Posted in connections, differences, mental health, mindset, parenting, socializing, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Distance, leverage, growth

Tempe Town Lake is a man-made lake not far from here where you can use a paddleboat or a kayak or go fishing. It’s also a popular location for triathlons. 

The water is not crystalline.

When I swam in Tempe Town Lake, I couldn’t see my hand at the end of my completely outstretched arm.

The water you swim in affects how you see things, both literally and metaphorically.

What did you think was typical across households until some startling point in time when you realized that your family was the only one who did that thing? There are threads of these anecdotes across social media.

We project our surroundings and circumstances onto everyone. We assume everyone is the same “base model” and that others just make different choices. 

Who we were raised by, who we spend/spent time with at school, at work, during free time, online and off affects both who we are and what we see as “normal.”  

(I recognize these upcoming statements are easier said than done, particularly if you’re following shelter-in-place guidelines and the concept of spending time with people is anacronistic.)

If you want to eat better, spend more time with people who eat well and less with people who don’t, because eating well in that context is “normal.” 

If you want to save money, spend more time with people who save and less with people who spend, because saving money in that context is “normal.” 

If you want to feel happier, spend time with generally happy people.

And so on.

This is true of habits not as easily measured, too. Spend time with generous people, with thoughtful people, with empathetic people, with kind people, if those are the people you want to be like, if those are the skills you want to develop.

In this light, it’s possible to have affection for people and also not want to spend a lot of time with them.

Part of the difficulty many recovering substance addicts have is their social circle. If I spend my time with my friends who spend their time getting drunk, I either need to be able to be with them and not get drunk or I need to spend time with other people.

It’s hard.

It’s applicable to anything that could be considered addiction: drugs, alcohol, junk food, shopping, gambling, working, gaming, etc. Maybe also to frames of mind: generosity, complaining, benefit of the doubt, victimhood, thoughtfulness.

Beginning in August, I took part in The Creative’s Workshop, where I spent at least an hour every day virtually interacting with other people engaging in creative work and being vulnerable in a space where showing your work and giving and receiving feedback was normal.

It changed me, for the better.

“People like us do things like this.” Find the people doing the things you want to do, and join them. Be open to who they are and who you might become, and over time, you will shift.

Posted in differences, education, mindset, motivation, parenting, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Take the opportunity: band teacher edition

What a fantastic opportunity we have been forced into!

I know that could be interpreted sarcastically; I mean it completely sincerely.

I am a teacher. Sometimes, I am a phenomenal teacher. Sometimes, I am a mediocre teacher.

We all know teachers who have been teaching for a long time, teaching the same thing, plugging along more or less on auto pilot. (As much as auto pilot works in this gig.)

Not now!

We all know teachers who have completely resisted learning/using technologies.

Not now!

We all get in routines, have our way of doing things, etc., even if we’re consistently learning and growing.

Now? Now we have the opportunity to re-think ALL OF IT.

I teach band. I’m in band teacher groups on Facebook where I get and share resources and ideas regularly.

Man. There are a lot of people trying to figure out how to do what they’ve always done, just through an internet connection or a face mask.

Missing the opportunity.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s hard. It’s exhausting. It’s time-consuming. And we’re all at square one again. Everyone I’ve talked to feels like a first year teacher.

Being a first year teacher is rough. Really rough.

(I can’t imagine being a first year teacher this year…)

If you’ve been banging your head against the wall trying to make this year like every other year through Zoom and face masks and life-draining expectations, I’m here to tell you—it’s not too late to change the course. Rethink everything. Do something differently. Do everything differently. What do you have to lose?

“But then my kids will be behind!” Behind what? Your expectations for where they “should” be? Your fear of someone else’s judgement of where they “should” be? And by extension, judgement of your competence as a teacher?

There is a global pandemic. Let the expectations go.

Right now, nearly everything is hard for nearly everyone. Stressing yourself out trying to make kids—who have their own laundry list of stresses to deal with—jump through hoops to try to pretend that everything is normal is … well … stressful.

Also, kids have so much less autonomy in choosing how to deal with everything that’s going on, or even knowing what healthy coping mechanisms are available. Do we want to be someone helping or someone hurting? I’m not convinced anyone is neutral now, or ever.

“Band is some kids’ safe place!” Yes it is! It was mine. Does that mean it needs to be as close to what they did last year as possible? You are their safe place. The group is their safe place. Keep the space sacred, but the activities? They can be shaken up.

Take a deep breath, let some of the weight go, and see what you come up with.

Posted in food, mindset, parenting

Dinner time and foreign children

“There are starving children in Ethiopia.”

I was told this regularly as a child when I didn’t like the food I was served.

I’m sure people’s shaming country varied (children are, sadly, starving all over the world), but this is a familiar refrain to many of us.

The Kid eats reasonably well and also has his share of complaining about what’s for dinner.

I don’t shame him with meaningless reminders of hungry children overseas.

Yes, those children would like food, but what does that have to do with this meal? It’s not like our family had to decide if we were going to feed ourselves or feed those children, we decided to feed ourselves, and as a result, those children are dying.

Honestly, dinner time isn’t the best to get into the global politics behind this problem. Nine might not be the ideal age, either.

Did anyone who received these dinner time foreign political updates suddenly have gratitude for the (over-)abundance of food we have, then eat food they didn’t like with new appreciative eyes?

No, I didn’t either.

Does it work for you now? Didn’t think so.

Tired of the whining? Address the whining.

Genuinely concerned about the disparities in food abundance across the globe? Volunteer together or donate money or find organizations in your community to help local hungry people. Because we don’t need to travel overseas or even out of state to find people without enough to eat.

Your kid’s meal has nothing to do with it.

In the same vein, I don’t know anyone who prepares meals that they know their spouse doesn’t like, even if it’s their own favorite dish and they haven’t had it in forever

We certainly wouldn’t intentionally ignore the preferences of a dinner guest.

Sure, a guest is different than a kid, but a kid is a person with valid tastes and preferences, just like you, your spouse, and your guest.

I don’t make him eat what we’re having. Why would I? Because I made it? So I’m going to argue about eating it for half an hour? an hour? with a child who doesn’t like it? Is that really the way that I want to spend my energy? Is that the way I want to cultivate relationship?

No.

Do I make him another meal?

Also no.

He has a standard backup of raw vegetables and hummus, and if there’s something else in the fridge or the pantry that he’d like with that, most of the time, that’s fine. We rarely have food in the house that would not be OK for him to have with dinner, and he’s never asked to have sweets. (He’d eat bread all night if we let him—so would I—but we rarely have bread in the house.)

I have so many negative memories of power plays surrounding meals. This is not how I want to be etched forever in my child’s mind—I will make enough other mistakes without trying.

The Climbing Daddy and I can have whatever it is that I or he has prepared, and The Kid can take it or leave it. And if we don’t like it either, we don’t shame each other into eating it—we either rummage through the fridge with The Kid or order a pizza for everyone.

Posted in know better do better, mental health, mindset, motivation, parenting, vulnerability

Political ads—a long series of teachable moments

Like everyone (I assume) in the US, we’ve been inundated with political ads.

We don’t watch TV, so that helps. But the volume of postcards has been ridiculous.

In particular, we received a postcard most days for several weeks, telling us the evils of one specific (not presidential) candidate.

If I didn’t know the state-level politics, I wouldn’t even know from all this mail who he was running against.

We pulled another one of these pieces of trash out of our mailbox, and The Kid shared what he’s learned about these ads:

“It’s not good to say all bad things about your opponent. It means you have nothing good to say about yourself.”

Good call, little dude.

We expanded that conversation to include other kids being mean and having nothing good to say about you (or others).

“Because they have nothing good to say about themselves?”

Yep. Which doesn’t mean they have nothing good about them, just they don’t see it in themselves.

You know how sometimes, you feel like everything about you is wrong? Everyone feels like that sometimes. But some kids have parents who don’t tell them that those feelings aren’t true, and they start to believe them more and more. Or some kids have parents who tell them that those things are true, which of course is incorrect, but you can’t expect a little kid to know that, and they grow up to believe there’s nothing good about them.

He understood.

Those kids grow up and become adults who have nothing good to say about themselves and instead rely on saying bad things—true or untrue—about others. We don’t need political attack ads to see this daily. We do need to do two things to remedy it.

One: teach children that they’re worthy and lovable, even when they make mistakes, even when they make bad choices, even when you’re impatient—because it’s not about you.

Two: help people who haven’t learned that heal. Whether you think they deserve compassion or not (again, not about you). Because we’ll all be better if more people feel whole.

Posted in ebb & flow, mindset, parenting

Halloween, COVID, opportunity

We had a great Halloween here this weekend.

The Kid had two friends over, in their costumes and with masks. I had made an 18-piece puzzle for each of them, different color for each, and hid the pieces around the yard. The assembled puzzles revealed a joke and a clue for where they might find treats. Each hiding spot had three treats (one for each child) and a puzzle piece. Those puzzle pieces led to three more treat hiding spots. Each child ended up with a bag, a pillow box, and a coffin with candy; two finger puppets—one eyeball and one cat or alien; two books.

After the hunt, they were charged with a task: use the characters you’re dressed as and create a short play. While the final product was not easy to follow, it did not disappoint.

One of his friends yelled, “This is the best Halloween ever! Can we do this every year?”

In talking to The Kid later, he agreed that it was better than trick or treating.

I had a lot more fun than I have trick or treating.

Other friends with kids who weren’t trick or treating did a variety of things to still have something fun for the kids to do … and every one that I’ve talked to liked it better.

Which strengthens my wondering: what else would be better if we took this opportunity to break old habits and try something new?