For Our Daughters…

A letter to a young girl, in the midst of becoming a young woman.

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I believe there is a power that women hold, that is as old MotherDaughter 2as the earth itself, and is never ending.  It is passed through the lifeblood of all women and it binds us together as life givers, as forces of change, as healers and teachers and wisdom seekers.  

The world would have us battling one another, competing for attention and accolades that ultimately mean nothing, rather than using our powerful bond to hold one another up and be the force that we are designed to be.

My hope for you, as you transition into this next phase of becoming a woman in our circle, is that you trust your own heart beyond anything or anyone outside of yourself.  Trust your innate wisdom, your body, everything that informs your unique perspective of the world and of people.  

Slow down and pay attention to what you already know.  Feel everything that you naturally feel, and learn to always come back to your center to question your deepest truth.  Always be curious about what is not immediately apparent—truth is complex and “not knowing” can feel vulnerable, yet tolerating that vulnerability is an intensely powerful position.  

You are a source of LOVE and you are forever connected to the women who have come before you. Our legacy is alive in your lifeblood.  Trust that we all are a part of the matrix of evolving strength that holds and guides you.  Feel us in your bones.  

For the Love of Your Life,

Angie

Five Ways to Get Stinky Kids

My kids stink, today anyway. They smell like sweat, dirt, grime; the kind of kid-smell that says they’ve been running hard, playing rough, non-stop all-day-long kind of playing. They smell like kids are supposed to smell.

Kids don’t smell nearly dirty enough these days.

My kids started full on with all the neighbor kids at about 10:00 this morning and they’re still going at almost 7:00 pm. There’ve been little breaks here and there as they grabbed a bite of food or a sip of water and then raced back into the fray.

kids-fenceEarlier, there were 14 of us—including three parents—walking, running to the park, climbing over the fence, to play soccer, basketball, baseball, groundies, to swing and play on the merry-go-round (yep, our park still has one of those!) Then we came back home for a spur-of-the-moment neighborhood BBQ and they’ve continued with Nerf gun wars, tag, hide-and-seek and a classic game of sardines (remember that one??)

I remember these days from my childhood—when we’d have a group of kids at our house, all the parents visiting inside, and we’d just go and go and go—never needing jackets, never feeling hungry or tired, just thriving in the all-out pushing hard play-time that we lived for. Kick the can, tag, jumping off my Dad’s retaining wall, hide-and-seek, (first kisses during hide-and-seek). This is the kind of play that brings the neighbors out to look, and they end up with these wistful smiles on their faces, remembering their own youth. It surprises them, though, because they haven’t seen it much in a while.

Kids smell too good these days—they smell like designer clothes and hair products, and not like kid-sweat and dirt. They smell like days in front of screens and sitting on couches. They smell like organized sports instead of random play where kids learn all about social rules and kindness and getting along and problem solving and conflict resolution and communication—this is where life is learned. Not that I’m against organized sports—my kids play them and learn a whole lot about discipline and structure, work ethic and dedication, and team-work and commitment. But they don’t learn the basics—like who makes the rules, who’s going to be the leader, how to deal with hurt feelings and disagreements. They don’t learn how to work together to make sure everyone’s included and they don’t get to practice different hierarchical social roles. They don’t really figure out how they fit in the whole scheme of things.

Maybe more play-time really is the key.

All mammals NEED play to survive! We even have a whole brain system dedicated to PLAY. Yet not only do many adults forget how to play, we’re forgetting to teach our kids–or sometimes, we forget to let our kids teach us.

So how about we dedicate some time to teaching our kids how to get dirty, how to play hard, to push themselves, and to stink! Here are some of my suggestions (and reminders for myself, as well as anyone else). What are yours?

 #1 UNPLUG

You know the drill—shut down the devices, turn off anydigital-kids screen within miles that you can access. Don’t ask and don’t argue—just make the rule and turn it all off. I have difficulty with this at times too, because screens can be such an easy way to make them happy….  in the moment.  But kids are not only, not learning how to play hard; their bodies aren’t developing what they need to be able to play. Loads of screen time leads to a lack of vestibular function (balance) and inhibited proprioception (knowing where our bodies are in space). A lot of kids these days really struggle with sensory integration issues and simple coordination, many, simply because their bodies don’t have the chance to practice. And the overstimulation of sensory mechanisms trying to integrate the images and speed from screens is completely messing with our kiddos body-brain development. Not to mention it’s setting them up for future addictive habits, as they use it (just like their parents) as a means of avoidance—of feeling and life. So turn it off!

#2 PLAY WITH THEM

Kids will have so much more fun, and feel so much more confident playing, if Mom and Dad are playing with them. And ultimately, they don’t follow my Dad’s old adage—“Do what I say, not what I do”—kids do exactly what they see their parents doing! They mirror our movements, reflect our personalities, and follow our lead. So PLAY. Have fun with them—get dirty and grimy and stinky with them. Let go of the “to-do” lists, and dig deep into your own kid-nature–They’ll love you so much for it.

#3 LET THEM FIGURE IT OUT

merry-go-roundKids are going to argue and fight about who’s going to push the merry-go-round, about what game to play, about who’s the ruler in the tree fort—hopefully without getting physical—they’re going to yell and cry and get their feelings hurt, and they’re going to get embarrassed, shy, insecure, and frustrated.  They’re supposed to. And if we rescue them, they’ll lose interest, ultimately, and they’ll stop trying those strategies (because that is exactly what those behaviors are—albeit unconsciously) for themselves.  They’re also going to make friends, create their pack, feel connected and secure and valued.  This is how they learn to navigate intense feelings, how they find their way through the messiness of being a human, and how they learn to find their way with friends with some know-how. And if we fix it for them, or try to change it, they’re going to end up uncertain and scared as grownups.

#4 ENCOURAGE THEM TO BE KIDS

Sometimes we want our kids to be little adults. The dinner table is a great time for this practice! But play-time… not so much. This is where they get to figure it out on their own. They’re going to scream—let them (unless you have grumpy neighbors), they’re going to break things—in the house and in their bodies. Practice non-attachment and patience. They’re going to get weird and creative and do things that don’t make any logical sense—enjoy it. “Emily”—the name that Lilly has chosen for the day—just told me she’s “selling puffiness”—for one penny each, she’s selling handfuls of these little white puffy flowers to all the kids so they can throw them at one another. There’s no logic that’s going to make that any cooler than it already is to an eight-year-old. So love the illogical, the magical, the strange, and enjoy that THEY ARE NOT LIKE US, yet.

#5 STOP BELIEVING THERE IS ANYTHING MORE IMPORTANT THAN PLAY

 I can so often forget that PLAY is as essential for my children and myself as housework, and to-do lists, and errands. It’s as important as every lesson I need to teach my kids. And simple, random playful days are sometimes more important than great adventures and planned outings. Our kids don’t need us to constantly entertain them and buy them new toys and plan our lives around cool events. They just need some free time, some space, and a few good friends—and they need us to be there, playing with them and providing a snack or two. They need us to be the one they can check in with, can come to with frustrations, sadness, a great new idea, or an owie. They need to feel us there, watching them, and loving all that we see.

Time to get stinky!

For the Love of Your Life!

Angie

Honesty From the Inside Out: A 1-2-3 on How to Equip Our Children

My kids and I have a lot of long talks. We talk about things likeN&L-1 who we want to be in the world, friendships, differences in beliefs and religions, personal responsibility, diversity, and qualities that are important to us. I love hearing their innocent and naturally developing views on these topics that become the foundation, I believe, for their happiness, their relationships, and their sense of living into their truest natures. I love hearing their minds and hearts expression through exploring what’s most relevant in their growing ideas of the world and of people.

Wednesday night, the subject of honesty came up at the dinner table. We were navigating a “little white lie…” in our house, getting clear on why it happened and what the consequences would be.

As many parents have experienced, this bit of dishonesty had to do with an IPad.

iphone-kidsI have a love-hate relationship with everything “I-digital,” mostly because it’s having a significant—in some ways, devastating—impact on our children’s developing brains, their ability to regulate emotions, their attention, their mental health, and their ability to relate to people in the present moment. It’s having a similar impact on us all, but that is for another post! (Noted as I type this on my related mac book).

When our kids lie, as all of them will be at times (it’s their job to push against every boundary, every edge that we have), our response is key. Just like any relationship—we have to know how to respond effectively when we feel mistreated to increase the chance that we’re treated better in the future—we have a powerful opportunity in these moments to help our kids learn this valuable lesson, yet it can be incredibly difficult to slow down our brains enough to take it!

Honesty is a relational quality that doesn’t always come naturally. When we’re lied to, we have an internalized belief that we’ve been wronged and our brains can become reactive to the point that, through shaming, we contribute to an increase in our kid’s dishonesty in the future, rather than a decrease. And because this is parenting, it’s our responsibility to create the foundation and structure that will support our kids in not just “learning the lessons,” but in embedding honesty and integrity as the foundation of who they are—something human relationships don’t practice near enough of these days.

I heard a great quote the other day, though I don’t know whom to credit:

“Children who are not held accountable grow up to be adults who believe they can do no wrong.”

It’s our job to hold our kids accountable in ways that don’t shame them—that honor where they are developmentally, and honor their relationship to us—their models and guides.

It can feel like a mini brain explosion the first time we realize our kiddo has lied to us—one of those blatant lies, thought out, intentional. It’s easy to fall into a trap of what it means about us—their parents—we can feel a need to control the situation, or we can fall into our own shame. Our reptilian brains can go into fight or flight while we work to mitigate the emotional landslide threatening to override rational thought.

If we look at what research has shown to be absolutely necessary, though, in effective relational skills (which are essential in parent-child relationships), there are some things that desperately need to happen if we’re going to affect positive change.

Number One:

MINDFULNESS

We need to slow down. The reactive brain is powerful and quick—it’s built for survival, for protection from threat (and betrayal feels like a big threat), and fight or flight responses. The immediate reaction to our kiddos lie, if not monitored, can do some damage. Slowing down, however, takes some focused, intentional practice—“knowing this” is very different than “doing it” in the heat of the moment. It’s just like a new training regimen; we need consistent, focused practice, often with support to rewire our brain’s very natural and habitual responses.

We need to focus not on what our child did that was so wrong, but on how we feel in that particular moment. What are our emotions, thoughts, and, even deeper than that, what are our physiological responses—what’s happening on the level of sensation? When we have the capacity to simply notice what we’re feeling, before responding, we slow down our powerful reactive brains and we set ourselves up for a load of successful interactions. We also provide a valuable model for our kids.

Number Two:

COMPASSION

As difficult as it can be to have compassion when our children misbehave, it’s essential that we remember the fact that underneath the bad behavior, there’s a person—one we love desperately and one who is doing his or her best to learn all of life’s lessons, and looking to us to structure the container in which s/he is learning. It’s amazing when we can approach without judgment, get curious about what was happening, and give some understanding to our little ones, we make it safe for them to actually talk about what they did and why. And the more they trust us to hold that space, the more they will be able to share with us in years to come, things that might be painful, shameful, or embarrassing to share.

Compassion doesn’t mean that we rescue them, make it okay, or let them off the hook. It means we help them to explore the “why,” and what they could’ve done differently, and then we collaborate on an effective consequence that will support more congruent choices in their future—and we do this with love and understanding.

Number Three:

PARENTING

Seems an obvious necessity, right? We’re clearly parents or we wouldn’t be here. Sadly, I often witness parents, either in my practice or in my community, who seem to struggle in deciding whether to be a parent or a friend. I would assert that most of us would like to be both. Sometimes, however, our friend role gets in the way of being good parents, and our kiddos desperately need us to be parents first.

I love the pendulum shift in our culture that has brought us to paying more attention to our children’s emotions than to their behavior, as we did in previous generations. However, with that, our kiddos are struggling to find a solid structure on which they can depend to hold the natural chaos of their development! The rise in anxiety disorders in our kids and teens is unparalleled and so much of that is related to the lack of stable household environments and parents who are modeling emotional tolerance, resiliency, and flexibility.

Parenting—true parenting, including rules, structure, discipline, along with unconditional love—can be really uncomfortable sometimes. We all want our kids to like us, and want to spend time with us. We want to have positive, fulfilling interactions and relationships with them. But sometimes our actions geared at creating friend relationships undermine the effectiveness of our role as parents.

Setting boundaries, enforcing rules, providing consistent and thoughtful consequences—no one enjoys being a drill sergeant (well, there are those few…) and sometimes it may feel as if we need to embody that character for our kids to listen—these are just some of the qualities of a stable parent-child relationship. The other side of this foundation, of course, is our own ability to model these qualities. When kids feel and can trust in us to provide these consistently, they learn to gain a stable foundation from which they can naturally learn to navigate the impact of their own developing relational qualities. 

We are powerful factors in helping to determine the qualities our children choose to practice. The responsibility and impact are incalculable. Pushing into the less comfortable moments in parenting, with some dedication to these practices, can provide some of the most fertile ground for our children to become mighty stewards of our collective humanity.

I would appreciate hearing your thoughts, reservations, questions, hopes, and some of your own personal stories!

For the Love of Your Life,

 Angie

Bullying–a Cycle of Abuse

Talking to our children about bullying definitely makes it more real, doesn’t it? When we begin to see our kids concern, hear their questions, feel their fear? And how we navigate those tender topics will have a lot to do with how our children respond to the idea, and the reality, of this pervasive form of societal abuse.

Nathaniel and I had an interesting dialogue tonight about bullying, victims, and different kinds of abuse—including one person lying about another, or blaming a victim and why victims of abuse so often remain quiet—how the cycle unfolds and continues to spiral, sometimes out of control. Maybe because he’s entering Middle School next year, and he’s hearing a lot about bullying, he’s sharing some growing concern about the issue. He’s wondering what it looks like, what he’d do, why people act in certain ways, and who’s at fault.

There are so many ways that people bully one another, many being so subtle that it can often take a panel of experts to decide whether certain behavior constitutes. There’s physical bullying—aggressive types of bullying. There are threats to physical safety, threats to emotional or psychological well-being. There is teasing, name-calling, taunting behavior. There is the type of bullying used to belittle someone—to cause them to feel left out, singled out, or hearing untrue rumors about themselves. There are devastating impacts from cyber-bullying these days!  bullying-research-image

Ultimately, bullying means there is a difference, or a perceived difference, in power. When one person seems to have power over another, and uses that power to cause harm—that’s bullying.

I gave an example of one boy bullying another, and the victim doing everything in his power to stop the bullying—talking, practicing compassion, setting boundaries, using defensive force, and even using humor—and eventually needing someone to help him advocate for himself, if the person bullying just won’t stop. Often, even if the kid being bullied gives fair warning, a “bully” will often respond with, “go ahead and tell. I don’t care if I get into trouble,” all the while, possibly feeling “above or beyond” the rules—or subconsciously trying to get the attention he desperately needs. So the kid finally tells an adult—someone who can set more effective boundaries and provide stronger consequences that hopefully make a difference for both kids.

And what does the person bullying do? He blames the victim for being a tattle-tale, a wimp. He externalizes any responsibility (most often, right?) and blames, even when he had every opportunity to change the behavior. And in his mind, this is the truth—it is the fault of the other kid, or the teacher, or the school… but never his—he simply can’t see it. And he convinces others that the other kid is the one at fault, and sometimes (oftentimes) his parents will enable the behavior and belief. And so the cycle goes…

…And children who are not held accountable grow up to be adults who believe they can do no wrong.

And the other kid? Hopefully he has enough emotional support to buoy his belief that he is not the one to blame and that standing up for himself was the right thing to do, and that sometimes we all need support—we need people to advocate for us when there is an imbalance in power. Sadly, this is often not the case—we have way too many kiddos, and subsequently adults who raise more kiddos, who feel safer simply keeping their mouths shut.

Why does this happen? Why don’t victims of such abuse get both the advocacy and the support they need? Similarly, this is a common scenario in adult relationships—both with domestic violence as well as more subtle types of abuse—“bullying.” The following article in Psychology Today mailto:https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-love-and-war/201311/why-do-we-blame-victims theorizes that it’s against our natural tendency to support the victims of such behavior because we fear letting go of our attachment to the belief that the world is safe. We prefer to believe that bad things happen to bad people, and we get what we deserve.  Holding these beliefs helps us to avoid the vulnerability that would come from true empathy. If bad things happen to people who don’t deserve them, they can happen to us as well.

Now this is an area I’ve struggled—for years, I struggled to acknowledge victims, even myself when I’ve been victimized. In fact, I’ve explored the extremes of this victim pendulum well! After recognizing that I spent much of my life as a victim, I formed a reactive defense, wanting to believe that we each have ultimate control of our lives. It used to really irk me when someone in a “victim position” actually claimed to be a victim, because I wanted them to acknowledge their own power and, therefore, a solution to the problem, because that allowed me to believe “I” was all I needed for solutions to my own problems. Of course this was my own way of avoiding vulnerability.

2121754867_745c975b98_mI continue to explore the balance between victimization and personal power, being a relationship therapist who does a lot of work around our primary issues being systemic and “relational” rather than solely “personal.” I support people in looking not at what their partners are doing wrong, but how they are responding because even when our partners make the worst of mistakes, it is our ability to respond effectively that sets us up for relationship success.

…And that’s another post!

This PT article asserts that our avoidance of vulnerability to others’ suffering comes with a deeper cost—that we are less able to empathize, less able to feel true compassion for others because of our own fear.

I want to add to this theory. If we actually look at the “wrong” that someone has done…. And we look deeply, we also become vulnerable to looking at some reflection of ourselves. Example: If we honestly look at a child who is bullying, we often look at the parents who’ve potentially taught, enabled, and modeled a way of being in the world to that child; we may also look at the school system that hasn’t provided safety, and we can’t help but look at a society that hasn’t provided enough community, support, and love. Ultimately, we look at our part in that society, if we are willing. To acknowledge the entire system that supports bullying—that supports abuse—we must look at ourselves. And that’s really uncomfortable for most of us.

When friends and family remain neutral about abuse or bullying, saying “it was both people at fault,” they deny the needed life lesson of the perpetrator, colluding with him or her, and they also make it less likely that the victim of abuse will reach out for support. This is one form of “enabling.” When we take the easy road, seeing both people as equally culpable, we not only continue to enable abuse, but we support the avoidance of accountability that we each need to hold.

Just to be clear, I am not talking about issues where each person truly holds equal responsibility and both are blaming one another, which can be very confusing. I’m talking about actual abuse—where there is a consistent pattern and a disparity in power; whether physical, sexual, emotional, financial, or psychological—and I’m talking about both children and adults. There is a big difference here in areas where we “claim victimhood,” and where people are truly victims. Both are real. Both are worth our time.

Nathaniel and my discussion ended in the shared belief that it is all of our responsibility to acknowledge where and how abuse and bullying manifest, and to step into the vulnerability of acknowledging our part in it either continuing or ending.

I feel grateful for the privilege of sharing these dialogues with this very wise soul! And I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

For the Love of Your Life!

Angie

 

 

Parenting… Good Enough

I remember the first (and possibly only) time I ever heard my mom swear. It was the word, “shit.” And it was directed right at me. I’ll never forget the level of annoyance and disbelief that crossed her face, to the point where she just couldn’t contain it anymore. “You little shit,” she said. And while I have no recollection of exactly what I’d done, I knew that I was being just that—a shit. And I’d pushed her to her edge.

Which apparently was an area I had a good amount of skill.

My mom has never been someone who lost control, who yelled and screamed, who expressed anger like the other people in my family. Maybe it was the Greek blood in the rest of us. I knew angry outbursts—but not from my Mom. But that day, she’d had it. And I deserved it.

Sometimes, I feel like I’ve had it as a Mom. I feel that twinge of fear—the “I must be failing as a parent” fear that wrecks me because honestly, since the moment that my son was born almost 12 years ago, my identity has become absolutely attached to being “Mom.” And when most of us feel fear, to the point where it literally “hijacks” our brains, we do everything we can to protect our created realities—our identities, as if our survival depends on it.

Tonight was one of those nights.  And just like me, my kids are damn good at pushing me to my edge.  (My mom warned me about that!)

It’s as if on the nights when I am so excited to just hang out with my kiddos, plan a great dinner, know that we have some simple play and relaxation time, and that’s everything I want… those are the nights when all hell breaks loose and I lose my grasp on my lovely vision of motherhood.

Now here’s where I’ll share that I’m with the rest of you who wonders how much reality exists in social media. I know that what I share—my pictures and posts, especially of parenting—are of the moments that I want to cherish. They’re the moments that get me all soft and, honestly, a little bit like “wow, what a great Mom am I!” And then I get a swift kick in the ass like tonight and I realize that all I can hope for, and work for, is “good enough.”

I’ll also share openly that it’s during nights like tonight when I truly miss having a parenting partner. Single parenting is… well, like an entirely different, life-changing adventure.

We’re wired to do this dance together. It’s sometimes only our kiddos other parent who really gets the unique way that our kids push us to our edge, when all we need is that “I’m done” look to the other, and it’s as if we immediately have our stunt double to take over. In this solo dance… we look sideways for someone to step in and give a reprieve, and realize that when we feel we’re at our edge, our only hope is to stretch even further into the resource of who we are, to manage whatever has taken over the system. And it can feel virtually impossible at times.

Now I’ll be honest, I think my kids are perfect! Perfectly imperfect—exactly how they were created. I believe that their natures are kind and good, and that they are beautiful, wonderful, and innately brilliant in their unique ways.  And I think that they get off track sometimes, and as their Mom, it’s my job to help them get back on—sometimes simply to hang out with them where they are and trust the bigger love that is holding them, to get them back on.

Sometimes when I see my kids have wandered off too far, I think, “yep, that’s normal kid stuff. It’s going to happen,” and I can calmly reflect what I’m seeing and how I’m feeling, and that’s all that’s needed. They feel held and loved regardless, they are okay being “seen,” and are able to recognize what needs to change, and all is good.

Other times, like today, I calmly reflect, and I hear defensiveness and blame and excuses and dishonesty, all sorts of things that trigger this grinding in my heart, and I’m guessing they sense that. And my brain gets a little caught, and I’m not the mindful, centered Mama, but a triggered, fearful woman who’s quickly losing her skills, and searching for a rope to grab ahold of, and flailing.

And tonight… after flailing, I sat at my dinner table alone, looking down at a lovely dinner, while both my children were in their bedrooms crying.  And I had a little “whoa is me” moment, while the old adage, Mothering—the most thankless job, came into my head, and I thought, “No—there’s a deeper Gratitude in the world for Moms, and Dads—parents who are pushing past the edges of who they’ve known themselves to be because they love their kids to the ends of the earth.

Life asks us to stretch into more capable, more tolerant, more vulnerable versions of ourselves when we step into parenting. And if we can do that, Life will thank us. I fully trust that.  And wow, sometimes that’s just about the most difficult task there is.

Ultimately, my kids joined me for dinner and, later, after a quiet, somewhat tense evening, we talked, and cried a little, and watched Brené Brown’s TedTalk on Vulnerability. Honestly, it’s all I had left, and I felt like she’d share it better than I would.   And while some of it was probably over my seven-year-olds head, my son got it—and it was exactly what they needed to hear. They needed to hear—maybe from someone other than me—that it’s their willingness to share all of themselves, and to be seen, even when they mess up, to be compassionate—first and foremost toward themselves—and to believe they are worthy of immense love, that will allow them to actually feel love deeply.

Something began to heal what had been a really painful experience between us tonight. Shared understanding maybe. Willingness to allow ourselves to be imperfect and still worthy of love—for my kids to get that they can’t “earn” my love—nor can they un-earn it. It’s as present as the sun and has nothing to do with how they act or behave, or what they accomplish, or how often life gets messy between us. It just is.

So I’m doing it—this parenting thing, I’d say about good enough…

And tonight, I’m wiped!

Nate-cherish

For the Love of Your Life!

 

 

Co-Parenting with Ex’s… and Their New Partners

Like so many people I know, my tolerance for emotional distress has been stretched to maximum capacity, a number of times, over the last couple of years. And I’m so grateful… There’s this one specific piece that continues to push me to my edge. …Wait, let me put that another way—that feels like a sledgehammer in the center of my heart, and it’s demanding me to stretch even further than I thought possible.

And the idea is this: ….That I am going to have to share my children with another mother.

Fuck.

Having had a few years to really consider the possibility of “another woman” in the lives of my children, I’ve had some time to FEEL a lot. And I think the potential of someone else in a “mothering” role, in their lives, is one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever experienced.

me-lillyFrom the moment that my son was born, and then as powerfully as that first moment, when my daughter entered the world four years later, my heart exploded wide open. My entire identity became something completely new—I was an altered human being. In fact, it seemed as if the world became a different place, as soon as they each took their first breaths. There are those rare times in life that our identities and perceptions alter so dramatically. Becoming a mother is the most profound shift I have personally ever experienced. I’m guessing many of you can relate.

I know that my children can never really know how much I love them. At least until they are parents themselves. And I have to trust that my love—which is sourced from a place that is so much bigger than me—is going to hold them …through these transitions, through all of the things that I fear may damage them, due to me or to someone else.

So I remind myself that I’m not going to do it perfectly—that there really is no right or wrong, that I need to do it “well enough,” and hold them to the best of my ability throughout the journey. And that the love that surrounds us, that is going to be the foundation for how they resource their own sense of safety and being-ness in the world, is more powerful than anything.

Obviously we cannot control who our ex partners choose to support the rest of their hearts journeys, and who all will be influencing our children. We cannot have any control over how those people interact and influence these little people who inhabit almost the entirety of our hearts… Unless, of course, we are open to some dialogue, and unless we are both respecting and honoring the strength and the possibility of different perspectives, and unless we are willing to stretch ourselves. And those things are my intention and hope.

We also have to trust who our children are, and their capacity and need Nathaniel-Lillyfor feeling loved from multiple sources, and for ultimately designing their own paths as they take nourishment from the strength and support around them. We need to help our children feel a sense of community… And I believe there is huge opportunity for us, and them, in accepting the community we have, including our ex partners new partners. Because really what is the alternative?

By developing positive relationships with one another—and I’m talking authentic connection, because each one of us knows the discomfort of un-owned resentment, and our children, especially, feel when we are out of integrity—we provide safety for our children to trust, to cultivate closeness, to love and receive love, and to learn to depend on their family—their entire family—to support them.

Our kids look to us for cues in who and how to trust, and their hearts are soothed when they see us doing the work to stretch ourselves into new, supportive and authentic relationships.

Some might balk at the idea of my developing a positive co-parenting relationship with my ex’s new girlfriend. But let’s really look at this. If she’s in love with the man that I fell in love with 15 years ago, chances are we have some things in common.

My ex is holding and managing half of my children’s lives in his hands and heart, and this is the woman he’s chosen as worthy of both his heart, as well as theirs. So if she’s willing to be a positive, loving force in their lives, and she opens her heart to them, I want to support that with everything in me, because they will feel the nourishment of her love. And do you wonder if that hurts? You’re damn right it does. It not only hurts… it scares the shit out of me.

N-L2These two little people are the number one most important thing in my world. Their happiness and capacity to thrive is worth every ounce of me stretching into a better version of myself. And no matter what I have to do to authentically show up and support this relationship, they are worth it.

We can handle so much more than we imagine, as can our children, and even more so if each of us can understand the fabric that weaves the complexity of emotions around and between us. When we’re honest with our kids, sharing honestly what’s happening in our lives in a way that they can understand, it settles them. They feel our congruence with our inner truth.

And when they see us doing the work to cultivate resiliency and to stretch into life, rather than close ourselves off from it, they begin to embody that same strength. And what better gift can we give?

I’ve seen a beautiful quote a number of times that goes like this: “The best gift a man can give his children is to love their mother.” ~ Anonymous

I’ve always loved that.

I wonder… for the divorced family, the best gift of each parent might be to truly honor and appreciate our ex-partner, and his or her new partner!

For the Love of Your Life!me-kids

Angie