What Comes After

Everywhere you look in the media, at least here in Alberta, there are photos, videos, and stories of traumatic events. The area is experiencing floods to that many will never see again. Except some people will.

When they close their eyes, when they try to sleep, in their dreams … they will see the events replayed.

hand

This is one of the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and now that the majority of the danger has passed, you need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of PTSD. Many associate this disorder with members of the military, emergency services, or victims of terrible crimes. However, a Canadian study conducted in 2008 reveals that all of us are vulnerable.

The prevalence rate of lifetime PTSD in Canada was estimated to be 9.2% … Traumatic exposure to at least one event sufficient to cause PTSD was reported by 76.1% of respondents … (and) … included unexpected death of a loved one, sexual assault, and seeing someone badly injured or killed. In respondents meeting criteria for PTSD, the symptoms were chronic in nature, and associated with significant impairment … PTSD is a common psychiatric disorder in Canada. The results are surprising, given the comparably low rates of violent crime, a small military and few natural disasters.

In just a few days, 250,000+ people experienced a natural disaster first hand.

Some were emergency personnel – and I witnessed individuals who self-identified as struggling, and co-workers who stepped up to encourage others to seek help. People who work in high-stress environments, while more likely to experience PTSD, are also more likely to receive information on how to deal with PTSD.

For the rest, I hope that this information helps you understand emotions and physical symptoms you or someone you know are experiencing.

  1. Absolutely everyone is at risk. PTSD is incredibly personalized because your individual trigger can be set off by very personalized stressors.  Your personal history with traumatic events – regardless of whether they are flood related – will determine what you react to. Age, income, gender, personality type, occupation … nothing gives you immunity. You are at a greater risk depending on your perception of the intensity of the situation, how close you are to the event, and how much control you felt you had – or didn’t have.
  2. You are not weak. There is no form of mental or intestinal fortitude that protects you. Do not succumb to the belief that this makes you weak, crazy, silly, unprofessional, or victimized. Do not allow others to minimize what you are feeling, either.
  3. Seek help now. The sooner you recognize the symptoms (see below) the sooner the healing can start. It may be a day or two, it may be a week, it may be a month. It may be longer in many cases, but delaying it and trying to numb the emotions and feelings will exacerbate the situation.
  4. Know where to seek help. Resources are out there. MyHealth.Alberta.ca has some excellent information including resource lists.
  5. Identify the signs. For people who see trauma on a regular basis, like emergency services or military personnel, it is important to recognize unhealthy behaviours and take steps to minimize them. I have experienced PTSD first-hand, and even recently I needed to remind myself of my own signs of stress: emotional regulation issues, anger, impulsivity, over-focused behaviour, the feeling that I have to attack even small problems with the vigor of a full hill assault.
  6. Fill out a self-assessment. Be honest but be instinctual and don’t second-guess yourself. Or fill it out with a loved one who may help identify issues you haven’t recognized in yourself.

So what are the signs? Thanks to Alberta Health Services – who issued a memo for EMS peers earlier this weekend – I have some great info to share with you:

Very Common Signs and Symptoms:

Physical

Nausea
Upset stomach
Tremors (lips, hands)
Feeling uncoordinated
Profuse sweating
Chills
Diarrhea
Dizziness
Chest pain (should be assessed at hospital)
Rapid heart beat
Rapid breathing
Increased blood pressure
Headaches
Muscle aches
Sleep disturbances

Thinking

Slowed thinking
Difficulty making decisions
Difficulty in problem solving
Confusion
Disorientation
Difficulty calculating
Difficulty concentrating
Memory problems
Difficulty naming common objects
Seeing the event over and over
Distressing dreams
Poor attention span

Emotional

Anxiety
Fear
Guilt
Grief
Depression
Sadness
Feeling lost
Feeling abandoned
Feeling isolated
Worry about others
Wanting to limit contact with others
Anger
Irritability
Feeling numb
Startled easily
Shocked

Unless you’re an actual hypochondriac people naturally minimize or dismiss some of these symptoms. “I’m just tired.” “She’s just stressed.” “It’s just a tough situation, he’ll be fine.” “I just need a drink.” And you may feel uncomfortable about approaching someone if you are concerned. You may not know them very well, or you may know them too well and assume they will be bothered by your concern. Or you might encounter people that are just jerks who feel uncomfortable with the whole topic – because it might mean they have an issue, too.

Whether you think you have PTSD or not, self-care after a traumatic event is important: rest more, reach out to trusted people, spend time with people or ask people to spend time with you, realize symptoms are normal and they will decrease over time, maintain as normal a schedule as possible, eat well, stay active and fight boredom, express your feelings as they arise – even if you simply journal them, talk to safe people who love you, seek professional help if required.

Be on the lookout for friends and family experiencing PTSD: don’t minimize their experience, listen, spend time with them, proactively offer to listen or provide assistance, reassure them of their safety, allow them to be private if they need to be, but above all … do not try fix the situation by suggesting that they are “lucky” or by pointing out others are worse off and do not judge them for what they share with you. Be a safe place for them. I cannot overstate the importance of being a calm, receptive person and the power of the words “I am sorry this has happened.” Acknowledgement of their pain is crucial.

Finally, recognize that trauma can be primary (experienced the event) or secondary (sometimes called vicarious trauma or compassion fatigue). All are forms of trauma and all can result in PTSD. There is some great information here for those who find themselves unable to tear themselves away from Facebook or Twitter or the news channel and who may be showing signs of vicarious trauma. When we have a personal connection in some way to a traumatic event, we seek out information about it – and some times it becomes unhealthy. Social and traditional media can feed this particular form of trauma.

Fear-Based Parenting

There was a time in my life when parenting was EASY. There was nothing I couldn’t do. That time was 1977-2001… also known as BEFORE I ACTUALLY HAD CHILDREN.

I could have told you everything parents did wrong and what the right choice would be. I could have fully explained proper discipline, correct bedtime routines and what constitutes a healthy meal.

Then of course I had kids.

This week there is one thing running through my head.

“This is haaaaard.”

But even now, I look at other parents and think that perhaps they have it easier. Thankfully most of my closest friends are parents and they are there to hold my proverbial hair back while I purge all the complaints and whines of the day.

You can tell me parenting isn’t rocket science, but I could probably find you a rocket scientist that’s as confused about it as I am. He or she is probably wondering how they can figure out the vector something something of a rocket leaving orbit something something… but can’t get their kid potty trained.

I sit down defeated some days and wonder how I can learn to read an ECG but can’t figure out the hockey championship schedule for minor hockey.

There are some things that parents just can’t do. For example,  I can hold my son accountable for his chores and homework and how he treats other people. But I can’t *make* him behave at school. It doesn’t matter what treat I dangle in front of him, he still makes some poor choices. And in some cases, it makes things worse because he thinks “not only have I lost my footing here at school, but now life at home is going to be horrible” because of whatever privilege he imagines he’s just lost.

And I sit down, head in hands and try to remember: How does the wise man learn to make good choices? By making bad choices.

And it doesn’t just work for the kids, that’s kind of how parenting works, too.

How do I know that yelling at my kids doesn’t work? I’ve yelled at them, and it didn’t work.

I think… I think that perhaps you have to learn to NOT take things personally with kids. Which is hard, because what is more personal than your children??

Case in point: yesterday I had a fever, was exhausted after three days of 12 hour night shifts, and I took my son to his hockey game. I cheered, I encouraged, I tried to keep his spirits up after a loss. It seemed to be going well.

But our stumbling block was my lack of cash and his deep, essential need to have some ice cream from a specific ice cream machine in the rink. And I said no.

The pouting began.

And the hardest thing in the world at that moment was to control my temper.

What I wanted to say was “I’m your sick, tired, overworked mom and I’m trying my best and have gotten you to hockey, I make sure you get to every hockey game and practice and organize everything I can do to get you to where you need to go…. and yet I’m currently seen as a total failure by you because I can’t make ice cream come out of this machine with $3.75.”

What I did was tell him to get in the van and stop pouting. And then I cried. Which probably freaked him out a little bit more than the previous paragraph would have. But it was an honest emotion.

The paragraph I wanted to say was not an honest emotion. It was a list of complaints detailing why he was wrong and why I was right. How well does that every work when you are in conflict with someone?

Oh, I’m upset with you and so to prove how this is your fault and not mine, I’m going to list my awesomeness and then list your failures. Not a good tactic at any time.

And yet I think parents do this – I know I have in the past.

We react in anger. And anger is just a mask for a different emotion, usually fear.

In this case, I was sad that I couldn’t do everything for him and fearful that he would see me as a failure because I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) buy him the ice cream. The little voice in the back of my head was saying “I bet his dad would buy it for him”. And the fear that being the parent in charge of all the discipline and all the instruction and all the day-to-day worries will result in him overlooking the good things I do… that fear was overwhelming.

I’m done with fear-based parenting. A parent who parents out of fear is an angry parent.

I don’t want to be that parent.

But Lord, it’s haaaaard.

It’s not that I WOULD… but I COULD.

I once read a blog post that started with the statement,”I am an extreme mom”, and it took me a few paragraphs in before I realized she meant “I’m a better mom than you”. The gist of her point was that because she spent almost every waking minute with her baby and enjoyed each moment, she was a better mom, a more extreme mom… like, Ultra Mom. Or Mega Mom. She’s the Venti Mom to my Grande Mom.

I think my response was something along the lines of “um… you have a baby. Sooooo come back when your kid actually, you know, acts like a kid”.

Because at some point, your kid is going to misbehave and actually make you kind of angry.

How extreme is it to be screaming into a pillow and locking yourself in the bathroom for a little r&r?

I think maybe your extreme and mine? They aren’t really the same.

Many people have seen the “creative” way one dad punished his daughter for her disrespectful Facebook post. Here’s the Cole’s Note’s version: he said if she ever repeated a previous egregious Facebook posting error of criticizing her parents … he would put a bullet through her computer. She did. So he did.

His logic was that he was following through with what he said he would do.

Some say he’s being a bully, some say he’s hilarious. Some wish they had the cojones, some think the girl should be taken away from the crazy gun-totin’ Republican. (Cause he has to be a Republican to own a gun, right? And have a drawl. And be an anal disciplinarian. Right? I mean why couldn’t some really cool Canadian do this, eh?)

I think he’s just another example of extreme parenting. And at some point in our parenting career we all have moments of extreme parenting.

“If you ever…”

“I will never…”

“.. grounded until college!”

“… over my dead body!”

“… it will be taken away forever!”

I am pretty sure more than one of these has left my lips over my 10+ year parenting marathon. In fact just this morning I wa threatening to withhold something from my son that I really, really didn’t want to take away from him. As soon as the words were spoken I cringed. I did NOT want to follow through. And that’s the thing with using threats to elicit compliance from your kids. Either they will work or you will have to follow through. And they won’t always work.

In fact, if you were ever a kid like me growing up, you would have pushed past any limit your parents set down just to prove that you knew exactly how to play brinksmanship and you were going to WIN. Yes, it was about WINNING.

I was like the Charlie Sheen of teenagers. Without the drugs.

Or the hookers.

Or, really, the illegal behaviour.

But I had extra helpings of attitude and stubbornness.

Anyway, I am certain my children are my mother’s payback. And the proper discipline of said children is something that I may never, ever WIN at. Because it’s damn hard and frustrating and there are days when I could go off the deep end and shoot a computer. Or hockey bag. Or beloved stuffie.

But we do have a few rules regarding discipline in our house:

1. No punishment is valid if handed out in anger.

2. Parents should apologize when wrong.

It would be wonderful if these two rules prevented poor parenting behaviour, but they don’t. Just like rules for behaviour don’t prevent misbehaviour. They just help get back on track when things have gone off the rails. Before these two rules were in place, I felt like such a parenting failure when I’d have to half-heartedly enforce some punishment I felt bad for doling out in the first place. Because if I’d been calm and had my wits about me, I would have done something a little smarter and more effective.

The epilogue of the gun-toting father is kind of a funny one.

Truthfully though the social attention has helped her and I both deal with it. We had our discussion about it after she returned home from school. We set the ground rules for her punishment, and then I let her read some of the comments on Facebook with me at my computer. At first it was upsetting. Then as we read it became less so, eventually funny to both of us.

At the end, she was amazed that other people had such amazingly strong reactions. Some said she’d grow up to be a stripper. Others that she’d get pregnant and become drug addicted because of the emotional damage. She actually asked me to go on Facebook and ask if there was anything else the victim of a laptop-homicide could do besides stripping because all the posts seem to mention that particular job and she wasn’t so keen on that one.

The fact that they were able to sit down and have a conversation and deal with the aftermath of misbehaviour-punishment-reaction is very hopeful. It’s hard to judge a parent-child relationship from a brief moment in time when you see it in real life, nevermind out there on the interwebs.

But when you think about it, the dad went out into a field and shot (oh, bad pun) a video to show her (and the world, apparently) of the punishment. Can you imagine the reaction if he’d drug his daughter out there with him… and the laptop… and the gun… and let this all play out in real time? With emotions high and possible anger waiting to erupt?

That would have been a recipe for disaster. And the more I think about this dad’s response, the more I see it as calm and calculating.

I’m still not employing the use of any type of firearm in my parenting arsenal.

And I’m trained on the C-7, so let’s be clear that I could handle one.

And it would have been a whole lot more impressive than an ittybitty handgun.

gun-totin' mama

gun-totin' mamawww.

 

Hockey Parent 101

I wish someone had told me all that would be involved in being a hockey mom. I had heard some crazy stories about early morning hockey practices and insane hockey parents. It was all a bit intimidating and left me never wanting my kid to play hockey.

But. He loves it.

And strangely, I find myself loving it too. Now that I know some of the rules and have muddled my way through part of one year, I find myself TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY QUALIFIED (hahaha) to comment on how to be a hockey parent. I’m going to bookmark this post and re-read it in about five years and see if I sound like a complete idiot. But this is from a newbie parent to a newbie parent, so take it for what it’s worth.

(I’m also a trainer for an older, more elite team so I spend a lot of time on the bench and in the stands. This advice is a compilation of my experiences so far.)

1. Volunteer for something on the hockey team and then follow through and do it. At least once. You don’t have to volunteer every year, but if you get involved your kid will notice. And you will have a better idea about what’s going on. I volunteered as Manager this year and it’s my first year in hockey. Possibly a dumb move, but, as it turns out … it completely suits my control freak nature. Find something that suits you. Compassionate and good with people? Perfect fundraiser. Calm and a middle child with the peacekeeper gene? You have Parent Rep written all over you.

2. Do not yell at the refs. Just don’t. First, you look tacky because if your kid is a young player, you are yelling at someone who is maybe as old as 15. I refuse to believe that any ref goes out onto the ice and wants to make a mistake. They are doing the best that they can. You know what you’re telling your kid? “It’s ok to yell at someone when they make a mistake.” Way to erode their confidence in  you as a compassionate adult that they can call when they spill the milk… or need a ride home from a friends place because their ride is drunk. Second, everyone gets good calls and bad calls over the course of the season. Some will have a greater impact on a game than others, but for every game changing call there is someone who benefits and someone who doesn’t. Deal with it. Appropriately, please.

(Also, your association may have a process to deal with ref issues. Talk to your parent rep who can talk to the coach and ask about the process.)

3. Don’t be THAT parent that asks the coach why your kid isn’t getting more ice time. This is between your kid and the coach. If you have a concern, bring it up but don’t criticize the answer – it’s not your place. The coach is managing a team, not your child’s hockey career. If your child wants more ice time he will need to ask the coach how he can get it… there could be a multitude of reasons: he’s not good enough for a specific line, the coach is working on a specific strategy, something is being overlooked on the bench, there are skills he needs to improve upon. If your kid doesn’t want more ice time enough to go and ask the coach himself… he doesn’t want it enough. Relax and stop counting the zeros on his future NHL contract.

4. Remember your manners. Spectatating at a hockey game is not a competitive sport. When the other parents start cheering for their kids, you do not have to cheer overtop of them. Be loud and proud and POSITIVE. And remember… the kids don’t hear even a quarter of what you’re saying. My son watched a video of himself during a game and was confused about all the yelling that was going on…when had that happened?? Yeah… pretty much the whole game, buddy.

5. Don’t manage the bench. If you want to control who plays when and where, see rule #1 and volunteer to be a coach. If you didn’t step up and commit, don’t think it’s your right to say which goalie should be in and when. That’s between the team and the coach. You can almost be forgiven for wanting to know why your kid is or isn’t playing… but to say when the other kids should play? That’s the coach.

6. Please, please, please teach your kids good sportsmanship. I’ve said it many times before, sports don’t teach character, they reveal it. If a kid can’t win and lose graciously they are going to have a much harder time recovering from REAL challenges in life. It’s very easy for kids to get hyper focused on winning or losing.

The kids need your support and good behaviour just about as much as they need the exercise and lessons of hockey. It can be too easy for them to hyper focus on the outcome of a game (or even a practice) and we need to help them refocus on the more important things.

Don’t get me wrong… YES, being a good hockey player is awesome. Having the drive and focus to be a better player is a good thing. But when they start to focus on not getting enough ice time, bad ref calls, another player making a mistake… they will spend a lot of their time looking for reasons they didn’t win and who to blame instead of focusing on their own contribution to the team.

I guess I’m in this game for the long haul and so is my kid (at least one, so far). I want it to be the most positive influence in his life – amortized over his many seasons instead of based on whether or not he wins this year.

Having said THAT… we’re on to the Esso Minor Hockey Week Finals for his division tomorrow morning: Go Badgers!!

Dear Resolutionists,

I started off this morning fully irritated that I would have to go to the gym and fight for space with you people. Yes, you people, the ones who have made a resolution to get in shape this year.

Mean, bitchy, and judgmental. I am aware of this. It’s selfish as well if we’re keeping track, because the main reason I’m irritated is because *I* want my time on the treadmill, too. I don’t have one in my basement and when it’s cold outside I like running inside. (First world problem, I know.)

The thing is… I don’t have a problem with you or your desire to get in shape. I get that. Do we need to review my eye-burning bikini posts, again? No, I’m not even going to link to it, that’s how much I care about you, Dear Reader. I totally and 100% get the unhappiness with the size of your ass or the muffin top that is making you want to hit the gym. I still don’t like what I look like from behind or my waist. Especially since 6 lbs have come back to haunt me in December.

But. People. Do not buy into the resolution theory.

You know what hit my inbox today? No less than seven emails from retailers advertising their “Health and Wellness” products. The media has been talking about resolutions all week. Blogs and web sites offer tips for keeping your resolutions.

I don’t hate your desire to get in shape. I don’t hate you. I don’t hate that you are hogging the treadmill today.

I hate the resolution culture. Those people who directly market to you at this time of year to feed the hype and take advantage of your short-term will power that’s fueled by .. the people who directly market to you. See: magazine cover + photoshop.

I want you to stay at the gym for the whole year so that the demand for gym space will be great enough for them to build more gyms. But the facts are, by January, you will likely be gone.

And that makes me sad because it means you were pushed to make a resolution by the resolution culture and the result will likely be that you feel WORSE about yourself than you did in January. By February’s Valentine’s chocolate sales you’ll be reminded that you failed. Again.

I do some admin / web site work for my trainer and I asked him once about running specials during January and the spring time, to get those people who are making resolutions and who want to get in shape for the summer. His response? Absolutely not.

I don’t remember exactly what he said, because I think I heard it with my heart rather than with my ears. But I got the main points. No trainer, no gym, no treadmill, no time of year, no bikini will ever be enough for you to make a change if you aren’t ready for it. If you don’t know deep inside that this is for you, so you can play with your kids longer, be stronger, be healthier, live to see your kids graduate, etc… etc… then the results will always be short-term.

But you’ll hear everywhere for the next two weeks that you NEED this item, you NEED this gym membership, you NEED this supplement, you NEED to sign up for this class.

You don’t need any of that (although, admitedly, some may help).

You need to know you’re worth the effort.

Because it’s going to be hard, long, sweaty, and tiring. You may cry, puke, fail, yell. You might hate the look of your ass for a long time. You may still have some crappy vampire in your life who will try to sabotage your efforts. You may think that’s me right now.

But you need to know you’re worth it. Do you hear me telling you?? You are worth the effort.

You aren’t defined by your jean size. You aren’t a better person for beating your last run time on the treadmill. You don’t become a better wife, father, mother, husband because you look better in a bathing suit. I know people tell you that you’re worth the spa. A pedicure. A manicure. A vacation.

Wrong.

You, just you, sitting there in your pajamas, typing reading this blog post, you are worth the effort.

It’s the effort you put into other people because you love them or because it’s the right thing to do. That effort that you give away? You are worth it too.

You will feel stronger and healthier. You will feel pain and know how awesome it feels to get out of bed with sore muscles. You will breathe easier. You will run because you can. You will push pedals because of the accomplishment feels inside. You will find the spot in your day that works for you for exercise – not a morning because so-and-so does it, not an evening because whatshisface says it’s best. Not lunch time because it’s “in” at work. You’ll choose a crossfit class because it works for you, not because it’s the new cool thing on the block. You’ll run on the treadmill because it makes sense for you and say “screw you” to the people that say they are real runners because they compete in races.

Just don’t work out today because it’s January. Don’t work out today because you made a resolution. Don’t work out today because *I* need that treadmill. Don’t work out today because some famous trainer tells you that this year is YOUR year. Don’t work out today because someone told you you should.

Work out today because you are worth the effort. And then get up tomorrow and do it again. And every day… not until you reach some GOAL or complete a RESOLUTION … but because you are worth the effort every day.

Go. Sweat.

And then get off my treadmill, fellow gym rat.

If That Were My Child, I’d…

I’ve written here several times about my struggle with being judgmental. There are times when I forget that a great deal of grace has been given to me and it’s my responsibility to give grace to others.

No where is this more applicable than in the parenting arena.

Before I had kids I think my favourite phrase was “when I have kids…” because I was pretty damn sure I wasn’t going to repeat my parent’s mistakes. Or the mistakes I saw in the world around me.

Oh no, not me. In fact, what I was going to do, it turned out, was make whole new ones.

And the first was assuming I knew better than another parent.

I knew how long someone should breastfeed, until I had to do it myself. I knew whether parents should work or stay home, until the choice was mine to make. I knew that a child’s bad behaviour was a sure sign of poor parenting, until I had to parent my way through said behaviour.

Now, however, I notice a new trend. Parents who feel that it’s somehow their right or duty to judge good or bad parenting simply by looking at a situation from the outside. They aren’t even backseat parents because that would imply they are along for the ride… no, they are the drive by parenting experts who see a situation from a few yards away and think “oh dear, bad parents”.

This seems to be particularly prevalent with NEW parents. As though the birth certificate issued to your child came with a rider that said “authorizes parent to judge other parents”.

We can all agree that there are certain things in the bad parent category: beating your children, subjecting them to physical or sexual abuse, abandoning them. But I would caution anyone from even sitting in judgment on those situations. That job is for the police and the courts to do, that’s their job… not yours.

Most often I find young, immature, new parents to be the culprits in drive by parenting expertise. They think parenting a willful toddler means they know what it’s like to parent a willful ten-year old. They don’t. They don’t even know what it’s like to parent someone else’s willful toddler.

There came a point in my parenting career, shortly after my second child was born that I realized that whether my child was “easy” or “difficult” had a lot more to do with the personality, gifts, and challenges he or she was given than whether or not I was a good parent. And this caused me to look at other parents with the knowledge that I had no earthly idea what it was like to parent their kids.

If I see a child misbehaving in public, my first thought is, yes, irritation. But shortly after that my conscience kicks in and I remember that I am not their judge. Their behaviour has a reason and it’s isn’t always one I am going to know about.

For example, a child is throwing a fit in the store about a toy he can’t have. I could just label it bad parenting because of the language the kid is using or the disrespect he’s showing. “If that were my kid, I’d…”

What if that kid lost his sister two months ago to cancer and is still processing the loss? What if the parent has been so overcome with grief that she’s been giving in more than she should and she’s just now trying to bring back a sense of normal to their family’s life.

A 13-year old boy is running roughshod through a public venue, talking rude, being disrespectful. The parents are no where to be seen. Maybe it’s a mall and they are shopping and he’s been left to his own defenses. Oh, bad parenting. “If that were my kid, I’d…”

What if that child faces jeers and laughter every day at school? He’s bullied mercilessly and tormented because of his second-class clothes and worn out sneakers. He’s on the autism spectrum, just enough to be socially awkward and maybe unsure of how to act appropriately. He’s gotten a chance to go shopping and his parents, knowing he’s a good kid, have given him some freedom to spend his $20 birthday money. He’s trying to act cool… afterall, all the cool kids at school act this way. His dad says these things, drops the f-bomb all the time. It’s ok, right?

A mother spanks her child in the dairy aisle. Easy one, huh? Obviously a bad parent. Who hits their kid? Or who hits their kid in public. Or, even if you think spanking is ok, obviously the kid’s behaviour issues aren’t dealt with properly or she wouldn’t have to hit him in public anyway.

This mom is working two jobs, close to losing her home. She rarely spanks her kids but today she just snapped and swatted him. She was awake most of the night, worried about the rent coming due. Worried she has no one to turn to since her ex left and her family lives so far away. She will go home tonight and cry. Apologize and phone a crisis line to learn how to better deal with her stress.

How are you to know any of this?

You aren’t. You won’t.

Why would someone choose to judge the situation harshly when erring on the side of grace costs you nothing?

I will tell you.

Oh, that's what I look like as a parent.

Some people find that they can define themselves as being “ok” and in a good place as a parent simply by defining what is wrong or bad parenting. It’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle of parenting rules where the piece missing is your own self as a parent.

 

This way you can put all the pieces in place and know what your shape is as a parent by the exact lines and contours of those around you.

Please. Don’t.

Don’t spend time judging other parents. If you think there is a real concern, a real bad parenting issue involving abuse then by all means, take a step. Do something, don’t ignore it. That takes courage. Do it.

But if you just judge and walk away, then you’ve done nothing except construct your own safe haven of useless, judgmental thoughts that will eventually erode your confidence as a parent.

Because I guarantee you that when your kids get older you will face challenges you could not even imagine as you look at your little sweet baby in your arms, or hear the laughter of your adorable toddler.

And your judgments will return to you tenfold.

UNDOMESTICATED: KIDS? THEIR TIMING SUCKS. | Calgary Beacon

My son started as ‘the flu’. I’d been feeling ill for about a week and couldn’t figure out why. I was 23-years old and I promise I’d paid attention in health class but the other shoe hadn’t quite dropped. I came home from the doctor and my fiancé asked “so, are ya dyin’?” I just looked at him… it was worse. I was pregnant.

Read more:  UNDOMESTICATED: KIDS? THEIR TIMING SUCKS. | Calgary Beacon.

Finding Sources

If you start writing in a niche industry and you are even the littlest bit successful then you’ll find yourself using the same sources over and over again. I wrote a Q&A column for several years, it was focused on horses and each month I had to find four experts to answer questions. After the first year I’d used everyone I knew who had any kind of good level of expertise!

When seeking sources, you need to get creative. Here are some examples:

  • Mom Groups – postings on bulletin boards at the local gym or YMCA
  • Mass emails to family members and close friends (you know, the ones who aren’t going to report you as spamming!)
  • Professional Associations – email a request to the communications of a non-profit asking them to forward your request for sources to their membership, often they have regular newsletters
  • Emailing the “Investor Relations” contact at a related company
  • University Professor listings – every university or college I’ve looked at has bios and contact info for their staff members
  • Craigslist, Kijiji.ca, Facebook or any other site that offers you to post an “ad” for free
  • Set up a google alert for the phrase “is a mom who” because Google will send you an email each day every time that phrase appears. I’ve done it for my name, blog name and specific phrases like “a veterinarian specializing in lamenesses” to find vets with specialties…

The BEST resource I’ve seen, by far, is Help A Reporter Out. During a recent posting I received over 60 emails in response.

Choosing Happiness

I am watching a program this afternoon about being happy.

Travelling across the country, using surveys to determine the extent of the average Canadian’s happiness, Sonja and Jon meet people from all different social-economic levels including a cheery funeral director who loves his work and a disabled single mother who happily spends her free time volunteering. Sonja and Jon find that money and prestige are not a reflection of a person’s happiness. In fact, many people who are lower on the social-economic scale rank much higher in terms of happiness than many high-income professionals. Sonja reveals that the life traits adopted by satisfied people are the ones that contribute to a truly happy existence and are lessons that everyone can learn in order to live a more fulfilled life.

They say that 50% of your happiness quotient comes from genetics, 10% from life experiences and 40% from … ?

Leaving many to think that 40% is choice. Can you imagine? They interivewed one woman who says she wakes up happy every morning. And looking at her, you truly believe that she is happy. She shows us a prime example of the “Duchenne smile“. Another woman has used that smile to actually predict the lives of her students. The ones who have that smile are more likely to be married longer, sometimes into the decades, where the others either aren’t married or are divorced.

You can find out more at Happy Canadians.

What does this have to do with being a Writing Mother? I’m not always happy. Big surprise there to friends and family ;0).

But starting today I’m going to choose to be happy more. I’m going to say thank you more to my friends rather than complain that no one comes to my parties. I’m going to delete emails that upset me or make me want to react in anger. I’m going to smile and laugh when I am frustrated or tired.

The key is… choosing to be happy isn’t about faking it. It’s about letting go of anger. Yes, there are deadlines to meet and kids who won’t sleep. And there are days I oversleep and rush to work horrible hair. There are piles of laundry and kids who would rather throw spaghetti than eat it.

But there’s also the promise of income and children who make the days worthwhile. There are days when I have a wonderful job full of opportunities and hair with it’s own personality. We have enough clothes on our back and food in the cupboard.

These are the things I’m going to focus on. These are the choices and opportunities I’m going to seek.

Tasks and Such

I just posted a blog over at Mama Needs A Book Contract. Please stop by!

I’ve gotten away from listmaking in the last year, but started back up again last month. With my looming return to work, I feel as though I need some stability to help keep my sanity.

It’s something that I talked about when I was interviewed last week about time management and effective communications. The interview is now up at Direct Sales Radio Show.