12 truths worth keeping safe

So today I decided to clean up my 18,000 plus messages in Gmail and came across this 12-step list in a tucked away tab labelled “Notes”.

“Notes” are from my beloved Samsung Galaxy Note2 (which sadly I gave up when switching to the iPhone 6Plus — oh, how I miss the Galaxy pen!) so they’re definitely something I wrote, but since it’s from May 1, 2013, I can’t remember if I wrote them or if I copied them, or if I compiled them from things I’ve read or heard elsewhere?

In any case, they’re worth keeping safe, so here they are:

12 truths to keep in mind when raising kids

1) I have influence over my child, not control.
2) I have faith in the future, not fear
3) I have faith in my child, even though I don’t always understand.
4) I love, but do not always like my child, and that’s OK
5) I have self-respect and therefore I respect my child
6) I will treat my child the way I wish to be treated when I can no longer care for myself.
7) I learn as much from my child as I teach
8) I know that true independence springs from a secure and stable foundation
9) I know that I must be happy for my children to be happy.
10) I know that my actions speak louder than my words
11) i know that I cannot be all things to everybody but I can be one thing to somebody.
12) I will be true to myself and allow my child to be true to himself or herself.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T …. and not just a little bit!

I was going through the Rolling Stone’s top 500 songs the other day and something struck me as I listened to their #5 entry: Aretha Franklin’s version of the Otis Redding-penned “Respect”.

Great song, but how can she be asking for “just a little respect?” (“All I’m asking for is a little respect (just a little bit, just a little bit…”)

With all due respect, we can’t have just a little bit of respect (unless it’s a euphemism for something else, but that’s another story!). Like death or, being more positive, life, respect is an absolute: You can’t be “just a little dead:” when you’re dead, you’re dead; and when you’re alive, you’re alive. And you either have respect or you don’t.

The bedrock of any lasting, positive relationship is respect.

Key words: lasting and positive. Because we can have lasting relationships that are negative, and we do it all the time — with our bosses, abusive spouses and free-loading friends. We also have positive relationships that are short due to people moving away, drifting apart, death, etc.. If we think about it, more often than not, when we see these people again, we tend to pick up right where we left off because our relationships are built on the bedrock of respect.

And if there is one type of respect that trumps all the others, it’s self-respect.

Self-respect.

I was coming home in a taxi the other day and when we pulled up to where we live, the entrance was blocked by a taxi whose driver was arguing with the security guard about where he was allowed to wait for passengers (the apartment complex has only a very small entryway and is routinely blocked by moving vans, etc. so often the taxi stand changes).

From what we overheard, the driver was not happy about being told to move his taxi, and was screaming in protest. The security guard was standing there calmly and replying in a normal tone of voice. As our way was blocked, we were just sitting there waiting for some resolution. I sighed, and my taxi driver shook his head thoughtfully, and then he made the most interesting comment: “The driver has no respect for himself.”

If you’re like me, you would have thought: “Wait a minute. Don’t you mean ‘The driver has no respect for the security guard?’ ”

But on second thought, it became clear: if the driver had respect for himself, he wouldn’t have let his emotions get carried away to such a degree about something as little as being told he had to move his taxi.

Easier said than done, that’s for sure!

I know that I’ve gotten myself into more situations that I care to remember that have escalated beyond calm and that resulted in my feeling just horrible afterwards when I realise that I, too, share the blame or am to blame for what happened. That my lack of self-esteem or insecurity have caused me to lash out.

“The driver will regret his actions upon reflection later on,” my taxi driver commented, then shook his head sadly, as if he wished he could reach out and help this poor fellow driver. How true!

Self-respect begins with … the self!

If you’re like me, learning the lessons of life growing up was all about other people: do unto others as you want them to do unto you. The focus being on ‘others’. I equated self-respect with ‘self-ish’ or ‘self-absorbed’, and as a result, ignored my own self in favor of others.

How familiar does this sound to you?

When my daughter was 12, she was taking violin lessons. She had chosen to learn the violin and liked her teacher, but one particular day that summer, she was in a foul mood, and in the afternoon before her lesson, she had gone into her bedroom and closed and locked the door while she did her homework. (Actually, I have no idea what she was doing in there, but respected her decision to be alone for awhile.) I watched the clock and waited, sensing that an almighty battle was on the horizon.

About 15 minutes before the lesson, I knocked on her door to remind her it was nearly time to leave. Silence.

Ten minutes before the lesson I tried again. This time, she proclaimed she wasn’t going to the lesson and nothing I could do would make her go.  The gauntlet had been thrown!

In my mind, I was thinking: “Oh yes, you will!  It is too late to cancel and I am not calling to say you’re not going! I paid good money for these lessons and you will get yourself down there NOW! Your teacher is waiting for you! I will not be embarrassed!

And it wasn’t all focused on “I” and “your teacher”. Oh no! I did put the focus on her, but it was all negative: “You will stop being unreasonable and go! You have no reason to be in such a foul mood! What do you think you’re trying to accomplish!

Suddenly it occurred to me that this had nothing to do with me.  Or with her teacher.  Or with the violin. But it did have everything to do her, and I had a great opportunity to show her that. I took a deep breath.

“I know you will go, and you know how I know?” I said calmly through the door.

Silence.

I waited patiently, saying nothing.  (Where did this calm come from, I wondered?!)

I knew she was thinking of all the possible ways I would have for prying open the door and dragging her out forcibly, and she’d be dying to know so that she could tell me how it was NEVER going to happen.

“How?” she finally demanded to know.

“I know, because I know you.” I said.

“Hah! You think you know me, but you don’t know me!” she shot back.

“Well, I know you are a kind, responsible girl,” I said matter-of-factly. “I know that you like your teacher and you won’t want to make her wait without knowing what is going on. I know that you will regret my calling to say you aren’t coming, because you know that I won’t lie to your teacher and make up some bogus excuse. I will just say you aren’t coming, and she will wonder why and next time will ask you what happened. I know you won’t want to lie to your teacher, you won’t make up some excuse for why you can’t go today. I know that you won’t do that, because I know that you are a kind, responsible girl.”

Silence.

Now I’d love to be able to say that she immediately acquiesced and opened her door and went skipping off happily to violin class, but it didn’t happen quite that way. There was a lot more back and forth through that closed door before that happened, but what’s important is that it did happen, and it happened because she came to realise that it was about HER and how SHE was going to behave. It wasn’t about me or me telling her about how to behave or ranting about the money or the teacher. It was making her realise that she HERSELF had the power to decide how to behave and to take responsibility for her actions in a way that would give her no reason to feel remorse and regret later.

I am still amazed that I handled that situation so well that day, and didn’t end up spewing all the turbulent thoughts that were raging in my brain.  I’d have to say it is all because of that one taxi ride, and the memory of my driver saying: “That driver has no respect for himself.”

To be continued….

ROLL with it

R = Respect
O = Open mind
L = Listening
L = Learning

ROLL WITH IT!

I have a horrible memory. I can’t remember names, can’t remember dates, can’t remember what I had for lunch today. I like to read books about how to keep a positive mindset, how to think positive thoughts, what to do when I face negative people or situations, but I can’t remember any of it when I need to.

I was thinking one day if I had an easy way to remember, I wouldn’t let these kind of negative encounters affect me — they would go in one ear and out the other, roll off me like water on a duck’s back. I’d be able to roll with the changes, take whatever came my way, positive or negative and not be so reactionary.

I started thinking about the word ‘roll’ and how rolling made everything easier…faster…more fun. R could stand for ‘Respect’: respect for myself and respect for others. O could stand for keeping an ‘Open mind’. L could stand for ‘Listening’ instead of assuming. L could also stand for ‘Learning’- learning to see things in different ways.

So I’m going to ROLL on out of here now. I hope I’ll be able to remember what it all stands for the next time I come across someone or something negative.

🙂

Which ice cream cone are you?

On a hot summer’s day about eight years ago, I had an epiphany.

To beat the heat, we had gone to Times Square in Causeway Bay to do some shopping with the kids. Just as we were about to leave we spotted an ice cream shop that sold trendy Japanese ice cream that staff transform into gigantic pyramids atop square sugar cones.  We just had to have some.

We were eagerly lapping our 6-inch-high pointed confections when my husband suddenly remembered that the meter where he had parked the car would soon run out. We quickly left the mall and, as usual, my husband and daughter steamed ahead while my son and I took our time.

We hadn’t gone far when my son stopped because his ice cream was dripping all over the cone, his hand, and down his arm and clothes.  I stopped to help him, while trying in vain to control my own melting cone.  It was quite a task holding shopping bags, stemming the tide of two ice cream cones, and at the same time fishing for tissue in my black hole of a purse.

Being more than I could handle, I called out to my husband and daughter:  “Wait!  I need your help!”

Hearing my cry, they turned in unison. The first thing that struck me was their twin display of perfectly groomed cones.  I was in awe. Perfectly licked with not a drip in sight, their cones looked almost like the plastic ones displayed at the ice cream shop!  How was that possible?

This is a 'cool' cone.

This is a ‘cool’ cone. Notice the perfectly polished nails!

Instead of running back to help (as I would have done), they stood there in shock with a look of horror on their faces.

Help!” I called again, then pleaded with my eyes, since I couldn’t keep yelling at them from across the plaza. I looked at my son and we burst out laughing at how out-of-control our cones were becoming.

This is a ‘bumbler’ cone!

That did it, I guess, for my ‘cool’ husband and daughter.  They turned and started walking away!

My son looked at me in confusion, and I reassured him, saying: “Oh, never mind them.  They just don’t know how to have fun.”

We finally got ourselves reasonably cleaned up and made our way to the car where my husband and daughter were seated in cool air-conditioned comfort, waiting for us patiently.

“Why didn’t you help us?” I asked, more bemused than upset.

“Mom, seriously? Did you see yourselves?” my daughter replied.

“Why?  What’s the problem?” I countered.

“You are both such, such….bumblers!” she said, her face contorted in disgust, as if this were a thing to be avoided at all costs. She then tucked her hair neatly behind one ear, crossed her ankles daintily, and quietly went back to reading a book she had bought earlier that day.  My husband gave me a similar look (and a smile) in the rear-view mirror as he started the car.

After a minute (since I’m never quick with the comebacks), I declared smartly: “Well, you guys are just too ‘cool’ and actually a bit boring!”

They didn’t deign to reply.

I looked at my son and we both shrugged.  “Bumblers forever,” I whispered conspiratorially.

He nodded and we both grinned, confident that while we may not have perfect ice cream cones, we are perfect in our own way!

Listen with your eyes

This is something that just came to me today, but I’m sure it’s not an original thought.  Have you heard this before?  Let me know!

Wanna feel great instantly?

The next time someone wants to talk with you, listen with your eyes.

Ears are for hearing; eyes are for listening.

Stop reading; stop playing with my iPhone; stop working on the computer.  Look up and listen with your eyes.

It’s a great feeling.

Look up and listen with your eyes.

What? Me, worry?

I don’t think of myself as someone who worries a lot, but when it comes to what I think people think of me, I can be a basket case.

Yet contrary to what many people have told me — that this is because I lack self-confidence — I don’t think that’s true.  It’s not because I don’t have self-confidence, it’s because I genuinely care and want to make other people happy.  Is that a bad thing?

Well, it depends.

I think some people are just ‘born to make you happy’, as Britney Spears sang about.  They are the ‘givers’, the ‘sweet kids who would do anything for you’.

I’m like that; that is just who I am.

I need people.  And I want people to need me.  This is never going to change.

Barbara Streisand sang that ‘people who need people are the luckiest people in the world’.  If that’s true, why do so many people tell me that I’m gullible and naive and I have got to throw away my rose-colored glasses, grow up and live in the ‘real world’ (even though technically I’ve already grown up)?

Why don’t I hear more people saying: “Wow, you are so lucky!”

I get it — there are bad people out there — people who are immoral, hateful, ‘damaged’ themselves and just want company, or those who enjoy hurting other people (especially those whom they think are easy targets, like me).

I read a great quote once, something like:  “Just because you’re a vegetarian, doesn’t mean the bull won’t charge at you.”

But here’s the thing — I never said I didn’t want the bull to charge.  What most people don’t realize, I think, is that nice people can be a lot stronger than they let on.  We have morals; we have principles. Just because it may seem that we want to be friends with everyone, and we want everyone to like us, there’s a line we won’t cross.  We’re not stupid.

Unless, perhaps, our self-esteem has been broken by people close to us who are supposed to love us telling us that we’re dumb for being this way.

Parents, relatives and well-intentioned friends who, in trying to protect us, ultimately hurt us by cutting us down and saying that we’re gullible, naive and, well, stupid for trusting people and being ‘nice’.  Then telling us that we have to basically change who we are.

The sad thing is, because we need people to like us, all of those well-intentioned remarks can have the opposite effect.

Why?  Well, first of all, there is the ‘love hierarchy’, and parents are at the top. If we can’t get that, we go down a level to friends. If we can’t fill our love tanks* there, we go down even further, and further, until we find someone who will fill that basic need.  More often than not, we go farther off the rails.  Even if we know it’s wrong.  And we may never admit it to you — you’re the one who told us we’re basically stupid for being so nice.  Our need for love and approval may make us do things we don’t want to do.

When people tell me (or their kids or friends) to ‘grow up’ and realize the ‘world is a bad place’, I think to myself, “Why do WE have to change?

Why not tell us how lucky we are that we see the world for it’s possibilities and not its negativities?  Why not tell us how you wish you could be more like us, and most importantly, that you’ll be there for us when we do get charged by a bull – helping us to see how we can do better next time; choose better friends; help us see how they don’t matter, but you do?

Because from my point of view, it’s not ME who has to change — I mean, as  Natalie Portman said in Where the Heart Is: “we all have good and bad inside of us, and the good that’s the only thing worth living for”.

I’m living for the good. And I’m thankful that those closest to me understand and support that. Because I just don’t see how being more like the bad will make this world a better place.

*For more on filling up our ‘love tanks’, check out the ‘Love Language’ series of books by Dr. Gary Chapman.

Speak up!

My daughter emailed me the other day with news of another school shooting — this time in Ohio, only 30 miles from where she is going to school.  You can imagine how I felt, what my mind was thinking.

I quickly read the online ABC news report, and as usual, a few friends of the shooter came forward to say that they knew about the plan, but they ‘didn’t think he was serious‘.

Now I don’t know the details, but I’d like to take this incident as a general example — because “I didn’t think it was serious” is a line that is used over and over in similar situations.

To me, the ‘I didn’t think it was serious‘ excuse is another way to say, “I was afraid or didn’t know how to speak up.”

Now there are times in our lives – in everyone’s life – when we will be privy to certain information or knowledge — told to us in confidence or in passing, that forces us into a position where we must make a decision.  Yes, forces us.  How selfish of the perpetrator(s)!

For example….kids hear something that other kids didn’t; kids see other kids cheating on a test;  kids see other kids stealing; the list goes on and on.

In those situations, the perpetrator(s) is selfishly forcing us into a position where a decision has to be made.  Yes, selfishly forcing us to make a decision — either speak up or keep quiet.

So what do most kids do?

What would you do?

It’s easy to say, “I’d speak up, of course!”  But how easy is it to do?

In my earlier blog I talk about making memories with your children by being there to talk them through tough times, and by giving them your real-life examples to back it up, if necessary.

Standing up and speaking up for what you believe is right or the right thing to do is something we need to SHOW our children how to do every chance we get.   And boy, it sure isn’t easy!

This last week, I found myself in just such a situation.  I had gone to see a Little League baseball game that was supposed to be a nail-biter.  The two teams playing were from the same baseball club, and if Team A won, a championship game would need to be played, whereas if Team B won, no game was necessary, they would be declared the overall champion.  It was sure to be a well-fought battle!

Or so I thought.

At stake for Team A was one extra spot on the all-star roster, since if they lost they’d fall back into 3rd place and only be able to choose 4 boys instead of the maximum of 5 for the all-star tryouts.  For Team B, since they were stronger than Team A, even if they lost, they’d still have another chance to win it all. And if they didn’t win it all, they would drop to 2nd place and still be able to send 5 boys to tryouts.

Because these two teams were from the same club, the rumor was that they were going to fix the game so that Team A would win, thereby shutting out another team (Team C) from claiming second spot and the extra all-star tryout spot.  (The top 2 teams can send 5 boys, but the 3rd team on down sends 4 or less.)

My son used to play for this ball club and we still have many friends whose children play on the teams. I didn’t want to believe the rumor, but this was the second time people had said they were fixing games, so I wanted to go and see for myself.

As I watched, I found myself getting angrier and angrier.  How dare the parent managers and coaches in charge!  They weren’t having the kids baseball, they were wasting everyone’s time (and I waste enough of my own time already, I don’t need anyone helping me to do it!).  The careless disregard and disrespect for the game and anyone and everyone who volunteers their time and talent to providing the sport was unbelievable. Not to mention the fact that they were disrespecting their own children and teaching them a horrible lesson!

It was so upsetting, but what to do?  I looked around.  Because both teams were from the same club, I was technically the only parent there that didn’t have a son or daughter on the field. No one said a word; I believe they didn’t want to jeopardize their children’s chances to make the all-star team.

So what to do?  Rat on my son’s old club to the Little League board or just keep quiet?

For me, there is never a question:  If I see injustice, I will go to any length to fix it. The bullies had a hold on me when I was younger, but not anymore. Now I know where to go for help, who to contact, and how to make sure my voice is heard.  I speak up.

But kids….I know from personal experience how hard is it for kids to speak up!

Kids may not have or know how to obtain the support they need to do the right thing.  And we ALL need support when we’re trying to do the right thing.  One voice can start it, but it needs to be sustained through the tough times ahead — through accusations and possible ostracizing — through the long, dark days when it looks like you’ve done the wrong thing until one day enough support sees the sun shining through and help arrives and the right thing wins the day.

For me, in this latest instance, I had the support of two parents on the team who were sick of the bullying tactics of the parent managers who had orchestrated the entire ‘show’. One by one, more people came to see the truth, and the dark days and nights of insomnia and feeling sick to my stomach were finally over.  I could breathe again.

Let’s teach our kids to stand up and speak out either by our own example or the example of others (Movies are great resources — why not watch and discuss one — Scent of a Woman or School Ties or Mean Girls perhaps — with your child.  It’s also important for them to see how the ‘perpetrator’ (who may be their very close or even best friend) is being utterly selfish in putting them in that position.  They need to see that they don’t need “friends” like that, and may need extra support in finding new friends.

It’s never going to be easy; in fact, it’s one of the hardest battles there is because you’re fighting for your voice – for the right to be yourself and be heard.

But whatever the situation, no matter how dire it seems, I guarantee that if you are there to support them and teach them how to gain the support of others involved and be there for them as they need throughout the duration, they will gain so much confidence and self-respect.  It’s truly a wonderful thing to see your children grow in confidence, and watch them as they realize that they can stand up, do the right thing, and make their voice be heard.

And that will help make our world a better place.

🙂

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