Maintaining a peaceful state of mind when your children are struggling is one of the greatest parenting tests of all––and it ain’t easy.
At the end of the day, we just want our children to be happy, safe, healthy, and comfortable in their skin. But that’s not how life works—the ebbs and flows are part of the journey. When our kids are suffering, mom and/or dad tend to absorb the issue at hand––as if it happened to them.
This is all part of parenting.
As much as my children are learning to navigate their challenges, I’m learning how to steer them in the right direction without taking myself off course.
I need to remember that I’m the commander of my emotions, and I have a choice to let my children’s disturbances pull me down with them or allow myself to stay afloat––despite their struggles. Lately, I’ve been trying to choose the latter.
Back in September, when my daughter, Taylor, was having a difficult time at the start of college, I received a lot of tearful phone calls. It was hard—for her––and for me. I was upset that she was upset. My husband was upset that I was upset. My sixteen-year-old son was upset that we were upset. At one point, Taylor was so miserable that I threw my back out from all the stress. The entire family absorbed her negative frequency, which only exacerbated the situation.
Thankfully, Taylor found a way to rise above her circumstances, and eventually, her social life took a turn for the better. As of lately, she’s been traveling on her own spiritual path, working to improve her mental state and the lens through which she views the world.
Taylor and I read many New Age books and listen to a lot of podcasts on the subject. We also spend a great deal of time discussing the importance of learning how to raise your vibration to attract and manifest positive experiences. I’m proud of the work she’s been doing on herself, and she even started an Instagram account called “Staying Spiritual” to help other people.
Despite how much Taylor is evolving, I still get those sad phone calls every now and then. But I’ve recently discovered a new, healthier approach to helping her: I listen, and then I tell her that I love her and I’m sorry she’s not doing well. If my words aren’t helping her feel better, I get off the phone and send her lots of love in my mind.
The minute we allow someone else’s words or actions to make us feel bad, we’ve given them that power—and we’ve lost control of our feel-good state.
Having feelings are what makes us human. If we didn’t show any emotion, we might as well be robots. When something disturbing happens in our lives, we need to experience the pain, acknowledge it, and then tell ourselves to release it. Sometimes, I’ll try repeating mantras, such as, “It’s all going to work out” or “Everything is going to be fine.” Sooner or later, the negativity will pass, and it typically happens when I’m no longer focused on it.
There’s another important step, and a challenging one indeed, to helping your children––and yourself––when they’re unhappy. It’s to send everyone who is distressed loving thoughts, especially to the person who is exhibiting cruel behavior. Even though you may have a secret fantasy of punching a bully in the face, loving them in your mind is a much more spiritually evolved response than spewing anger and hate their way.
“People who love themselves don’t hurt other people. The more we hate ourselves, the more we want others to suffer.” ––Dan Pearce
To be able to send love to someone who is deliberately hurting another person is what I consider a type of soul cleansing. It’s a way of clearing your energetic darkness and opening your channel to allow the light to shine through. Soften your heart and imagine wrapping love around every single person, from your offspring to the a-hole, who is suffering.
And that, my friend, is how to remain centered and peaceful when your least happy child isn’t doing well.
“The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.” ––Tom Bodett
How true is this? Life throws us curve balls all the time, but it’s how we grow and what we learn from them that ultimately shapes us.
Studying many of the principles of the New Age movement, I have learned the importance of our thoughts and how they hold power that can move us in a positive or negative direction. When I first started reading about this theory, also known as the Law of Attraction, I didn’t really understand what it meant. My initial interpretation was that like attracts like and good thoughts will create good results and bad thoughts will create bad results.
I was a bit rattled by this concept. If your mind is anything like mine, controlling my thinking is no easy feat, especially when insecure, critical, and fear-based inner dialogue rapid-fires in my head. As much as I want to tell them to shut the F up, my mind doesn’t always like to oblige.
Delving further into this idea, I learned that manifesting the life you want for yourself is more than just having a positive mindset. It’s about our energy, our vibration, our emotion. That’s the real ticket. It serves as the fuel behind the thoughts that enable us to create our reality.
The goal is to maintain a joy-filled, high vibration as much as possible, until something sh*tty comes flying in your direction. And when that happens, worry and self-loathing tend to jump onto the scene, initiating a hostile takeover of your happy thoughts.
New Age experts offer many different tools to help you snap out of a downward spiral, such as making a gratitude list––no matter how bad things seem, you can always find something to be grateful for; staying in the present moment; connecting with other people; spending time outside in nature; writing a script of how you want things to turn out; recognizing that you’re not your thoughts; watching comedy; exercising; practicing breathwork; meditating, etc. Many of these suggestions are helpful, but do they work? Yes and no.
Here’s an example of how I recently tried to turn a crappy day around:
It all began when I received a phone call from a friend who had tested positive for COVID-19. She and I had gone for a walk together a few days before she discovered that she had the virus, which meant that I had been directly exposed and needed to get tested.
On the way to the testing center, I got stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Gripping the steering wheel in frustration, I tried to calm myself down by taking deep breaths, but it wasn’t helping. The longer it took to get there, the more I wanted to rip my hair out of my head. The ten-minute drive turned into forty minutes. By the time I arrived, my insides were filled with irritable tremors.
To make matters worse, after the test, I couldn’t locate my new AirPods. I thought maybe I had dropped them when I was walking over to the testing center. I carefully retraced my steps and tore my car apart looking for them, but couldn’t find them anywhere.
Consequently, when I got home I was in a terrible mood, and since I had to wait until the end of the day to get my test results back, the fear that I might have COVID-19 was adding to my angst.
I had to find a way to raise my vibration before my negative thinking sucked me further down a dark tunnel. I forced myself to go for a walk outside. The fresh air and sunshine helped a little, but I couldn’t stop focusing on the fact that I didn’t have my AirPods, which I had recently purchased to replace another missing pair! Like my phone, I take my AirPods everywhere. I use them to listen to podcasts and music when I’m exercising or doing mundane chores, like cleaning the house, and I use them to make phone calls. Without them, I was lost.
I tried to put it in perspective. In the grand scheme of things, this was not a big deal at all. In fact, even as I write this, I realize how ridiculous and bratty I must sound. There are far more pressing and dire issues facing the world right now than losing a trivial material item. But that day, in that moment, it didn’t matter what I told myself, the gnawing in my stomach was not subsiding.
Following the walk, I called my daughter on the phone and told her what had happened. She sympathized with me, but then the conversation switched to problems she was having with her friends. By the time we ended the call, my vibration was a notch lower.
Next, I tried journaling and making a list of things I was grateful for. I knew I had a lot to be thankful for, so that was easy to write. Even though I wasn’t feeling worse after I did that, it was by no means a magic bullet.
I thought maybe I should try singing or dancing. Really? Who was I kidding? That was never going to happen. Laughter also would’ve been ideal, yet nothing seemed funny.
The antidote to my sour mood finally came when I was busy cooking dinner. I stopped trying and stopped focusing on my low vibration. Preparing a meal distracted me from worrying about my COVID-19 test results, and it distracted me from my lost AirPods.
When I was finally in a better head space, I checked my email, and to my delight, my COVID-19 test came back negative. As for my AirPods, I accepted the fact that I would have to buy a new pair.
So, how do you stay positive when nothing seems to be going your way? Well, I would first suggest trying the techniques listed above. They may work, and they may not. But remember, the problem is the harder you try, the more difficult it might be to flip the switch on your negative headspace.
The best remedy is to let it go. Over and over in your head, say to yourself something like this: “I release my fear and anxiety.” Repeat it one hundred times if you must. It most likely won’t disappear right then and there, but as soon as you put your attention elsewhere, the black clouds hanging over your head will eventually give way to sunshine again.
Although I wasn’t consciously telling myself to let it go, the cooking distraction served as a doorway, allowing the bad thoughts to escape on their own. It may seem like an easy fix on paper, but the best way to learn a new skill is to practice it. The more you become adept at raising your vibration in the face of adversity, the more you will excel in the school of life, and that right there is––the greatest lesson of all.
Have you ever experienced an awkward greeting with someone you know? It typically happens when you’re not sure if you should go in for the one-cheek kiss, double-cheek kiss, the air kiss, the no-kiss-but-casual hug, or the casual kiss followed by a hug. Whatever you decide to do, my advice: don’t hesitate. Go right in for the kiss or the hug. Otherwise, you may experience the embarrassing side-to-side head bob, ensuring that you and the recipient make complete fools of yourselves.
I remember this happening years ago with me and one of my husband’s relatives. He and I were doing the head-shake dance, but rather than the kiss landing on his cheek, I inadvertently smacked one on his lips. My face lit on fire afterward, as did his. In hindsight, we probably should’ve laughed about it, but instead, we walked away from each other pretending our embarrassing greeting never occurred.
Thanks to the pandemic, greeting our friends and family members with a kiss and hug has been strictly forbidden. Yet that feels weird too, especially when you haven’t seen someone in a long time, and you want to touch them. So you find yourself standing there, feeling out of sorts as your body pulls you toward the person, desperate to reach out, while fighting the urge to remain at an appropriate distance.
What about the person who has been living under a rock for the past year, ignoring the COVID-19 safety measures? That would be the man or woman who wraps their arms around you in an embrace––without your consent––or reaches out and shakes your hand. Afterward, you stand there, frozen and eager to dive head-first into a pool of antibacterial soap.
I would have thought that since these casual, social greetings have been discouraged throughout the pandemic, I would be grateful that I was off the hook for a while and not have to experience the side-to-side head bobbing again. But I’ve come to realize that having been deprived from physical contact with other people (outside of my immediate family) has only made me yearn for it even more.
One day soon, when this pandemic is over, I’m going to take my affection toward others to a whole new level (appropriately, of course). I plan to hug everyone, sometimes with a cheek kiss, sometimes without. Heck, I might even consider standing on a street corner and hugging random strangers.
Human touch is so important. It’s how we show a person that we care about them. It’s a sign of empathy. It’s healthy. It’s good for our hearts. It’s love. When our children are babies and toddlers, we’re always holding them in our arms, in our hands, on our laps, and smothering them with affection.
I remember when I was a teenager, my mother would say to me every once in a while, “Can I have a hug?” I would always give in and let her wrap her arms around me, even though, as a stereotypical teenager, I was usually a bit irritated that I had to stop what I was doing to let her hug me. Now that I’m a parent of teenagers, I get it. Back then, I didn’t realize how important that was to my well-being. It was one of the ways in which my mom showed me how much she loved me.
Maintaining this type of affection with my daughter is easy. At nineteen years old, she still loves to snuggle with me in bed or on the couch to watch a movie. As for my sixteen-year-old son, I have to remind myself to periodically ask for those hugs—even when he thinks I’m being annoying.
Along with putting nutritious foods into our bodies, getting a daily dose of fresh air and vitamin D from the sun, exercising, and laughter, we also need to remember the importance of mental and physical connection. And for those of you who, like me, have experienced a few awkward greetings in your lifetime and are still a bit self-conscious about it, let it go––because as soon we’re all feeling safe from catching COVID-19, follow my lead and jump right in for that social hug or kiss—and just be grateful that you finally can.
Recently, while listening to a guided meditation, I was asked to think about a memory that caused me great happiness. My mind ran through some of the celebratory milestones I had experienced in my past: the day my husband asked me to marry him, my wedding day, the birth of my children, getting into the college of my choice, etc. And yet, although these occasions were joy-filled and special, another incident popped into my mind, one that may seem insignificant in comparison, but was, nonetheless, a beautiful and rewarding parenting moment.
Growing up, my daughter, Taylor, had always been open-minded about trying new activities. Throughout her formative year, she did it all: gymnastics, dance, ice skating, tennis, soccer, ski racing, softball, basketball, lacrosse, art classes, and music lessons. Some of these activities lasted a few years, others a few months. But no matter what she chose to do, she did it with a wide smile and a happy-go-lucky attitude.
Lacrosse was the one sport Taylor stuck with the longest. She had great hand-eye coordination, but she lacked the inner aggressiveness, or what I like to call a “fire in her belly” that made her stand out and dominate on the field. As far as I was concerned, none of that mattered. She was having fun, which, at the time, was more important.
By seventh grade, the level of lacrosse competition had increased, and that was when everything had changed.
After lacrosse practice one afternoon, Taylor hopped into my car hysterically crying. Through a fit of tears, she told me that none of her teammates were passing the ball to her, even when she was wide open. Despite having played the sport for nearly six years, longer than most of the girls on her team, she had never once scored a goal. And her friends on the team were crushing her confidence, making her believe she wasn’t a good player.
My heart broke for her. I suggested she go outside every day and practice on her own. She said she would, but my advice wasn’t helping her feel good about herself in that moment. So, I made another suggestion: I told her to write a letter to herself, in the past tense, describing her perfect lacrosse season, giving details about the type of player she imagined she was. That night, she wrote her letter in private, put it away, and forgot about it.
As the months passed, Taylor worked harder, practiced more, and gave it her all on the field. But she still wasn’t a starting player and she wasn’t scoring any goals.
The last tournament of the season, Taylor’s team made it to the championship round. But since Taylor wasn’t getting that much playing time, I was secretly hoping they would lose in the elimination round, so I could start the three-hour drive back home. With only five minutes left in the game, Taylor’s team was down by one goal, and her coach subbed her in. I was praying she would play well, while simultaneously watching the clock on the scoreboard.
Out of nowhere, Taylor scooped up a ground ball on the defensive side, charged down the field dodging her opponents, and shot the ball into the upper left corner of the goal—and scored. My girl, the underdog, tied the game. I screamed. I cried. I clapped. I cheered. I jumped up and down like a lunatic.
In the final sixty seconds, the other team scored, and won the game. I, of course, didn’t care about that. I had just witnessed a real-life scene that could’ve been stolen out of the movie, Rudy. In my mind, Taylor had the greatest goal of all time.
On the drive home, after calling our family members to share the exciting news, Taylor reminded me of the letter she wrote to herself in the beginning of the season. She said she had described the goal-scoring scenario exactly the way it happened, adding how proud her parents and teammates were of her. Hearing this, chills ran down my spine. The only difference in the letter was that she was an all-star player throughout the entire season, rather than in the last few minutes of the final game.
I am blessed for having had so many wonderful celebrations in my lifetime, and I look forward to having many more. But there was something about the goal Taylor scored that day that stood out in my mind as a different kind of blessing. It was unexpected and miraculous and appeared to be manifested through my daughter’s imagination.
This was also about believing in oneself, never giving up, and rising above setbacks. The stories we tell ourselves, literally and figuratively, can be written and rewritten as many times as we desire––and our words serve as powerful tools that have the potential to make our dreams come to fruition.
Lately, I’ve been having this dark fantasy: I want to pick up a Yoplait yogurt drink and chuck the half-filled, open bottle at my teenaged son, Judd’s, head and watch the pink liquid dribble down his perfectly coiffed hair.
There are a few reasons why I’ve been yearning to do this. The first is simply a matter of payback.
When Judd was an adorable, happy-go-lucky toddler, he and I were driving along in my brand-new car, fresh off the lot. He was sitting behind me in his car seat, sipping on a yogurt drink and singing along to The Wiggles. Meanwhile, I was focused on the road, inhaling the clean, factory scent emanating from my shiny vehicle. The ride was smooth and pleasant, until out of nowhere, a yogurt drink whizzed by my head, droplets landing in my hair before the container smashed into the dashboard, splattering the creamy beverage everywhere.
“I’m done,” the little shi*t behind me yelled out, with a big smirk on his yogurt-stained face.
Along with scolding Judd about the dangers of throwing things at a driver, I also told him that one day in the faraway future, when he gets his driver’s license, and if he’s lucky enough to get a car of his own, I’m going to throw a yogurt drink at his head and dashboard.
I’ve been waiting years for this day to arrive. And we’re finally here. Judd has his driver’s license and a car to drive, too. But, of course, as the saying goes, two wrongs don’t make a right, and so I’ve held back with my sweet revenge, even though the thought lingers in my imagination more often than I would like to admit.
Yet there are other reasons why I want to chuck a yogurt drink at my son.
It’s because my cute little boy, who occasionally acted like a little shi*t when he was younger, grew up, and now he sometimes acts like a big shi*t to me––his mother––the woman who gave him life.
What does he do to thank me for bringing him into this world? He picks on me.
Judd tells me I’m a bad driver. I don’t put my blinker on. I swerve on the road. Really, Judd? I’m a bad driver? The same lady who sat in the passenger seat, holding on for dear life while I taught him how to drive.
Judd tells me I’m a gaper. That’s slang for someone who looks silly on the ski mountain. Really, Judd? I’m the same lady who, when he was a toddler, skied with him between my legs, held onto him with a harness, lugged his skis and my skis to and from the mountain, and wiped his snot-stained nose throughout the day. Oh, and I’m also the same woman who helped him out of his Superman underwear and cleaned his four-year-old ass when he took a big shi*t in the middle of a ski run.
Judd tells me I make annoying noises when I chew. Really, Judd? I’m the same lady who nourished him from my breasts the first year of his life, only to be left with two sad-looking, wilted, deflated balloons for a chest.
The other day, Judd told me I was rude to the lady working in a toll booth because I didn’t respond when she asked me how my day was. I do feel bad about that. But, really Judd? Maybe I was a bit distracted getting him to his lacrosse game on time in another state in the middle of a pandemic.
I also hear this: “Mom, how did you make this steak? It’s gross” or “Mom, how much salt did you put on the chicken?” and “You bought the wrong sweet potatoes, again.”
Sometimes Judd tells me my jokes aren’t funny, that I nag him, that I don’t listen, and despite the thousands of hours I’ve put into watching him practice and play lacrosse, I don’t understand the sport at all.
I realize this is all part of the child-rearing cycle. It happened with my daughter, too, when she was in high school.
My kids started off precious and cute, treating me––their momma––like I was a famous rock star. They only wanted to hold my hand. They ran into my arms after school. They cried when I said goodbye. They embraced me tight, not letting me leave their rooms when it was bedtime. They listened, wide-eyed, when I told them stories. They giggled at all my ridiculous jokes.
And then one day—BAM—they hit their teen years, and my celebrity status took a nosedive.
It’s all okay. This, too, shall pass. I know Judd appreciates me. He tells me he loves me––a lot. And he thanks me for everything I do for him. He also tells me I’m the best mom ever. Then again, that line usually comes after he asks me for something.
As far as I know I never threw a yogurt drink at my mom when I was little (considering yogurt drinks didn’t exist back then, I definitely didn’t). And thankfully, my mom’s rose-colored glasses skewed her memory of my early childhood; she has no recollection of her darling angel doing anything of the sort. However, she and I both clearly remember my teenage temper tantrums, slamming the bedroom door, claiming that she was ruining my life, and my overall sassy attitude. There were probably many days when my mom wanted to throw a yogurt drink at my head.
To this day, for the purposes of amusement only, my brother and I still enjoy ripping on my mom––in her presence, of course. I suppose I will be enduring the same fate. From here on out, I will be the butt of my children’s jokes, an easy target to laugh at. It’s fine. I’m a big girl. I can take it.
As for my son’s trash talking, that’s a different story. One of these days, I might reach my boiling point, and when that happens, Judd, beware: I’m coming after you, with the biggest yogurt drink I can find.