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Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

My sister and I took my Dad to the neurologist’s office this morning so we could learn more about about the memory problems he’s been having. I had a bad feeling going into the appointment because my siblings and I have thought for some time now that he needs to move to a senior care facility, but he’s been very resistant. I just didn’t think the doctor would find his memory loss significant enough to warrant his staying in a “home” of any sort. I was surprised to see that I was very wrong.

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I debated about whether to take my 12-year-old to see “Juno,” but I’m really glad I did. The story of a girl who becomes pregnant at 16 by her best friend who is not her boyfriend may seem a little mature for the middle school crowd. However, with the recent news splash about Jamie Lynne Spears’ pregnancy circulating through the halls of Barret TMS, I thought I’d go out on a limb.

I’m glad I did. Yeah, the movie did depict “the” sex scene, but it was done without obscene nudity. All you see are bare legs and his bare chest. The language has some teen-age-style sexual vulgarity, but most of it obviously went over my daughter’s head. Juno, played by Ellen Page, is the off-beat but confident eleventh-grader; her boyfriend, played by Michael Cera, is teen-age awkwardness at its best. Juno’s dry, straight-to-the-point sense of humor is hysterical and was enjoyed by mother and daughter alike. Her naivety and innocence are endearing. She’s made up of just enough cool to make you want to watch the movie and the perfect dosage of sensibility to make actually learning something from its message a sure thing.

The story line–like your “average” pregnancy–is so not typical. Juno faces numerous decisions throughout the film; it isn’t only about whether or not she will keep the baby. It’s about life, consequences, love, family, communication, and more. This isn’t a fairy tale flick: It isn’t all sweetness with a clean story line. Movie-goers get to see genuine parents reacting plausibly to their daughter’s ill-timed news, and you’ll witness Juno growing up fast in a world filled with complexities she couldn’t anticipate.

Again, these were big issues to introduce to my 12-year-old, but the movie theater offered a nice venue for broaching the subject of sex and teen-age pregnancy in a low-stress way. I told my daughter that I thought she should wait until she got married to have sex, but if she didn’t and she wound up pregnant, I would be there for her. I said she could come to me with anything, no matter how big and “bad,” and I would support and help her in any way I could. The nice thing was she really seemed to get it.

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My daughter turned 12 on Thanksgiving Day, and this past Friday she had her very first slumber party. Yes, admittedly, that’s pretty old for a first, but I just never had the nerve to co-host one before. The party was huge success!

My daughter–who I’ll call S–invited eight little girls to spend the night, but only four of them actually showed up. (It’s real aggravating, I must say, that the others didn’t bother to RSVP except through S at school on the day of the party. But the lack of social etiquette is fodder for another blog entry!) We ate pizza and cookie cake, played “the Family Game,” had singing contests, surfed for cool videos via YouTube, applied a ridiculous amount of makeup, and just giggled to our hearts’ content!

Notice anything unusual about that paragraph? How about the use of the word “we”? S actually wanted me to hang out with her friends and her! Isn’t that cool? You hear all the time about how kids get to that point where they’re embarrassed to even know you, but I was relieved to find that I’m “still the one” in S’s eyes. She and her friends seemed perfectly content for me to participate in all of the festivities. I even asked S just to make sure, and she was totally fine with my being there.

Still being okay in my daughter’s eyes is very important to me. By letting me hang with her friends, S gives me the opportunity to check them out and make sure S is making good choices of friends. And she is. A.H. treated party-goers to some of her beautiful art work: little food friends she calls “Baby Bites.” G entertained us with her dry sense of humor, and E and A.G. danced and danced to Soulja Boy. All the girls giggled as E cooed over R.H., her 6th-grade hearthrob. They were adorable! I praised S the next day on her wise choices of friendships.

One thing that’s very important to me is that S be open to friendships with all kinds of people. So I was pleased when she invited her twin Indian friends H and A, her Middle Eastern friend R, and her bi-racial friend K. While none of these friends made it to the party, it felt good that S considered them among her best friends and wanted them to be there. This is one of the main things I like about her going to public traditional school: She meets people from all walks of life, and she doesn’t know anything about their economic conditions because they all wear uniforms. Perhaps next year, we can have the international birthday party!

Still being “the one” doesn’t mean S and I are friends exactly. We have great fun together, with tickle fights, hug-a-war, doing crafts, shopping, and just hanging out. But I’m in charge… despite her efforts to take the reins from me. The balance between friendship and authority is difficult to maintain at times: I want her to like me, but I can’t let her get away with being disrespectful or walking all over me.

Oh! One more funny thing about the party. I had no idea that girls actually farted and admitted it. But every girl at the party contributed her share of gas and then laughed hysterically. What happened to hiding the fact that you have gas? I guess my little girls can be as gross as a typical boy teenie bopper.

Don’tcha’  just love it?

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I guess forgiveness is just in the air. I just couldn’t let it go. I called my dad today to tell him our family had experienced enough broken relationships and that I wanted the pain to stop. I indicated that in spite of how distant our relationship has been since, well, forever, I wanted to do whatever it takes to reach something more akin to friendship. My dad is going senile, so I don’t think he fully understood what I was saying. However, he knew I was reaching out to him, and I believe he appreciated it. He said he would try to call me back but if I didn’t hear from him I should call him back. He’s very forgetful like that.

Why, you ask, would I bother, given his age and present state of mind? The reason is this: My faith calls me to forgive those who hurt me, even when it’s difficult. So I decided to let everything go. Does he remember what he did to me? Probably not. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that God has reached into my soul and urged me to restore a broken relationship in His name, and I obeyed His prompting.

I didn’t do anything wrong to make my dad’s and my relationship go sour. After all, I was only a small child when the abuse started. However, as an adult, I have not reached out to seek healing in our relationship. I forgave him long ago, yes, but I never let on to my dad that I had done so, so our relationship never blossomed.

I am thankful to God that He has nurtured and held me these last several weeks and that he spoke to me so clearly through the words of my minister last Saturday. Hear it yourself by going to http://middletownchristian.org/audio.asp, pressing the Month radio button, selecting November 2007 from the dropdown list, and then selecting David Emery – [November 25,2007]  Kingdom Now! – Radical Change. You won’t regret it!

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I feel a compelling need to say some things on here, and I am sure that what I say will come as a shock to some. But I have changed and grown in many ways since my recent hospitalization, and I feel I must say them. Bear with me.

First, let me explain something about myself. After much introspection over these last several weeks, I’ve realized the extent to which I did not form my own opinions about many things–even very important matters in my own life. This became painfully obvious in the past week when I listened to the strong–and varied–opinions of a few people who mean a lot to me. This was a difficult week for me, as was evident from my last post. But it turns out that I needed to hear these strong opinions in order to realize how I had failed to decide how I feel about things. (The social worker in the hospital referred to people like me as “lost children.” I’m sure you can check on Wikipedia for an apt description of this personality type.)

Here’s a little of what happened this past week: I got a very upsetting email from one of my best friends, and my family–in their efforts to protect me–began to express in earnest their poor opinion of this friend. I, too, became livid and wrote vociferously of all of the horrid things I wanted to do to this person to get my revenge. My anger was definitely justified, and I never intended to actually do any of the things about which I’d fantacized. Now, hold that thought for a minute.

Only a few of us celebrated Thanksgiving together, because, as I mentioned in my last post, my family has been in a feud since I was first admitted to the hospital because I asked that my sister not be told of my admission. The result has been that my family reached an impasse, and I wasn’t sure if we’d ever reconcile. At Thanksgiving, we all spoke bitterly about my friend and about my sister. I want to emphasize the WE: I was an active participant in these discussions.  And then I realized how entirely empty I felt… about my friend, about my sister, about all the broken relationships I’ve experienced or witnessed in my immediate family… and I just felt sad.

On Saturday, my daughter and I went to my church with a friend of mine. The minister preached a sermon entitled “Radical Change.” In it, he talked about how we as Christians need to stop fighting in order to get people to believe what we believe and instead begin loving each other unconditionally because of our faith. Sermons don’t always “speak” to me, but this one spoke directly to my heart. I realized I had to speak out.

Rewind to the lost child I mentioned a few paragraphs ago. Here I am, this person who couldn’t form an opinion for the life of her, and now opinions were flowing out of me. One: I–and no one else in my family–know my friend, and I know he is a person of good character who has made mistakes just as the rest of us have. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t my friend, and it doesn’t mean that I have to blow him off completely. So I wrote to him and told him how the email affected me, and I told him that I disagree with the opinions of my family members and will continue to value our friendship.

Two: my sister lives out her faith very differently from how I do. She, too, has done things to hurt me very deeply. However, as a Christian, I am called to respond to her differently than I did. So I called her up, told her I was through fighting, and said I would do whatever it takes to keep our families together.

Three: Since my arrival in the hospital, I have felt this constant nagging to call my ex-husband and apologize to him for giving up. So tonight I did it. I told him that I know we had many seemingly insurmountable problems but that when he began to change, I told him he was too late and I continued to hold onto my anger. I had no agenda in telling him this, except to seek his forgiveness. I have witnessed the transformation of a horrible marriage of a friend of mine, so I know that God could have done miraculous things for my marriage too, if I had listened to God and lived out my faith appropriately. (Caution: I do not take full responsibility for my failed marriage… only full responsibility for my portion of the failure.)

Four: I had a heart-to-heart discussion with my daughter telling her that I’ve done her a disservice in the way I’ve fought with my sister and in my decision to give up on my relationship with her daddy, and I asked her to forgive me too. I told her I feel great remorse for having given up like I did. I told her that when she grows up and decides to get married, it is for life, regardless of how hard it is. I told her what I did was a mistake, and that as a Christian it is important to keep your promises.

I am sure what I’ve said is shocking, especially to my family. But I cannot stand the thought of losing one more person in my life because of stubbornness and unwillingness to sacrifice myself for the good of my family/relationships–I feel this way BECAUSE I am a Christian. No, forgiveness and sacrifice are not concepts that are exclusive to christianity, but in MY life, I learned these things through my Christian faith… a faith I saw demonstrated by some of my best friends.

Thank you, my family and best friends, for all of the support you’ve shown me since September 21. I am eternally grateful.

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Thanksgiving this year is seeming very depressing. My daughter–who’s celebrating her 12th birthday on Thanksgiving Day–will spending the day with her Daddy; and my sister and her family decided not to come to dinner because there’s been a break between her family and the rest of our extended family. This year, there will be only four us dining together. I’d just assume to go to a restaurant and pretend the day doesn’t even exist, but I think my Mom feels strongly about celebrating despite the circumstances.

I thought I would be kind by letting my ex-husband have our daughter for the day. I figured that she would be happier with him and his extended family since she’d have other kids to play with. I’m glad to help make her day better, but the thought of being away from her leaves me feeling really sad. My brother, knowing how difficult it is for me to be alone these days, graciously invited me to spend the night at his place so I have some company. For that, I’m very thankful.

Here’s the story surrounding my sister and our families: When I went in the hospital in September, I asked my Mom and brothers not to tell my sister. I did so because she has frequently said that if I only called out to Jesus, I wouldn’t have the mental problems that I have. She once even tried to convince me to go to an exorcist. He was arrested for tying up a woman in his home, but that didn’t seem to bother her. Needless to say, I didn’t want the stress of having my faith called into question while I was in the hospital. After about five days, my family told my sister about my hospitalization, and she came to visit me. That was a mistake. My Mom kept trying to get me to set some boundaries with my sister, but I wasn’t strong enough. So my sister proceeded to trample all over me. I didn’t invite her to come again. After I got out of the hospital, she sent me a letter saying her silence wasn’t indicative that she was angry, because she wasn’t. I thought everything was going to be okay.

However, a few weeks later, my sister-in-law, my Mom, and me met my sister for a “therapy” session at a church in Goshen. This was another disaster. My sister told me she didn’t want me to be with her children because I chose to talk to them about things she was opposed to whenever we were away from her. Her example: At a football game we went to in September, “all you talked about was boys.” I was shocked. I mean, don’t most teenagers like to talk about boys? After this meeting, I uninvited her youngest daughter from my daughter’s birthday party because I didn’t want to risk my daughter’s friends talking about things my sister would find inappropriate. Some people thought I should have given her the option of letting her daughter go, but I couldn’t bear to be subjected to her criticism. I just couldn’t take it from her anymore. Apparently, I really hurt my sister. Her husband called my Mom and ranted about how angry he was with me. Is my family screwed up, or what? Now, in order to see my daughter–even though she won’t let me see hers–my sister has arranged with my ex-husband to spend the day with her on his time. I guess I shouldn’t have expected him to support me by not permitting that. Don’t get me wrong–I want my daughter to interact with her cousins. But I resent her going around me to get to my daughter. I am very sad.

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My father is suffering from dementia, but he doesn’t know it yet. He’s discussed his declining memory with his doctor, and he’s certainly demonstrated it with all of his children. Some people begin to get beligerant in their old age, effectively shunning those who may have been able to help them. My father isn’t like that. He’s been beligerant his whole life, so we’re used to it. None of us wants to take care of him, but we all recognize that we must. And so we do.

After suffering a childhood of emotional and borderline-sexual abuse by my father, I have never been alone with him. Never. And yet somehow, apparently without thinking, I offered to take him to a psychiatrist to see about getting him on an antidepressant or mood stabilizer, depending on what the doctor says. I’m the logical person to take on this job, since I have manic-depression and have experience dealing with the psychiatric healthcare system. So I suggested that he go, and I volunteered to be the person to take him. It wasn’t until my brother told me how shocked my sister was at my offer that it occurred to me: I have to be alone with him–and in a car at that.

A couple of things have run through my mind when I’ve thought about how I’ll handle the car ride. Shamefully, I admit that I thought about bringing my daughter with me, thinking just maybe she’d inhibit him from yelling at me, patting my thigh, trying to kiss me on the lips, and, well, you get the picture. A friend suggested I load up the front seat with junk, and tell him to just hitch a ride in the back. Neither of these options is acceptable to me. One isn’t fair to my daughter–she doesn’t need to be a buffer between my father and me; the other isn’t fair to my father–he isn’t a cab passenger.

Why the heck I even care about what is fair to my father is this: I am modeling caring behavior for my daughter. She’ll see that despite my feelings about my father (it’s obvious to her we’re not close), I can still reach out to him and help protect him from himself and, ultimately, the nursing staff who will one day care for him.  Going on a psychotropic drug may help him find some joy in his life. It may also take the edge off his beligerance and, therefore, make him a better patient–which translates to a better-cared-for patient.

Sappy, but it reminds me of Jesus telling his followers to “turn the other cheek” when someone wrongs them. I just hope my father doesn’t slap the other one as well.

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