Posts Tagged ‘Family’

Changing The World Through Resilient Acts: How to Help Children

Happy Children Playing Kids

Happy Children Playing Kids (Photo credit: epSos.de)

I wanted to share a blog with you today on developing resilience in children.  I found this article to be both insightful and reaffirming that I am doing some things “right” with my two children.  What a nice gift!

What I found insightful was the idea of “self compassion,” a term I had not heard of prior to reading this blog.  The idea here is to give yourself a break within a realistic environment.  You want to learn from your actions or the event; you do not want to disregard it too easily.  Here is a quote from the author, Lorraine Hirst, that is worth considering:

Ultimately, my hope is to explain that self-compassion is NOT about instilling a huge sense of awesomeness, as this is the road to narcissism and potential heightened self-criticism. (An ‘I’m OK, you’re not OK’ life position isn’t very helpful to building a cohesive society.) Parents and caregivers can sometimes overdo the self-esteem angle, which is a form of over-indulgence in itself. It is not realistic to think we can all be rock stars, for instance. Firstly, though, a look at our own inner critic is a good starting place for parents and caregivers. If we have self-compassion, then our compassion for others or ability to nurture children in this important life skill will naturally flow.”

The reaffirming part from this article focuses mostly on the second question which centers on helping kids with their resilience.  First acknowledge the event or the feelings and then, second, focus on what might be done  (although “emotional coaching” as a term to describe this is a new one for me too!).  I am reminded by articles such as this one, and by my own experience, that how you choose to view an event is all that matters.  The event itself can be out of our control (or the control of our kids), but how we (or they) view the “after-event” makes all the difference.  Teaching kids to believe in their own abilities and to move in the direction of their own choosing will make them not only more resilient, but more satisfied with life.  They will learn that they can change the world, one act at a time.

Please click on this link to read the article “Expert Insights: Talking About Resilience with Lorraine Hirst of Way2be.me

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Get Over It Already

I know everyone has them.  Bad days can sometimes turn into bad weeks.  I know it happens to everyone.  Still doesn’t make me feel better.  Well, maybe a little.  But not much.

I am just tired.  So very tired.

My bad week has started with one of our long-time nurses, one we depend on very much, just not showing up one morning.  He was “over” (as he put it) the nursing company, and quit.  But we suffered.  Scrambling around to find coverage.  Me serving as the nurse.  Again.  Not that I mind of course.  I love taking care of my husband.  But it’s a lot when you throw in the other stuff.  Like picking up a sick child and trying to tend to his needs.  Trying to pick up milk, butter, and medicine for your husband and literally not being able to leave the house you are in the role of nurse.  Then there are the constant phone calls.  “Who is going to pick up this shift?”  “What are we going to do about X?”  “Let me try to get through to the insurance company.”  There are always the calls, never a break.  And then the bills – new ones this week for a new round of IV antibiotics that are not covered by insurance.  More supplements, more over-the-counter medicine.  Hundreds of hundreds of dollars later, I wonder how I’m going to pay for the electric bill.

Then, on top of all that, just when I think the tide is turning, something else happens.  My husband had a doctor’s appointment this morning.  The nurse helped get Jim ready and down the stairs.  I had phoned a handicapped van service to pick us up.  I dropped off my daughter at a neighbor’s house (my sick son is still with me today), and I’m thinking all is going well and things are taken care of.  Jim was going to get something done at the doctor’s office that should help him.  Okay, it is going to be a good day.  Minutes after the van should be here, it is not.  I call.  The driver is on his way.  More minutes go by.  Finally, it is here and Jim is being loaded into the van.  My cell phone rings and I look at the number – my heart sinks.  It’s the doctor’s office.  “Erica, where are you?”  the nurse asks.  “We are 4 minutes out – max.  The van is just here to pick us up.”  I plead with her to let us come.  A kind person, she puts me on hold to see if the doctor can still squeeze in Jim.  He can’t.  I guess the good news is that I didn’t have to pay for the trip.  So, we unload Jim and frustration abounds.

I’m trying to get over it.  I am.  But, the only time Jim can be squeezed in before the doctor is off for training and conferences is Saturday morning.  Of course we take the appointment.  But, it’s the same time as my son’s soccer game.  I had to miss the game last week.  He had to miss practice on Monday (because I was the nurse that day).  I am just so tired of shuffling things and asking friends for favors.  But I do ask, because frankly I have no other choice.  I am blessed that my friends are so nice. 

So I’m trying to get over it.  I decided a venti skim chi latte from Starbucks will help.  It does a little.  As I drive back from Starbucks, I really do try all the things I know that have helped me in the past.  Nothing is working.  I am frustrated and tired of everything being dictated to me.

But then it happens.  I return home and see it.  My sick son is resting on the chair watching television and my husband is sitting next to him in his wheelchair.  Not ideal for either one of these people.  My son doesn’t feel well and Jim is out of his comfort room and chair.  Still, what a nice sight.  The two most important men in my life hanging out, bonding in a way that so many of us take for granted.  I smile and am happy for the occasion.

Maybe the tides are turning.

The Benefit of “Hanging Out”

English: Map of Lake Michigan. Category:Michig...

English: Map of Lake Michigan. Category:Michigan maps (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A vacation of any sort is good for the soul, but of course, there are many types of vacations, some full of activity and others with some built-in relaxation time.  The recent trip I had with my two small children to Michigan to visit my family there was a nice break, and it definitely had a little of both: lots of activity, but still low-key with enough down time to be helpful.  My kids had a fantastic time with their cousins and I was able to “hang out” and do very normal things, something that I miss on a regular basis.  Because my husband is so ill, my days are usually filled with helping to care for my husband, tending to his needs and the needs of our family, and there is usually very little time left for “hanging out”.  So, while in Michigan, I tried to savor these experiences.  One afternoon, we all went to Lake Michigan.  I watched with such joy as my kids buried each other in the sand, threw balls on the shores, and froze their toes off going into the cold water.  That night, we had a campfire, drank wine, and talked about all kinds of things.  Another afternoon we watched a niece participate in an Irish dance competition and then visited my alma mater, Michigan State University.  We walked by the river, had lunch in a restaurant, and drove around campus.  Other days we visited the zoo, fished and went tubing in the lake, and in general, just “hung out.”  It felt so good to be in this relaxed environment, woes temporarily on the back burner.

One evening, one of my high school buddies came over for a visit.  It had been several years since we saw one another and that last time was at a high school reunion, where talk is often minimized as people are so excited to see as many old friends as possible in the few short hours of the actual reunion itself.  It was so nice to talk with my friend this past vacation trip, just hanging out in my sister’s backyard, drinking a beer and laughing.  It was as if we spoke on a regular basis, without much time passing since the last time.  I was reminded of my friend’s genuineness, her infectious smile, and her overall kindness.  It occurred to me, upon reflection of the night that I am most fortunate in so many ways.  Here was this person, after so many years, still so lovely.  I know that if I needed her, I could call.  I know she would be willing to help.  I know that she cares about me and my family.  What a gift that is.

So what role does “hanging out” play?  Connecting with another person can remind you that there is goodness in the world is an obvious benefit.  Having some down time to laugh is good for the spirit.  Having those moments when you can reflect, even if it is just for a moment, on the small miracles in front of you is important.  In my case, to observe my children in action: how they behave, how they interact with others, how much they have physically grown – all these were all neat to digest.  Hanging out can also give you the extra encouragement or burst of energy you need to make it through the next emotionally-charged and draining time.

When times are so troubled, it may seem very counter-intuitive, but taking a bit of time to “hang out” with friends can be just what you need – medicine for your psyche.

The Sweetness of a Child Can Do That

Study of a Sleeping Child

Study of a Sleeping Child (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last week my son finished his first year of school.  There was a celebration of all the kindergarten classes, where the kids sang and a slide show of the changes over the year were shown on the big screen, complete with great music.  I found myself smiling, reflecting on how quickly that year passed and holding onto my younger child in my lap as I watched with pride and amazement at my son on the stage.  Then I looked to my side at the space that should have been occupied by my husband and my smile faded.  He was in the emergency room.  I had just rushed from the hospital to get my kids and then rushed to get to the celebration – there I was sitting, trying to relax, texting my friends to see if someone could meet me back at home so I could return to the hospital after the festivities.  There I was sitting, still unshowered from the day with an empty belly having had no meals for hours.  There I was sitting, happy and extremely sad at the same time.  Jim was supposed to be here with me.  The plan was we would go as a family.  This statement in and of itself is a big one – it takes a lot to get things in order and coordinated in order to make such an outing possible.  Jim wanted to be there, but of course, in a different context.  He wanted to walk in the room easily as he had during his healthy days.  He wanted to be able to enjoy the moment, breathing freely, just as he had so easily during his healthy days.  He wanted to be an active dad and a healthy one.  I wanted us to be together as a family.  My heart ached as I reminded myself of these facts, the desires so basic and simple in so many ways.

Fortunately the emergency room visit was short this time.  Jim did not have to be admitted into the hospital and what brought him to the ER in the first place had subsided.  I took lots of photos of our son’s celebration, tried to relay the events in as much detail as I could, but of course, I couldn’t come close to capturing anything.  The sadness was so intense.  But then, my sweet daughter decided to fix things. 

After this event, my 3-year old started hugging me so fiercely around the neck that at times it literally hurt.  That night in particular, when I was lying next to her, she turned to me, held my face and kissed me on the cheek.  She repeated this sweetness several more times, turning back and forth as she tossed in and out of sleep.  Finally, she collapsed into her dreams and I stayed awhile longer, studying her face in detail.  I could see the sweet side to her, I prayed this side came out of her naturally and not out of sadness for the circumstances.  But then I realized that this truly was her and how she got to this point was certainly a combination of many factors. 

Both of my children show this sweetness.  They seem to understand subtle things and show extreme concern for them.  Their responses are always refreshing, always welcoming, and always a reminder that things will be alright.  There are blessings to be found everywhere, even on a night that was so contradictory.  The potential to be overwhelmed and sunk was huge, but two little people, ages 5 and 3, sang, smiled, kissed, and beamed with pride, and reminded me that there is good in the world and there will be a better tomorrow.  It becomes alright when a little sweetness at the right time and from the right person comes my way.   My wish for all you that that you too remember the subtle, but oh so important, sweetness in your life; it makes all the difference in the world.

Sadness Verifies Gratitude? Thanks Steve Jobs

Image representing Steve Jobs as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

With Steve Jobs’ recent death, there were many stories to read and hear rightfully paying tribute to this remarkable man.  In one report, I learned of his views of life and death when several years back, he responded to a reporter’s question with saying something like “Death is the one thing that verifies life.”  I’ve tried to find the exact quote by searching on the web, but to no avail.  I found something related on “…death is very likely to be the single best invention of life because death is life’s change agent.”  I guess, it truly doesn’t matter exactly what Mr. Jobs said – it matters what I took from it.  So, I’ve been pondering this idea for several days now.  Does death verify life?  Does death allow you to truly live?  It has made me think about a lot of other things in this same light.  For example, does gratitude really happen only in the context of complete loss and/or troubled times?  I’m not sure I can answer this because I do feel incredibly grateful for many things these days in spite of, or perhaps because of, my husband’s serious health woes and consequently, my less then desirable family life.  I have wondered, would I feel as grateful as I do now for the little things if I didn’t have so much sadness in my life?  Or, would I be feeling like this regardless; if everything in my life was great, would I still know how fortunate I was in so many ways?  Would I take the time to thank people, smile at the wonder of my children, and truly appreciate days that are just run-of-the-mill “normal” as gratifying?

The other night my 5 year old son and almost 3 year old daughter decided to “camp out” in my daughter’s bedroom.  They got out the pop-up tent, dragged out their sleeping mats, brought out the water bottles, the flashlights, the stuffed animals, the blankets, and pretty much anything else they could fit in the tent.  Then they turned on the “stars” and “moon” compliments of a nightlight and a child’s toy.  At one point, they had a campfire of blankets and just giggled and planned.  They were thinking, they were enjoying, and they were so content.  As I watched them with pride, I thought about how fortunate I was.  My children seem happy in spite of their daddy being so sick and his inability to interact with them as he would like.  My children were just living in the moment.  They acted on their desires, and made it happen.

Some people, I am sure, would argue that I am not strict enough with the kids and that (among other things) they should have been going to bed that camping night since it was past their bedtime.  On top of that, they were making a big mess in the bedroom and that mess was likely to be there for days following.  Still, I believe in letting people, including children, make their own decisions, taking from these decisions their own lessons, and allowing enough flexibility and freedom for people to become who they want to become.  On that particular night in question, and after considering the potential negative fallout from the camping session, I rolled the dice and thought it was fine for them to stay up awhile longer and have fun.  I was grateful for their creative minds, and will continue to do what I can to help nurture this aspect of their personalities.

As I sat back and watched my kids play, laugh, and hug one another, I was truly grateful.  I thanked God for giving me wonderful kids and for such moments.  I was reminded how fortunate I am that my kids are surrounded by many caring friends and family members who do so many nice things for us.  I was reminded how my children were playing in their bedrooms and that, despite huge medical bills and debt, we were still living in the same house and making things work.  After these minutes of true bliss and gratitude, a few moments later, I swung the other way and wondered if I would be relishing as I was if my husband was healthy and we didn’t have the years of heavy sadness and work.  Ultimately, with Steve Jobs’ help, I think I have decided that one positive from all this yuck in my life currently, is the genuine gratitude that I know.  Where I will never truly know if my gratitude would have developed and matured into what it currently is if my husband was healthy, I am certain of this: I know gratitude on a different level thanks to the adversity.  I understand genuine thankfulness and I have learned that complete sadness does verify gratitude.

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