When Loving Your Child Feels a Bit Like Stepping on a Lego…

Sometimes parenting can feel like stepping on a lego…Wait…isn’t parenting easy? Not always, even in the best of circumstances, it can get a little hairy. When you are the parent of a child that has experienced trauma, the good times are really good. You hold on to them, and somehow, kind of, forget about the not so good moments. And then…without warning, BAM! The atmosphere shifts, the child is upset, and loving can hurt.

Sometimes, remembering that you’re not the only parent going through this can make you feel less alone. Those guilty feelings of dislike toward your child are just that, feelings, NOT facts. When guilt comes barreling through the door of our hearts, like an unwelcomed house guest, criticizing you for the less than lovely sentiments about your child, tell guilt to leave! This condemnation can cause a vicious cycle of mood swings, for both parent and child, especially if your child catches wind of your guilt. They could use it to manipulate future situations in their favor.

I have a few tips, to keep your relationship with your child mended together, especially if they’ve had trauma.

Instead of retreating, press in.

Not in a combative way, but in love. When you know any little thing can cause a meltdown, it’s easy to avoid conflict. When we avoid conflict, we often allow rules to be broken, or in some cases never establishing any to begin with. This can be counterproductive, because your child is most likely going to try getting your attention. From their perspective, “negative attention is better than no attention.” Press in, in the good times and the bad, in a loving and supportive way. Don’t wait for the negative to happen before loving on your child. Talk to your trusted family and friends to support you and give them information on trauma so they can support you and your child in a loving and safe way as well.

Check out http://lovingonpurpose.com/blog/kite-strings-of-connection for additional great tips.

Your child may perceive love differently than you do.

There are many love languages. Find theirs at the following link.

http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/children/

Get your emotions under control.

When you feel less than adequate, you won’t be the best parent you can be, and your kids will notice. No one is perfect, but you are the perfect parent for YOUR child. No one can love them, the way you were designed to love them.

Remind yourself every day, that you’ve got this under control.

Say positive affirmations, to yourself and your kids. There have been many studies that prove your children rise to level of expectation you set before them. If you say “You’re a brat!” to your child, increases the likelihood of them acting like a brat. Think of the messages you heard growing up and how they have impacted you.

To learn more about how negative words impact you check out one of the many experiments on the important impact of our words at:

https://www.billybeck.com/mental-conditioning/the-rice-experiment-this-will-blow-your-mind

Loving our kids can feel just like stepping on a Lego. Can I let you in a little secret though? When you step on a Lego, it doesn’t break you. It hurts, but you’re designed to be stronger than that. Remind yourself, that even when it hurts to love sometimes, it won’t break you. You’ve been created to love, and you got this!

References:
Helmstetter, S. (1990): What to Say When you Talk To Yourself.
http://lovingonpurpose.com/blog/kite-strings-of-connection
http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/children/
https://www.billybeck.com/mental-conditioning/the-rice-experiment-this-will-blow-your-mind

 

Theresa Gaserparenting
My Child's Parent

As a parent I have thought of all the things I should talk to my children about. We have had countless talks about Sex, drugs, and rock and roll! Never in any of our conversations did I think I needed to talk with them about trespassing. I naively thought they knew how to read!

I am one of the lucky moms who gets to hug my child today… Mind you he hugs back with a pat and a “here she goes again” stance.

When my phone went alerted me that 911 had been called, I instantly knew which child called 911 and the panic set in. My child had never been in any real trouble before. He is not perfect, but he did what he was supposed to do, worked hard and was headed to college.

I was not sure where he was at that moment and waited (well called a hundred times) until his phone was no longer “disabled” and I could hear his voice and know that he and his friends were ok. I knew from the second he answered that they were physically ok, but emotionally he was scared and worried. Now to the real reason I am writing this; My son and his friends were doing something that most would say are boys being boys.

It was a rainy time here and water was high everywhere. They went to a river and walked down a path that leads to a beautiful inviting cliff with a lovely pool of water at the bottom, inviting in its beauty and lure of adventure. Their hard-wired adventure seeking brains made it easy for them to pass the signs without even looking at them. The peer pressure to not be a “wimp” (my word not theirs) led to the jump. While I agree they are hard wired for adventure, we as parents need to talk with our children about the three things we don’t talk about water, fire and heights. While alcohol, sex and drugs are always talked about; I only had a few conversations about fire and can remember maybe a few about water safety.

The conversation went something like wear a life jacket when water-skiing or jet skiing. I never thought to say hey, don’t go where there are trespassing signs or stay out of water signs. The many conversations about alcohol and drugs paid off and they were not doing any of that when they found themselves in a pickle. One of the boys was pushed over to a little island by the very strong current.

His friends thought hard about a solution to this life threatening situation, panic and fear sinking in as to what their parents were going to say. I don’t think they ever thought we could go to jail for this, we could put other lives in danger; a rescue boat could be lost. So here I sit at 3 AM the morning of their court appearance and I feel like Mufasa from the lion king. Worried, scared, relieved!

Writing this and even having your children read it won’t stop everyone from doing what appears to be a very popular thing. But maybe replaying the scene from The Lion King where Simba goes into the elephant graveyard and Mufasa has to come in and save him and Nala could start an important conversation. I sat with my son after I hugged him, and got a pat back and explained the fear and then anger I felt with him.

We talked about his fear that day and his fear now. We also talked about the law. I have never been the popular mom, or the house that kids want to hang out at. I hated it for years since I counsel children and love having them around. Then one of my older sons friends said to me “we love you and when we turn 21 we will always want to be at your house”. That is when the harsh reality hit me, some parents let their children and their friends drink and smoke at their house. I got a few reasons from one parent, “ at least I know where they are” “they are not driving” and “they are gonna do it anyway”.

All of which have truth to them. However, when we tell kids it is ok to break one law, why do we expect them to keep any laws? While we are so thankful no one was hurt in our situation, many are hurt and in trouble because we as parents don’t have the conversations we need to have and can’t seem to use the word “no”. Be the parent before it is too late and you don’t get to have a pat on the back!

Theresa Gaser
Unseasonable Weather

I fall into this trap once the weather turns warm… or in Ohio cold but not snowing and I throw on my flip flops and believe they can stay on until fall returns. The problem occurs when it begins pouring and I need my rain boots or it’s snowing a few weeks later and I need my boots with the furry lining. If I believe the storms and snow will come only when I have prepared for them I will be disappointed!

Knowing rain and snow are a possibility, I continue to put my flip flops on. It is a little act of defiance in me…I know my feet will be cold, but I feel alive when I feel the cold or wet on my feet and I love being alive!

Loving and living means I will get hurt sometimes. AHHHH… that secretly, or maybe not so secretly freaks me out. I have been hurt and I hate more than anything that I have hurt other people and wish I could go back in time and change a few things, but I can’t and so I have to learn from the hurts and grow every day. In searching for that growth, a friend gave me the book Scary Close by Donald Miller and he quoted Martha Graham; “each of us is unique and if we didn’t exist something in the world would have been lost”. Sometimes we feel lost in this world and can’t see that we are unique so we hang onto a season, even when it is not healthy. So when we are lost and the storms come and they will come, we have to make the decision to heal.

Go slow! When I was younger I approached healing like a bull in a china shop. I thought I could read and go to counseling and all would be great. I realized I could not approach it like a bull and needed to accept that healing is different for each of us! I would need to put things in place for me to weather the storms. I started removing the walls I had put up and allowed people to come into my life and walk with me. Sometimes I get hurt, but the more I trust myself, the more I can see when people are in my life for the right reasons and when I need to stay away from people. When we learn to listen to our gut, it speaks clearly to us, so listen to it… it never fails you!

Take a chance today and start loving yourself. Once you love and trust yourself, the rest will be much easier!

Theresa Gaser
Father's Day

The day I dreaded more than any other. Starting with the card, the one I was forced to pick out by a mother who appeared oblivious to the pain around her (but, that is another story, a Mother’s Day story).

When I close my eyes, I can see me standing and staring at a wall of cards, looking for one that said the right words. The problem was there were no cards out there that said what I felt. There were no cards that said “Happy Stinkin’ Father’s Day. Thanks for hurting me every day. You’re the Best!!” I could come up with other sayings but the card stores were not about to put those on the shelf.

Year after year I was forced to pick out a card and year after year the dread would fill my soul. As each year passed my dread turned into despise and I resorted to just grabbing the first funny card I could find and signing my name. I would not even look at it. Eventually I didn’t have to buy a Father’s Day card and I would move through the day like it was any other on the calendar.

Things changed when I had children of my own and I went out to buy cards for their dad. I remember clearly that first Father’s Day as a new parent. The fear and anxiety I felt walking to the card selection was palpable. I wanted to grab and go! I couldn’t do that, I had to face that deep dread that was still lurking in my soul. I stood there frozen for what seemed like forever and then the light came on…I was buying a card for an amazing father. I looked through the selection and found the perfect card. It is amazing how many great cards are out there for great dads!

My boys are now men and they are picking out their own cards for their dad and I get to buy the one that thanks him for being such a great father. I was surprised when all of these emotions came flooding to the surface while I spent a few days out west. I was surrounded by beauty that only the west can provide; The majestic mountains, and the lush green tree’s scattered around the reddish- orange dirt that was a stark contrast to the vivid blue sky above. I was standing before a dam and the water was majestic. The sun played on the water just right in the late afternoon. A beautiful green hue shown through the water and the sublimation was unbelievable. Nearby, there was a father and his daughter looking at the same beauty I was enjoying. She had the biggest smile on her face and called out to her father; not in the flat tone I would use with my father, but with a ringing joy of “Daddy, look at this. Daddy, take my picture. Daddy, let’s take a picture together!”

As I walked back through the large boulders surrounding me, I was reminded of what a gift a father is and how important they are in our lives. They can bring joy or fear, the choice is theirs. It was clear watching that Daddy and his daughter that he cherished her and she adored him. She was radiant with joy because of the safety she felt with her father.

This father’s Day I decided to take a different stance. It started with me heading to the store to buy cards I have never bought before…cards for the men in my life who have filled the vital role of father. I walked up to the wall of cards and rather than dread, I experienced excitement as I began sorting through the vast selection. I was shocked when the first card I found said EVERYTHING I wanted it to say. I beamed as I searched for others and found them with ease!

As Father’s Day approaches and the hurts of childhood surround some of you, determine to change the way you think of Father’s Day. If you have a man in your life who has been the daddy you always needed and wanted, let him know. If you have not had that, pick a dad who is a great dad and let him know. The greatest beauty of living is recognizing we can change the meanings that have attached themselves to days and things.

Happy Father’s Day tothe great men who have been there for me and were able to show me that not all men are out to hurt you!

ToALL the great Daddy’s out there, thank you for being you!

Theresa Gaser

P.S. I miss you Gramps!

Theresa Gaser
I'm Not Worth Protecting

This was the message I got over and over again; as a little girl, as a teenager, as a young woman, and as a fully grown woman with a career (okay, a few careers), and a full life of serving clients, raising two active, determined and incredible sons. Navigating life with my husband and children, walking through the days and years, growing closer as a family, simultaneously growing as a woman.

The day it really sank in, I mean deep, in my bones through my veins all the way to my soul sank in was like every other day. I was in Florida working on a book with my friend Mike, talking through some stories when I realized the lie I had believed for way to long. “I’m not worth protecting.”

From the earliest days of my childhood, the message I got from my parents was one of unworthiness. It was as if my mere existence was toxic to them. By simply having the audacity to breathe in and out I had ruined their lives, and they did not hide their deep dissatisfaction with this reality. I grew up navigating their moods, willing myself small enough to fit in the cracks and crevices when their rage and depression took up the entire house.

So as a child, my truth, the heart of my pain, the one thing I could always come home to was: I’m not worth protecting. I am not worthy.

As I grew older, I lived a life seeking validation that I was worth something. Hunger so deep to be validated that I would take any scrap thrown my way. I would shovel forkfuls of contempt and resentment into my face and feel the cold, insidious nourishment rush, ice cold, down the back of my throat, through my chest, spreading into my veins and landing hard in my gut. I would finish what I’d been served and promptly ask for seconds, even thirds; even when what I was being given was bitter and stale threatening my very soul.

Of course there were others that tried to speak a greater truth into my life; one of wholeness, of being enough, of beauty and strength and love and grace. How the hearts of those loved ones must have broken watching me turn away from their outstretched arms. The darkness I had been raised in became more real to me than their light. It consumed and covered me like the unfamiliar sheets of a stranger’s bed. Their words became meaningless to me. I wanted to believe them, could even, for a moment, but never for long. Because the truth I’d come to know would be there to whisper in my ear “Silly girl, do you really believe that’s true? You know better. You’re not worth protecting.”

The saddest part of the lie to me was my belief that it was true. Looking back (we all know that is way easier) I can see that it was a lie that two very broken and mentally unhealthy people fed to me. Some how, those lies attached themselves to me as if they were my favorite jeans.

What I’ve learned through years of study, work and relationships, is that this is an epidemic. I am not alone in this feeling. As Stasci and John Eldredge point out in Captivating; this voice of unworthiness has sunk its teeth into every aspect of our culture. As women, we wonder “Am I enough?” Am I pretty enough? Am I smart enough? Am I thin enough? Obedient enough? Successful enough? And on the other side of the same coin, “Am I too much?” Do I feel too much? Am I too successful? Am I too big? Too small? Too plain?

All of us are too much of some things, and not enough of almost everything else. It is as rare as that giant gemstone from the Titanic to see a woman who recognizes and believes that she is just enough as she is. Many women know this in their minds, but to believe it is something else entirely. What happens when a woman recognizes and chooses to believe her worth?

The moment a woman believes she is worthy, she is unstoppable!

What I have learned, and what I am still learning, is that we as women need to have these essential questions answered. Am I enough? Am I worthy? Am I lovely? All too often, the answer is no. From the world, our parents, our partner and friends. I am here to tell you that every person, every moment, every experience that has told you that you are unworthy, that you are not lovely, and that you are not enough is a lie. The real truth will not be found in your darkness.

Turn your face to the truth and let the beauty of that sink in! Turn your eyes to a perfect sunset or your favorite flowers, a kitten’s soft whiskers against your cheek or the perfect curve of a baby’s ear. The beautiful way your lover drinks you in with a single gaze. Turn your ear to those who speak of your gifts, your wild and undeniable beauty, your fierce and fiery spirit, and your powerful voice.

While I know it may take a million voices over a thousand years, let me be one of them to say:

You are lovely. You are enough. You are worth protecting!

*A special thank you to all of you who continually help me grow, love and protect me!! To say you are rock stars is an understatement!

Theresa Gaser
Sky Diving and Bungee Jumping and Wingsuit Flying, Oh My!

Just a peak at my resume would make it clear to anyone that I am no stranger to making choices.  The list of career paths I’ve traveled is a long one.  Making wise choices was vital in the Air Force, as a teacher, and it remains that way as a counselor in my practice.  One look at my two boys who are quickly becoming men and it’s easy to see that working and hard decisions are as familiar to me as the hands that rocked them to sleep and changed their diapers.  So much of life depends on the risks we take or don’t take, the choices we make and the ones that we don’t.

  • Should I get that degree?

  • Should I make that move?

  • Should I say “yes”?

  • Should I go or should I stay?

  • Should I change careers?

Often, one of them feels risky, like sky diving or bungee jumping (NEVER going to happen) while the other one feels safe and familiar like a warm blanket.  We often think that there is a risk and a non- risk.  But really, we’re always choosing between two risks.  One risk requires us to take action and the other risk (sometimes easier) requires us to stay the same.  When we open ourselves up to growth, we accept the possibility of great success and of great failure.  Many of us let ourselves become paralyzed by the fear of the possible failure.  So I want to share with you three questions that will help you make better decisions and live a life of less anxiety and more peace, courtesy of Andy Stanley.

  • In light of my past, what is the wise decision?

  • In light of my present circumstances, what is the wise decision?

  • In light of my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise decision?

These questions make it personal, and invite us take responsibility based on our own experience.  Of course seeking wise counsel is always a good idea when it comes to tough choices.  Have one or two people you know will steer you in the right direction and really listen to their input, letting the rest fade into the background.  The more you take risks and put yourself out there the easier it will become.  While I have no intent to bungee jump, I did the high ropes course a few weeks ago and realized that I could work on overcoming my fear of heights.  This one small step is leading me to sky diving with my dear friend when we are 87! Taking risks has allowed me to stop taking myself too seriously and when all is said and done, never take yourself too seriously, because no one else is.

Theresa Gaser