Tuesday, April 1, 2014

We're All in This Together

We're All in this Together - Stacy Snyder - Parent Unplugged
Many of us disagree on parenting styles.  Some of us are tough love parents, others of us are anything goes, and even more of us rest somewhere in the middle of the two.  While in another day and age, most parents subscribed to an unspoken code of behavior for their children that included basics such as showing respect for elders, practicing good manners toward all, and basically functioning under the Golden Rule, today’s parents don’t  agree on what the social norm is or should be for children’s behavior.  Some don’t acknowledge a social norm even exists at all, and that kids should be allowed to “just be kids” so we don’t thwart their creativity or development into authentic human beings.   

The social norms part is key, and touches right at the root of a growing problem in today’s world of parenting, the decline of social responsibility. 

What does that mean?  Wikipedia explains social responsibility as, among other things, “an individual, group, or entity’s obligation to act to benefit society at large.”  In parenting, think of it as considering the impact your parenting has not only on you and your family, but on other kids, parents, teachers, and society at large. 

Take, as an example, back talking.  As a parent, maybe you actively decide it’s not one of your hot buttons and it doesn’t bother you that much.  Maybe you prioritize other behavioral issues as more important than curbing your kids from answering you with a smart mouth.  Could be that you’ve created a situation where it’s easier to ignore it and after repeated occurrences of your kids sassing you without ramification, you passively give them the green light to continue it.  In any regard, it’s your house and your problem, right?  Yet the second your child walks out your door to school, to sports practice, to church, or God forbid, to my house, your impudent child becomes someone else’s problem.

This is a lack of parental social responsibility.  It creates problems for others.

When a teacher has to ask your older child to rework his statement into a question, complete with a tone adjustment and a polite ‘please’ at the end, and you tell your child that said teacher is simply a perfectionist and a pain in the you-know-what, you are not participating in your parental community obligation.  When your child throws a fit in front of an entire group of kids because she wants a treat right now that no one else can have, and you give in to her, despite the negative situation it creates for everyone around you, you are actively waiving your communal accountability to parenting.  When your child answers “Whatever” to another parent in response to a request, and you fail to correct it, you have not only given up on your child, but you’ve turned your back on your societal obligation as a parent.

Why are parents opting out of social responsibility?  Maybe the pace of our lives has simply quickened so greatly in the past few decades that we’re missing a parenting beat.  Good grades, winning sports seasons, impeccable music skills, and artistic abilities all hold their place on our parental barometer of raising a good kid.  Shouldn’t common courtesy, respect for others, and the ability to hold one’s tongue not demand the same reverence on the scale?  It’s possible we’re so caught up in manufacturing well-rounded, multi-dimensional children capable of great success that we’ve forgotten to teach them the art of decency.

The pot is boiling and is about to bubble over.  I wish I could just say that today’s kids who didn’t learn the basics of good manners would just be left out of the job force until they learned it.  Instead, if the majority of today’s crop of kids is left unchecked, they will simply turn into tomorrow’s adults creating new societal norms of behavior.  I, for one, have no interest in contributing to that change. 

Let’s turn the heat down and reclaim our shared interest in this world.  This means taking that extra minute to talk to your child about courtesy and kindness.  Tell them WHY it’s important to be considerate.  Explain what it means to treat people and be treated with respect.  This also means taking one for the team and having those same conversations with other kids whose parents may not have gotten the memo or simply are not present when a situation arises.  Parents are so scared of offending other parents that we often don’t step in when we should, simply because when the teachable moment arises, it’s someone else’s kid standing in front of you.  Every one of our children will make mistakes from time to time, same as we did as kids, same I still do now.  Social responsibility calls for us all to work on the same front for the cause.  Your kid, my kid, it’s all the same….we all want to live in a world of people treating each other with respect. 

Set clear expectations of behavior with your child/teen and lay out specific consequences to be doled out if they’re not met.  Pay attention to what they say and do at home and make corrections on the spot, because you can be sure they’re doing the same thing out in public and at school.  Stick to your guns on discipline.  Going through the motions of creating the standards and not adhering to the enforcement of the same does more harm than if you had never created the norm at all.

It’s hard to parent.  It’s even harder to parent well.  You’re not out there alone.  We’re all going through the same thing.  There’s not a one among us that is perfect, has all the answers, or hasn't made loads of mistakes.  But if we all join together, take this one issue, social responsibility as it applies to raising our kids with civility, and do the best we can with our kids for the name of the whole instead of just ourselves, we will make a huge impact not only on society and our neighborhood community, but on our family life and our individual children as well.  As Mister Rogers used to say, "Won’t you be my neighbor?"

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Age of Distinction

Stacy Snyder - ParentUnplugged - Age of Distinction - Ebby Halliday
I’m just gonna come out and say it….I like old people.  I like them a lot.  I feel like I can learn from them and I like their stories.  It’s been that way since I was little.  The 90-year-old ladies in the nursing home when we’d visit old Aunt Carribell a few times a year….I knew them all by name when I was five.  The 80-year-old janitor at my grade school….became my friend who’d stop by at Christmas time each year to  visit. 

I could look at it as an inherited trait, as my parents always spent a lot of time with friends that were much older than them, and I’ve grown up doing the same thing.  I would have to say it started for me with my grandma, though, my mother’s mother, known as Gommy to us grandkids.  She sparked something in me to appreciate the beauty in people, in all people.  She was the kindest, sweetest, most nurturing soul I’ve ever come across in my life.  She exuded caring. I don’t remember her ever saying a mean thing about a single person. 

She died when I was only 8, but my memory of her is as strong today as when I last saw her in person 34 years ago before she passed.  I truly believe the soft part of my own soul, that part that some who don’t know me well, might doubt actually exists, came directly from Gommy.  I craved being around her when I was little; I wanted to spend every minute with her.  Gommy’s sincerity and compassion was contagious.  It spread like osmosis to those who surrounded her.  She was one of those far-and-few-between humans that challenged people around her to be better people without ever opening her mouth.  I wanted to be just like her. 

I’ve probably been subconsciously trying to fill her shoes ever since she left this world.  The old man at the bus stop….I’m on it!  I’m on a first-name basis before we even make it onto Lake Shore Drive from Mag Mile, talking about things from “back in his day.”  The elderly waitress at The Melrose who used to serve us breakfast at 4am after the bars closed, back in the day, I find myself picking her up in front of her retirement village to go grab dinner (at 3pm, mind you), where she fills me in on all the handsome men she’s courted over the years. 

It’s become somewhat of a joke with my friends who don’t understand my running with the geriatric set.  I have a fascination with people who lived before me….people who have done things in their lives that I never have, nor probably ever will do, in my own life.  Listening to their accounts and adventures adds to my life.  In turn, they give me a new perspective on my own experiences.  I learn, I absorb, I accept.  They teach, they impart, and they share. We all benefit.  

While I do not discriminate in my affinity toward older friends and develop relationships with both the sexes, I am definitely more inclined toward women.  Maybe it’s because my Gommy was a woman, or maybe it’s because my whole world was female when I was a kid, with my mom and her tight circle of friends, or maybe it’s just because I consciously like women more, but in any regard, I gravitate toward them.  In fact I go out of my way to make connections.

Take Ebby Halliday, for example, the First Lady of Real Estate in Dallas, who just turned 103 this past weekend, and is known for her 95-years-in-the-making business saavy.  I went to interview as an agent with her real estate company when we lived in Texas.  I didn’t want to work there.  I could never have kept up with the dress code or height of the hair or shine of the nails at her company.  I interviewed for the sole chance of meeting the queen bee herself!  I read about her and knew she went to the office every morning, even in her 90’s, so I arranged for a morning appointment.  Yes I got to meet her and yes she was lovely.  And of course she had a story and tidbit of knowledge for me to add to my inventory.

I have lots of friends my own age, some a little younger and some a little older.  I am challenged by them also.  But it’s a different kind of learning I do with them.  I’m in their world.  I can mostly grasp all of the situations they encounter in today’s society, even though we may be different as night and day.  But hearing about an event or a personal reaction to an event that happened in a completely different generation is amazing to me, as I feel like I’m getting something I could never get from a book or a documentary.  I’m getting a live account, accompanied by perspective.  That perspective helps me keep my own in line.

Whether it’s drinking cranberry toots with Grandmommy, my other grandma, and her cronies at the Legion, purposely lunching with the oldest ladies in the office, or hanging pictures of Barbara Bush all over the walls of my college dorm room, I am chasing the wisdom of a different age.  I wonder at what point, the tables will turn and I’ll be at that age of distinction?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Next Stop, Reality TV

Big Ang - ParentUnplugged - Stacy Snyder
What does it mean when someone sends you a link to an open casting call for a reality TV show?

I wonder because I got an email from a friend a few days ago, with a forwarded casting call for different moms to appear in a new reality TV show.  The email had the subject line, TV Opportunities, and my friend’s personal note above the body of email was “Thought of you guys!  Maybe you are interested?”

The first thing that comes to mind is that maybe this friend, who does not have children of her own, just thinks that every mom is in-freakin’-sane, based on the mouthful she gets from each of us every time we talk.  Speaking for myself, I usually have diarrhea of the mouth when we get together with her, as I’ve usually been devoid of adult conversation for hours or days on end, and the jumble of words that comes out in conversation touches on issues like naptime, homework, preschool snack, and annoying entitled parents.  It sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher….wah wah wah wah wah wah.  Honestly, if I didn't have kids of my own and was on the outside looking in at today’s overly protective, over-scheduling mothers, I know with absolute certainty I would think the same thing!  For crying out loud, I AM a mom, and I think that now. 

My second thought about the reality TV show suggestion was that she was just trying to connect the dots and hook people up with opportunities.  This particular friend is not only a generally caring and network-positive person, but she also used to have the dream of wanting to be a soap star.  From the time I met her about 20 years ago, and throughout the next decade, during which we were roomies for a few years, she followed her goal by attending college for acting and TV, hung out with the prerequisite artsy fartsy folks, and even moved to Los Angeles after graduation to be more available to audition for her “stories.”  Conversely, ever since she’s known me, I wanted to be famous, not as a soap star, but as the next Oprah Winfrey talk show host.  So maybe she keeps up with the TV opportunities for herself, even though she lives back in Chicago now and works in the academia world, and just thought the series might be a vehicle to my onetime quest for fame and passed the info along.

Or, it could mean that my life as a gay mom to two girls and a partner/almost wife to my girlfriend, and the life we lead in the middle of a completely straight, yet totally open community, is like a circus.  Maybe it's just a circus to her because she doesn't have kids, or is no longer gay, as she once used to think she was.  OR maybe she knows lots of moms and I'm the only one whose real-life stories sound like a dumbed-down mom-version of Mob Wives, with all the kid-fights and trials and tribulations of parenthood, and I'm Big Ang, the over-the-top character who in no way can be taken seriously.  I'm dramatic and I embellish my stories to others.

In fact, I heard my 10-year-old point out to my partner just this week that, “’Little Mama’ tends to reword or rework the stories she tells describing real events that took place to make a different version that's more interesting.”

Um, smart kid.  Maybe she's the reason my family would make a good reality family.

Or maybe we’d be a good TV family because I've never heard of a ‘Big Mama’ and a’ Little Mama’ as heads of household on a TV show before.

Or maybe she forwarded the opportunity because she thought it would be a good fit for me and she’s giving me a compliment, as it calls for “moms with big TV personalities, but know how to keep their family in line.”

Whatever the case, it made me stop and laugh, and of course consider if I could find a way to get my girlfriend to sign off on having her life documented in a reality TV show, and trade my staunch opposition to exploiting young children for the purpose of fame for their signatures on the dotted line.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Today is the Day

Today is the Day - ParentUnplugged - Stacy Snyder - Newspaper Headlines
My aversion to information is born out of my radio days, some 15+ years ago, when I hosted and produced morning-drive talk radio programs.  Sounds exciting right?  It was, hands down.  I loved every minute of working in radio.  For a few years of my early 20's, I would get up at 2:30 am every weekday morning, commute to the radio station to arrive by 4am, pull fresh stories off the AP wire and other notable sources, quickly rewrite them, and either deliver the news myself or else use the tidbits to spark discussion with co-hosts or callers. 

After a few years, I switched gears and moved into real estate, where I kept abreast of the industry-specific trends and how they related to the world at large, but I never again subscribed to a newspaper, listened to news on the radio or TV,  nor listened to talk radio.  It's as if I was just burnt out on information from the media.Over the years, I've gotten the occasional bug to take a whole morning and read the Tribune cover-to-cover or get sucked into a 20/20 episode, but I have literally made it a point NOT to suck up information if it's at all humanly possible.

Fast forward to a pair of impressionable young minds living in my own household.  Yes, I've kept up with most issues over the years by default of conversation from my girlfriend, parents, and friends, which then motivates me to look up specific points or data on the topics just so I can talk on point.  But I don't read about or get involved with politics, local, national, or world issues, unless I'm hit over the head with it or unless a headline from the Redeye sparks my attention.

Traditionally, I'm not a big activist for anything.  I hold a lot of opinions and am not afraid at all to share them, but nine times out of ten, when sharing opinions, it initiates debate that usually sheds light on new perspectives or facts that I hadn't previously considered, which thereby alters my opinions.  You see I rarely jump on board a major issue train unless I'm fully educated on the topic, and I am not fully educated on most things, unless, like Marriage Equality, they specifically pertain to me or someone I know.

The gay marriage issue was a no-brainer for me, since I've been in a committed relationship with my girlfriend for the past fourteen years.  We have two kids together, we jointly own property and investments, and we're considered 'married' by everyone we know, even those that politically may not agree with Marriage Equality.  Marriage Equality needed to be legislated, in my opinion.

I had no plans on getting involved, though, in the fight.  The invitation came from friends.  First it was the invite from a neighbor to the Marriage Equality fundraiser at a local bar I'd been wanting to try out.  Then it was the request from another friend who is also a gay parent, that urged me to take my girls out of school and join her in a day-trip to the Illinois capital city to participate in the March on Springfield and rally in support of Marriage Equality. 

After we got home late that evening, I realized that I had exposed my kids to standing up for something bigger than themselves.  I had shown them the example of how to make a difference and be part of a solution.  No matter what happened with the issue, and I honestly had no clear indication of how it would play out, I knew I wanted my kids to be educated on things that matter from here on out.

The bill passed and we're now planning a wedding for late summer, in which our kids will take part.  The issue was pretty much of a non-issue for our girls.  They never understood why we couldn't get married anyway, as they are being raised in a time period, and in a geographical location and community where kids don't see a problem with kids having 2 moms instead of a mom and dad.  They're also around lots of adults who mostly feel the same way, but even if they didn't, are uber-PC and wouldn't say anything otherwise to make our kids feel bad about having 2 moms.  It's just the way it is.  My oldest even gave a current-events speech at school on the Illinois Marriage Equality issue, one in which I drilled her in preparation for all sorts of protests or at least debate she may encounter with the issue.  She got nothing.

Conversely, we're heading to Dallas in March for a gay wedding, or actually just a reception, as the guys had to get married in another state, since Texas legislation prohibits marriage equality.  My girls don't understand why their moms can get married here, but our good friends can't get married in Texas.

"It doesn't make any sense," my 5-year-old logically stated.

Illinios Marriage Equality - March on Springfield - Today is the Day - Parentunplugged - Stacy Snyder
Nope.  It doesn't.  My 10-year-old had a bit of an answer for her little sister, in that it was a state-by-state decision.  She had learned this from her research on Illinois gay marriage.  What she hadn't learned, though, was that the issue was still in the forefront of US history, being hashed out state by state, since it was passed here.  I had seen the Facebook posts and headline updates on yahoo, but I'd never once thought to share the information with my kids.  I'd never once thought that it might be important to them, or that it would affect people we know.

I realized that I hadn't kept my promise of educating myself and my kids further on issues that not only affect us, but on issues that simply have a clear side for us to stand on. While it's great that my daughter was able to fill in the blanks for my little one, as she can seek out issues and news on her own now, it became apparent to me that I need to start taking a more active role in the news and issues of our day, so that I can not only be knowledgeable myself, but also so that I can help answer questions and/or debate issues with my very-informed children, and be knowledgeable enough to help them form their own opinions.

So, today is the day I draw a line in the sand regarding what's important. Today, I vow to pull myself up by my bootstraps and get back on that horse.  Today is the day I pull my head out of the sand and get up to speed on what's going on in this world.  I can't promise I'll debate the issues or even have an interest in much of what I learn, but I do promise to be aware from this day forward.

Any suggestions on where to start? 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

I Think She's Got It

I Think She's Got It -ParentUnplugged - Stacy Snyder
When your kids start deciphering for themselves that they don't want to play with the kids that aren't nice to them or other people, it's a beautiful thing.  All the years of making decisions on behalf of them and trying to coax them to speak, act, and behave in a way that is respectful to themselves and others, and also to expect thoughtful behavior from others, has paid off. 

Now I realize that the cards can fall either way, depending on the day, the child, and the circumstances.  However, the first time I heard my daughter say, "I don't care" when I extended an offer for a playdate with one of her friends, I realized that my child had taken a stand, even if just for one day, and I was proud.  She didn't go into detail, or try to explain what I already knew was transpiring, through witnessing interactions with her friend and my daughter or with her friend and other adults, including her own parents and teachers.  My kid didn't stoop to gossiping.  She just indicated that it didn't matter to her, which is code for, no thank you.

My eldest is a super social kid and if she had her choice, she would have playdates 7 days a week.  Super close friends, mild acquaintances, neighbors across the street, or new kids at school, she's a sucker for any social opportunity that presents itself.  But she's also a big believer in showing consideration for others.  She treats all people, her friends, her family, her teachers, the people she meets on the street, with kindness and compassion.  She feels most comfortable when the people around her do the same.  While she gives most kids the benefit of the doubt when they're having an off day, assuming that they, like she, sometimes forget to use their manners, she often will remind them of such.

I noticed over the past few weeks, though, that she had reached her limit with one little friend, and that the relationship was heading toward a hiatus.  I decided to take an inactive approach and not try to steer her in any specific direction as she shared with me her disappointment in her friend's words and actions, but just to listen to her process aloud the problem she was encountering with her friend.  We simply reviewed the issues with said friend and compiled a list together of her options.  She could a) ignore the disrespectful behavior and continue on with her friendship; b) mention to the friend that her behavior is rude to those around her and ask her to change the behavior; or c) walk away or disengage from the relationship.

I didn't think much else about the conversation, as I remember going through friendship drama myself as a girl, and know that these things ebb and flow:  today a friend, tomorrow a foe, and next week a bestie.  Additionally, I know that no story has simply one side.  My kiddo could be creating part of the problem as well.

Then recently my younger daughter, who likes to hang with the big dogs and who is traditionally tough as nails, even with kids twice her age, came crying to me, complaining that the same friend was making fun of her and being mean.  I didn't think much of it until I saw my older daughter's face.  The deadpan stare right through me said it all, after witnessing the interaction.

I still didn't know how it all would play out, as my older daughter, while loyal to the end of the earth, has a hard time with speaking up for herself, and even more of an issue with confrontation.  But when the invitation for a playdate days later was not acknowledged in the usual manner by my daughter, of running to get her shoes on, but instead not even glancing up for her craft project with her little sister, I knew a line had been drawn in the sand.  This was her way, just for today, just for this minute, to take control of a situation she's not pleased with.

Maybe tomorrow the girls will be back to being best buds.  Maybe not.  But for today, I think she's got the right idea!  Kudos, Sweet Girl.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Lose the Attitude

Lose the Attitude - Stacy Snyder - Parentunplugged - Smiley Faces
Yah, yah, it’s the holiday season and everyone is crazy busy planning holiday parties, gifts, greetings, and travel, while bells are ringing everywhere you go and the weather is cold, grey, and miserable.  This does not mean you’ve got a free pass to wear an attitude throughout your day because you are so busy and overwhelmed.  If fact, this is the best time of the year to lose the ‘tude, as people really need a break from your snarky comments and your perfunctory ‘I don’t have time to even look your way right now’ glare as you hustle past them in your car or in your heels, or God forbid, Uggs.  Think this could apply to you?  Then keep reading.  Think of it this way…if you lose the attitude for just one day, or even just one hour, in the name of making someone’s day better, you might end up just making your own day better.  It may be a pipe dream, but there’s always wishing that you may just make enough of a difference that you change the way you live altogether.  Cart.  Horse.  Baby steps.

Today my world was slightly tinted by a small change I made in my own presentation to society at large, quite by accident, I must admit.  It started innocently enough with the normal daily flurry of activity….early-morning lunches, lessons, breakfast, drop-off, exercise and shower.  But then I took my 5-year-old with me on an errand to my new favorite store, Hot Mama, in Evanston. 

The clothing store and its employees have changed my view on shopping over the past few months.  Not a shopper by nature, and further more not a clothes shopper at all, as it’s been difficult my entire life, to find clothes that fit me well, due to my height (or lack thereof) and fluctuating weight, I was referred to the store by a friend after telling her how hard it is to find clothes.  I had taken her advice and visited the store last month, where my wardrobe and attitude toward life was given an overhaul by the competent, but not pushy sales staff.  The “I’m not going to blow smoke up your ass and say something looks good on you if it doesn’t, but I will get you flawlessly clothed and feeling like Pretty Woman” attitude of the first salesperson I encountered converted me instantly.  I walked out $700 lighter in the pocket, but feeling like I had won the lottery, as the Hot Mamas not only routed me toward clothes that actually fit my own body, but also taught me what to look for in garments that would fit me well and serve as staples in my wardrobe.  I’ve felt like a million bucks ever since. 

Unfortunately, I had discovered a small hole in one of the shirts I had purchased last month, so I went in to try and get a new shirt.  I’d already worn the shirt with the imperfection, and had found, when I took it off, in addition to the hole, a series of grease stains on the front of the shirt, probably from the once-a-year purchase of real bacon, that I had fried up earlier that morning.  I was worried about returning the shirt as it was stained, but I also knew I had paid a pretty penny for a shirt with a hole in the fabric.  I was not looking forward to the exchange.  The salesperson at Hot Mama apologized for the inconvenience, unsuccessfully looked for a replacement shirt off the rack, and then arranged for a new one to be delivered to my home from another store, all with a big smile while interacting with my preschooler.  End of story.  Pleased that my issue was handled so efficiently and kindly, I left the store in a great mood, ready to tackle the 12 other things on my list that needed to get done in the next 3 hours, fully knowing there was only time for 8 of them. 

The next three tasks seemed to “fall off the bone,” if you will, and I was well on my way to accomplishing my errands.  The next stop involved street parking in Lincoln Park around lunchtime, where I came upon a gem of a space right in front of the building I needed to visit.  As I got out of the car, I noticed a delivery truck with its hazards on parked right in front of me with less than two feet of space between his back overhead door and the front of my car.  Before I had a chance to consider the implications of me parking so close behind the truck, the driver ran out from inside a nearby storefront, which was to receive a large delivery from the truck.  The delivery driver pointed out that he wouldn’t be able to put the ramp down from the back of the truck, and therefore wouldn’t be able to unload his goods, and asked me to move my car.  Glancing at the Pay to Park sign above my car, I quickly tried to figure out a solution to the dilemma of both of us needing the parking space I was currently and legally occupying.  I was within 2 minutes of being late to my appointment and knew I would never find another parking space close-by, if at all.  I also knew me staying put would cause the driver undue problems with both his delivery and his day.  After conversing back and forth for a few minutes with the driver, each of us making suggestions that the other party take action, he finally spotted a parking spot across the street that had just been vacated.   We locked eyes, as if to say, “Let’s do this thing!”  Without a word, he walked into the street, held 2 directions of traffic up, and directed me into a u-turn right into the parking space.  I got out of the car and screamed a high-five to him and praised him for being a rain-maker.  I ran into my appointment just in the nick of time with a smile on my face.

After my appointment, I walked down to my favorite bagel shop for a coveted everything bagel-thin sandwich for the road.  I don’t usually dine out and hardly ever eat bagels, so I was pumped for the treat, but disappointed to find that there were none left in the display case. 

“There’s more in the oven,” the cashier answered in response to my heartbroken gaze into the case where the everything bagels usually sit.  “They’ll be out in 3 minutes.”

To be honest, any other time, I would, without a doubt, proclaim in that same situation that I didn’t have time to wait, and rush out of the store in a sprint to get back to my meter that was due to expire any minute.  Today, though, the good vibes being sent to me all day allowed me to sit tight for a minute and chill. The bagel was taken out of the oven and deemed too hot by the cashier to load the fixins of a sandwich onto, which might have crushed me to the core on another day, as I like it just so. 

“No worries,” I heard myself say, “I’ll just take the hot bagel.”


"I gave you a discount for the wait,” she whispered to me before ringing up my purchase.

Thank you Einstein’s

I sauntered to my car with 5-minutes to spare on the meter, and headed home to dress the bagel into what I now am considering ‘the best bagel sandwich ever made.’  And all of that was just this morning.  Imagine what I’ve got to look forward to tonight!

When I woke up this morning with a slight bit of trepidation toward the ridiculous amount of junk I had scheduled into my day, I truly didn’t expect such a smooth go of it.  In fact, my experience has led me to somewhat expect, in true Debi-Downer form, that the more I have to do, the more people and places I have to touch, allowing more opportunities for clogs in my day.  But sitting here nine hours later, having floated through my day without effort, drama, or stress, or a negative interaction with anyone, I have to wonder, could I do this every day?  Is it so unlikely to expect that things could actually go my way on a regular basis?

Of course that unrealistic to expect!  But it is NOT out of the realm of possibility to anticipate that I can respond to little wrinkles and bigger issues that I encounter with more positivity and patience and less haste and attitude, thereby setting the bar for the response I’d like to get from all other people I encounter each day. 

So next time Mariah Carey is belting out that annoyingly catchy “All I Want for Christmas” from the reception area in the dentist’s office for the 2nd time in your one-hour wait for your root canal, don’t clench your jaw and promise yourself you will have someone’s job if you’re not called back into the chair within 60 seconds. 

Instead, take a deep breath and sing along or tap your foot along to the music, and look the hygienist in eye when she finally calls you back, and give her the warmest smile you’ve got in your bag o’ tricks and say, “Thank you for fitting me in.  Have a great day!”

By exhaling some positive energy, you can break the attitude you’ve been carrying around and set the stage for the type of energy you’d like to receive back in your day. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

In the Wrong

In the Wrong - Stacy Snyder - Parentunplugged
Mistakes happen.  We’re human.  We screw up.  We say things we shouldn’t, we renege on promises, and we take action without fully considering the ramifications.  Sometimes we hurt ourselves and sometimes we hurt others. It’s a part of life that hits each and every one of us because we’re simply not perfect.  

When you make a mess, though, there is a fool-proof way to clean it up. I won’t say it’s easy, because it’s not, but it is usually effective.  Follow this four-step process and you’ll be better for the wear.

1.    Acknowledge your wrongdoing.

Don’t candy coat it.  Don’t make excuses for yourself.  Simply admit to yourself that you’ve made a bad judgment call.    You did something wrong.  If you can’t be honest with yourself and admit your fault on this first step, then you better have a good ‘ol 'Come to Jesus' talk with yourself and get your house in order, especially in regards to the old school right and wrong.  Just because you screwed up, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.  You're simply a person that made a bad choice.

2.    Apologize.

If you hurt someone or something in the process of your mistake, own your error and personally apologize.  Be clear and concise, i.e. “I did ______ and it resulted in  _______ and I’m sorry.”  Don’t use the word ‘but’ in your apology, as it lessens the impact, or can negate the apology altogether, such as “I’m so sorry I interrupted your performance by leaving in the middle of your number, but I was running late.”  Don’t be a pansy about the apology either, as it will come across as not an apology at all, i.e. “I’m sorry you feel like I was a selfish.”  Instead, own your shit and say, “I’m sorry I was an insensitive partner/friend/daughter/husband.”  A true apology includes both an admission of guilt, as well as an asking for forgiveness, so end your confession with a sincere request for absolution, such as, “Will you forgive me?”  This part is key as it opens the door of communication and lets the person know he has a choice in how he decides to proceed.  It also leaves you in a vulnerable state, which can actually be helpful in curbing the urge to make that same mistake in the future.

3.    Fix It.

Whether the apology is accepted or not, if there’s a wrong that can be righted by an action you take, by all means do it.  You left the store without paying for the frozen turkey in the bottom of your cart….go back in and pay for it!  You spoke too soon on telling your child she can have a dog before completely  researching the option….do the research and give your child the educated answer she deserved the first time.  You made the same mistake of gossiping about someone for the umpteenth time...examine the real problem of why this makes you feel good about talking about other people and fix the root condition.  This is just doing the right thing.  Follow your conscience and your heart and do what feels right.  It’s 50/50 whether the fixing will truly benefit the wronged, but it’s 100% proven that the fixing step will help fix your soul and force you to think in terms of what I like to call “clean living,” which means doing your best to do the right thing all the time, so you have no regrets.  The mistakes are inevitable  The effort to mend the tear in the fabric is a true choice of character.

4.    Move On.

Once you’ve taken responsibility for your actions, forge ahead.  No need to dwell on negativity or beat yourself up over your imprudence.  If you’ve done all you can do, forge ahead and let it go.  If someone can’t forgive your mistake, you have to accept that.  If someone has agreed to accept your apology, this means in theory that they’re going to move on and move forward.  You must do the same or you risk eating yourself alive or deconstructing the relationship with your guilt.  Conversely, if the party accepting or inactively receiving your apology is unable to find peace with the resolution, you have to move on from that person as well to keep your own sanity.

Screwing up stinks.  You feel bad about yourself and your choices, and oftentimes feel upset for the grief you’ve caused others.  Even the most conscientious of people occasionally practices injudiciousness.  Don’t let it define you.  Rise above it and deal with your transgressions head-on by acknowledging, apologizing, fixing, and moving on.  It will help you be a better you and help those you’ve hurt along the way, to properly heal.