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

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

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

be in it for yourself

Any sort of real, lasting, meaningful, and effective change has to come from within yourself.  If you want something badly enough, you will own it and you will feel empowered to take the next steps and to find a way.

This applies to anything from health to better parenting to homeschooling.  Instead of seeing all the obstacles and challenges, you can start to see solutions and steps.  This is the most powerful part of the whole process of being in it for real.

My favorite tools for doing this include:

Affirmations – I keep affirmations on my desk and say them daily. Affirmations, to me, are a verbal picture of what I envision happening in my life.

Vision Board – I keep a vision board up that targets different sections of my life, but I am about to make a vision board specific to my ideas for business and starting my own little mother-sized practice when I am through with physical therapy.

Prayer – Prayer is an essential part of me listening to the small, still voice of God and Spirit, and discerning the best path for myself.

The Mastermind – Every one needs a mastermind of people who empathize with where you are and spur you on to do better and to improve.  The connection and love is invaluable.  This goes along with having wonderful mentors.  I know so many wonderful people who have never hesitated if I said would you love to get a cup of coffee with me – I would love your input on something?  I would love to hear your story and how you got where you are, and see if you have any input on my ideas.  It’s amazing!

The steps – having steps broken down daily and weekly helps things to actually get down.  It isn’t enough to just have a general goal, you have to have a plan and take action.

Gratitude – Gratitude is such a big player in life.  How we look at things, how we frame things, how we get out of our own way all stems from getting rid of negative self-talk and focusing on gratitude.  I like to write down gratitude before bed, and also say words of gratitude to myself in the morning.  So grateful for each and every day that I am here to make an impact.

Getting your self-esteem under control – sometimes people have big egos, but most people I meet actually struggle with feeling like they don’t know enough, they don’t have it together, they don’t have all the answers.  This keeps us in the shadows and keeps us from contributing to the world.  Everyone has something to give.  You do know enough, you do have it together, you do have the answers you need for you and for the people that come into your life.

Other techniques I have used in the past include visualization and journaling.  I would love to hear what you use to encourage yourself, break through barriers, and commit to walking the steps you know you really need to!

Many blessings and love,
Carrie

 

the hardest part about parenting teens – and how to fix it

I talk to parents of teens all the time, from all different walks of life.  Some teens are going along with school and activities; some are struggling with self-esteem issues due to learning disabilities; some are dealing with more serious issues like alcoholism, toxic dating situations, self-harm, and more.  Parents tell me over and over that there is very little support for dealing with parenting of teens, mainly because each teen is a complete individual, and there is a need for privacy so not everything can be shared the way parents shared things their toddlers or even early elementary children were going through.

The hardest part of parenting teens is knowing what to do!  Any general instruction seems to apply less and less and what happens in conversation really can be a reaction to a situation that already has taken place, and it’s hard to know how much to hold a boundary or push for more responsibility.  Our oldest will be turning 18 this summer, and we also have a fourteen year old in the house, so I totally understand these feelings!

The number one way you can fix the hardest part of parenting teens, besides spending time WITH THE TEEN IN FRONT OF YOU, is to understand teen development.  Every teen is an individual, but there are archtypal patterns to teenaged development that can help us figure out how to parent more effectively!

Early Adolescence- ages 13 to the big watershed changes surrounding ages 15/16

  • there is often an obvious placing of space by the teen between himself or herself and the family.  This is an age when many families complain their teens are in their rooms and not coming out.  This is a safety measure for a gradually new emerging human being who feels the need to protect him or herself as they gain their own perspectives on life.
  • this is often an age of confrontation against authority and boundaries, but behind that is often a measure of uncertainty.  Using communication skills can be helpful.  If you are unsure how to react, try reading the book “How to Listen so Teens Will Talk and How To Talk So Teens Will Listen.”
  • it is often an age of emotional extremes.  Ninth graders are certainly very much more like middle schoolers than eleventh graders.
  • It is a time of measuring oneself against others, which is why social media can be so harmful for many teens.  Please use boundaries and know what your children are doing online!
  • It is a time of using safety and boundaries (self imposed or parent imposed) versus delving into a more open world.  

How do you parent this stage?

  • Respectful communication
  • Spending time with your teen; they are going to open up working side by side, in the car, or before they go to sleep. Spend time with them!
  • Play ho-hum with the emotional extremes. Be steady.
  • Don’t let the world just open up with no boundaries.  They are too young and need your support, encouragement, boundaries, safety net.
  • Let them fail and take the consequences of things.  You can only help to a certain point regarding things that have to be done. Do not do it for them!  This will impair the later stages of development unfolding.

Middle Adolescence – ages 15 or 16 to 18

  • This is a time of increased personal responsibility and realizing that not everything is someone else’s fault.
  • They are experimenting with finding emotional intimacy in friends, maybe with a significant other, but hopefully finding a way that their own personality and beliefs remains intact in the relationships.
  • They don’t want to be identified with their childhood for right now!
  • They have enthusiasm for a new challenge and want to experience that within themselves or out in nature or in academics
  • They can feel inadequate or inferior and may hide their innermost feelings
  • Sensitive teens might regress and turn to escapism

How do you parent this age?

  • Understand their vulnerability; help them deal with their innermost feelings if they are sensitive but also let them take actions and fail – do not do everything for them in an attempt to shield them
  • Artistic work,whatever that entails, is really important for this age – so theater, drawing, painting, woodworking, building things, modeling or sculpting, handwork, book binding – are all really important forms for inner self-expression
  • Help them get the wider context and the enthusiasm for a challenge in a safer way, especially for those 15-17 year olds.
  • Be there, be present.  They need you to not do things for them, but to help them, guide them, empower them!  Some older teens need more set parameters than others.  Be careful with your own boundaries as to what you will carry.

Late Adolescence – ages 18 to 21

  • They are grappling with the big questions:  Who Am I?  What Do I Want?  What Am I Capable Of?  
  • Then they have to follow up these questions with their own actions – the actions come from their own abilities, so if they have had everything done for them in early and middle adolescence, late adolescence isn’t going to look pretty.
  • They still find it hard to accept criticism.  This can still be an age of idealism.
  • They may start to explore and recognize that their personal development also intersects with a cause or community and get involved.
  • They may find their own place, their own work, a significant other or group of friends and community

How Do You Parent This Age?

  • Support them as they try out different healthy  paths.
  • Help them develop a love for responsibility – if you did the work in early and middle adolescence, this will come naturally!
  • Help them identify the abilities they carry that will help them move into action
  • Encourage them

Those of you with teens, what are the most successful and least successful things you have done in parenting or seen other parents do during these years? I would love to hear from you.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

 

 

easy ways to own your life

When I came back from the Waldorf Homeschooling Conference, which was held March 8-9 in the Atlanta area, I wrote a post about owning it.  I got some great feedback on that post, and families who are hungry to have a more peaceful life, a more satisfying homeschooling experience, a better outlook as a family are wondering HOW to do it.

These are the easiest ways I can think of to own your life

Figure out your goals.  Sometimes this is easier said than done.  If your goal is nebulous, like increased family peace, I think you need to think about what parts of the day are not peaceful? Which child is derailing the peace?  Are you derailing the peace with your own reactions?  If you can really break it down, then you can set goals to really address the smallest and easiest steps that would have the biggest impact.

Ask yourself, what is the ONE thing I can do today toward my goal?  If you have a bigger, overarching goal, it may be that you can  break it down into five baby steps and then you have five things you could do to address those baby steps – but most of us can’t do five things in one day!  We can pick one thing and work towards that one thing, and then move on to another baby step and finally all the baby steps are conquered and the goal is within reach.

Check where you are. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I am exhausted from life and I need to be very careful about what goals I set,  how I intend to address them, and the timing of everything.  Sometimes I need to pick a different time to start or to give myself a lead in period to build up when to start the baby step for my goal.

Find accountability.  If there is another adult in the house, maybe that person can be your accountability partner. If not, find a friend who will support you or someone also trying to accomplish the same type of goal.  Check in with each other, and encourage each other!

You might need to put money in the game, and you will definitely need to put time in the game. That’s just the reality.  I talk to parents all the time who want to improve their marriage, but they don’t want to spend money on counseling, dates, babysitting (but admit they are getting nowhere fast on their own without any of that), or homeschooling parents who want everything laid out for their homeschooling adventure but don’t want to spend any money on a consultation or resources.  Not everything takes money but the reality is that  some things do.  Decide for yourself what you need to invest in, how much your investment should be or can be, and if it is an absolute and essential priority how you will get it done with the schedule you have today and the budget you have today or what you can change to meet your goal.

I love this season of renewal, and to me it is the jumping point for reaching some new goals – I would love to hear your goals around parenting and homeschooling.  Let’s share and support each other!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

owning it

This weekend I had the pleasure of presenting three sessions at a Waldorf homeschooling conference in the Southeast.  It was amazing to be there with Melisa Nielsen of Waldorf Essentials, Jean Miller of Waldorf-Inspired Learning, Jodie Mesler of Living Music, Judy Forster of Mama Jude’s, Brian and Robyn Wolfe of Waldorf*ish, and inner work leader Sheila Petruccelli.

A whole Friday night and Saturday focused on Waldorf homeschooling  for early years through high school and creating a peaceful home!   Can you imagine?

And as I looked around, it struck me that these participants – who had come to the Southeast from as far away as Seattle and Denver and Missouri  and all over the Southeast – had come here to do the work.  This made me so happy because…..

If we want something , we have to own it.

We have to figure out the work that will go into our goal, and map out the plan to get it done, and then have the initiative to really dig in and follow through.

Nothing is going to just fall into your lap.  It takes some time and effort.

This includes concrete goals in business, homeschooling, homemaking, parenting,  and life and also the goals of such elusive things as “happiness” or “peace.”  I always tell my older children that happiness will not fall on top of them like an anvil falling out of the sky , flattening the cartoon character.  We create these things in our lives, and we perservere through the things that are up and down in life with a focus on finding these things even in the bad moments.

So, ask yourself:

  • What would that goal look like for me?  Are my expectations/goals realistic?
  • What would be the  baby steps that I need to do to break down this goal?  What is one concrete step I could take today today?
  • Who could I help be on my team to help me create this goal?  What part would they need to play?

Get out of your own way, put yourself in the game, and help your children do the same.  This is responsibility. For a good American football analogy,  put yourself in the game and run the actual play, so to speak.  If you sit on the sidelines, you will never contribute to the touchdown as part of a team or make the touchdown yourself. 

What are you struggling with today and how can you own that?

 If you need help, I will be opening a few consultation slots in April.  I do this only a few times a year, so if you have something burning on your mind to accomplish for parenting or homeschooling, email at admin@theparentingpassageway.com so we can talk by phone! (I put out all my lesson plans and childhood developmental tips for FREE on this blog, and I have for ten years, but the phone consultations for paid clients. :))

Blessings and love,

Carrie