Sometimes give them a Voluntary WHY

I have made so many mistakes along the way as a mother that there are days I really stop and wonder how it is that I actually have really good kids. Of course, on those days, it’s usually because I am comparing them to someone else’s kids – the ones who are NOT as ‘good’ as mine ๐Ÿ˜›
And yet, at the same time, I also know that there is NO comparison – my children are individuals in their own right. And in the same way that I lack perfection as a woman, and a mother, they also have areas that need improving. Such is life!

There are also the days where I find myself shaking my head, and wondering, where did I go wrong?
And no one else’s children feature on those days! It’s all about mine! ๐Ÿ˜›
Yesterday was one of those days.

For those of you who don’t know, I need to clarify : they are my children because I gave birth to them and love them unconditionally – but they are no longer ‘children’. My son will be 23 in two months time (he still lives with us, having completed his university degree at the end of last year). My daughter will be 16 next month! (Oh gosh! My baby girl!!!!)
My son is in that stage of life where he seems to have forgotten how ‘argumentative and silly’ he was as a teen – often asking me, ‘Was I like that?’ and then apologising profusely when I confirm that he was indeed! It always makes me smile. These are usually occasions where my daughter is NOT smiling though, because he has just told her how silly she is being, and that she’s ‘not always right’ etc.
Being an adult has also changed my son’s views somewhat, and I have found that in some areas he has suddenly matured – it still shocks me! ๐Ÿ˜› Which means that there is also the need for damage control when he assumes the ‘male adult/father figure’ role in the house – it’s usually done in way of protection of me though… things like : ”Don’t be cheeky to Mommy”, ”Your room is a mess, and those dishes need to come to the sink”, ‘Mommy just cleaned the kitchen, come and wipe your mess off the counter”, ”I don’t think you should be watching that, you’d better check with Mom”, ”You may not watch ‘insert You Tuber’s name here’ latest video – it’s really not for you”!
Teenage girls do not take kindly to authoritative big brothers – I know… because it’s how I grew up! Which unfortunately puts me in a rather difficult position – I appreciate and value my son’s input, but completely identify and feel sympathy for my daughter! I so remember what it was like!

Somehow, we make it through every conflict without too much damage. And I am grateful for that. And most days, I am in awe as to how we all still live together like we do!
What completely boggles my mind is their love for each other – although no one had better ever ask them to use ‘the L word’ when it comes to their sibling! ๐Ÿ˜›
My jaw ‘drops to the floor’… every day! Because every day there will be some minor infraction from one or the other that causes raised voices and conflict between them. The result is always the same – my daughter will stomp off to her room, muttering under her breath, and I will hear my son exclaiming out loud in the lounge area, ”So freaking dumb”!
And here’s the jaw drop part : within a couple of hours, one of them will approach the other one. Not to apologise though. The approach will be because they have a YouTuber that they both are fond of, and something will have happened, and there is suddenly this need to share.
(Sharing with me is usually a lengthy process, because they first have to remind me why I know the person – what they have told me or shown me in the past etc. ๐Ÿ˜› )
And the sharing is often mutual agreement, and some laughter, and it’s like there was no conflict in our house at all prior to ‘this moment’ that they are having. This also always makes me smile.
And every couple of months, there will be a Friday or Saturday night where I find them both in the lounge area, watching movies that they have both seen far too many times from years ago. And my daughter will always say, ”We’re having a sibling bonding night. Don’t get too excited – we still don’t like each other.” To which my son will always have a comedic response, and my daughter will throw a piece of popcorn at him…. and my smile becomes a chuckle as I retreat and allow them to have time ‘alone’. Because I really do feel that, when all jokes are put aside, these occasional evenings matter and are important for the two of them. (Some days there will actually be the threat of murder – I need them to have these moments to hopefully help prevent follow through ๐Ÿ˜› )

And now that you have some history about my ‘imperfect children’…. here’s why yesterday had me asking ‘WHERE DID I GO WRONG?’

We all know what ‘positive affirmations’ are, right? They’re pretty much positiveย statements that can help you to challenge and overcome self-sabotaging and negative thoughts. They’re to help you create a positive mental attitude to empower you.
About three years ago, I decided I wanted to help my kids a little more than I already was just by being their mom ๐Ÿ˜› , and so I started regularly seeking out, and printing out, selected positive quotes and affirmative statements for them. They each have about ten printed pages – my son’s is a collage on his bedroom cupboard, which he sees when he wakes up in the morning; my daughter chose for hers to be behind her bedroom door so that every time she opens and closes it, she sees them.

Yesterday, I was in the kitchen, and my son was in the lounge (it’s open plan), and my daughter came through and announced, ”We all need to start doing positive affirmations every day.”
I don’t know who had the more ‘horrified and shocked’ expression on their face – me, or my son.
He was the first to reply though.
”What do you think Mommy has been doing by sticking up new pages for us every now and then?”
My daughter shrugged her shoulders and replied, ”I thought it was just stuff she wanted us to have.”

And my first reaction (in my head) was, ”How on earth can she think that? Where did I go wrong? How did I fail at this?” And it hit me! I DID GO WRONG! This WAS on me!

The intentions behind what I had done were pretty fantastic, I think ๐Ÿ˜› – I had created a ‘visual board’ of positivity for them in an effort to empower and inspire them. When I invaded their space with the first page, I had told them to be sure to read it every day. But I had forgotten to fully explain. To give them a WHY.
A lengthy conversation followed and it was beneficial to us all, in many ways. What surprised me was a statement my daughter made when my son commented that she should have asked why I wanted them to read it every day, because clearly she didn’t understand. She replied, quite confidently, ”I didn’t ask because Mommy usually tells us, in great detail, what we need to know.” And she rolled her eyes. ๐Ÿ˜›

We all know the infamous ‘Because I said so’. I use it sometimes with my kids, when the situation calls for it and they dare to ask why ๐Ÿ˜› (Stop worrying about whether there are vegetables in it, and just eat it! ๐Ÿ˜› )
But I remember what that answer was like too.
Eventually, I stopped asking why – and I actually missed out. Because I think I could have learned even more, and saved myself some troubles, if I had just asked the right people ‘why’ growing up.
But I also think that as adults, and as parents, there are times where we should not wait for the why to be asked – perhaps if we would just voluntarily speak out small doses of the wisdom we have, perhaps then our children won’t experience feeling ‘as lost’ as they sometimes do.

I think that like with most things in life, it’s about balance.
We all want our kids to have enquiring minds and look for the answers to the ‘why’s’ and not be afraid to ask – but at the same time, we want them to be informed and equipped enough that in some areas they do not need to ask because the why has already been voluntarily explained ahead of time.

And the parenthood lesson I was forced to learn? I need to stop telling my kids so much in detail, so that they are forced to ask WHY more often ๐Ÿ˜›
Off to think a little more about how to balance this particular scale ๐Ÿ˜‰

Spaghetti

routine

Life as a single mom, when the kids have their own schedules etc., means that a lot of the time, my life IS routine based. The above has some truth to it, in that there is definitely less of ‘my’ life and more of ‘dependent’s’ routines. A lot of my time has been based on scheduling what I need to do, around what they need to do and where they need to be.

Our intense lock down in my country, due to the current pandemic, changed a lot of that for the most part. But it also introduced ‘new routine’, that still meant that I had to make adjustments to my ‘living’. Tomorrow another new routine will begin, as my daughter is to return to school for a ten day cycle – and not the normal school hours as these have been adjusted.

But I think that the part about routine that this picture sort of misses is that some routines actually equal a good life. Without some of the routines that I perform, there would actually be ‘less life in me’. Roughly the first hour of my day is usually spent checking my thoughts, my attitude, my heart. It is usually spent in moments of gratitude, and reading through some inspiration. It is an important part of my day, and a routine that I am not prepared to change. For without it (and there have been days where I have been rushed and not taken the time to fully explore the above) I have had some of my worst days – frustrating and slightly miserable.

I really liked the following quote though, and I’ll explain why in a bit :

quotes-about-good-routine

I realised that for me, the key to it all is to let the routine not become routine. When I am grateful for the same three things every day for two weeks, without truly thinking about it and finding other things to be grateful for, then my gratitude has ‘lost its meaning’ – for me anyway. And that too could quickly lead to ‘less life in me’.

(And as a side note – see the different interpretations for that one picture/statement, at the beginning of this blog post? I’ve ‘read it’ differently twice in just this blog post alone – and I am sure if I read it in context with what was before and after, it would have another interpretation entirely. That’s some food for thought in there ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

In my late twenties, I read a book by Bill and Pam Farrel. I don’t know what happened to my copy of it, and it’s one I would actually love to read again. I DO remember that it was quite funny – and oh, so true! ๐Ÿ˜‰
It was called Men Are Like Waffles and Women Are Like Spaghetti.
(It’s clearly a good book, since there was a reprint in 2017 ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

The thought behind it was that men’s minds are like waffles – and they deal with one thing at a time – almost like boxing everything. Us women? We’re a bit more complicated ๐Ÿ˜› We just unpack everything, as such ๐Ÿ˜› Our minds are more like spaghetti – flowing from one thought into the next – we can go from thinking about mascara, and end up talking about scrambled eggs on toast in literally 5 minutes – and it’s our thought processes that take us there. What does mascara have to do with eggs? No idea! But we’re women ๐Ÿ˜‰

So why am I telling you this?

This blog post came from this : I was reading a post that reminded me that it’s okay to not keep focusing on ‘the outcome’. I’ve had two days where I have been running myself ragged – a vet trip, and a doctor’s visit (everyone is fine ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) and the usual household stuff…. and I haven’t got to doing the things I felt I needed to do…. things that would have good outcomes (I hope! ๐Ÿ˜› ) and are quite necessary. And I’ve been so focused on not seeing the results I felt I should be and not accomplishing what I felt was important – looking for tangible outcomes and feeling like a failure because there weren’t any. All I could see was two days of ‘wasted time’.
And in that blog post was a reference to faith – ”faith is detachment from outcome and a confident belief in the source of outcome” – to quote it directly.

(And although my ‘interpretation’ is possibly not quite what the intention was behind the post, it made me think all these things – above, and my further explanation below, ha ha ha!)

Then I got to thinking about faith. What it truly means to me. And how I have no choice but to live in it. And I got to wondering when last I was grateful for that – the fact that I have it. And how maybe these days weren’t wasted, because they meant a lot of driving time, and waiting time, where there was little else to do other than sit and reflect. It was time spent with my Source… not wasted then, right?ย 

And then I thought of sauce! And remembered that I had forgotten to buy the one my son requested from the store earlier today when I was there. That made me think of my ‘pre-pandemic’ normal routine of popping in at ‘my store’ daily, and how that has changed. Which introduced the ‘routine’ side of things, spurred on my by a picture message image, which is the first image I shared here.

Talk about spaghetti! My goodness, it’s sort of exciting to think where my mind will go next – although the rumbling in my tummy is a bit of a giveaway ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’ll end with this : in our lives, we all have routines and schedules, and we make choices and decisions hoping for positive outcomes. There’s a saying that says : Life happens while we’re busy making other plans. And so sometimes our routines and schedules gets disrupted, and we don’t get the positive outcomes we were hoping for. But perhaps we shouldn’t lose heart. Perhaps in that disruption we had the greatest opportunity of all which always leads to the best of outcomes- to feed our souls and practice our faith, and just be with our source.ย 
May you all always find time for that! โค

vulnerable bridges

It’s been an interesting 24 hours. I’ve felt quite overwhelmed, with good things, and bad things. And loadshedding (read the post here) continues…although not quite as bad as it was – we’re down to only being without power for four hours a day – I can handle that!
The funny thing is that even though we’re conscientious with the scheduled times and switch off plugs etc to prevent damage from power surges, the surprise cuts seem to have affected things somewhat. My modem appears to be confused – it seems to think its function is now that of a strobe light ๐Ÿ˜› It’s rather fun watching the internet light go on and off every minute or so. Green…red….green….red…. it’s a special kind of Christmas tree ๐Ÿ˜› adding holiday spirit to my home ๐Ÿ˜‰

With regards to yesterdays post :

Thank you to those of you who have offered support, prayers and encouragement. It is very much appreciated at all times, please know that.

Up until a few months ago, I wasn’t aware that I could be reached at my private email address through WordPress. This isn’t a problem for me at all – as you all know, I love to communicate and make new friends – and of course I am always there for support and encouragement. I’d like to thank one lovely lady in particular for emailing me – I won’t mention her name but she knows who she is – your continued encouragement and outpouring of love and prayers touches my heart deeply.ย 

I did receive another email though, from someone that I wasn’t even aware was reading my blog. The irony of this email is that it’s from an ex-South African, now living overseas, who only returns to SA every few years for a week or two on holiday. I haven’t responded… I guess I’ll do so a little later… or maybe I’ll just leave this here :

I am well aware that yesterdays post was rather negative, and reveals that I have ‘that side’ to me. Unfortunately, living with, working with, seeing and being emotionally involved with the atrocities that are occurring here daily, itย sometimes does affect me in a negative way. My heart is not made of steel. While I have the ability to practice ‘tough love’ in situations where it is called for, this does not mean that I do not shed tears when I am alone, and that it doesn’t affect me in any way.

So in a round about kind of way, this post is actually about vulnerability.

I am an extremely vulnerable person. And no matter how you try to convince me otherwise, I will never see this as a weakness.ย 
I AM an open book. You can pretty much ask me anything, and I will answer you. But I won’t just give you facts. I will share in a way that exposes my emotions and will ultimately open me up to the possibility of getting hurt. How else will I connect with you?

And you see, that’s the thing…. I truly believe that I am designed for the purpose of connecting – not just with God, but with other people. In order to achieve that purpose, unfortunately, I need to make myself vulnerable.ย 

And yes, it means I get ’emotionally hurt’ sometimes. (Other times it is the most rewarding thing for me!) But throughย all those experiences, the rewarding ones and the hurtful ones, I learn life’s greatest lessons, and the crucial skills that I need to continue with living this life.

Raw truth is necessary to connect. But it has another function too. If I am not prepared to be vulnerable and share the truth of my experiences and failings, then how will anyone ever be able to walk away from me knowing hope, kindness, goodness, grace and joy?ย 

I am about to make a statement that many are going to possibly attack me for :
I understand and a part of me has to agree with Ghandi : ”I’d be a Christian if it wasn’t for Christians.”

Except I AM a Christian. And now you’re as confused as a chameleon in a bag of skittles.

So I’ll explain it like this : I grew up in the church. And there were some who didn’t preach God, but showed me who He was. But from a little girl, through various stages in my life, I was emotionally, physically and sexually abused by people in the church who were in positions of leadership. I left in my late teens. I have returned many times, to different places, and found much of the same, sadly – except now it has added judgment for some of the bends in the road of my life.
It has been preached to me on numerous occasions that I am a dying ember – because to be a burning light, I need to be with the coals in the fire – a church. While I understand what they are saying, and agree that it is an amazing thing to worship with a group, I remain a dying ember. I guess? Well, in the churches opinion (and the opinion of most of my family members too). That’s where it all gets confusing, even for me…and we’re talking about me… so confusion reigns! ๐Ÿ˜›

It has taken me a very long time to fully appreciate the statement that ‘God is God, and I am not.’ In the same way, all those people seated in church, as well as all their leaders, are alsoย notย God. Which means thatย like me, they also suffer from sin – hidden or exposed, their choice. They choose to wear masks, instead of being vulnerable enough to admit to their failings. And this means that they never learn anything, and can never be helped. It discredits any good that those who know their secret sins could ever glean from their words or their seemingly perfect lives. By not making themselves vulnerable, they have prevented growth, not just in themselves but in their ‘victims’, because many of those ‘victims’ have turned their backs on God as a result.

I am no longer angry about the abuse I suffered personally. It’s been a long and very difficult road to get to that place. The circumstances surrounding those different types of abuse affected the options that were open to me – and while I could have made different choices, at those times the circumstances affected me negatively and I made a long list of bad choices.

In the past few years, I have grown. And here’s what I know :

I will never come into contact with someone who isn’t loved – I need to be kind always.

I have learned NOT to judge – because I don’t know what choices you actually had. And here’s an additional thing to add to that – take time to find the person they are at that very moment, and not who they were yesterday or last week – based on fact or rumors. Change takes time, but the choice to change takes a minute. By judging and making it known, you may just undo that choice.

Don’t preach it – be it. At the end of the day, my words are meaningless if I can’t show you.

Unconditional love. The hardest of all. So important though because it sums up all of the above, and so much more. I struggle with this particular one a lot. It is hard to love others, especially those who have hurt us. It’s a journey all on its own.ย 
I love my children dearly – but they know when they disappoint or upset or anger me – a statement often used in my house is this : I love you, but I don’t like you right now because…..
And my children have free reign to use it on me. And they have. I have learnt from those moments – sometimes I am unreasonable, and sometimes I have worded things in a hurtful way. If they did not have the opportunity to tell me, “Mom, I love you but I don’t like you right now because…”, we would all live in a war zone in our own home right now. Being able to say this, and then walk away, leaves time for what has been said to sink in. When the initial anger and hurt has passed, there hasย always been apologies, calm discussions and resolution. And the freedom to continue loving and liking one another.

So yes, I am vulnerable, even with my kids. How else do I teach them that not everyone is right all the time, and that even parents/adults fail?

Vulnerability HURTS sometimes! It opens me up to judgment and criticism, and nastiness and negativity. But it also grows, helps and heals.
There may be ten people judging me, attacking me, and hurting me when I am vulnerable enough with admissions of guilt and failings. But there may be ONE person who is listening…. and hurting…. who connects with me and experiences hope in their seemingly hopeless situation; who somehow finds healing in a broken piece of their heart; or feels a kindness that no one else has ever shown them and sparks a ‘kindness seed’ that they in turn sow themselves.ย 

Vulnerability is also sometimes VERY REWARDING! I would not make the beautiful connections and friends that I do along the way if I wasn’t. And many of them patch up broken pieces of my heart in their own way.

And that, for every person who is reading this, is MY purpose in life.

Words and actions WILL hurt me. I WILL spend time crying and experiencing a form of brokenness. I WILL wish that I had a steel heart. And I will have my moments where I fight being ‘good’. I have tried being bitter and angry – I even think nasty thoughts. I have the potential to be all those things – and I’d probably be very good at it. In my head, I do great…for about twenty minutes.

But I WON’T change. And I have come to accept that. I am, and always will be, vulnerable.ย 

(there’s green light on the modem, so I’m hitting publish! ๐Ÿ˜› ๐Ÿ˜‰ )