Coaching and Wellness, education, faith, God, humor, self improvement, sobriety

Confessions from an Enmeshed Parent

How I broke the toxic cycle of co-dependent parenting to let my teens live their own damn lives.

(Also published on Medium.com)

Bonnie Kittle @ Unsplash

I love this picture. It brings up images of parents that are there for their child but willing to let them run free. It’s a wonderful symbol for what I strive to be for my own kids.

In my last post I spoke about how I was going to take advantage of my forced vacation from school (AKA: My Coronacation) to spend more time with my children. By “children” I mean “very tall teenagers.” And by “spend time” with them I mean “not micro-manage their every move.”

To be clear, I by no means am going to let my 4-bedroom home become a movie set for Lord of the Flies, Coronavirus 2. Nor am I sewing myself a cosplay outfit ala Captain Vontrapp either, complete with a military style schedule and a whistle. (I could never look as hot as Christopher Plummer, so why bother?)

But this wasn’t always the case. There was a time in my parenting career where I lived and breathed everything my children did. I wasn’t a helicopter parent, but I was absolutely an enmeshed one.

Mitch Lensink @ Unsplash

Definition of an Emeshed Parent

According to Psyche Central, you might be an enmeshed parent if this applies to you:

  • “Your children’s good or difficult behavior, and successful or unsuccessful achievements, define your worth.”
  • “Your children are the center of your life — your sole purpose in life.”
  • “Your entire focus is on taking care of your children, rather than also taking care of yourself.”
  • “Your happiness or pain is determined solely by your children.”
  • “You are invasive — you need to know everything about what your children think and do.”

If you asked me if I fit that description, I’d give you a hearty, “Hell, no! Just look at my house. Do their disorganized bedrooms, and their less than perfect school grades, match the traits of someone who is overly concerned with her kids?

But the more I researched it, the more I realized how wrong I was.

An enmeshed parent doesn’t apply to a child’s exterior life. It applies to their emotional ones which, to their supreme detriment, is bound up co-dependently with their parent’s feelings of well being.


My Daughter and Her Enmeshed Mother in Transition

As I’ve mentioned before, my daughter is super independent. She’s smart and sassy and doesn’t take to people telling her what to do. That said, she is still only 15. She simply doesn’t know what she doesn’t know. As her mom, it’s my job to set boundaries with love.

It just so happens that yesterday, on our first day of our Coronacation, we decided to take a walk on the beach. There were no people there… lots of open space… no fears of people coughing Covid 19 over our sun screened faces. It was a perfect time to talk about something that had been on my mind for a long time: her grades, her time management skills, and a particular class next year she really wants to get in.

That last item? She doesn’t just want a spot in this prized class. It’s all she’s been talking about all year. There is an audition component to getting in and, as much as I hate to admit it, I’ve been super anxious about her getting in myself.

Happy vs. Enmeshed in Our Kids Lives

I mean, who wouldn’t want their kid to be happy, right? But if I’m being honest, it’s more than that. I have the tendency to want her to be happy so I can be happy, and that’s never a good combination. That’s enmeshment.

I’m really careful about these days about this toxic parenting. But I wasn’t always. The old Andrea would have been up my daughter’s butt for six months telling her what she needed to do to get ready for the big try out. But this new Andrea — the one who is writing enough herself to not have to live through her daughter’s dreams — was able to be more chill about it.

I’m pretty proud of how the conversation went. It involved more questions than directives. I only brought up the topic when I was calm. (Hence not in the car when I was still pretty irritated about a dental appointment that didn’t go so well.)

Instead of launching into a lecture, I said a little prayer before I began speaking: God, let this conversation be about what is best for Evie’s life, not my enmeshed Mama ego. Let me remember that this is her life, not mine. Let me remember the difference between control and suggestion and have the wisdom to know the difference. (That last bit, God, I suck at. So feel free to smite me when I go overboard.)

Our Healthy Conversation Along the Beach

Tyler Nix@jtylernix @ Unsplash

Me: So, Evie, I’d like to talk to you about your tryout. Is this a good time?

If she said no, I’d have dropped it. I mean, what’s the point of having a conversation with your teenager, unless it’s truly life threatening, if they are not ready to listen?

Her: Sure. What’s up?

Me: Well, I know how badly you want this particular class. And I told you in September I wouldn’t bring this up anymore — and I didn’t. But… you now have three extra weeks to prepare for the tryouts thanks to our enforced time off from school.

Her: And?

Me: And… I’m not seeing you rehearse that much for it. What’s up with that?

Her: Oh that’s simple. I’m not rehearsing!

Me: And… this is because…

Her: It’s because there’s another piece to the audition that I’m much weaker on. I have been using my time to work on that instead.

Me: (Starting to get frustrated… enter enmeshed mama trying to break in) So the first piece isn’t that important?

Her: Oh, no, it totally is.

Me: (Truly stumped) Can you explain to my why, if it’s so important, you’re not doing it?

Her: Yeah. It’s because forever I felt that you wanted me to have this more than I did. And that didn’t feel particularly amazing.

Me: Hmmm.

Note: “Hmmm” is my go-to when I know my kid just needs me to listen. And also when I know she’s right. Translation: May day! May day! My ego has just taken a big hit and it needs comfort big time! Pass the wine!

Crap, you don’t drink anymore! Pray! Breathe!

So I did. Then I pressed her for more detail and braced myself. (Her frankness is not always pretty.)

Her: I sometimes think you don’t see how hard I’m working at other areas of my life and just focus on the areas that are important to you.

Me: Yeah, I can see that. But on this occasion, I do know how much you want this class. I wouldn’t be a great mom if I didn’t at least point out where you have an opportunity to improve.

Her: I know. It just reminds me of how you used to be.

I wanted to scream, “And I was right then, too! Just as I am now!” Instead I went with:

Me: Okay, you have my word I won’t bring it up again.

Her: You won’t have to. Because, don’t freak out, Mama Llama, I’m going to practice more. I just needed you to back off first.

Enter angels singing on the beach! (Okay, not that last part — but it was a victory!)

Lest the above conversation sounds like a cheesy script for the Family Channel, those sentences really did come out of each of our mouths.

We didn’t yell. We didn’t get snarky. We just shared from the heart. None of it would have been possible had I still been acting from my enmeshed mama’s ego.

I Want My Kids to Succeed!

Of course I want my daughter to get into her class, but more important to me is that she wants it. There is nothing in my kids’ lives, minus their health, that I should want more than they do. If I do, I’m bordering on obsessive again. And that, my friends, isn’t healthy.

As an adult, I’m only now finding my way in this world without needing to be propped up by anyone but my own higher power. Rather than have my kids have to figure this out in 12-step rooms, I’d rather they learn this now.

This comes from being a mom who listens more than she talks.

Who asks more questions rather than assumes.

And who has enough of her own life that my kids can go on to have their’s.

As far as my daughter goes, it means that if (worse case) she doesn’t get into that coveted class, she has a safe person to share her disappointment with.

Until next time, may you be less enmeshed, ask questions and, when in doubt, go for a walk on the beach. It really is the balm for all grrrr. (Even more than wine. I promise.)

Until next time,

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

education, faith, God, parenting, self improvement

Coronavirus Isn’t Happening to Us

It’s happening for us… to wake us from complacency to joy

David Mao @ Unsplash

So I get it. This virus is a big deal. Italy is on lock down. Vulnerable people can die more easily. The President is taking credit for acting quickly over something he should have been on top of months ago. We might have to start washing our butts with garden hoses and, just when our kids might finally be allowed back at school, they will be out again for summer break. (#insanestyearever)

None of this is easy. I, for one (as a Class A Extrovert) am super bummed about missing my AA meetings, not going to Magic Church for the foreseeable future, not meeting my bestie for a cup of Starbucks that I shouldn’t really be spending money on anyway, and those Disneyland gift cards I got for my big 50th birthday? By the time I cash those in for annual passes I wouldn’t be surprised if the price is doubled to pay for all those weeks the park was closed. (Plus I hear the payments on that Millenium Falcon are a bitch.)

Perhaps most disturbing of all is that, as a substitute teacher, I’m not one of those lucky educators who is getting paid while we’re off school. And while I am not playing the victim card here (I have an English degree, not a teaching degree) I am losing quite a bit of income.

All of the things above is enough to send me into a wave of self-pity — and believe me, despair is dancing on the surface — but when I take a breath I feel something much deeper that is buoying me up: Hope.

Hope in a Quarantine? Are You Kidding Me?

Putting aside my worry for those who are most risk with this ridiculous beast, there is a side of me that is relieved to be home. These feelings are not that different than how I felt when both my babies were born. During their precious stages of early life, there wasn’t much I could do while they napped. So I focused on on staying as present as possible.

I stayed close to the phone.

I read books.

I occasionally watched television.

And I wrote.

Life was smaller back then. I had tremendous worry about what the future could hold, but stronger than the worry of what could be was the absolute joy and excitement for what I had in my little cozy nest: two humans that I loved with all my heart.

Coronavirus Can Suck It

Cristian Escobar @ Unsplash

I refuse to let Coronavirus steal that joy from me now. Granted my two babies are no longer co-sleeping in Scooby Doo sheets and wearing matching Dora the Explorer panties… they are almost six foot and six foot six… but they’re still under my roof. And with their insane high school schedules, and my teaching and freelance schedule, it’s been a loooong time since we’ve had such a long span of uninterrupted time together. With only a year and a half until my son graduates, I am going to take full advantage of this unique, if not unusual, opportunity.

Making the Most of Our Corona-cation

So it’s not exactly a stay-cation or a trip to Hawaii (nope, my daughter’s choir trip was canceled) but we will make the most of it anyway. Here’s a list of just few things we’ll do to keep our souls happy and our brains from flatlining more than getting stuck at a Costco canned food stampede. We will:

  • Come up with a schedule of chores
  • Listen to each other’s playlists on Spotify
  • Swap books (I will finally read my son’s book choice, Fahrenheit 451, my daughter will read The Help and my son will likely be forced by my daughter to cry over any one of her John Green novels.)
  • Netflix binge! I will drink tea with my daughter as she catches me up on Stephen Universe and explains in great detail the difference between gems, humans and how Steven himself is actually a combination of the two and why Pearl never shows signs of aging. (Spoiler alert: It’s a gem thing.) My son and I will trudge our way through a truly terrible, but hilarious, What’s New Scooby Doo series.
  • Paint the bathroom. My son has a collection of 214 rubber ducks, all different faces, from nurses to a quacking navity set. These rubber fowls have been sitting in a trunk at the edge of his bed for five years. Now’s the time to paint the stall walls bright blue and display them on rain gutters. Who doesn’t want to use the facilities while being stared out by an Abraham Lincoln duck? Plus it’ll make the experience more enjoyable when, ultimately, there is no toilet paper to finish the job.)
  • Jog around the block
  • Learn a new language on Duolingo
  • Clean out our bedrooms
  • Get back into a prayer routine
  • Play some video games (with a limit… they go off at 10pm and don’t go on until 10am. If no one is up before 10am then no computers.)
  • Check in on our family and friends that are hurting and do a little bit more cooking than we normally have time for. (That’s assuming there’s anything left on the store shelves to eat.)

Coronavirus has been the frosting on the bitch cake of 2020,but I refuse to let it ruin my appetite for what nurtures me most: my family.

When I remember that this damn virus didn’t happen to me, but it happened for me, to slow down and appreciate the blessings I have right here in my home, quarantine has never looked so good.

Here’s to flattening the curb with social distancing and also raising the line with our connection to the people that matter most.

As for my personal goals? I’m gonna finally get cracking again on that musical I’ve been putting off. Plus I’ll be writing here daily as a personal commitment to what makes me happiest: words, thoughts and hopefully a little engagement with you beautiful people.

We are in this together. See you tomorrow.

Until next time,

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

Uncategorized

Why Surrendering Power to Teens Is Okay (Hint: It’s Not About Control… It’s Actually Strength)

Image Courtesy of Unsplash
alex bracken
@alexbracken

I had a conversation in the car today with my 15-year-old daughter that made me want to throw up. It was not unlike one of those carnival rides at the fair that go up, down and then shake you back and forth like James Bond’s famous martini.

This mama was shaken, stirred and ultimately hung over afterwards. But, since I have been physically sober for almost 4 years now, I am strong enough to handle a little emotional hangover also – especially when instead of running from my feelings I allow myself to sit in them instead.

I could go on and on about what my emotions were on the subject, how we sorted it out afterwards, and where we ultimately landed, but I’ll keep it short and simple:

  1. My daughter set a healthy boundary with me.
  2. Because I initially perceived it as a threat, not a boundary (because I couldn’t possibly be wrong, right?) my back went up.
  3. I felt the conversation getting more heated than a hot flash and told her I wanted to shelve the discussion. (Bonus points for me for doing what I should be doing! #notescalatingthecrazy)
  4. When she left the car, I called a friend. And by friend, I mean sponsor, who doesn’t beat around the bush. Lilly: “So you’re upset with your daughter for telling you the truth about something you are uncomfortable with dealing with?” Me: “Um…” What else could I say? She was right.
  5. When Pip got back in the car she immediately apologized. “Mom, I’m sorry. That was a lot of tension. I shouldn’t have said anything.”
  6. To this I said, “No, you should have. Just because I’m not good at telling people directly how I feel all the time doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be. It’s okay. I’m glad you’re safe enough to let me know.”

The End.

Lest I come off like a saint, let me tell you that this was a 15 year process of screwing up, wronging my kids, manipulating the conversation to make me look like the victim or, equally attractive, just plain old co-dependently saying what I thought my kids wanted me to hear so I could come off like a “good mom” only to explode moments before a big event because I was resentful, exhausted and very likely half a bottle into Two Buck Chuck at their highly anticipated Halloween excursion. (Going as Hottest Drunk Mom on the Block? It wasn’t as exciting as it sounds.)

Getting sober taught me to be rigorously honest with myself. Drinking, turns out, wasn’t my problem. It was the thinking that got to me. It was my brain telling me things like, “You just need a fxxxin break” or “You deserve so much more than this drudgery mom nonsense” and, worse of all, “You are RIGHT Andrea.”

When I’m right, it leaves very little room for my kids to have an opinion with their defensive, cranky, I must have it my way mom.

Tonight my daughter set a boundary with me. And it didn’t feel good, because in this case, she was right. I had to change my thought process on something. Ouch. Puke. Why can’t you be 5 and just think I’m amazing… even when I’ve eaten half your Halloween candy and wrapped used stuffed animals for Christmas to save an extra 5 bucks?

But in the end, I’d rather lose my butt than save my face. And seeing my daughter’s face flooded with relief that I was not going to shut her down was worth every second of my ego deflation.

I’m now off to take my son to a group activity he doesn’t want to go to but… Rex and I set a boundary with him and so off he goes.

Subbing, surrender to the God of my understanding and more driving than a New York taxi driver – such is this season of motherhood for me. But it beats drinking and crashing into all my relationships because I’m just not present with my honest, hairy and often uncomfortable truth.

Cheers to you this Friday. Mamas, you are not alone! We’re in this together.

My Strong, Fierce 15 year old Daughter Who Is Teaching Me That Surrender Is Actually Power

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

(Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook.

Uncategorized

Raising Teenagers: The Annoying but Lovable Truth

Matheus Ferrero@matheusferrero from Unsplash

I don’t know about any of you parents with teens out there, but what I just experienced in the past two hours pretty much sums up my life.

After a long day of subbing which, today, was AMAZING thanks to running into some kids who spent about five years of their childhood at my house, I came home to my busybody daughter.

Pip: “Mom, I have to be at school in a half hour for The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe which Lila is in!”

Me: “Um… okay.”

I proceed to jam more popcorn in my mouth than regrets about the SOTU address and battle traffic to her high school – with the car on empty – praying the whole time I don’t get stuck between the carpool lane and a very annoying Uhaul with the bumper sticker, “Honk if you love Hooters”.

The entire commute there I am treated to her plans for her junior year as well as snippets of various songs from Be More Chill. (It’s a bit racy, but really great. I highly recommend “Michael in the Bathroom” for any post-highschool nerds. You’ll relate.)

This song is A.May.Zing and such emotion!

I suppose I could have delayed the ride over and gone hard ball on the fact that this pot of rice was leftover from last night’s lunch prep:

Do you love our 80’s tile? Me, too. I’ll save you some when we demolish it WHEN MY PILOT SELLS!!!

But I chose to be grateful for the little things. She makes lunches for her papa and me each day. She ran a bit late this morning. Most important in my book, she didn’t argue with me about doing it later, along with tonight’s dinner dishes. #Whocares

I dropped her off (first saying a prayer that no one shows up with a gun which, sadly, goes through my mind these days). Before going straight home I swung into Trader Joe’s for some Half and Half because, now that I don’t drink, apparently it’s just not good for my sobriety to steal into Arco, swipe some “free” Half n’ Half tiny pods and run like a thief in the night toward my 1998 Acura Integra Getaway car.

Rex wasn’t home from work yet but my son was. How do I know? Oh, I’ll show you!

It was even darker inside.

But when I flipped on the light (which most normal people do but teens? not so much) I deduced Stink was home.

If I couldn’t tell from the jackets on the hook (which, now that I look at them they belong to Rex… it’s just he and his son are the same size. GIANT) I would know from this set up:

Who doesn’t want geometry books on their “tableau”

Followed quickly by this set up:

More dishes! Damn it to biscuits!

But in the end, neither child is doing drugs. Neither is having sex. Neither are failing classes. (Well, at least not most of them.) And I got my son to agree to let me post him here.

It’s so important to stay grounded on what isn’t working, because the other stuff… the less than tidy Pinterest perfection. It’s just a lie anyway. At least it is for me. My babies and our relationship will always trump a perfect home.

Though, when MY PILOT SELLS, I’m getting a maid and a house makeover quicker than you can say, “Did Andrea follow through and finish that final paragraph on her pilot today?”

To which I will respond, “Hell yes I did!”

Happy Thursday beautiful people. I can’t wait to catch up tomorrow. And let me know, if you have kids, if you relate to this post at all.

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

(Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook.

faith, God, Jesus, meditation, parenting

She Used to Be Mine: Motivation Monday

Mary Oliver, Wild Geese

Per my post last night, I’m starting this week less frantic. Less crazy. No hiking at the crack of dawn. No over analyzing of why my son does what he does or why my daughter does what she does. It’s time to turn the seething laser beam from what they are not doing well toward what they are doing well. And of course, when I do this, the beam ultimately lands on me and lights me up: What am I doing well and what am I lacking?

When I view myself through the lense of the world, online social media, or my own internal ego of projection and criticism, I see so much of what is missing. This includes projects and home renovations not unlike a pie half baked. I know the ingredients can create something amazing, but half way through I turned the oven off. Or I forget what I started. It’s only when the smoke of the failure or missed opportunity fills the house with a suffocating stench that I’m forced to get into emergency mode, making it difficult for me and all those around me to breathe well.

There can be a million reasons for this which include, but are not limited to:

  • Work
  • Family obligations
  • Death
  • Personal obligations
  • Domestic issues
  • Parenting issues

But when I view myself through the lense of God, I see my life very differently. I see that the choices I made, as well as my mistakes, have created a strong and competent woman who has modeled pretty damn well what transformation looks like. My marriage is so much stronger. My family relations are more healthy. The list above becomes things that have happened for me, not to me, to shape me into the woman God would have me be.

In re-reading Shauna Niequest’s book this morning, Present Over Perfect, I was once again reminded that life at breakneck speed is not healthy to someone’s soul.

I was also reminded of a conversation I had with one of my children last night. It was a slow, quiet conversation. No yelling down the stairs. No me telling this child exactly what they need to do to be accomplished in the world.

Instead, despite being so very tired and just plain strung out, I brought God in. I got in bed with my overgrown kid and just listened.

I’m no saint. I’m just aware of what triggers me these days. I still felt all the feelings of frustration and anger that happens when people just don’t do what I ask them to damnit, but I saw this internal reaction as something completely separate from my child’s journey. I didn’t allow my unhealed wounds to leak onto my kid. I asked more questions than gave criticism. I told my own fear and insecurities to take a hike and I listened to what they were telling me. I listened with my heart and not my head. And what I heard was the equivalent of a spiritual two by four in the head.

My kid told me, under no uncertain terms, “I don’t feel the need to be validated by the world…I trust myself. I need guidance, but not judgment. I need overall help, but not micromanagement.” Translation: Back off and stop putting your shit on me.

My head started spinning like a whirlpool, full of my concerns and fears for who this child will become if I let go. But something in me knew to not fight and swirl in the toxic waters of judgment and reaction. It would just continue to make me sick and not only drown me but my child in its furious wake.

Instead, I just dropped down… way down to the bottom of my worries and insecurities. In hitting the bottom of my emotional ocean, I felt for a moment I might just die. “Acck! The feelings! The unmanagablity! I need to tell this half grown human exactly what they need to do to fix everything!” But if 49% of me (my ego) wanted to tell my teen were they wrong, 51% of me (my soul) knew to shut the hell up and follow their lead. So I did. And that 2% made all the difference.

I surrendered.

And then, in that moment at the bottom of the sea, away from that maddening vortex, that same voice not of my own making pushed me back up to the surface of the water where I could breathe.

It was calm.

It was beautiful.

There was trust and peace.

There was also wisdom. I knew in that moment when it was time to draw battle lines (chores, kindness, follow through) and when to allow them to forge a new path on their own.

We just held each other. There was nothing to study. No book to write. No house to clean. Just the two of us, the dog at our feet, grateful for the sound of the trees in the background and a safe space to dry out.

I knew, and I know even as I type this, that getting my children to be more accomplished and productive is not the answer. (Tried that/did that… it doesn’t work. IT’S A LIE.) The answer is to ask questions so that they themselves want to do it to become the absolute best version of themselves. From that place of radical self-acceptance they will absolutely become accomplished. It’s never the other way around.

As I mentioned before, such a knowledge can be terrifying. Because in letting go, I’m forced yet again to focus on the one person left that I can control. Yup, folks, that’d be me. I’m no where near my children in terms of my comfort level with myself, but I’m a hell of a lot closer than I’ve ever been. 4 years of 12 step can really crack a person open, and what began as a terrifying adventure into the unknown regions of my soul is starting to bear beautiful fruit of self worth and belonging. Sure, I took a little trip back to ugliness last night, but I didn’t camp there for more than a few hours. That’s some pretty major progress.

And so, with that in mind, I’m going to post this blog and head back to my other writing. I’ve got a script to rewrite. I’ve got some plays to get into a production company. Here in the blessed quiet of my office, I will let go of who I think I’m supposed to be and once again begin the journey of who God would have me be. I’m not 100% sure of who this woman is, but I used to know her a long time ago. She used to be mine. And I’m grateful for the opportunity today, and everyday, to welcome her back home.

Leave a Comment

Anyone else relate to this journey I’m on? Would love to hear from you.

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

(Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook.

faith, God, Jesus, parenting, Uncategorized

You Can Manage and Control Something, but You Can’t Enjoy It at the Same Time. (Yeah, Let That Sink In.)

ddd

My daughter got up early today to join me at Magic Church. I call it Magic Church because for the past six months I’ve been attending this 125 person community that all believes different things about the Gospel. Some are married, some are divorced, some are gay and married, some are gay and single. Not everyone believes in the same path to God but all believe in one thing: Letting each other figure it out the best way we can.

I’ve struggled with certain elements of right wing religion for a while, so the freedom to breathe for this A-personality control freak has been nothing other than MAGIC. Even with my doubts on some of progressive Christianity’s approach, I feel in my gut such a joy and peace. From the moment I step under the oak trees my soul whispers, “I am home. I am safe.”

The inner Evangelical in me is not too happy with this concept. With big hair and long nails (with her purse matching her shoes) she finger wags, “This is blasphemy! You need JAYSUS! That’s where the healing is!”

The only problem with Evangelical Annie’s proclamation is that such advice has not turned out to be the case. The healing has not come in the form of dogma and a one-way scripture reading ticket. Transformation, like a flower emerging from a bud, has come with colorful questions and the fragrant ability to share my story with honesty and transparency. I have found the only requirement to a beautiful garden of peace is to ask the master gardener, God himself, to show me who he is in a way I can understand. No control games. No strings attached. (Ding ding ding! He’s shown up every single time. Like a true gentleman, he never barges in without me asking, but once invited, boy does he wine and dine me! That Holy Spirit is such a cheeky one.)

Control + My Kids = Bad Move

This same concept of control has been very true with my kids. In the past I attempted to manage and control them to fit my exact specifications of how they should behave (from healthcare to grooming and study choices) but I could not enjoy easy relationship. To quote Sam, Rex and my mentor, “Control is never loving.” How true that statement was for me and my kids. Our relationship was fraught with tension, hurts and inevitable rebellion. It was only in relinquishing my need to be in charge that freedom came in. And in that freedom, a beautiful connection and bond formed.

Side note: I am not talking about letting go of stuff that matters. Serious bodily injury or outright defiance? Not happening. But if they don’t want to change their pillows every other day, despite my concern that their face could be clearer if they did so, I let it go. I’d rather have a kid with a few pimples who is happy with themselves than a brow beaten acne free teenager who begrudgingly complies. And if it means that much to me, I can just change the damn sheets myself. Some days I do just that. But most days I look at it, sigh, and refill my coffee cup. That seems more reasonable. (Oh, and do I change my own pillow every other day despite my acne? Oooh, snap! Not so much. Moving on.)

Today in church, when my daughter rolled into my pew in the back right hand corner, one kid after another smashed their way into her row like little spiritual sardines. “Pip!” they shouted. “I want a piggy back ride after service!”

Later, when Pastor Craig announced that the kids approach the front of the sanctuary for Children’s Hour (Ages 13 and under) Pip went right up there with the kids. She’s almost 15, but it didn’t matter. Flanked by kids on both side of her, she joined the Jesus mosh pit, participated in the message, and marched right out the door with them to Sunday School.

I bring this up because none of it was planned, but it was perfectly acceptable. No need to argue over technicalities. It just was. Magic.

The fact that my son was at my previous church and my husband was home washing the car? No big deal. Lack of worry about this less than ideal set up? Magic!

The old Andrea would have been in despair over such a fractured family. The new Andrea knows that every one of us gets to be spiritually fed the way we need it.

I won’t lie. I sometimes see the families with matching tee shirts and Bible verses from my old church and think, “Man, where did I go wrong?” But these days I’m mostly seeing where I went right:

  • Not sweating the small stuff to allow space for God’s miracles to manifest
  • Allowing humor to replace critical comments and sarcasm
  • Opening up our home to friends and family regardless of perfectly cleaned floors
  • Choosing to live with older cars and furniture so that newer belief structures could replace antiquated fears (fears that served only to root me in shame and second guessing)

Some of you might feel very differently than I do about this subject, and that’s okay. All I know is that the world sometimes feels very very unsafe. But in my little neck of the world, at least at this very moment with my daughter still swimming at her new church friend’s house and a belly full of pizza just hand delivered by Rex, my universe feels so full of joy and gratitude that I can only refer to it like I refer to my church: Magic.

Like the Jesus I follow who I believe died not just for me but for all of us, it only took dying to my old ideas of management and control to find it.

Might have taken 49 years to figure it out, but that’s better than nothing.

Friends, I wish you joy, peace, love and the ability to let go of managing every little thing that doesn’t matter so you can truly enjoy what does this week.

Until next time,

Andrea

PS: I picked up quite a few new readers this week. Glad to have you on board! You are so welcome here! Leave a comment so we can get to know ya.

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

(Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook.

books

education, faith, God, parenting, teenagers, writing

Grades, Schmades, and the Art of Privacy with Teenagers

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Okay, so I didn’t post my chapter for Writing Wednesday so stay tuned this Wednesday instead! Sigh.

My sweet friend, Amelia, always reminds me, “Andrea, you don’t have to be so hard on yourself.” And I agree. But I always get disappointed when I don’t keep my word here. I figure If I can’t keep my word to myself, life will keep it’s word to me in the form of doing what I don’t want to do for the rest of my life which, currently, is taking the recurrent theme of not knowing what I want to do for the rest of my life. It’s a fun internal loop that has been going on for the past 5 years. And as joyous as circling the “What Now?” drain is, I also think sticking to a schedule is not such a bad idea.

And no coffee after 3PM.

And not eating an entire bag of Skinny Pop every day and wondering why I gained ten pounds.

Lucky for me, summer is here and I have gotten back into my daily hikes. While I am not a fan of getting off my butt and doing something that does not involved writing, reading or drinking copious amounts of caffeine, there is such a joy and beauty in meeting up with my two teacher friends and smelling the hills. Plus, along with calorie counting, I’ve lost about five pounds, so that’s something to celebrate!

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Walking in these hills reminds me a lot of my parenting journey as of late. I need to prepare and stretch because there’s plenty of uphill climbs. But if I spend all my time complaining, fretting about the tough stuff and just sticking to the trails I know (such as “I’m Always Right Mountain” and “This Way or You Are a Failure Pass”) I’ll miss the beauty that is all around me… the quiet times in the car on the way to each of their summer classes where I hear about everything from Mean Girl Animatics (Pip’s choice) to Stink’s Youtube fan base (a gaggle of 10 year olds) who are writing him for an update to his Scratch based video game, “Dawn’s Journey.” Plus there’s been so many more words between us that have dramatically altered my way of interacting with them.

I originally wrote a post detailing specifically what such a conversation recently looked like, but I deleted it. It’s not that I wrote something so terrible, but I felt compelled to erase it based on previous requests from my kids that I don’t share their personal details on my site. That’s so hard for this mama – especially as an ex Babycenter blogger who made my living for years exploiting and making fun of my kids sharing the joys of parenting. But in the end, I must honor their decision to keep their private lives private. More to the point, I respect it. No people pleasers in this house! (Well, except for ME, but I’m working on that. Better stated, God is working on that for me. I just need to surrender every single day. And on days when that’s too difficult, I surrender by the hour, by the minute and by the second. Because as long as I think I’m in charge, life is going to suck. It just is.)

And so, please accept this alternate ending in the form of a quote that I sent to one of my teens after they made a decision to back out of a commitment that was not right for them.

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As I continue to walk the paths of my own journey, may I remember the same. And may you remember also!

Here’s to all of us remembering that we are not what we do, but who we are, that matters most.

Here’s to more questions, less criticizing.

Here’s to more faith and less fear.

And here’s to enjoying the beauty that exists all around us, uphill climbs and all.

Talk to you Sunday!

Leave a Comment! I Love to Hear From You All! (Even you, Mom. And Tuskany. Ahem. And thank you, Irish Mama, for your kindness always! I love you!)

Andrea

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

(Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook.

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God, humor, Jesus, meditation, Uncategorized

Motivation Monday: Let’s Dish!

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Please tell me that some of you experience life like these dishes? That no matter how diligent you are, events, illnesses, random neighbors and challenges pile up. Some days are easier than others, but one thing is certain: the rack is hardly clean.

That’s the way it’s been for me the past… forever… but today just felt so good it didn’t really matter. I have money in the bank, Amelia went to Costco with me, Tuskany chatted with me on the phone while I watched Pip rock climb and the weather made it so pleasant to run back and forth to my car for my daily four (yes FOUR) trips to my kids’ college campuses where they are taking language.

I supposed the drive could be drudgery, but I cherish the moments with these half baked adults. I say half baked with affection, because they are old enough to have some really decent banter but young enough to still have ideals and joy toward their future. Stink  wants to work for Nintendo and create video games. Pip wants to sing on Broadway and maybe get into nursing. Will those things happen for them? As my father would say, “I don’t have the foggiest notion.” But the passion they have toward learning those skills will serve them in whatever they choose to do. Who am I to dash their dreams?

When I forget to pray in the morning, my perspective on the above paragraph isn’t always so great. I can easily get plagued with uncertainty: “Am I not encouraging their academics enough? Should I be pushing them more toward work? Should I be better about asking them to clean their rooms?”

But on days like today when I meditate and start the morning with prayer, despite only 5 hours of sleep, I can relax into the beauty that is God’s grace when I just let conversations be. When I don’t have to be the smartest one in the car, or the funniest person at the dinner table. I can ask more questions and give space for hurts to be shared and laughter to flow. From that place of intention, how can things go badly? Even a stack of dishes is just a giant reminder of gratitude that we have food in the house, people to sit at our table, and water to wash them with.

So that leaves me with my goals for the week – to hold onto this feeling of contentment that joy doesn’t come with one more writing assignment completed. It comes with knowing that I have a God, and so do my kids, so I don’t have to worry about any fears that I have. I can just rest and remember that, as Amelia always reminds me, “Everything is working out perfectly.”

And it is for you, too.

What are your goals this week? Leave a Comment!

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

(Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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education, parenting, reading, spirituality, taco tuesday, teenagers, Uncategorized

Taco Tuesday #1: The Book: Middle School Matters (Author Phyllis L. Fagell, LCPC Talks Writing, Middle School and… Sigh… “Balancing It All”)

Taco Tuesday 1 Phyllis Fagell

Every morning at 5:45 I meditate and pray for 15 minutes with  my husband. We levitate above our bodies and let the world’s sorrows and money woes slip into the ethers all before our Venti triple shot Starbucks hold the sugar Americano . We do a quick spiritual reading and then share about our day. It is an anchoring process that helps us each put what matters most at the beginning of our busy schedules. Being intentional with our priorities is grounding, illuminating, sometimes challenging (when I am hit with revelations about myself I would rather avoid) but always connective.

A theme I find myself circling round a lot is this idea of being present for my teenagers and family while making daily time for my writing pursuits. (Oh yeah, and the work thing! I gotta make a living – enter substitute teaching and freelance articles.) It’s not Rex’s job to fulfill me. It’s mine – not 99% of the time. 100% of the time. This ownership of personal responsibility has led me into a personal strength I didn’t know I had, but at the end of the day, sometimes my purpose still eludes me.

I write this all to say that I know I’m not alone. And while I know that who I am is what is most valuable, I often feel this pull to get more done. Regardless of my insecurities growth challenges, would I want to pass this striving onto my teens who are already in enough angst about surviving school? No. My goal has always been to help them focus on being kind, good and engaged people who are so very worthy. So far so good, minus a few 2 day couch protests over the horror of doing dishes and the Lock-Thyself-in-Thy-Bathroom-for-Holiday-Plans-Not-Working out Incident of 2016.  (Okay, I’m talking about me, not them.)

Yup, it’s often a struggle for me to stay present. Perhaps if a book like Middle School Matters, by Phyliss L. Fagell, LCPC, was around when I was growing up, more educators would have focused on teens being human beings, not human doers. I might have found my artistic passion earlier instead of my penchant toward people pleasing/perfection and having to take every single stray planting pot found on the side of the room home. And while I can’t place blame on anyone else for my own personal wiring, I can every day strive to lay down perfection and encourage both my kids, and myself, to be who they are meant to be, not who they think they are supposed to be.

In this first Taco Tuesday interview of many to come I’m thrilled to give you an interview with someone who wrote a book explaining just how focusing on what matters is possible.

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Taco Tuesday with Phyliss L Fagell, LPCP

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Where are you from and where do you live now?

I’m originally from Newton, Massachusetts and now live in Bethesda, Maryland. 

What do you do for a living?

I’m the counselor at a K-8 school in Washington, DC; a psychotherapist who sees tweens and teens in private practice; and a journalist. I frequently contribute to publications including The Washington Post and Your Teen magazine. I’m also a regular columnist for Kappan and The Association for Middle Level Education magazines.

How has that influenced your decision to write a book?

I started my career as a health and science writer and magazine editor. I went back to school for school counseling after the birth of my second child (I have three kids–two teens and a tween). I took a fourteen-year break from writing, then found myself writing for The Washington Post about counseling issues. My kids were a little older at that point, I had the bandwidth to take on writing assignments, and stuff was getting me fired up–things such as gender stereotypes, myths about middle schoolers, breakdowns in parent-teen communication, unhealthy perfectionism and achievement pressure, and stigma around mental health issues. The book is a natural extension of my freelance work and a way of compiling all my thoughts on middle school in one place.

Have you always wanted to write?

I wrote my first article for The Boston Globe when I was 14, about the Doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (!), but I wrote my first creative “book” in second grade. I stumbled upon it the last time I was in my childhood bedroom, and it’s a very clear rip-off of The Velveteen Rabbit.Plagiarism notwithstanding, I remember how much I loved writing, illustrating and binding that book. I was seven at the time, and it’s probably when I first realized I wanted to be a writer. I was an English literature and creative writing major in college, then got my master’s in journalism, so if anything, it’s surprising to me that I switched to counseling and stopped writing for so long. It’s all come together nicely in a way I never anticipated.

What is your marketing strategy and how important is this for writers who are publishing their first books?

I’m learning as I go, especially as a first-time author. Many writers, myself included, are more comfortable with the writing part than the publicity part. I’ve had to remind myself repeatedly that this is about sharing ideas, not about having a big ego. I think women in particular are uncomfortable with self-promotion and have a tough time taking ownership of their work. I’ve been lucky in that a lot of other writers– both men and women– have been incredibly supportive and have given me great advice. But mostly I leave the strategizing to the publicists. I know my strengths, and that isn’t one of them!

What was the most difficult part about writing your book?

I struggled the most with work-life balance. I work full time and then some, and as I mentioned, I have three kids. I had to let a lot of stuff go in order to meet my book deadline. After I finished the first draft, I realized I hadn’t opened any mail in months. I also picked up a LOT of Chipotle along the way. My kids probably never want to see another burrito. Fortunately, my husband appreciated what I was trying to accomplish and really kept all the balls in the air. I’m glad I didn’t know what I was getting into before I started, as I might have had second thoughts!

What was the most fun about writing your book?

I loved, loved, loved talking to experts across the world in industries ranging from technology to maker learning to education to psychology and medicine. There’s nothing like talking to people who are most enthusiastic and knowledgeable about whatever subject you’re covering, whether it’s learning or resiliency or teaching tweens about sexuality. I enjoyed nerding out and learning from the best, most passionate people. Writing can be lonely, but pulling this book together was not a solitary pursuit. I made real connections with individuals who share my obsession with everything middle school-related.

How did you go from “ticked off” to “happily” ticked off? (Basically, how did you use any of your challenges to motivate you to move ahead?)

That’s a great question — one that no one has asked me before! I definitely was agitated prior to writing this book. I wanted to write something preventative, something that would get all of us — kids and adults alike — back on track and focused on the right priorities. College isn’t the end goal, and achievement shouldn’t trump kindness. I also wanted to provide both educators and parents with some concrete, evidence-based strategies. Basically, I saw a giant unmet need and felt we were missing out on this prime opportunity to raise good people. Middle school is probably the most neglected and most critical developmental phase. I’m hopeful that the tide is shifting. As for the “happily ticked off” part of your question, writing this book has been an empowering experience. There’s nothing like amassing and sharing a book’s worth of tips with readers.

Give a shout out to a few bloggers or writers who have influenced you the most.

This could be a long list! Jess Lahey, Michelle Borba, Rachel Simmons, Andrew Reiner, Ken Ginsburg, Katie Hurley, Amy Morin, Adam Grant, Susan Cain, Brene Brown, Claire Shipman, Josh Starr, Richard Weissbourd, Amy Joyce, Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Mary Alvord, and Amy Cuddy, to name a few!

What do you want people to know most about your book? 

I’m proud that Middle School Matters just got a starred review from Booklist! To be honest, I’m not sure if I’m more thrilled or relieved. It’s the first official review, and being a first-time author is nerve-wracking. The book is really a guide to everything that could happen during the phase, and also a road map for raising a decent, self-aware, accepting, confident, inclusive, capable, resourceful, and ethical human being. It’s a mix of stories, articles from the news, conversation starters, concrete tips, my own perspective, advice from experts and current research. It’s available for pre-order here: https://www.amazon.com/Middle-School-Matters-Beyond-Parents/dp/0738235083. I also have a professional website where you can find my articles:www.phyllisfagell.com. I tweet frequently about related issues at @pfagell as well.

Questions for Phyllis?

Leave a comment if you any questions and consider purchasing her book if you’ve got kids or grandkids entering this period. I know I could have used all the help I could get.

Until next time, let’s all try to remember that relationship is so much more important than being right.

And always eat tacos.

They really do make ya feel better.

Andrea

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

books

 

faith, God, parenting, self improvement, spirituality, Uncategorized, writing

Ping Pong Blogging: Trying A New Schedule (Again.)

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One night a few weeks back my son came pounding on my office door. “Mom, we MUST go on a walk NOW!”

He’s 16. He spends most of his time in his bedroom on the computer coding games or playing video games. He’s a good 4 inches taller than me and the days of sitting around the table every night eating off Scooby plastic plates and toasting apple juice are long behind me. When he offers a jaunt through our ‘hood, I drop everything with a resounding, “Okay!”

The purpose of the walk was an amazing treasure. A gorgeous ping pong table that just happened to be left on the curb.

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Just kidding.

It was a lopsided/rain corroded/missing a net/spider webbed/OH MY GOD IT WOULD KILL A SMALL CHILD OR CHIHUAHUA ping pong table.

So I put my foot down. “Absolutely not!”

Just kidding. I said, “Sure! Let’s take it!”

But then we got it home. And it sat on our lawn for a few days. Our front lawn. We already live next to a house with a missing chimney. Our grass is less than green. #redneckwriter. And so we had a few choices:

  1. Ask Rex to fix it on top of his demanding job schedule, our weekly communication class, painting in the bathroom (which will, for the record, be robins egg blue with rain gutters to hold Stink’s 200 rubber duck collection #classy) new roof paint for my SUV and helping move the rest Grandma Stella’s loot from her mobile home.
  2. Fix it ourselves. You know, get all crafty with all my wonderful Pinterest talent. We could bond at Home Depot over green paint! We could use the time in the car to listen to his techno music and my penchant for Billy Joel.
  3. Reality. (Door #3 is so boring. Living with magical thinking is so much more delightful.)

Guess what Door we chose! Yup, it’s now on our curb for the next bleeding heart who wants to give it a good home.

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My Blogging Goals – Like Ping Pong!

My writing goals for this site aren’t that different than ping pong. Just a few days ago I proclaimed that I’m only going to write here on Sundays and Wednesdays. Earlier in the year it was every day.

Here’s what I know about my back and forth and what I’d tell my own kids when they are learning something new: Sometimes it takes a bit of throwing the ball of your goal back and forth across your net of learning. Sometimes you have a groove, sometimes the ball gets lost. But just keep staying in the game. If it’s a game just for fun, just play for fun! But if you want to learn and get good, have a goal and stick to it.

For me, it’s both. I just can’t not write. But, as said earlier, I want to get back into making money with my talent again. That’s the goal. And so, a bit of enjoyment and discipline required. With that in mind, here’s the new game of blogging pong I aim to stick with for a month. And if it doesn’t work, I’ll readjust my strategy again. (You know what? We women can change our minds. It’s perfectly fine.)

Motivation Monday. I’ll talk goals and plans for my life and hopefully I can learn from you also!

Taco Tuesday: Taco Tuesday Guest Posts. Yup, I aim to have a new guest each Tuesday either at my real table for tacos or here on this blog.

Writing Wednesday: I will be showing a portion of my published book or my upcoming books in the making and would love to see yours.

Free Friday: Like this post, I will talk about what I want!

Shameless Saturday: This is where I brag about something that turned out pretty good for me. (I got something to tell you! Come back tomorrow) Plus I want to hear about your bragging, too. It’s so important to celebrate the wins!

Sunday: Posts about faith. I love my faith. I can’t not talk about it. One of my next books deals with this from the perspective of an 8 year old little girl who lives with her mom and grandma in a mobile home that smells like lavender and mothballs. Her name is Ray McRubble but everyone calls her Ray McTrouble because, well, she just can’t seem to keep her mouth shut.

All my other Twittering and reading of others work Monday – Friday will remain the same.

Why Am I Telling You This?

Because perhaps you, like me, want to do something other than what you are doing. And how do you do it? You get smarter and a bit more disciplined. And you write.

Oh, I also applied for a job at Goop recently as a content writer. I think I’d be pretty amazing and Gwyneth Paltrow would make a great guest at my table on Taco Tuesdays. (But second only to you, Irish Mama! So glad you stopped by with your beautiful family!) Re: getting an interview, fingers crossed, prayers lifted and if not, I’ll sub in the Fall as planned and write from my beautiful new office. I gave it my best shot. It’s a win-win!

Happily Ticked Off Tip #55:  Having a goal isn’t that different than a game of ping pong. Sometimes you have to go back and forth a bit before you find your groove. Just don’t lose the ball and give up. Because then you can’t play. #bummer

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

(Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

books