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Replacing Your Unfounded Parenting Fears With Empathy for Your Child

If I had to sum up what is wrong with our society in one sentence it would be this:  “Too much fear, and not enough empathy.”  This is especially true in our dealings with children.  I struggled for far to long (and still do at times) with the misguided and unfounded fears of parenting.

What if someone yells at my child?
What if he turns out to be ungrateful?
What if people think I am a bad parent?

All these concerns are not centered around the well being of my child, but my own personal fears, prejudices, and desire for comfort.

I strive now to replace these with more important questions.

What is best for my child?
How must my child be feeling in this situation?
What might she be thinking?
How would I feel if it was me?

Being empathetic toward your children not only allows you to care for and protect our societies most vulnerable individuals, but also shows your child the importance of being compassionate.  It empowers them, and helps them to realize that it is okay to have feelings and emotions, and they are not something to be afraid of, hidden, bottled up, or dismissed.  It creates a healthy environment where burdens are shared collectively, and conflicts are resolved respectfully.

Conversely, hitting, time-outs, yelling, control, bribery and artificial rewards (which in my experience are almost always rooted in fear) let children know that their feelings are unimportant and insignificant.  Children learn to keep their emotions, desires, and thoughts to themselves.  Either out of fear of being labeled a whiner (or worse), or simply because they don’t think anyone cares.

Daddy, Why Aren’t You Helping Me?

When I was a new father my wife and I lived quite far from our families.  We made a trip to our home town when our first child was about a year old.  Her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins were excited to see her.  So when someone reached to take her, I gave her up right away.  She grabbed onto my shirt and started to cry, but was pulled away into the arms of someone who to her was a stranger.  She looked at me, confused at first, then her eyes filled with terror as she continued to cry and reach out to me.  My family assured me that this is just what kids do, and you have to let them cry sometimes.  But she wasn’t “just crying,” She was telling me something.  She was trying to communicate.  “I’m scared, daddy,”  “I don’t know what’s going on,” “I’m not sure who these people are,” “Daddy, why aren’t you helping me?”  But her pleas fell on deaf ears.  I did not want to make waves or upset my family.  What would they think of me or say about me if I wouldn’t allow them to hold my child?  I figured it wouldn’t do much harm, so I did my best to ignore her crying.  My wife, however, did not share this sentiment.  She put our daughters needs before her own fears, and refused to ignore her desperate cries.

The Result?  I severely damaged the relationship I had been building with my daughter, and she learned that she couldn’t trust me.  She didn’t feel safe with me anymore.  For some time after if I was holding her, and something made her feel uncomfortable, she would seek out my wife, someone she knew would listen and understand.  Someone she could trust.

Even though a lot has changed since then, we still don’t live in a perfect house where it’s all daisy chains and unicorns.  We are haunted by the ghosts and scars of fear and control.  But every day we increase the love, the compassion, the respect, and the empathy, and every day we grow a little closer.

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May I Have A Few Words With You?

Desires.  Ambitions.  Goals.  Inspiration.  Dreams.  Motivation.

Doubt.  Fear.  Worry.  Failure.  Regret.  Anxiety.  Depression.

Emptiness.  Oneness.  Clarity.  Peace.

Harnessing Homeschool Fears

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As a dad* who has chosen not to send his kids to school, my children’s future is always on my mind.  Will they be successful?  Will they be happy?  Will they be ashamed?  Will they want to homeschool their kids?  Will they regret being homeschooled?  I know that homeschooling was the right choice for my family, and I believe that homeschooling is the best choice for most any family, but I still have plenty of room for doubt, and that is a good thing.

If my children turn out illiterate, ignorant, or worse, I cannot blame bad teachers.  I cannot blame stingy tax-payers who refuse to fund better schools.  I cannot blame politicians who care only for standardized test scores.  I cannot blame bullies, I cannot blame behavioral specialists, I cannot blame the lunch lady.  I cannot be irate that my child was not in the gifted program, or complain that they should have been in the remedial program.  I cannot be outraged that they cut band or art.  I cannot say that someone else has robbed my child of their education, their childhood, or their future.  If something goes wrong I cannot blame anyone.  Anyone, that is, except myself.

Because of this, I have a drive and motivation that I would not have if I was counting on someone else to educate my child.  I am always re-evaluating my approaches, reading articles, asking questions on forums, asking the kids for feedback, and trying any means possible to improve the educational experience my children receive.   I have a much more vested interest in my children than any teacher ever could.  Being directly involved in the lives of my children is one of the many reasons I choose to homeschool.

*I’m writing this from my perspective, but we mustn’t forget my lovely wife.  Just know that any time I say “I” I really mean “we.”

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Stop Thinking

“Stop thinking, and end your problems.” ~Lao Tzu

IMG_20150428_143905We live in a beautiful world.  Even the small segment that our senses can take in (smaller still what our minds can comprehend) is beyond what we can express with words.  There are infinite opportunities for joy, yet we use so much of our time fretting over the insignificant; the non-consequential.  We fill our days with worry and busyness, trying to get ahead.  We constantly occupy our minds with television and social media, afraid to sit in silence, and be alone with ourselves.  Trying to drown out and silence the voices of fear, regret, and uncertainty.

Stop worrying.  Stop thinking.  You are on the right path; the only path; your path.  Follow it to the end.  Take care with each step.  Feel each breath.  There is no need for fear.  You are a passenger, an observer.  Enjoy the ride.

Bones in Common

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“When I see people stopped in traffic, in the check-out lane at the store, or walking down the street, I like to visualize their bones.  It helps me remember that, no matter how different we are, deep down we are all the same.”  ~My Chiropractor

No one wants to fail.  No one wants to be miserable.  No one wants to be depressed.  No one wants to have acidic relationships.  Everyone is doing the best they can with what they have been given.  We all have dreams.  We all have vision.  We all have aspirations.  We all have a past, and we all have made decisions we regret.  We all have a spark of greatness, we all have passion, and we all have hate.  We all have secrets.  We all have scars.  Each of us is different, but we are all the same.

The Answers Are Within

I accidentally posted this on my other blog yesterday.  So, if you are subscribed to both, you may see it twice.

Sometimes, I get really worked up and worried, and I have to sit myself down, and talk some sense into me (Mostly because no one else will):

“Oh self,” I say, “Oh if only I could be like this person, or that person.”

You don’t need to be like them.  Just be yourself.  There is nothing wrong with that.

“But they have it so easy!”

You don’t know that.  You only know the ease or difficulty of your 0wn life.

“Okay, I guess.  But what am I even doing here?  I need some direction.  I need someone to show me the path.  How do I know if I’m doing whats right?”

The answers are inside of you.  Everything that you seek without and fail to find, is hidden within.  You know what is right, you know what you should be doing, and you do not need the approval or acceptance of anyone else.

“But what if I screw up?  What if I fail?  What if I change my mind?”

Making your own decisions, good or bad, right or wrong, and facing the consequences, is the only way to grow.  It is the only way to find out who you are.  Without failure, and without change, there is no growth, there is no life.

But I’m scared”

That’s okay.  Its part of being human.  acknowledge the fear, and release it.  Then go on doing what you know is right.

I really don’t think I can do this, but I guess I’ll keep trying.”

“At the center of your being
you have the answer;
you know who you are
and you know what you want.”  ~Lao tzu

“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” ~Buddha

“Cherish that which is within you, and shut off that which is without; for much knowledge is a curse.” ~Zhuangzi

Take Charge Of Your Life

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“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure , the process is its own reward.”  ~Amelia Earhart

It is a wondrous thing to be an autonomous being, able to feel and to think and to decide.  Run your own race, and don’t let anyone keep you from doing what you know is right.

The End is Near; Let’s All Get Fanny Packs

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If you listen to me speak, or follow me on Facebook, or read my blog,  you will get an idea of my moral and ethical principals.  You might even think I’m radical, or going against the grain.

But what if I never spoke a word.  What if I never typed a sentence.  What if I never shared a meme, or article, or video via social media.  Would my values still be clear?  Judging solely based on my actions, would you see me as a peaceful parent?  Not likely.  Looking at my possessions, would you see me as a minimalist?  That’s doubtful.  Observing my eating habits, would you find me to be a health nut?  Not even close.  Does the way I live my life even come close to reflecting any of the bold statements I make on a daily basis?  No.

I, my friends, am a fraud and a hypocrite.  I say one thing, and do another.  Because it’s much easier to say, isn’t it?  It requires no effort, no sacrifice, no change.  When I say “This is who I am” what I am really saying is “This is who I would be, if I wasn’t so damned scared.”

I know that I am not the only one.  I know that there are millions more like me, who beat the drum of sustainability, and freedom; oneness, and peace, but when it comes to real, meaningful change, we are full of excuses.

I don’t know when it happened, but some time not too long ago our society was given a choice.  We could either make some serious changes in the way we live our lives, or we could become cold, calloused and uncaring.  Sad as it is to say, we chose the latter.  We could never live our fast-food, consumerist, on-demand, high tech lifestyle while at the same time having a deep awareness of the implications of our actions.  So we chose to forget it.  To put up mental barriers, and block the consequences of our decisions from our minds.

But as much as we blind ourselves, those uncomfortable images do slip in from time to time.  Baby seals covered in oil.  Massive plastic islands.  Impenetrable smog clouds.  So, we do what any level headed, clear thinking species would do.  Make a few easy, small, “band-aid” changes that don’t actually address the problem, but give us the feeling that we are making a difference.  “Look!  The package for these plastic bags is made from 75% recycled material!” or “This chocolate is Rainforest Alliance Certified!”  It is good that people want to save the rainforest.  It’s good that we have recycling programs.  But at the rate we are going, we need much more drastic and immediate action if we want to sustain life on this planet.  Imagine a man planning to sell his house, and move to another country.  He checks his calendar, and sees that the date is getting closer, so he goes out and purchases a fanny pack.  No airline ticket, no realtor’s sign in his front yard.  Just a fanny pack.  That is where we are as a society.

The other coping mechanism, as I already mentioned, is to be very vocal about issues without actually making any lifestyle changes.  Maybe our friend with the fanny pack can purchase a shirt with an image of his new country’s flag, and tell everyone how great it is over there.   Now he’s ready.

At some point we will awaken from our comatose state.  When we do we will either look around and start making the necessary changes to save our planet, or we will look around and realize that it’s too late.

Silencing Fear

I often wonder, whether or not I am headed in the right direction.  I seem to be wandering around aimlessly.  Hopelessly lost in a society that is quick to judge, quick to blame, and deathly afraid of change.  I get inspired, I feel the fire burning in my soul, and I set off to change the world, but when the path gets rocky, I start to worry, and run back to that increasingly familiar place.  A stagnant place, of strange comfort.  Then, feeling the shame of failure, I commence to wallow in the mire of self pity.  Fear keeps me grounded in this place.  What will people think if I try and fail?  What if I lose everything?  What If I am wrong?  But what if I could live without fear?

Fear Is Natural

Fear is good.  Fear is helpful.  Fear is something that all humans have.  Without fear, the human race would have been drowned, eaten, trampled, or dashed to pieces before we had a chance to become a dominating force on this planet.  Fear is not the enemy, and attempting to live without it will only lead to frustration.

If Not Fear, Then What is the problem?

If you are sleeping, and your house becomes engulfed in flames, your smoke alarm will go off.  If you are cooking, and spill some grease on the range, it might also go off.  In the first situation, you would be wise to grab your cat, run outside, and try to get some help.  However, you would not react the same way in the second situation, even though the same alarm is going off.  You would silence the alarm, clean up your mess, and move on with your day.

Fear is like a smoke alarm.  It is programmed to go off in every situation that has the potential to cause death, dismemberment, loss, or even discomfort.  Sometimes it requires immediate action on our part, but sometimes we simply need to acknowledge the fear, release it, and press forward.  Inappropriate reactions to fear, not fear itself, is what causes so many of our problems

Fear, and our other emotions, are not meant to be navigators on our journey through life.  We need to remain awake, aware, and in the driver’s seat, taking fear and our other emotions into account, but not allowing them to become a dominating and controlling force.

Thanks For Adding Your Piece to the Puzzle

scan0002Whoever you are, whatever you are doing, thank you.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you.  For your successes, for your failures, for your imperfections.  For keeping your cool, for losing your temper, thank you.  Everything you have ever done has helped to bring the world to where it is today.  Everything so far has led up to this moment.  Your joy and your tears.  Your victories and defeats.  Your honesty, your deception, your cold silence, and your mindless chatter.

We all have regrets from the past.  We all have situations that we wish we would have handled differently.  Many of us have grievances we cannot forgive, hurts that will not heal, and events that we wish we could wipe from our memories.  Looking through the history books, we may not ever agree on who was right, and who was wrong, or which pages we would be better off without.  But can we agree that life is precious?  That existence is unspeakably astounding, and that this moment, this very moment, is beautiful?  All of those events and situations, no matter what we think of them, are a part of life.  They all had a hand in bringing about this beautiful moment, and I think they at least deserve our acceptance, if not our appreciation.  Thank you.