Saturday, January 30, 2016

Who to blame?

By Susan

When my son was a toddler and would get in trouble for breaking things or doing something he wasn't supposed to do, his response was: "Accie did it!"  I guess he must have heard us say "it was an accident" and thought it was a person who usually caused problems and hence could be blamed for anything.  That's when I started worrying about how to teach my children to take responsibility for their own actions while at the same time know when to advocate for themselves.  It's a fine balance. And children really learn from the example of the adults around them more so than by being told.  In other words,  I can't really teach it to someone if I haven't found that balance myself.  I think of how often I might say: "You are making mommy lose her patience," or "See what you made me do?" Of course, children can be irritating and test our patience at times,  but ultimately I am in charge of my responses.  Little by little,  children can begin to see the possibility of putting the blame for their actions on outside forces.  Once I was hosting a group of nine and ten year olds at my house.  They became excessively rambunctious and disruptive while playing.  When one of the parents came to pick them up and asked how they had behaved, I mentioned the fact that they had had a rough time.  The parent asked if I had served them any sweets.  I mentioned that I had offered them some cookies as a snack.  "That's it then," said the parent.  "He gets like that when he eats too much sugar." I don't deny that food can have a negative effect on some children but providing that as a quick excuse for bad behavior, absolved the children from taking responsibility for their actions.   I remember as a child when I would fall or run into a piece of furniture, grown ups would try to comfort me by blaming the inanimate object that had hurt me.  Bad table! Why did you hurt my baby?  When I had children of my own, I was afraid that such words, even though spoken out of love, would subtly convey the message that when hurt or angry, our response should be to find someone or something to blame. We so want to protect our children and stand up for them. Especially if we felt vulnerable and defenseless as children ourselves. But it is possible that in the process we rob them of the ability to evaluate a situation and assume the appropriate measure of responsibility.

Some of us grew up in settings where it was always our fault.  Teachers and other adults were always right and our side of the story was never heard. So we end up blaming ourselves for everything.  I think the balance comes from learning to practice truthfulness and justice with ourselves first, and then with our children. I think we all have an inner voice that tries to tells us what is true and just. When we ignore it, it grows quieter and quieter, until one day it is completely silenced.  Our job as parents then is to nurture this voice within ourselves and help our children find theirs and listen to it.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The ABC’s of ME Part 2

Ice Cream

Mint chocolate chip!!  My absolute favorite flavor of all time.  I love taking my kids to Baskin Robbins, especially during those warm summer nights.  Sitting outside, while we talk and my kids share anything and everything that is on their minds, is even better than the ice cream!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and for that Christmas is my favorite holiday.  It absolutely must make my ABC’s of me.

My second home.  The place that first opened its doors to me as a teacher.  I am forever grateful for every student that has crossed my path.  I am blessed to know them.  And I am a better person for the people I have worked with and met, and continue meeting during my Knowles experience.
Lilapsophobia: Fear of Tornadoes
At one point in time, I wanted to be a storm chaser.  The job seemed exciting, and fun.  Never a dull moment with this career.  Then I remembered that when the wind blows just a little too hard, and the sky darkens just a little too much, I get this weird feeling in my chest and I can’t breathe so well.  So maybe, storm chasing wasn’t for me.  You never know, maybe one day.
; )

My hobbies include reading, writing, and watching movies.  I can watch the same movie over and over again, and never grow tired of it.  There are movies I watch when I want a good cry, and movies I watch when I need some comfort.  I used to watch an inspirational teaching movie every Sunday to get me ready for the work week.  Among my list, was Coach Carter, Freedom Writer’s, Lean on me, and Dangerous Minds. I have since let the habit go, but need to get back because I know there are several “teaching movies” I have not seen yet.   
No Worries
These two little words slip out of my mouth quite often I have noticed.  Regardless of whether I actually mean them or not.  I need to be better about distinguishing when I actually mean, “hey that’s ok, don’t worry about it,” or when I really have been hurt and need to address the issue.
Oatmeal is my comfort food.  It reminds me of my grandma.  She likes to make sure everyone is fed and full.  If she offers you something to eat, you say yes.  The first time.  Its as simple as that.  Either way, you will end up giving in, because she does not stop asking until you finally eat.  Growing up, oatmeal was a bedtime snack.  It was warm and toasty, and perfect way to end the day.
Puerto Rico
My favorite vacation of all time!  The summer before my senior year of college my dad surprised my whole family with a trip.  I was extremely excited after seeing pictures of the beautiful place, but I was also nervous because it was the first time I had ever gotten on a plane.  After the short flight from Austin to Dallas, and several tears and panic attacks during that 45 minute ride, I was able to calm down and enjoy our trip.

To be continued….


Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Art of Making Choices

By:  Susan

I am a recovering second-guesser. I struggle with questioning almost every decision I make:  What if I had ordered the fajitas instead of the mole? Should I have bought the higher end toaster oven?  What if I had become a teacher from the beginning instead of studying something else first? What if we had stayed in Venezuela or moved to another country instead of moving back to the States? What if I had not left the classroom to become an instructional coach? What if I had done things differently as a parent, as a wife, as a daughter? etc. etc. etc.  This kind of thinking not only leads to a lot of personal anxiety, it also drives the people around you crazy.  It makes them feel as if they are the mistakes you made; what you settled for instead of what you have gained.  Worse of all, it stops you from being present and committed to what you actually did choose to do.  One of the perks of reaching middle age is that you begin to let go of some of these destructive patterns of thought.  We don’t have to wait for old age to rehabilitate, however.  So here are some thoughts that have helped me battle doubt and indecision:

I had a boss back in my chemical plant days who used to tell me: You make the best decision you can with the information you have at the time.  I now would add to that:  You make the best decision you can, with the information and the spiritual maturity you have at the time.  John Dewey says:  “We do not learn from experience... we learn from reflecting on experience.”  So the better question to ask is: What did I learn from making this choice? And not: What if I had done things differently? The first offers the possibility of doing things better the next time, moving forward.  The second just takes me on a trip to the land of fantasy.

There is so much uncertainty in this life.  I believe it is actually designed to be that way.  How else would we learn to be detached, to rely on God and to let go?  Even if we are very careful and mature and collect all the necessary information, we can never be a 100% sure that we made the best decision.  So what’s the point? I think what matters is how we live through our choices and not so much what choices we made.  Do I take responsibility for this choice or do I blame others? Do I continue to treat people around me with love and respect or do I become resentful and take out my disappointment on those closest and dearest to me?  Do I do the best I can because pursuing excellence is who I am or do I take the path of mediocrity because this is not what I really wanted to do? 

Kicking a bad habit also requires a support system. I have been blessed with a life partner who does not dwell on the past and does not indulge me either. Reminding people how they could have done things differently and more perfectly just adds salt to the wound and encourages the second-guessing.  It paralyzes the most vulnerable ones from making any decisions at all.  When we are caught in the cycle of doubt and self-recrimination, the best thing someone can do for us is to point out what we have gained from the experience, what we have that we wouldn’t otherwise.  When it’s all said and done, I am pretty sure we will not be judged on the accuracy of our choices but the quality of our characters while living with those choices. 

And every day offers a new possibility for doing better, choosing better and being better.