Saturday, February 24, 2018

Teaching Empathy

I work with a family therapist, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. She does more work with Tori than with me, but I do join them at the beginning or end of the session. During one session, she asked me if I gave parental advice. I was shocked. I mean, here I am, at a family therapist. Doesn't that mean I'm not qualified to give advice? But she was serious. She thinks I'm doing a really good job, and that I should share my ideas with others. I have to say, I'm not sure I really am qualified to be a parental advisor, but here's a story I'm comfortable sharing, with the hopes that it may help other parents.

Every so often my daughter gets chatty about school. It’s usually at night, when the lights are off and we are engaged in “quiet” cuddles. I know it’s a delaying tactic, but since she NEVER talks about school otherwise, I let it happen.

Generally speaking, the narrative is one about how she is the hero of the playground. Quite often, there is also judgmental commentary on the kids in the class who misbehave. My daughter may think nothing of slamming doors at home, but at school she is truly a little angel. People often tell me that's a sign of good parenting. Sometimes I wish I weren't such a good parent...

Last night she was telling me about a kid in her class who clearly has some behavioral issues. This child, I’ll call them Pat, is taken out of class to work with a special teacher and my daughter mentioned that Pat goes to the principal’s office to avoid “hurting the other kids in class.” I don’t know if Pat has a learning disability, or a severe behavioral problem. I don’t know anything about Pat except that my daughter disapproves and feels superior.

I'm all about removing stigma from mental health issues, and I don't think 6 is too young to start her education. So I said: “It sounds like Pat has some big feelings and doesn’t know how to handle them. You know, when you had big feelings, we had to go see the counselor.”

“Yes, I used to hit you, and then I saw the feelings doctor and learned how to get my angries out.”

“That’s right. And then you wanted to go again, so you get to go now.”

“Yes, I like going to see her. I get a lot out of it.”

“Well, it sounds like Pat doesn’t get to go see a feelings doctor. Isn’t it great that Pat can see a feelings doctor at school? Sometimes, when people have big feelings and don’t know how to deal with them, they do bad things. They hurt other people.”

“Yes, Pat tells lies about the other kids in the class.” Then followed a long story about kids tattling on other kids. Teachers are saints. I would go insane - just listening to my daughter recount all this drama is wearing me out!

I brought us back to the matter at hand: “So the important thing to remember is that when we meet people like Pat, it’s OK to set boundaries and stay away so they can’t hurt us. But we also need to give them sympathy. Because they have big feelings and don’t know what to do with them. They are feeling really bad when they do those things. And if it really bothers you, you can pray for Pat. That’s what I do.”

She responded with silence to this, thinking it over. I know I haven't won the Nobel prize for this conversation, or answered all her questions about mental health. But it's a start. 

I want her to be compassionate towards all people. Compassionate for kids who are less intelligent than her, kids who have less opportunities or money than her, kids who have disabilities. It's a big goal and will take me the rest of her time at home, and maybe longer. And it's a lesson I need to keep learning for myself.  

Note: I used a gender neutral alias for the child in this post.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Hideous Surprises of Growing Old

“I thought you’d get more time out of this tooth,” he says with a sigh.

Overhead the TV is broadcasting interviews with the USA hockey team, wearing their gold medals.

“Is there something I can do? Should I brush more often? Take calcium?”
Another sigh.
“It’s just a matter of time now. We don’t usually remove teeth until there’s pain or swelling.”
“It doesn’t bother me.”
So there’s a reprieve, of sorts. I get to keep this molar until it becomes painful.

The medalists smile, young faces filled with shiny white teeth. Teeth that aren’t being rejected by their gums.

I continue my questions, hoping for some word of hope, some instruction for preservation. It’s small comfort to realize that there’s nothing I can do: the roots of my molars just aren’t normal, and so they don’t really work. But I’m only 43. I didn’t expect to be discussing tooth implants with my dentist today.

This is the worst part of aging. It’s the unexpected parts. The random chin and neck hairs that sprout overnight and are somehow a full inch long. The way my newly limp skin droops around my neck. The surprising shifts in menstruation.

My birthday was Tuesday. Everyone wishes me well and asks me how it went. What is there to say? It was a good day, in a good life that I have worked very hard to create. A life in which, I’m learning, there is no way to sit back and rest on one’s laurels. Because a good life is also a life where there is constant change. As a parent, I’m teaching my child, the love of my life, how to successfully move away and live without me. As a wife I’m investing my energy and intimacy into another mortal, which means one day I will be left without a partner (or he will). As a coach, I pour out love and support to equip a person to move ahead without my help.

I’m not happy about potentially losing my tooth. But I will adjust and move forward. And once I get comfortable, my body will jump into another surprise of middle age. Life will happen no matter how I feel about it. I might as well choose acceptance and find joy.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

February Stitch Fix!

You know how there’s a Pin that says “I wish pinning something would make it appear in my closet?” Yeah, I have that. It’s called StitchFix, and it’s like having a fairy godmother. I link my account to my Pinterest clothing board, and then, whenever I schedule it, StitchFix sends me a “Fix” of 5 clothing items. Oh, and they also have my measurements, color preferences, and budget preferences. It’s totally fun, and if I don’t like anything, I send it back in the prepaid envelope. If I keep nothing, it only costs me $20 for the styling fee. If I keep all five things, I get a 20% discount!

If YOU use my link above, I'll get a $25 gift certificate. You totally should. Yes, you, person reading my blog who has talked to me about Stitch Fix and wondered about doing it yourself. Go for it!

So I got my Fix today and it was EXACTLY what I needed to motivate me. I’ve got a wee sore throat, and have been a little sleep deprived, so I spent the morning napping. But once I saw my Fix, I got my butt out of bed and did a little at home modeling, which I will now share with all of you!

First up, the Karlotta Hooded Dolman Knit Top by 41 Hawthorn. Um, yes please? This piece is a LOT like one of my first Fix pieces, which I wear basically nonstop. I mean, if you have seen me more than 3 times in the last year, you've probably seen me in that top. 

This is me channeling my inner CW villain
This top has a hood and a stomach pocket, which makes it super fabulous for bumming around the house on a Saturday. It could also be the perfect “jacket” for when I go to the movies in the summer – a nice thin top with pocket and hood to go over a cute tank top. I especially like the long tail, which allows me to adjust the blousing effect to the most flattering angle. It’s $58, and given how much I suspect I’ll wear it, that’s worth every penny. 

Next, the Redina Open Crochet Hooded Pullover by Harper Lane. This is a top I would like to love, but I’m not sure about it. The open work sleeves and shoulders are quite cute, and I would like layering them over solid color tops. But the cut isn’t quite as flattering as the 41 Hawthorn. It’s also a hooded top. In addition, there’s a little hole in one sleeve. Now, in two years, this is the first damaged garment I’ve received, so I bet if I keep it, I could request the company to send me a non damaged one. This top is $68. 

The Rose bootcut pant by Kut From the Kloth is $78 and will be a standout addition to my working wardrobe. It fits perfectly, has normal pockets, and is just the right length for my long legs and my beloved Danskos. And I finally purchased myself a belt that fits, which you can see is just the right accessory for these pants.

I combined these pants with the Mirene Duster Cardigan by Honey Punch, and the infinity scarf from my last Fix. I love this outfit: it's professional, stylish, comfortable and did I mention the pockets?

Now let’s talk about that fairy godmother effect. You like the duster sweater I’m wearing with those pants? First of all, look at all the swirling. This is why I love a duster sweater! It feels like I’m wearing a cape. Nothing boosts my superhero mojo more than a cape like sweater whipping around my calves! Which is why I bought a duster sweater, just last week.
Yes, I went shopping at Old Navy, totally on random impulse, last week. Never should have done that! I did get that great belt, but I also bought myself a wine colored duster sweater. I should have known that my StitchFix fairy godmother would get me a duster! She’s been looking at all my Pins!!


I would be all over this Mirene Duster Cardigan by Honey Punch, if I didn’t already own one that’s almost the exact same color and style. It’s $68, however, and my Buy 5 discount is $100, so it may still end up in my closet.

Finally, the Rosemary Cowl Neck Cashmere Sweater by Lusso Cashmere. This is the most expensive item, at $128. It’s very warm and snuggly. But I’m not convinced on the cut or the color.

So what do you think? Keep the cashmere sweater? Keep the duplicate duster?