Manbabies

Manbabies are the subject of sarcastic definitions and memes on the Internet….here is an example from Urban Dictionary:

Manbabies:

A man who acts like a baby. If he doesn’t get his way, he becomes crabby and unable to work with. thinks he’s always right. Can be angered and upset by anything.

Must proceed with caution!

If you come into contact with a Manbaby, back away quickly and run like hell.

Manbaby’s are good at concealing themselves amongst society. They seem normal at first but throw fits not long after dating them. Be wary.

-From Urban Dictionary

I am so fortunate because TERRIFIC and WONDERFUL partners and dads write me every single day!  I am so grateful for them!  I am married to someone who is the complete opposite of a manbaby and I am grateful for that, every day of our 27 years of marriage.  However, I have to say being 49 years old can be a bit disheartening because I see a lot of women in their mid to late 40’s and early 50’s dealing with divorce.  

Some of it is infidelity and growing apart…but a large reason is women who have killed themselves for years doing EVERYTHING and her spouse or partner essentially  wanted to do nothing at all, sometimes not even wanting to work, and who certainly didn’t act like they wanted a close emotional relationship with their family – partner or children.  They wanted to do what they wanted to do, and it didn’t really involve the family.

Selfishness in romantic relationships has always existed. In this sense, the idea I think people are trying to convey with “manbaby” is maybe just a new term for something that has been around for ages.  So, my definition of a manbaby  might be a little bit different then the Urban Dictionary one. My indicators, not all inclusive but a few brief points  in the context of family life goes something like this:

  • Does your partner want to at least equally contribute to the finances of your relationship? Does your partner hold tight finances over your head but buys whatever he wants? Can you even talk about finances?  That’s partnership level stuff in a relationship.
  • Does your partner support and nourish and protect you? That’s the friendship/lover side of a relationship.
  • Do you find equity in household chores and caretaking?  Inside and outside, lawns and garbage and car care and cooking?  Or are you doing EVERY single thing every week, including working outside the home, taking care of children, and everything thing else?
  • Does your partner do anything with the children – does he change diapers, feed them, help set boundaries, do bedtime, help with homework, help arrange so you are not always on and that you can have time by yourself? Or is every single thing an unwanted chore and source of complaint?
  • Is your partner verbally and emotionally supportive?
  • Does your partner want to be home or are they always gone out with friends or zoned out in front of a screen?

I know relationships can be more complicated than the famous Ann Landers question, “Are you better off with or without him?” – especially when it involves children and marriage. It’s complicated!!    And sometimes there are extenuating circumstances such as addiction, mental illness and more.  Sometimes I do wonder though if the whole phenomenon/idea of manbabies is sort of a cover way of saying “narcissist” – you can always look up narcissist and find a therapist specializing in how to deal as the partner of a  narcissist if you think that is what you are dealing with.

However, not withstanding all that, maybe a better question is this:

Can this relationship become legendary? Can we be an amazing, communicative, connected TEAM that drives the family?

 How can we move towards this?

What would that look like?

Is my partner or spouse open to that?

Perhaps the second better question than a casual meme or definition found in Urban Dictionary is:  Can relationship dynamics change?

I guess I am always hopeful that relationships can get better, that we can get better.  Maybe you are saying  right now, hey, my partner and I are ready!  We have talked about it and we are ready to change our lives and level up!  I love this, I have seen it happen, I think it is possible if both parties are open and narcissism is not involved.

But How?

  • Clear and open communication
  • Visionary goals set together!
  • Counseling
  • Time and attention on your actual relationship, not just the children. You are a team, you are the beginning of the family as a unit and after your children are grown up and living their own lives, you will be together again without them living with you.
  • Respect and appreciation for each other and each other’s strengths

A few recommended readings:

Feel free to DM me admin@theparentingpassageway.com and share your thoughts or comment here.

Blessings,
Carrie

Supporting Young Adults Past High School Graduation

This is such a hot topic amongst my friends right now since many of us have young adults in the age range of 18-20.  We have debated responsibiity and freedom, future plans and goals or lack thereof, and how we help our young adults transition into being healthy, happy, independent adults.

We all kind of know the options – four year college, two year college, vocational or trade school, military, gap year, or full time employment.  The teenaged brain isn’t a mature one, and many teens have developmental needs that impact the timeline of further independence as well.  There really aren’t easy answers, and every young adult is different in what they need in terms of support.  It can get a little crazy at this age and almost becomes a pressurized comparision time just like it did way back in the  baby and toddler years of who is sleeping through the night first, who is walking first – only now it is who knows what they might like to do for a career, are they going to college, if they aren’t going to college what does that transition to independent living look like?

Things are different now than when we started out.  Financial constraints are real.  A full time job that pays federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour would require a 94 hour work week in order to afford a one bedroom apartment (typically).  You can see a breakdown of this by state here.  Also keep in mind employees that are tipped could make more or less than the minimum wage.  I also find many young adults who are used to a certain standard of living from their family (my area is a suburb that definitely has a mix of poverty and wealthy), are reluctant to try to branch out on their own  because they essentially want and expect what their parents have and probably built up over many years.

Student debt is real.  The student debt figures from 2017 stood at $1.4 trillion overall, with the average student loan debt in 2017 being $34,000.  Some students, depending on their major, have reported being underemployed or with difficulty entering the job market.

So, perhaps for some of these reasons, for  the first time in 130 years, according to the Pew Research Center, those 18-34 are more likely to be living with parents than married or living with a partner (see article here).  There was also a  super interesting article here at The Washington Post that pointed out another potential cause.  It suggested that there are many young able bodied men without college degrees that are happy being underemployed or unemployed, living with their parents and playing video games.   In part, this article said, ” The paper attributes one-third to one-fifth of the decline in work hours by less-educated young men to the rising use of technology for entertainment — mainly video games. The new study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, and the researchers say they are continuing to refine the precise figures. But other prominent economists who reviewed it for this story said it raises important questions about why so many young men have abandoned the workforce….[ He added], “They find evidence that a portion … of the decrease in work time of less-educated young men can be a result of the appeal of video games.”

So, if you are supporting your 18-19 year olds, or you are coming up to that age in a few years, what are some things you could be thinking about for this transitional period?

1 – Actually making it a transition.  Can they pay you rent if they are living with you?  How will you handle that?  What about responsibilities around the house?  Do they hold a job?  Why or why not?  Are they playing video games in place of employment?

2 – How can you help them with further training for employment?  What do they need to go to trade school or a two or four year college? Or will they work a job and get on the job training?  Is the cost of training/education realistic debt-wise in comparison to a salary that can be made?

3-What are their relationships like?  How can they tap into community? Is there something beyond screens that is healthy and satisfying?

4- Are you rescuing them?  The best way to prepare for life isn’t just a high school diploma or a GED, but  to learn is from mistakes and natural consequences.

5 – Do you trust your young adults to create their own lives, even if it looks different from what you envisioned?  

6- Do you know your own boundaries? What works for you and your family in relation to your young adult.  What are your expectations, your attitude, your ideas?  It’s easier to think about this before the situation comes up and you are in the middle of it.

Everyone has different stories and experiences.  Leave me a note in the comments and tell me what worked or didn’t work!  Would love to hear your tips and ideas!

Blessings,

Carrie

Book Study: “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles”

(We are kicking off our new book study on Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles:  Winning for a Lifetime.”  Some of you may be familiar with Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s book, “Raising Your Spirited Child,” but this book is just as wonderful and I think applicable across a wide range of ages and stages. So grab a copy of the book and follow along!  Also, check out IG and FB @theparentingpassageway for tips/reminders each week based off some of the ideas in each chapter so we can all have winning families and be the parents we want to be!)

Chapter Three is “Bringing Down the Intensity: You’re The Role Model.”  The author jumps right in by saying, “Learning to express strong emotions, like anger and frustration, respectfully and selectively is learned behavior.  You don’t have to be a victim of your emotions.  You can choose your response.  You don’t have to react.”

This is so often easier said then done!  The connection between threatening or frustrating situations and stress hormones is clear.  Our strong emotions can lead to pretty instinctual responses, such as striking back physically or screaming or yelling, giving in completely, shutting down, or emotionally distancing yourself from your child and just breaking off the relationship.

The problem is, none of these things really solve the problem.  They don’t teach our children a new way to react, and they tear apart relationships.  

Instead:

  1. Change the frame.  Our children are not out to get us, to make our lives miserable, they don’t have character flaws that are going to end them up with a wasted life.  See their behavior for what it is.  With older children you can ask them about the why’s.  Give your child the benefit of the doubt and listen.
  2. Set standards….for yourself.  What ways did your family express anger or frustration that you don’t want to repeat?  What do some people around you do to express anger that you don’t want to do?  Is it shaming, yelling, threatening (hopefully not hitting), swearing?  What is your standard and how will you uphold it?  Fear and intimidation may stop a behavior momentarily, or the whole thing may escalate – and does fear and intimidation teach your child how to deal with frustrating emotions or help your relationship with that child?  The author suggests we fill in this sentence:  “The next time I am angry, I promise myself that I will NOT……..” Fill in the blank that works for you.
  3. Monitor your feelings.  Standards are goals, but emotions can really derail our best intentions.  We need to learn how to identify early how to recognize what emotion WE are feeling, and diffuse it.  If we don’t, then we are over the edge and go into the behavior we don’t want at all.  Anger is usually a second emotion – we went past frustration, disappointment, fear, sadness and just went right into anger to cover that up.  The way to start to learn to identify emotions early is to pause for fifteen second throughout the day and just note your feelings.    Look for the big ones- hungry, tired, happy, irritated – and then for the more subtle emotions.  If you find your emotion, you can choose a better response.

Part of this is knowing  your stress cues.  When you are stressed, what do you do?  The author gives examples such as slamming doors, being impatients, screaming at the kids, not smiling, rushing, gritting or grinding our teeth.    We can take the time to diffuse before we walk in the door  or start bedtime routines.  Recognize what the most vulnerable parts of the day really are for you.   Many of us have control of how to tackle those daily or weekly spots, if we just recognize where those spots are!

4.  Learn effective strategies.  PAUSE is the biggest one.  Take a break and come back (walking is a great break).  If your child follows you and clings to your leg and won’t let you take a break away, you can have a time -in place where you can all sit together.  There is a very moving story about this on pages 50-51 if you get a chance to read it.  Some children who have had significant losses or separations, find a parent leaving to gather themselves traumatizing.  Be sure to explain you are not abandoning them, you will come back.  You can use a calming couch or chair (the time in all together method) or find great support for your child, like a neighbor or friend who can come over, and help you.  I urge you to have a few friends or family members you can call when you desperately need a break and who will come no questions asked (and no judgement!).  

Now is the time to make your plan and how you will handle things.  This would also be a great topic to talk to your partner or other adults in the house about.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Embracing Authentic Children

It has been said that childhood is a series of letting go.  We should be able to trust in the process and see most young people  really becoming able to care for themselves, their surroundings, articulate their goals and launch themselves into that celebration of independence and authenticity to themselves around the end of  the high school years if not before. However, in order for that to actually happen, we need to impart our knowledge and wisdom to our children, embrace them for who they are and what path they are on (freedom of authenticity), let them make mistakes, be there to support and guide – but also get out of their way.  You have lived your life.  Now let them live theirs.

This may seem such a strange notion.  After all, no one loves the idea of personal responsibility and independence than North Americans.  We have built an entire culture around this idea of independence, and often I feel in our society push tiny children to become independent in hopes of reaching this functional adulthood sometime in the high school or  college -aged years.  Why would we need thoughts on letting our children make their own mistakes and handling that?   Why wouldn’t everyone want their children to be their authentic selves and respect this in their child?

This seems so common sense, and yet, I see more and more parents having trouble letting go.  They are tracking their children all over their college campuses with apps.  They are stepping in and helping their child clean up mistakes that are no way the parent’s to hold.  They say they respect their authentic child’s dreams, the different from them individuality of their child – except when it doesn’t coincide with the dreams they held for their child.

I think we often forget several things along the way:

Our life and our ideas of what constitutes a satisfactory life are not their life and ideas.

Sometimes in order to find ourselves, we had to leave our family for a little bit.  Again, maybe this a completely Western idea, but I often think of myself. I would have been a totally different person if I hadn’t left my home state and had the life experiences I have had. For some people, maybe it’s about not pursuing the family business or marrying who our family thought we should marry or whatever the situation is.  Often it takes a little time being away from the family in order to find oneself as an individual without the family impression of who we are being our only self-picture.

And we often forget sort of the opposite thing in a rush to actualize the real and authentic self as a young person:  that we need others and that what we do has a ripple effect through us, our family and friends, our community.  We are all connected, and family is often (not always) a connection.

I think part of learning how to do this begins right in education and in parenting – showing our children over and over how important the details are but how we also need to be able to see the big picture and the connections that span across people, communities, fields of study.  In the end, we need to impart wisdom, let go, let our children find their very authentic selves, and feel safe in their identity.

Children, teens, and young adults need acceptance and  a safe harbor to paddle back to.  But the reality is, if we are paving a gentle path for them, if we are not letting them go, if we persist in putting them in the same category they were when they were 12 and now they are 24, we are doing them a disservice.  Embrace the beauty of your authentic, growing, changing, beautiful child growing up and living their own functional life.  It’s their turn.

Blessings and love,
carrie

What I Have Learned In 18 Years of Parenting

Our daughter turned 18 today!  It is an amazing time to watch so much unfold in her life!  I was thinking yesterday about being a parent for 18 years.  It has been quite a journey of self-discovery for me as a parent and person and a joy to discover who this other person is and to help guide that.

Parenting, in some ways, is a crazy job.  I mean, if I worked at a corporate job for 18 years, I would be at some fantastic senior level and would have it all down pat with  my  vast wisdom and knowledge from the things I have seen over the years.

Parenting isn’t really like that.  That is because every stage that your first child goes through, it’s the first time for you as a parent (whether that child  is 6 or 16 or 26) or if you are going through  the years with subsequent children it is bound to be completely different as all children are amazing individuals with incredible paths and journeys of their own.

However, I do think there are a few things I have taken away in 18 years of doing this that can encourage anyone –

  1.  You have got this!  It is easy to think when you are in the trenches that you are doing everything wrong, perhaps a cute monkey could do a better job raising your child at this moment, you aren’t sure you are doing the right thing…. and yet, for the most part for most children, stages pass and things even out, the things you worried so much about faded away.
  2. Plan for play and  fun!  I think if we can agree that most of the time things work out, and we provide balance, play and fun is something that children often need.  The world is much more highly stressful and structured with adult-led activities for children than it was even when we started out 18 years ago, and I think all children, teens, and adults need play. Play  as a family also helps build up a good memory bank so when things are hard or stressful, you have good connections to fall back on which opens up communication.
  3. There is no gift to children like time and attentive presence. The days are long, but the years are short, as the saying goes.  We all do the best we can do with this within the confines of our personalities, our own financial situations, etc., but providing time and a listening ear can go a long way!
  4. Balance is a key thing to help along.  Most children cannot provide balance to themselves as a developmental task, so it is our job as parents to guide things through our own modeling, through the use of rhythm in our home, through providing work as a balance to play, and to nurture responsibilty that comes with freedom.
  5. Every child is an individual, but every child is also a generalist.  By that I mean that I truly believe every child can learn to express themselves through the arts, to learn how to move their body best within their capacities, and to become someone who is kind, compassionate, and who can emotionally relate to others.  Yes, children and teens may find interests and passions in life, but being a generalist is a great foundation for life.
  6. Stability helps, but sometimes life just throws things at you.   We can teach our children to be resilient, and I don’t think we should be protecting our children from failure or from making mistakes or from learning mistakes.  Mistakes are life, and so are curveballs.  Instead, teaching a positive attitude and how to adapt becomes really important, along with boundaries and how those can help us build the life we want, even when things don’t go the way we wanted.

My top suggestions for those of you just starting out on your parenting journey:

Books and the Internet are helpful, but probably what is most helpful is to build up your own in person, in real life community (even if you meet them over the Internet first LOL).  My close friends have saved me so many times with their laughter, support, encouragement, love, gift of their time.  Every parent deserves that!

Start saving for college or trade school right away. This is so much more valuable than any baby shower gift.  Even if it is a small amount, it really helps in launching young adults out into the world.  Every little bit helps!  (Sorry, college applications on the brain!)

Enjoy parenting !  Sometimes you won’t enjoy every part of it, and some parents enjoy some stages more than other stages.  That doesn’t make you a bad parent, it makes you human.

And most of all, try to spend some time nurturing yourself and your close relationships in the midst of the busy in whatever way that means for you!  It’s hard to let things go for 18 years and then  try to get it all back!

Lots of love to you all, celebrating this happy day!

Carrie

If You Have A Teen, Read This!

Is your relationship with your teenager changing?

Are you grieving a little, and celebrating a little?

Is your teenager ready to leap forward?

Are you struggling to find your balance in parenting your teenager?

I hope your relationship with your teenager is changing – it should be, and this typically involves more of a need for privacy, a need for separation from you for the emerging self.  However, many parents have  a hard time navigating this emotionally and also how to deal with a teenager’s behavior.  My answer to a lot of this dilemma is expectations and boundaries.

Boundaries with teenagers actually aren’t that difficult in some ways.  Teens want increased freedoms, but with that comes increased responsibility and accountability.  Increased freedom is also based upon how well the teen has navigated increased freedom in the past.  It shouldn’t be based upon what Sally down the street does, because you as the parent are responsible for your child, not Sally, and your child may be a different maturity level than Sally.  Always, always remember the ultimate goal:  to raise a functional adult!  So, start where you are and move forward.

I think it’s important to ask yourself several questions:

1 – Did you come from a enmeshed, codependent family structure growing up OR conversely,  a family structure where you received no boundaries, no guidance, no support?  This can influence how we approach our own teenagers.  Examine yourself and how you function in relationships.

One of the solutions for this is to look and to consider not only what we want our children to be able to do by the end of THIS YEAR (not six years ahead to get ready for college; that is meaningless to early teens or even mid-teenagers!) What would help your child increase in not only FREEDOM but RESPONSIBILITY and ACCOUNTABILITY this year?  Part of the plan of parenting teenagers is to make our teenagers functional young adults who are able to leave home and live on their own.   What boundaries would help this?  Where do they need a little nudge toward balance?  Where are they emotionally and maturity wise?  It isn’t always about the “number age” a teenager is, but what their stage of developmental is.

2.  Are you killing yourself for your teenager?  Sometimes we reinforce bad behavior.  We don’t need to be available every minute for our teenagers.  If you are being treated poorly, but yet also are running yourself ragged taking care of your teen, you may be enmeshed or you may be enabling your teenager to be self-centered and even downright narcisstic.     You can say no,  you don’t have to do something if it isn’t in your own best interest or even yes, if it is super inconvenient.  Yes, we take care of our teenagers, but a teenager’s wants are not the same thing as actual needs.

3. Boundaries come with conflict.  You can explain the “why” of the boundary – the teenager may not like it!  Conflict is fairly inevitable.  You can explain at what age you think x want/x activity is appropriate for your teenager – they may not like it!  Somehow, you have to keep your emotional response out of it.  There are no shortcuts for this; it is just having a consistent, calm response.   Freedom goes hand in hand with responsibility and accountability.  So the only thing you can do is keep building a bank of positive, loving memories to hold you over when the conflict is there and keep showing them that a good track record goes a long way toward increased freedoms.

4. Set boundaries on technology.  The number one problem I see parents having with early to mid teens (ie, 13-15 or 16) is the lack of boundaries around technology which influences the teenager not being interested in completing things that needs to happen – chores, schoolwork, etc.  and seems to encourage holing up in a room and not doing much else.  Use a Disney Circle or another device to limit things.  Set limits that involve no phones at the table to eat and no phones at night.  Don’t just accept how it is.  Approval for social media and apps and games should be coming through YOU.

5. Connect!  Turn off the technology,  and do things as a family.  Take an interest in your child’s healthy passion even if you don’t totally understand it.  Love your child and what they want to do. Do things together.  Have a special breakfast just the two of you once a week.  Take a special overnight trip together.  Keep building up the memories and love.

6.  Are you helping your teenager avoid making mistakes?  Mistakes are vital, and if we are resilient parenting, parents with a growth-mindset,  we are helping our teenagers learn how to be resilient in the face of disappointment instead of changing the path in front of the child so they don’t fail.  This is important work, and boundaries involving not bailing your teenager out are important.  The quality of a teenagers life and their life as a young adult in a healthy and supportive family,  is based on their own choices, not what we do as parents.

7.  Are you setting the expectations up front ahead of time?  I find sometimes when we are in a rough spot with our teens, we have to think clearly ahead about how to speak to one another, to lay out the expectations of what we expect and why, and to ask if the teen needs support in following things through.  We also need to be clear as to consquences. This goes back to boundaries – things don’t go on as usual when a teen isn’t holding up their end of things.

Blessings,
Carrie

Raising Functional Adults

This is the main function of parenting: to raise functional adults.  This is done through understanding stages of developmental maturity, through appropriate connection between parent and child and child and the world, and through slowly letting go toward the child becoming an adult making their own decisions but having a family to support and encourage them.

It sounds brief in that way, and requires much more thought in real life than what I just wrote in that sentence. There are situations that come up a million times a day that can help your child move toward being an empowered adult.  So how do you do it in real life?

First, know your DEVELOPMENTAL norms.  Every child eventually weans.  Every child eventually sleeps in their own bed ( usually by age 10, if not before, is when they stop cosleeping or wandering into your room in the night with a bad dream).  If you know the developmental norms, then that helps you know what is NOT normal and when you might need help.  It might also help you identify anxiety or depression and when to intervene.

Second, respect your child’s IDENTITY.  This is not only extroversion or introversion, but temperament, and likes and dislikes.  This doesn’t mean you don’t get to nudge  a little at the appropriate points toward things that would be healthy, but it means you have a fundamental knowledge of who your child is. Nudging is different than dramatic pushing. Sometimes all of us, including adults, need a nudge from those who love us in order to better ourselves.  It is okay to nudge towards health and balance and normal developmental maturity.   And we respect their changes.   Because they are children who are growing, they have every right to grow and change into something different.  Do not peg your 15 year old into a spot because they acted a certain way when they were seven years old.

Third, provide ENCOURAGEMENT and CONNECTION.  Supportive phrases include encouragement, which is different than praise. Encouragement allows room for growth and room for the child to decide when and where to be proud of him or herself.  Connect with them in their love language.

Fourth, teach your child how to be EMPOWERED.  Teach them how to listen to others, teach them how to manage their own intensity, teach them how to  problem solve, teach them how to set boundaries.  Do not rescue them from real-life consequences.  These are skills you must have YOURSELF before you can teach them!

I would love to hear some of your real life situations – let’s help each other.

Blessings and love,
Carrie