” I always taught Louise that she would be better off telling me the truth about something doing something wrong, because then we could both a) work on why she behaved badly, and b) work to resolve the ramifications of the bad behavior. However, if she lied to me about an incident and I found out, her life would be much more uncomfortable than had she fessed up. It’s a model that has worked beautifully for the past 18 years, and I believe her to be a young woman of great integrity today as a result.

The Girl Scout Law says, “I will do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, and responsible for what I say and do; and to respect myself and authority, use resources wisely, make the world a better place and be a sister to every Girl Scout.” Wow – those are qualities we should strive to embody as adults as well! Bo Bennett, a businessman, philanthropist and motivational speaker also said, “For every good reason there is to lie, there is a better reason to tell the truth.” Bo and his wife Kim created a not-for-profit organization called “Bellado” to promote kindness, respect, generosity, forgiveness, honesty, and patience. All these are the qualities that are in precious short supply today, the qualities that are SO refreshing to see, even in tiny doses. These are what we NEED to teach our kids. Can you just IMAGINE a world full of courageous, responsible, considerate, generous children like that? It would be Heaven!

Parenting Tip of the Day

Teach your children to be honest. Call them on every lie they tell. Advise them that to tell the truth is ALWAYS the better path. Teach them the Girl Scout Law, but tailor it to your family. Make it the Smith Law or the Jones Law, and refer them back to it with love every time they goof up. Every day is a new opportunity to make a difference in the life of your child.

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