What Children Show us About Possibility Thinking

Winged Flight

Winged Flight

As I have written before, this past year I picked up my teenage stepdaughter from school once a week and took her out to do whatever she would like. I did this whether she was at our home or her Mom’s. Our excursions were seldom spectacular in nature- a little Starbucks here, a bit of Target there.

Because it is summer and I am not teaching the load I normally do during the academic calendar, I offered to my 10-year old stepson that I would also like to begin taking him out for some one-on-one time. Perhaps not every week, but we could do it when we could.

When I spoke to him about this option, he looked at me with big eyes and said, “I have been waiting SO long for you to ask me.”

I was quite struck by this. I had been taking my stepdaughter out for some woman-to-woman bonding time. I had never imagined a 10-year old boy would be “waiting SO long” to spend some one-on-one time with his stepmom. I guess I was wrong.

On our first day, I picked him up from day camp and said, “The choice is yours, buddy. What do you want to do?”

He then listed, “Mini-golf, skee ball, Target, time at the river, and walking around downtown”.

I obviously overlooked telling him that one-on-one time included only ONE event per outing, not six.

So he thought about it some more and said, “I know where I want to go. Can we go to a gas station convenience store?”

What?

Well, apparently they had a specific lemonade drink he wanted to try. So we did that and then walked around downtown for a bit.

Then on our next outing, we were in Target (yes, we live in a small town). I told him that I often bought his sister a treat to eat, so he could pick something out. I suggested a bag of Starbursts to share with friends as my stepdaughter often did or really anything he wanted.

He chose ….the 1- pound family size Stouffer’s macaroni and cheese dinner.

And I realized in this moment, how if we give each other some space, the possibilities that may evolve. Children, especially, are still open to seeing so many possibilities and options (which can drive a parent crazy when it is time to decide and check out).

What I have liked about this one-on-one time is the opportunities for possibilities to emerge. When we are all together and there is some other agenda happening, the possibilities are never even discussed, let alone recognized.

I have enjoyed this time with my stepson. He has shown me how to think in new ways and to respect that we may never truly know what another person wants until we ask. He has also taught me to think in possibilities and potential for something new.

And, hey, who wouldn’t want a 1-lb family size Stouffer’s mac and cheese dinner now and then? 🙂

Does Love really have this Power?

I have You

I have You

The other morning things were not going well for my stepson which translated into a less than positive dynamic in our household. Things have been building for some time and it has taken all of my skills and awareness to match the level of his struggles.

After the crisis settled, my stepdaughter’s friend called and she was at an outdoor venue near our home. I grabbed our dog for a walk and told my stepdaughter I would walk over with her so she would not have to go alone. Plus I wanted to decompress after the “adventures” with my stepson.

As we were walking, I jokingly sighed and said to my stepdaughter, “Do you ever wonder with all that goes on if one day I am just going to quit?”

She stopped and turned to me and said, “Never. You love us too much.”
—–
Sometimes, I am not so confident with the stepparent/stepchild dynamic and it is an exhausting process on a mental/emotional/ and dare I say, financial level.

But do you have any idea how powerful it must be for a child to see love in his or her life so clearly displayed that they have no fear that it will be taken away or leave them?

In the fatigue of the day, in the wearing down of moments both large and small, you can wonder if your power of love is transcending you as you hoped it would.

Somehow my stepdaughter showed me on that day that my message of love (which I wished was stronger on some days) was getting through.

She has a love she trusts will never leave her. How beautiful is this?

Can 5 minutes a day make a difference in my Stepkids’ Lives?

Carrying Her Heart in Her Eggs

Carrying Her Heart in Her Eggs

Spirit always feels hope. Where we see fear and concern, Spirit is determined and sees opportunity, not barriers. And because of this sense of Spirit, I have begun to hold a “Sacred 5 minutes” with each of my stepchildren per day.

The last line can be read literally. I find each of my stepchildren in a private time. I say to them “Want to do a sacred 5 minutes? We can just sit with each other. We don’t even have to talk”

I thought I would be met with resistance from them with this idea. So much so, that I bring my phone along and tell them I am setting the timer for 5 minutes. I feared that they would think they would be stuck in some long conversation.

Want to know what has actually happened? When I ask them “Want to do a sacred 5 minutes?”, they always stop what they are doing and say “Sure”. When the timer on my phone goes off, invariably they and I ignore it, continuing on with our conversation or my stepdaughter’s piano playing for me or my stepson’s reenactment of his favorite movie feature and so on.

I am not sure we have covered the most life-changing of topics. Yet, when I look back, I see how much we have shared in some ways.

It may seem funny and I wonder what can 5 minutes really do? But I do it.

Spirit, if anything, is an opportunist. And perhaps all it needs is 5 minutes to change my and my stepchildren’s lives.

5 minutes per day- perhaps that is all that Spirit needs.

What Does the World Want from You?…The Secret I will Tell

My stepchildren grew up in their earlier years with a somewhat distorted understanding of their place in the world. For 5 or more years, they had several live-in au pairs, who in the words of my stepdaughter “did everything” for them.

My stepchildren thought these acts by the au pairs were signs of love. They were, in fact, actions taken by women employed to take care of the children. My stepchildren transformed these acts by others into the thought, also expressed by my stepdaughter, that “People want to take care of us. That is what they are here for.”

Uh…no, not really.

Of course, love, giving, support, friendship are common in our day to day experience, but here is the secret I long for my stepchildren and others to know- “The rest of the world does not want to take care of you.”

It simply does not. The world will provide hope and assistance for you with the caveat and expectations that the energy will be returned to it. We do not get something for nothing.

A life well-lived is not one in which you have required others to care for you.
A life well-lived is one in which you have something to give to the world.

The world’s question to you will not be “What do you need?” nor will it be “How can I provide for you?”

What the world will seek is what you can do for it. What need in this world can you fulfill?

It may be raising your children well, helping others at your job, running a nice home, creating art. The forms and fulfillment of needs in this worlds are limitless.

Those who are happy and successful realize this energy exchange. They produce something in the world and in doing so, find a place for themselves within this world, at very little cost to others.

They give back, and in doing so, find themselves receiving even more.

Is it True…or do you just NEED to Believe in It?

Truth

Truth-
I would stake my life on you
If only my slippery mind could grasp and hold you.

When I watch my stepchildren, sometimes I am struck by the fantasy that this culture still wants to believe in – that divorce does not profoundly affect children, that children in divorce situations are “fine”, and that, as long as the divorce is “good”, the children are probably better off. None of this is true. Yet, we NEED to believe in these things. Otherwise, the pain of divorce is simply too great to bear. So we craft a narrative that children of divorce have no additional burdens than those children growing up in intact homes (Not that “intact” homes are always healthy environments- but that is another fantasy we NEED to believe.)

The legacy of divorce is significant for children. I am not saying it’s necessarily bad, but what is a problem is the fantasy that we create as a culture surrounding this issue and then insist the fantasy is real- not because of any facts, but simply because we so gosh-darn NEED it to be real. Because then our lives are easier.

We have other areas in our culture in which we craft and believe in a fantasy, again, not because there is any evidence, but rather we are not yet capable of confronting the alternative. I think a powerful example of this is our justice system. Many truly believe that the truth is always determined in court, that those in prison MUST have done something horrible, etc. Has the justice system gotten a lot of things correct- of course. Are some individuals in prison for a justified reason- of course. Yet, one can not look, even with a brief glance, a prison statistics and not think something may be awry when one considers the portion of prisoners who are young, Black males. But that is part of the fantasy, too, isn’t it? It must the young, Black male who is failing.

On a more global context, I have met people who believe in the fantasy that God loves us “more” because we are Americans. What? Why this fantasy? Because it plays into our self-image and we can not consider the alternative. If God loves us more as America, if we are “special” in His eyes, then whatever America does on the world stage is “fine” because God has chosen us. Obviously, this is not my view- but it has floored me to meet those that think this way.

We all have our fantasies. We need to make sure we do not confuse fantasy with truth. Just because you NEED to believe in something because it is easier to do so, or absolves you of guilt, or makes it so you don’t have to be responsible for anything, because everything is “fine” – does not mean everything you NEED to believe in is true.

Surviving Things With Tentacles…

The attacks on Boston made me again think in terms of things with tentacles. I consider things such as war, famine, poverty to be things with tentacles. They never stop reaching and grasping into one’s life, extracting a greater price as time moves on.

I think of those injured, who have survived, and how the tentacles of their injuries will work their way into all aspects of their lives. I think the same of the family members of those who passed on this day. Death does not stop at a moment. No, it appears again and again, in the wonderful spirits of those suffering. And my heart breaks for them, wondering how much a person can take. That is when I remember the tentacled- beast we all have deep within us- the beast of hope, that refuses to be defeated, and somehow, we survive.

Tentacled-Beasts

Things with tentacles-
Octopi, plural of octopus,-
Exchanging “i” for “us”

Only biological terms
arise in my mind, thus
I am reduced to
jellyfish next

On the edge, when Earth
thought flat,
tales of tentacled-
creatures ran deep

No more do these push
our fears, as
we contend the tentacles of
a more intangible nature

Foes, once crafted in imagination,
are no match for
the diabolical disposition of
war, death, poverty and famine

We need not feed ourselves
tales of old when the tentacles
of above tickle
hairs upon our necks.

War, with its tentacles,
is never contained to
armed engagements, with
respect for borders

Poverty reaches
deep, deep within
grasping both currency,
and its conjoined twin- hope

And famine, never stops
at food storage, it, too,
demands to be fed and
devours one’s potential

Death cycles through
literally every moment
while the living
reel in time -suspended

And somehow within
the midst, we awaken
our own tentacled-beast of
deep – that of hope

For even in the darkest
trap, when worlds have
fallen through, hope reaches
to grasp the free-falling.

Children and Disappointment

meditativeecstasy
For those of you who celebrate the Easter holiday- Happy Easter! Short, little blog today about something that happened yesterday. My husband, stepkids and I went shopping. It’s a big deal for us, as we live out in the middle of nowhere. We went in order to purchase my stepdaughter some new jeans. She is at the age where on-line shopping simply is not going to cut it given how much her body is changing.

During the day, my stepson began to look more and more dejected. He managed to mope and drag his feet, slowly walking 15 yards behind us, through an entire wing of the mall. Although he had been allowed to purchase one small treat, he wanted more. His moping and feet dragging were designed to clearly convey how we had failed him, in case the tears and pleading had been lost on us.

My husband was very concerned stating that “Henry” (not his real name 🙂 ) seemed so disappointed.

Yes, “Henry” was disappointed. But, I pointed something out to my husband. Our job as parent and stepparent was not to raise two children who never experience disappointment. Our job as parent and stepparent was to raise children to grow up understanding how to handle disappointment.

A wonderful gift we can give our children is to help them understand they are not the center of the world. Life provides and life disappointments. A person of awareness and grace (a hope I my stepkidds will be) is able to handle both with a sense of compassion and understanding.

In Praise of the Quiet Ones

seenothingspeaknothingSilence can easily be mistaken. Yet, it is such a wonderful, powerful choice to make. I witness a great deal in my house with my husband and stepkids. I observe and refrain from comment. I like to think – in peace and in quiet before engaging. This has often been taken that I am not participating. Someone who refrains from speaking is not necessarily withholding participation. I would say in the space of quiet, some of us are actually quite active.

On a side note, and I hope I am not the only (step)-parent to have said this, I did threaten to throw our “family” TV out the window the other night in order that I may have some peace and quiet in the home. Of course, this was met with a sense of shock by my stepchildren, as they turned to me with wide, round, “bug” eyes commonly seen on stuffed animals, wondering why I could possibly be so upset over something like the TV.

Sigh…it’s not the TV, it’s the bickering over what to watch, how long to watch, is it appropriate to watch, who watched what last, who should choose what to watch, where should everyone sit during TV watching, is it more important to watch “live” TV or what is recorded, should recordings but watched in order or most recent first in order to “catch up”?

I hope to God I am not the only one living in such a household- as they say, misery loves company. 🙂 Monday is my birthday, as my stepchildren eagerly asked me what I would like, I stated, “I would like a day of peace and quiet. No TV. Perhaps some reading or meditation.” Prompting my stepdaughter to respond, “I think I am going to die.”

The Value of My Silence

Everyone always assumes
silence implies-
but no, silence
simply refuses to state

In silence, I am not
with out
Hope,
Vision,
Rhythm

No.

I am with-
Sight
Feeling
Contemplation

I am present in
Skin,
Bone,
Muscle

Although I may
hold tight to words that
seek escape.

Witnesses are not-
Immune in stasis –
Complicit in silent
Agreement

We oscillate and sway
With the slightest
Perturbations-
But-

And God bless us-

we refrain from
summating the wave.

When You are all that Someone has in the Moment of Pain….

Come in, Come in

Come in, Come in

How many of us have sat with someone in pain, and prayed to take on their pain for them? The following was written after an afternoon discussion with my stepdaughter. She was in pain, again, partly due to life (child whose parents are divorced, being a pre-teen etc.) and partly due to her living with a narcissistic mother. I hate to always seem as if I am pointing the finger at this woman, mother of the child, but every child needs a champion, someone who understands the world they live in. And I see, and I witness, what is done to her, and you better believe I pray and tempt the fates, if only her pain could be mine.

“Fate”

In our afternoon-
separated by a half a room-
We are roped into a
slice of eternity.

In my imaginings,
I sense the wrappings
and coils of infinity.
The sensation- more binding
than reassuring.

And I do not know anything…
And my thoughts fail me…
And I wonder one too many ideas…

Do you need me to reach?
Or will movement induce
ripples for which you are ill-prepared?

Your pain weighs and grounds
us and I fear, oh, I fear,
that I may send it all toppling
down onto us.

I freeze- Medusa, in reverse-
my features set in stone-
in a pose I imagine to be
warm and welcoming.

We do not move closer,
we do not move further,
but the weaving begins.

Your pain, my solace; my former
pain, lending you a point of
understanding.

I want to help but instead I pray-
reverently-although I know it is wrong
and Fate will refuse to bend and bow
to my sacrificial will.

I want to take on your pain- you
are so young, my sweet, little one-
much that you do not know –
here, I sit, mirroring you, so you
understand that you are seen and you are heard.

Even when you feel no one else notices.
For today, even having one, will be enough.
I hope to God it is enough.

Part of the poem certainly deals with being a stepparent to a child in pain due to a biological parent. How much do you help? What lines are there for you to cross or not cross? On days like this, I hope my being witness and support is enough for her or for anyone in pain, for that matter.

Pain of a Child

Woman and Child

Woman and Child


As many of your readers have pointed out when I write about my stepchildren and their narcissistic mother, how difficult this must all be in relation to my concern for my stepchildren’s well-being. Bless you for being aware to state such things. The effect narcissism has on us as adults is somewhat limited to what a child experiences when interacting with someone of this nature- especially, when the narcissist is the “Mother figure” (I write “Mother figure” as narcissists are not truly capable of fulfilling the role of “Mother”).

Below is a poem I wrote about my stepdaughter who is struggling with her sense of self, as her Mother has never been able to mirror her in an effective way. Children need us to mirror them. From the young games of peek-a-boo to meeting the development level of the child at every stage, when that mirror is not present, a child struggles to create a sense of self.

Add to this, the dynamic of stepmom and you see my stepdaughter’s and my pain. I can help her to a point, but the point ends when my stepdaughter feels to bond with me as “mother”, means disloyalty to her actual Mom. So, here we are- she struggling to find a mirror; me, doing the best I can, whispering “Please open your eyes and see how strong you are…”, all the while trying not to take any power from “Mommy”.

Daughter of the Narcissist

Without a mirror, you take.

With no reflecting surface,
You must build from nothing.

You use materials of imagination gathered from others.

You want me to see you,
You beg me to see.

I whisper, “Open your eyes…please, open
Your eyes”

But, you can not.

From your birth in time, you tried
And were told there was nothing to see.

And, now you are blind by choice,
Grasping hands upon my arm,
“Take me with you”.

I turn to walk away, distance is the friend.

I can no longer and I never could
Give you what you seek.

Every spirit, every soul must find the path of awakening.

A child, too young to be an adult, yes, you are.

Sorry my little one that the path you claim is not yours, truly is.

I will hold your hand and hope, I will, I will.

But to carry you now, my sweet younger one,
I can not; having never carried you in my womb.
My heart can not take you in the fantasy that persists.

The feet you plant on the ground are yours.
The mind that drives the movement is yours.
The voice that sings in each shower is yours.
The hands that craft your world are yours.

Now use them.

Please find that home within
Without the need for mirrors
Your value is within yourself. Amen.