The look of love
The look of fear
The look of contempt
Those looks you hate?
It may not be their fault.
It may be because of the choices you made, the choices WE made as parents of these incredible children we have been given.
As a child, sustaining repeated and persistent abuse, I had a significant thought…
Why did you have me?
This took many other word forms such as:
Why did you have a child?
Why did you have another child?
I am not blaming the way children turn out on their caregivers; I am reminding caregivers to make better choices so that we can say that we tried our very best when our children have the “looks” that are “cringeworthy.”
I spoke to a social worker when I was in Trinidad in October, and I heard about a child who was brought to her office by her guardian with a bag of clothing. The guardian is the legal guardian and a very close family member. The social worker was told that the child was stealing food. The child was a very young teenager and was emaciated and clearly hungry. There was no place for the child to go so the child was sent back to the house with the guardian.
A few weeks later, the whole scene repeated itself. The social worker again sent the child back.
This story really left me feeling helpless.
Often times I am talking about past abuses and guiding the teller of the abuse story through the pain, and into a deeper understanding of their present power instead of a powerless past.
This was so very different.
This is clear and present danger and pain that was being experienced by a young person that I could meet. I could make a significant difference here. Yet, I choose to keep working at the global level and to use my time and energy to try to make changes at a different level.
I will reach out to that social worker to see how I can contribute to the care and feeding of that child, but I must do this from a safe distance. If I get too personally involved I stand the chance of derailing my whole path because I will get way too deep in the problem, and can potentially make the situation very much worse. This is very hard to accept.
Unless I am willing to step in to legally adopt this young teenager in a different country and devote my life to her future, I can only help in different ways.
When we face situations like this in life, we can only really do what we can do. If we need to work from a safe distance, that is the decision we must make.
If we can do something deeper and significantly contribute to the situation we can choose that path. The option is NEVER to beat yourself up about what we “could” have done or “should” have done. To be this centered in difficult decisions like this we must practice this centeredness in other less difficult aspects of life.
Luckily for us, life gives us many opportunities to practice centeredness …. from ordering from a menu, to choosing an internet provider, to dealing with the technical advisor of said internet provider who has such a thick accent, we just want to bang our heads with the device we are trying to trouble shoot. You get the picture.
Look around you and attempt to deal with the next small irritant with a deeper level of groundedness and presence.
Maybe it requires you to use your ears more than your mouth. Maybe you get to use your mouth but in the complete opposite way, like whispering instead of yelling, or smiling in the face of the instigator instead of scowling, pouting. Maybe you decide to use your feet and leave a hostile situation instead of staying and begging the others to please, please, please see it your way.
Only you can decide what to do.
Expect to make mistakes and expect pushback. Pushback is really good because it tells you that you are making waves in the status quo. If you want to quick start this practice, look at the status quo of your life and see what you would like to change then start there.
In my case, the status quo of my life was that of a “stay at home mom,” very little travel and a very confined, albeit very comfortable, world. These days, my status quo is a far cry from yesteryear.
Almost a year has passed since I wrote the original “Female Avatar” post, and I have been waiting, and waiting, to write a victorious follow up. A post where I could tell you that using a female character in that video game, and the conversations that followed, made a difference in how my son views gender.
The problem being, there were no earth shattering changes for me to report from that original conversation.
Sure, there were little signs of change. My son would get excited and cheer on the female contestants in America Ninja Warrior competitions, but he would also comment that “the girls never make it as far as the boys” (which is true, but still made me wonder if his view was changing).
We read, Wings of Fire, a series of books with some female main characters. However, these characters were also dragons, and my son LOVES everything dragon. So, I wasn’t sure if he was accepting the female characters completely, or if he was accepting them because of their dragon status.
My son has also become more accepting of the colour purple, which may seem unimportant, but for years purple has fallen into the category of “princess colour” and “boys don’t like princesses”. Unfortunately, pink, is still a colour that forms a grimace on his now 8-year-old face, and a disgusted comment of “pink is for girls.”
Now, to give the poor little guy a break, he is only 8 years old, so I am not expecting him to approach me and ask to have an in-depth discussion about gender norms and how he can work towards behaving in a manner that supports equality (to be honest, if that DID happen I would be a bit wigged out). But, I have been hoping that something “8-year-old big” would happen, showing that he was starting to see that boys and girls are equals.
That 8-year-old-big event happened last week.
We were in Kids Books, an amazing bookstore in Vancouver BC, shopping with Fionn’s cousins for some books for his birthday the following day. I was looking through some 7 to 10-year-old book series when I felt a poke. Looking down I saw Fionn, three books precariously clutched in his arms, looking up at me.
“Daddy, how about these books, they sound awesome”
“You’ve read the backs?” I asked, taking the books from his hands.
“Yes, they sound really cool.”
“For you to read, or for me to read to you?”
“I think I can read them, but I want you to read them to me.”
I looked down at the first book and the 8-year-old-big moment happened when I saw the cover:
Let’s break this down from the view of a Dad, trying to teach his son about gender equality, and see that boys are not better than girls:
The picture on the front of the book is clearly a girl, and he still chose to pick up the book and read more.
The subtitle of the book has the word “witch” (a “girl” word) in it.
Most importantly, and amazing for me:
The subtitle has the word “princess” in it. A word that my son, and all of his friends usually have an allergic reaction to, with much frowning and spitting, followed by “princesses are dumb.”
All right, as earth shattering as this book selection already was for me, it might not be convincing for you. Totally understandable.
I smiled down at Fionn as I turned the book over to read the back, which read:
“Silk tells stories. It sings of secrets long forgotten. It sings of fire. Maia dreams of being a Story Teller, or a Weaver, like her father, Tareth. But when the Watcher names her Sun Catcher, she must face a destiny that Tareth has kept hidden from her. For Maia is more powerful than she knows, and she is about to discover that though the sun’s fire may be dangerous…so is she.”
The back of the book makes it clear that the protagonist is female, and, from the sounds of it, a female that will be kicking some serious butt. Looking at the backs of the other two books, each book is clearly about girls leading the way and being the focus of the story. Not just a side character in the book, but a female protagonist.
For me, after just a year ago when my son refused to even think about reading Tamora Pierce’s “Song of the Lioness Quartet” because the main character was a girl, this is a big sign that our conversation around gender equality has shifted.
Whether it was switching my video game avatar to a female character, or the follow up conversations we have had, or the changes I have made in my own behaviors that has brought about this shift I cannot say.
To be honest I don’t care what has made the difference, but I cannot explain how much pride I felt in this simple moment in the bookstore when my son chose Sheila Rance’s trilogy of books to be our next “Dad and Son” reading project.
I looked up from the backs of the books and smiled, “you bet buddy. Let’s get them all, they sound awesome.”
Fionn smiled, turned, and ran off down one of the aisles to look for more books.
I was speaking to a very dear friend the other day.
She said that she had 6 beautiful bowls that someone had given to her a long time ago.
The other day she noticed that there were only 3 and she realized that some of them were broken.
She felt happy that she had 3 left.
She began to tell her young daughter who had been helping with her dishes.
She turned away to do something and heard the awful sound…
She froze and realized that something had broken.
She did not know what it was. She turned to the sink full of dishes and saw her sweet daughter, shaking and fearful and she heard these words, “Sorry mom it was an accident, I did not mean it. Sorry mom.”
My dear friend said, “Now there are two.”
And then she smiled.
The worry on the daughter melted away and the mom showed her child how easy it was to show compassion and to to teach her child that mistakes can and will happen.
As my friend was telling me this story I saw the realization on her face that her child had been shaking because she fully expected to be yelled and screamed at.
My friend knew that she had been a teller and she had parented with anger in the past.
She also knew that she had been intentional in the way she had been parenting the past few years and that she had significantly changed the energy in the family.
She had been able to forge a deeper connection with her son and she had been showing her daughter what unconditional love really is.
Here, at this moment, it meant that she loved her daughter MORE than she ever could love those dishes.
She chose to NOT break her child.
She chose to parent with understanding and respect.
I have known this woman for a long time. I know how hard this woman has worked to get to a place of peace and tranquility.
I applaud her willingness to change the way she used to parent and to seek new ways and to know that she was doing the best for her kids.
Most people say, “My parents did it this way and I turned out ok.”
My view is why just settle for OK when we can be wiser and better than OK?
Let us thrive as parents and constantly better ourselves so we can raise a brighter generation. One that will know more than we will ever know and will be in charge of the welfare of our grandchildren.
Today we are sharing one of Tanya’s posts, called Ending Well, which is a great read for teachers of all kinds. Tanya also offers a free group coaching call called I’m SOOO DONE with that child!Click here to learn more or to sign up.
Happy End of Year to all of our teacher friends! And happy reading!
Cheers to you! As you take down the artwork and fancy writing assignments. Cheers to you! They’ve come so far since that first day you met them. Cheers to you — the year is over! And the 2014 / 2015 class picture takes its place with the others. Whew!
Maybe you’ll see them next year, but it won’t be the same. You’ll have a new class. They’ll have a new teacher. There are some students you hate to see go. But frankly, when it comes to others, you think, “thank heavens I will not have to deal with that child next year!” And in the same breath, the talk among your grade level team is thick with speculation about who is going to get the problem students next year.
Ending well is a process of letting go of the worst of times and the best of times and preparing to embrace a new class. It is also an opportunity to deepen personal and professional wisdom. If you’re willing to go there, it means taking a moment to linger with the memories and spirit of your problem child before moving on. If you decide to do so, above all, be gentle with yourself.
We’ve all had students who get under our skin. We breathe a sign of relief and the shoulders visibly let down when they are absent. We’re exhausted by the turmoil, conflict, strife, and high level of demand they bring to the classroom. We don’t want to feel that way. We maintain our best professional demeanor. But inside, we rail. We rant. “Why does it have to be such a struggle, every day? It’s so unfair!”
Consider a rant-o-rama. Basically a rant fest. Grab some paper and something to write with. Set a timer for 2 – 4 minutes. Rant about this problem child. Use your ugliest handwriting, caps, underlines, exclamation points, and emoticons. Stamp your foot if you want. Have a little tizzy fit now that the pressure is off. Or score your place in Monday’s “The Year’s Over and I’m SOOO Done” call at 10:00! Click here.
Later, when you have some time to quietly and calmly reflect, set aside 5 to 10 minutes. Approach this reflective time with a spirit of curious inquiry.
How is it that this child had such an ability to rile me up? What do I wish she could have been or done instead? Besides this child, what other people or situations bring up these same responses for me?
If you sense another rant-o-rama coming on, consider whether it would be beneficial to go back to that step, or it it would be best for you to return to a calm, reflective place of curious inquiry right now. Or, you might decide that now is not a good time to reflect. Remember to be gentle with yourself!
You may think, “Why even go there? The year is over. I never have to deal with her again. It’s not worth my time and energy.”
Here are 2 reasons why you might want to go there:
Because there will be a next time! The universe has a sense of humor, that’s for sure. You’ll get another chance to deal with a similar personality or set of circumstances. Wouldn’t it be nice if the cray-cray is a little less intense next time?
Because going there give you a chance to know and do differently next time. A small shift can make a difference.
Find the smallest thing that you can to admire, appreciate, or like about your mighty little tyrant. Mixed emotions are welcomed:
“Well, she did have this outrageous spunk — totally out of line in the classroom, the little brat — but she would be fabulous as my defense attorney, if I ever needed one!”
“Dang, if he wasn’t stubborn! Once he made a decision, he followed it through — too bad he missed out on what I could have taught him this year — but man, was he committed!”
And finally, allow yourself a touch of what you’re admiring, appreciating, or liking about the child. In your own adult, grown up, wise and beneficial way, bring some of the child’s spirit into your world. Because maybe what she was trying to show you all along was that a little outrageous spunk every once in a while is not such a bad thing.
Let me explain to the best of my ability what the phrase “par for the course” means.
A golf course is comprised of 18 different “holes” and each hole has a number.
Golfers will always know which hole they hate the most. That would mean it’s the most difficult.
Levels of difficulty can vary from length from where the golfer begins each hole, called the TEE, to where the golfer needs to sink the putt, the green.
Often a golfer cannot even see the green from the tee. The configuration of the hole can include a huge hill, over which the golfer cannot see the green. The layout can even include an angle and will completely obscure a certain portion of that green.
Each hole must be played according to the integrity of the hole and each golfer approaches their game in his or her own unique way.
The biggest thing I learned while watching the Masters was that the length of a hole was represented by the number that came after the word PAR.
So a Par 3 hole would be shorter in length, but still have as many challenges as a Par 5.
The number ideally means that a golfer can get from start to finish in the prescribed number of holes.
I say ideally because even on a Par 3 a golfer can have a heck of a time sinking his ball in 3 strokes.
The biggest eye opener for me was that a stroke of, let’s say 350 yards, was AS important and significant as the short stroke, called a putt, of 2 or 3 feet.
Anything can happen, and as I saw at the Masters a “sure thing” was often not so sure.
How does this game of golf and the distance of the strokes apply to women who are trying to escape from abuse or women who are simple trying to set a boundary?
The significance is this….
It DOES NOT matter if you take a small, seemingly insignificant action with an abuser like staying out of his way when he is gearing up to strike, or whether you take a huge step of calling the police and getting you and your family out of danger permanently. The most important thing to do is to take ONE step towards the life you want for yourself.
The golfer must have faith in their ability to take the breath and swing his arm with the club attached and then begin to walk to wherever the ball landed and do the same action all over again. Over and over and over. And always with a calm and peaceful demeanor.
What is par for the course of a life without violence?
This is a question that is unanswerable.
We do not know HOW MANY challenges life will throw our way. We do not know how many times we will have the take the same action, the same step with the same person until we can get it thru to them. That we will NOT under ANY circumstances accept any more acts of violence.
We are not in control of whether we contract a serious illness or if a loved one will meet with an accident. As I’m writing this, a dear friends nephew was just shot.
We ARE, however, in control of whether we will accept abuse.
If we all had a ZERO tolerance for accepting abuse, the first time a person did an abusive act would be the last, because we would say “Oh no, not with me, not ever.”
Take a breath.
Take your best stroke/step.
Repeat until you have the culture of peace you require for yourself.
I am sitting with a bunch of guys in a dressing room at the local hockey arena. Everyone is taking a break from a game of men’s floor hockey, drinking a few beers, and telling tall tales.
Then it begins…comments about the wives and women in our lives:
“I came home the other day and the house wasn’t even clean. What the hell is she doing all day while I am at work? Sitting around growing her ass or what”
“I told her I was coming here and it was blah blah blah, you never spend time with me. Of course I don’t, all you do is nag”
“Did you see that girl in the bar Thursday night….she had huge guns, they were amazing”
“I totally took her home, banged her, and showed her the door…”
And so it goes. Degenerating into inappropriate jokes and comments that no one in that room would say in public or outside of a room of a bunch of men drinking beer and kidding around.
Now, with my new realizations around Gender Based Violence, and the treatment of women, I need to stand up and say:
“Ummm….hey guys…this isn’t cool, you know. Aaaahhh…talking about your wives this way isn’t helping how your son sees women. That, ah.. that girl in the bar is someone’s daughter. Do you want someone talking about your daughter that way?”
Dumbfounded silence mixed with shock, and looks of “who the hell invited this guy?”
Jackson Katz, in the Ted Talk below, clearly explains why focusing on women when talking about gender based violence is wrong, and why this focus needs to shift to men, and what men are doing (and not doing about it). He also clearly explains that men need to become leaders around this topic, and that the true battle will be won, not in public, when we are openly defending women, but within the small groups of men where so much of this harmful talk continues in a “safe zone”.
I hear what Jackson is saying, and it terrifies me. I want to be this leader. I want to make sure my son’s view of women is healthy. I want to protect all the daughters out there. I want to help eliminate violence against women.
Writing for Indrani’s Light Foundation – check.
Helping train others to help women in shelters – check.
Speaking out about gender based violence in social media – check.
Share the message with local schools and other people – check.
Stand up, in the moment, in a group of guys, and call them on their bullshit statements.
That one I NEED to work on, and it isn’t going to be easy.
But I am going to try.
If you are a man, or have men in your life who could use help developing this leadership, and taking this plunge, share Jackson Katz’s video and let’s get started.
Recently, I had the great fortune to be in Trinidad with my only brother, his lovely wife and our childhood friend, Ray.
We were all headed to the store to purchase a 60th birthday gift for another friend.
My brother was riding in the passenger seat up front while Ray drove and in the midst of recanting an old and funny story, he said very casually,
“Hey brother, what’s that red light on your dash?”
Ray, quite nonchalantly said, “Doh worry ’bout dat man, I put a piece of black tape over it, I don’t want to know what it is.”
And in typical Ray style, he started to laugh.
My sister in law, sitting next to me in the back then says, “So why is there tape over the locks in the back?”
Ray says, “Oh the locks are broken and I just don’t want people messing with them.”
We all start howling with laughter and start teasing Ray about his ability to block out the everyday annoyances of life.
I immediately say, “You know that I am going to have to write a blog about this, right?”
The thing about using black tape to cover up warning lights and broken bits of a machine made me think of the hoops we jump through to hide our shameful abuse from others.
Women will use any amount of makeup to try to hide the black eye.
Teenagers will lie to their friends and wear long sleeves to try and hide the cutting they started as a result of the incest they are suffering in their homes.
Young children know that they dare not tell about the knock down drag outs that their parents engage in and they instead begin to create a fairy tale family that they trot out to mask their pain.
Recently, during a Train the Trainer, one of the participants told the group that he never knew his parents because the state had taken him away due to abuse. He then explained that he made up a fairy tale of benevolent parents and used to tell fairy tale stories about the imagined family.
We use black tape in our everyday lives so effectively that we often forget the tape is there.
We begin to see the tape as the reality and we fight for the right to deny the reality of our pain.
What parts of your life have you taped over?
What is the tape hiding?
What would happen if you pulled the tape off and allowed yourself to face the truth?
I pull the tape off my own bruises every time I tell an audience that my abuse began in my childhood. When I am honest with my listeners and when they are able to receive the truth of what I am saying, they witness the absence of black tape.
I let them see my scars.
I let them in on my pain.
As a result of my being vulnerable, they give themselves permission to do the same.
Will you remove some black tape from your life today?
I give you permission to look at your truth.
Love and light,
Donate to Indrani’s Light Foundation
Your donation will be used towards eradicating gender violence, training community leaders and sharing behaviour-change tools with people who are ready to leave violence behind and create a brighter, more peaceful world.