Our Children Are Our Best Medicine

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I was asked to see Michael Vladeck speak about 2 days after writing my last blog entry regarding raising teenagers and pulling my hair out. Ha! Don’t you love how the Universe and God provide just what you need at the perfect time? Here is a 3-minute youtube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6sKDob2lSzo

“When the student is ready, the teacher appears”. I guess I was ready. Michael Vladeck explained that raising kids brings up all the issues that WE need to work on. So if our parenting is a hard phase for us right now, then something is coming up in our own brains and beings that we need to address, recover, learn, and grow from in order to meet our childrens’ parenting needs.

He also said we are on the front wave of BEING instead of just DOING the parenting to support our kids. Remember our parents’ style of parenting (“Stop arguing now, or I will pull over the car and you can WALK!”)? We really are making landmark changes in parenting and raising responsible healthy adults when we listen to them, ask what is bothering them, be present with them in their struggles, and cultivate consciousness by being centered ourselves. (Yes, the consequences still apply, but we need to seek first to understand before we can be understood).

I tried this the other day with my teenage boy I have watched grow from a sweet little guy who loved to hold my hand to a sometimes lying taller than me dude who leaves puddles of water and wet towels on my bathroom floor twice a day. He was complaining about his teachers (2 of whom had emailed me and told me he is still socializing too much to actually focus on his work in class…).

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I began interrupting immediately, with the news of his grades and grounding, and blah blah consequences. He walked out of the room in a huff, which was a subtle clue that I had missed an opportunity and was going to have diminishing impact on his decisions. So I restarted: I apologized for not listening, and we sat outside so I would not be tempted to load the dishwasher while we talked it over. I barely talked at all. I mainly listened, and listened, and listened some more to the rant. I felt myself softening towards him, the anger melted away every time I said “Wow, that sounds hard”. I saw him relax too, and he poured a lot out. A LOT. I needed to hear that stuff, he needed to say it, and we needed that reconnection.

Michael Vladeck said that “Anger is sometimes the only way to have control, or semblance of control in our lives. Rage masks unworthiness.” Ouch! Good one there, huh? My son is out of my control and it makes me feel unworthy for some reason… I can no longer control anything in his life except the volume of food available in my kitchen for him to eat. He will either wear the bike helmet or strap it to his backpack. He will either eat the food prepared, or gorge on sweet tarts 20 minutes beforehand. It is also his choice to follow his friends or make his own decisions. He is not a reflection of me (unlike the message our parents gave/give us). He is his own person, and his choices should not make me feel unworthy. When I am stuck in my own gunk and projecting that onto my kids, I fail to be present with them in theirs and miss the opportunity to teach them to be present with their stuff, to model how to work out their issues.

Our kids have real-life issues. I am the one paying the mortgage and going to work, but I am not the only one in the house with a stressful life. Our kids need to see us grapple and deal with our issues. We need to grapple and deal with our issues for at least 3 reasons: 1) to model to them how to do it; 2) to assure them that it is ok to have heartbreak over a lost boyfriend, angst over financial stress, sadness over lost friends, etc. because everyone has that stuff; and 3) so that we as parents can clean up our own side of the street and be present with our kids having their own experiences and issues.

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