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Tuesday, December 9

One Less

Today, I was reading back through old 1990s pagan parenting websites.  These are those busy-background picture-less things that used to be hosted on Geo-Cities or some other now-defunct free web hosting sites.  I found myself drawn to an old section of editorials.

I was reading a reaction to the Columbine shootings and the writing devolved into the discussion of bullies and just how cruel children can be in general.  Amberflame wrote:
 "I wonder if anything can ever match the cruelty of children. 
Then I listen to adults, and no longer wonder."
Her words ring of such truth that I want to sob.

I'm not sure if it's laziness, exhaustion, or simply human fallibility that causes us to stunt our children with such careless regard some days.  We snap at children.  We order them around.  We are not always as careful as we should be in our speech when we address them.

My biggest complaint to Papa J (when it comes to his struggling step-parenthood to Doodle Bug) is that he would NEVER want to be spoken to in the manner with which he speaks to our son.  When he speaks to Doodle Bug without thinking, when he snaps at him out of irritation, the venom in his voice drips of the reminder that "you're a not mine" or "your very presence in this house irritates me".  If Doodle Bug tries to be physically affectionate, Papa J jumps or stiffens up. 

It's not everyday, but it's often enough that I know my son has internalized his father's nonacceptance of him.  And try as he might on a conscious level, Papa J's subconscious rejection of our son is glaringly obvious.

These two photos were taken 15 seconds apart.  I said, "Smile!" both times.  The only thing that changed was that I asked Doodle Bug to stand by his dad.


We've talked with therapists and had our own whisper fight/discussions in bed at 2am.  Somewhere, there is a Monster in Papa J's closet that doesn't allow him to accept and unconditionally love Doodle Bug.  His reactions are unconscious

I've even hauled us off to parenting seminars by a gifted man who has yet to make a splash across the nation, but who I've no doubt will one day.  Eric Guy, the founder of the Center for Victory, counsels foster families, adoptive families, and basically families in crisis.  He asks that we recognize the emotional needs of children from the womb on up.  It's a great seminar that I wish could somehow become required of all parents and teachers.

Anyway, part of his lecture asks you to envision the layers of your mind and memory as a file cabinet.  The very bottom drawer holds the scary Monsters of trauma and hurt and rebuff that cause us to be shallow or callous or lie or act out any of the negative behaviors that we catch ourselves doing.  This bottom drawer is full of ugliness that we have no conscious memory of how it got there or what exactly happened to put that Monster there.

Eric Guy shares that the problem comes in when a child approaches an adult and says "I'm having trouble with something" and pulls open their bottom drawer to show that trusted adult their Monster... and that adult, instead of helping and understanding, pulls open their bottom drawer and says "Boo!  Mine's bigger!"

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This happens to children across the globe everyday.  They are snapped at or pushed out of the room or sent to bed or spanked... without having their problem addressed.  They learn to internalize harsh words and rejection.  They act out, they suffer with low self-esteem and bullies.

I am a believer in trying to consciously recognize the underlying reasons for Baby E throwing things at me or Doodle Bug lying.   It doesn't mean I'm perfect or do it every time.  It doesn't mean that stress doesn't sometimes get the better of me.  It doesn't mean I always have a solution.  But it does mean that I'm trying to create a few less Monsters for my babies.

Further along in the editorial I was reading, Amberflame wrote about the disparaging responses of some parents who think that teaching your child not to tease or bully or become violent was a waste of time.
"Someone asked: So what if you raise your child on an alternate path that teaches respect for others. How many other children are not raised that way?"
Her favorite response to this parent was, "One less."

And how dynamic are those two words?  The idea that no matter how dark the world may be, I am not raising my children to become the darkness, but to become one of the unwavering lights that bring support and cheer to the world.  I want them to respond from LOVE, never FEAR.  I want to raise helpers, not bullies.

I hope you share this quest.  I hope you strive every day to speak kinder and react with more compassion that the day before.  I hope you hug before hitting.  I hope.  

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  1. A beautiful post and thank you for being so candid. We have a similar problem at our house, but not with step children. My husband and I both lost our first families and he cannot get over the fear of feeling that hurt again. Some days, I have to remind him these children are not G-- and C-- and I am not raising them they way his first wife raised her children. You will see these girls grow up and not be pushed out.

    1. It is a vicious cycle. It reminds me that I have my own monsters and that I need to remember what problems are my son's and which are really mine.