Parent Support

“Tubthumping”- I get knocked down, but I get up again……

This Wednesday proved to be yet another day that would test my mettle. We are in the midst of a pandemic and we are all worried about our own safety at that of our loved ones.

Yet even with what feels like a huge weight I will always choose and manage to be optimistic and continue to shoulder through. I would like to believe I am one of those people who rise to the occasion when I get slapped down, but maybe I just haven’t been knocked down enough to change my attitude, right?

Well, Wednesday afternoon was my test to see if I was going to walk the walk. Like many people my husband has been working from home for the last several weeks. I usually don’t see him surface from his basement office until about 6pm each night. Around 5ish on Wednesady he walked into our bedroom and shut the door behind him, in such a manner that alerted me to the level of seriousness.

He announced he just lost his job. Not a furlough, but a turn all your stuff in and don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out, loss.

I sat and stared at him in disbelief. I asked him if he was okay and then I did the only thing I knew to do, I burst into laughter. Seriously, I have no idea why, maybe is was nervousness or maybe it was just, hey yeah why wouldn’t I think that one more thing would dog pile us.

Two years ago before my growth journey started I would have flipped out at the idea of no one in our house being employed, let alone in the middle of a pandemic. You can’t make this up, so I think laughter was my most appropriate response. At this moment I realize how much I have grown emotionally; as a woman, wife, mother, friend, and entrepreneur.

I feel okay, and maybe I am naive; however at this moment I am comfortable with my naivety. We are no worse off than any of the millions of people who recently lost jobs, have family members who are ill, or have loved ones on the front lines of dealing with this pandemic.

It would be insulting to all of the people who are really struggling for me to feel sorry for myself. We are all healthy and together; we are blessed. And while I would prefer to not work and to continue to focus on my family, we do what we need to do to support our family. I am still very employable should I need to do that. We are team and you do what you need to do to keep things moving.

And while some, including myself, might have thought this would have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, it turned out to actually be the furthest thing from the truth.

If anything I feel like the song Tubthumping from the English rock band Chumbawamba . It is become my internal theme song the last few years. And depending upon your age you may not have ever heard of this song that was published in 1997. Pay attention to the refrain as that is what will resonates with everyone these days.

So, on Wednesday I realized I have become a better version of myself; and I wouldn’t trade a moment of my life, even the last two turbulent years for anything. I have learned that no matter what struggles may come my way, in whatever form, I can and will handle them. I am fierce and will not be f**ked with because…….I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down……… I will always choose to see the good in people, the silver lining, and opportunities at every turn and still get where I need to be.

So put a smile on your face, dance around your house to Tubthumping and spread some joy to those around you and have an awesome day.

Anxiety, Parent Support, Teenagers

I know why animals eat their young?

So just like many of you we have been in close quarters these last few weeks and I would say the first 10 days were probably the most difficult as we all tried to find our places.

I went from a parent who allowed my child to act responsibly and independently to a mother who felt compelled to micro-manage all activities including school work, personal hygiene, and meal times.

I officially started the cycle with my behavior change, and in turn my children retaliated with attitude. You all know what I am talking about. And this probably would have continued had we not just a week prior engaged the services of a youth mentor for our son. Little did I know how valuable this was going to be as we headed into the uncharted territory of Covid-19 shut down.

The voice of reason came in the form of extremely knowledgeable, articulate man whom at first glance looked more like a skateboarder/snowboarder dude as he sported long hair and some facial stubble. Clearly he was way too cool for me, but he would be perfect for my skateboarder/snowboarder son.

Christian, mentors young men in the Salt Lake Valley area, and upon our initial meeting he greeted me with a warm smile and projected a sense of energy and optimism that I felt I let wither away in the last few months.

What I wanted to know very simple. How he was going to help?

Christian’s plan was on target with what we were looking for, for our son. We wanted to provide to our son, a person to trust, someone other than us, his parents to confide in, someone to help him tackle some tasks that were overwhelming him, and help him create a vision for his next steps; employment, or additional education beyond high school or both.

It has only been a few weeks and I can already see the sense of relief that has come over my son, and very unexpectedly the same has occurred for me.

I didn’t expect to learn anything from this process other than my son will listen to anyone but me. And even that isn’t correct. My son does hear and even listens to my words. But those words are really hard to hear through the noise of demands and micro-managing.

What is the moral here? Not really sure there is one other than to say, I have benefited from my son having a mentor. It takes some of the stress and panic off of me, and it allows me to be the person and parent I like being. One who is back to allowing my child the room to be independent and make mistakes, with a little safety net that isn’t mom or dad.

So I no longer identify with the need to consume my young, and instead I am extremely content to let my children continue to live and learn and flourish.

Mentorship is an amazing concept that I never considered for my child, even though I have had personal experiences with it. I guess I felt is was a cop-out, as in letting someone else deal with the issues. But that was a false premise on my part. Mentorship for my son has brought a different perspective, that of an adult that is not his parent, and in turn very unexpectedly it has made me a better parent.

Like many things, resources are often limited by location. Utah is the hotbed of mental health resources and mentorship models. I am very blessed that I live in an area where it wasn’t difficult to find what I needed.

But if it doesn’t look that way where you live, don’t give up. Continue to search your area for your Christian or a company similar to his Youth Mentors SLC.

Stay safe. And if you enjoyed this post I ask that you please share it with friends.

Mental Health, Parent Support

Good things happen when we make relationships a top priority.

Last night I was attending a Taco Tuesday women’s get together in my neighborhood. It was a night filled with good food, games, laughter, and some pretty amazing women.

My history with women wasn’t always pleasant. I found women to be catty, and backstabbing, and often out for their own good. Now I am not saying this is how all women are, it just seemed to be my experiences.

As I aged, I became wiser, less rigid and judgmental, and I also became more confident and a better judge of people. I found myself choosing to surround myself with some pretty fantastic women. Back when I lived in New Jersey I found a small group women with whom I bonded with on a spiritual retreat. We all clicked and to this day, despite the fact I moved across the country, I continue to feel as close to them as if I continued to live next door. We often referred to each other’s as “Sista’s” and yes that is how we spelled it. I am not 100% sure why, but I think that may have started because we performed a skit to the movie Sister Act and dressed up as Nuns or it could have been as “Sisters in Christ”. Go with whatever makes you feel more comfortable.

So I moved to Utah, never thinking that I would find a group like that again. I was going to be open to new friendships, but honestly how likely would it have been for me to find that twice in my life.

Well I am overjoyed to say that I found a group of great women in Utah. How does this happen, am I so fabulous that people are dying to be my friend? Nope, not even close. I have figured out it has to do with a few simple things.

  • The First: The desire to be part of a group.
  • The Second: Give 100% and be vulnerable
  • The Third: Give much more than you take from the relationship.

Back to Taco Tuesday. One of the organizers of this event got up in front of about 35 women and explained with tears in her eyes why gatherings with women were so important to her.

She has a great husband and kids, but there is something about the power of women that is necessary for her. She also explained that sometimes the connection is not meant for you, but for you to pass along to someone in the future. She often jokes that the reason I ended up as her neighbor was because she needed me, little did she know how much I needed her.

Last night I had the pleasure of enjoying my taco salad at a table where a teenage girl, about the age of 15 or 16 sat.

I laughed about how my anxiety was trying to convince me to bail on Taco Tuesday because I didn’t want to go in alone. I asked a friend for help and she offered to pick me up. And while some people might think my anxiety over such a simple thing is stupid and I should just get over it, it doesn’t work that way. I acknowledged my anxiety, I addressed it, and I worked through it with the help of others.

So after I finished telling my little story about how anxiety almost kept me from doing something I wanted to do, this young girl openly shared that she too suffered from anxiety and a few other things that always seem to hitch a ride on the anxiety train.

I gave her my full attention as I listened to her share what was going on with her life. As like many people with anxiety, we shared some of the same struggles; Adhd, anxiety, the inability to shut off our wandering minds, we wondered if everyone worried about stuff as much as we did, we used humor as a coping mechanism, and the list went on and on.

I shared some of my experiences as a teen, and the expression on her face was one of relief. She told me that while she could explain things to people she hadn’t found someone who truly understood it. We both described the inability to sleep at night because our minds raced, either anticipating the next day or re-living the one we just had, and the constant self doubt that plagued us.

All I kept thinking was, what would have happened had this dynamic young lady chose not share? She wouldn’t have learned that there are other people who understand what she is going through. Being a teenager is hard enough in this world without adding on diagnosis’. I didn’t solve her problems, because I can’t, however I did provide her with some comfort that it doesn’t always have to be this way. I also shared some tips and resources that I have gathered over the years.

We talked about sleep quite a bit, as it is so vital to being able to function, and it effects so many people, not just those with anxiety. I even shared my sleep routine, which to some might be weird, but includes; a sleep mask, a very cold room, some meditation, a scheduled sleep time and the mother of all things, a very expensive, but amazing weighted blanket.

I told her how impressed I was with her ability to be vulnerable and share with me, a virtual stranger. I shared that I only learned about my anxiety a few years ago. Had I chosen to share my feelings with people in my youth, things might have looked different for me. But you know what they say, “If it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger.”

I was impressed with her ability to recognize it at a young age, and her desire to deal with it and ask for help. I was thrilled to see that she trusted her mom enough to share and confide in her, she has an ally in this journey.

Her mom made a conscious choice to listen and hear what her daughter was telling her. She didn’t dismiss it, she didn’t attribute it to hormones, she didn’t push her away and tell her to get over it, she didn’t think her younger kids needed her more. She listened and was ready to provide help.

Sometimes our kids just need us to listen and focus as much on what they are saying, as what they are not saying. As parent’s we have the tendency to focus on the parts that will set them up for the future, like school, staying out of trouble, sports, etc. Sometimes a parent needs to put all that stuff aside and focus on the core of the child. It is hard, very hard. I was the parent who was more concerned with grades, and appearances than I ever should have been. I got lucky, in that I learned our relationship trumps all else. Because I want my kid to trust me as much as this girl trusted her mom. For us, we are still working toward it, but it was very nice to see how it can be, it gave me the resolve not to give up.

People often suggest, actually they don’t suggest it, they say it outright; that I talk to much, or share to much, or I am just too much. Yeah, they are probably right most of the time, but not last night.

I make the choice to share, because I never know who I might help by sharing the story of my struggle, it might be directly for them, or it might be for them to share with someone they know at a later date. My simple hope in sharing is; maybe there is just one person out there who may have the chance to avoid the struggles I have had. So yeah, I am a blabber mouth, but I like me this way.

Later that evening, I hoofed a 25 pound pink weighted blanket around the corner and knocked on their door. I handed it to her and said, “Try it out for a few days and let me know what you think?

I slept great last night, because I was under my own weighted blanket. I wonder how she did? It’s pretty amazing that by sharing stories and feelings, your own weights can be lifted.

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Parent Support, Residential Treatment, Wilderness Therapy

Update on Shaming.

UPDATE: This article was originally published in October 2019.

I am not surprised it has grown so quickly, and not just because of this particular subject, but many of the subject I discuss. While this article was originally written with the focus on parents of children who have been placed in wilderness or residential treatment for mental health issues, it has become clear that all the issues that I write about span every facet of all relationships both those in our personal lives and work lives.

I do believe that this article in particular speaks to one of the most difficult areas for parents, both moms and dad, and it causes us to keep silent, having other parents judge and shame us. No more, I say.

I can say, that before our life took a tumble, I can recall specific instances where I chose to judge; What kind of mother fed her kids in the supermarket? Ah, that was before I had kids, now I am like, hey mom, do you want a bagel to give the kid? Let us be compassionate, open-minded, and supportive of all people.

Enjoy the article as a re-read or a read for the first time. I would love to hear your perspective on this issue, I actually mean it, so please leave your comments or thoughts at the end.

Unfortunately this seems to be an issue that all parents come face to face with at one time or another; however for parents of kids receiving any type of mental health treatment it hits deeper and hurts more. The issue is Parent Shaming, whether it is un-intentional or intentional- Stings, – a lot.

What kind of society have we turned into where people feel compelled, forced, duty bound, obligated, or required (pick anyone, they all work) to tell you what they think about a situation that you didn’t ask their opinion on and that has no direct impact on them?

My first post to this blog was exactly 7 days ago.  In that short time I have over 200 followers on my Facebook page. I have numerous emails and messages from people thanking me because they no longer feel alone.  I have business interested in my writing. My son has told me that he is proud of me.  His friends from treatment have read it and really like it. Most recent statement was “It’s awesome, Cheryl.  when are you going to write about me?”  And countless practitioners from the mental health field have applauded my efforts. 

I am proud of myself for having the courage to do this.  I have thought about sharing Me with the world in one capacity or another for many decades. I just didn’t know what I was going to share; but now I do, and I am doing it. 

I am not naïve, but I do choose to be vulnerable. I agree in the freedom of speech and opinions. However, what I do not agree with are people who must tell you what they think, it’s like a compulsion for them, they must do it. I do not recall a statue that states, “One must convey every thought that enters your mind to others”.  

I started a Facebook group months ago to support myself and other parents whose children completed wilderness and then advanced to a residential program.  There have been hundreds of parents in and out of that group and I can honestly say there has not been one incident of mean or catty behavior. 

When a member posted something controversial, the other members didn’t jump on him or malign him, they just ignored it.  So how did my Facebook group get so lucky to have 100% of our members treat each other so well?  We didn’t get lucky; we were just a group of parents who have been beaten down, and shamed, most often by the people closest to us, and we didn’t want anyone else to feel that way. It is called compassion, empathy, and sympathy.

I have heard countless stories from my Facebook members of people being “judgey” with their conversations. A comment made in haste doesn’t disappear, it lingers for days in a persons head, toying with their emotions and confidence.

Here is a tiny sample of some of the most insensitive things that have been said to my Facebook parents by non-treatment parents-they were talking about others people’s kids, not yours, right?

The kids are “bad” because they must have bad parents. * The parents didn’t try hard enough. * Mom should have quit her job. * Dad should have quit his job. * Those parents spoil that child. * The parents aren’t strict enough. * The parents are too lenient. * They have too much money. * They don’t have enough money. I could go on and on and on.

So why do I bring up this in my blog. Well, I received my first, let me say confusing communication via a private message. After I completed reading it, my first reaction was, “How dare you.” My almost immediate second reaction was, “Wow that person must be hurting a lot to lash out at me that way.” 

I employed empathy and not anger, because I think you will all agree with me after reading some excerpts, that anger is not what that person needs- he needs compassion. Oh I did respond and it was vicious I wrote: “Ouch. Thanks for your thoughts.”

However the “quirky” part of me wanted to respond to some of the content with the following :

Is writing this blog the best thing for your family Cheryl???.... Ah, yes.  When I am at my best, my family gets the best of me.

I thought moving to Utah was sort of a LIFE Re-boot for you and your family so I was really surprised to see that you are entrenched in writing this very intimate account of 16 yo’s  journey.Intimate is telling you what kind of underwear I wear; my writing is raw and honest.

I am concerned that despite your son agreeing to your writing it, he might not respond well, to some of what you have written later down the road.  You mean letting him know I loved him so much that I put everything on the line to help him and our family.

I wouldn’t feel right if I wasn’t able to let you know how I truly felt about you writing it.  So, your writing was about making yourself feel better and not really about me or my family?  

I would have assumed you would want a fresh start, rather than rehashing a painful and dark time, that your family recently underwent.   Fresh starts does not mean ignore and hide from the past; it means addressing issues and moving forward.

I am also really concerned for your son 14 yo son  and think energy should be put into trying to make him as happy as possible rather than focusing solely on 16 yo and all that he has seemingly put you through over the years.   Parents are not responsible for their child’s happiness. My job as a parent is to provide a loving and stable environment for my children.  It is to guide them to make good and moral decisions; and when they don’t, stand by their side and support them as they deal with the consequences. It is unfair to ask a person to carry the burden of another persons happiness. 

Wishing you the best in whatever choices you make… they are never without consequences.    That was ominous, thank you.

I do find myself rather funny at times, not always, but sometimes. I try to laugh as much as possible, so I hope you are laughing right now with me.  So with all of this being said, my final comment is of this post is…

Be kind to people. You never really know the entire story. Replace judgement with compassion and empathy.  

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UPDATE:
I googled parent/mom shaming and below are the first four articles that came up, and while some are dated they are still very revelant today.  It isn’t just my perspective, it is real.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/new-survey-finds-80-of-mo_b_12614520

https://www.verywellfamily.com/dos-and-donts-of-mom-shaming-4137757

https://www.parents.com/parents-magazine/parents-perspective/gotcha-when-parents-shame-other-parents/

https://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/inside-trend-parent-shaming/story?id=37752623

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Parent Support

Do you know how to give your child the gift of time and space…

This wasn’t the best of weeks with my teen. Something had been building within him, I could see it and feel, but I didn’t know what it was about, and I still don’t.

But it finally erupted and it was not pretty. There was some yelling, very harsh and hurtful words, some foul language being thrown about, which resulted in me losing control. And as soon as I did, I was awash with the feelings of shame and disappointment in myself.

I beat myself up. I worked so hard to not be the “old me”, the person who would retaliate just as quickly as it was lobbed at me.  I got worn down and let the nasty back in for that split second, and I had to sit with my uncomfortable-ness the entire day. I was just at my limit. Why did I have to continue to be the intended target of all his frustration and uncertainty. It hit me hard this time and I snapped.  I was now entering into a shame spiral. 

I dug deep and tried to channel all I had learned these past few years.  I immediately started to work “my process”, which can often include anyone of these go to’s for me: talking with my husband, a session with my therapist, some support from friends in the know, or reaching out to my parent coach.

This one was bad, I had to tap into all my resources in the same day. Shame will do that to a person, well at least it does it to me.  

Toward the end of the day, I managed to connected with one very wise friend who had traveled the same path as my family. He started to talk about all the good the boys gained from their experiences, even though they were tough, and now in retrospect that they see parts of their journey as memorable in a positive way. I then brought up the ill-fated subject of comparison.

I am well aware of Teddy Roosevelt quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy”, and generally I agree that comparison will get you no where but deeper down the proverbial black hole.

However in this case, the comparison was to point out, even though today wasn’t my finest moment, look at what a difference a couple of years makes. Simply explained, today might be a 6 on the shit scale, but a year ago it was a 15 on a scale of 1 to 10.

I then commented that we gave such a gift to our kids when we made the decision to get them help outside the home, in both wilderness and residential care.  They were literally plucked up out of their lives and dumped in a new environment, an opportunity to have a redo.

They had a fresh start, no one knew of their past escapades, there was no history, nothing they were clean slates for the writing.  They also had no responsibilities like spouses, school, jobs, or family to worry about.  Their only job was to focus on themselves, their emotions, and getting to a place they could exist on a healthy platform. 

We gave them the gift of time, space, and freedom to process, without distraction or concern for anything or anyone but themselves.   They needed our guidance and permission to be what some would consider selfish; only caring for themselves. They could explore every feeling and emotion that hit their brains and work the process as long as it took.  I will never be sorry for that.

Yesterday, I was jealous of that, truly jealous.  I would love to step out of my life and spend months working on me, without any external worries.  But we all know as parents, spouses, employees, that is not really an option and we will never have that luxury again. 

So while many parents would be horrified at what I and many other parents have resorted to for our children, it was clearly pointed out to me that we gave our kids a gift, lasting memories of clear thinking, bonded relationships, and the ability to rise from the ashes.  And without a doubt they and we are better for it. 

I realize now even back at home they need time and space to figure stuff out, and that may mean not talking to me for a day, or having the time to process thoughts and emotions without mom hounding them as to what is wrong. It might mean a gap year, or gap semester. Who knows, I certainly don’t. But I do know that allowing some space and time will rarely damage a relationship.

I am striving to provide space and time on a daily basis to my kids. I need to allow them down time in this crazy fast paced frenetic world of constant and instant access.

Do you provide space and downtime for your kids? And what about yourself? Take a day and see how much better it feels and then see if you can provide some of that grace to our over-stressed kids.

Sometimes it just takes someone else to share a different view to help you put things in perspective and so you can “snap out of it”, and get back on track.

Love you DW.   You continue to provide insight, peace, calm, and support. 

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