28/06/2013

Decisions Decisions! ARGH!*

Posted in Encouragement, Family, General, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 10:01 am by The Water Bearer

woman-thinking-really-hard-150x150

As a parent there are a lot of tough jobs. They come in waves, ganging up on us, after a while a different range of jobs becomes the focus…… or the torment! 😉

Lately the wave of ‘decision making’ has tumbled me over and over, and then pummeled me into the hard sand below.

I only work part-time, so I am there to pick my girls up from school everyday and share as much of their time as I can. I am with them a lot, so of course they ask me the most questions. I am sure most Mum’s can relate.

Young Girl : Can I have Tuckshop today Please??? I haven’t had it for weeks….

Young Girl: Can my friend sleepover? We promise not to be noisy……

Old Girl: Can I go to this party?

Young Girl : Can I ride my bike on the road? I promise to watch out for cars, My sister used to be allowed….

Young Girl : Can I play on the Wii before bed?? I will sleep straight after, I promise……

Old Girl: Can I go for a drive with my friends?

Young Girl : Can I watch this movie?….It’s only got some mild course language. I will not listen to it or think its funny….

Old Girl: Can I stay out past curfew just this once?

Young Girl : Can I save the rest of my dinner for lunch tomorrow? I am not that hungry and it will be so nice for lunch…..

Young and Old Girl : Can you straighten my hair before school?

Young Girl: Can I have $2 for an ice block?

Old Girl: Can you drive me to the shops?

Young Girl: Can I come in to pay for the fuel? (And ask for half the store while I’m in there)

Old Girl: Can I have $50 for a new skirt and shoes?

And on and on it goes…..

OH.. GOD HELP ME!!!

Coming up with reasonable answers when put on the spot is hard enough, but when those answers are challenged with convincing and logical replies, aimed to change my decision, it can, at times, become unbearable.

I think I am a pretty tough Mum, I stick to my guns more often than not. I give my explanations so they understand why I made that decision.

Now I am wondering if those explanations are the flaw in my plan…

As my children are growing, their voice of reasoning and negotiations skills are developing, and I think perhaps I have taught them too well. They know exactly what to say to make me question if my decision is fair, or right, or reasonable. They know how important I take my role as their Mum, and that I want to make as many right decisions as possible.

With my current condition and medication aggravating my mood disorder, over these past few months I have experienced a few old familiar “episodes”, these are my inner enemies. Some episodes are manic, some depressed and anxious, some irritable and reactive. When the enemy of anxiety rises up, making decisions is almost impossible to do with any certainty. Second guessing yourself is a constant companion. Then again, so is third guessing and fourth guessing and so on….

Unfortunately, the questions don’t stop just because I am mid-episode. Young girl doesn’t read the warning signs and demands more from me when I am fragile, and old girl (who was always the most compliant child) has found her challenging teenage voice. After 3 months on the medication that stirs up inner enemies, I was at breaking point!

Family meeting time!

After taking the time to explain my condition in more detail to my family, I asked for some extra grace through this trying time, and for them to ask themselves if their questions are really that important or urgent. I also explained that when you share a house with anyone, whether it is family, friends, strangers, borders etc, a major part of making it a healthy household is being considerate of each other. If you can tell that someone is having a hard time, a bad day or asking for some space, then the polite and respectful thing to do, is do your best to accommodate them. That way they might return the same grace to you when you need it.

I ended our family meeting with a gentle warning:

If you poke and rabid dog with a stick, no matter how much it loves you, it will eventually turn and bite. And if you ask an anxious Mum too many questions at the wrong time, the answer you get may be unfair, unreasonable and wrong. Yet that is the chance you take when you ignore the signs of your poor worn out Mum, who loves you more than words can say, but won’t like you very much if you wake her from her self-prescribed recovery nap to ask if you can finish the rest of the jelly!

sleep

12/06/2013

A Bleak Future for Intimacy*

Posted in Family, General, Musings, Self-Awareness, Teen Trials tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 9:37 am by The Water Bearer

Keyboard

It is common to hear diatribes of drama and dysfunction from people sharing about their relationships and social interactions. Yes, relationships are tricky, however as experience is gained, overtime, social guidelines help us avoid so much of the non-sense drama of our youth.  In this past week alone, I have listened to too many examples of social immaturity and hypocrisy. We are not in high school anymore, so why does it often sound like we are?

Judgment without Grace,

Offense without Accountability,

Deception without Discernment,

Walls without Boundaries,

Conflict without Resolution,

Anger without Acceptance,

Passion without Humility,

Condemnation without Self-Reflection,

Battle without Courage.

Our ability to relate and connect is a fundamental element of being human, and yet our ability to achieve maturity in this area seems to becoming less and less apparent.

I am extremely concerned for the social development of our generation and the next, now that relationships and connections are being severely affected by the new ways to connect with family, friends, acquaintances and even strangers. Social Networking claims to make connecting better, easier, and more convenient. But is this “easier” way helping us to develop strategies to interact genuinely, intimately and develop social maturity? I’m not so sure.

For those who fail to stretch and grow through the discomfort of tricky relational issues, it is too easy to sit behind a computer screen and imitate genuine human connection. Are they thinking to themselves
 “The real world is too painful, people are difficult, online I can block them, ignore them, hide from them or berate them. I can find someone to agree with and fuel my opinion, by giving only my side of any situation.” ??

Is this the type of social development we want for our children?

With all the technological ways we have these days, to gain our craved ‘hit’ of connection, why would anyone choose the harder path of learning to understand and accept human nature. Let’s give our children the opportunity to develop social skills first. Then, once they leave High School or even University, and have some sturdy social guidelines in place, social networking can become a fantastic tool. Saying “No” when your teenager asks you if they can create a Facebook account may seem unfair, especially when “All my friends are on there”. Yet, when your ‘No’ is deeply grounded in your concern for their social safety and development, it becomes reasonable and responsible.

I pray our children gain the skills to handle conflict resolution face-to-face, that they learn to pick their battles, and to create a filter so they know who to trust with their personal story, and whose story to believe. To experience the complexities of true relationships that grow and twist with time, changing them into deeper more compassionate and well-rounded human beings.

HUgs

22/02/2013

Relaxed Mum, Happy Children*

Posted in Encouragement, Family, General, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 11:08 am by The Water Bearer

relaxed kids

Like many others, I always thought meditation required sitting in the lotus position or lying down, eyes closed, taking time to relax every muscle in your body, imagine your breath is like a river cleaning out your stress, stopping all thoughts, finding that illusive place of calm etc … Honestly, I find this quite difficult.

I have practiced and benefited from relaxation though. Before bed, when I am having trouble sleeping, or when I am really anxious about an upcoming event. But who are we kidding? If we had enough time to do this regularly, we wouldn’t be half as stressed in the first place. Most of the time I am too tired to try to focus for that long. Frustrating more than relaxing, right?

However, after a bit of research, and some great posts from fellow bloggers, I have discovered other concepts regarding meditation.

Simply put, meditation is practicing being present in the moment. That sounds easier said than done, so I will share a couple of my own tips.

The quickest way I find to center myself, is to imagine (in detail) the view God has looking down on me right now. I see what I am doing, where I am, what is around me, what face I am pulling, and how I am holding myself and so forth.

Then I go internal, I pay attention to what my body feels like, what I can hear, what thoughts and emotions I have in the forefront of my mind, what is the pace of my breathing, and then see if I can really slow it down.

I don’t deny or push away thoughts, I just accept them and look at them without judgement, which makes it easier to just let them go and go back to being present. Allowing myself a break from mind-wandering into the past or future.

As some may recall, I made a new years resolution and prayer in my post A Focused Mind. To attempt to become skilled in meditation in order to focus and reach my goals, to be inspired and more present, to relax and make room for my mind to process the changes I am working on as a mother. True to the Lords word He has already begun answering my prayer, I am definitely getting better at this. Showing my children how to learn to enjoy the present moment is becoming increasingly important to me. I believe a more ‘present’ relaxed Mum, means secure, happier children.

I have watched a few TED talks and Youtube Videos on meditation recently and learned more amazing benefits. “Meditating, it is like taking a magic pill that will lower anxiety, pain, depression and anger and will improve attention, immune system, self-control  and well-being.”

I want my children to experience these benefits too. Couldn’t we all do with this in our lives? Yet I bet, you can come up with a hundred excuses not to try this, starting with, “I don’t have enough spare time” or “I would forget to do it because I have too many other things to think about” (which is kind of the whole point).

There was a terrific idea on one of these videos.  The “Don’t wait… Meditate!” pledge.

Pretty simple really…

We all hate waiting because we are wasting precious time, but we all have to wait, on hold, in lines, at traffic lights, before appointments etc.

The pledge is to be present, to meditate while you are forced to wait. No extra time is required.

I meditate while driving to and from work, I do it when I am waiting to pick my girls up from school, or while someone I’m talking with has to take a phone call. I am learning to do it while I engage with people who I feel most sensitive around, I am noticing that this helps slow my defensive reactions so I can ease them somewhat.

Depending on Christ, along with analyzing and understanding my own behaviour, has been hugely responsible for why things are changing for the better around here. I am excited at the changes on the horizon.

The clip below was extremely valuable in helping me understand the why and how of meditation in more detail and I hope it blesses you all.

29/01/2013

Beginning to Undo the Damage*

Posted in Encouragement, Family, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:29 pm by The Water Bearer

beach

The theme of my concerns over recent weeks/months/years, has circled my role as a Mum. I have this tremendous fear that my insecure reactions may have already damaged my children’s sense of self worth. How it is especially hard trying to raise them to be healthy, happy and secure, while I am still trying to get myself there. I get angry at myself for falling short, giving them less than they deserve. Tears well up as I confess this, it is extremely difficult to share, so please bear with me. I will try to allow my vulnerability and shame to create something worthwhile here…

I lean heavily into my faith, repeating the mantra, “Don’t Stress, Do your Best, God will take care of the Rest and You’ll be Blessed”. I trust in this, yet I admit my trust wavers, especially when it comes to me doing my best, am I really? While He develops my faith, I pursue healing… I must for their sake and my own.

My children are older now (9 & 16), they are dealing with emotional issues, more than behavioural ones. They are extremely well behaved, and try their best to be so. Recently I watched my reactions as a parent to my children even more closely; I saw how often my desire to teach them sounded as if they were ‘less than’. How my attempts to help them understand happiness made them confused and sad. How my reaction to their unhappiness made them self-conscious and withdrawn.

I broke down…

“How is this still happening?” I thought to myself. After over 6 years of therapy and 13 years of developing faith, I still have not figured out how to stop the cycle of damage and self-loathing which has infected its way throughout my family tree.

I wrote and wrote, I poured out my confessions on every scrap of paper I could lay my hand to. I let the tears fall as I held myself accountable for their growing hearts, which need to be nurtured by a Mum that loves in healing ways, not toxic ones. Yet I had no idea why my love was so poisoned.

Then as usual I withdrew again…. into distractions and a couple of glasses of red.

I had a 2.5 hour session with my therapist the other week, and we spent time figuring out the core of my parenting crisis. It was supposed to be the usual hour, but he knew I needed more time and gave it willingly, bless him.

After many tears shed and much rambling, probably mostly incoherent, we came to a few realisations. Firstly, that I have a list of responsibilities in the forefront of my mind. Fighting for the top spot of that list is my desire to make my children happy, along with being an obedient, self aware, child of God, and a supportive, capable and loving wife etc.

We narrowed in on my role as a Mum, to find out what causes me to react in unhealthy ways rather than healthy ones (besides the general thesis that my reactions spring from a platform of shame and insecurity). We needed to discover the more specific catalyst.

Eventually this catalyst revealed itself to be a connection between being happy and being right. I grew up believing being ‘right’ was the be all and end all. I spent so many early years unhappy for being so very far from ‘right’, believing many lies were truth, that somewhere along the way of realising this I have attached unhappiness with being wrong.

As we dug a little deeper we found that whenever I see a need to correct my children’s behaviour or teach them how to deal with something new, my fear of their unhappiness attaches itself to them being human (not perfect) and my panic causes an emotional reaction. This emotional reaction is more powerful than my words aimed to teach, more powerful than my good intentions. My way of defending against the fear is what shows on my face as I react. My anger at myself for believing those early lies is what shines out, and all they must see is an angry, scared Mum. No wonder it doesn’t work out well. 😩

We also figured out that I seem to be missing a piece of the puzzle, the place of stability that helps gauge which situations are worth getting upset about and which ones can be met with a neutral, unemotional  response. In my desperate mission to stop my girls ending up like me, I have been allowing my fear to unconsciously correct their emotions and even their opinions. I cant express in words how ashamed I am. Forgive me Father, Forgive me Girls!

And so now that I have become aware of this in more detail, I must learn to give supportive freedom for them to experience their own emotions and opinions in each situation and not link them to being right or wrong, happy or sad, damaged or healed. Just to simply accept them, for all that they are. The Lord will teach them in life what I cannot, I need to change my focus to be less about teaching them how to not be like I was/am, and more on helping them be who they are. Using Affection, Approval and Acceptance to help them believe they are good enough, that they belong and are loved.

My psych has given me some tips to practice, in order to attempt to undo some of these patterns.

  • Sitting face-to-face with them wordlessly, non-judgmentally, soothing the internal dialogue inside me, which drives me to teach them to control and avoid imagined catastrophes.
  • Sit and listen without responding so much. (Oh my, that is hard for me at anytime)
  • Try not to challenge any opinion they have unless 99% sure that it is incorrect.
  • Try not to challenge any emotions they have, merely SHARE the experience with them.
  • Try not to let their emotions change my emotions reactively. Wait until I can think neutrally before making decisions. This will teach what my words could not, that emotional manipulation is unfair and unhealthy.
  • Before I respond to anything, ask myself this question, “Do I feel good enough or defensive?”, and wait until I feel good enough before I respond.
  • Use soft eyes and a low pitch when correcting and teaching.
  • Be aware of my fearful reactions during meditation, run through these tips from a calm relaxed place and allow the fear to pass by without being the catalyst for reaction.

This list is not going to be easy for me to apply, but I have been trying and had a few successes. I hope that someone else out there can gain something useful from this post. So that other children don’t have to stay in unhealthy cycles. I ask for your prayers, pray that this is finally the breakthrough I have been waiting years for and that God will reach down His hand and help me walk these new strategies out in my life. That His love will flow through to fulfill my girls when my love is tainted with fear. That my inner enemies will not win out, but will end up in the pit far away from my me and my family. In Yeshua’s Mighty Name I pray. Amen!

prayer hands

13/11/2012

A Tough 3rd Day*

Posted in Encouragement, Family, Finding Faith, Self-Awareness, Teen Trials tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 7:17 am by The Water Bearer

On the last day of a recent 3 day blog fast, my girls asked me to watch a movie with them. The movie was a Japanese Anime Film and the boy in the movie had no technology in his home. They only had a dial-phone and lots of books.

My youngest daughter (9yrs) was fascinated by this film, it inspired her to want to take a break from technology herself. She expressed to me her desire to go on a technology fast. This little angel had ideals of lasting a whole week with no TV, no Nintendo DS, no Wii, no computer, no mp3 player, no DVD’s, nothing!

We discussed this at some length, I explained that a whole week is a very long time for a little girl and perhaps it could be something she works up towards. I explained my theory about 3day fasts. They are achievable yet still a trial. We have more chance of hanging in there and keeping our promise, than risk being tempted into breaking our agreement with God. She seemed quite happy with this, wrote out her agreement in her prayer journal and the next morning began her task.

As my fast had now finished, I was sitting in my office replying to comments when her little face popped up over the back of the couch at me.

“Mummy! Guess what I just nearly did!” She blasted at me at top speed.

I gave her an inquiring look “What did you just nearly do?”

“I just turned the Wii on because I am finished getting ready for school. Good job I realised in time hey!” She grinned as she flipped around to turn it back off.

“Well done Honey” I cheered, “Good for you! It’s easy to slip-up, but well done for being strong enough to catch yourself.”

She grabbed her Children’s Bible, curled up on the lounge and read it until we left for school. When she got home she was heading to her room and had to pass the TV, which was on. She got caught up, it was like it reached out and grabbed her, after a couple of seconds she shook her head and kept on her way (Bless her).

This kid has so much faith it astounds me. For the next two days she kept to her word, she read books, drew pictures and played outside. I taught her how to play Gin Rummy, which we played a lot.

On the third day she started to struggle. It was a weekend and the day was dragging, we had tidied up and completed some chores, but she was being tempted with dreams of Mario Kart. I reminded her that this fast was her idea, that she had wanted to go a whole week and here she was struggling on only day 3. I encouraged her to ask God for help and explained that if we can resist something when it is hardest, in those times we really really want something, it gives our faith a huge boost. Plus, we show God how much we really want to keep our promises to please Him, rather than pleasing ourselves and our flesh. She said a prayer and then began reading a hefty novel, which she had been too overwhelmed to attempt before.

As the day turned to night, I was getting ready to head out to a friend’s birthday, and my daughter began yearning again. Snuggling up at the end of a Saturday with a movie is a common practice for our family, and she was itching for it. She didn’t want to just ‘break’ her promise so instead asked me if she could. I told her if she wanted to break her fast it would have to be her choice, and that I wasn’t going to give her permission so she could blame me for not reaching her goal. I reminded her of all the things I had said earlier, that she was so very close now and that is always when it gets hardest. I explained that if she broke her promise now, before her agreement was fulfilled, then the past 2 and a half days would be wasted.

She went back to her room to pray for more help and I left unsure of how strong she would remain without me to support her. So I said my own prayer asking for the Lord to keep her strong and keep the enemy from tempting her. When I arrived home later that night all was quiet, everyone was asleep. I wanted so desperately to wake her up and see if she had achieved this monumental goal.

I waited until my eyes sprang open then next morning, “How did you go Honey? Did you end up watching a movie or did you manage to keep your promise?”

Her little face beamed back at me “I didn’t watch a movie Mummy. God helped me keep my promise and I read this much of my book” She held up her novel and showed a quarter of it sectioned off with a bookmark.

I was so overcome with joy as tears ran down my cheeks, I made such a big deal of her triumph. Throughout the day I kept reminding her how very pleased I was with her, because it is one thing for a parent to discipline a child, but for a child of 9 years old to discipline herself was a huge accomplishment. I don’t know  many adults who have that much self-discipline or faith. I strongly feel that exercising faith and self-control is extremely important, especially in a day and age when self-indulgence is so widely encouraged. Proudest Mum ever!

19/09/2012

Strength Behind Raising Children

Posted in Encouragement, Family, General tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 6:28 am by The Water Bearer

Daughter 8yrs – “Mum, can I have a chocolate milk?”

Me – “Nope”

Silent pause…

Daughter – “Mum can I please have a chocolate milk, please?”

Me- “Well that was a much better way to ask for something, but I’m sticking to my first answer.”

Daughter – “I’m sorry I didn’t use my manners the first time Mummy, but could I please have a chocolate milk because I didn’t get one at Nana’s this morning, she was out of Milo”

Me – “That’s a shame, but the answer is still no. Enough now!”

Daughter – “I promise I will eat all my dinner.”

Me – “Yes you will eat all your dinner because you won’t be filling up on chocolate milk half an hour before I start cooking it. Have a drink of water if your thirsty, and stop expecting me to give you my reason, I have said no, and no means no!”  …. (Oh Lord, I’m throwing in overused cliche’s again)

Daughter – “Oh but that’s ages away”

Me – “There are children who have to wait for days to have a good meal, you will be fine. Enough now, I am loosing my patience with you!”

Daughter – “Sorry Mum, what’s for dinner?”

Me – “Food, aren’t you lucky?”

Daughter – “But what food?!”

Me – “Why?”

Daughter – “Because, I just want to know. ”

Me – “Well I am still deciding”

Silent pause….

Daughter – “I could have a chocolate milk and that would give you more time to decide.”

Ah, kids are so persistent!

One thing I realised early on about being a Mum, was that if I wanted my children to know who is in control between them and me, it all boiled down to tenacity. Who could hold their ground the longest and not cave in to the other. Many oarents understand that a few swift acts of discipline early on is vital, yet there is some treacherous ground to cross between the initial decision, and the success of it being the final outcome. Will we loose control? Will we get angry? Even yell? Will we reach the point of no return, hollering negative diatribes as we drag them off to bed slamming the door in defeat, accepting that the fight was too hard? Convincing ourselves that our excuses are valid?

Early on in my stint of motherhood I wilted in strength more than I succeeded, I regularly battled against a willful child who dragged out eating dinner every night. There were countless harrowing occasions when she would fiddle in her chair as one pea at a time made the slow journey on her fork to her mouth. Often I resorted to pining her on my knee and shoveling the food down in record time so I could put her to bed at a reasonable hour, or attempting the common negotiations of “Just two more mouthfuls”. Then there were the times when I caved in, got angry and sent her to bed, realising I had not won that round.

The hardest days were when minutes felt like eons, traffic chaos causes involuntary bouts of turrets, the work day spent feeling as useless as high heels on running shoes. On days like this, I had little ability to navigate the kitchen, using vacant focus to try and recall how you turn the green stuff in the bottom of the fridge into something edible. Lets just say I was rarely likely to prepare a masterpiece for dinner. I often felt extreme guilt for giving my child less than my best, forcing her to swallow something less than I expected to be able to give. I let that guilt undermine me, feeling like a better mother for avoiding her tears on top of everything else.

I feel it is safe to say that, even if we understand what the job requires, without God’s strength to perform it, it is simply impossible.

Most of us have a fair idea of right and wrong, and we recognise that it is our role to lovingly help our children understand this. Yet we can become our own worst enemy when we use our weakness as reasons to let them move our boundary lines. Of course we all have our toughest days, when life hits hard with genuine trauma, and those are the times when, if we have faith, we lean on God to help us merely get through the day. However the day-to-day struggles are where our children gain their understanding of who is in charge. If we give in and allow them to have their way, we are not being the nice, considerate parents we think we are, we are relying on our own strength to stand our ground, and end up falling in a heap under the pressure. We are showing our children that the line to break us exists if they push hard and long enough.

Challenging behaviour is common on any given day, children have a built in instinct for testing the strength of the boundaries we have set. Of course children always have much more energy than us, they haven’t wasted it on late nights and unavoidable errands. The responsibilities of daily life and tripping over red tape hasn’t worn them as thin as spilled milk. Their supply of patience hasn’t been given away like pamphlets at an election booth.

Instead they are inspired by tales of fighting against resistance, maneuvering through meteors and the onslaught of intergalactic enemy ships. Soaking up heroes emerging from kindergarten to stand up to the school bully, and the beautiful maiden who was brave enough to take on the evil oppressive guardian figure. Often the parents in these stories are portrayed as ill-informed about the crucial nature of the heroes quest, they aren’t portrayed as allies but rather another obstacle to be dodged and overcome.

The battle ground is set, the will of inner angels and enemies are empowered and ready to go head to head each time a testing situation arises. Who will come out on top? Will you? Will I?

I find it unacceptable to allow our children to become confused about who is in authority, I am accountable to God and they are accountable to me. Yet I can not simply rely on my own strength and tenacity to stand against defiant behaviour, or I simply fail too many times. Many of us seem to block out the ‘condemning’ voice of reason and lean heavily on excuses, because the right way is usually the hardest way. I give all credit to God for the times I have kept to my word and prevented my children overturning my decisions.

We have to remember to depend on His strength behind us, to pray for His wisdom when making decisions, when deciding appropriate consequences for unacceptable behaviour, and ask for His love to shine through us and out onto our children.

28/08/2012

Lessons in Friendship

Posted in Encouragement, Family, General, Musings, Self-Awareness, Teen Trials tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:08 am by The Water Bearer

Something I find particularly heartbreaking is when either one of my daughters comes home from school distressed after an incident involving someone they thought was a friend.

It is just awful to view the sorrow in their gorgeous big brown eyes, and the damp eyelashes as evidence of tears shed. I want so desperately to protect my girls from repeating my mistakes, and having to learn the ‘hard way’ about the truths of friendship, yet I realise they still need to learn for themselves in order for these lessons to stick with them throughout life.

I may be slightly biased here but I have tried to teach my girls to treat others with respect and how they would like to be treated in return. Their faithful spirit is evident in they way they treat most people, they want to be forgiving and to believe a ‘problem friend’ is capable of changing into a ‘decent friend’. So they keep putting themselves back in the firing line, realising a little more each time that some friends just continue to mistreat them.

I wonder how long it will take them to firmly value healthy friendships and avoid toxic ones? I was bitten over a thousand times before I realised I had to stop putting myself in the path of destructive, unhealthy relationships.

We parents can aim to keep balanced influence over who our children befriend to some extent, by deciding who we encourage them to spend time with for play dates and sleep overs etc.

Mostly I feel it is so important to be invested in discussions about the experiences they have had with others, and share your own experiences with them.

I try not to be too judgmental, but this can be hard when your perspective has been somewhat tainted by painful memories, and there are many variables to consider when teaching my girls the reasoning I try to apply to my own friendships. I find my self saying things like…

  • Give everyone a chance; Remember that everyone has inner angels and inner enemies.
  • Be yourself and respectfully resist things you would prefer avoiding. (i.e. Don’t be a doormat)
  • Be truthful and loyal and keep Godly principles in mind.
  • Learn to enjoy your own company so you don’t rely too heavily on friendships.
  • Avoid those who throw emotional tantrums when you set up your own boundaries, this is manipulation, stand firm if someone tries it on you.
  • A true friend will respect your boundaries and you need to respect theirs.
  • Try to be aware and keep control of your own possible emotionally manipulative behaviour.
  • Observe how others handle tough situations and whether you admire them or not and why. Consider this when listening to their advice.
  • Ask yourself if they are honest with you and not just tell you what you want to hear.
  • Consider if they encourage you to reach your full potential, that they don’t hold you back with avoidance, distractions and unmotivated tendencies.
  • If they load you up with their problems but refuse to handle them well, take a big step back and don’t get emotionally involved in their issues.
  • If you view them mistreating anyone, you can be sure they will mistreat you as well at some point in time, whether you find out about it or not.
  • If they purposely hurt you, tell them respectfully that you are hurt by their actions.
  • If they can admit how hurtful they were and sincerely apologise, then give them another chance.
  • If they don’t sincerely apologise, then be polite and continue to treat them with respect but keep your distance and your heart protected.
  • If someone is out-rightly cruel and betrays your heart in a serious way, even after an apology, offer forgiveness yet keep your heart guarded, and choose carefully your future encounters with them.

I make a point of mentioning sincere apologies, as I find it impossible to accept a false apology these days; ‘Sorry’ is a word meant to express the ‘sorrow’ of regrettable events, yet it is not a sincere apology unless it is accompanied by, a few other elements, such as:

1. Acceptance of their accountability and the role they played, without placing blame elsewhere.

2. Acknowledgment of your suffering.

3. Agreeing to stop the action or behaviour they are apologising for.

4. Understanding of your guarded heart toward them afterwards.

I have encouraged my girls to share their stories of friendship and betrayal in their prayer journals, so they may look back and reflect to gain a better perspective. I also encourage them to ask God to bring them a trustworthy friend, who will value the time they share as much as each other.

A friend can be such a strong influence as to who we grow up to be, which road we take to get there, and how successful a journey it is. Some will encourage a hard and faulty road, while others will encourage goodness of character, loyalty and healthy companionship. These are the qualities I suggest my girls consider when deciding who to share this journey of life with. I pray fervently for God to keep His hand on them and I trust Him to guide and protect them. I understand the pains of life are the building blocks of a solid foundation of learning and self-awareness and I ask Him to help me be the best example of a Godly parent as I can be when sharing friendship advice with them.

14/08/2012

Fighting against the Sexual Tsunami!

Posted in Family, Finding Faith, Self-Awareness, Teen Trials tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 11:59 am by The Water Bearer

Did the Baby Boomers have any idea how quickly the destruction of their children’s innocence would take effect when they allowed sexually charged images to flood our television screens? Did they picture their daughters grinding and gyrating to songs like, ‘Freak Me Baby’ or ‘Sweat Alalalalala Long’ or SaltnPeppa’s ‘Shoop’ when they gave their approval to play them on the radio? Did they realise that widespread acceptance of family break-ups would leave more and more single parents to battle alone against the ‘Sexual Tsunami’ white washing across their children’s world?

I am generation X, is that X as in X-Rated?

As I ponder the next phase of my role as the mother of a Teenage Daughter, praying for ways to equip her for the next stage of her young life, I find myself spending a lot of time thinking back to when I was a young girl myself.

Before my parents separated my Dad was very strict about what he allowed his children to be exposed to, we weren’t allowed to watch the same television shows as my school friends or listen to Top 40 on the radio. We could watch the News and Game Shows and listen to Christian music or music from my parent’s youth, The Beetles and Fleetwood Mac. When it was left to my Mum to decide what restrictions to place on her children I noticed that we wore her down, bit by bit, to being given more freedom than we ever had when Dad was around. It wasn’t long before we watched ‘Neighbours’ religiously instead of going to church, we knew every word to every song played on Video Hits, the more risqué’ the more we wanted to watch. We viewed our Dad’s restrictions as a fanatical strait-jacket.

Now it is our turn as parents to build the sexual platform we wish to send along with our children as they venture into the world. Restrictions have had their place, while explanations have had more. We can’t simply hide the world from their eyes, we must prepare them for what they are sure to see. They are Generation Y, so perhaps our focus as parents could, instead of telling them what not to do, explain why they shouldn’t? Why shouldn’t they take drugs? Why shouldn’t they jump into bed with someone, if they feel like it? Why shouldn’t they break the law? Why shouldn’t they dress like prostitutes? It used to be easy to tell who was a street walker and who wasn’t simply by the way they presented themselves to attract the sexual attention of the opposite sex, now that modesty is almost completely out the window, it seems everyone wants to attract sexual attention of any kind and the line between the two worlds has become blurred. Why? Sex Sells! That’s what they say. Sex may draw the desired attraction in marketing, but what is the true cost of exposing our children to overly sexualised images and sounds from the minute they can open their eyes?

While we are too distracted by our busy, chaotic, emotionally charged lives, the boundary lines are being moved, inch by inch behind shades of grey (pun intended), desensitising our resistance, numbing our opposition, giving free reign to the ‘powers that be’ to allow corruption of our virtue and destruction of the innocence of our children.

Many years ago I watched a video series by Lisa Bevere called Purity’s Power. The series was directed at adolescent and young women, and touched on many topics often left in the dark, specifically the sexuality of women in the 21st Century. It answered many questions of why and why not, it was jammed packed with information, honest and open discussions, and completely inspired with Godly principles of purity. I watched all 4 brilliant sessions and the whole time I kept thinking, ‘I am definately going to show this to my girls when they get old enough for it to be appropriate’.

Seeing as my eldest daughter has now reached the age where she and her friends have begun to notice boys, they have to cope with all those extra feelings running amuck inside them, and are exposed to intense sexual provocation at every turn, I decided it was time to introduce my gorgeous girl to ‘Purity’s Power’, to help her answer many questions about sex, promiscuity and the power of purity.

I feel overwhelmed at times, and discouraged by my minimal effect on the world’s awareness of these things, however, I trust my children into God’s hands with prayer and sacrifice. I educate them with my own wayward experiences and all the shame, consequences of those decisions. I pray for the army of inner angels to fight hard against those enemies trying to derail all attempts to protect my daughters from the devious wiles saturating their world.

My Darling Girls, I may not be able to protect you from this onslaught entirely, but I can help you learn to use the weapons available and encourage you to withstand against it. It is up to you how far you allow your flesh to be tempted, it is your choice to look away or seek out more. Keeping close to the Lord will help strengthen you in the midst of this battle. Remember that this place is a place to be tested and to learn, and no matter what, God love’s you, He is pressing up against your life waiting to be invited in to guide you to a life of victory and joy, rather than fear and shame.

“I will help you build your armor, but you’ll have to wear it by yourself”

Lyrics from ‘A Lucky Life’ by Australian singer songwriter Clare Bowditch.

Please view the clip below about Lisa Bevere’s Series ‘Kissed the girls and made them cry’. Get your daughters the curriculum package with “Purity’s Power” included, I cannot recommend it enough! Together we can set up the next generation to avoid the traps set for them by the enemy.

03/08/2012

I have to put her in God’s hands

Posted in Encouragement, Family, General, Musings, Self-Awareness, Teen Trials tagged , , , , , , , , at 8:17 am by The Water Bearer

My little miracle baby is today well on her way to her ‘own’ life. Yesterday she passed her learner’s test and can now legally sit behind the wheel of the car (Metaphoric in itself). She acquired a part-time job on the same day and completed her Tax File Number Application (almost) completely unsupervised.

Is that IT now?

How much more can I do within the ‘Motherly’ role I have held for over 16 years? I know nothing else! There has never been a time in my adult life where I was not responsible for her.

She can earn her own money now, she can drive a car. She has grown-up, and I feel like I watched it all with the fast-forward button jammed stuck!

I miss the expression on her tiny face when she looked to me for the simplest request. “My shoelaces are knotty Mummy, I can’t open them”. She would appear in the doorway of my bedroom with her hair sticking out like a birds nest saying “Look Mummy, I did my hair for school all by myself”, she was always the most placid, happy kid, she made parenting look easy. She doesn’t need to look to me for day to day comforts, these days she looks to her Ipod or mobile phone. Once upon a time a cuddle from Mum could soothe away any savage, frightening beast, now she leans into the arms of her boyfriend, much to my discomfort at the reminder of a loosening grip.

Every now and then she emerges from her bedroom with her shirt buttons out of whack. I think she does it on purpose to make me feel useful.

I understand that my influence and control over her life has changed forever, now I need to clamber into an unfamiliar role. I am not sure if I ever got used to the first role, but now that it is slipping from my grasp I want desperately to cling on for little while longer.

I remember being 17 yrs old and saying to my Mother..”You had 17 yrs to teach me how to be what you wanted, 17 years to make my decisions for me…now your time is up! You can’t keep trying to control my life just because you don’t trust that you did a good enough job of teaching me how to control it myself.” That was my defensive way of dealing with her when she didn’t agree with my life choices.

I thought I knew how to make choices I could happily live with, I lived with them regardless. I let my split family drive me to believe I could be happy if I started my own family at such a young age. God obviously had the same plan and I trusted Him, without even realising how profound that was at the time. I needed sound advice and support of my final decisions. This is how I aim to approach this new stage of motherhood (God Help Me!)

So as I step out of my comfort zone into this new phase, I need to remember the foundation of the parental principles which my Dad showed me. He would listen to my dilemma’s and give a variety of choices and explain the possible consequences, then he would say, I can’t tell you what to do, but I will support you no matter what you decide. For all the times I’m sure he cringed at my final decision he rarely showed it, He trusted God to guide our lives and was adamant that if we obey God and trust in Him completely, He can save not only our soul but the souls of our children and our grandchildren. He had obeyed God  in the face of every kind of rejection, and I trust His granddaughter into the hands of the Almighty. It is almost completely out of my hands. I must now guide her without the tactics that so easily, reactively spring to mind, without judgment and disapproval, without manipulative control, without guilt trips, without blackmail, without one-sided lectures. Now I need to listen, now I need to support. Now I need to be stable enough for her to know that no matter what life throws her way, I will be there to hold her hand and show her my love, regardless of which way she chooses to direct her life.

09/06/2012

Broken Hearted Children*

Posted in Family, General, Musings, Self-Awareness, Teen Trials tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 4:53 pm by The Water Bearer

So often I hear stories and see with my own eyes the damage brought about when parents separate. Children from split families often struggle with insecurity, and a string of psychological conditions. This is a subject extremely close to my heart, as I was estranged from my father from the age of 10 until I was an adult, and I still battle with the internal scars it caused me.

After doing some research I found some shocking statistics effecting children whose parents are no longer together. Not only are the children from split families prone to psychological distress, which lasts well into adulthood. These statistics also showed frightening increased levels in the following areas when compared to children from homes with both parents, these include;  lower grades, poverty, poor health, suicidal tendencies, incarceration, teen drug and alcohol abuse, early sexual encounters, and the likelihood of being victims of child abuse and assault. 40% of children growing up in America today are being raised without their fathers; commonly the case in Australia also. Half of the children in America and Australia will witness the separation or divorce of their parents. A study of children six years after a parental marriage breakup revealed that even after all that time, these children tended to be “lonely, unhappy, anxious and insecure”.

It seems that many marriage vows are no longer taken as an actual ‘vow’, it is a promise too easily broken, same goes for people who chose to have children together without considering how the child may be effected if there is no family unit. For example when I learned of my teen pregnancy I knew I would manage on my own just as my Mum had, but I never considered how my child might be affected by who her father was. It seemed irrelevant to me, because I was a child who grew up without a father, and at that time I thought I had turned out ok. (Ha! I can tick off well over half of the points above!)

Due to the rampant popularity of sex before marriage, it has become more common to agree to have a child with someone before we have even decided if we would marry them. Having a child together should be acknowledged as an even stronger commitment than marriage, yet this often fails to be the case. Children from separated families raising their own children are sometimes unable to see the consequences from that separation, as they have not developed the self-awareness to see their true internal stability or instability yet. Therefore the cycle continues and increases throughout society.

So often in our relationships we allow too easily the bumps of life to divide us, we live in a throw away, walk away society which has destructive, devastating consequences to the development of our characters and the spiritual “footprints” we leave behind. Western culture allows us to choose our own life partners, we choose out of emotion, need and desire, and then quickly, easily, we doubt our choice. Perhaps we assume it was the wrong choice because our previous lessons came from one of our bad decisions. Perhaps its because we didn’t apply Godly principles of LOVE to our relationships. Perhaps it is just too hard and we give up in search of something easier, of course we forget that it was not meant to be easy. For children this destroys their ingrained belief in the capability of their parents. The very foundation of a child’s perspective of stability and security comes from the belief that their parents are the most capable people on earth, they look to them for reassurance. When parents fail to work on their relationship and it breaks down, so does the trust of their children in them.

The emotions behind the reasons we chose our life partners are fickle! Once powerful and thought-consuming, eventually will change, develop, or even disappear completely over time. We are humans with much baggage and sin, and we expect our life partners to miraculously fill our empty places and help us carry the baggage weighing us down, and that means they are hoping the same from us also. Love and sexual connections actually allow our baggage and sinful nature to rise to the surface, so that we can face it and deal with it together as a couple. However, the ‘Better or Worse’ promise only seems to apply when we see their ‘better’ side, and we stop loving them when faced with their ‘worst’, too often facing each others sinful baggage causes much heartache and leads to bitterness and separation.

Speaking from personal experience, this is something I spend most of my time in therapy dealing with. The essence of both parents is within a child; therefore any bitterness viewed by a child from one parent toward the other is identified in some way as bitterness towards a part of them. It sends confusing messages into the inner foundation of their self-love and security.

Due to this inner battle, where I turned this bitterness upon myself, I have suffered from an incredible amount of insecurity, unsure of how anyone can truly love me because it took years for me to learn to accept myself, like myself, let alone LOVE myself.

The enemy within knows our inner wounds and is out to destroy the foundation of all of God’s designs, especially the functional family unit.The inner enemy can exaggerate our emotions, pointing to the hurt or painful memories over and over, knowing the action that follows will be a destructive one. We owe it to our children to use our inner angels to war against these emotions, striving to make sure our actions are the result of a selfless, logical decision and not a selfish, emotional one. We need to call on our Heavenly Father, knowing that our obedience to Him allows His promise to protect our children to be fulfilled.

Didn’t we make a secret promise to our children when we became parents? We would do anything to keep them safe. Their inner security is vital when determining the ‘safer’ path they will walk in their lives and it is our duty to steady their feet for their journey ahead.

References

  1. http://www.families.org.au/default.aspx?go=article&aid=925&tid=1
  2. http://www.marriage-success-secrets.com/statistics-about-children-and-divorce.html

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