Behavior modification

I’m actually kind of shocked that no one mentioned that the same lessons I want to teach my daughter, noted last week in my post Best behavior, would be just as valuable to my maba_pleasebemindful_signson. In fact, I was kicking myself for not acknowledging this in my post, because it’s 100% true. In any case, something had me thinking about my daughter that day and how girls need strong role models, and well, I won’t bore you with the rest. Just know that I desperately want my son to benefit equally from those lessons.

Which brings me to today’s musings. I had a conversation a couple of days ago with a friend, who shared with me her escalating frustration with her ex. The guy lives a couple of hours away, so they meet in the middle to pick up/drop off their son for visitation. It seems that lately, Mr. Ex has been getting quite handsy with my friend.

She told me that it started with Mr. Ex grabbing her backside while she was buckling her school-aged son into his car seat. She ignored it, but she noticed that her son was positioned to see everything.

The next time, Mr. Ex got bolder. He made the same grabbing move, but this time on the front side–if you know what I mean. My friend swatted his hand away and silently swallowed her indignation. Once again, she tried to ignore it.

I asked her why she didn’t tell him to keep his hands to himself (read: to get the he** away from her). She gave me an answer about not wanting her son to see his mom and dad fighting or to see his dad in a bad light or some such.

Back. The. Truck. Up.

I couldn’t stop myself from blurting, So you want your son to think that it’s okay to touch women inappropriately and without their permission? You want him to think it’s no big deal for a married man to grope a woman who is not his wife? You want him to grow up thinking this behavior is perfectly normal?

My friend stopped for a second and blinked. She hadn’t thought of it that way at all. She hadn’t realized that her lack of response was also teaching him a lesson.

My friend is a contemplative woman; she been on a constant journey of self-examination for the past several years. I know she has been chewing on this since our conversation, and I’m pretty sure she’ll handle similar circumstances much differently from now on–for her son’s sake, if not her own.

As I thought about her situation, it just reinforced my conviction about sending messages with our behavior. What we don’t do can be just as powerful as what we do.

Be mindful, always.

PS. In case you were wondering, my friend gave me permission to share her story here. 

Best behavior

Mothering a daughter is hard, especially a strong-willed, independent-thinking, highly emotional daughter. And most especially the teenage variety of said daughter. She’s smart and funny and caring and I generally love being around her, but it’s still challenging.

I try to be conscious of my actions. After all, she’s been watching me for the past sixteen years and I’m her role model whether I like it or not. On my good days and bad days, she’s taking it all in.

She’s a big part of the reason I walked away from a long-term job with a fair amount of responsibility a few years ago. I wanted her to see how important it is to pursue fulfillment over a fat paycheck.

And I certainly thought about what she would learn if I didn’t end an unhealthy dating relationship not long ago. I wanted her to see how important it is to stand up for oneself and to walk away from situations that may steal one’s self-respect.

It’s also crazy important to me that she sees me interact amicably with her father and her stepmother. She needs to know–to see–the positive effects of releasing grudges and moving forward, that sometimes you can love someone (your kids!) so much that you work through things for their benefit, even when it’s hard.

I want my daughter to absorb my actions and not just hear my words.

Doesn’t that all sound great and honorable? Unfortunately, I’m only thinking consciously about this stuff about ten percent of the time. The other ninety percent, I forget to be intentional and I’m just…me. Whyohwhyohwhyohwhy is it so hard for me to remember that she’s watching everything, not just the lessons I’ve identified?

I can handle a full-blown crisis like a pro, but insult my intelligence, stomp on my pride, or hit me with a steady stream of attitude and all bets are off. Let’s just say my lackluster everyday frustration management skills might be a little more visible than I’d like. That’s not the best scenario for a mom with an already outspoken, highly emotional pair of teenage eyes on her.

I also tend to think out loud, so I go down a lot of rabbit holes before I end up on the right track. know I’m just working through an idea before I take (what I hope to be) rational action, but what does she think as she observes my process?

You’d get bored and I’d get embarrassed if I continued laying out my everyday faux pas. My point is that unfortunately, we don’t get to pick and choose which lessons our kids learn from us. While I’m happy with some of the big things, this light bulb moment has helped me realize that I need to be equally diligent about the little things, too.

The best I can hope now is that someday she’ll look back and realize that in addition to being a mom and a role model, I’m also human.

Linen and lace

MomSome women and their moms are peas in a pod. People describe them as cut from the same cloth, more of the same, me and mini-me. Not so in my case. My mom and I see the world differently, want different things from our life experiences, and have different comfort zones. If we’re cloth, I’m linen and she’s lace.

I long to explore other worlds; she works hard to make her own world beautiful.

I fight to prove my self-sufficiency; she has made a life taking care of others.

I paint a room in broad strokes; she focuses on the trim.

And yet, I wouldn’t be who I am without her influence.

She built a world that left me comfortable enough to explore others because I didn’t have to worry about my own.

She taught me what she knew: life skills such as cooking, running a household, caring for children, checking the details (although I’ve never, ever given a plant a milk bath since I’ve been on my own). Her care actually fostered my self-sufficiency.

And the rooms we’ve painted, both real and metaphorical, always look better when we work together.

We may be cut from different cloth, but we make a fine outfit.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

Don’t touch that cheese

“Oh, you don’t want to try that cheese, Brynna.”

I looked up from the produce I was examining to get a bead on who had said that–and why. It was sample day at the grocery store, and my eyes quickly landed on a mother and her young daughter. The girl, probably around eight or nine, had spied some samples of an aged gouda and wanted to taste one. She had asked politely, but her mom nixed the idea.

Let’s assume that the girl was not allergic to cheese and that her mom wasn’t worried that she would ruin her dinner. Because the emphasis on the word THAT leads to a certain implication, I’m going to to with it.

Mom’s attitude implied to me that she didn’t think Brynna would like the cheese, that perhaps it was a bit too advanced for her immature palate. I wanted to scream, LET HER TRY IT! Why do we assume that children should stick with chicken nuggets and mac-and-cheese until some magical age when they can suddenly handle new flavors? Why do we shelter our children from expanding their horizons?

These questions actually apply to more than food. How often do we “shelter” our children from new experiences, rationalizing that they are too young? Certainly some things aren’t appropriate for children: a crying baby can ruin a concert for everyone in the audience, for example. However, I suspect that upon further investigation, we’ll find many situations where it really doesn’t matter, but it’s just easier to exclude them. We make a judgment on their behalf that they won’t like the event, the food, or the situation at hand.

The next time it comes up, think of it this way. Don’t consider the event at hand. Or the food. Or the situation. Consider the OPPORTUNITY at hand. If it doesn’t involve a real, inappropriate-for-children kind of scenario, if you’re just making a judgment on their behalf, let them try it.

Let. Them. Try. It.

If they don’t like it, so what? They will have been exposed to one more of the world’s flavors, and you will have added context to their life experience. Then again, they may like it. What’s so bad about that?

C’mon, Mom. Let Brynna try that cheese.