More on youngin’ emotional identification

I did get this one of him, though
I did get this one of him, though

Using oils to help my son isn’t something new. I started applying them on me and Levi as soon as I got my first package.

What is surprising, though, is how often I use them in conjunction with helping him find emotion. He got in trouble, again, at school. Sure, part is the age, but part — why can’t he just remember?

Then, I have to consider. It’s taken me how long to learn to identify and name my emotions? And, he is only eight years old? I must give this young one at least a grain of salt.

This particular week, he had two days in a row where he was disrupting his class in some way. His teacher purposefully addresses the outcome that wasn’t met to incite a conversations with parents or care givers. She marks off the one of four student-learning-expectations that were not followed. Often, though, our darling son “cannot remember” what happened.

Levi has a very distinctive “flight” response when he doesn’t want to talk about a thing. He clams up. He freezes. And, he runs away. Usually, he runs to his room.

As he’s gotten older, Peter and I have gotten more stern about telling him to stop, come to us, and try to talk.

I have tried to articulate emotions – attempting to model by showing him through me, like this action makes me MAD. We sometimes try to name what we think he’s feeling, choosing a few different words to see if we land on something that resonates with him.

This particular time, those strategies weren’t working.

So, I went to my oils and grabbed Balance and Citrus Bliss. I told Levi to take his socks off, and we both sat on the living room floor. I grabbed his feet and I massaged a drop each of the oils on each foot. I talked, specifically, about something other than the bad behavior.

Within a few minutes, he started to open up, and he was able to remember that he talked out of turn in class.

I love this power of touch, this power of aroma, this power of these gifts of the Earth.

No longer comfortably numb

Levi frowning during an amazing social justice conference at Reed College.
Levi frowning during an amazing social justice conference at Reed College.

I needed permission to feel. And, I didn’t have it. I didn’t give it to myself. I didn’t think I could give it to myself. I felt conditioned to be stoic. I felt conditioned to not show emotion. I felt conditioned to put on a happy face and keep plugging through, while recognizing there are ebbs and flows to life. I simply chose not to react to them.

Or so I thought.

Flashing back to a scene long ago where I was in my apartment. My boyfriend was visiting, not saying much, smoking a cigarette at my dining table. I knew the relationship was ending. I played two songs that spoke to my emotional being, passively describing how I felt because I couldn’t vocalize the words. He picked up on what I was trying to tell him. I was trying to tell him I knew something changed, and I knew he no longer cared for me in the same way as when we got together. And, I knew he didn’t want the relationship to last. And, I was deeply, very sad. Though I could not express any of that. Soon after the relationship ended. I was heartbroken. And, I was afraid of being vulnerable about expressing those emotions because I was afraid he would leave, and I would never meet anyone again. I was afraid I would never find love again.

I am still afraid of being vulnerable, but something in my life changed dramatically when I became a mother. Something became incredibly clear as I have watched my son grow up to be a man. I want him to be able to express himself, to use his words, and to be vulnerable with those he cares about. I want him to be able to express when he is unhappy as easily as he could express when he is happy. I want him to be able to tell those he cares about that something they did bugged him, a lot, and he would prefer if they could not do that thing.

The realization sank in – I need to model this behavior. How can I model this behavior? I am stubborn. I won’t admit I made a mistake if I adamantly believe I’m not. I have a tendency to go for the jugular when really provoked, and since I don’t like being mean I tend towards a state of artificial harmony. But that means frustrations come through in the form of passive (aggressive) behavior.

Sure, my son can come into his own with those weaknesses, but I feel like I ought to do my part to teach him a better way. So, what’s this better way?

I need to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I need to be vulnerable. So, why is vulnerability important?

Brené Brown gives a great TED Talk on why that’s important.

So, I should be vulnerable. But how? First, a therapist, years ago, gave me permission to be mad. Since, I’ve acquainted myself with other coaches and trainers who have reiterated that sentiment. It is okay to feel. It is okay to say no. It is okay to tell people you don’t want or like a thing. I have to remind myself to be compassionate to me. I have to remind myself that I don’t have to be perfect. I have to remind myself to put away the “shoulds” and accept that good enough is okay.

 

Coaching Levi through Emotions

Levi walks into the church with his class.
Levi walks into the church with his class.
Levi participated in his First Communion last Sunday. He has accepted this rite of passage I’ve introduced for him, but he hasn’t had any particular high or low emotion about it. He certainly loves getting dressed up for church, always insisting on wearing his Sunday Best.

So, in many ways, this Sunday was no different. The biggest difference was that this was First Communion, so we had to arrive early for set up and photos.

He was excited when we arrived. Most of his 2nd grade class was also participating in this rite of passage. I had to read, so I had to leave his group 20 minutes before mass started. The typical, “Mommy, don’t go!” commenced. I pealed myself away, and readied myself at the church.

I saw him, and his class, again just before church started. We were all waiting outside, for our cues. Levi asked me to sit with him, and after getting permission from his teacher, we arranged a way for me to join them.

What I hadn’t noticed at the time was the sort of typical emotional roller coaster my son ventures on, daily.

After I was done reading, I joined him in his pew. His behavior wavered from paying attention to mass to small misbehaviors. Small misbehaviors that I worked on correcting. Pay attention to this. Control that. Mind yourself. It’s not time for questions. It’s time to pay attention.

First Communion went without a hitch. Levi couldn’t help but tell me that the wine was less than desirable. The small misbehaviors continued, along with the small corrections. Usually, we don’t allow treats post-Mass when small misbehaviors are so consistent. But, today was special, so full participation in the reception was, in my mind, mandatory.

We walked over, and it was quite full – both First Communion families and regular Mass attendees. So, I found a space next to one of his friends, and pulled up a chair for only Levi at this already crowded table.

One mom invited us to brunch, knowing we didn’t have plans. I made a call to check in with my husband, but there was no answer. I checked in on Levi, and everything was buoyant and fine. Then, I needed to chat with another mom. I was gone, maybe, 45 seconds. When I walked the 20 or 30 feet across the school hall, Levi had leapt from his chair in tears!

I escorted/chased him towards the bathrooms. I wanted to be able to talk to him, privately, without any onlookers. He walked into the men’s bathroom. I scolded him to come out, and we went to the unisex bathroom. Tears, quick breaths, red face. Finally, he says, “She took your seat!”

The best I could decipher was that his friend’s sister took the last remaining seat. A seat that Levi had assigned to me. A seat I never knew was vacant and certainly didn’t assign to me.

Levi helping me frost the cake.
Levi helping me frost the cake.
We couldn’t even leave because there was always someone else to chat with. Levi only wanted to go home. I told him if we went home, we’d miss brunch.

After two brief chats, both with parents (and principals!) who assured this was a normal phase, we went to the car.

The poor boy was still a mess when we got home. We tried to help him name what he was feeling, offering sad, mad, frustrated, to no avail. We gave the poor boy time outs hoping he’d be able to ponder more, to no avail.

Finally, we settled on making him sit in my husband’s for some parental snuggles while I made frosting, all of us in the kitchen.   I also took him aside and rubbed his feet with Citrus Bliss and Balance – the goal to help him be more open to his feelings and even them out. Soon, his mood changed. He was never able to fully tell us what was going on, but he was able to lighten his mood.

We were able to finish the cake, he changed, we lunched, we had cake.

Then, almost two hours later, Levi wanted to know when we were going to brunch. Among other connections we are still working on – cause and effect tops the list. Although we ended in a good mood, the progress always seem slow trying to help him make these emotional connections.

I will not be ashamed

Refusing to be photographed in Italy.
Refusing to be photographed in Italy.

We do what?

A photographer friend noted how common it was for her women clients to refuse photographs of themselves. They are too ashamed of how they look, so they erase themselves from their children’s lives for shame. What happens is that children, when as adults looking back, children then have no photographic keepsakes of their mothers. Their mothers have been erased from their lives.

I was horrified at the thought of my son looking back when he becomes a young man only to find no pictures of me or his father. Sure, we’re not model beautiful. Yes, we have our own identify issues, but to erase ourselves from our son’s life because of shame of how we look?

I was simply horrified.

Begrudgingly accepting I need to be in photos.
Begrudgingly accepting I need to be in photos.

Until that day, I had accepted that I needed to be in photographs. But, that need was limited to special occasions. At Levi’s birth. His birthday parties.

When I heard that anecdote years ago, now, I resolved to be in Levi’s photos unashamed.

I have tried to make a routine of taking little selflies whenever Levi and I do something. Maybe we’re getting coffee or playing in a park. Maybe I’ve taken him volunteering or brought him to a social justice something. Maybe we’re with friends.

On the coast with family.
On the coast with family.

I also take pictures of Levi and my husband, lest that stage be forgotten.

I always cringe looking at certain pictures. Criticizing myself for my looks. Continuing to be very uncomfortable while trying to be unashamed. I try suppress the shameful thoughts while I embrace the things I love: my son and my husband and the moments we share.

I am my son’s mother. My husband and I are his immediate role models. I want my son to be able to express his emotions. I want him to look back at his childhood with fondness. It takes a sense of courage I never considered.

It takes acceptance of where I am. I cannot figure out how to get more movement into my days. If I can’t get more movement into my days, and I eat a moderately healthy meal, and I know there are obstacles stacked in front of me, then I need to be somewhat okay with what I present.

I am not sharing this to say: do this. Rather, I am sharing this to capture this journey I am on. How I have faced hating how I look, being ashamed, facing the model I am to my son, and trying to assess how I want to show up in life.

I am trying to remember that I like it when I am truly cheerful, despite my (perceived) flaws. I am trying to remember that I like having even emotions so that I can be present to whatever situations arise.

I can’t be present when I am dwelling on things I cannot or am unwilling to change. So, I must face them with owning who I am and being unashamed about that person. I have a story, just like we all have a story. I am living my story, and it is unique to me. It is special for my family to share, and I have to be present for them. And, to be fully present, I will not be ashamed.

Cooling Relief of Peppermint

In addition to cooling, peppermint supports alertness, clear breathing, and can support healthy digestion.
In addition to cooling, peppermint supports alertness, clear breathing, and can support healthy digestion.
Sunday night, Levi went to bed warm. He had woken up even more congested in the morning, and now, compare to Saturday, he had lethargy added to his obvious symptoms. Bedtime came, and he didn’t even fuss.

However, 9pm rolled around and he came out of his room in a confused and delirious state! I had waited for this moment. The moment when my son finally got a fever.

Sure, he had a few mild fevers as a toddler, but so far nothing as a little boy. After we got him to calm down and stay seated (he had got up unsure of where to go, as if there was a fog over any lucid part of his awareness), I found the thermometer. 101.7! It barely took 10 seconds to figure it out!

So, now, empowered with my natural health care remedies, I grabbed my peppermint oil. Levi is accustomed to me slathering him with oils. We use InTune and Balance daily to keep him focused and help moderate moods. We have had mixed success, but he is always compliant and rarely complains.

I told him I was only going to put a drop on his forehead and on the back of his neck. I warned him his eyes might sting. I let him stay up and watch Pokémon, since this 9pm fever waking was to prevent any school attending for Monday.

Around 10pm, I checked his temperature again. 100.4. He was still ebbing in hotness. I applied more peppermint. I let him continue watching TV while I did whatever it is I construed as work.

Around 11pm, I checked his temperature again. He felt a smidge warmer, and sure enough he was. 100.6. I told him I was going to apply more peppermint. In the interim, he had complained twice of tummy troubles, so we had even brought out the DigestZen with immediate results. Now, time for another application of peppermint, he tells me, “I like that one (peppermint); it made my whole head cold.” I replied, “Good, it’s cooling.”

I had heard, I had read, and I had observed with other ailments of my own the cooling effect of peppermint. It was a joy to be able to have such control of an illness, in my home. I didn’t need to call the advice nurse. I just used my instincts and acted with the tools I’ve added.

Levi woke up Monday in a buoyant mood, at 9am. He was staying home to let the illness clear for 24 hours. But, his temp? It was 98.9. Later, we checked it again, and the thermometer read 98.0.

Thank you doTERRA. Thank you peppermint oil.

Last week in photos

Spring break has started. My mother has come to visit. We have a deal where she will be watching Levi this week while Peter and I work our respective schedules. We started off with getting our hair done and doing the Spring Oregon Beach Cleanup on Saturday.

A few images of our journey, ending with our blooming magnolia tree.

They Say It’s Your Birthday

Okay, well, not YOUR birthday – rather it was Levi’s.

It began in January, when after we more or less moved in, and after we attended a friend’s party that I thought – oh goodness, we haven’t talked about Levi’s party.

A few days later, I remembered to call the Bowling Alley. They had space, so I was able to reserve the room. I counted the kids, divided it in half then cut a few, adding a few from last year. I hoped it wasn’t that many, but I hate being surprised with cost.

I pulled the invitations from last year, redrafting and reformatting to fit four on a page. I printed, cut, and copied the graphic into an email to send off to the friends who weren’t in class. Two weeks before the secured date. My lack of planning is within what I’ve been told is standard etiquette. Victory!

The RSVPs rolled in, and didn’t, so a reminder was sent, upon which more RSVPs rolled in. Then some changed. We ended up with a manageable number, and because I forgot to update the RSVP with the bowling alley – we ended up with 5 tables and corresponding lanes! That meant the kids were able to spread out, comfortably. There was a year of maturity in which we had a calmer, quieter bunch.

The kiddos had a good time. Only one smashed finger (Levi’s), and I’m still not sure what happened. The adults were calmer too, likely picking up on the calmness emanated from the kids. And, for the first time – Levi even reported that he had a good time.

A word on the cake. I used the same chocolate cake recipe as for Elisa and David’s wedding. The 8″ cake also sported the yummy strawberry filling. The chocolate cupcakes had a cherry inserted, instead of strawberry filling. Now, this bit was done the morning of his party. This is not how I go about prepping for birthday parties. I did make a cake the night before. However, it’s been many months since I made an 8″ cake, and I forgot to measure the batter instead of just dumping the whole product in the pan. I ended up with an overfilling cake pan, burned oven, and singed actual cake. The next day, when we remade the cake, Levi was able to help. This tickled his funny bone to no end, which was likely the better option all around. I repeated the overfill pattern, though, with the cupcakes and we had at least four casualties. And, for the firs time ever – I made enough (not too much) frosting! Cream cheese, of course.

Parenting Success

Sometimes… sometimes it feels like it just comes down to a few moments. There are so many moments that make up a day. One moment, someone complements you… and you are feeling elated for being noticed. In another moment, someone unjustly yells at you, and you are feeling deflated for the accusation and unjusticeness of it all. But, they are all just moments.

Two night ago, I had, what felt like, a successful parenting moment.

There are so many books, so many ideas, so many ways to parent. And, in this place I call home, so many of them fly in our faces daily… so many things with which to pick and choose. As a  parent, I want my child to be successful, in however he defines that success. I want him to be kind. I want him to be thoughtful, courageous, and brave. I want him to have a good understanding of a moral and ethical right and wrong. I want him to be a strong communicator in which he will have power over his ideas. So, much, we want for our children.

And, often, I sit there looking at him, and my brain cannot help but flash forward to the moments that are to come – graduating from the various grades (K (done), 8th grade, senior year in high school, perhaps college or beyond?), working his first job, enjoying his first relationships. And, I come back from that flash forward into this moment – into the here and now – and I know that these choices, these actions are shaping those outcomes, for better or worse.

Some time ago, I realized that we all come from dysfunctional families. No family is perfect. Some families yell too much. Some families don’t say enough. Some families widdle away their monies on exotic vacations while others are so spendthrift, they enjoy little outside their homes. Some families are so afraid of the outside world, they shut their children in under the guise of protection. Some families are so afraid of being shut in, they expose their children to things they are perhaps not ready for…

And, where does our family fall? I would hazard a guess that we are somewhere in the middle, having experienced various extremes in our own lives, my husband and I hope to carve out a better future for our son.

And, I hope I had a successful parenting moment in that carving because there are so many moments that, when in reflection, I know I could have made a better choice.

We are clearing out the old, getting ready for the new. Three adults buzzing along, trying to get work done, and the six-year-old just wants to play. He had just got done helping me clear out a space, when he changed tactics and forgot “helper boy” and recalled “silly boy”. I went back in the house, and he turned the back lights off – so those working out back could not see – and then he gaily ran through the house and hid himself in his (old) closet.

We’ve had an awful lot of rule bending lately, and the line has moved. I know I need to keep the line firm. But sometimes, you just need to kick up your tired feet. But, is this the way he’ll behave on a job someday? So, I track him down. I am not angry so much as imbued with my parental duty. I walk as my feet echo in the bare room on the bare floors. I hear him giggle. I walk towards the giggle. I walk in his old room. All is quiet. I am certain he is… yes, he is – behind the door. I fumble for his hand, I have yet to say a word, and I grab it. He knows something is wrong. He resists. I grab hold of his coat, careful not to grab harshly onto his arm, trying to grab the hand, which has turned into a fist, instead.

We were discouraged from using this tactic previously. Yet, I am firm in its use, and continue to walk him.

We walk through the bedroom, the hall, the living room, into the kitchen. At which point he starts shouting, “No, no, no, you haven’t even told me what’s wrong!” (I prefer to seat him, talk, set timer, review, apologize, move on.)

I set him on the stool, “You have to have a timeout for being rude.”

The timeout ticks by. I get a few more items cleaned up. I go back to the kitchen and it’s nearly done. He pops up after the timer hits zero. We sit. We review. I remind him, twice, of what he did. He says he doesn’t know how, and resolves that he was trying to be silly or mean. I explain that the mean behavior is the rude behavior, and he has a Eurka! moment. He thinks, calmly now, “Oh, I understand,” legitimately understood.

There was no yelling. There was no gnashing of teeth. There was an exchange, and it was perhaps one of the most pleasant timeouts w’ve ever had.

Cheers to understanding. Cheers to a new year. Cheers to new beginnings.

Six Thankful Things

On Your Mark
Levi and his classmates line up for the jog-a-thon.

The thought occurred to me today that, now six days before Thanksgiving, I should theme the next few days of writing. Each day, I should consider something I am thankful for. Now, that I am home, considering writing, I thought since there are six days left, perhaps I could do a count down. What six things am I thankful for today, and tomorrow five, and so on.

So, today, the six things I am thankful for in no particular order:

  1. A school for my son that is a community,
  2. A boss who expresses gratitude each day,
  3. A husband who surprises me with his silly sense of humor,
  4. A possible change in neighborhood,
  5. A considerate son who expresses his love and need for me daily, and
  6. A commute that, into work, is less than twenty minutes.

What are you thankful for?

What have you done for World Kindness Day?

I started drying my fork, and then I noticed part of my lunch was clinging, viciously, to the tines. In that moment, I was transported back to when I was a preteen, staying with my uncle and aunt for a month during the summer.

Here, in the present day, the work dishwasher is on the fritz. While we’re waiting for parts to arrive, we now have to wash and put away our own dishes lest the kitchen sanity spiral out of control. A colleague put a few signs up on Monday when they walked into a complete disaster of a kitchen – dishes piled everywhere. We all have important jobs to do, but no one wears the title of janitor or maid, so cleanup really has to happen per your own incidents. I’m reminded of the adage, “Your mother doesn’t work here; clean up after your own mess.”

So, I’m scrubbing away at my semi-curry stained lunch (I made cheesy noodles last night for dinner, loaded with turmeric because the family can’t tell the difference, and I think it’s a fun way to sneak in an anti-inflammatory and whatever other great things turmeric does for you). And, I am transported to this warm summer where I was washing dishes with my aunt’s nephew. I suppose that’d make him my cousin once or twice removed (I’m not sure of the count).

My cousin didn’t clean a dish thoroughly. He left a spot. I was trained to return dirty dishes to the washer so they learned how to was dishes properly. And, as I did this, my aunt interjected. She said, “No, not in this house,” and with a flick of her finger, she knocked off the spot, rinsed the dish, and handed it to me for drying.

I think my aunt was trying to teach me about teamwork. Many hands make light work. We all make mistakes, but if we have the organizational goal in mind, we’ll get there. We’ll be kind, rather than right.

So, today is World Kindness Day. How have you contributed to our greater societal good? How were you kind today?

My husband was kind to me. He poured me a big glass of wine. I read Levi three books at bedtime, and he read me one. He read nearly every single word of 8 Silly Monkeys. I offered our back porch for a friend to store some things while she’s getting ready to move.

So, thank you flick of curry for reminding me that it is better to be kind, than to be right, on this World Kindness Day.