So I Just Waxed My Daughter’s Leg

Not legs. Leg. And not even the whole leg. It was basically half of a leg.

There’s a reason why “Wax a Leg” has yet to hit the Top Things to do in Houston or Anywhere Else on the Planet list this year, and that reason is this. It sucks. Big frickin’ time. Nevertheless this was one of the more significant dicey parenting choices that I selected for today.

Although I will remain perpetually baffled at God’s decision to have me personally bake and subsequently care for three small humans of my own, I do try to make the best decisions I can for those miniature people. The issue is that the term “best decision” has proven to be a severely grey area that is frequently clear as mud until said decision has either proven to be a good one or a mega crapfest of a choice. The jury is still out on the hair removal du jour, but here’s the story at this point.

When a girl begins to bloom into the beauty of becoming a woman… Blech! Did you just throw up in your mouth a little, too? Who talks like that? (Way too many tampon commercials – that’s who.) Allow me to try this again.

There is no blooming occurring. The issue is simply this – my kid has furry legs, and she is too old to look like she is actively playing the role of Mr. Tumnus, the friendly faun from Narnia. Being a southern girl myself, I’m of the belief that if you are to the point in your life where you need a bra and deodorant, it’s time for your legs to exit the wolf pack.

I seriously contemplated teaching her how to shave, but the idea of handing a razor to my kid sounded good NEVER. Admittedly it’s a quicker approach on a single session basis, but shaving is never a single session anything. It is a commitment to a daily(ish) dance with a blade sliding around one’s knees, backs of legs, and whatever other south of the border action in need of landscaping. Without a doubt, waxing hurts hard core at first, but anyone who has gone that route multiple times will confirm that it gets much better. In addition you have to wax once a month maybe. The pain of waxing decreases dramatically, but that accidental slice of the razor never fades in the slightest. Depilatory creams stink to high heaven, and laser hair removal is crazy expensive and also quite painful.

I really did give the various alternatives extensive thought before initiating the world’s crappiest mother / daughter spa session. Ultimately, I felt like a couple of distinctly unfun bouts of waxing would far outweigh future winter leg fuzz so bristly that wire brushes would feel envious as well as the countless accidental razor slices in the years to come. Sadly (but not surprisingly), my preemptive evaluations were neither here nor there to my poor little she-wolf cub.

Naturally she loved all ten thousand swipes that jerked countless hairs out of each square millimeter of skin, and she heartily requested that I please just beat her in a burlap sack for our next girls’ only event. Because we were enjoying that special time together so much, we opted to hold off on de-furring the remaining thigh and entire other leg (because we ran out of wax and it was too effing stressful to even consider tackling lamb shank # 2).

So now I have a tweenager that has one lady leg and one puppy paw. My poor kid. Incredibly she is still speaking to me, and even more incredibly, we actually plan to finish both legs whenever the additional wax arrives.

Did I make the best choice on her behalf? I have no freaking clue. As I said, this is a long game approach, so only time will tell. I do have another daughter waiting in the wings, so maybe we will test run shaving on her when the time comes. Whichever teenager requires less therapy will win, and we can then inform the other she-wolf cubs accordingly. Based on this post, I am confident that ample therapy will be involved for all family members discussed herein, so perhaps we should consider devising an alternate evaluation system for best leg hair removal practices.

I’m not asking for anyone’s blessing on this. We all fly the parenting dysfunction flag in our own magical way, so no one else has to agree. In fact, you are welcome to judge me. I get it. Really. Try though you might, nobody in the world judges my parenting with greater severity than I do. But I draw the line at furry bra-less daughters with that naturally fresh scent of b.o. that burns all surrounding nose hairs. I just wish that there was a less painful alternative for all parties involved. Being a woman is rough stuff, and the coming of age crap we deal with is not for the faint of heart (or leg). Thankfully, my daughter is quite feisty (probably learned behavior from all that time with the wolves) and can survive anything that heads her way – even her own mom.

Bear hugs to all.  Jo

***My daughter is a total bad ass and actually handled today with tremendous bravery. In truth, we discussed the plan before we began. Of course talking about the discomfort of waxing in no way prepares anyone for the reality of experiencing the “discomfort” of waxing. Regardless she handled it so much better than I could have ever expected. That kid is a rockstar, and I adore her beyond words – fuzz and all.  😉

Another Jo Project – A Daughter’s Room Makeover Surprise with Ocean and Beach Themed Design and Decor

***Originally posted on https://anotherjoproject.com/.

1hannah after - window and desk - ocean and beach decor IG

I struggle with a tremendous amount of anxiety when my kids are away. It’s a long-standing pattern within my persona, and my therapy of choice for stress relief is to tackle another self-created project. To my husband’s great dismay, it’s an endless task, but I do turn out some fun results at times. So when my children went away to camp this past week, I channeled that nervous energy into decorating my daughter’s room.

She had been asking me to create an ocean and beach themed room for her since we moved into this home several months ago. Her walls remained bare because I had yet to put her room at the top of the design agenda. I didn’t have a design plan in mind, but I typically don’t until I get to work on a specific space. Regardless I was certain that it was going to be a monster project. Consequently it was perpetually hanging at the caboose end of the “Rooms Still Pending Design Work” list.

3hannah before - window wall

Although her room was bland, she kept it lively with random and ever-changing mountains o’ crap. As the mountains weren’t her optimal theme, she patiently waited her turn. To her sincere credit, she never complained nor did she make the slightest fuss when multiple other rooms were completed long before her own. As she had no idea that I was going to do anything to her room (likely because I came up with the plan minutes before her departure), it was a tremendous surprise for her (and an excellent time crunch motivator for me).

1hannah before - bed wall

To put it mildly, this room was a serious beast to knock out in under a week but I had been stockpiling a few ocean and beachy knick-knacks here and there. Thankfully Amazon Prime and Hobby Lobby were able to fill in a substantial amount of the gaping holes of my unplanned approach.

4hannah after - desk wall - ocean and beach decor IG

5hannah after - window wall - ocean and beach decor IG

 We also created several large display pieces with some unused distressed wood that we still had on hand from an office wall project I put together several months ago (that’s a separate post for another day). The pieces included a unique picture frame holder, a wreath display, and a name board. From a skill perspective, these weren’t difficult to complete. However from a time and pain in the butt-ness perspective, they were projects I would not recommend one do in a limited timeframe. I will write a post with DIY tips on how to create these for those who are interested.

Incredibly, we completed the room and put on the finishing touches right before we ran out the door to pick the kids up at the end of their camp week. It was exhausting beyond words, but her wonderfully shocked and ecstatic reaction made it all worth while.

2hannah after - bed and dresser - ocean and beach decor IG

More often than not, my life fails to look like the stuff of Hallmark movies. We mess up constantly. Lose our tempers. Get it wrong and then find a way to make it even worse.

But every now and then, we really get it right. And when that happens, it’s an immense gift to all of us.

I believe strongly in the value of creating a personal space that makes a person feel good, and it is extremely important to me that my family feels that their home is warm, inviting, and special. I love that I was able to create this room for my daughter because her elation with calling it her own is palpable.

Rejoice in the big parenting wins when they happen, but find joy in the smallest of good moments as well. It doesn’t have to be a room redo or a massive surprise. A simple “I love you” in the morning or a sweet note in a lunchbox is a world changer for children.

It’s not about the presents. It’s about your presence. Be there, see them, and let them know that no ocean in the world is anywhere near as deep as your love for them.

If you would like help with your kids’ rooms, drop me a line. If you have fun posts on your child room decor, I would love to hear about that, too!

I wish the very best to you all!  🙂

Jo Price

***Originally posted on https://anotherjoproject.com/.

To the Young Ones – Being a Nerd Won’t Always Hurt Like It Does Today

While my son was away from his seat at the cafeteria today, another child thought that it would be hilarious to throw his lunch / lunch bag into the trash can. Apparently the kids had been hiding his backpack during lunch on other days, but this is the first time that one of the items actually made it into the garbage.

The obvious question seems to be, “Knowing this dynamic, why leave your stuff unattended around those creeps, and why sit there anyway?” Well the school is very funny about keeping tables to a specific number of children. The old “I put my stuff there first so it’s my seat” rule is law. Weird? I think so. The way it is? Yes. Also that happens to be where my son’s friends sit, and, understandably, he wants to sit by them.

Middle school lunch can be social quicksand. Despite being well aware of this dynamic, my heart felt raw as I listened to my son tell me about how he had to dig through the school trash can to fish his lunch out of it. My sadness turned to anger when he told me how it was soaking wet from the discarded food and drinks and how he had to carry the bag with him to all of his remaining classes. He handed me one of his final exam reviews that is due tomorrow. It reeked of garbage and was shredded from being soaked. Normally he would have had a backpack for his assignments, but backpacks aren’t allowed during finals week. Instead he kept it in his lunch bag because there was nothing in there that would have messed it up. Apparently the only crap that could cause damage was in fact sitting in seats adjacent to said bag.

I’m tired of the immature jackass behavior that is rife in schools today. I’m even more exasperated with a feckless school disciplinary system that does nothing to wake these jerks out of their collective cruel stupor. The bullies believe that their meanness is comical, and although I will bring up this nonsense with the school administration, there will be no real consequence. Hope you nerds enjoy your garbage-flavored lunches and shredded assignments compliments of the social lemmings!

Unfortunately, as the years go by, you will find that the jerks and bullies still manage to fly their creep flags in full color. The social drama and cliques that people should outgrow after middle and high school will continue to appear more often than you can fathom. Social media amongst adults is uglier than any kid you ever saw. Some people in your life will find ways to hurt you to a degree that you could never even imagine.

Nevertheless, it does get better. Once you get older, you get to choose. You choose your partners, your friends, your job. You decide where you will live, what you will wear, and how you spend your time. You realize thay sometimes you roll your eyes at the craziness of it all, walk away from the computer, and put your phone on silent. Athough you may not always like your range of choices, they are yours to make. You get to decide the kind of life you want to live and with whom you will spend that precious time.

You learn to own who you are, and you stop apologizing for being different. You realize that you don’t want to be the same as everyone else. In fact, you want to shine in your own unique way. You don’t need for every person who knows you to like you, and you realize that all the “perfect” and “popular” people around you have plenty of problems of their own.

You just have to get through this part now. And when something else comes along that delivers your spirit another kick, don’t give in then either. It always gets better if you can muster a shred of hope and give it a little more time.

Don’t allow anyone else to put out your spark, and don’t sacrifice your light to someone else who stumbles in a moment of darkness. Never ever forget that their unkind actions are a reflection of who they are, not who you are.

So often the outcasts of the world are the very people who change it for the better. The nerds shake up the status quo, shape our minds, and provide vision to us all. The ones who are different are the ones who make a difference.

As a parent, it scratches my core raw when my children hurt like this. It takes everything within me to maintain a cool emotional facade because all I want to do is cry. I wouldn’t wish this pain on anyone, least of all my own darling children, and I know what it’s like to feel like you are watching the world from the outside. I understand being consumed by deep loneliness and feeling like you are being excluded. I don’t want this pain for my amazing family.

But taking a <a href=”http://retrospective“>retrospective look at my life also allows me to see that those same painful experiences have shaped me into a better person. While I still feel a heavy sadness at the memory of the cruelties I endured, I wouldn’t go back in time and change them. I developed strength, sass, and spitfire, and I will never allow anyone to take that away from me. It took me a long time to know it, but I can tell you this now – I am a serious bad ass. And in case you haven’t figured it out yet on your side, you are, too. You just have to own it.

You have been dealt this hand because you are strong enough to survive it and wise enough to learn from it. Treat others with the kindness you would want to receive. Be braver than those who can’t survive outside of the herd. Allow the light of your uniqueness to shine without shame even if others try to shut you down. And just in case the jerks are out and about, maybe wear pants with pockets so you can carry hand sanitizer and a snack. 😉

You may feel like people don’t see you now, but they will. You can’t hide light like that forever. So keep shining. Always

Love, light, sass, uniqueness, spitfire, wonder, and nerdiness to you – Jo

Retrospective

Parenting a Child in a World of Rapid Technological Changes

A long time ago in a house not so far, far away, I didn’t have children yet. Nevertheless I knew what I wouldn’t and wouldn’t allow them to do if I ever did. I would be a firm parent but always maintain a fun-loving atmosphere. My spouse and I would set rules and boundaries that would be agreed upon by all and we would avoid the obvious pitfalls that inevitably consumer Dr. Phil’s rotation of daily wailing families. Intelligence, consistency, and love would govern our family at all times.

Unsurprisingly to any parent in the universe, a flushing sound was heard in the background within seconds of the birth of my first child, and I watched every parenting certainty go swirling down the tubes out of sight never to be seen again. My former pre-parent list of “I would never … if those were my kids” items morphed into my actual parent list of “Questionable Choices Made Today” items. The only truism I now recognize without question is that before I had children, I didn’t have the slightest clue.

Parenting should be defined as the act of trying to make good choices while being faced with uncertain decisions, cloudy possibilities, and a heap of exhaustion. The one hour television shows that taught us how to parent with kindness and consistency didn’t cover the remaining twenty-three hours of the day nor did they detail the thousands of days to come after that.

And then you introduce technology onto the parenting scene. Bleh. These electronic wonders that were designed to make life easier and more entertaining are huge problems. The pre-parent me wouldn’t have seen that. That me put technology-saturated kids in the same category as fat dogs. Show me evidence that proves that your husky husky is opening up the fridge and making a butter and cream sandwich while the humans are sleeping. Perhaps he has a thyroid issue, or maybe he’s just big-boned. If not, he has likely become an adorable sausage with feet because the only resident individuals with thumbs happen to be overfeeding him. We’ve had a under-tall / over-fluffy canine of our own, so don’t start foaming at the mouth.

I saw the same dynamic with regard to kids and tech. A large part of me still agrees with the bulk of that assessment today. Very few children buy their own devices, and I have yet to meet a fifth grader who could give me cogent details regarding reasons that led them to a 24 month contract with their current internet service provider. Parents and caregivers almost exclusively hold the keys to the internet and cell phone kingdom, but much like everything else, it’s not that cut and dry.

Schools expect children to have technology in the classrooms for access to research and various apps. Outside of school, many children are also active on social media. My husband and I are social media buzzkills and therefore prohibit our children from having these kinds of accounts at this point in their young lives. We see too many adults behaving like means kids online, so we can’t imagine how far children would be willing to go. With that said, I did set up an Instagram account for my daughter’s photography work, but her contributions are sent to me and I post them. She has zero direct access. It’s not that I don’t trust her. It’s that I ABSOLUTELY DON’T TRUST HER. She’s brilliant and low on the trouble scale, but ultimately, she’s a kid! It is standard in the land of kid-dom to look to the “bonehead and no clue about the consequences” choices category when there are extensive other available alternate selections in the “obviously better and trouble-free” choices category.

As parents, we want to believe that our children would neeeeever make a poor decision like XYZ because we repeatedly taught them not to do anything like that ever ever ever. The problem is that those well-educated children still believe that we are the real boneheads feeding them made up stories and that ultimately we don’t know what we are talking about. So when my husband was scanning the kids’ phones a few days ago and discovered that our daughter did XYZ the other day, it was another monster parental wake up call. Her XYZ du jour happened to be creating a Twitter account without our knowledge. Thankfully she only set it up with her email address. And photo. And full name. And birthday. Aaaand frickin’ home address. Oh yes. She so did.  I’m only surprised that she didn’t come to me to request her social security number for her bio deets.

Do I really believe that she was intentionally trying to put her info out there for anyone in the world to see? Not in the slightest. A friend of hers already had a Twitter account, and our daughter wanted one, too. She had set up the account with her full information because those were the standard blanks (that most internet aware individuals would either skip or flag as private data).

Had we previously spoken with her on numerous occasions about information sharing and the dangers of giving out her personal data? Of course. Had we explained repeatedly that she would need to provide an opener for the can o’ whoop ass that we would be accessing if she were ever to set up an online account without our permission? Naturally. Did my child know better? Yes.

And no.

She clearly knew that she was not allowed to set up any accounts on the computer without our permission. That part made me mad. However she didn’t have the slightest comprehension about what someone else could do with that level of data. And that part terrified me. Hasta la never kid Twitter account.

Admittedly her move was not quite as fab as that of my friend’s young daughter. This precocious internet rockstar decided to set up her dad with a Match.com account without his knowledge. She keyed in his actual personal information and noted that he was looking to date senior citizen gay men. They promptly deleted the account as soon as they were notified about its existence via a signup confirmation email. While neither parent has issues with senior citizen gay men, they aren’t quite ready to go the open relationship route nor are they looking to post their personal information online.

Maybe their daughter simply believed that her dad had worked too hard for too long and was merely trying to find him a short-term sugar daddy with a long-term payout option. Speaking personally, I strongly disagree with the parents’ decision to delete the account. What if Elton John had been online moments later and feeling frisky??? NO ONE SHOULD RISK MISSING THAT CALL. But alas, the account is now gone forever like a candle in the wind.

You can’t make this crap up. While one might be tempted to give them props for initiative, creativity, and true comedic style, neither their daughter nor ours saw the dangers in their actions. What if Elton had called? That girl could be left fatherless now. Or maybe she would have multiple fathers (one of whom would have a far better wardrobe than she could ever imagine – imagine the years of insecurity she would have to survive). And then there’s the whole “extensive personal data that doesn’t belong on the internet” thing.

At least I have another darling who is a few years older and would never make those poor choices. He prefers alternate poor choices including an ongoing penchant for circumventing or outright breaking the app lock I have on his phone (it keeps them from downloading, deleting, or accessing various applications). I don’t know how this mini-hacker does what he does, but I strongly suspect that I purchased an app designed by a five-year old. (I call quality apps such as these crapplications.) So when we discovered that he did his own magical app lock unlock feat yet again, I went on a wide-reaching tech raid at home. Both phones are resting snugly on my nightstand as I type and the power cords to the game systems have gone into hiding.

Image result for fork knife meme

Somehow there are other parents who are even more clueless than I. Thank you for displaying your tech noob-ness online and at Best Buy. Take heart though. It’s been years yet I still can’t get used to the word pnw.

The problem is that banishing the tech quickly goes from general punishment to making your child a social pariah. When we were kids, we did wild and crazy things like play outside and talking to each other about anything at all. This might still be possible with the littles, but it isn’t as common for the bigs and even more unlikely if are not within walking or biking distance of their pals.

On a temporary basis, I’m all good with rule breaking resulting in no game playing. It’s back to the “your dog is a chunk, so put less food in his bowl” approach. It seems obvious, right? But literally within days, they can become extremely isolated from their peers.

Recent studies have shown that ten zillion and three kids play games like Fortnite (or Fork Knife for you nerd-challenged parents whom I adore). When they do this, most play via online interactive teams with their friends who are also playing from their own homes. If children aren’t part of the specific teams, they don’t have that shared experience. If they don’t have the shared experience, they don’t have anything to talk about at school the next day. Or the next day. Or the next. The same goes for lack of access to YouTube or social media. If you have ever attempted having a conversation with a techie kid about anything offline, you may find that it’s short but probably not too sweet. They no longer know how to converse with adults or comfortably connect with their peers at a personal level without an intermediary – technology.

I do recognize that this problem is in no way applicable to every child, but this is a pervasive problem for countless our families. Too many brilliant teenagers struggle with basic writing and are unable to have face to face conversations. Meals are spent with a fork in one hand and a phone in the other. I saw an article detailing the extreme loneliness the younger generations are currently experiencing. No surprise there. Even when they are together, they might as well be in a room by themselves with a phone or remote. Everything circles around moment to moment entertainment and stimulation. Video to video to video and game to game to game and site to site to site. We see it everywhere we go.

How do I get in front of this now? How can I keep my children from falling into the electronic rabbit hole? I could choose to trust my children and recognize that they are inherently good people with caring involved parents. Yes they will make mistakes, but ultimately, they will learn from those errors in judgement in the long run.

ERRRRR – Wrong! They are too young, too naive, and way too accessible.

Well I guess could banish the phones forever, turn the game console power cords into wreaths that I could then be sold on Etsy, and smash the laptops thus firmly committing the family to smoke signals and paper. That feels closer to right but still no dice.

The honest truth is that I don’t have a solid answer. The approach that feels like the best option for our family in this moment is to learn from other parents who have been there done that and research alternate security apps. We are also setting heavier restrictions in the device security options, tossing the crapplications, paying for a service through our cell provider that will send us detailed phone and web activity, and setting router limits that will throttle their internet and game time whenever we become too distracted or exhausted to notice that it is needed.

We can’t afford to become complacent nor can we ever turn a blind eye to the need to protect our darlings from the very real dangers who are actively trying to find them. If you think I’m being dramatic, take a glance at the lovely emails that were sent straight to your spam folder. Now imagine that they are being sent to directly to your child instead and that your kid decides to read and respond to them. Are you okay with that? Are you comfortable with those people speaking with your children, knowing where they live, and establishing a friendly relationship with them? If you are, not only are we on different pages, but I’m pretty sure that we aren’t even in the same book.

We must continue to educate our children and keep this conversation active with them. They need to hear the words, and their vocal cords could probably use the practice in return. Stay involved, keep your eyes open, and stop calling it Fork Knife (unless I am within earshot because I can always use a good laugh).

Best wishes to you always – Jo

Rapid

Stifle the Judgement and Recognize Childhood Anxiety

When you believe that you are the reigning panic attack champion of your familial crew, you are faced with a tough reality when you recognize that your child also struggles with extreme anxiety challenges. My concern has been growing as I have watched my child stumble through her schooling with increasing regularity over the past few months. Her grades have slipped, and while she still does fairly well on average, she just seems disconnected.

I do not believe that the mass education system is an ideal fit for a large portion of the children in today’s classrooms, and for a great many, it’s more about surviving than thriving. This is not a new problem. Nevertheless I maintain a strong commitment to the belief that people will match your expectations of them. I push my children to lose the excuses and work hard. I am not looking for perfection, but I won’t accept sloth or apathy either.

So when I received an email letting me know that my daughter had achieved a seriously underwhelming 45 (out of 100) on a grade, I was significantly less than thrilled. I quickly moved from confused into angry. By the time I picked her up from school and could ask her about the grade, I had made it all the way to furious.

me – “How in the world did you make a 45? Aren’t your grades important to you?”

her – Silence. Eyes glazed over while staring blankly out of the car window.

me (fuming and in total disbelief at her indifference) – “Look at me when I am speaking to you! Don’t you understand how one grade like this will affect your average? Doesn’t this bother you at all?”

her (facing me and responding in a sad quiet tone) – “I do care, but the teacher said that it’s too late to turn my paper in now.”

me (steam coming out of my ears and as I frothed at the mouth) – “You didn’t turn it in!?!?  You actually know that you didn’t do the assignment at all? So really you should have received a zero and that 45 was a gift? Did you forget to do the work or did you just blow it off?”

her – “No, Mom. I wrote a paper about some rocks we collected, but I couldn’t find the last page when I was supposed to turn it in. I told her that I was missing the page when she asked everyone for their papers, and she said that she didn’t know what to tell me.”

me (about to get a serious parenting wake up call) – “So what did you do with the rest of the paper that you still had?”

She looked away again and gave a little shrug of her shoulders.

me (instantly realizing what had really happened and feeling like I was on the receiving end of a well-earned gut punch) “You threw the entire paper away because you were missing that one paper.”

She nodded.

And in that moment, I felt my heart twist and break. I finally saw her and understood what had occurred. Her problem had not been one of indifference but rather her inability to see past the panic. She had been so distraught about missing one page in a report that she couldn’t think about potential solutions like asking for partial credit or requesting the opportunity to rewrite that individual page. Her mind chose the path of least resistance – shut this problem down by discarding it.

Her challenge was her extreme anxiety. Mine was my complete inability to recognize her struggle before applying my own assumptions and misjudgements. She had needed support, but I had gone on the attack instead.

I face anxiety struggles constantly, yet I still forget how debilitating the most innocuous of moments can become when panic attacks hit. You couldn’t pay me all of the money in the world to convince me to spend one year of my life as a kid in school again, but I watch my children head there every day and think nothing of it.

All children face challenges, but those who deal with anxiety disorders experience them at an exponential level. Some wear their emotions on their sleeves as they cry, rage, or have panic attacks. Others appear entirely indifferent and unaffected despite the turmoil within. There are always clues to be found, but these hints are quickly obscured when misunderstandings and snap judgements enter the scene. When that happens, the hurt grows and opportunities to learn and heal vanish.

We push our children because we worry about them. We become angry when they stumble because we want them to succeed. In our efforts to help them to avoid various hardships, we create others to take their place. We seek to train them on the intricacies of life, yet we miss the most basic of lessons that they constantly offer us. We have to ask more questions, dig deeper into their stories, and stifle the judgements if we truly want to understand what is happening in their worlds. As parents, we believe that we are our children’s greatest teachers, but the real truth is that they are ours.

Love and light always – Jo

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/stifle/”>Stifle</a&gt;

Childhood Depression and Anxiety – Avoid Feeding the Monster

Having grown up with depression and anxiety challenges as a child, I constantly watch my kids for the signs I once showed. Do they like to stay in bed all day? Are their moods reflective of the bipolar disorder that once consumed me? Do their emotions soar to elation only to come crashing back down to utter blackness in an instant (beyond normal hormonal kid madness)? Do they grow so dark that I cannot see their light shining through? Do they become excessively focused on negative scenarios? Do they see themselves as being broken? Are they unusually connected to the pain of others? Do they talk about suicide?

For me, the answers would have been clear to those close to me by the time I was in middle school. In hindsight, I knew that I was struggling beyond the norm before I was even out of elementary school. Was there anything that my parents or anyone else could have done that would have steered me in another direction? The plain truth is this – I really don’t know.

Please note that I am not a trained medical professional nor am I a psychologist of any kind. The only role in therapy I have ever served is as the person on the sofa with sad tales, zombie-chic runny mascara eyes, and a box of someone else’s tissues at the ready. If you are looking for professional medical advice, you won’t find it in anything that I write. Also I should disclose that I can’t teach you how to iron either. Those skills just aren’t in my wheelhouse, and I don’t plan to add them anytime soon.

I am speaking as an individual who survived the blackest nights of being clinically depressed and terribly suicidal. I am speaking as a person who doesn’t just hope that recovery is possible – I know that it is a reality. When I tell people that I no longer have depression, I mean that with absolutely sincerity. I’m not going to lie – I can be a serious bitch, and I am highly explosive at times and heavily in the doldrums at others. But that is not the same as what I experienced decades ago. Not even close.

When I was growing up, we faced some extremely stressful situations. Based on every other family I now know and reality (as I perceive it today), it appears that my genetic pool has never maintained a corner on the stress market. Everyone has stuff. Everyone has stories. Bad yucky sad tales and heart-wrenching experiences. It’s just the way the humanity cookie crumbles.

So when major unfun stuff happens in or to my own family now, I look even closer to see how my children respond. Are they emotionally drowning or are they temporarily set back but heading back toward being okay? Do they disappear for hours and hours to hang out by themselves in their rooms for days? Do they withdraw from actual humans and get lost endlessly in mindless technology time? Does the bulk of their artwork or writing reflect heavy emotional tones? When I see these behavior patterns kick in, I remember my own downward spiral, and I act immediately to try to prevent my children from entering that treacherous ride.

While I recognize without question that there is a true physiological element to depression (thus why I fear that my children could have it), I also believe that we have the ability to circumvent and rewire that part of our makeup. Consequently when I see them displaying a behavior that appears to be “feeding the depression monster” (ramping up the potential for greater negative mental feedback), I immediately try to redirect their actions.

One of the rotten parts about being a kid is that you only have as much freedom as you are given by the adults around you. One of the best parts of being an adult is recognizing how you can use that dynamic to help your children when they need it most.

Here are a few specific examples I have used in the past month:

  • On multiple occasions, we have forced the older kids to turn off their emo sad FM music, leave their rooms, and come hang out for family night. We eat food that they like, we watch goofy movies together or play games, and ultimately, we end up spending hours laughing instead of emotionally stewing solo. Everyone goes to bed feeling like it was a good day because that’s how we closed it out.
  • My son told me that he was writing some very heavy and sad poems at school, and that he wanted to focus on writing this way because the other kids were so impressed by his depth. I’m not looking to raise Edgar Allan Poe II nor do I feel like this is good long-term brain food at all. I said nevermore to that crap and told him that I wanted to see a balance in his writing. I even called his writing teacher on the sly to let her know the importance of her being aware of this dynamic, too. She was glad that I contacted her and said that she had assumed that he was a deep-thinking writer with a heavy style. We agreed that he could still express his emotions while finding more balance via incorporating the positive emotional elements as well. She is encouraging him to find balance in class, and I work iinon this at home.  My son and I now talk about his writing every couple of days. I encourage him no matter what, but I try to focus my highest praise on the positive works. This isn’t about squashing his true feelings. It’s about programming his brain to point toward the half full glass version of thinking versus automatically seeing a smashed cup of darkness weilded by a creepy raven.
  • My kids get frustrated with the behaviors of some of the other children around them.  As fate would have it, it turns out that really small people can be seriously big buttheads (that is the scientific term for heavy duty jerkfaces). Instead of focusing on all the garbage that those other kids do, we try to find something good in them, and if that is a lost cause at that moment, we try to come up with an alternate good thing that happened that day to focus on instead.

The key to this is mental and emotional redirection. As parents,we want our children to know that we hear them and that we see them. We seek for them to feel emotionally validated, and we want them to be able speak to us with openness and honesty.

However as parents, we also need to show them which emotions are beneficial for them on a regular basis. Everyone is allowed to be sad and angry sometimes. We are even permitted to rage and be devastated. But we cannot allow those emotions to be our baseline. We have to help them figure out what emotions should be the outliers and what should constitute healthy daily living. We have to enlighten them on the obvious. It’s truly okay to not be okay sometimes, but ultimately it feels better to feel better.

Personally I find it cathartic to have a good solid cry every now and then. I have a handful of gut-punching songs, TV shows, and movies that are certain to do the trick if needed. Sometimes I’m just want to be a bear, and I don’t want to be cheered up dammit!

But even then, I still try to maintain awareness of how far I can let those emotions run. I only allow myself to take it so far. If this goes on for several days, I take steps to shift how I’m feeling by turning on funny shows and upbeat music. I change the channel when the heavy stuff appears until I can watch it without feeling emotionally inundated. I force myself to get out of the house and do something that doesn’t stink even if it’s something as simple as going to a plant store (Jo❤️🌸4ever).

It’s same story with the kids, but I attempt to expedite the process. I choose to change their sadness channels as quickly as I can. They don’t have the awareness to pull out of the spiral, so I do the best I can to steer them safely away from it instead. I refuse to allow them to feed the sadness or desire for isolation.

Can I guarantee that my children won’t face severe depression? No. Not at all. Do I know for certain that they will never face the darkest moments of feeling suicidal? It terrifies me to recognize that I can’t say yes to that either.

But I have seen that their hours of heaviness can be turned to moments of joy. I am certain that being aware of the warning signs and red flag behaviors might offer us opportunities to intervene in innocuous yet effective ways.

There are times when we can stop them from embracing the negativity. They are moments when we can avoid validating increased unhappiness by focusing on finding something to laugh at or something to do that makes them smile instead. The key is to figure out how to flip the switch the other direction in a way that engages your child.

I pray for blessings for all who struggle with depression and anxiety. Whether you are the one who is experiencing those challenges or you are the one who is trying desperately to send a lifeline to another navigating them, it is so very important to choose joy whenever you possibly can. There are numerous options for treatment, and I strongly recommend that anyone in need should seek available help. Please know that depression does not have to be a lifelong sentence. Stop the downward spiral whenever possible. Feed the best, not the beast.

Love and light to you always – Joanna

Enlighten

Another Weekend Morning

IMG_20171007_113023.jpgBefore 5am was able to an appearance on the clock this morning, I could hear the not so sweet sounds of one of the dogs barfing on the plush carpet of my bedroom floor next to me. It needs to be extra thick in order to be able to adequately absorb whatever may be hurled its way. Naturally I thought to myself, “Wait…is it Mother’s Day already?” But no. It was just another weekend morning.

So my husband and I jumped out of bed joyfully (as indicated by the way we were yelling at each other) to split up the tasks of collecting supplies to clean the cushy barf sponge and chasing the dog into the bathroom where she could (and did) upchuck a few more times on the tile. Thankfully we were able to wrap up the barf-fest and go back to bed for a few more hours.

sara splat

This is my kid, and this is how I felt after wrapping up round 1 of my morning.

When we awoke (again), my husband left to pick up our middle daughter who had spent the night at a friend’s house. We rarely allow our children to go to or have sleepovers. We have found that it’s typically just easier to let the kids play together at whomever’s house and then send them back same day while ending on a high note.

But this is one of our daughter’s dear friends, and she hadn’t seen her for months. We gladly made an exception when they invited our child to stay at their home. So when morning part 2 rolled around, my husband left to go pick her up from their home. I texted the other mom to see how it went, and she told me that they had a blast. Yay! The yay was short-lived when she added the text about how funny my kid was.

I love me some good funny anything, but I have learned that my daughter and I have significantly different opinions on what does and doesn’t belong in this category (which is pretty ridiculous because it takes almost nothing to entertain me). And if she was doing her version of funny, she was about to be in a doghouse of her own.

I was praying that I was wrong, but in case I wasn’t, I asked if burping was involved. And of coooourse it was.

Dammit.

It’s not that I go bazerk because my daughter burps sometimes. That action alone wouldn’t thrill me, but I wouldn’t totally flip out either. Let’s face it – she’s a kid. But my daughter doesn’t burp. That word is in no way adequate to capture what she does. If you have ever seen the movie “Revenge of the Nerds” – and if you haven’t, what the eff is that about because it’s an epic 80’s classic – just think of Booger. She a pretty version of that of that gnarly dude.

The even better news is that she worked overtime during the sleepover because she made it a point to show those parents her mad gross guy skillz while also attempting to teach their daughter how to do it, too. Yes. My kid. I’m so proud. It’s strange that they didn’t ask to schedule another sleepover right then and there.

“Hello Amazon. Could you possibly send that doghouse we thought we might be needing via rush delivery? Great!”

My kid found herself on ice as soon as she walked in the door. Tons of chores, no electronics, and the worst of all punishments – being forced to watch “Peppa Pig” with her little sister. Enjoy THAT.

Morning joy part 2 couldn’t depart fast enough. I needed morning part 3, so I could finally relax. I was certain that morning was tired of dishing out the crapola.

Silly silly me.

Few things say “keep the magic coming” like walking into your room to have the brilliant morning light reveal that the initial barf scrub session actually didn’t remove everything your pooch gifted to you pre-5am. Nothing disgusting to be found with that scenario. Especially not for someone who already has a serious aversion to germs and animal body action of any kind.

So it was back to the hands and knees again. Back to bringing in the towels and water. Back to getting out the Oxy Clean and Shout so my room could be flooded once more with those invigorating scents. Thank goodness for that because I just used the last of my Wet Dog Vomit in Your Carpet Plus Chemicals scented wax melts. They are so hard to find!

My sexy morning just wouldn’t quit.

I want to float carelessly over the stumbling blocks of life that I find, but instead I end up with a face full of barf towels. I need to laugh at the antics of my kids, but I am too wrapped up in the “oh no she di’n’t!” feeling I have instead. My dog would gladly let her gross action fly anywhere, but my daughter knows better. Nevertheless she saw her opportunity to misbehave and completely ran with it. And that genuinely bothers me.

It’s exhausting. The week has been insanely long, and I have a ton of actual work that I need to tackle. I just wanted to sleep in a little. More to the point, I needed to sleep in a little. And now I’m so steamed at everyone that it’s fogging up my whole brain. (Thus the diatribe here.) (And you’re welcome.)

I wanted to meditate to soothe my mind, but the words that kept circling my brain sounded like that old song “Fire Water Burn” by the Bloodhound Gang.

The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire!
We don’t need no water, let the mo$#&er burn!
Burn mo$#&er!

Errr so I thought maybe not right then for meditation. I went into OCD overdrive and tackled the least relevant task ever. I organized DVDs. I could see the ridiculous nature of the obsession as I ran through it, but it was the task I picked, and there would be no chance of calm until I was finished.

Have I unpacked my suitcase from earlier in the week? Nope. Is my office organized and are all papers filed? Don’t be silly. Are my DVDs separated into kid movies, holiday theme, grown up movies, empty cases with movie location known, and empty cases with movie location unknown?  You bet your sweet patootie they are.  I almost put each group in alphabetical order (as they always had been until my mini-human tornadoes wreaked organizational destruction on the cabinet), but I decided to save that task as further punishment for the belch queen. My part in that task is over, and I can move on to actual stuff that needs to be addressed.

I recognize that I’m not talking about the really big issues in life, but that doesn’t change the reality that it doesn’t take much to throw us off kilter. Or at least it doesn’t take much for that to happen to me.  I want to move through my life with perpetually uplifting spirituality, but that’s damn hard to do when you are up to your elbows and ears in reality.

I didn’t get anything taken care of that I wanted to do over the past few days, and I wasted even more time and energy this morning. I want to be flexible when life’s little collection of unplanned moments stretches me thin, but instead I often feel like I’m being pulled to the point of having my elastic snap into pieces. I want my feathers to dance a bit in the wind, but I feel like they blow away wildly.  I am left with my rear exposed and looking like my goose is about to be cooked.

It frustrates me.  And sometimes it makes me angry and sometimes it makes me sad. Today was a smorgasbord of emotions. If you wanted them, you could have easily found them amongst the available selections.

But then again, I did end up with highly organized and soon to be alphabetized DVDs. One section of carpet and multiple sections of tile are looking might clean at the moment. My daughter will be on work duty, but she had fun seeing a lovely little friend. And the dog hasn’t barfed again for several hours, so hopefully she’s okay now.

I think that I’m mostly alright now, too. I’m feeling calmer. The Bloodhound Gang is no longer earworming me into insanity. I probably will be meditating in a few minutes, and somewhere in the mix there will be a shower. Everything is better after a shower.

The world keeps spinning, and I keep learning. The most pedestrian of days can turn into a roller coaster, and it sometimes feels like we are out of control. But really it’s just a matter of holding on and enjoying the ride whenever we possibly can.

lilly on a swing1.gif

At least our dog looks relaxed today. I guess we have that going for us. (Isn’t she adorable?!?)

Love and light always – Joanna  😉

 

Pedestrian
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