Tag: parenting


First off, an update since I have spent so much time bitching and moaning about my health crisis of late on this blog….

I am feeling better.  I’m afraid to hope for or announce that I might be nearing chemical remission for fear that I might be thrust back into the fire so to speak, but I am.  Feeling better.  Surfacing. Breathing easier.  One day last week, I realized at 8:45 am that pain had not asserted itself into my consciousness yet,  I had to tip my head right and left and bend my thumb to even feel twinges of the pain that has been ever- constant since last fall– and I was euphoric.


I saw Maleficent last night and it was magnificent.  Spoiler alert if you’ve not seen it, because I feel compelled to share some of the lessons of this stunning fairytale back story.    My favorite quote of the movie has a personal significance to me:

“I had wings once.  They were strong, but they were stolen from me.”

So here are some of the lessons shared in this captivating film:


Trees are formidable foes and terrific allies.  

True loves does not come quickly or in a flash.

There are no wicked beings, only souls that have been crushed or abused.

We all lose our wings at some time or another through loss or betrayal; the direction we take after this is a choice.

No matter who or what steals our wings, love can bring them back and restore them fully.

Parenting and nurturing has little to do with biology.



We will find the truth generally more complex and beautiful than our assumptions.

Disney is finally beginning to “get it.”  Girls are more than princesses and they don’t need men to rescue them.

Villains can become heroes, especially when they are survivors.

and the most important lesson of this story…



Today I went to see the movie Courageous. Before you read another word of this blog, let me say upfront, that this was one of the most powerful movies I have ever seen [and I’ll come back to the high praise in a moment]. This movie is another movie from megachurch Sherwood Baptist in Albany, GA– not to be confused with the God Hates Fags imbeciles at Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas.  Sherwood Baptist’s best known production so far has been Fireproof, the movie that helps men be better husbands and all people build a better marriage by following some biblical principles and some therapeutic & relationship common sense.  I didn’t expect much when I first saw Fireproof, perennial skeptic that I am, I had some doubts about a movie with my little Growing Pains friend, Kirk Cameron, who seemed to have gone all Left Behind on me.  I also typically eschew Christian-themed or produced narratives because I prefer not to be told what to think or to be hit over the head with messages I would like to be able to ferret out for myself on my own walk with Christ.  But, I enjoyed Fireproof, and I thought, while it did have sort of a Lifetime movie feel to it, it also had a lot to contribute to marriage and relationships in general and it did so without making me gag or feel nauseous. 

So, I had heard some buzz about Courageous, not at my church– I’m Episcopalian and we typically don’t receive encouragement toward mainstream Christian media, but in my community and among friends. I watched the preview and thought it looked like it could be powerful.  And, powerful it was– powerful, engaging, humbling, gut-wrenching, and entertaining.  It got 4 stars on what I call my smart phone rating.  That is, whether or not I am tempted to look at my phone during a movie.  Here is the scale:

  • **** never glanced at my phone
  • *** glanced a couple of times to check for calls or texts
  • ** answered a text or two
  • *  passed time in the movie by checking my facebook, listening to voicemail, and texting

The movie begins with an action scene that pulls you right in and satisfies the adrenaline junkie’s needs; it does not let up by alternating drama, shameless tear-jerking scenes, and more action.  Yes, sometimes, it felt a little Lifetime, movie-ish, and yes, sometimes it got a bit preachy, but the parts that enacted the message were emotive and well done enough to make up for the preachy parts.  Yes, it presented some very traditional gender roles, but that did not interfere with the message or impact of Courageous.  Every father should see this movie.  Every parent should see this movie.  I was sobbing audibly during a number of scenes.  Anyone who has experienced loss of any kind, but especially loss through the abandonment of a parent, poor parenting, or the death of a loved one, will be moved to tears- male or female, no question.  The movie exposes many contemporary issues, including the link between fatherless children and gangs and crime. 

They work very diligently to present a cultural rainbow of characters and I think they tried not to typecast any race, gender, or ethnicity, but inevitably we do see some sadly predictable roles– the black criminals [although they do arrest some white boys one time], the poor, heavily accented hispanic man who needs work and must be helped along by a white police officer, and the all black gang members.  However, the spirit of this film and alternately positive scripting and casting, kept this from interfering with my ability to enjoy the film or be moved it.  The underlying message is of grave importance.  Fathers are missing from the American family, some physically and some emotionally, some are present and abusive or neglectful, many, many are absent.  The impact of this void is far-reaching has a tragic trickle-down effect.  It is time for Fathers to step up.

If you know me well, you know my parents divorced when I was in high school.  You would have to know me quite intimately however, to know that my father prior to that, though physically present, was emotionally absent and sometimes abusive.  To say that I have “Daddy issues” would be a gross understatement.  I have been working on them all of my adult life.  I know the importance of a good Dad, I know the void, I know the impact.  I know what it is like to fantasize about having the perfect Dad.  The father I was born with and the attentive, loving, protective father I wished for live on different planets.  I am still grieving for the fantasy one I never had. 

Many men who feel they are good fathers may be moved to be better fathers after watching Courageous.  I felt moved to be a better parent.  I wish I had seen this movie about 25 years ago.  I wish my Dad had seen this movie about 47 or 48 years ago.  Kids are our most important resource and our greatest legacy; and contributing to their future productivity, happiness, and spirituality is our most crucial responsibility. 

I went a lot of places during this movie.  I thought of how I need to forgive my father and really let it go.  I thought of Maya Angelou’s quote:  “Do the best you can until you know better; and when you know better, do better.”  People literally do what they know how to do, and people change and grow, and then they do better.  This movie can identify the mark for how to be a present, engaged Dad who is also a teacher and a leader or for how to be a present, engaged parent no matter what kind of parent you had or what kind of loss you have experienced.  See it.  Let me know what you think.


Having a child with Bipolar Disorder is like…

One of my children has a mood disorder. I don’t want to violate his confidentiality, so I won’t tell you which one it is. In case you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to parent a child, teen, or young adult with a mood disorder, I will help you out.

It’s like riding a rollercoaster all day long while trying to do everything else you need to do. I get quite a bit done while we are clicking along on the upswing, but those plunges, well they can be downright challenging.

That's me trying to make a business call. Well, not really, but you get the point.

I’ve taken to keeping lids on my drinks.

Don’t get me wrong.. he is a fun and funny kid. It’s just that trying to do the rollercoaster thing every day, well, it sometimes wears you out.

To be fair, I’m sure he gets weary too.

I will not yell, I will not scream, I will not cry..

“I will not yell, I will not scream, I will not cry..”  I saw that on a t-shirt one time with a punchline at the bottom that read… “because I am the teacher, I am the teacher, I am the teacher.”  I think of this because right now I feel just like yelling, screaming, and crying… but not because I am a teacher.  I don’t seem to have the same emotional responses to any behaviors in the classroom that I do at home.  No, I am having these emotions because I am the mother, I am the mother, I am the mother.

I need to keep reminding myself that I am the mother so that I do not get swirled into a vortex where I come out on the other end as the peer or the sibling of this oppositional and willful child/man who is living in my house.  So that I don’t say mean things to him just because he says mean things to me, so that my behaviors are not motivated by retribution but by loving and firm parenting and teaching.

I dreamed the other night about Alex.  I dreamed that he was 2 and I was putting him into time-out.  Even in my dream he was oppositional– getting up and running out of time out and mocking me with his facial expressions.  In the dream, I keep putting him back into time-out and telling him that I am adding another 5 minutes to his time for his refusal to stay in time-out.  The content of the dream is not the compelling factor, however, as much as the age he is in the dream that is telling.  Alex is not two and it has been nearly 16 years since he was two years old.  He will be 18 years old on May 12th of this very year.  In 72 days, he will be technically an adult [he will be able to vote, purchase cigarettes, sign documents as an adult, and will be entitled to all sorts of other adult privileges].  I will also be technically absolved of parental responsibility.  I will not be held liable if he makes poor choices, and I will not be required to support or even house him.

Of course, I this is all completely irrelevant since my child is completely dependent upon me.  He does not have a driver’s license because he never really was interested in getting one enough to pursue it.  He does not have a job, and has only held one summer job in his life [which he held for approximately 3 weeks].  He has not graduated from high school.  He quit school and began an online high school program in which he has already been put on probation twice for not completing the required 12 hours a week.  He is supposed to wash his own clothing, but he very rarely does.  It just piles up in noxious piles in his room.  He eats non-stop, but he does not wash his own dishes or even remove the dirty ones from his room unless reminded repeatedly or threatened.

This afternoon’s exchange went something like this:

Me:  Alex, my house smells like cigarette smoke.  You’ve been smoking in here again when I asked you to please not smoke inside this house.

Alex: No, I haven’t.

Me:  Yes, you have.  I can smell it.

Alex:  No, I told you I haven’t.

Me:  Why do you have a McDonald’s cup with ashes and butts floating in your coke from last night if you are not smoking in the computer room?

Alex:  I don’t know.

Me:  Do you think I am stupid?

Alex:  [no response]

Me:  Why do you tell me that you are not going to smoke in the house and then go ahead and do it anyway?

Alex:  I don’t know.

Me:  I need you to get that cup out of here and clean the ashes off the computer table and open the window and then spray in there.

Alex:  No.

His defense is that he is depressed.  He says he cares about very little and I need to give him time.  He says I am contributing to his predicament because I simply nag him constantly.. that I do not interact with him positively, but spend all of my time interacting with him telling him what he should be doing or scolding him about what he should have done but has not.  He is tired of me and I am tired of him.  We are at a stand-off or perhaps a crossroad.

Sometimes I write in order to make sense of my world, well, actually , often I do this.  So, I have no pithy way to sum up this entry.  I only have an overwhelming feeling of impotence in terms of how to help motivate him to move forward.  I am not sure whether to go tough love on him or whether to be understanding as I shape his behavior using some sort of innovative behavior management techniques.  I have no idea which way to proceed, and I am frankly tired.  I want to hire someone else to come in here and do it.  I want a miracle.  I want my prayers to be answered faster than they are being answered.

Under my wing

So, today I was having a bad day.  I was angry at my 17 year old son, which is a common state of being for me these days.  I was angry at his lack of motivation, his failure to help with anything around the house, the way he ignores his responsibility and lives completely from his id, and with the general disrespect he has shown me on occasions too numerous to number in the past few years.  I asked to speak to him in the living room.  I asked for the conversation in neutral territory because of some advice I had read in some parenting book that said I should not ‘attack’ him in his space… that requesting time in a neutral space is a better choice.  While I waited for him to decide to actually get up and comply with my request [which, trust me, he does in his own meandering time], I headed to [where else?] Facebook.  I was led straight to a status from a good friend I used to teach with where he offered a link to his wife’s blog and an interview she did with their preschool daughter.  I read this interview with such pleasure that I virtually forgot the onerous task I was waiting to confront.  I smiled at her answers and scrolled down the page to read another entry about a recent bout at the emergency room in a foreign country after this same preschool girl, called Ladybug in the blog, had swallowed a hair clip.  This narrative was so real and so funny, I got lost in it.  In closing, Sheila references a portion of a Psalm that offers a bird or angel metaphor and relates this to mothering [or parenting].  An excerpt from this blog follows:

After Ladybug was x-rayed and the doctors pronounced that she will be OK and the hair clip will pass on its own (and she threw up a few more times at the hospital), she came home to spend the night throwing up here.  My momma heart was so broken for her in her pitiful state and I was reminded of how our Heavenly Father is compared to a momma hen in Psalm 91:

He will cover you with his feathers.

He will shelter you with his wings.

His faithful promises are your armor and protection.

When I have done something stupid (like swallowing a hair clip), or am sick and pitiful, my Heavenly Father wants to tuck me under His wings, much like I tucked Ladybug under mine last night.  It was a long, rough night, but I’m her mom.
And as much as she has worn me out lately with bad decisions, bad behavior, and bad attitudes, I would never deny her the spot underneath my feathers.
When I got to this part of the blog, I dissolved into tears and the cold anger in my heart melted instantly away.  I literally sobbed, wanting then only to take my son into may arms and hold him.  You see he has reasons for his awful behavior, that I sometimes forget.  The main reason is that he is a teenager and he is wearing his insides on his outside.  But there are other reasons….  His dad and I separated when he was 12… in case you are wondering… a terrible age for this to occur.  When he was 13, his Dad moved away and headed into a disappointing mid-life crisis that he weathered by acting out in anger in every direction.  When he was 15, he was able to behave so badly that I sent him to live with his Dad.  This turned out to be a blessing, because they built a needed bridge and made some wonderful memories.  But then, when he was 16, his Dad was killed in a boating accident while on vacation, and my son’s life was turned over and shaken upside down again.  This all happened to his brother, who was 22 when his Dad died, too.  But for this child, who has always felt things deeper than most and who happened to be this very pivotal age, this tragedy upon tragedy almost did him in.  He has a bad attitude almost every day, he makes  bad decisions, and behaves badly, but I am his mother.  And no matter how old he is, I can tuck him under my wing.  Tonight, because of reading this blog, I did just that.  When he came into the room to talk, I received him differently than I would have before  my watershed moment.  Coincidence?  Well, I don’t think so.  In fact, there is no doubt in my mind that this was an answered prayer.  So tonight, after this ‘bad day,’ I am grateful for my children, even the one with the bad attitude, for friends, for words, for insight, for faith, and for a change in perception that came at exactly the right moment ✠