Category: Family & Parenting
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.
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.
For the past couple of years, I’ve been the ultimate lacrosse mom, making round-trip drives to Denver for my sixteen-year-old son, Judd’s, hour-and-a-half practices, twice a week, roughly two hundred miles from my home. (I’ve written about these drives in another post.)
In addition to practices, I’ve flown all over the country for tournaments, standing on the sidelines of games, cheering for Judd and his teammates. While doing so, I’ve encountered a range of weather conditions from freezing rain, hail, light snow, ferocious winds to oppressive heat waves that made me feel as though my body was liquefying on the turf field. I’ve had to find laundromats in obscure places to wash his mud-stained clothes. I’ve also had to tolerate a smelly teenage boy’s sweaty body odor and putrid equipment stink for hours of long car rides.
On many occasions, I’ve asked myself what the purpose is in all this. Is Judd good enough to get a college scholarship? Is he good enough to play in college at all? Is it worth the time, the money, the stress?
With lacrosse taking center stage in our lives, I’ve missed parties at home, holiday dinners, celebrations with friends, including this past New Year’s Eve with my husband. I’ve struggled to get my work done while on the road, and I’ve had to leave the other half of my family for extended time periods.
And since lacrosse tournaments weren’t canceled these past few months during the pandemic, Judd and I put our health at risk, wandering around crowded fields, travelling via crowded airplanes, staying in crowded hotels––all during the busiest travel season of the year.
As a sports mom, I get to experience every kind of emotion on the field. The racing heart, the beads of nervous sweat, the silent prayers when the score is close. I’ve felt the anger at referees for an unfair call, the frustration of a bad play, the pseudo pain of a hurt player, and I’ve felt the joy ripple through my body when Judd scores a sweet goal. I know all too well the disappointment when his team loses to a team they should’ve beat. And there’s no greater rush than the exuberant cheers when his team defeats their opponent in the final minutes of a game.
Of course, I do all of this for the incredible benefits Judd has gained from being part of a team. He has formed new, beautiful, and hopefully long-lasting friendships. He has learned grit and perseverance. He has learned failure and triumph. He has learned that to win, he needs to work together with his teammates. He has learned to support each person on that field––giving fist-pumps to players who do well and offering kindness to those who are struggling. He has learned to make healthier food choices and to go the extra mile on his own to get better: running more, lifting weights, shooting on the goal by himself in the dark, in the cold, and playing wall ball for hours on end.
But there’s a more important reason why I do this, and why so many of my lacrosse parent friends do this too. It’s because we LOVE our children. We love them so much that we make sacrifices for them. We jump up and down on the sidelines, our hearts shining on them like spotlights. Our offspring are precious gifts that have come here to help us become better people. It’s not about losing or winning (although it certainly feels good to win!), or about whether they end up living their lacrosse dreams in college. It’s about giving our kids the opportunity to fuel their passion. And it’s about finding gratitude in each moment, enjoying the time with our boys, riding the waves along with them, and acknowledging how lucky we are to have these experiences—for physical life on Earth is temporal, so being a sport’s parent is just another avenue for expressing our infinite love for our children.
Growing up in the 70s and 80s, my brother and I didn’t have televisions in our bedrooms, so most of our TV viewing took place in the living room. We’d often watch shows together as a family, our eyes glued to the screen when our favorite hour-long dramas or thirty-minute sitcoms were on. We got to know all the characters in The Love Boat, Dallas, Hawaii 5-0, Remington Steele, Knight Rider, The White Shadow, and countless more. And we’d laugh at silly scenes during Three’s Company, Growing Pains, The Golden Girls, and Cheers, to name a few. We’d read TV Guide Magazine and plan our evenings around the scheduled shows we enjoyed. For the most part, we had similar television interests, but, like most siblings, we had our share of fights, particularly when we’d steal a special seat on the couch because one of us would forget to call out, “I get my place back,” before leaving to get a snack or go to the bathroom. As adults, we thankfully get along well, and to this day, we still reminisce about the shows that played such a big role in our upbringing. Read more