When Fear Takes Over

kids-2016“I’m not going to school tomorrow,” my daughter announced as she walked in the door last night. “There’s going to be bad clowns who will kidnap students and kill teachers.”

I had already received a notification from the children’s high school, saying that there had been a “non-specific social media threat” and that they were beefing up security just as a precaution.

I had two choices at that point: To feed the fear, or to help her move past it. The easy thing to do would have been to say, “Don’t worry, honey. You can stay home tomorrow.” That’s what she wanted me to say. What’s one day of school, after all?

But the more I thought about it, I saw a teachable moment. I dimly recalled an article I’d read on handling anxious dogs, how showing confidence as the authority figure helps them get over their fears. And while my daughter is much more important than a dog, I decided to see if a more confident approach would help her, too.

So, this morning I woke her up early and said we were going to McDonalds for breakfast (that always starts the day off right – she’s got a taste for Caramel frappes). As we drove past the school, I pointed out all the police cars and reminded her that no one was going to be allowed into the school without a badge. “And if at any point in the day you feel scared, you can always call me on your cell. I promise to keep it next to me all day.”

I saw her face soften. “Those clowns are terrorists! Bullies!”

I agreed with her. “And what happens when you let a bully win? Does he stop?” She shook her head. “That’s right. But when you ignore the bully and keep doing what you’re doing, when he sees he has no power over you, what happens?”

That was easy. “The bully loses,” she said. “Thanks, Mom! That helps. I’m going to go into that school and show the bullies I’m not afraid!”

Dear Jesus, I love that brave, sweet girl. Her brother, too. Keep them safe today.

 

Teaching Kids to Apologize

naughty kid “SOOOOOOO-RY!” (insert eyeroll).

Ever wonder what to do when the request to apologize falls on snarky years? I do … or, I did until this morning, when I stumbled on “CuppaCocoa’s” post “A Better Way to Say I’m Sorry.”

As she rightly points out, letting an offense go with an insincere apology does more harm than good. “He not only learns a poor lesson that he can get away with lies and empty words, but does not have the opportunity to experience true reconciliation and restoration of relationships. He will probably continue inflicting similar offenses, feel less remorse than he should, and undergo less positive character change than he could have.”

Teaching kids HOW to apologize … brilliant!

Do you need to practice these four steps with your kids today? Or with someone else, perhaps?

Happy Lent!

The Gift of Perspective

j0438992As weeks go, it was not exactly the stuff memories are made of — not good ones anyway. In our extended family, one was diagnosed with prostate cancer, another had a gall bladder removed, a third was hospitalized a second time for serious mental health issues. The school called, reporting an incident with one of the kids. On Valentine’s Day, my husband went to have a suspicious growth removed. Plus there was the whole matter of the relentless white stuff that God kept pelting down from heaven like some cosmic snowball fight he was determined to win. Oh, and our ceiling is leaking from our (second floor) bedroom to our (first floor) kitchen. If I’d lit a candle for every intention, I would have set the church ablaze. Yes, one of those weeks.

But as I sat down to lunch with a friend yesterday, she looked at me and said, “I can tell life is good for you right now. You are glowing with happiness.”

The funny thing is … I feel happy. My life is infinitely better than it was this time last year. Sure, we have to move (again) in two months … but it’s to a job I love, to work with people who give me freedom to do my best work, and trust me to do it well. Yes, my child had a problem at school … but both my kids are HOME, and I get to tuck them into bed at night. Yes, our heating bills have been more than $800/month for the past two months … but we have been able to put food on the table, even so.

The sick relatives are a bit tougher. It’s always hard when a family member is hurting at a distance. It’s natural to want to lift their burden, or at least carry part of it for them. More than anything, you want to do more than pray.

But sometimes … sometimes trusting God is the only thing to do. When we open our hands and offer our burden back to God, we become conduits of grace to bring about God’s will in this world. And that is no small thing.

So, go ahead. Light that candle. Pick up that rosary. Breathe deeply, and speak aloud your intention not to let worry and fear prevent you from trusting the Creator of all things good. Ask God for the gift of perspective, that knows our heavenly Father does not leave his children burdened by life to their own devices. Rather, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “He shouts to us in our pain,” making us stronger and more compassionate, better able to recognize and respond to the hurting world around us.

At some moment of our lives, each of us is called to live in the Pascal Mystery. Is God calling you to carry your own cross, in the footsteps of Christ? Or is he asking you to follow at a distance, like the Blessed Mother? Both are needed, but you will only have grace enough for one.

31 Days of De-Stressed Living, Day 29: “Yes” is a Powerful Word

water_security“Yes” is a powerful word.
Yell it or tell it or
speak it real soft.
Cry or create it or
raise it aloft.
Sing it, and bring it
alive when you’re lost.
Yes, “yes” is a powerful word.

“Try” is a weakening word.
Tentative tendrils of
uncertainty.
Like shimmering shells
‘neath a thundering sea.
I don’t recognize her,
this shadow of me …
For “try” is a weakening word.

And “space” is a magical word.
A silent expanse of
promise glides by.
Pushing aside every thought,
terrified. Amplified.
Till hope finds a home,
and expands on its own.
Says, “Absolutely. Yes.”

Maybe.

What is your powerful word?

31 Days of De-Stressed Living, Day 28: X-amine Priorities Through a Child’s Eyes

cuddle“Mommy, will you play with me?”

“Mommy, can you rub-tickle my arm?”

“Mommy, I wanna snuggle…”

I imagined that by the time my children reached middle school, they would stop seeking my company quite so actively. When I was in seventh grade, I used to climb out on the roof outside my bedroom window to escape my mother. Outside, with the biggest book I could find — usually a Reader’s Digest Condensed. My parents had a whole shelf full of the things. I’d start at one end, and work my way to the other side.

Looking back, I probably should have asked my mom to take me to the library. We didn’t have a television, and only the Christian radio station was allowed. So books were my escape.

For reasons I don’t entirely understand, my kids don’t like to read. I’ve tried all the usual things: reading aloud, and offering a variety of books, and getting them books on tape. No dice. And I’m not entirely sure why.

Is it possible that a love of reading is genetic, rather than environmental?

No, when my kids are stressed out, they want … Contact. Close physical proximity for as long as I will let them. Like junkies looking for a fix, they sidle up beside me, and nudge my arm until I lift it over their shoulders. Sarah bounces against my “air bags” (as she calls them) contentedly, while Chris simply leans against my shoulder, pulling the closest soft blanket over us all. Even in church (then it’s without the blanket), they lean in purposefully.

Sometimes I enjoy it. I mean, what mom wouldn’t relish the feeling of being their child’s whole world? Other times, it can get a little claustrophobic. Like they don’t stop until they’ve drained the last drop of attention. Still others, I wonder if I’m feeding a monster, if I would be doing them a kindness by weaning them from the constant need to touch, clutch, and snuggle.

But then … I have to examine things from their eyes. All the change, all the fear, all the loss, all the feelings … it has to go somewhere. it has to diffuse somehow. And mom is the rock that makes them roll.

And when my life is stressed, from all the change, and the fear, and the loss, and the feelings that threaten to swallow me whole, sometimes it helps to find a place to cuddle, snuggle underneath a soft, fleecy blanket.

They may not be readers … but they’re pretty smart.

31 Days of De-Stressed Living, Day 16: Live and Let Live

monster momOver at “4 Moms,” Beth-Anne Jones writes about “discretionary burdens,” the self-imposed expectations we put on ourselves that result in our running a round the house screeching like a fishwife, eyes bugged out and children running scared. “All right, you sneaky little rug rats. WHO ate the M&Ms I left on the counter to make the eyes on the triple-decker reindeer cookies I was making for your class party tomorrow?!??!”

Sure, I could have whipped out the Pillsbury version in a snap, but Noooooo. I have to do my own personal version of “Cupcake Wars.” But with seasonal cookies. (And the fact that I don’t have a picture here should tell you something about how they turned out.)gingerbread-village

Today’s de-stress tip acknowledges that there are two kinds of stress: The kind we receive from the universe (“MOM! I need 27 cupcakes for our class party tomorrow.”), and the kind we impose on ourselves and others. (“Oh, my goodness. I have to come up with something that will top the gingerbread village I made for Sarah’s teacher last year, or this teacher will think I’m a slacker.”)

No, she won’t. Get out the Pillsbury dough, and she’ll be thankful she won’t have to deal with the Supersized sugar buzz like last year’s teacher.

Recently, thanks to Christopher’s current teacher, it also struck me that I need to lighten up on the expectations I put on my kids sometimes, too. For example, when your eighth-grader curls up in the fetal position when you log on to “Study Island,” that might be a sign that he needs to go outside and romp with the dog for a few minutes instead of logging on yet another hour of math fact fun. Yes, he needs to catch up to his peers. But does he have to do it today? Of course not.

Live . . . and let live. Discipline, tempered with mercy. For yourself. For your kids. For life.

What “discretionary burdens” give you trouble?

31 Days of De-Stressed Living, Day 15: Kiss Me!

ballroom image“Mom! I need my love banks filled!”

The declaration is never entirely unexpected; I can usually read the symptoms: Grumpy, Snarky, Snippy, and all the other objectionable little dwarves take up residence, and the only thing that will drive them out of my kids is a systematic foot massage with corresponding breaks for butterfly kisses, “face tracing,” back rubs, and silly songs.

The truth is, the kids aren’t the only ones with love banks in need of filling. The dwarves come to visit when the adults in our house don’t get the recommended dosage of TLC. When we first met, my husband and I belonged to the University of Michigan Ballroom Dance Club. Every Sunday night he would twirl me around the dance floor in waltz, salsa, West Coast Swing, or cha-cha.

That was fifteen years ago. Swing Girl is pretty much all swung out . . . so is Swing Guy. But Flirt Girl is alive and well, and sometimes what her “love banks” need most is … “Kiss me!”

Not wining and dining. Not a chick flick marathon. Nothing strenuous. Just a cuddle and a twirl. And, yes, That Kiss.

My favorite kind of de-stressing.

#lovebanks