Category Archives: Daughter

How to parent my daughter who's just like me

Haley Beach

Her emotions wear a cape, soaring her high out of reach where I can’t bring her back close to me. From far away she looks at me with helplessness, “Mom, help me. I don’t know what to do! I feel out of control! I am losing my mind!” We both wait for the wind of exhaustion to gently bring her down into sleep.  Rest restores her body and mind back into control.

She’s just like me. Except she’s only six-years-old and hasn’t figured out how to control her HaleyandMeemotional power. I’ve had 34 years of experience and seven years of therapy to help me reign in my emotional squalls, and even still it’s hard work to maneuver the stormy winds of anxiety, panic, and fear. My daughter, Haley, and I are two highly-anxious, perfectionist-peas in a pod.

Lately I’ve been at a complete loss as to how to parent a child like me. I spend a lot of energy either trying to soothe Haley’s emotional tirades or reacting with my own rants out of sheer frustration. I’ve taken her to the doctor to rule out physical ailments and am currently researching behavioral health support. Nothing feels right. I have been praying for guidance as to how to get my daughter the coping tools she needs now so she doesn’t end up like me later–feeling out of control and coping through disorder.

My friend Andee recently wrote a post called Just Like You–A Post for Mother’s Day, and she describes the curse-turned-to-blessing of having a daughter just like her. It was Andee’s insight into her daughter that has given me insight into mine. She describes her daughter, Annika, as one who “not only wears her emotions on her sleeve, but all the way down her maxi dress. She has no poker face and tells you exactly what she’s thinking. Early on, Annika’s tranquil mood turned to tantrum within seconds and rage would strike out of the blue.”

I can literally insert Haley’s name in for Annika’s. But rather than trying to “fix” her daughter’s emotional outbursts to avoid future demise, Andee offers a listening ear and reassuring love.

I realized I have spent so much energy on trying to fix Haley to avoid future angst, that I have lost a grip on who Haley is and what she needs right now. My daughter doesn’t need fixing. She needs love, understanding, and reassurance (just like I do). That’s how to parent a child like me. Hello, answer to prayer.

Yesterday, Haley was depressed, unfocused and exhausted. She was getting sassy in her tone with me and tipping into the rage-red zone. Taking my cue from Andee’s insight, I asked, “Did something happen at school today? What’s wrong?” Turns out she got stuck on top of the jungle gym at recess. She was scared to fall; her classmates were encouraging her, but it was embarrassing; she was worried she wouldn’t get down before the bell rang for class; and she was confused because she’d never been scared up there before.

Well, no wonder she was upset! For a six-year-old, getting stuck on top of the jungle gym makes for a rough day. I hugged her and affirmed her feelings and told her I loved her. What a scary and stressful experience! I wish I could say she magically felt better and we lived happily ever after the rest of the night. Her mood didn’t improve, and actually it got worse, but I kept my cool and just let her be how she needed to be. IN accepting her emotions toward her situation, I was better able to love on her despite her coldness toward me. I trust in time she’ll learn to trust me as I parent in love rather than “fixing.”

HaleyMath

I see, now, Haley is just like me– creative, generous, compassionate, funny, intelligent, and intuitive. She’s a thinker and a creator and an achiever. This week she’s written two books, crafted three songs, made me multiple presents and cards for Mother’s Day, encouraged her older brother, and has given her best in everything she’s done. Her future looks much brighter from this angle!

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Dear Friend, What is it about God…?

Dear Friend,

What is is about God that makes you so mad? The mere mention of His name causes your shoulders to tense, and your fists to curl, and your mouth to spit words of hate.

What is is about God that makes you so skeptical? The mere mention of His name causes indignant doubt and the passionate desire to prove His non-existence.

What is is about God that makes you so irritated? The mere mention of His name causes you to turn your back, to tune out your heart, to question the intention of the Believer.

What is it about God that makes it easier to believe in the universe, to believe in coincidence, to believe in “just meant to be”–all of which are equally unseen and void of visible proof and human explanation. Why is God so much more intensely unfathomable than those other things to which we have no clear answer?

I ask not to challenge, but to simply ask because I don’t understand.

The harsh heart, the angry words, the indifferent spirit towards a God who has shown undeniable presence and wielded great power in my life is crushing to my heart.

Father holding daughter in arms at the beachImagine a tiny daughter who adores her father, who grasps her father’s hand and looks up at him with adoring eyes and sweetly requests, “Carry me, daddy. I am so tired.” She asks because her heart knows that her father will lean down and scoop her up, holding her close in the strength and safety of his arms. She knows because he’s proven time and again that anytime she needs him, he’s there. And when she’s securely held high above the terrain that has made her so tired, she rests, leaning her head upon his shoulder and falling asleep in the peace of his love for her.

Now, look at that peaceful little girl and tell her that her father doesn’t exist.

Tell her the safety, rest, and love she’s feeling right now is imaginary and she was crazy to even ask to be carried. Look into her eyes and spit words fury that this father is nothing but a figment of her imagination and she should never speak of or rely upon this so-called father again. Tell her that the pressure to live a life of happiness, peace, and security lies completely upon her– upon her abilities, her intelligence, and her willingness to follow the harsh expectations of the world. You tell this little girl that if she isn’t finding happiness and fulfillment it’s because she isn’t good enough, strong enough, smart enough, and savvy enough to make it in this world. Tell her that the key to finding purpose in her life is to work hard as hard as she can and if she gets tired, sick, or disabled, well then tough luck. She isn’t cut out to make it in this world. Her future is hopeless.

You tell this little one that the father she knows so well and with whom she pleads to carry her has never and will never lift her from the terrain that makes her so tired.

Imagine how heartbroken this little child would be.

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In the eyes of the world I am just another woman. In the eyes of my Father, as my child is His, so am I His daughter.

I am that daughter of God. I am God’s child who looks up and reaches out for my Father’s hand, sometimes for the sake of my own tiredness and always for the sake of others’. I see you, friend, who is angry, skeptical, irritated, and unbelieving, as my brother or sister. It’s okay if you don’t believe. But I do. Please be careful with your words. Words are powerful and words meant to hurt… do.

Your words, however, won’t ever shake my faith. I could give you my testimony if you’d like, but it’s hard if God is so unwelcome to your ears. Would you even listen to me? My intention would never be to convert you because that isn’t my job. As Christian I am simply to share how much He loves you by being transparent about how He’s shown his love for me (despite my brokenness)–about all the times He’s scooped me up when I have been so tired.

I wish and I pray that you would have the experience of our Father scooping you up in Love because I assure you, He will and does. But I dare ask, if you won’t even allow the mention of His name to penetrate your ears, how will you ever accept even the possibility of Him as a Father to enter your life?  I wish you could give Him a chance (even in your skepticism)–to spend some time learning about who Jesus was/is for yourself. He’s more real than the universe and so much more powerful than coincidence.

There’s no doubt God is incomprehensible. His omnipotent power is beyond human sense and control. He seems scary and unsafe, but I assure you it’s broken people and the darkness threaded through this world that is scary and unsafe. God is a father who loves his children and wants nothing more than to protect you– to lift you high above the wearisome terrain of this life and give you rest.

That is what I believe to my core. It’s okay if you don’t, I just kindly ask that you please be careful with your words against what you cannot see or understand.

Much love and In His Peace,

Leanne

 

 

You were six today

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I woke up and you were six years old today. Thinking back to the day you were born, I knew I was getting a gift, but I could never have imagined exactly how special you would be.

You are sweet and sassy and smart– clever with your words and emotions according to your audience and your need for expression.

You are intellectual, imaginative, and inquisitive–indulgent in your desires to learn; reading, writing, and reflecting back upon what you need to know.

You have an artist’s spirit– creative and spiritual and intuitive. Singing and dancing, creating and writing–through music and paint (and lots of glitter), pencil and paper you discover and express and wonder about life and all the lovely (and not so lovely) things it has to offer.

You have a heart for the Lord, a flowering relationship with Jesus, a trusting instinct for the Holy Spirit. You have sincere prayers, thoughtful insight to our loved ones lost, and a child-like understanding of God’s love I wish I had.

You are an observer, soaking in the thoughts and actions happening around you. (A ruminator like your mother.) Thinking, learning, contemplating, and threading life into the depths of your spirit, letting it simmer and rest until parts of it bubble up–ready for exploration and explanation.

You are bold and outspoken when you need to be–expressing injustice, advocacy, and love (oh, how much you love to love!), for the sake of others’ hearts.

Like any young girl, you desire to be older and more mature–taking pride in the moments you handle things on your own; acknowledging and indulging your growing independence.

Yet, you  are six years old. My heart swells because you still seek mommy. You desire the comfort and snuggles that comes with crawling into my lap; peace of mind that you are loved and adored; validation of who you are when I tell you my favorite things about you are your heart and your mind.

You’re my little girl, my Haleybugger–my love bug–my gift whom I love and honor and admire. Happy birthday to you!

 

Lying her way OUT of a sick day

“Mom. I am not sick. I’m just tired and cold. I’m fine,” insists my five-year old daughter.

“Let me take your temperature just to be sure. If you’re fine, this will confirm it for me. Your face feels warm.”

“Okaaay. Fine.”

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“Sugar bear, you feel cold because you have a fever.”

Tears welled up in Haley’s eyes and flowed down her cheeks. “But mom, I am good. I am not sick. Do I have to miss school tomorrow?”

“Not sure. We’ll have to see. Just lie down and rest.”

Haley’s fever crept up to 102.2 over the course of the afternoon. She clearly wasn’t feeling well despite her insistence that she felt good. I put her to bed early knowing school was unlikely.

Haley rose at 6:30 a.m. and bounded down the stairs. She found me lying on the sofa where I had spent the night battling my own illness. “Hi mom! I feel good today. I think I can go to school.”

“You certainly are up and at ’em today.” Something didn’t seem right to me. A mother knows when her child isn’t well.

“Yep. I am all better.”

“Let’s take your temp.”

99.6. Definitely lower yet warm enough to tell me something is invading her immune system.

“Can I go to school? Please?”

Can I just say, I’ve never in my life experienced a child (including myself) trying to get OUT of a sick day? Her brother was home just last week with strep throat, practically bragging about how many days of school he got to miss.

I narrowed my eyes on her. “You sure you are feeling okay?”

Then it happened. That curl in her grin that tells me she’s lying. “I promise, mom. I’m good.”

“Haley. Does your throat hurt?”

She casts her eyes down. “Um. No.”

“Haley. Are you telling me the truth? Does your throat hurt?”

“Only when I swallow,” she confessed quietly.

“How about your neck? Does the back of your neck hurt?” I gave her neck a gentle rub.

“No. Only when I look down.”

“Honey. I think you need to stay home today. Your body is trying really hard not to be sick. If I send you to school you are going to feel much worse later, and maybe miss even more days of school.”

Her shoulders slumped and her tears spilled over her flushed little cheeks. “Mom, please. I will miss music and library. I’m good, I promise.”

“I know how much you love school, Sugar Bear, but it isn’t fair for your friends to be around you if you aren’t well. You can accidentally spread your sick germs. Sick days at home aren’t so bad. You get to watch any movies you want as much as you want. And I’ll snuggle with you and make you soup. We’ll have a fun lazy day.”

I had to chuckle listening to myself “sell” my daughter on a sick day. It just seems hilariously absurd to me, yet I adore her heart for learning. Yesterday she finished her entire week’s homework in one 1-hour sitting. I pray she keeps this love for school and the eagerness to learn.

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My view from the couch.

I will have to teach her to take care of herself though; that we cannot risk our health or anyone else’s to engage our passions. I will have to teach her that in order to pour ourselves fully into what we love, we have to take time to rest our body when it is tired and unwell …

Which means I will have to practice what I preach.

As I type, I realize she takes completely after me. I fought my symptoms for three days, chalking them up to “allergies” before finally admitting illness yesterday. Oye.

So today, we are both learning, resting, and enjoying each other’s company with popcorn, movies, and blankets.

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In training to love… myself

“When you take care of yourself that means you love yourself. When you love yourself you make your body strong. When your body is strong then you can have a strong mind… and a strong mind means you can handle hard situations.”  ~Master Je Kim

Something clicks. I sit in my Taekwondo seat, body straight, fists resting on my knees… focused. Love yourself. 

I became a Taekwondo student in early February, thinking it would be a good way to become physically strong and to bond with my daughter. How cool would it be for my girl and me to become black belts together? We would learn confidence, learn to defend ourselves, and become disciplined in respect and focus. My son was already two belts ahead, but still this would be a neat family endeavor… I could be an example for my kids.

But tonight, belt-testing night, I see why God called me to Taekwondo.  Love yourself.

Oh yes… I prayed before I became a student, asking God if the nudge I was feeling to participate was Him or my own itch to do something I think would be cool.

I also asked my therapist if I had her blessing too.  I have anorexia. My body and mind aren’t 100% healthy and Taekwondo is… intense–physically, mentally, and turns out spiritually.

I thought it was a bit crazy that I got the okay. I mean, an anorexic as a Taekwondo student?? Me who doesn’t eat enough and who tends to turn exercise into a god… obsessing over calorie and carbs?? The answer was… YES. Crazysauce.

I stare at Master Kim (the 1992 Olympic gold-medalist), listening to him address the lot of us, yet looking right at me… Love yourself and you will have a strong mind. Then you can handle hard situations. 

My first class had been hard. I hadn’t eaten enough that day. And in the first five minutes I thought, “Oh crap. If I am going to do this, I will have to fuel or I will fail.” I don’t want to fail for two reasons: 1) I’m a type-A student; failing is not an option. 2) I don’t want to fail my kids. In order to be a good student, I could see right away that not eating would be dangerous. I vowed to fuel and to fuel well.

Fast-forward to a few days before my belt test; I witness a fellow student–the only other grown-up with me in our class–blackout. It was the first time I’d ever seen that in my life. He was fine one minute and the next minute he was pale and on the ground. Before he went down, our instructor, Master Hong, repeated, “Mr. Jason, take care of yourself. Sit down if you need to. Take care of yourself Mr. Jason.”  Watching my teammate washout and pass out… scared me. Terrified me.

Take care of yourself. 

Here I sit on belt testing night, pulsing with adrenaline. I just broke a board–without breaking my body! I am shocked because I realize I am stronger than I think. Love yourself and you make your body strong.

I wish I could say that while the message clicked on belt testing night that I was magically healed from my eating disorder. This past Monday I had a bad eating day and I went to class. I had a hard time in my partner-work. I felt ashamed. The topic of the day was respect… for your partner. To respect your partner means to be focused, to make a promise that you will not hurt them– by engaging your own skill and body well and encouraging your partner in their skill.

I could not focus properly. My mind wasn’t firing on all cylinders and my body was tired. I felt ashamed for disrespecting myself and my partner. After thinking and praying, I got back on track. I realize that I have a choice… to either despair over a bad day and wallow in my weakness or remember that I am in training.

It takes three years to earn my black belt. I have already shown myself that I am strong enough. (I mean I broke a board for crying out loud!) Training takes time, but I know I have what it takes… to love myself.

If you are interested… here are the videos of both my daughter and me breaking our boards. Enjoy!
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