Magic Night Cream, Magic Night Cream, Do Your Job, Do Your Job


Last night, I put my five-year old Stella to bed.   Well, I snuck in and stole the best part from Rick, who had her in her jammies, teeth brushed and she was in her bed with book in hand, waiting for someone to read to her.  I crawled into her bed by her and read her a story.

I love, love, love doing this with Stella.  I regret not loving it with my older two, Carly and Lydia.  We should have separated them more during the bedtime routine so I could have had more of this one on one time with them.  But mostly we did it all together, which made it so much more exhausting and chaotic and filled with fighting and bickering.  By the end of the day I just didn’t have the energy to deal, much less enjoy bedtime.

But Stella gets the story alone.  And she is so squishy and fresh and funny, and I adore it.  She loves the ritual of the hour, and I do too.  I read to her, and then I say, “Stella….”  as if I am about to begin a great story or tell her a fantastic secret… and she will say, “I know what you are going to say!”  I act surprised.  “How can you possibly know?  You can’t know!”  And she giggles that giggle that makes the cells in my body reorganize themselves so they can be permanently attached to her warm belly and her staccato laugh.

“You are going to say, I ADORE you.”

“Whaaaaaat!?  How did you know?”

I usually smash my face into the side of her soft neck at this point.  I feel so full of the force of my love,I want to breathe her into my body again.

Then, we do magic night cream.

My girls hands, (especially in kindergarten),  become so dry in the winter they turn bright red and crack.  (I now realize  it is a hand-washing and drying issue.)  It’s awful.

I have a bottle of Aquaphor by her bed that I rub into her little hands, and we chant, “Magic night cream, magic night cream, do your job, do your job…” a few times.  Just massaging her squishy hands, still chubby with the vestiges of toddlerhood just greases up the magic of the nighttime ritual.  Last night, I bent to kiss her cheek and she grabs my hair with her lubed up fists and says, “I have one more thing to tell you, mom.”

“What’s that?”  I lean in, her lips right in my ear, bracing for another sweet declaration of her love for me, and she says,

“Boca gum staaaaaaaah… bock, bock, bock bote bote…”

This is what she believes is the first line of the song  “Gangnum Style.”

Which brings on the giggles, and my heart bursts like an over-filled water balloon and I leave feeling like tomorrow, I can do this whole parenting gig all over again, just for the magic night cream, and that laugh.

I am holding tight to this right now, as I am desperately trying to remind myself to be present.  To ignore the phone, burning a hole in the butt pocket of my yoga pants.  To stop checking off the time I am with my kids the same way I check off my chore list.  To quit longing for that glass of wine and a good book, or a moment of peace devoid of Meghan Trainor on repeat and constant bickering.  To just Be in my body.  Be alive.  In the moment.  RIGHT NOW.   There are sensations.  And feelings.  And breathing in and out.  And those things must be noticed, if I am to live a full and meaningful life.  I am trying to wake up and BE.

It’s fucking hard.

So I did some searching, and realized that Stella’s magic night cream is my life line.  My anchor.  My one moment I can count on, where I am fully in my body.


Right then, I am out of my mind.  I am in my fingertips, smoothing her chapped hands, feeling the dimples still in her knuckles and the meaty part of her thumbs as they connect to her palm, and I don’t need to tell her that I adore her, she knows because my love is a vibrating energy that is coating her, thick and protective.  It’s better than the magic night cream.

It is the invitation to be here, and nowhere else.

Magic night cream, magic night cream, do your job, do your job.

Turn Away From the Light…A Dark Invitation


And if the dam breaks open many years too soon

And if there is no room upon the hill

And if your head explodes with dark forebodings too

I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon

-Pink Floyd-

I got bitch-slapped on Facebook last week.  I was in one of those on-going, soul draining never-gonna-go-anywhere heated discussions with someone I am FB friends with,  regarding LGBT rights.

—Deep Breath—

Every once in a while, I am deeply triggered by this whole equality thing, particularly when the perpetrators of righteous discrimination are centered in my cultural roots.  So I found myself upset and riled up. At the end of the evening, a stranger stepped in, and basically called me an agent of darkness.  She urged her friend to ignore any and all things that upset her, and to step out of the darkness (me) and only focus on the light.  It was a huge bitch-slap moment for me, and I thank her for it.  It stung, as those moments do, but it brought me right to awareness of why I felt so triggered.

And it has everything to do with the dark.

There has been many times of struggle in my life when my father has told me this beautiful metaphor.  He talks about how the Self is an ancient holy temple, filled with rooms.  Some have windows and sunlight, and we allow people to come into those places.   But inside each temple there are also windowless rooms, places that sit dark and locked up.  There is one room at the center, the inner most sanctuary, called “the holy of holies.” It is the center of the temple, and of Self, where we store our most secret and dark parts of who we are.  It takes courage to open the door to these dark places, shine a light inside, and find out what we have stored there.

I have always loved this metaphor, as it validates a deep yearning in me, and makes me feel brave.  Because I am a person who wants to look inside those places.  And see what is there, to name it, to own it.  It has been my personal quest, to become more aware, more conscious.  My drive to peer into the dark was emphasized enormously by becoming a mother, and leaving my religion.  I have been bravely opening those doors and peering inside, flashlight in hand, an act that directly defies the teaching to “only be in the light.”

What I have found there has been… unpleasant.  All my darkest thoughts.  My ugliest feelings.  Monstrous and powerful fears that I thought were gone, but were just tucked away in hiding.

The opening of those rooms has sent me deep into depression.  Riddled me with anxiety.  Caused terrible, tear-filled clashes with people I love most.

I am realizing now that this temple story has to change a bit.  I have been at war with my darkness. There are hard and unpleasant emotions stored there… jealousy, anger, selfishness, immaturity, bitterness, loathing, rage, unbelievable sadness.  No one wants to feel those.  No one wants to see those stored up in their innermost spaces.  Shining a light in there has made me feel tremendously ashamed and panicked to the point of blindness.

We are so conditioned to keep ourselves in the light. To be scared of the dark. To run from the “bad emotions” and deny they exist at all. In the culture I was raised in, this teaching is so powerful, people are encouraged to never read anything that opposes their point of view, or makes them feel uncomfortable.  To never allow someone to challenge their ideas or discuss things that bring fear or uncertainty.  There are good feelings, and bad feelings, and people are supposed to avoid those bad feelings.


And the costs are untold.   We are denying ourselves.  We are cut off from who we really are.  The whole range of human emotions must be acknowledged in order to experience what we all long for as human beings… love and belonging and meaningful connection.  To ignore/deny/negate/make taboo all of our human emotions that are not joyful and uplifting is devastating.  Either we become so cut off from ourselves, we feel depressed and hollow, or we label every “dark” emotion as “bad” and become crippled with self-loathing and guilt for our humanness…. and judgmental of everything.

What I am starting to understand, is that I don’t need to shine a light in my dark places.  I need to open the door, step into the darkness, take a seat, and get to know it.  Welcome all of my Self to exist and be acknowledged.  When I enter these dark places, I now work to become fully present.  A terrifying endeavor after a lifetime of fighting against these unpleasant emotions.  I sit, and step into my body.  Draining my mind, which is constantly operating in the past or the future, and bring full awareness to my body.  Attention to the physical sensations forces me into the present moment.  I notice how frustration makes my throat throb, and anger makes me hands clench and my stomach burn.   I feel how shame makes my toes curl and my eyes close and my body collapse in on itself.  Rather than deny it or fight it, I just acknowledge that it is there, inside of me.  Manifesting in ways that I was  unconscious of before.  These dark emotions are asking for allowance.  The awareness gives it permission to be there, and I am finding that once permission is given, the intensity of the emotion dramatically drops, but it doesn’t disappear.

Following the recognition, comes a question.

“What do you need?”  

The idea that I should welcome these emotions has changed me.  I have been spinning and sinking in a deep swamp of self loathing, feeling that I only had two choices:

1. to completely deny the existence of the dark.

2. willfully explore the dark rooms, condemn the darkness as bad, and fight like hell.

There is another way.  Radical Self-Acceptance.  Which begins by understanding that those scary places have something to say.  When I give it a voice, and permission to exist, I am finding that there is not a good and bad, just wholeness.

A person.

As I begin to sit in my dark rooms in welcome rather than judgement, I realize the scope of this practice. As a mother of three girls…being capable of modeling self acceptance, showing them how to love themselves, to feel welcome in every room, embody all of the human parts, not just the light ones.  Their beauty lives in the dark places too.

There is a reason the innermost sanctuary, the holiest of holies, is a perfectly dark room.

The most sacred work is done in the dark.  The answers to the simple question,  “What do you need?”   are the real reasons we are here.

The Painful Distinction of Doing and Being

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 8.47.42 PM

*Image credit:  Gardner Edmunds

It’s December 17th today, I am sitting in my office (the Panera Bread location) and enjoying the high of just mailing the last of my christmas gifts.  It’s a short-lived high. My to do list, is still a thick, itchy, wool scarf… wrapped entirely too tightly around my neck.

I don’t have time to be writing this.  But, if you are a follower of mine, you might recognize that I seem to NEVER have time for this anymore.  And there, my dears, is a dilemma.  Because much to my dismay, I have a lot of complicated needs to keep me from diving into a pit of despair and self-flagellation.

Two most important: I must exercise regularly.  And I must write things…to download these emotions that pile up like the mountain of mail order catalogues that are swallowing my kitchen table.

The real thing I should be doing right NOW, is writing a paper.  A  six page reflective essay  relating to a book about development of the western mind since Zeus ruled the heavens. An essay, due today, on “the identification and interpretation of personal beliefs that influence the creation of meaning in your life.”

Can’t I just turn in a link to my blog instead?  It is ridiculous that this assignment has me hand-wringing, since I have thought of little else in my life over the last ten years.  In addition to grocery lists and christmas cards and the fact that I am still wearing toenail polish put on my toes in August, my brain is mostly occupied with huge, all-encompassing things like GOD.  And Guilt.  And Spirit.  And Shame.  And Worthiness.  And Judgement.  And Redemption.  And Soul-Crushing Inadequacy.

-Deep Breath-

Here is the thing, about my personal beliefs.  And how they affect my daily life…  This mess, that I need to neatly roll into a beautiful, personal, reflective, six page, double spaced essay:

First, an internal audit of my beliefs.  And, I find an overwhelming recognition that the toxic, corrosive, divisive, emotionally blackmailing, schizophrenic, mainstream religious cult that me and five generations of people I love have  been marinating in… is still offering me plentiful chances to learn forgiveness and acceptance and self compassion.

It has been ten years of really hard work, to unravel so much of the control the religious training had over my life.  Like a comically long and preposterous to do list, I have taken care of obvious ones, like wearing the kind of underwear I want to, and the not so obvious ones, like redefining my feelings about sex and morality. Throwing out the devastating metaphors of girls being a “licked cupcake” or “Already Chewed Gum” when they decide to become sexual beings has been a serious chore.

It has been almost ten years of liberation and excavation.  Now, I am free to have a glass of wine, a cup of coffee, wear a tank top, drop the F bomb, watch a rated R movie, buy a bag of apples on sunday or read a book about anything I wish.   And I can do those things without guilt!  I now know that strong families and sincere love and limitless joy and unfathomable generosity exist outside of mormon life.

I can watch clips like this one, and see men I was taught were infallible prophets to revere and to digest their words as God’s words, and finally hear the controlling patriarchal rhetoric and the dark stream of damage that runs through the doctrines and teachings of the faith I was born in, those things I had once taught and defended as Truth.  I have ferociously fought off ingrained belief that my only purpose in this life is to be a support for my husband, and bear children and be obedient to men who know better than I.  I have had to challenge myself to rethink what it means to love someone, what the difference is between faith and magic, how to draw appropriate boundaries for myself and my children.

Much of the DOING is DONE.  There is not much left to DO, when it comes to creating concrete distance between myself and the LDS religion.  So imagine the rude awakening I have had, when I came to the end of that to do list and unwrapped that itchy scarf, ready to breathe freely and be done with the Deprogram the Mormonism Program, and find that the really painful damage, the deepest, darkest wounds… were underneath the all that doing.  The unwrapping has revealed what is left…. raw and dangerous emotion.

Over the past ten years, I have also been busy discovering and declaring what it is I believe.  It has been exhilarating and freeing and I have felt relief and unimaginable joy in the self discovery.

Every human being has inherent worth.  Worthiness is implicit.

There is nothing to prove.

There is nothing to earn.

What happens after this life is NONE OF MY BUSINESS.

The purpose of my life is to practice living each moment in the present.

I am adequate.

Every person longs to be seen and heard.

Good and evil are judgments.  There is only fear and love.

Staying OPEN is the only goal.

Being CLOSED is part of the process.  I will be open to that too.

There is no need to define the Divine.

These things I can comfortably and passionately declare as my belief system.  My list has been scrubbed free from the doctrine I was immersed in since birth. The trouble is, now that the doing has been done, when I look at myself in the mirror, there is still the mormon girl staring back.  

The doing has not created the being.

The act of writing those words sends pain rushing up to my throat like hot bile.  It threatens to expose me.   It is the recognition that the actions taken over the last decade, as terrifying and disorienting and inspiring as they have been, have not healed the anguishing canyon that exists in my soul.  On one side, the powerful, complete woman who embodies that list of beliefs, and on the other, a weeping girl who will never be worthy or adequate or whole.

I have come to the very edge of that abyss.

Maybe the only thing I really believe right now, is that I am not alone here, on this edge.  I know my story is not unique.  We are all good at the doing.  The doing, no matter what is on that list, or how tightly it threatens to strangle us, is a matter of overcoming inertia.

But to be in alignment with our true beliefs, to begin to stitch up the giant chasm within us…requires the being.

Being is where things get real.

There is no doing left for me here.  Not when it comes to healing my spirit.  And the being is the excruciating part.  The part where the emotions must be felt.  The part where the feelings must be allowed to exist.  The part where true compassion is discovered.  The part where I simply exist.

I don’t really know how.  But I know there is no try… that is a doing word.

So for now, I will just breathe.

Creative Therapy

I haven’t been writing.  I mentioned that in my last post, The Wound, as well.  People ask why, and I have to be truthful… I have been immersed in serious, soul-searching, life-renewing therapy.  It’s intensive.

My therapist:


The truth is, my writing is deeply rooted is some pretty painful places… I don’t know how to do it without connecting to the very center of that raw ache, and without naked honesty.  And for so many reasons, I just haven’t been capable of it for a large part of 2014.  But when it is simply too much to write the words down, I run straight into the waiting hum of my Pfaff. I have been holed up in my attic, cutting up beautiful fabrics into small pieces, and putting it back together to create something new, born of something else.

There is something so safe and so true in this act, I have found myself spending most of my time here.  Making dolls.  And purses.  And quilts.  And little snack bags.



Often, with the meditative act of pairing one scrap of fabric to the next, I feel as if I may be stitching my own self back together.

It is amazing how finding the perfect fabric for the perfect head of doll hair can be a method of reconnecting myself.  And in that, I have had experiences in the last six months I never could have imagined.  Joining artist groups, sewing banners for a parade, painting rocks for a town wide treasure hunt, trading owl bags and quilts for facial cream and artwork, selling at holiday shows, being on TV.

I used to believe that being creative was the same as being blonde.  Or green-eyed.  Or tall.  Some of us got dished out a whole lot more than others in the genetic pool we sprung from.  I must have waited in the tall girl line, and forgot about creativity….

Not so.

We have all been born out of creative energy… it is our life force.  Spirit.  God.  The very essence of who we are is this creative source.  Some were born with a deep sense of that energy within, and some have not fostered that connection.  Somewhere in their childhood, that place was snipped free, and we “uncreative” ones became untethered from the source.  Its tragic, and not without repercussions in our lives, to feel separate from the source of our humanity.

This may sound a little woo-woo to you all… and don’t worry.  Me too.  It’s coming from a woman who has spent a larger part of 10 years trying to scrub all things “spiritual” from my world.  More likely to spell out the word G-O-D than any choice four-lettered expletive.  And I have spent most of my childhood as well as adulthood actively rejecting all things Martha Stewart… including dyed wool felt and cotton batting and quilting thread.

Those eye rolls and f-yous are a part of my spiritual crisis now, and some of the reasons I am sewing up piles of little dolls and snack sacks. IMG_6769IMG_6770

I can revisit that later.  For now, I am relieved to just be writing a few hundred words.  And to feel that some part of my Self was stitched back together in the piles of fabrics and spools of thread.

So check out my goods… what has sprung from the therapist’s chair.


Message me if you want any, or check me out at


The Wound

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 10.29.15 PM

“The wound is the place Light enters you”    – Rumi

About a year ago, we were entertaining guests on a friday night.  I opened the refrigerator to offer my friend a beer, and the bottle seemed to launch itself at me from its overstuffed pocket and smashed to the tile floor, pulverizing in an impressive explosion of beer foam and teeny shards of glass.  One particular piece of miniscule shrapnel left the tip of my pointer finger bleeding, the glass stubbornly embedded itself deeper and deeper with each attempt to pull it out.  Eventually, my finger healed over the shard, and I had a tiny brown freckle at the tip of my finger.  It would give me a sharp, biting reminder of it’s presence once in a while, when any pressure was applied to my fingertip.  It was a part of me, this invader, a permanent wound lurking under a new layer of skin.  I lived with it there for a long time.  And then, many months later, I found myself in pain again.  My finger became red and sore, the tip got swollen and hot, and my body began to fight.  The eviction notice had been sent.

This process was shocking and sudden and a bit unwanted… I had grown accustomed to the glass, and did not appreciate the throbbing pain I was suddenly dealing with.  The expulsion was much more painful than the first moment it entered me and left me bleeding.  My body smartly worked that glass back to the surface of my fingertip, and in a moment of desperation, wanting to end the pain, I aggressively pinched under the enflamed tissue, hard and tight, and squeezed until the glass cut through the skin once again.   Finally rejected, I rinsed it away,  purged at last.



I have been silent.  Gone.


Things happened, and the pain swallowed me up for a while. And I am learning that I do not handle my own pain well.  I have no tolerance for my own tears.  My own suffering.  It simply does not feel just, when I am so aware of my privelege.  There is a magnitute of suffering outside my own sphere that I cannot comprehend…  So,  I have learned to be scornful of my wounds.  And now, that scorn has revealed itself… the dark truth of it’s nature.

We all have shrapnel, healed over and buried beneath our skin.  Words that carry shame and rejection, moments that violate and negate… these are the shards that cut deep and become a part of us, grown in.  We carry them until it is time.  When we are ready to let them surface, force them out, and bleed again.

But it is not the purging that transforms.

It is in the wounding.  The embedding. The healing.

In this spiraled process, we are found whole.

The Cure

We think we get over things.

We don’t get over things.

Or say, we get over the measles,

but not a broken heart.

We need to look at that distinction.

The thing that becomes part of our experience,

never becomes less a part of our experience.

How can I say it?

The way to get over a life is to die.

Short of that you move with it, let the pain be pain.

Not in the hope that it will vanish

But in the faith that it will fit in,

find its place in the shape of things

and be then, not any less pain,

but true to form.

Because anything natural has an inherent

shape and will flow towards it.

And, a life is as natural as a leaf.

That’s what we are looking for:

Not the end of a thing,

but the shape of it.

Wisdom is seeing the shape of your life

without obliterating, getting over,

a single instant of it.

                       -Author Unknown

The Little Bastards Won’t Die

It’s throw back thursday, and I’m a virgin #TBTer.

You know those moments where people tell you, “Someday, you will laugh…”

It’s time to start sifting through those stories, as part of my throwback thursday contribution.  Nothing insightful.  Nothing informative.  Just my stories, of survival.

Isn’t that what #TBT is all about anyway?  A way to show the world how things have gotten much, much better?  Here’s proof:



It’s not entirely true that I have not engaged in throwback thursday.  I love throwing back.




This picture was taken a few years ago, in August, just a few weeks after moving to Connecticut.


We moved from a brand new home in the dry, dry air of Colorado to a green tunnel of humidity so thick, I swear it rained in my living room.  Like the rain forest.

We bought a house that was slightly older than brand new, it was built in 1929.  They didn’t have air conditioning in 1929.  A factor I did not thoughtfully consider as I planned and arranged this move back in Colorado in the dry, dry air of my well conditioned home filled with vents that pumped deliciously cold air into the atmosphere.


We moved in during a New England heat wave.  It was in the mid nineties, and everything had the texture of a wet tissue.   You can tell by how often I have mentioned the heat so far, that IT WAS HOTTER THAN THE SURFACE OF THE SUN.  A steam room, on the surface of the sun.


I linger on this misery because it was not the worst part of the moving experience, but it was the factor that I believed would break me.  The level of stress I had been enduring was extreme, (moving across the country with 3 kids, leaving my family and friends, Lydia’s emerging misophonia).  The fact that my bed sheets were sticky-damp before getting into bed and I sweat like a farm animal while I brushed my teeth were details that simply melted my coping abilities into a huge, slimy puddle of boob sweat.

Me:  200-13

Rick:  200-16


My mom, who came to help us.  Bless her heart:200-14

But the heat, it turns out, was not the driving force in this miserable scenario.


It was so.  much.  smaller.


Three days into a truly nightmarish move, my saintly mother was taking charge of the place as I fanned myself in a corner and fantasized about this:


She was helping me unpack the kids’ bedrooms and sort their stuff.  We were closing in on the final boxes of clothes and stuffed animals and blankets, putting them into drawers, order was being restored… until she noticed my two-year old scratching her scalp.


My mom parted her hair to take a look, and that is when this little bastard jumped out of Stella’s hair.  Jumped.  OUT.  And crawled across her new bedroom floor.




I felt the last of my mental acuity begin to circle the empty bowl of my skull, flushing out my sanity….I lost my mind.  I did what every parent would do first…


I googled LICE.  Bad idea.

Then I called the Fairy Lice Mothers, who tried to reassure me that everything would be fine.


Yes, there is a Fairy Lice Mother.


She assured me, I  just needed to follow these simple, easy steps.


1. Place all pillows, blankets, hats, stuffed animals that my child had been in contact with in plastic bags for two weeks.


2.  Wash all bedding and clothing she has had contact with in hot water.


3.  Comb out her hair with their special comb (not the plastic kind) using only detangling spray and water… the poison is just that.  Poison.  And it doesn’t work.  Make sure to comb EVERY SINGLE STRAND OF HAIR from scalp to tip.


4. Comb her hair like this EVERY SINGLE DAY FOR TWO WEEKS…. and everyone else in the family too.


I literally went ape shit.  The lady on the phone did not know what to do.  I think I hung up on her.


If I had any real clue what lice was actually going to do to our lives for the next month, I would have needed a straitjacket and a hypodermic needle to subdue me… but I wasn’t far off.




I am serious.  If you have not had to live in this particular nightmare, then you will simply shake your head in judgement of my melodramatic words, but I assure you, it is true. Especially when you have enough hair between the five of you to supply Lady Gaga with a years’ worth of wigs.


Lice is in fact, one of the ten curses in the bible, along with BOILS and LASTING DARKNESS and the DEATH OF YOUR FIRSTBORN.




I think our situation was made slightly more challenging, considering that Stella had been climbing in an out of boxes filled with ALL THE BEDDING WE OWNED for the past two days, and had recently found the dress-ups and put all of them on and then found the box of stuffed animals and set them up all around the house. And then rolled around in them.


When we found the LIVING BUGS crawling in her hair, she had just been burrowing like a small woodland creature, into a giant mound of all of the clothes that my three children owned. The movers had so thoughtfully crammed it all together into several big boxes, and we had been sorting it all out.


And we did not have the washer or dryer hooked up.

Rick had to leave his new job that day due to “a medical emergency at home,” meaning:200-3


He swung by the local pharmacy, and picked up a bottles of poisonous pesticides to spread all over our children’s scalps (we ignored the Fairy Lice Mother and went for the kill).   And drove across town to pick up the Fairy Lice Mothers special comb at Aldo.

We spent three hours combing through Stella’s hair.  She was two years old at the time, and on a good day, I had to execute an elaborate hunt/stalk/animal take-down and then pin her in a wrestling hold to get a comb through her hair.


So you can imagine how things went.  Outside on the porch in the sweltering, suffocating, steam room on the surface of the sun.


The instructions on the bottle said that Stella must wear the poison on her scalp for a few hours.  So, shaking from the exhaustion of scaring our toddler for life for the past three hours, Rick and I put a shower cap on her to try to keep her from rubbing pesticides in her eyes and put her in the car, hoping she would pass out from exhaustion as we drove around in the air-conditioning.


That didn’t work of course.  She screamed like the lice-potion was blistering her scalp the whole time, and I was terrified it was.  We drove home, and while getting out of the car, one of our new neighbors popped over to say hello.  He was in his scrubs, a doctor at the nearby hospital.  Rick and I, drenched in sweat and lice-poison, holding our daughter on the driveway, shook his hand and introduced ourselves.  We did not offer to introduce our daughter, and he did not ask about her.  He must have sensed something was going on….


Welcome to the neighborhood.


I wish that was the end of the lice story, but it isn’t of course.  Because those little bastards DO NOT DIE.   They broke me, those blood sucking beasts.  They were the curse that inspired this picture, and many, many, many more nights like this one.


I guess there is a lesson to be learned:   Always Listen to Your Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 10.39.33 AM

Throwback Thursday, indeed.

Why I Do Not Teach My Kids To Respect Adults


Last week, I got into a huge argument with one of my daughters.  Big news, I know. It’s the end of the school year, and we are all limping to the finish line, barely in tact.  Actually, it looks more like this:


This particular dear child had been demanding and sassy all week, and with every interaction,  I was barely restraining myself from losing my grip.  My patience for her pre-teen attitude had withered away, and so it happened… the inevitable freak out.


I yelled at her, climbing high on to the untouchable podium of parenthood, and told her that she was being rude, sassy and disrespectful.  I threw in the appropriate amount of veiled threats, couched with “YOUNG LADY” and “LITTLE GIRL”  and finger wagging.  I told her in no uncertain terms that her tone with me had better stop, or she would find herself without a lot of fun in the coming weeks.

I really let her have it.


She burst into tears, of course.  And I was mad and prickly, so I was not in the mood to hold her while she cried.  I took some deep breaths, tightening myself for the onslaught of her righteous indignation.


But she simply said, “I don’t understand.”  I could see the sincerity in her brimming eyes.


This took me by surprise.  I had been explicitly clear.


“Why are you allowed to talk to me that way, but I am not allowed to use that tone with you?” she cried.


I flailed.  Something in her words went deep, and found a raw nerve.   I was shocked to recognize that I understood and agreed with her.


The fact that I agreed, that it made sense… it was too much for me.  I gathered my wits about me, raking in the reasons I should stand my ground.




And she will be a TEENAGER someday.  Lord, save us.


The demand for respect as the adult won out, and I rose up to my feet, hands on hips, to tell her how she must show respect because I am her mother, and she is a child and she must learn to show respect to adults and people who have authority!

I am her mother, and I demand respect!


She cried some more, and I felt like a barbarian, and we got on with our night.

I tried to move on, get over it.  I gathered evidence that made me feel justified.  I mentally reviewed all the gross memes on Facebook, about the “olden days,” and how kids were so much more respectful of adults… and what is the world coming to?  Like these:

child-respect kids respect

But there was this nagging knowing inside me, poking at the truth. I had been using a “tone” with my children over the past few days, or weeks even.  A tone that says, “I’m so tired of dealing with this,” or a tone that speaks, “You are annoying me!”  or  “Hurry UP!”  A tone of general exhaustion and irritation, where manners and kindness are lost in my coarse, tired demands.


I hear it in my voice, as I tell them to get in the car.  AGAIN.  Or pick up their back packs.  Or close the door.  Or go to bed. Or to stop FIGHTING FOR THE LOVE OF HUMANITY.



I hear that edge creep into my voice, and it has stayed.  So even when I simply ask for a hug, or tell them goodnight, it is there.

I realized I have been commanding  my children to have more respect and more control than I posses.  I want my daughter to lose the attitude and that disrespectful tone in her voice, but I have been unsuccessful in showing her the same respect during these stressful and strenuous times.  Not only is our relationship out of balance, her disrespect was important for me to notice rather than rage at.  She stepped up and challenged me to investigate what I believe about respect.


So I have given it much thought, lately.  Respect is a word thrown around rather carelessly and is often spoken about with a very contemptuous and entitled attitude. There are many generations that believe that today’s youth have lost respect for authority.   And others who believe that respect is not freely given, but earned.

Social media sites are teeming with declarations like this, which serve to perpetuate ineffectual beliefs about respect.



I was shocked to uncover some of my own privileged ideas about respect.  It isn’t something I would have been able to own, or recognize in myself just a few weeks ago.
I felt ashamed to recognize that I would not speak to my husband or a friend the way I had been speaking to my children.  In that admission lies the notion that my authority and superiority over them justifies my behavior… I felt sickened by the ugliness my inquiry revealed.

In my careful examination, I began to see deeply ingrained ideas about respect that do not serve us well.   So, I set out to redefine my beliefs about respect.

A reset button, of sorts.

#1  Respect is not a hierarchy.  There is no human being that deserves more respect and deference than another.  We are all deserving of basic politeness and compassion by virtue of our inherent worth as human beings.  Therefore, I do not believe children must show respect to their elders.  They must be taught that respect is at the core of basic human decency. Age is irrelevant.  One day old, or one hundred years old.  A homeless man or a wealthy billionaire.  A janitor or the President of the United States.   Their worst enemy or their best friend.  Their annoying little sister, and yes… their mom.


#2  Respect for one another does not mean you hold their behavior in high regard.  We can feel disrespectful about abhorrent and hateful actions.  For bigotry and scorn.  But even the perpetrators of actions we disdain should be treated with respect.  Because at the root of pain, anger, and negativity…there is a hurting person.  A person aching to be seen, to be heard, to feel loved.  And showing them disrespect as a human being only advances their hate.

#3  There is a difference between disagreeing/arguing and disrespect.  As a parent, this detail is crucial.  Because I must not view my child’s disagreement as a form of disrespect.  I want my girls to find their voice… to stand up for themselves… to bravely challenge things…to seek understanding.  I must not contradict this value with a demand for their agreement or silence. Honing these skills must start at home, with their father and I, people who will give them a safe place to practice respectfully disagreeing, taking a stand, advocating for themselves, sometimes forcefully.

#4  Respect is not earned.  It should be given freely, as it stems from the understanding that we are all parts of a greater whole.   It is our way of honoring the human experience, of employing empathy and compassion for every person we interact with.  It is an acknowledgement of the nugget of precious truth at our core… we respect others as we respect ourselves.   The level of respect you show others is a reflection of the love and honor you have for your self.


#5  Disrespect is a symptom.  Often, it is a reflection of poor communication or unexpressed, repressed emotion. It is an aching call to be recognized as valuable.  My daughter was being disrespectful to me… it was a reflection of the disrespectful treatment I was showing her… I was overlooking her.

We can never insist on more respect from our children than we are capable of manifesting for ourselves.


A week after our fight,  I went on a field trip with my daughter.   On the way home, we cuddled up in our bus seats, I pulled out a surprise stash of her favorite candy, and I fessed up.  I told her I was wrong.  I had not been treating her with respect.


This was hard.


I felt as though I was conceding some age-old battle between parent and child.  The fear tried to rear up, the fear that told me that if I do not command respect from my child without fail, she will grow into a teenage monster and make our lives a living hell.


So naturally, I stuffed myself with peanut M&M’s and shouldered on.


I thanked her for being my mirror, always showing me the way to a better self.  I told her how powerful she was, how I felt honored to be with her.   I promised her that I would be more mindful of the level of respect I show her.  I told her that I firmly believe that if you want to be respected, you must embody that respect for yourself, and then let it reflect in your treatment of others.


And we finished with a hug, some sour patch kids,  and the most important message of respect I believe can ever be delivered from one human being to another…


I see you, my love.

I really, truly, see you.