Here’s the button for the Facebook group:
I’ve been lying low here around the end of the year and the new year.
It’s too much pressure, this idea of starting everything new and doing everything right now/again/instead. I’m the same me. The same woman, same mother, same friend. Same helper, same screwup. My kids are the same constantly-changing beautiful humans they’ve always been. My 15-year-old teases me all the time that all the cells in our bodies turn over every seven years so neither of us are the same people we were when I gave birth to him. We both like to pretend that it annoys me, but really I think we both like that we choose each other every day. It was luck when he came out of me, but now our new cells seem to be designed to belong to each other.
So I’m saying #nope to all the new-year-new-you stuff, especially as it relates to my relationships with my kids and my friends and myself. I’m working on the same projects instead: be pit crew for the 12-year-old to make it through seventh grade, make a cozy safe home for our family, figure out what I want to be when I grow up, finish the book I’m writing right now and then the next one, too.
I am hoping that you are still you, too, here in 2018. And that your children are the same complicated complicating people they’ve always been. Just keep going.
(The FB group is up again. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1712305982141898/)
You’ve been emailing me asking how to buy the MoxieTopic single subject PDFs, and it wasn’t working through the old links. I’m in the process of putting them all into a book with a few other chapters, but that won’t be ready until around the New Year, so in the meantime I’ll just put them here and you can click to download them. If you want to pay something for them, I was charging $5 apiece, but pay whatever you’d like. PayPal to magdamedia @ gmail dot com, Square Cash to $MagdaMedia, or Venmo to @magdamedia.
Post here anonymously in the comments of you need to vent about something going on that’s Thanksgiving-related that you can’t say on your social media. No misery poker. Every problem is a problem.
A big part of what I got at with the post about how hard it is to parent a seventh grader is that it hurts to parent your child through things that hurt you. If you pay attention to the things that are most intense and difficult for you, you know where you need to be extra kind and forgiving with yourself.
I think for most of us it starts when our kids are toddlers or preschoolers. There are things they do that are annoying, but then there are other things they do that hit a nerve and seem to shoot right up into our brains with an almost physical pain. Have you ever felt hot rage, or panic, or fear when your child did something that wasn’t objectively horrific? That’s because we have unresolved intense emotions about those things from our own childhoods. Usually that intense reaction tells you that you weren’t allowed to do whatever it is that your kid is doing, so you’re having a reaction to that. You might feel fear that you or your child or both are going to be punished for doing it. You might feel rage that your child is daring to do this thing you knew better than to do. You might feel panic that you should stop your child from doing it or that you should have prevented it.
Those feelings in those intensity triggered by something someone else does are called emotional flashbacks. People who have any kind of trauma often have emotional flashbacks (sometimes without any connection to any external trigger at the time), and they can be extremely hard to work around. We like to think of ourselves as strong, calm, logical people, especially when we’re parenting, and emotional flashbacks can derail us, for a few seconds or a few days. They’re invisible and no one talks about them, so it’s really easy to think there’s just something wrong with you for not being able to control your reactions to things.
When your child does something that hits one of your soft spots and triggers an emotional flashback, it can be truly overwhelming. You’re dealing with your kid’s act, the emotion it triggers in you, your reaction to that emotion, your feelings about your reaction to that emotion, and then your child’s reaction to your reaction. If it’s a one-time event, you can regain your equilibrium. But if it happens regularly or over a long period of time, you can be in a near-constant state of emotional overwhelm. This is why you can feel like you’re totally losing it when your kids won’t put on their shoes every morning. Or why parenting a seventh grader can make you feel anxious and weepy all the time.
So what’s the answer? Well, you know all that minute-by-minute work you have to do with your kids? You have to do it with yourself, too. Essentially, you have to reparent yourself through whatever that issue is that is giving you emotional flashbacks. You have to think of yourself now (because you deserve care) and also of the you you were when you were in that situation (because you deserved care then). Note: your parents could be wonderful amazing people, but if they hadn’t been parented through the situation and taught healthy responses, the likelihood that they could parent you through it is slim. They probably had emotional flashbacks when you were doing whatever it was, but white-knuckled through it because they thought something was wrong with them. This means that you are the only one who can stop this cycle because you’re here right now. You deserve to feel good and be healthy, just as your kids do, and your parents do, too.
So. When your child is doing something that makes you feel an oversized emotion so you know you’re having an emotional flashback, the first thing to do is reassure yourself that this is expected and ok and you’re not doing anything wrong. Of course you’re having this feeling. Then, connect with your kid and tell them you love them and give them a hug and help them process whatever’s going on and redirect behavior. (I’ve found the echoing technique in Parent Effectiveness Training to be the gold standard of helping a kid work through a problem.) You do NOT have to solve the problem for your child, although if you can make a little bit of forward motion on helping your child build skills to solve the problem for themself, that’s what you’re aiming for.
Then, and this is key, give yourself permission to acknowledge that you should have been given that same help processing whatever it was back when you were a kid. And then give yourself a “good job!” for parenting your kid through this episode. This is you being kind to the kid you were and to the person you are now.
This is going to feel really really weird the first ten times you do it. It might feel actually wrong the first couple of times, because you’re stepping away from feelings that cause you shame, and shame likes to hold on. But do it simply because helping your kid work through something is the right thing to do and being kind to yourself is the right thing to do. The shame will loosen its grip on you and the emotions will fade in intensity, and helping your child work through this stuff will be about skill-building.
You can do it.
It’s so hard to be a seventh grader. It’s so hard to parent a seventh grader.
Parenting through 6th, 7th, and 8th grade with my first one required more intensity than I’d had to put in at any previous stage, and it’s happening again with my second child. They fall apart emotionally, feel so intensely, feel uncomfortable and weird in their bodies, don’t know who their real friends are, can’t focus on schoolwork and get anxious and scared about that, are captive to the hormonal surges happening that switch them from bravado to rage to weeping in a few minutes, and just want to hide all the time.
They need us, a lot. More than when they were babies or preschoolers, by a lot. They need hugs and snuggles (a lot). Both of mine have spent more time in my lap–with their long legs flapping out to the sides–in seventh grade than in second through sixth grades combined. Even when they’re mad at me or trying to tell me I’m mad at them they want to be touching me.
I figured out with the first one that getting mad at him for being in a kind of disequilibrium he’d never experienced before and didn’t know how to handle was not going to get me anywhere I wanted to be. So I a) didn’t let myself get mad at him for normal-but-horrible developmental collapse, b) didn’t let myself take his lashing out or his scatteredness personally, c) did take his need to be touching me and hearing that I loved him personally, and d) shifted my view of him at this stage from autonomous tween to little kid going through a regression so I could be kind and sympathetic. (Perimenopause hit me like a ton of hot sweaty bricks when that same child was in eighth grade, and he was shockingly sympathetic to my inability to be in my body comfortably or control my emotions. Man bites dog.)
It was intense, deep, minute-by-minute work. I’m not sure I’ve worked as hard in such small increments since I was up nursing at 3 am every night. Back then I used to think about all the other mothers all over the world rocking their little babies. Now I think a lot about all the other parents snuggling their big kids. It is no less work going through it with my second child right now.
Two weeks ago I posted on Facebook that I don’t think I’ve recovered emotionally from seventh grade. I got story after story of adults who were still hurt by that grade (or sixth or eighth). A common theme was that kids that age felt disconnected from their friends and other kids or were being bullied or hurt or failing classes, and they couldn’t tell their parents. Or their parents wouldn’t help them or didn’t know how to help them. So they were alone, and that’s the part that still hurt. (It’s the part that still hurts me, too. I didn’t tell my mom for a long time that I was being bullied. It was the beginning of a lifetime of feeling truly alone.)
I don’t think it’s right that our culture makes seventh graders feel so alone that it takes us decades to recover. We should be increasing the challenge level for tweens but keeping them surrounded by a support system they can turn to when they fail or just need a hug. I am trying to keep my younger one tethered to his life and to his family and friends as much as I can, so this disequilibrium stage doesn’t sever ties he’s too young to be without.
I think the combination of the intensity required to parent through this age and our own unhealed hurts from being this age can be overwhelming. That doesn’t mean you can’t do a good job. It just means that it’s going to feel really difficult and probably like you don’t want to do it, and maybe like you can’t do it. But you can, and you are. I can and I am, too.
I think hugs are the way we make it through this tunnel.
Thanks to my talented friend Kelly, we’re at a new host and all the old posts and comments are up. There are a bunch of broken links and no banner and it looks like 1998, but we’re here! I’m relieved.
I have a lot of stuff to say, so I’m going to spend the next few weeks saying it. In no particular order:
My depression is in remission and I’m amazed and freaked out by that and everything’s different.
I was having horrible migraines and tried some things to get rid of them and have been mostly successful with it.
The full-body breakdown of perimenopause (see: migraines) continues apace and feels like whack-a-mole.
Librarians, look here.
If you’re starting to get stressed about the “holiday season,” look here.
Wow, seventh grade is brutal, isn’t it? It’s like 3.5 and 7 and the 4-month sleep regression and perimenopause all put together.
I just want everyone to know that the toddler I had when I started this site is now learning to drive. (The learning to drive is going fine.)
All of the speaking out about harassment is exposing the seedy underbelly of work, isn’t it? There are ways we could reconfigure work and manage people better so workplaces weren’t inherently abusive institutions.
I’m renovating an 80-year-old house.
We are really all in it together. Now more than ever. I’d like to talk about being intentional and obvious about providing support for each other.
I’m sure there’s other stuff I need to talk about right away, but these were the first things that came to mind. I missed you. What happened while I was gone?
So many of us have been trying to figure out how to be cheerful and not scare our kids, which seems at odds with being honest with them about the truth. It feels like either/or. Either we lie and stay peppy so they don’t know anything’s wrong, or we tell them the truth of how bad it is and crush their feelings and terrify them. But what if we reframe the entire situation to make it about what we want our kids to learn from this instead of what we’re supposed to do perfectly?
Your job is to be kind to your kids, and one big way to be kind to them is to trust them to learn important things. Right now, in the midst of great sorrow, they can learn the most important things there are to know:
Your love for them is deeper than words.
They can trust you to do the best you can for them.
They are worth working hard for.
You will show them how to work for themselves.
When they get the chance to work for other people, they have to take it.
Relationships and community are of the highest value and are worth working for.
What if this crisis gives you the chance to apprentice your kids into being people who are strong and vulnerable, who can soothe themselves to be able to do what they need to do, and who work and fight for justice for others?
If you start thinking of these days as chances to show your kids that bad things happen but they can push back, even in teeny, quiet ways, you win. If you start thinking about what you tell them in terms of what will make them be able to make good decisions about how to act, you win. If you start looking for ways to teach empathy, kindness, and critical thinking, you win. You don’t have to worry about what information will do to them if you’re guiding them through how to receive and process and act on information as it comes in.
This is a tough request, especially when you’re feeling anxious and worried yourself. But it gives you a task to focus on that you know you can do. You’ve been helping your kids learn from the moment you met them. You can do this, too. Trust them to learn what you’re teaching, and trust yourself to be the teacher they need.
All my love,
Remember back when your kid was teeny and everything was horrible and you weren’t getting any sleep and you thought you were doing everything wrong and every minute seemed like an hour? And you wondered if that was the New Normal. Now you know that it wasn’t the New Normal, and most of those horrible things passed with time and some different horrible things aged in. It was all fleeting. The real New Normal was that you had another human in your life with thoughts and feelings and opinions, and you get to be with that person and watch them grow into who they are. The New Normal is actually kind of great once the immediate problems are gone.
We’re in the same kind of situation right now. We’re worried that the discrimination, lies, violence, racism, misogyny, fascism, overstepping authority, embarrassing statements, threats, bans, white supremacy, dismantling the system, and belligerence are the New Normal. They’re not, though. They’re the New Temporary. As the New Temporary they’re truly disgusting, but they’ll only become the New Normal if we stop fighting and working and pushing as hard as we can.
The real New Normal here is who we’re becoming in the middle of this.
Who are you now that you weren’t on November 7? I bet you have more layers, more resilience, more compassion, more strength, and better boundaries now than you did then.
What do you know now that you didn’t before? I bet you know so much more about so many groups of people in this country than you did before, along with what their experiences are like, and how you may have inadvertantly harmed them by things you did and systems you participated in. I bet you know more about how our government and political systems and electoral processes work. I bet you know what really matters to you, and what you’re willing to do to preserve freedom and justice for yourself and for others. I bet you know now that you’re not isolated and that there are millions and millions of people in this country who look nothing like you but want the same things you do.
What can you do now that you couldn’t before? I bet you can make phone calls to strangers every day. I bet you can go stand at protests and march for hours and chant with groups of people you have varying things in common with. I bet you can analyze what are good sources of information and make critical arguments of propaganda more directly than you could before. I bet you can assess who has your best interests at heart and who doesn’t, and maintain strong healthy boundaries. I bet you can keep pushing hard at the same time you’re laughing with glee at stupidity.
For years I’ve read obituaries of people who really contributed, and wanted to have that same record of contribution. I don’t mean people who were the most famous in their fields, but people who had years and years of cumulative work in their communities, of service and influence and contribution. And I’ve thought about how lucky they were to have been able to do that, to work steadily to make things better for their people. Right now we are all learning that. We are all doing that. We are all being that. We are contributing. And we get to keep going, even after the New Temporary is over and we get what’s left of our country on a better track. We get to keep doing this and being this in ten years, twenty years, fifty years. That is the New Normal. You get to be part of it and to raise your children immersed in care and love and activism.
All my love,
(Cross-posted on postTrump.help.)
Keep it on an even keel.
Kids need routine and stability. You need routine and stability. In the middle of the world falling down around us, the only one who can provide routine and stability for you and your children is you.
You may be feeling like you can’t keep it together logistically, if things get any worse (and that may be true). You may be feeling like you can’t keep it together emotionally for much longer (or that you aren’t currently keeping it together emotionally). But you have to stick to routines, for your kids and for yourself.
There are three things to know about all the madness swirling around us right now:
1. You can’t fix everything that’s happening. There are some things you don’t have any control over, and there’s no leverage point you can access to control those things. There are some things you do have influence over, and you need to take action, but you can’t do everything on every front. If you have a daily action plan, follow that. If you don’t, get one, and then follow it.
2. You shouldn’t fix everything that’s happening. It’s not your job to. There are 188 million adults in America who didn’t vote for Trump, and if even 3% of us are active in resisting, that’s more than 5 1/2 million people doing resistance work on a daily basis. That’s a lot of people, and more are joining us every day as the Bannon administration gets worse and worse. There are jobs for everyone. But no one should try to fix everything, because it isn’t reasonable. And no one else can take care of your children the way you can. That’s still and always your most important job.
3. The bad guys are creating chaos on multiple fronts because they can, and because they’re trying to incapacitate you with panic. If you stop living a normal life, they win. If you dig in to routines and to normal life, you win for everyone. Your stability and consistency provides stability and consistency for the entire country. If you descend into panic or obsession, that undermines the exact structures and systems we’re trying to save. Don’t help them destroy things. Grit your teeth and keep going.
This is going to be a long fight. And now that we know how to fight, we’re going to be fighting forever. So you need to find a way to create a good, safe environment for your children in the middle of the struggle. That means keeping up routines, including emotional routines. Hugs, kisses, snuggles, wrestling, feeding them good foods, making sure they get exercise and seeing sunshine when there is any, helping them with homework, asking them to do chores, following daily and weekly traditions, seeing friends, staying connected to family members, maintaining faith routines, and play. Lots of play.
Your heart is breaking, but don’t let that break your kids’ hearts. Stay boring, loving, and solid for them.
All my love,