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My Kids and I are Friends

First off, let me just say that I am no parenting expert. If anyone says that they are you should probably put your fingers in your ears and sing loudly when they talk. I mean, with parenting it seems to me that it’s all one big experiment. You kind of do your best and cross your fingers and see what happens. Seriously, I am the mom that found 2 of her kids naked and pooping in the yard when they were 3 and 4 (we did not live in the countryside). Yeah, so at this point you can either laugh/relate and keep reading or roll your eyes and pretend you never saw this.

This little post is in response to many articles I have seen lately floating around the internet suggesting that we should not be our kid’s friend. Every time I see this it bothers me. I couldn’t figure out why, but today as I was mopping (because occasionally I actually do that) I think I got a grasp on it.

I am friends with my kids. I love being with them and we have a great relationship. I have never been a super authoritative parent. I am of the belief that I should speak to my children with respect as I would like for them to speak to others. I don’t treat them like minions I treat them more as equals. I still ask them to do things and they comply happily 90% of the time.

I think my issue with this whole “you can’t be friends with your kids” is more about our concept of friendship than about parenting. I think we have become friends who don’t tell each other the hard things and don’t want to hear other people tell us those things. I am lucky enough to live in an amazing community of friends. We love each other well. We laugh together and cry together and sometimes we sit down with each other and give our friend a proverbial slap across the face and say ‘this area of your life is getting way out of whack, what is going on?’ or maybe we hug them and say ‘something seems off, you’re not yourself. How can we help?’ In my observation and experience outside of my community we just want to be encouragers and say only nice things about each other. But, blind spots are, well, hard to see. If you truly love someone you will want to help them grow as a person. You don’t want to see them sitting in the same pile of dog poo for the rest of their lives, you want to help them get out and move forward. And since you also don’t want to sit on that pile for the rest of your life so you have to learn to receive hard truths from those that love you. Yes, of course we should be our friends’ biggest cheerleaders and encouragers, but to love each other well we have to move into a deeper kind of love.

I make dumb mistakes a lot. It happens. I am learning and so are my kids. Hopefully, all of us are learning and growing. I am so grateful for my friends who have and do pull me aside and tell me when I have areas that need some work. So I will continue to be friends with my kids (and also cross my fingers and hope for the best).

Excuses, art and giving your baby to a troll

Everyone has a valid excuse for not creating.

I could list mine here and trust me it would be a compelling argument. We could all sit back sipping our tea and nodding “oh yes, you should never create anything. You are much too busy and unprepared and undereducated and…”.

Yes, well, I love to create. Doesn’t everyone? Something in us longs for it.

If you’re thinking of arts and crafts right now and having a mini panic attack, relax…creation is not just arts and crafts. I really hate arts and crafts myself and am familiar with said panic attack. When my children were smaller I went to a moms get together which consisted of eating, listening to a speaker, then doing a craft. I would sit and drink coffee while my crafty friend would do my craft for me. It was a beautiful system.

Creativity is in us all. It might be in business or mechanics or engineering or it might be in the arts, but it is there. I am frustrated to see how many people bow to their excuses and fear in this area.

The excuse I hear the most is that what they create is not good enough.

First, I doubt there are many artists who can look at a masterpiece they have created and not point out some flaws (flaws that only the creator would notice).

Second, if you wait until you become really good…then you never will. The act of creating art that isn’t “good enough” is the path to creating something of value.

The ticket price for becoming a “real” artist is being brave. I don’t mean being brave enough to make art, although that is the first step. I mean being brave enough to put your art out there for the world to love and enjoy and criticize and tear apart. That is terrifying.
It stretches you in a way that makes you feel as though your skin may never fit on your body again, but it is a good stretch albeit painful.

Your excuses are valid, but so what. There are thousands of other people out there with more valid excuses than you who are doing it.

Pick one, excuses or creation. If you pick excuses, own it. Cuddle up with them, pet them, love them. You will have an easier life in many ways and the crazies or resistance or whatever you want to call it will leave you alone. But, that other thing won’t. That thing in the back of your mind that says “what if…what if I had had the courage, what if I had become an inspirational story that would light the fire for other artists, what if I had let the world see who I really am?”

If you choose creation over excuses you will still have to continue to fight off excuses, they won’t leave you alone. The crazies will come to tell you that you can’t do it and you aren’t worthy and that you are wasting your time. Then you present your art to the world and it feels a little like handing your newborn to a troll to babysit. Sounds appealing doesn’t it?

But, there are moments. Moments where you can feel another piece of you coming to life. When you can feel how much you have grown and changed. When you touch someone deeply and a long dormant emotion seeps out of their eyes and yours too. The tiny moments of absolute certainty that THIS is what you should be doing…THIS is what you were created for. It’s a little like the moment when you see your baby for the first time. You don’t forget the pain of childbirth, but you realize why it was worth it.

It is worth it.

The Crazies

Seth Godin calls it the lizard brain. Stephen Pressfield calls it resistance. I like to call it ‘the crazies’. It’s that voice inside that reminds you what an idiot you are and how you are completely inept at whatever feat you are attempting. And, if you actually succeed, it changes tactics and goes for the you are a fraud angle.

I hate resistance and wish it was something that was just made up in a book. A villain with a long dark moustache and a wicked laugh. But, alas it is not…and you can bet that anyone who has done anything worth doing has wrestled with this unseen villain more than once.

The crazies make me feel, well, crazy…a bit schizophrenic if you will. Arguing inside your head with the crazies is not a fantastic way to feel normal and sane. I have devised a plan that doesn’t fully fix the problem, but it helps. I have always been a doodler and I have often used my hands and arms as sketch pads…much to my mom’s chagrin.

So, for the past few years when the crazies come out to play I take out my sharpie and scrawl something on my arm to remind me that I am not crazy and things might not be as they seem when those nasty little devils are whispering in my ear. It helps. It reminds me of a bigger picture. Ironically, it might make me look just a little bit crazy when I go out in public, but that’s okay…as long as the crazies stay away I am happy.