Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Parental Denial

We all have difficulty embracing hidden or dark truths about ourselves.  As we mature, we try to become more comfortable in our own skin by rolling up our sleeves and getting to work on ourselves.  However, when it comes to our children there is a type of denial if not kept in check can be very blinding.

We know the cliched example - Sally does something awful. Parent is confronted. Parent denies it and is offended at the assertion.  Time passes and the parent begins to wonder could Sally do that?  Is it possible?  What if she did do it?  What should I do now?  Have I waited too long?

What a waste of time!  Just as we know ourselves, we also know our child's inclinations.  We know what our child has the potential to do.  When confronted we know full well that it is possible that Sally is guilty of the crime.  Maybe we are embarrassed and think that Sally's behavior is a reflection of our parenting.  Maybe we are mad (oooo yes - I said mad - we are human yes?) that our child's behavior caused a conflict between ourselves and the class supermom.  The reality is our children will participate in behavior we are not proud of.  Especially when they are outside of our influence.  There isn't a parent on earth that has not had this happen to them.  You are not unique.

The faster you rebound from the initial confrontation the better.  That parent who is taking the risk to speak with you regarding Sally, should feel at the end that you heard her.  She doesn't need to know what you will or won't do.  Just simply that you heard her.

Your ability to quickly rebound will give you time to plan "next steps" regarding your child's behavior. I am a real proponent of "sooner rather than later."  But you know your families pacing and should work accordingly.  However, you may not want Sally to think that she has gotten away with something.  

A few weeks ago, I was approached by a mother from my daughters school.  My daughter and hers were classmates.  Recently her daughter had felt harassed by my daughter .  My daughter, every single time this young girl scratched her head, would tell her, "I think you have head lice."  This went on for a few days.  I felt terrible.  This young girl was new to our city and new to our school. And I knew that my daughter was fond of her.  But, boy did I know that was parent was telling me was true.  My daughter had struggled with head lice last year, due to another child in her class that went untreated.  The last thing my daughter ever wanted to face was another treatment for lice.

Immediately, I apologized to the mother.  I assured her, that I would handle this and should it happen again - she should let me know immediately.  As the mother put her daughter on the bus for the day, she deserved the peace of mind that she had been heard.  She didn't need to add a mothers hesitance or resistance on top of the child's feelings.  At the end, I got all the information I needed and she got the assurances that she needed.  

This type of confrontation is not just reserved for parents.  It can also occur with your child's teacher.  Maybe it was a social interaction in class or poor test performance or an uncovered learning disability.  In this instance rebounding needs to be immediate.  Your time is best spent asking questions and learning all you can.  You may not necessarily agree, but understanding all you can about your teachers assessment will help you decide what to do next.  As you wrap your discussion with the teacher,  you don't have to be in agreement.  All the teacher needs to know is that you will look into this further.  Then later you can do your own research and reflection to determine what actions are necessary.  

Regardless of how hard we try, we cannot know every single facet of our children.  The opportunity to learn whether at the hands of a teacher or another adult is a gift.  We all know that our children act differently when they are outside of our care.  This is when they make independent decisions and we can can see in those decisions, who they are and what they value.  

As parents we are always putting parts of our lives on hold for our children.  We work so hard to raise good and smart children.  When we get feedback like this, we feel a sense of failure.  By, putting our pride aside to approach our children with an open mind is much better than pretending Sally is a perfect flawless child. Eve Ensler puts in rightly, "I think the greatest illusion we have is that denial protects us. It's actually the biggest distortion and lie. In fact staying asleep is what's killing us."   

Now for those of you who are concerned about the annoying mom who always has an opinion, a critique. Well you  know who they are, and what you should do with them.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Why so glib?

Patrick J. Kennedy characterized the effects of terrorism saying,  “Terrorism is psychological warfare.  Terrorists try to manipulate us and change our behavior by creating fear, uncertainty, and division in society.”  After 9/11 my initial reaction was like most, fear.  Having stood on the fire escape facing south watching the towers as they fell – I was shaken.  It took me nearly 12 months until things started to feel even slightly normal.  Now, some thirteen years later, my greatest fear is that I have grown cold.  

The recent string of be-headings made me very aware of how glib I had become.  One day, the news had broken that a mother had reached out to the kidnappers without success.  In a conversation with my mother regarding the news, I just flipped off my tongue, “He’ll be dead by the weekend.”  There was no feeling, no horror – just a simple calculation 1+1=2.  Where did this come from?  These men were loved. These men were brave and selfless. These men were gone.  

My fear is that after over a decade of wars, bombings, kidnappings, and be-headings, I had grown far too accustomed to this “new normal.”  Part of my post  9/11 routine has found me very attached to the news.  For example, if I wake up in the middle of the night for a bathroom break – before my head hits the pillow, I will have read every single news item that has collected in my feed.  And yes, my phone is kept nearby.  I wonder if all of this has created numbness.

After 9/11 we were all encouraged to get back to business as usual.  We were to shop, go out to eat, and get back on the subway.  We were not to allow the terrorists take away our freedom to live the life we were to live.  As the year moved on we all did just that.  However, we all clearly know now that the threat has not dissipated - the body count keeps growing.  The articles, the footage, and the pundits placing blame on the party across the aisle – we just tire of it all.

Our minds are full of details to follow, new religious sects to keep straight, and new geographies to explore and understand.  Then there are the new rules whether you travel by plane or by train.  We have to say something if we see something. We have to remember to wear easy to remove shoes when we travel.  At the end of it all, I wonder if I have been lulled into an apathetic coma or if I have run out of bandwidth and I am in overload. Or worse, that in an effort to protect myself I have stripped emotion from fact.  

When lives are lost or are in the balance, there is no room for apathy.  Diligence and a commitment to truth must be tantamount to my desire to "feel safe."  Because in reality, the feeling of safety , does not guarantee the actuality of safety.  Emiliano Salinas wisely said, "Fear is better than apathy because fear makes us do something."  Maybe the lesson learned here is not to be so afraid of fear.  Especially if we can no longer appreciate the full weight of what is upon us.  

Why God?

We all at one point or another ponder the “why”.  Why did this happen to me? Why today?  Why now?  Why ever? Encountering difficult passageways is a part of lifes journey.  No one difficulty is the same.  Each one hits at a different time in a different way.  In most cases, we aren’t ready for it.  We grapple with so many questions along the way.  But one always persists – Why God?  Why?

Now if you are smart, you will only utter that thought when you are alone and never out loud.  If you do, and certain personalities are around to hear you, brace yourself because you are likely to be told either:

1. God never gives you more than you can handle


2. It is the mystery of God.  We may not understand until we get to heaven.

After that sage advice, you might have a second question – Why did I even ask? Being left wondering “Why?”  

At this stage in my life, when I am in the midst of a crisis, I have learned that pondering “why” is the most unproductive thing I can do.  Regardless of the situation I am in, there are details that require my attention and tasks that need to be done.  Those details and tasks can only be accomplished if I remain focused.  And every day I trudge through the hardship, I must awake with some hope.  And if I am consumed with the unanswered “why” I am distracted and hopeless.  And I get it.  Somedays we just need that escape because the reality of what we are facing is so hard.  But, the reality is that we all wake up the next day in the same spot. 

A year before I headed to college my fathers eyesight began to depreciate.  It was the beginning of a series of mounting challenges to his health that would lead him to eventually require a kidney transplant.  My heading to college and remaining focussed was a challenge.  I'll admit at times when the phone would ring and the call was from home I would panic.  The letters I got from my father with the 2 inch characters deepened my concern.  Of course I wondered why.  Why did I have to spend my first Christmas break with a sick dad? Didn't he deserve better? Why did I have to return to college two days after my dad got his kidney transplant? Why couldn't I stay with him?

But, I had to stay focussed.  In the midst of all my parents were facing, I could not become another issue.  Also, I had gotten a fantastic financial aid package. If my grades slipped - slip away would go my money.  I had to trust that God would take care of everything that was going on at home. This wasn't something I mastered right away.  But, I had to keep trusting.  I had to believe Gods promise that He causes all things to work together for good to those who love God....(Romans 8:28).  At some point this would all make sense and the "why" would come into focus.

It wouldn't be until the Summer of 1998 that one of my "why's" got answered.  At that time my husband had begun to have some interuptions to his vision.  Ironically he and my Father had been diagnosed with diabetes in the same year.  As it turns out my Fathers vision complications gave us great insights and helped us get the helped we needed very early on in the process.  The normal anxiety wasn 't much of an issue because we already knew so much going in.  I never would have known back then that it would all work out this way.  There would have been no way.  I didn't even know my husband  yet.  

Making the pondering of “why” into a religious exercise would have been so easy.  A simple change the question from “why” to “what is God trying to teach me through all of this.”  It is indeed critical to be listening to for Gods voice.  That is a daily practice as he reveals himself in the simplicities and complexities of our day.   But, we needn’t be so consumed with hearing him that we don't hear him at all.  It's like those picture with the dots.  You stare and you get really close looking for the image to pop out.  It doesn't and you get frustrated.  Then someone walks by and says step back and then look. And just like that you see it. 

Now God isn't that instantneous - but sometimes we really can't see the forest for the trees.  Being in my 40's now I can tell you that some of why's have been answered. And at times I have been blown away.  But, I still have a long list.  And I have learned to not wait on answers, but to wait on God.  I wait - by trusting, by obeying, and by knowing that he does hold all things together (Colossians 1:17).  Just imagine if the Israelites had refused to cross the Red Sea. What if they had stopped and asserted "Why did you bring us out to just send us back" Instead, they took a step forward and saw God move. The words to "Oceans" as penned by Reuben Morgan sums up the truth of trusting and obeying, "And I will call upon your name.  And keep my eyes above the waves.  When oceans rise, my soul will rest in your embrace. For I am yours and you are mine." As we at times enter the dark shadow of "why" feel the warm glow of the Fathers love knowing "I am yours and you are mine."

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Ebola: It's A Small World

It’s a small world after all
It’s a small world after all
It’s a small world after all
It’s a small, small world

That is the refrain of one of the sweetest songs .  It conjures up images of pristine children in national costumes holding hands and singing cheerfully.  Each child singing with their own particular accent – we smile.  We will allude to the concept of a small world, when we find common connections between old and new friends.  But, let’s face it when a nation meets a disaster there is deep gratitude for the oceans that divide and make the world a bit further away

On Tuesday, September 16 President Obama pledged 3,000 troops to assist with the battle against Ebola in West Africa.  He declared that it was a threat to global security.  So many political pundits publicly called his action into question.  They didn't see the Ebola issue as an American issue.  ISIS (ISIL) was seen as a greater threat.  There is no doubt that ISIS (ISIL) is a massive threat to not just to the Middle East, but to our nation and Europe as well.  However, if we have learned one thing from ISIS (ISIL) that we could apply to the fight against Ebola, is that it would be in our best interest to not underestimate the threat. 

Fast forward to today, and my Facebook feed is flooded with articles updating us on each detail as the Ebola story out of Dallas unfolds.  There is fear, concern, and outrage.  Blame is being placed on Liberia, the airlines, the governments, the hospital, and the patient in peril.  Schools are getting decontaminated and a family is being quarantined.  For the next 21 days as the 80+ people who came into contact with Thomas Eric Duncan are monitored by the medical community – the media will be reporting each detail.  And there are many who are just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Since December of 2013, the continent of Africa has been fighting Ebola.  It started in Guinea, where as of today they have lost 710 citizens.  Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia combined have lost 3,300 lives.  We have had three Americans contract the disease and survive the disease.  And we all hope that Mr. Duncan and all those he came into contact with survive and go on to live a long life.

However, I hope that we now realize as Ebola has come to our nation, and that this world is small.  It is impossible for America to eradicate every evil from this world.  But, when an epidemic has gotten this large and has prevailed for so long – we had no choice but to offer the best we have to stand with our brothers and sisters as they fight to preserve life in Africa. 

It became clear in the inaction of the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital medical staff, that there was a false sense of “it can’t happen here” when Thomas Eric was sent back home to his family.  After he had alerted them to his country of origin, it was just ignored.  There is a clear line of thinking that divides us.  There are “our” problems and there are “their” problems.  However, as we become more globally connected a greater understanding that all problems belong to all is imperative.  Indeed, we can’t fix them all. But, we can no longer live in such blissful isolation either. 

As the tsunami in Japan in March of 2011 occurred, I lied in bed just captivated and alarmed.  I could not fall asleep.  In the months to follow, we learned how small the world was when debris from that tsunami arrived on our west coast.  Citizens began cataloging the items online in hopes of returning them to their owners in Japan.  There is now growing concern in the U.S. about consuming fish from the Pacific due to contamination from Fukushima. Our world is small.

As the song “It’s a Small World” reminds us….

It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears
It’s a world of hope, it’s a world of fear
There’s so much that we share
That it's time we’re aware
It’s a small world after all.