Thursday, April 28, 2011

What kind of block are you?

Off the bat, I need to give credit where credit is due. The whole inspiration for this post came from here. At one point in his blog, he likens parents to blocks, and asks, "Are you a stumbling block, or a building block?" (I'm paraphrasing a little, not copying exactly.) Something about that really struck me.

What kind of block are you?

Are you a building block?

Do you build your children up? Do you play with them, encourage them, and rejoice over little things with them? Do you listen - really listen - to them? Do you comfort them, hug them, kiss them, and snuggle with them? Dads, do you color pictures in bright Pepto pink for your daughters or have tea parties with them? Moms, do you throw a football around or jump in mud puddles with your sons? Do you ask them how their day was on a regular basis? Do you help them with homework? Do you attend t-ball games, dance recitals, school concerts, and parent-teacher conferences with excitement? Do you roll around on the floor laughing with them? Do you let them hog your bed when they're sick or scared? Do you lovingly teach them right from wrong? Do you show them, by your own actions, how to be a kind, loving, responsible, tolerant, accepting person? Do you show them that you value their intelligence? Do you show them that you love them regardless of who they are, the challenges they face, or the mistakes they make? Are you nurturing their confidence and self-esteem? Are you teaching your sons what it means to be a "good man?" Are you teaching your daughters how to identify a good man, and stay away from those who are only out to take advantage of her or make her miserable? Are you comfortable letting your child be who they are, and make their own decisions, even if they differ from your own? Are you their parent on their terms, when they need you?


Are you a stumbling block?

Do you make your children fall down? Are you too tired at the end of the day to "tune in" to your kids? Do you get so tired of all the little things they want to talk about that you've reduced your enthusiasm to a courtesy "mm hmm" mumbled under your breath in response anymore? Is giving them eye contact and your undivided attention when they speak to you unnecessary? Do you ask them to respect your own personal space when they want to sit on your lap for comfort, hugs, kisses, and snuggles? Dads, are you too macho to let your daughters paint your fingernails for fear of your buddies heckling you about it? Moms, do you value your manicured nails and designer shoes too much to get dirty with your sons? Did your day go so horribly wrong that you just don't want to hear how your child's day went? Do you assume they'll figure everything out on their own if they stare at their homework long enough, so you never bother stepping in to ask if they need help? Do you inwardly - or outwardly - groan at the thought of sitting through another "boring" game, recital, or school event, because you have better things you could be doing? Do you think its totally stupid to roll around on the floor with your kids just for the heck of it? Do you like your own sleep and personal space too much to invite your child into your bed when they're having a rough night? Are you so inflexible in your thinking that your child won't learn to be fully trusting, kind, respectful, loving, thoughtful, or responsible? Are you so set in your own ways and principles that your child feels afraid of your opinion of who they are, the challenges they face, or the mistakes they make? Are you reinforcing their feelings of insecurity and inadequacy? Are you teaching your sons to be "macho men," who can never show emotion and or do anything "sensitive" for fear of your - and societal - mockery and/or displeasure? Are you unwilling to fully accept your child if they become anyone different than who you want them to be? Are you their parent on your terms, and when and how - and only when and how - you feel like it?

Be honest with yourself. Really, really honest.

I fully understand none of us are perfect parents, and we all have our strengths and weaknesses. But ask yourself, what kind of block do you want to be? And what are you doing to ensure that you are that kind of block? Or are you saying you want to be a building block, but your actions are consistently those of a stumbling block?

Why do you think we have so many hurting, struggling, insecure, ill-adjusted, disrespectful, unkind, abused, and abusive kids out there who think their parents don't care one iota about them? Maybe because too many of us are stumbling blocks, and we don't realize it. Or worse, we do realize it, and we think its okay! In order to feel better about our own parental shortcomings, we compare ourselves to Joe Schmoe The Dead-Beat Dad, and in comparison, look like parent of the year. So we justify selling our kids short, because at least we're not as bad as HIM!

But here's the thing... We can never sell our kids short of what we are ultimately capable of being to them! I'm not saying we have to be perfect, but when our kids need us, we need to be there!

And just being there physically has nothing to do with it! You can be in the presence of your kids without filling them up. You don't build your kids up by osmosis.

Its like a water pitcher sitting on a table. It doesn't fill glasses just by sitting there. It takes some action. You have to take action to be a good parent. You have to take action to be a building block! You have to "pour into" your kids; emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. And what happens if you hold out on "pouring into" them with your emotional, mental, and spiritual responses? Their cup sits empty and they get thirsty!

Our kids are thirsting for us to "pour into" them. To build them up, and help them grow and tap into their limitless potential. Yes, I said, limitless! The only limiting factor is us, if we let ourselves be stumbling blocks and not building blocks.

A building block becomes part of a greater structure. It becomes the foundation, or the support beams, or the roof...a part of the greater good.

A stumbling block just lies around, getting in the way.

So... What kind of block are YOU?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

But...but...I don't WANNA die!!

Don't worry, people, I haven't been diagnosed with an incurable disease or anything. This isn't some doomsday post. I'm just being my usual hyperbolic self. Don'cha love it?!? ;)

In Christian circles, there is this term "dying to yourself," which means putting others first. I find it easy to do this for the most part, but with marriage it can be hard. I've been trying to turn over a new leaf with my wifedom, but I'm not doing very well. At least I'm trying though, right?

Here's the thing that I think (okay, okay, I KNOW) has been getting in my way for years, and the reason I can't seem to get my house clean or have enough harmony around here: I don't wanna die!! I'm pretty sure that's natural and normal, but still... There is this tug-o'-war inside me that too often just doesn't WANT to die. The whole "submissive wife" thing gets a bad wrap, and while I understand biblically how it works, I still struggle with it. I love serving people, but sometimes serving my husband just isn't that easy. And not because of him, because of ME!

"The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" explains a lot, but I think a lot of the time our spirit isn't even willing. We don't WANT to be willing. We don't WANT to lay down and die. Consciously we know we should, and that it will make things better, but in our heart of hearts, we just don't want to. That has been my problem for a long, long time. For me, this stems from hurt and resentment mainly, and for issues that primarily precede my husband. But that's really no excuse.

I'm not saying my husband is a perfect guy by any means. He has his flaws just like I do. He is pretty great though. But regardless of how I feel, or whether I feel he deserves it or not, I just don't WANT to die! But therein lies the problem.

The person I hurt the most by not laying down to die is not a friend, one (or all) of my children, or even my husband. Its ME!! In a metaphorical sense, I am afraid to die. I am afraid of letting go of that control, that self-centric junk...the root of all the frustrations I deal with on a daily basis.

I don't have all the answers to turn this problem around for myself and the greater good of my marriage, but I'm working on it. Albeit feebly, but at least I'm trying. Its a start, right?!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My take on "Spare the rod, spoil the child"

I have absolutely NO idea why I have decided to tackle this right now. Truthfully, I have wanted to tackle it for a while, but have always felt kind of chicken about it, since its such a hot button topic. Still, I think I have a viewpoint to offer that many don't consider, and I think there is a lot to be gleaned from it. I found the info other places, it didn't just come out of my head, so I am not the only, or the first, person with this take on it. Still, I fear others' opinions a little too much, especially opposing or attacking ones, and though I'm a loud-mouth (loud finger??), I really don't like stepping on toes or offending people. So therein lies all my excuses. But I feel like, if I have something in my head that I've wanted to get out for well over a year or two, and its not fading into obscurity somewhere deep within the backside of my grey matter, then maybe I need to address it so I can move on to other blog topics. So here goes...

First, I need to point out that #1) I am a Bible-believing Christian who tries to follow the instruction of the Word of God, and #2) I do occasionally spank my children. I DO NOT, however, abuse my children, nor do I spank that often. Let's just make all that clear right off the bat.

So here is what bugs me. Being involved in the Christian church for the entire span of my parenthood, and then some, I have come to observe others' actions and words regarding the "spare the rod, spoil the child" verse. And I have come to realize that, at least according to me, a number of Christians view it as a reason to make spanking the end-all-be-all of discipline. The kid sneaks a cookie = a spanking. The kid mouths off = spanking. The kid whines too much = spanking. The kid breaks something valuable = spanking. And so on and so forth.

A few years ago, back when Myspace was all the rage, a friend posted that she was having a hard time disciplining her 2 year old son, and that nothing was working. Being a more veteran mom (I think mine were 6, 4, and in utero at the time), I offered up that for me time-outs or being sent to their rooms worked better with my kids, and that spanking didn't seem to work all that well. A few other Christian moms jumped in with the "spare the rod" verse, to tell me, basically, that my method was wrong. And even the friend who posted kind of poo-pooed me, telling me that I "didn't understand how challenging and strong-willed" her child was and that spanking was the only thing that would work. I hated having my advice/method discredited, but I let it go, figuring I'd do my thing, and they could do theirs.

A few months later, I posted something about having a rough day with my son. One person wrote (and this is probably pretty close to verbatim), "Well, you know, a good spanking always works." After I picked my jaw up off the floor and tried to rid my mind of the disgust I felt toward that statement, I told her I had tried everything, even spanking, and was getting nowhere. Then right behind her came a really condescending remark from another lady, essentially telling me that I needed to be tougher, that I was letting him off too easy, and that I needed to give him "Godly correction," as opposed to...whatever I was doing that she apparently thought wasn't effective. She even went so far as to give me links to Christian parenting books! (And as a side note, all these women had kids younger than my son!)

I know it shouldn't have rattled me, but nobody likes having their parenting OR their Christianity questioned, much less both, and least of all ME, so I began really examining and questioning my own take on parenting, Christianity, and how it related to the whole "spare the rod" verse. I read many a Christian article that said that as a godly parent you HAD to spank, and many a non-Christian article that said spanking was never the answer. So...where did that leave me, as a Christian who didn't really want to spank, especially since it rarely worked for me? Finally, I stumbled onto a series of articles, one of which I found particularly insightful. They are all good articles with at least some good info though, and if you have the time, I suggest you read them all. I'm not going to copy/paste the entire article, but I will highlight the things I feel most important/insightful to mention.

"He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes." (Proverbs 13:24)

To understand this quote one must first understand that the term "rod" is loosely translated. A more accurate word would be "staff" in relation to a shepherd's staff used in sheep herding. In Biblical times, a shepherd's job was of utmost importance. A family's flock of sheep was their means of money, food, and clothing. If the man in charge let even just one sheep get away, he had basically failed in his duties.

In relation to discipline, the shepherd's staff is mentioned in the Bible. How would a shepherd use his staff when herding sheep? Would he strike the sheep to make them move? Would he use it to hurt them if they went astray? No. The shepherd would use it to tap the sheep's sides to guide them in the right direction. If a sheep needed help to get up from a fall, the shepherd would use the crook of his staff to help the animal to stand. The shepherd cared for his flock, and would not cause physical harm to it.

Another of the articles says this:

In no way, shape or form does Solomon profess abusing a child, but instead, shows that failure of the parent to discipline the child and teach the child to follow the law will be the downfall of the child and parent alike. Solomon does not profess that the use of the "rod" is enough. He states that the reproof is necessary to teach the child. Finally, Solomon assures parents that if they will raise their children to be lawful members of the society, they will bring great joy.

....Regardless of religious pursuit, parents are the ones with the responsibility to discipline their children. Parents are also warned that if they fail their children, those children will bring shame upon them. This fact is bared in today's society, as it was in the past. Parents are given options on how to discipline their children. Ultimately, the parents must make the choice.

I looked up in my Strong's Concordance (if you're a Christian and don't have one, GET ONE!) the word "rod" taken straight from the verse, and it defined a rod as:
- a branch
- scion
- stick (for punishing, writing, fighting, ruling, walking, etc.)
- correction
- dart
- rod
- scepter
- staff
- tribe

I delved a little deeper and looked at other passages with the same root word (in the original Hebrew, its the word shebet) so that I could get a good feel for the context and what exactly it meant on a broader scale. I'm far from a Bible scholar, but the gist of what I gleaned was that it is used for striking in many cases, but not all. The rod (or scepter, branch, staff, etc.) is used for many different purposes.

I think too many Christians become too one-sided in their view of the rod, including me "once upon a time." We see it as a striking object, and that is it. But as illustrated by the Hebrew it came from itself, a rod can be many more things than just a giant, hard object for striking things with, and can serve many different purposes, not all of which include pain.

I love the way the "rod" is referred to as, among other things, correction. And under stick, some of the definitions are for ruling, walking, etc. I don't want to look at it purely from a one-sided viewpoint, because I want to be objective, but clearly the rod is not ONLY used for striking, and not in ALL instances. Even Biblically-based, I think its easy to see that the rod's primary purpose is to correct, not to inflict pain. The pain is inflicted as a method to give correction, but correction can also be given without striking with the rod. I think this is something far too many Christian parents miss. There is more to disciplining your child - even in a godly manner - than just striking. The rod is used for correcting, for guiding, and for use along one's walk. I think that brings the bigger picture into fuller focus.

We are called to use our "rods," but we need to use them to reach the longer-term goal. We need to use it carefully and properly. We need to use our rods to correct our children, to guide them, and for them to use along their walk. We cannot limit ourselves to one function of the rod, or we limit our childrens' view of the rod. We can strike with our rods, but if there is no correcting, guiding, and teaching them to use it for walking their walk, then we've missed the point. We need to embrace ALL the rod's functions, and not base our parenting solely around striking.

Personally (uh oh, here I go), I think the verse is way too often misused by Christian parents to justify being overly harsh and heavy-handed with their children. We are supposed to use our rods because we LOVE our children; we are to use them WISELY and CAREFULLY to instruct and correct them. We are to use them to guide our children. Sometimes that correction may come in the form of a spanking, but it can't start and end there. We can't pick up our rods ONLY to hurt or "break" our children. We can't use it ONLY to inflict pain and fear. We can use it to rule over our children (as in a scepter), but not to be fearsome tyrants over them. They need to know that the rod isn't to be feared. Our presence and authority aren't to be feared. But the rod, our authority, is to be respected and revered. The purpose of the rod is to guide, correct, and help our children learn how to navigate their paths, not to break them down by any means necessary.

So let's stop using this verse as an excuse and justification for being too harsh with our children. Let's stop misrepresenting the Word of God to our children, and actually embrace the WHOLE thing, the WHOLE definition, and the WHOLE purpose. Which is bigger, greater, and more long-term than a whack on the butt for every little transgression. Let's use the rod to instruct and teach them, not to harm and humiliate them. Let's teach them to respect the rod, but never to fear it.

And one last thing... NEVER, EVER spank when you're angry!! We are instructed to correct our children out of LOVE, not out of anger. If you need to walk away and cool down, then do it, and come back when you can use your rod lovingly, rather than mercilessly. That only leads to parental regret, guilt, and shame. And being a parent is already hard enough without heaping all that on top, right?!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Birth guilt

It may seem odd that I'm writing about this now, seeing as my youngest - and LAST - child was born almost 3 years ago. I'm done having kids, so why is birth still such a big deal to me? Beats me, but I am. I am a proud, loud advocate for natural childbirth, attachment parenting, breastfeeding, home birthing (although I never did, and never would, do one myself....but that's another story) and a whole slew of other "granola" things about pregnancy, birth, and parenting. And once I know something valuable, I usually become passionate about it, and from there the advocacy and vocalization flows.

I have been trying to compose a blog in my head for a while now. For years, it has bothered me that so many women whine, complain, moan, and groan about the aches, pains, and discomforts of late pregnancy. I've been there and done that. I agree, late pregnancy is miserable. However, there are many young, first-time moms who want to have their baby born preterm because they are "tired of being pregnant." Its sick and sad. I have a friend, and this is the synopsis of her experiences with prematurity (and yes, I have her permission to share):

Marisa would have turned 9 yesterday. She was born at 22 weeks gestation; barely past the halfway point of the ideal 40 weeks. She was the length of a Barbie doll, and barely over a pound in weight. Marisa lived for 45 mins and died in her mother's arms. I have seen pictures of Marisa. I have seen her urn. I have seen her mother's tears. I cannot even imagine what heartache the loss of a baby is.

Morgan is Marisa's little sister, born at 24 weeks. Morgan was under 2 lbs at birth, and stopped breathing multiple times a days for months. She was in the NICU for over 3 1/2 months. Her dad had to perform CPR on her the first night she was home from the hospital. She has many lasting health and developmental/social issues. (Make no doubt about it though, she is one SMART kid!) She defied all the odds, but its still been a very rocky road in her short life.

I posted my feelings about the irritating women who think prematurity is "no big deal" on my Facebook feed the other day, asking for stories from my friends with preemies. Many of them spoke of regrets and sadness. Many of them replayed the fear and uncertainty in their minds. And those who didn't have preemies expressed their relief and gratitude over having a healthy, full-term baby. It was a heavy thread, but I am grateful I have friends who are gutsy enough to share their stories, even if they are painful and sorrowful to remember.

Yesterday, ironically, this post popped up on my wall. Again, it induced comments both of zealous agreement and irritation over this ridiculous school of thought, and of regret and sadness.

As I reflected on the comments made, it made me a bit melancholy. My heart goes out to the women who, because of circumstances out of their control, have not just regrets, but guilt, over their premature deliveries and/or less-than-ideal birth experiences. I find that really sad.

Pregnancy, birth, and motherhood is something women spend a lot of time thinking about. From the moment the line pops up on the stick, we begin "planning," dreaming, wondering, and wishing. We know what we want, and we expect it to happen. And when it doesn't, it can be heartbreaking.

My son was born just shy of 37 weeks (which is what is considered the dividing line between preterm and full-term). I went in on Monday, November 26th for a routine OB check. My due date was December 20th. My elevated blood pressure was now full-blown pre-eclampsia, and my blood sugar levels were too high due to the gestational diabetes, and I was sent straight to the hospital, and told I wasn't going home without him.. I came to find out years later that I was also quite anemic. I was sick, and getting sicker, and the best thing was to induce me. Everything happened so fast, I didn't really digest it til later.

After I got to the hospital, I was hooked up to IV's, monitors, and had my blood drawn a bazillion times. It seemed that anything they could monitor, they did. All I wanted was a healthy baby, so I went along with it all and just trusted my midwife and the nurses had it all under control. They began preliminary induction methods on Tuesday morning. 24 hours later, absolutely nothing had happened. Not even contractions. Wednesday morning, November 28th, around 9AM, they ruptured my membranes, started me on magnesium sulfate, and put in a catheter to monitor my kidneys for potential organ failure if I was to seize from the pre-eclampsia. (Which was FAR more painful than any of the contractions!) Then as the contractions picked up, I had some Stadol, and between that and the mag sulfate, that is where my memory of the rest of his birth gets hazy. And that makes me sad. I remember every detail of my girls' births vividly, but there are "chapters" of my son's that I wasn't present for. He was my first child. I am "supposed" to remember it all. But I don't. Nine and half years later, I still have friends and relatives telling me things about it that I don't have any recollection about. That is a hard pill to swallow, even now.

At birth, he was a decent size for his gestation - 6 lbs, 10 oz and 19 1/2" - but he was small by full-term standards. When he was born, he wasn't screaming. He was groggy and quiet from the cocktail of meds I was administered. Still, he was pink and adorable. Shortly after birth, his core temperature and his blood sugar both took a dip, and it was scary. Not to a level of panic, but it was scary. All I knew was that something was wrong with my baby boy. Not scary wrong, but still not right. As soon as that was under control, the jaundice set in. And one night, I couldn't wake him to nurse, and paged the nurse in sobs. On Saturday morning, his bilirubin was still too high, so after they discharged me, they informed me they wouldn't be discharging him. Fortunately, my midwife is a force to be reckoned with, put the pediatrician in her place, and got her hands on a bili blanket we could take home. The jaundice was in the "safe zone" after a few days, but it lingered for a month or more.

A few weeks after birth, he contracted RSV. Then, about once every 2-3 weeks, he'd be back at the ER or the pediatrician's office with another bout of bronchiolitis, RSV, bronchitis, or pneumonia. We ended up purchasing a nebulizer after about the 4th time we rented it because it was cheaper in the long run, and a lot less hassle. And the respiratory issues went on til he was about 18 months. He also didn't walk til he was 19 1/2 months. And we found out he had undescended testicles that caused multiple hernias.

The older and more educated I get, the more I wrestle with the "what if's." What if I had been able to carry him a few more weeks? Babies' lungs aren't fully developed until somewhere around 38 weeks. Could all the respiratory issues have been prevented if I had just "done more right" and been able to carry him even a week or two longer? A boy's intestines and testicles all live inside the same abdominal cavity until the end when the testicles drop and the abdominal cavity closes around the intestines. (His intestines dropped into the area where the testicles are supposed to go, which blocked the testicles from descending, and caused the hernias.) If I'd been able to carry him longer, would his body have closed correctly and prevented the hernias from forming? And without the hernias, would he have walked sooner? If I could have prevented my elevated blood pressure from developing into pre-eclampsia, could I have avoided the magnesium sulfate that caused me to be so out of it that I don't remember half of his birth? These are the questions I am plagued with. I don't think about them all the time, but when I do, its overwhelming, and it causes regrets and guilt over not being able to carry him longer. Because I know it would have made a difference.

And for those with preemies - especially micro-preemies - its a lot worse. The guilt must be so much heavier.

But for just about every mother, for just about every birth, there is some guilt. And oftentimes, its because of things we cannot control. Its over circumstances that we never saw coming and couldn't do anything about. We build up our hopes, dreams, and expectations, and when it doesn't work out, its sad. Its a let-down. Its a huge blow. And instead of just accepting it as doing the best we could with what we were dealt, we feel remorse, and then guilt. We always feel like, this is my child, and it was my job to do everything right so that it would all turn out alright. If breastfeeding didn't work out, there is guilt. If a woman ended up with a c-section, there is guilt. If her baby isn't born at full-term, there is guilt. If anything the mother built up in her mind doesn't happen as according to plan, there is guilt. It breaks my heart. It really does.

I don't know what the answer is. Usually I offer some sort of advice or encouragement at the end of my blogs, but I feel like this one may not be quite as full-circle as my other ones. But here is what helps me work through it all.

I look at my son. I remember everything we've been through (which he doesn't even remember). I realize that, through all of it, I have done everything I could possibly do for him. I fought for him. I cried for him. I worked hard to make things right for him. I can't change the past, but in the end, it doesn't really matter. My son is handsome. He's smart. He's funny, and courageous, and sweet, and most importantly, he's healthy and happy. And he's mine. He is mine! I love him, and he loves me, and nothing else really matters.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Don't be loose with heavy words!

Okay, I am SUPER fired up right now, so if this comes off harsh, I am sorry. No, actually, I'm not. I make no apologies for this blog, because it NEEDS to be said. Too many people are too complacent about this issue, and nobody seems to CARE enough to stand up against it and say something. I'm not much of a tongue-biter, and certainly not in written form, so no, I don't care if you don't like what I have to say. At least I have the guts to say it, unlike most people. And in fact, most people don't even see this BIG problem as a problem at all. People have become complacent, and when it comes to THIS issue, that is really messed up!! So honestly, if this offends you, I don't care one little bit because if you think this is okay, then I honestly think you need to take a long, hard look at your own heart.

So here's the issue. Words. Words getting thrown around with absolutely NO regard for the REAL weight of the words and who they might hurt. Phrases like, "You're gay," "that's gay," "that's so retarded," "you retard," "I'm such a retard for...," "that person must be bipolar," "he's just crazy," "I'm having an ADD moment," "you tweaker," "you need to go to rehab for...," "'sup n-word" (sorry, I won't type that whole word out...that would make me sick to my stomach!), "hey b*tches," "what's up, b*tches," "you're such a whore," "he's such a pimp," and the list goes on, and on, and on. (Any more than that, and I may puke. I'm offending myself just typing it out. But I need to convey the gravity.)

Here's my beef with that. Even if that isn't said to someone who really IS gay, or has special needs, or suffers from a mental health issue, there is someone - millions of people! - who that refers to. And they WOULD BE offended!

I take offense to it! I suffer from chronic rapid-cycling depression, which closely resembles Bipolar II. I don't like it when mental health issues are taken lightly and glibly. One in 5 Americans suffers from depression, many of them chronically, and let me tell you from first-hand experience, its no laughing matter. People take their own lives because of it! It can be DEADLY! That is NO - absolutely NO! - laughing matter!! And on top of the 1 in 5 with depression, there are many, many other mental health issues. Digest that for a second. Do you still think loosely throwing around words pertaining to peoples' personal struggles is okay? Or funny? Its not! Not to me, and not to many other people.

One of my best friends is gay. I get really offended when people loosely throw that term around too. Its making a tongue-and-cheek about the lifestyle millions of people live, a life that, as my good friend can attest, is NOT easy to live without ridicule. Do you think throwing these words around as jokes make that any EASIER or LESS PAINFUL for the gay community? It doesn't. It hurts them and makes them feel even more alienated. What is so humorous or cool about ridiculing and alienating a whole community of people with your loose words? Like I said, if you think its okay, then you need to take a hard look at yourself.

My dad is a retired 27-year special education teacher. My daughter's best friend is autistic. I learned at a VERY young age that I was NEVER allowed to use the term "retard" or "retarded" loosely...or really, at all. People with developmental disabilities are often looked down on or treated like they're stupid. Some of my dad's students have been mathematical and artistic GENIUSES! One of his students graduated not only high school, but also COLLEGE! Many non-developmentally-delayed individuals don't even do that; people that are "so called," "more intelligent." And as for my daughter's best friend, she is in one of the highest reading groups in the 1st grade, and has defied so many odds and obstacles in her 6 1/2 year life, and will probably be fighting for the rest of her life. So to demean and undermine the intelligence of these BRILLIANT human beings by calling them "retarded" is just plain MEAN, and they DO NOT deserve that term being thrown around loosely because its hurtful and undeserved. They didn't CHOOSE to be developmentally delayed - nor did their families - so to use the term so lightly is NOT funny! EVER!

My sister is a recovering drug addict/alcoholic. After everything she - and our entire family - has gone through, even going to the brink of death and back, calling people "tweakers," and using drug abuse references lightly hurts me on a VERY deep level. Again, this is an issue that CAN and DOES cause WAY too many deaths. Think about the families of addicts for a minute. Nobody ever does. Do you not realize that using these terms lightly just magnifies the painful experiences and memories of addicts and their families. What is funny about the pain of watching your family member almost DIE in front of your very eyes? Or the physical and mental pain of withdrawals and detox? Do you think if you ever went through an experience like that, that you would STILL take it lightly and throw words like that around loosely? Really, really envision yourself in the shoes of an addict, recovering addict, or family member of an addict. Do you still think its okay to be so glib about it?

And what in the world is so funny about likening your friends to canines? You don't find that at ALL demeaning?! I'm sorry. I'm a human, not a dog. Please refer to me as such. Or glibly referring to a friend as someone who sells their body, or contracts such acts? That's just sick.

I know there are probably people who will comment - or at least think - "What is her problem? Why can't she take a joke?" I can take A joke. I just can't that these TYPES of jokes. Not loose words at the expense of other people and the people who love them. Not loose words that poke fun at people for simply being who they are, or the circumstances of their lives. Not jokes about things they cannot control or change about themselves. Not things that make their personal battles harder. Not things that magnify their and/or their families'/friends' insecurities and pain. Not things that demean or devalue others.

I know there are also people who will read this and comment - or at least think - "Well, if its not DIRECTLY said to someone of this group or another, then they'll never hear it, so what does it matter?" Its still hurtful to someone, somewhere. And isn't that enough? It should be.

So no, I make no apologies for this blog's content, and I will stand by it even if you think I am overreacting or have no sense of humor. If I don't, then I guess I don't. I don't care, because I would rather stand by my principles, be a caring and respectful person, and not hurt people by the loose words that proceed from my mouth, than be a "funny" person.

All I ask is, if you use EVEN ONE of these words loosely, or in jest, that you examine your "jokes," and consider their weight, and the people they represent who are hurt by them. Consider the people on the other end of your "joke." Consider the populace it represents. Be more aware. Be more careful. Keep your words in check. And for gosh sakes, find words that more respectful and treat people like the wonderful HUMAN BEINGS that they are, not nameless, faceless objects! Because they have names, faces, and most importantly, FEELINGS! Just THINK! Promise me that you'll at least THINK about the gravity of the words you may be spewing. And if you have a heart in that chest of yours, and not a cold, hard stone, and you need to make changes, the DO IT - right here, right now! RIGHT NOW!!!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Good is good enough. Perfect is a lie.

I am posting this because I am so sick and tired of the LIE (yep, I'm calling it what it is!!) that women - particularly housewives/SAHMs like me - need to be "perfect" women.

The lie is this: Women need to have spotless homes at all times. Women need to have gourmet meals on the table everyday when their husbands get home. Women need to have children who are "seen and not heard." Women need to have children who excel at school and in extracurriculars. Women need to excel at everything domestic. Women need to be thin, beautiful, healthy, wear make-up, have nice hair and nails, cover their grey hairs, pluck their eyebrows, dress to the 9's... Women can never show their vulnerabilities or flaws - they have to hold it together.

This is what society apparently expects, because this is what every woman feels like she needs to achieve. Which is really sad because NOBODY can achieve ALL of that! Yet, a lot of women try.

I was one of them. And for a few years, I did pretty darn well. The house was spotless, my kids were well behaved, dinner was always cooked, I always looked put together, yadda yadda. I had it all. I had achieved the highest level of housewifedom.

Then, it fell apart. Some family things happened and I began to crack. I became vulnerable, but didn't want to show it, because I didn't want anyone to see that I wasn't perfect, my marriage wasn't perfect, my kids weren't perfect, my family wasn't perfect, my LIFE wasn't perfect. So I sucked it up, held it in, and allowed myself to continue to be bullied into thinking that the LIE of perfection was gospel truth. And it didn't help that people, particularly in the church I attended at the time, reinforced - through their actions, and even through their words - that lie. People I looked to for guidance and support ultimately left me only feeling more guilty for not having it all together.

I fell into a DEEP depression, one that took me years to even have the courage to deal with. My house began to get messier again. My kids began to suffer from my instability. My marriage started to suffer. And I was holding together by a thread. I eventually got help for the depression and got my life back. And only then did I realize and finally embrace the truth.

Good is good enough. Trying to be perfect almost destroyed me. When I finally got myself help, I was one step away from suicidal. (Not that I ever considered carrying it through, but I did have those thoughts a lot.) So as much as society STILL wants to tell me that good isn't good enough, and perfection is the only thing that is acceptable for a woman, I refuse to ever go back to that belief system.

Could I do more? Could I do better? Of course. But would it be good for me? Probably not. And I'm too scared to even toy with the perfection LIE again.

I worry about women who still hold on to this LIE. I worry a lot. Way too many women that I love and admire think they have to be perfect, and it makes me want to cry. My deepest fear for them is that they'll end up where I was.

Women, good is good enough! So you struggle in one area or another, maybe even half or more of the things I listed. But so what? Look at all the things you're doing right!

Using myself as an example, of the things I listed above, here's where I stand:
- I rarely have a spotless house. Its usually covered in clutter. I don't like it, but I accept it, because I am one person, and I have 3 kids, a husband, and a cat. It is what it is.
- I almost always cook dinner for the fam. Is it always ready when Jeremy gets home? Maybe half the time. Is it always gourmet? It usually tastes good and is better than most families eat, but we still eat tuna casserole a lot, and I wouldn't exactly call that glamorous.
- My kids? They're very smart, well-adjusted, and usually well-behaved. But Seth still struggles with math, they still have emotional outburts, they still argue with eachother, and the little one can scream VERY loudly in a grocery store when she's mad! They're fantastic kids, but they're far from perfect!
- I don't excel at everything domestic. I can cook and bake better than a lot of women, but as mentioned above, I'm not a great housekeeper, and don't ask me to sew anything other than a button because it will look terrible.
- Thin, beautiful, healthy, etc... I could work out more, I could stand to lose some pounds, and I need some new clothes, but I do try and look put together and not "let myself go" too much. But I also don't sweat it if I have to go without make-up or look a bit underdressed for church. I can only do what I can do given limited time and money.

I am not trying to put myself on a pedastal and say I have it all figured out. I definitely don't. But I have come to accept myself, and my capabilities, and more importantly my LIMITATIONS, and accepted that good is good enough. If one day my house looks good, and the next its a wreck, it is what it is. I was probably busy with the kids all day. I'll try again tomorrow.

Which brings me to the bigger picture. I believe that if we get too wrapped up in all the "surface" stuff, we lose sight of what is really important. If we're too focused on "looking" perfect or trying to "be" perfect, then we expend too much energy on the fluff. I'm not saying the things above aren't important, but are they as important as nurturing yourself and your family? Is having everything dusted so important that you forget to sit down and plug in to your family on an emotional, mental, and spiritual level? Is it so important you don't take breaks and run yourself ragged? Is perfect THAT important? No. Its not. Or at least not to me.

We can only do the best we can do. So, society, can you let it go? Can you go easier on women? Men, can you spend more time loving your wives than giving them long lists of an unrealistic number expectations in a given day? And women, can you please, PLEASE let go of the LIE that perfect is where you need to be, and start embracing the TRUTH that good is good enough?