My “Tomboy”

When my daughter was little, she was what you might call a tomboy. She was athletic, wore only athletic clothes, hated dresses, and mostly played with boys. She had nothing in common with the girls around her and had no interest in playing with them. She didn’t play with dolls and she didn’t want to dress up. She wanted to play ball and she was good at it.  She even played on boys sports teams until the end of elementary school.

So it was no suprise when in kindergarten she wanted to cut her hair short like a boy. I didn’t want to because her hair took so long to grow, but I felt she had a right to make that choice and then live with it. Even at 5, we can teach our kids about choices and taking risks. Besides, it is just hair, it will grow back. It was a safe opportunity for her to have some ownership over herself and her choices. Remember, all her friends were boys. I could appreciate her wanting to look more like your friends at that age. It was no big deal.

As you can imagine, some people thought she was a boy and some girls even made fun of her and tried to embarass her at school. Luckily, she had greater inner strength than the little bullies. This does not mean she didn’t cry or wasn’t upset by these harmful words and actions but we helped her put it in perspective and moved forward. (also some phone calls we made to the school)

What upset me most was a mother of one of her classmates said to me “maybe she needs therapy” because she looked like a boy.  I said “no, she’s fine” but it pissed me off. (Can you tell it still does? This happened almost 11 years ago) Why does it mean something is “wrong” if a child doesn’t fall into the nice little gender categories that society has created. My daughter could have been gay, transgender, naturally more masculine, or maybe it was a just a phase. But for someone to think a little girl needs therapy because she is not all long hair, dresses, and pink ribbons and bows is absurd.

I think about Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s daughter who seems more boyish and wonder if she identifies as a boy or if she is just a tomboy like my daughter. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. Our job, as parents, is to support and love our children and help them develop the skills they need to be independent, functional, happy, and compassionate individuals.  I admire that the Jolie-Pitt’s are honoring their child by allowing her to be herself regardless what the narrow-minded media and society have to say. That has to be really hard. I had one comment that I have held onto and they have a shit storm of comments thrown their way on a daily basis. That is certainly a family leading by example and loving unconditionally.

Today, my daughter is a beautiful, strong, hard-working, smart, compassionate, and athletic young women. Her style has grown to include long hair, cute dresses, sandals, and make-up. However, her clothes and her looks do not define her. Her actions and her heart do. I think too many people forget that.

BostonCalling copyI am so glad I didn’t let the fear and judgement of others to interfere with my parenting.

Let children be who they are.

Loving them as they are, gives them permission to love themselves.

Self-love is the greatest gift you can give any child.

 

 

I am safe

“I am safe”

This is a mantra I have used to help me relax. When I repeat these 3 little words, I feel my hips loosen, my stomach relax, and my shoulders melt. This little phrase has helped me reduce my long standing physical shoulder and neck pain and improved my emotional peace.

Safety for me is not necessary my physical safety. It is more about emotional safety, its about being supported, cared for, and loved. My younger years were a bit tumultuous and I had to grow up too soon. When you are young and have to take on adult responsibilities before you are developmentally ready, your sense of safety is rocked a little because you don’t know what you are doing. Relying on myself at a young age is a total double edged sword.

So when I say to myself “I am safe”. I am saying “I am loved”, “I am supported”, and “I have help”, “I am not alone”, “I can relax”, “I can trust”, “I am worthy”.  It allows me to take more risks in my life. Risks I have been too scared to take.

But not everyone has the luxury of this physical and mental safety. I am reminded that so many people (especially children) live in communities that are physically unsafe, whether it be because of sub-standard housing conditions or violence.

According to research presented at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry “nearly half of all inner-city youth may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and 30% may be severely clinically impacted by the condition”.

Chidren with PTSD…that is terrible! No child should suffer like that.

Here is an excerpt from an article I read for a graduate paper I wrote on children and stress.

“From an early age, children living in the inner cities are exposed frequently to the use of drugs, guns, arson, and random violence. They witness injury, suffering, and death, and they respond to these events with fear and grief, often experiencing dramatic ruptures in their development. The list of psychological reactions is long and grim: hatred for self, profound loss of trust in the community and the world, tattered internalized moral values and ethics of caring, and a breaking down of the inner and outer sense of security and of reality. They are particularly vulnerable to traumatic stress illnesses and to related behavioral and academic abnormalities (Gardner, 1971;Parson, 1994; van der Kolk, 1987).”

This is a terrible way to live, or should I say survive. And, I would guess, these children are the least likely to get the appropriate professional mental health support, which then just allows the cycle of violence and anguish to continue.

This is not to say all inner cities are like this but I can’t help but think what life must be like for those that do live in this type of hell. Can these people ever say “I am safe”? I do think some people have the strength, supports, and perspectives that allow them to feel loved and supported and happy but I cannot imagine being that strong in such deplorable conditions. I don’t think I could do it.

It just breaks my heart. The impact of this research has never left me. I don’t think it ever will.

I truly hope that someday, every one has an opportunity to feel safe and loved and confident that they can be their best. I hope someday pain will only be a transitional emotion and not make its home in anyone’s heart. I know this is probably not realistic but it feels better to wish good on even the most painful hearts then to think this type of life is okay or tolerable.

I am truly grateful to be able to say “I am safe”.  untitled shoot-2308-Edit

My heart longs for others to feel this too.

All children should feel safe.

Maybe we can start envisioning a world where this is possible.

It is time to set an intention for our world to be a better place.

May all beings be heathy, happy, loved, and safe.

 

Opportunities

Last year, I was looking for a job in the Health Education/Health Promotion sector and was coming up with nothing. I didn’t have the experience in any one area to get a foot in the door and I didn’t feel ready to go out on my own. The only real opportunity presented itself was to join a teacher training program and earn my teaching license. So, I went for it.

Today, a year later, I realize that this opportunity was such a gift but not in the way one would expect.  Teachers spend so much of their own time and money to educate our children. They spend their family time grading papers, updating grading systems, creating engaging lessons, planning extracurricular activties, and documenting their own learning and teaching for school and state agencies.  I earned a great amount of respect for the teachers I worked with who devoted so much time and energy to caring for other people’s children. I also learned how hard, and rare, it is to be a GOOD teacher, especially if the appropriate supports are not in place.

In my program, I worked about 60-70 hours a week, consistently from August -June. I went in early, stayed late, continued to work when I got home, worked with students during most free blocks and after school, worked all weekend long grading papers or developing lesson plans. It was A LOT of work. I really, really enjoyed the kids but I didn’t enjoy the disconnect from my own family.  I lost the balance in my life.

So when I graduated I decided I would teach part time, if the right position teaching health came available. Nothing has popped up yet. Who knows if it will. I am okay either way.

Was this a waste of time?     No.

Then why did this opportunity present itself?        Here are my thoughts…

  1. I needed to realize how much time I was truly willing to take away from my family at this stage of my family. I can wait a couple years until all the kids are out of the house to work full time.
  2. My husband needed to realize that me working full time would negatively impact him  and his ability to work and travel.
  3. I think he also realized that I really did do an awful to make everything run smoothly.
  4. I learned what it means to create engaging lessons.
  5. I learned the importance of asking questions
  6. I learned the importance of taking risks
  7. I realized how much I enjoy teaching teenagers.
  8. I realized that my photo wellness program is really important to me.
  9. I became comfortable presenting information and standing in front of an audience.
  10. My career goals are to be able to do a variety of things/projects…like expanding my photo wellness, health coaching, high school health education, and writing my blog. I would get bored only doing one thing all the time.
  11. I can do anything I put my mind to.
  12. I have really good instincts.
  13. Teenagers have GREAT energy and ideas and we dont give them enough credit sometimes.
  14. It is possible to have a successful school or a relationship with teenagers that is based on respect, kindness, and acceptance without relying on discipline as the means of “control”.
  15. I need balance in my life… I can really fall into over focusing on tasks and lose myself and my priorities.
  16. I have a GREAT respect for working mothers and teachers. I think I would like to develop a coaching plan that helps them make sure they take care of themselves.
  17. I learned all about our education system, english language learners, learning differences, differentiation, academic success, and student stress.
  18. My kids still need me.
  19. I need my family.

Although I am not gainfully employed as a teacher, that is okay. I may or may not get that opportunity. But I gained perspective, appreciation, skills, knowledge, and confidence. That is worth its weight in gold. I am in a much better position to help others now.

Sometimes we are put on a path but not for the reasons we think.

So if a good opportunity presents itself.

Go with it.

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