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.


Let’s grow some memories

“A lifelong blessing for children is to fill them with warm memories of times together. Happy memories become treasures of the heart to pull out on the tough days of adulthood.”

-Charlotte Kasl

Have you ever been faced with situations where you have a chance to make a difference or achieve a breakthrough in your own understanding of life, but when you ask friends for advice, they tell you to just “forget it?”

For me, these are usually those “stuck in the middle” situations. For example, I realize another parent is unethically trying to get their child promoted on a sports team and while it doesn’t affect MY child directly, it affects the spirit of the game and other children. Or I’m given a script that is filled with factual errors and am asked to record it ‘as is’ or lose the job.

The answer from well-intentioned friends?  “Forget it!”  “Who cares!” “Just do it!”

I’m being told “forget it” so many times, I am going into memory deficit!  I quite seriously told my husband the other day that I won’t have to worry about Alzheimer’s anymore, because I won’t have any memories to forget anyway!

But I get it.

Don’t dwell on what you can’t change; choose your battles; etc.  And these days life is moving so fast that one can hardly run fast enough to keep up, so why spend the time? Just forget it!

Yeah, I get it.

But while this may be true, I also think that by saying “forget it” we’re missing a valuable chance for personal interaction — a chance to grow a memory, regardless of the outcome of the situation we’re facing.

“Forget it!  Don’t get involved! It’s not worth it!” 

It occurred to me that when I’m told to ‘forget something’ that is truly bothering me, three things happen:  1)  I will remember a bad situation or circumstance even more, 2) I learn that my opinions and feelings are not worthy, and 3) I will remember that that person was uninterested in me.

Then I thought to myself: “Oh no!  Have I been saying this to my children?!”

I remember once when my daughter came home troubled.  She told me that she overheard one girlfriend talking about another girlfriend in a bad way.  These two girls were supposedly friends, but what my daughter overheard was definitely not nice.  She didn’t know what to do — should she get involved? Should she tell the girlfriend being talked about or confront the one who said it?  Could she still be friends with both?

How easy would it be to just say: “Forget it! Don’t be a tattle-tale! Let them figure it out themselves!”

But wow, what a golden opportunity to build up my child’s own personal growth and understanding, and leave her with a positive memory of how to solve a problem – a dilemma – in her own way.  (Plus, get more insight into her social life! 🙂 )

First, more info was required.  I was making dinner at the time, and asked for her help so we could talk more about it. I asked her to describe the situation. Anyone else hear it being said? Any background info you might not know about?

Now that she had a clearer picture, I asked her what she thought she should do, and what would be the result of her different actions.

Now this is usually enough for my strong-willed, off-the-charts intra-personally strong daughter, because she is the type to need more of a sounding board than someone to tell her what to do.

But if she’s still not sure, I’ll give some personal examples that I’ve gone through (because what situation haven’t we moms/dads faced?) and tell her what I’ve done and would do. More importantly, I know her well enough to tell her what I think she should do.  Then we talk some more over a delicious dinner (or sometimes not so delicious, since I’m not the best cook!).

And in the end, maybe the best decision is to ‘forget it’ — do nothing about the situation. But regardless, she has a warm memory that will live with her and hopefully grow stronger as she encounters future difficulties.

For me, that’s what the above quote is all about —  memories of being together and helping one another that we can pull out when we’re facing tough times.

Of course, there are other memories — the one-offs — the family vacations and fun times that we re-live and laugh and say ‘remember those crazy times??!!  And those are mega-important, too, of course.

But let’s not forget to grow some memories, too!