Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Dear Sweetie...

I love you. First and foremost and above all else, I want you to know and understand this. I love you. Daddy loves you. No matter what, every day in every way. We can't NOT love you. It's just the way it is and will be forever more.

Secondly, I want you to know and understand that I understand. Growing up sucks. Really and truly, it can be just plain awful. And confusing. You are feeling so many different feelings, wanting to make sure that we know you are an individual and capable of making decisions and doing as you want. And here we are, telling you to do and be and even feel certain ways.

We pride you on your individuality, on your comfort with being "you." For not caring what others think and finding enjoyment in time spent in your own company - you are who you are and that is great! But, on the other hand, we're encouraging you on practically a daily basis to think outside yourself and seek out friends who may not only want to play and hang out with you, but may also need you to be a better friend to them (as opposed to playing on your own, or with the typical younger crowd you're used to messing around with. Not that you think the other friends aren't fun...)

We're proud of you for being such a typically good student who does such creative and careful work… but we and your teachers tell you that you need to work faster (but still carefully!) in order to get work done on time and, thus, maintain your excellent grades. Furthermore, don't just stop at "good enough." Strive for being as creative and excellent as you possibly can… all within the pre-determined time frame set before you.

We encourage your determination and love your spunk, but are constantly speaking to you about your "tone" and disapprove of what we hear as back-talk. We want to hear your voice and know your opinions and understand your side of the story whenever possible, but too often end up disciplining you when you speak up at inappropriate times to inappropriate people in inappropriate ways.

And, in terms of what you want to tell us, I'll tell you a secret. We already know. Either because you've already told us 5 times and are still trying to tell us again for a 6th time in a slightly different way, or because we've been there/done that. And we know you. You don't have to so adamantly tell us again and again what happened or why you think the way you think in any given situation. Because we are your parents and we hear you and we already know.

All of this can be a real frustration for us. And I know it certainly must be a frustration to you.

As I angrily explained to you this morning when you were fighting with me over keeping your incredibly ratty and tattered folder (as opposed to accepting the fact that I put your school papers in a brand new folder) - I keep saying, "Fine - just do what you want!" to you in order to stop us from having an even bigger fight. But I'm tired of saying that. I can't keep saying that! And I know that I have to pick my battles with you and that things like tattered vs. new folders is, ultimately, not something for either of us to get that worked up about. So, fine, do whatever you want. But - I CANNOT and WILL NOT keep saying "just do what you want." I am your parent. Daddy is your parent. As your parents you must listen to us and do as we ask. We don't want to demand, but if that's what has to be - so be it.

And Lord knows I do not want today's tattered folder to become tomorrow's tattoo. Or whatever. The issues will get bigger. You will get bigger. But we are always your parents. As long as you live under our roof you must respect us and do as we say. Sometimes - hopefully most of the time - we will give you your space to give us your reasons and opinions on various situations that come up for you. We will listen to you and, when appropriate and reasonable, take your feelings and given facts into consideration when we make the decisions. But we will make the decisions. And what we say goes. As your parents, that is just the way it is.

One more thing. You are one very lucky girl. So am I. Because we have a truly amazing man in our life - your Daddy - who only wants what's best for us and to keep us safe and happy. Not just content, but really happy. And he wants to be involved in your life. He wants to work alongside me in the raising of you. That's awesome! But as you approach and go through your teenaged years, your relationship with your Daddy is going to struggle. I'm sorry, but it's just the way it is between daughters and dads. But Daddy won't ever give up. He always wants to be involved and help you as much as he can as you make it through. He wants to do everything he can to make your life easier and better, even when you're 110% sure there's nothing anyone can do. Even when you are confused and moody for no reason and, well, struggling with this thing called growing up. He will be there trying to help you up again. As will I. Please let us help you. Or, at the very least, know that when you're done running off in a huff, or slamming your door, or sobbing out of the blue,  or certain that "no one understands!" - we are here.

Our arms are always wide to give you that comforting hug - when you're ready. Our too-little sofa is always available to be cuddled upon with a parent or two - when you're ready. Our ears are always perked to hear what you have to say about anything, big or small - when you're ready. Our minds are always open to your plans, ideas, questions and dreams you'll share - when you're ready.

We are here for you, always. Maybe too ready too soon, in fact. Too eager to make things alright again before you're ready! But that's just the way it is between parents and their kids. We want too much to make it all "right" again. We want too much to make sure you learn the lessons early so you don't repeat mistakes (and that's where some big fights can come from, when we see you as not learning the lessons we've been trying so hard to make you understand.)

I'm sorry to say - for you and us both! - that this is only going to get worse. This struggle we so often find ourselves in. You against me. You against Daddy. Daddy and I struggling against each other as we try to co-manage the path that is raising a teenaged girl. I come from a standpoint of having once been a teenaged girl myself, when I struggled with my mom as my dad stayed off to the side. And Daddy comes at this as having grown up with a little sister who struggled during her teens with their mom. But here we are, we 3, together, trying to manage it as a team. There will be more fights. There will be more tears. There will be times when each of us feels like "no one understands!" When each of us thinks that one of the other people in the house is against them while the other is on their side. Or that no one's on their side! It will feel terrible. It will feel lonely. But we all must remember…

We are all on each other's side. Everyday. Always. We all only want what's best for each other. Always. And we all love each other so very, very much. Always.

Please keep this letter with you and read it as needed. Now and moving forward… when you're ready. I know I will. But right now? In terms of you growing up just yet? You know what?

I'm not ready. But I promise I'll do my very best. Always.

Love you to pieces,

Mom




Thursday, February 13, 2014

Looking at the Periphery - Right Where You Stand

At last Sunday's "Story for All Ages" portion of our church service, the speaking minister began by asking our congregation's youth if there were kids at school that most would consider "cool." Beyond that, were there kids that were mean? How about uncool? Shy? Then she asked the kids what characteristics the typical "cool kids" had in common. In the end, it all boiled down to the fact that some kids are seen as attractive and cool and "worth knowing" and others were not.

Then she proceeded to tell a story that would prove a point - beauty, indeed, comes from within. Even those around us without the ability to see with their eyes can recognize the most beautiful around us by their generous spirits and their depth of character.

After the story, the minister presented the children in our congregation with a challenge. She would be back, preaching with us again in a couple weeks, and when she returned she wanted to hear what happened when our kids looked around them at school - looked at those on the periphery - and made an effort to get to know someone new. Someone who was not necessarily considered to be in the "cool" spotlight, but someone who deserved and desired a friend nonetheless. Find the beauty and what's "worth knowing" in someone who's normally hiding, or just plain not usually noticed.

Of course, it was my kid who shot her hand up, asking for a clarification on what "periphery" meant. So glad she was not only paying attention, but both interested and brave enough to ask what surely others among her may have needed to understand better themselves.

As for Hubby and I, we were chuckling to ourselves. Seeing that, in her own little way, Sweetie herself is one of the ones on the periphery. Always most content to play on her own (or at least with the younger kids - and probably the boys - who are as deeply submerged in imaginary story-telling play as Sweetie likes to be). Sure, whereas on the one hand it seems to us that nearly everyone knows and is friendly with Sweetie, on the other hand she doesn't really have - has never really had - any true friends. And the one who has perhaps come the closest is, himself, a "periphery" kid, in my estimation. Another who likes what he likes and sees no interest in doing other than what he enjoys. Luckily for him and Sweetie, their interests are very similar and they enjoy spending the time they have together - together. But still - do they seek each other out when being together isn't a "given" during after school care or whatnot? No. They each like their separateness just as much.

But back to Sweetie. She is self-confident, yes. Popular, sure. But let's just call her - as far as we can tell and from what we've heard from teachers - a "respected loner."

A kid on the periphery.

You'd think, therefore, that it wouldn't take her all that much effort to find another like herself and, as our minister challenged, seek out in them what is beautiful and worth knowing.

Well, here's the thing. At least for our "periphery kid," looking up from herself and out into the social world around her can be a challenge in and of itself. Even when she's starting with someone she already calls "friend."

You see, last Fall Sweetie's teacher divided her class into groups of 3 or 4 in order to work on a project. Sweet was put together with two other girls she knew. One of them she'd known since kindergarten and the other was a new girl as of 4th grade. She didn't know this one quite as well as the other, but they all really enjoyed being together on this project and the 3 of them became friends.

This was great because, as far as I could make of these girls (I helped out on a couple occasions with their project, so had the pleasure of getting to know them a bit more) they were great, fun, good kids and really great friend material for Sweetie. Furthermore, after speaking to the mom of one of these girl's a little bit (the girl Sweetie has known since kindergarten), she and I discovered that both our daughters have had recent challenging times with others in the class. Also, that both our girls tend to play on their own, perhaps trying to avoid the drama going on around them. How great it was, then, for the two of them to have found each other! Two good kids who just want to have fun without all the other girl-drama that's so apparently running rampant in small-town 5th grade.

And yet, as the days and weeks passed since the project was turned in, I could only see that Sweetie was back to her old ways of playing on her own - or with younger kids - during recess. "What about your new friends? What are they doing at recess?" And Sweetie wouldn't know. Sometimes, she'd say, they and a fourth girl would all hang out. But mostly, no. Sweetie plays what she wants on her own. "Are you still friends?" - Yeah! - "Then why don't you play together? Hang out?" - I don't know. We just don't. I like doing my own thing.

Hmph.

Whatever. Sweetie is who she is. She's always cared more about playing what she wants rather than who she's playing with. She's not a follower! She isn't "cliquey"! This is great! But now... despite our best efforts to encourage her, more recently, to seek out and bond more with some good girl friends, she's just… doing as she has always preferred to do.

But now, here's the thing...

Just this week I spoke again to this one girl's mom. She called me, upset with some girl-drama that had really come to a head for her daughter just the day before. This mom had remembered how she and I discussed our girls' peer-challenges before, and the fact that both of them were the victims of at least passive-aggressive bullying, if not full-out nastiness. Apparently, her daughter's tormentor - who has been bothering her daughter for about a year now - was only getting worse. She wanted to know if Sweetie was either bothered by the same girl or, at the very least, witnessed some bullying action towards her daughter or anyone else.

I didn't know, but I could tell this mom that Sweetie's bully was yet another girl in their class. I didn't know much about the bullying girl she was mentioning, but I assured her I'd ask Sweetie and find out what she'd noticed, if anything. Also, I let her know that I'd talk to Sweetie about stepping up and looking out for her daughter. She and I both expressed how much our girls told us they liked each other and called each other friend. We would be better, ourselves, about encouraging their spending time together and arranging for them to see each other on weekends whenever possible.

After school that day, and with the other mom's permission, I spoke to Sweetie about what was going on with her friend and the "mean girl." Sweetie said she herself has never had any problems with that particular mean-girl - she neither was friends with nor disliked her.  Nor had Sweetie noticed this girl acting in a bullying way towards anyone, let alone her friend.

Hmph. What did I say earlier? That it's difficult for Sweetie to look up from herself and see what else is going on around her? Especially when it comes to human interaction - good or bad? Yes, difficult indeed.

"Well, you know how Rev. Shayna challenged you kids to look for someone on the periphery to get to know better? I think I know just the kid who needs you to be a better friend to her."

So Sweetie and I - and then Sweetie and I and Hubby later that night - had a good long talk about the difference between "being friendly with" and "being a friend to" someone. There is a difference, and it's profound. To make an actual friend will benefit each of them so much - especially as they get older and closer to the middle school years (next year!)

At 11 years old, you wouldn't think Sweetie'd need us to give examples of acts of friendship. But there we were, and Sweetie seemed happy to be and interested in being advised. Walk with her to chorus. Watch when the teacher turns his back to see that no one's making faces at her. Spend snack and lunch time together when possible. Seek her out on the playground and hang out with her. You don't have to play the on-going-every-day-never-ending running around game with the 3rd graders, even if they told you they "need" you. They don't - they'll be fine. She does need you. Be a friend.

We also discussed our church's theme of "Courage" this month and how the J. K. Rowling quote Sweetie heard in one of her recent church "Circles" was very fitting - with a twist - in light of what her friend has been dealing with and how Sweetie can help. The quote is, "It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends." To that, I added the bravery it takes to stand up for your friends.

It may sound like we're forcing a friendship here. Honestly, we're not. These girls really do like each other a lot. And I can tell you that my girl even thinks that she already has been a friend to this girl. They like each other! Isn't that what a friend is? Someone you like?

Well, not exactly. Not entirely. A friend is so much more than someone you just like. Someone you simply get along with and think is nice. If you find someone like that, then invest in them! Spend time with them, get to know them, make an effort, watch out for each other. Form a bond. You may have some struggles along the way, but ultimately won't regret it. And you may just have a friend for life.

Luckily for Sweetie - and this other sweet girl - they've already glanced at each other as they've stood together, separately, on the periphery. I look forward to watching Sweetie stretch from her comfortable spot alone on the edge to forming a deeper connection with someone not only worth knowing, but know well.

Hold on to each other tightly, girls. The next few years are going to require every ounce of effort and determination just to not lose your footing.

(Sweetie's new friend called her today, excitedly accepting Sweetie's invite to a sleepover at our house tomorrow. Look out, world - there's a new duo in town!)






Thursday, January 02, 2014

Not Dead, Just Restin'...

… from a very busy Fall.

Yes. I've been resting. Not even thinking about this little ol' blog thing here. Too, too much going on.

For one thing - the most major thing - we've moved. Again. An unplanned, unforeseen move. No one's fault at all, just a whole bunch of unfortunate events culminating into the sucky fact that the house we were renting needed to go on the market. We had about a month and a half from the time we were told until the day we moved into our new place on Dec. 1st. Was there a November this year? I have no idea. We were all too busy doing other things.

But now we are… settled. Yeah, that's a good word for it. We're in a new rental that, as Dickens may have said, is not the best of places nor the worst of places. But it was available at a good price with the required requirements needed to make us satisfactorily satisfied. And Sweetie didn't have to change school districts, which is a nice bonus for her. We are all good, and happy to be able to slow down now after the holidays (Go! Move in! Unpack! Stop unpacking and just set up for Christmas! Do the Sweetie's Birthday/Christmas/New Years thing! Rest - just a bit! - before packing up Christmas and getting back to the unpacking of the real life things!)

In the meantime, we've had a couple birthdays around here. Hubby reached a milestone birthday in November, and Sweetie followed a month plus a day later with her own birthday - her 11th. We, of course, did her usual birthday "thing" of visiting Santa at the mall. Yes, she's still a full-fledged believer, and we love it! WE'RE still believers, after all. Santa is one heck of a guy, and in our house he's one masterful puzzle-maker/scavenger hunt creator/magic-bringing elf. Still, I caught myself catching my breath this year as I contemplated how this might - just might - be the last time she'll want to visit the Big Guy on her big day. So very interested to see what amazing changes this year has in store for Sweetie, as well as what wonderful consistencies may remain.

This year Santa apparently stole (borrowed) the full length mirror that was in Sweetie's room and returned it there on Christmas morning, complete with a magical saying he'd inscribed on it, just for Sweetie. Then, he helped work with Hubby and I to deliver clues towards Sweetie's final big Christmas gift, which was from us this year and not Santa. Admittedly, the excitement of Christmas anticipation was waaaaaayyyy more intense for me than the low key reality of Sweetie opening our gift of tickets to see "Matilda" on Broadway. Whereas I've been appreciative of Sweetie's quiet, polite happiness with the unfolding of Christmas morning in years past (so nice to take things slow, with quiet family togetherness and contentment as the order of the day), this year's "less than" just left me feeling down. See, I just knew she'd be jaw-droppingly stunned with the knowledge she'd be going to this beloved show. And yet… not so much. Yes, certainly happy! It's just that Sweetie's not a crazily excitable, screaming maniac of a kid. Which, you know, I should be thankful for. And I am.

Yes, Sweetie is as awesome and great as ever and she was more than pleased with her whole birthday and Christmas experience. She was also kind to and thoughtful of those who were not as blessed with presents as she was by bringing her duplicate gifts to our local charitable organization. She didn't want exchanged "things", she just wanted to give kids who didn't get what they hoped they would a chance that now maybe they might.

Love that little girl! She really is the best.

Speaking of Sweetie, she's been busy too. She's been working hard, multiple practices a week, on rehearsals for an upcoming performance of "Alice in Wonderland." The last 2 shows she's been in with this company have been very small roles. But this time around she is a Playing Card, with lots of stage time to go with it. We are all very excited to see the show mid-January.

As for me? I can tell I'm ready to get back to writing. Back to all the random thoughts in my head popping up and announcing themselves as possible blog fodder. It's a new year and, for so many reasons, I know it's bound to be a great one. And I'll be here to write about it all.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Of Pumpkins & Magic

And, no, I'm not talking the Cinderella story here...

"Daddy, look here. See? That's you carving a pumpkin. Photographic evidence that proves you've been lying to me."

And thus began a tough Sunday morning - a few weeks back - of anger, denial, acceptance and hope revolving around the true existence - or not - of Sweetie's annual Halloween visitor, the Magic Pumpkin.

I don't even know what the end result of the conversation was. Did we claim possession by the Magic Pumpkin such that Daddy didn't even know he was commanded to carve? Yup. Did we ultimately admit to working behind the scenes? Sadly, yes. Did we discuss the difference between lying to vs. creating wonder, joy and magic? Of course! Was Sweetie angry, sad, and mad at us? You bet she was. Did Sweetie then suggest the only way to see if there really are Magic Pumpkins is to try again this year and see what happens when Daddy doesn't do the carving himself? Yes. Yes she did. Did any of our morning discussion dissuade Sweetie from still firmly holding on to her belief that Santa, the Easter Bunny and all other mysteriously magical beings do absolutely exist? Not in the least. Houston, we (still) have a believer.

Ultimately, I think Sweetie was mostly upset with us about lying to her, and made it her goal to just forget this conversation ever took place at all - choosing instead to wait and see what will happen this year with her pumpkin when he (she? it?) works without any help from Daddy.

But, yeah. We feel like we lost a little bit of Sweetie that morning. A little more innocence - however forced upon us - chipped away from Sweetie's core. Fact - Daddy has been her Magic Pumpkin all along. Poor Sweetie.

But ya gotta love how, in Sweetie's mind, there's still a chance of real magic if we just give it a chance. Amen, Sista! You got that right!

I do absolutely love this about Sweetie. Her undying belief in all things magical, fantastical and good. But I wonder, at the same time, how much her peers still believe. Certainly those with older siblings are that much more likely to know the truth of it all. That much more likely to understand that their parents have been playing the role of Santa, Easter Bunny and the rest all this time. And, as we approach the holiday season, won't they all be talking about what really goes on in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve?

Probably. And Sweetie will have to sort it all out for herself. I imagine she'll be one of the very last hold outs, vehemently standing her "magic does exist!" ground.

Especially since we found a way to reinforce mysterious happenings once again. Hah!

Here's how it went down...

Brought our pumpkin home yesterday, Sweetie left it with a note at bedtime last night. Alas, the pumpkin was still un-carved as of this morning, with a little note back to her saying it needed more time to think of what it wanted to be. We three left for breakfast out with friends this morning and when we came home around lunchtime - OMG! - the pumpkin was carved!!

" (Gasp) Now I KNOW it's magic! None of us were home and it carved itself! I knew it!"

Not 10 minutes later her friend from school came over, so Sweetie was able to excitedly share the magic with her.

"Whoa. That's weird."

Yup. Undeniable magic. It's alive and well here in Casa de Sweetie & Me. May it be alive with you as well.



(There are many other things I could write about. Probably should write about. But not today. Today, we'll stick with the miracle of magic pumpkins and leave it at that. Happy Halloween!)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Dr. Seuss - Helping Us Through the Tween Years

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. ~ Dr. Seuss

This is my favorite quote. I even wear it around my wrist on a leather band on most days. 

And yet, I have to remember...

The sentiment goes for everyone. Whether you're shy or loud-mouthed, bossy or meek, completely sane or a little bit wacky. Yes, it's important for everyone to be who they are and say what they feel.  

Which, you know, is fine. Great! Free speech and all that. But sometimes it's just real hard to remember to be who you are and say what you feel - to be yourself - when the bossier, louder and/or wackier among us have every right to be and feel and do as they please as well, thus very possibly influencing how you feel about yourself.

Especially when your'e an impressionable tweenaged girl. 

(Or even if your'e a still-impressionable, ahem, not so much a girl anymore. At all.) 

Welcome to the 5th Grade. 

Apparently this is the year to overly stress the importance of being who you are and loving yourself, while at the same time acknowledging and accepting the fact that not all people are going to like you. And for no good reason, either. 

Oh, man.

It breaks my heart to hear Sweetie tell of how she keeps trying, everyday, to play with a couple of girls from her class. Girls she's always been friends with before. And to hear that, everyday, one of them (always the same one) has some excuse or another for why Sweetie cannot, in fact, hang out with them. 

She wonders aloud, "Why not?!" 

She exasperates, "Come on!"

She reminds them, "You said yesterday that today I could!"

Gosh darn it, she keeps trying.

And they keep saying no. Coming up with excuses. Ignoring her. Shunning her. 

And for no good reason. At all. 

"Well, Sweetie. Some people just aren't going to like you, and that's okay." Tough words to say when, until now apparently, she's always been such a well-liked kid.

I'm proud of Sweetie for continuing to try with these girls. But at the same time, I feel that she isn't recognizing when to give it up. For some reason or another she hasn't developed that filter to know when enough's enough. When to call the battle fought and the defeat accepted. To move on to other, new friends who do accept her and really want to spend time with her. 

After Sweetie first offered up to me an example of the mean girl passive/aggressive behavior, I couldn't help myself but to ask her everyday after that how recess went. But I should have stopped. Sweetie soon got noticeably irritated with me for making her have to talk about it all. Not allowing her to sweep the uncomfortableness of the day away. 

After some discussion with Hubby and my own parents, I finally told her that I'll try not to ask her about recess anymore, but she should know she can come to me or Daddy if she ever wants to talk about anything. And, in fact, she should come to us if she has any problems. To which she agreed and said she already knew.

And then, in the same breath where Sweetie is quietly lamenting her old friends acting in this new, mean way - Sweetie proudly wonders aloud that she must be one of the more popular kids in her school, because younger kids know her by name and sometimes want to play with her, but Sweetie doesn't usually know their names at all. And yet, she's happy to play with whomever just the same.

No filter for knowing when to stop trying with friends who have always been there for her before. Happy to play with whomever does want to play with her. Able to make the most of her playtime when plans don't happen as she first intends. Even though this new school year is still very new, what I'm hearing about Sweetie's 5th Grade experience so far constantly reminds me of what Sweetie's 3rd Grade teacher said about her - that Sweetie is the most comfortable-in-her-own-skin person she has ever met.

I so don't want that comfortableness to be squashed. On the outside, Sweetie seems to be managing the new social structures with aplomb. But I'm constantly worried about how she's really feeling about it on the inside. How hurt is she? Does she worry, feel sad, angry or like an outcast? All of those things and more? Is it just this one girl who's being mean, or are other kids picking on Sweetie as well? What about the other girl, now "mean" only by association, not sticking up for herself or Sweetie by saying, "You know what? I like (Sweetie) and actually do want her to hang out with me!" Is/has this old friend turned mean herself? Is she in danger of becoming a mean girl? Or is she just too conflicted and shy for now to speak up and may, over time, come around again to the good? What about the teacher?! Is he noticing any of this at all? Or is this just what 5th Grade is and I've just got to let Sweetie go and get through it, just like we all did? Certainly she's not being outright bullied. This too shall pass.

It's just, you know, it's Sweetie. Have Hubby and I somehow done her a mis-service by not exposing her to more cantankerous kids? Kids who are obviously less than savory - allowing her to learn how not to be treated by someone? Learning how to know when to walk away and find friends who treat you well? Teaching her earlier on in life that not all your peers are always going to be your friend, and that's okay?

For all that is so very, very right with Sweetie - so understanding and mature in her acceptance of all people - have we done wrong by her at all?

In the end, I know - no. We haven't. God love her, Sweetie is as great as ever! Would I or Hubby have ever kept trying back in school, day after day, to get in with an old friend who was now treating us less-than-satisfactorily? Heck no! We'd get the message straight away, back off, and - at least speaking for myself - probably into a corner by myself for the rest of the year. Sweetie, though - she's a fighter. She knows how things used to be and can't understand when things change "just like that" for no good reason. It makes no sense. She keeps on trying. And when that doesn't work, again today, she heads off to some new friends or to play by herself. Or happily agrees to play when a request is made by anyone else. She's a happy kid and she doesn't let minor upsets ruin the whole day.

Maybe we should all be more like Sweetie. We would certainly all do well by learning that lesson. Keep on fighting, everyday, for what you know to be good and true. When that doesn't work out though, don't let others get you down. Make a new plan and carry on with your most excellent life.

In the meantime, I do believe Sweetie's found a couple of new friends who do appreciate her - have even told Sweetie that they like her because she "doesn't bring the drama." I suggested to Sweetie that maybe she should back off, for now, on trying to play with those other girls and concentrate on fostering a friendship with these new girls. I'm thrilled to hear those stories of her day. How these new friends appreciate her opinion and think she's really fun and good at certain things.

Because she is. Sweetie is excellent at many things - not least of which, being herself and saying what she feels.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Two Quiets and an ENP

How's your summer going? Ours has been good. Mine has been great! I've been on a major reading bender, which is pretty unlike me. I've always liked to read, mind you. And I've belonged to a small book club for years. But I've always been a slow reader. So for me to have been through - oh, I don't know - 6 or more books just since the end of May, it's a HUGE accomplishment for me.

I've also had the opportunity to meet some friends one-on-one for a few coffee dates over the last few weeks. Sweetie just finished up a three week Theater Camp at the Boys and Girls Club, during which I was afforded the opportunity to have some free "Mommy time." One day I had coffee with a friend I haven't seen since High School, another time with a good friend I try to have coffee with approximately once a month (but we were overdue this time around), and still another time with a friend from Junior High who I get to see at Book Club meetings, but rarely do we get to see each other when it's just her and me. Fun times all around, and great to catch up with everyone!

Chatting with each friend was great, in its own right. But talking with my Book Club friend, for the purposes of this post, was especially interesting and, ultimately, enlightening. Partly because, of course, we talked about the books we're currently reading. We happen to be on a summer break from Book Club, during which we are free to read what we want from an extended suggestion list each member helped to create. So she and I had some similarities in what we've been reading, as well as some interesting differences. Plus, she's a very prolific reader, so has squeezed in several non-Book-Club related reads as well. Several of which were related to homeschooling, as she and her husband have made the decision to take their 4th grade daughter out of public school and to teach her at home this year. And another - possibly homeschool related, or maybe just something she was interested in reading anyway - called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking. 

In terms of what my friend is reading and studying in preparation for homeschooling, she told me how she has also been talking with her daughter's previous teachers, and just turning a keener eye toward how her daughter learns and takes in information. In order to get an even better understanding of her daughter's learning style, she took this child-modified version of the Myers-Briggs Personality Test. The kid's test is really design for a parent, or teacher, to take the test for the child. My friend confirmed this when, after trying to ask her daughter for her own responses, she found that her daughter tended to provide answers for how her ideal self would behave - which obviously doesn't result in an accurate evaluation. So my friend answered the test questions herself, based on her own intimate understanding of her daughter and the information she's gleaned from the teachers. 

My friend had also taken the "regular" version of the Myers-Briggs test for herself and already knew her own results. I don't remember if she shared with me or not, but I do know enough to say that she is an "I" (Introvert) rather than an "E" (Extrovert.) She went on to say that her daughter's results mirrored her own exactly. 

This may make things easier - or, possibly, that much more difficult - for homeschooling. Two personalities that are so much alike. A harmonious relationship, or not? They both soon will see.

At any rate, the whole talk of the Myers-Briggs test intrigued me, as I took several Psychology courses both in High School and College, and remember taking the test myself more than once. Not that I remembered my results at all. I mean, I knew I too am an "I" (Introvert). But beyond that - what kind of personality would this test show I had? I was curious to answer the series of questions leading to my personalized results. And a test for kids?! Very cool. I was also very interested in seeing what kind of results Sweetie would pull in.

Shortly thereafter not only Sweetie and I were taking the test, but Hubby as well. The results? I am an ISFJ, Hubby is an INFP, and Sweetie is an ENP (kids under 12 don't get that last of the 4 letters, as they are not mature enough to have solidly developed a preference.)

Huh. Sweetie and I have no part in common, and she has everything but Extroversion in common with Hubby. Interesting.

Reading the descriptions of these types, I mostly agree with everything. The test, for the most part, pretty much pegged us for how our personalities play out in the real world. It's interesting to read not only our own results, but each other's as well. Interesting to see what each other's strong points are, and how to interact effectively with each other - knowing how each of us takes in and processes information. The only trait of the test that is easily self-discernible ahead of time - Introversion vs. Extroversion - was demonstrated through the test results as well. Hubby and I already knew we were Introverts, while Sweetie is definitely an Extrovert.

So, that was cool...

Then I started reading Quiet. And... it's definitely interesting. It definitely, as my friend pointed out for herself, has me saying "Yeah! That's me!" at almost every turn of the page. At dinner time every day, I'm constantly updating Hubby (and, by virtue of her being at the table, Sweetie) on the new info I'm reading in the book everyday. In a lot of ways, it really is a fascinating read. But...

But.

It sure does paint a less-than-rosy picture of Extroverts. The author is forever pointing out that Extroverts, as a group, are much quicker to speak before they think, less able to hold out for postponed gratification, more likely to charge ahead come what may, less likely to control their urges, to divorce, gamble, smoke, engage in risky behavior, and less likely to feel guilty or embarrassed about any poor behavior that they do participate in. Yes, she does go on to say - quietly - that there are no studies that show either Introverts or Extroverts are more intelligent than the other. But she sure goes out of her way - it seems to me - to showcase just how thoughtful, well-mannered, cautious, and honestly talented and smart (as in, careful enough to think through a situation and end up with the right answer, as opposed to the Extroverts' way of quickly getting to an answer, right or wrong) we Introverts are. Introverts, studies show, are also more likely to feel embarrassed and guilty - in other words, feel worse if we behave badly, and have more empathy if we knowingly behave badly towards another - than Extroverts, she says.

The list goes on and on. Basically, give us Introverts a chance to think through our answers, and be quiet enough to actually listen to what we have to say, and we'll blow Extroverts out of the water every time.

Of course, she does point out the benefits to society, and evolution, that both Introverts and Extroverts offer. But, duh... this book is for Introverts. To point out to us all the great things we've got going for us. Of course the author's going to bag on Extroverts with all the studies and experiments that have been done comparing the two personality traits. Introverts are powerful in a world that talks to much. She's just showing what the book intends to show.

It's all interesting. But. As an Introvert, married to an Introvert, raising an ENP (i.e., Extrovert), I'm more than a little put off by the bum rap all the Talkers are getting in this book.

Sweetie took that kid's Myer's-Briggs test (she, with Hubby and my help, was able to answer the questions quite honestly as I asked them of her one by one). She knows her results. She also knows Hubby and my results. She knows she's an E while we are Quiets. And, yes, I am speaking up each night at dinner to tell of that day's information I'm reading in Quiet. So, yeah, she knows how negatively the Extroverts are coming off there. And she's taking offense. Rightly so. I'm right there with her, and stating as much as we discuss together.

She's not dumb! She knows how wrong it is to smoke and gamble and behave badly! She's a great problem solver! So many less-than-favorable things that the book points out about Extroverts, Sweetie is quick to disagree with. Quick to say how she's way better than that. How dare these studies and this book lump all Extroverts together into one, ugly group. It's not fair.

No it's not. And, of course, these are just studies. With majority and minority results. Of course, everyone is an individual and may or may not fit nicely into their presupposed boxes. I know this, and we're teaching Sweetie to understand this as well. But still.

That's just it, ya know? The three of us - we teach each other and learn from each other every day. As two Quiet parents - careful thinking, kind, compassionate, intelligent souls that we are - it's our duty to help our ENP to thrive as best she can in any given situation she finds herself. To take her time and think through problems, to care about others and herself, to study hard and do well in school. And she, as an Extrovert - and an only child, at that - has us all to herself to teach us a thing or two as well. How to be a bit more uninhibited, a bit less timid about standing up for what we know to be right, how to laugh at ourselves, and less afraid of speaking up and showing who we are to the big, talkative world.

Quiets and E's. No matter who you are and where you fall on this particular personality trait scale, we all can get along. We all can learn a lot from each other. We all benefit society in lots of great ways.  We all have power. We all are powerful. We are.

It's just in the way you show it. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Our Changing Bodies (and Minds)

I didn't write about it, but about a month ago I had "the talk" with Sweetie.

I'd been thinking about it - in an abstract sort of way - figuring I should probably get around to doing that soon, but, eh. Not yet. And then a note came home from school saying that the 4th grade was going to be watching "the video" about growing up and hygiene and puberty. 

Well, then. I guess I better talk to her. Thanks so much, Sweetie's elementary school, for forcing the subject.

At any rate, I didn't write about this primarily as a means to keep some privacy on this for Sweetie. (aannnnddd... there goes that privacy.) Suffice it to say the talk went waaaayyyy better than I imagined it could/would have, I had a fantastic book to share with her on the subject, she learned beyond the point that she "needed" to for the school video, Sweetie showed some genuine interest in the miracle and science of everything, and she was not/has not been embarrassed to talk about or ask questions of both Hubby and I ever since. 

Phew! 

In the meantime, the only "changing bodies" I've noticed going on around here is my own. Good, bad, and indifferent. 

I went to McDonalds a few weeks back twice within a relatively short span of time. And immediately after both trips? I felt awful. So blah and bloated and just plain gross. I'd been to McDonalds plenty of times before! Never had I felt like this. But these two trips proved it loud and clear - crappy food makes me feel crappy, even if it never did before. No more McDonalds, or the like, for me.

I have also always started my day with a cup of tea. I'm not a coffee drinker (unless you consider mochas true coffee.) Tea is my thing. I can't go on with my day without it. Yet, a couple months back I realized that, day after day after day, after having my morning tea, I was feeling buzzed. I don't like feeling caffeine buzzed. Makes me feel sick. But, there it was. Every day, all of a sudden, after having tea every morning for years, I was feeling the ill-effects of the caffeine. I couldn't even finish the cup, I felt so yucky. Luckily, after telling this to Hubby, he reminded me how to "decaffeinate" my regular tea (I hate the taste of decaffeinated teas and herbal teas) by letting it steep for 20 - 30 seconds, pouring out that tea, then pouring my actual cup of tea from there. Brilliant! This works, and so I can now, again, drink my morning tea without feeling sick.

Another change that I've notice of late is that I'm no longer experiencing night sweats, as I have for the last couple years or so every night. Sure, I still have them every once in awhile. But nowhere near as regularly as before. Yay for this lovely change!

All these bodily changes for me I can attest, I think, to the CoQ10 I've been taking since shortly after my physical earlier this year. I have also been wearing, for the last month or so, an amber necklace. Mostly, if you know about amber necklaces at all, you probably have heard of them for babies and the healing properties they afford them while teething. But, I wanted to try it for myself to see if it could offer me any relief from my bodily aches and/or the night sweats issue, and/or in any other way. Of course, because I started the CoQ10 and wearing the necklace within roughly the same time period, I can't know which is working for me in what way. And, I guess I don't really care. In the end, I am seeing some changes, all of which are forcing me to live a more healthy lifestyle. And this is a good thing!

As for Sweetie... you know what I've noticed since having "the talk" with her? Sweetie has been both much more imaginative (regressing?) and more her own person (progressing.) Neither of which has anything, really, to do with "the talk" or "the book," of course. But, now that she knows some of these secrets of growing up, now that she has this milestone information under her belt, it is fascinating to watch how she's growing, processing, and behaving as she edges closer and closer to actually experiencing this new phase in life that, at this point, she only has book knowledge of. 

She's pretending a lot more. Or maybe I'm just noticing it more? And in her pretend play, it's so interesting to me to see how she adapts real situations to her imaginative worlds. 

She goes to work with me and my boss comes in, putting her purse down on the empty chair at her desk. My boss leaves the room, Sweetie comes back in and sees the purse there. Sweetie is offended that the purse has now crushed her friend! (A minute later) "Well, she didn't get crushed. She got up just before the purse was put down. (Another minute later) "And she couldn't be crushed anyway! She's not tiny... she's as big as I am!" (Eye roll like "Of course she is!")

She and I are in the car together and she tells me who all is in the car with us. Three other girls and two boys and four cats. Some of them are in the back seat, some of them are in the trunk. The cats are on the girls laps. She has names for everyone. One of her friends is Matilda - the Matilda! - so she's not actually in the car, but flying along outside the car, because she's magical like that. And the boys are riding motorcycles in front of us, and not in the trunk. Sweetie doesn't know why they have motorcycles - they just do. (Eye roll like, "Boys! Who knows why they do what they do!)

I could offer up so many more examples, but you get the point. Sweetie has a whole world going on in her imagination (I'm totally not surprised by this) and turns things over in her mind so much and so well in order to make them all fit real situations as best they can (still not surprising me - just impressing me with her ability to do this and her apparent need to not only do it, but share her world and the adjustments with me. Like it's important that I know things are all working out alright with her "friends" when at first they appeared to be in some tricky situations.) 

Good for you, Sweetie. You may not know it, but you're actually showing me that you'd know how to handle some pretty tricky situations too, if even you found yourself in some. You're always thinking, and that's a great thing!

So... more imaginary friends than I've ever been aware of before = regressing? Eh - maybe not. Maybe not at all. I think you're just working out some potentially real life situations in your elaborate pretend world before you get around to experiencing comparative situations in your own life. Not that being crushed by a purse or deciding between riding in the back seat, in the trunk, or on a motorcycle are anything you'll ever have to worry about yourself. But, you know. You're thinking, adjusting, fixing, and dealing with the situation at hand within your playing, which will help you in real life with so many things. Good for you! 

Sweetie is also, like I said, establishing herself more and more as her own person these days. Not in any huge display or anything. But simple little things.

I'm excited to hear on the radio, then find a video, of a song I heard for the first time at Sweetie's end-of-year talent show. A song I thought was just a simple playground song and game with cups. But now I know it's really a thing. I love the song and think the trick with the cups is cool, so I bring some cups home and work with Sweetie for a bit to learn. I mention on Facebook that Sweetie and I are going to learn this. I keep going back to it when we have some time. Aaannnddd... Sweetie finally tells me she's really not as interested in learning this as I am. 

Sweetie wants to play a game with me. We usually have some difficulty deciding on a game we both enjoy. Then I remember one that we've played before. Let's play that! Aaannnddd... she doesn't like that game as much as I think she does.

I want to watch TV. It's easier for Sweetie and I to watch TV together when Daddy's not around. We can watch the silly reality competition shows that he doesn't like. Dancing with the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, The Voice... whatever. So I pull up (on Hulu) one of my favorites - So You Think You Can Dance - because I know she and I both love this! Aaannnddd... no. Sweetie, in fact, does not like that show as much as I think she does. Not really at all, in fact. 

What?! Who are you? What have you done with my Sweetie! My Sweetie loves all these things, just like I do! What's going on here?!

Huh. What's going on here, is Sweetie learning to assert herself more, and make her own decisions more on what is good and fun, cool and enjoyable to her, regardless of what I and Hubby like. Sweetie is growing up.

I should have been a psychologist. 

Changes, they are a-happenin' all around. For me and her. With more changes to come! Fun, fun. But, it's all good. We are both strong females ready for whatever this world has to offer us. Ready for the next stage of life. 

We can do it.

Bring it on!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Tell Me What to Do

I'm sitting here drinking my third glass of water today.

Because I was told to.

By a video game.

That's right.

My Hubby and I are big fans of Ted Talks. Recently, were were watching talks from the Life Hacks collection and came across this one. And when it was over? We both said, "We've got to play this game!"

And now, we've been exploring the world of SuperBetter - with its Power Ups, Bad Guys, Quests and Activities. And one of the daily Quests we each need to conquer is the Drink a Glass of Water Every Two Hours challenge - better known as "Leave the Shriveling to the Raisins."

And so... I'm drinking my third glass of water today. More glasses to come.

There's something about being told - everyday - what to do and how well to treat yourself, all while earning points in the accomplishments, that makes you not want to fail. No, I didn't say "makes you want to do it." But "not want to fail." And how I do the game is, I look in the morning at the choices amongst all the Power Ups, Defeating the Bad Guys, and Quests, decide what I'll do that day, and click that "I Did This!" Then, for the rest of my day, I know what I have to do. What I already said I did. To not do them would be to go against what I promised myself I'd get done.

I know myself. I am a procrastinator. I have low personal motivation. I compartmentalize. I put off for later what I know darn well I have the means to accomplish right now. I won't do things when it's solely up to me to make the decision to do it.

So this game - with my Hubby as my Ally and I as his - is, I think, really great. It forces us to look after our own and each other's heath and wellbeing every single day. Forces us to check in with ourselves and each other to make sure our physical and mental health is good. Or at least improving. Forces us to adopt a different attitude about daily struggles and stresses. It states, in black and white and in colorful video form, what we can do to ensure a happy, healthy, regret-free lifestyle.

It's pretty cool.

So, I will drink my glasses of water everyday now. Even though I've "known" all along how healthy and important it is to drink water. Now I'm being "watched." By me. And Hubby. Now I have to do what I set out to do each day. I must do healthy activities for my mind and body.

And, I can create my own Quests as well. Hmmm... I know a few things I've been ignoring lately that I can add to my daily mix.

Looks like my days may be getting busier.

Because I said so.

I'm such a taskmaster.