Thursday, August 22, 2013

Life Chapters – Being a Parent

Becoming a Parent

When I became a parent it was a life changing event.  I really had no idea just how life changing it would be but in short time it became abundantly clear.  With the birth of each of my children life changed a little bit more.  My wife and I did not have a parenting user’s manual – all we had was each other and our new child.  We had no idea what was to come.

For me, becoming a parent has been the most challenging yet the most rewarding thing I have ever done.  Parents need to be brave, resourceful, have moral character, be great listeners, and have a great sense of humor.  The most important thing I learned early on was that raising children is a fulltime life-long endeavor.  As time went on and my children grew older, I realized that just because they grow up and leave to make their mark on the world my job as a parent continues on.

My Feelings

As a parent, I have experienced all types of feelings and emotions.  I have felt untold amounts of love, overwhelming joy and extreme pride along with red hot anger, debilitating panic, deep despair and undeniable frustration.  There were many times that I was tired, wore out or upset.  However, all of the anger, panic, frustrations, tiredness and being upset paled in comparison to the love, joy and pride my children have brought me as a parent.

It’s Hard Work

Being a parent is hard.  It’s the hardest thing you will ever do.  You will second-guess yourself on every decision, choice or opinion you make.  There will be times that fear will overtake you as you think you are screwing up your child’s life.  You will get angry over stupid things.  There will be days that you end your day crying.  There will be sleepless nights full of worry.  There will be all night long efforts to complete science projects due in the morning.  And, you will experience the unanswered phone calls that drive soul shattering panic attacks.  Your children will leave to fight wars, go off to college and become teachers or doctors and will leave to find their place in the world.  Yes, being a parent is hard work.

It’s Amazing Work

Being a parent is amazing in so many ways.  My children have taught me many things and much about life.  I have learned to think and communicate in ways I would have never imagined.  I have learned what unconditional love really means.  As a parent very early on, I learned there is no such thing as perfect parents and regardless of their flaws children are perfect just the way they are.  Once I became a parent, I gained a renewed admiration for my parents.  Most importantly I learned that as hard as parenting may be the fact remains becoming a parent has been the most awesome thing I have ever done.

A Parent’s Job Is Never Done

A parent’s job is life-long.  Just because your children grow up and move away doesn’t mean your job as a parent ends.  In many ways parenting after your children grow up is the same as when they were youngsters.  As a parent you still experience the good, the bad, and your children continue to teach you new things about the world.  You still love your children no matter what; you still put your family first; you still want to provide food, clothing and shelter for them; you still worry about them when you don’t hear from them; you still worry about their health; and you still want to wipe their tears away when they are sad.

As hard as being a parent may be, every once in a while you will share a special moment with your child that makes it all the worthwhile.  Being a parent will change your life and challenge you in ways you cannot begin to imagine but it will also reward you with riches far more valuable and precious than can ever be imagined.

“It’s not only children who grow.  Parents do too.  As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours.  I can’t tell my children to reach for the sun.  All I can do is reach for it myself.” – Joyce Maynard

“You don’t really understand nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around – and why his parents will always wave back.” – William D. Tammeus

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Life Chapters – What we say can hurt

What we say

Have you ever said something to someone that you wish you had not said?  Or, has someone ever said something to you that hurt you to your core?  Many of us have said things that we wish we had not said knowing that in the end our words were hurtful to those we care about.  If there are things we say that are hurtful why do we say them in the first place?  Many times we say things that hurt others because we hurt inside ourselves.

Things that get said

It goes something like this:  someone says something rude to you or about you, someone wrongly accuses you of doing something, or someone says something that puts you on the defensive.  You are angry, you respond without thinking and with the intention of protecting your feelings.  You respond in anger justifying your own feelings and disregarding the offender’s.  When you do this you create an emotional connection to the person that hurt you which keeps your feelings of hurt alive in your mind.  Over time your mind continues to replay what was said driving you to become not a very nice person.

Feelings – yours or mine

Why does it seem like there are those who spend so much more time saying hurtful words than kind words?  Is it that they really hurt inside, or is it that most of us don’t understand how to communicate our feelings?  As individuals, as different as we may seem, we are still all wired emotionally pretty much the same – we all experience the four basic feelings: anger, pain, pleasure and hurt.  It’s how we communicate those feelings that separate us. 

For example; when someone says something hurtful to you, do you tell them they hurt you?  Or, that you are feeling hurt?  Many will respond with “you hurt me when you said that…”  The problem with this is you disown responsibility for your feelings when you use the word “you”.  In order to be able to do something about the way you feel you must own the feeling which you do by using the word “I”.  “I hurt” rather than “You hurt me” enables you to take responsibility for your feelings.  When you respond with “I hurt when you say those things to me”, you own and validate your feelings.  Responding in this manner does not blame the other person for the way you feel rather it provides feedback to the other person about how you feel as a result of what they said.  If you don’t own your feelings you cannot do anything about them.

How we respond

Of course responding like this can be very difficult especially if you are not comfortable with expressing your feelings.  It may even be counter to your belief system that is telling you that feelings are better left unacknowledged.  Ask yourself how you feel when something hurtful is said to you.  Then state how you feel when those things are said “I hurt when you say things like that to me.”

What we say can hurt the ones we care about.  The next time you want to strike with words to get even or gain a one up think about what the consequences could be.  In Deepak Chopra’s book, Ageless Mind, Timeless Body, he states that almost all negative feelings such as anger and resentment begin with the emotion of “hurt”.  He goes on to say that if “hurt” is not resolved or released it is internalized eventually resulting in some other emotion.  Considering this, it would be easy to suggest that if you fail to let someone know that their harsh words hurt you, eventually you will do the same thing.

Don’t hurt the ones you love and care about with your words.  Once they are spoken you can never get them back. 

“A torn jacket is soon mended, but hard words will bruise the heart of a child.” - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others.  And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”  Dalai Lama