Friday, February 14, 2020

How to Have a Great Valentine's Day

I don't think there is any other holiday that is so polarizing. People either LOVE Valentine's Day or they hate it.  I think it starts in childhood.

In elementary school you either sit at your desk smiling with a stack of Valentines from your classmates or you sadly look at the couple cards that you received. (Do they do it differently now? Does every student have to give a Valentine all classmates? I hope so.)

In high school (at least in my high school) students could send each other pink carnations. Some girls (and guys) had a bouquet of flowers and some had none.

In college, you hoped that when you got back to your dorm after classes that there would be flowers waiting for you at the reception desk. Everyone knew exactly who got flowers and who they were from. Receiving no flowers / stuffed animals / balloons / chocolates was devastating.

At work, some people receive flowers  and some people take a pause in the bathroom because this whole Valentine's Day amped up love thing is too much.

And this is why Valentine's Day is so rough. Regardless of what all the TV spots have to say, your value doesn't depend on what someone gives you. It's about love and kindness. If you don't have someone in your life right now. It's OK. Love YOU. You can be and should be the love of your life. If anyone else wants to sprinkle you with kisses or pink cupcakes or flowers or chocolates that's a bonus  but you loving you is where it starts. Then send out kindness into this world. Call someone you know who just got out of a relationship or is feeling down. Just call / email or text to say "You know what I love about you? You always look happy on Monday mornings / I admire the work you put into rescuing animals / You've always made me feel special, no matter how crazy things were, you remembered me. etc." Call your parent, partner, child or friend who hasn't felt the love from you lately because you're too busy working / going to school / just trying to get through the day. Just call and say "I love you so! You are gift in my life and if I don't tell you this often enough!"

Kindness, a true compliment nestles into the heart of the recipient. It can't help but make you smile and be happy. You have no idea what someone is going through on Valentine's Day (or any other day) and you have no idea how much your kindness was needed. If you feel like it, surprise someone with a cupcake or a card but that compliment, that hug, that smile is going to last a lot longer than whatever else you may give.

Years ago, my husband, L,  and I decided that we didn't need to shower each other with gifts. It stressed both of us out thinking about what to buy and was it enough? I said I would rather receive a single gardenia blossom just because you love me. We are raising our daughter, Waverly, the same way. It isn't about the gifts. It's about the kindness and the time that we spend together. Tonight, the night before Valentine's Day, I was bathing the baby when my husband came home and said "I bought you girls something." As we walked downstairs, Waverly in PJ's and her wet hair slicked back, I hoped that L. remembered our decision regarding holidays and gifts. I was imagining a giant teddy bear and balloons.

Then I saw them. Two single gardenia blossoms. I looked at L. "It's not for Valentine's Day," he said. "It's Thursday. I thought maybe Wave would like a gardenia like her Mom." A heavenly-scented gardenia for my daughter and I during these rainy, grey Seattle days. It's the best gift he could have gotten us.

I wish you a Happy Valentine's Day. You are loved. You have special gifts that are appreciated. You have the ability to help someone else with your kindness today. Take the opportunity.

With love love love!

Monday, February 10, 2020

the one thing I'll never ask of my daughter

Waverly was about six months-old when this happened. We were in the market and she was happily sitting in the seat in the shopping cart. We were in the produce aisle and I had turned my back to get some zucchini. When I turned around to smile at Waverly, there was a woman in front of her, touching her very still feet. It took me a moment to process the fact that a stranger was touching my baby.   Waverly locked eyes with me and then looked at the stranger. I said "It's OK, Baby, I got you." The stranger smiled at me and said "She's so pretty!" The words then flew out of my mouth. "NO TOUCH!" She looked at Waverly who was being very still and said "I'm sorry. I didn't mean anything. She's just so. . ." No. Just because a person is small doesn't mean you have the right to touch them. From the start, we've taught Waverly about personal space and her right to it.

When I was growing up, when my parents had friends or extended family over,  I was told "Go give _____ a hug and/or kiss." Maybe it was just how things were at the time but I was never comfortable touching or being touched by someone other than my immediate family.  I've always been very protective of my personal space, even today. It has taken me a lifetime to overcome the bristly/itchy feeling of being touched by strangers who want to hug or do the kiss-kiss thing. After working with a therapist exploring why I feel this way, I am more open to hugs (not so much on the kiss on the cheek unless it's someone I know REALLY well.) I'm also conscious of others and I ask before I hug someone.

When our daughter, Waverly, was born we decided that we would teach her from very early on that she had control over her personal space. It was her body, her call. So, from the beginning, when we changed her diaper, we would tell her what we were doing. I didn't tickle her unless I asked her "Tickle time?" If she said yes, then we would tickle her toes or her tummy as long as she laughed. When she said "Stop!" we stopped. If she took a tumble and we needed to take a look, we didn't just grab her body part. We would tell her why we or a doctor wanted to examine her. We also don't just scoop her up. Of course, we cuddle and hug and kiss but we are very cognizant of her space. I feel like this has made her trust us more as she develops her confidence and her sense of safety.

We've carried this concept into the rest of her life as well. We've made a decision that the one thing we will never ask her to do is to give forced affection i.e.  "Go give ______ a hug and a kiss." Even when she was a baby, when we flew back to Massachusetts so we could spend her first year with family and friends, when a friend or family member wanted to hold her, I would introduce them "Waverly, this is Mama's friend,  we went to school together. Let's say hello!" If she wanted to hug or cuddle, great but if she seemed uncomfortable, then she didn't have to be held by someone she didn't know.  She was incredible though. I can't remember a single time when she cried when she was held by someone.

Today, at almost 2 1/2, we still let her make the decisions regarding her body and her space. (Obviously we won't let her run wild. She has boundaries and rules about what we do. She understands that she needs to hold our hands in parking lots and to always be sure she can see me or my husband. This is more about forced affection touching and being in control of her body.) Recently we toured a school and as we walked through the front doors during their open house, she strode in confidently and went right up to people. As we met teachers and parents I introduced Waverly to them. She smiled, jumped in whole-heartedly and shook hands with them. With one mom, she wrapped her arms around her legs and gave her a hug and a giggle.

We're also teaching her that she can speak up for herself. A few months ago she was in daycare. Her class was mostly boys. I was concerned with them being too rough with her when they played. I spoke with the Director and she said "Waverly's great. She holds her own. She doesn't let anyone push her around." I couldn't have been prouder.

As we watch Waverly grow into a happy resilient little girl, we feel confident with the choices that we are making. I hope that by letting her know that she has command of her personal space that this gives her the confidence to make wise decisions regarding her body as she gets older.

We wondered at the beginning, if we didn't enforce the mandatory "Give them a hug and a kiss!" would she be less likely to show affection? It turns out that Waverly loves being held and cuddled. She gives hugs and kisses freely. Her favorite thing is to run straight at you and lift her arms up to you, If you pick her up, she will look directly into your eyes, put a chubby little hand on either side of your face and plant a kiss on your nose before hopping down and running off to play.

That's our girl.  I couldn't ask for more.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Monday, January 27, 2020

how to be happy: #2 why it's happening

Last week I had a bad week. BAD. It was the kind of week that felt like I was constantly catching my belt loop on the door handle. You think "Oh, come ON!" Monday was bad and by Friday it was almost laughable because it was just so awful. Nothing life altering, just a multitude of things that were annoying, costly and time consuming. I said to myself so many times "Why is this happening TO me?"

I said it so many times that I started to think about what I was saying.

Why is this happening TO me?

I started to think about the times in my life that had the greatest impact on me, the times when I grew the most, the times that I know contributed to me leading a better life, becoming the person I wanted to be. These moments set in motion things that happened FOR me. Things just happen to a rock on a hillside. Rain, mud may move it downhill but the rock is still just a rock. When things happen in your life that are annoying or just untimely, maybe changing your perspective will allow you to process what happened better. 

I thought about the irritating things that felt like setbacks last week. When I stopped to think about each one, I realized that it could be worse. As I wrote down each thing that contributed to my bad week, I could see that positive things were coming out of the dark space that was the past few days. I could appreciate the circumstances as they unfolded and make decisions not from a place of negativity but rather from a logical place with the belief that I have handled every single thing that has happened in my life and this was relatively easy stuff. 

If you are in a moment where things are just haywire, take a breath, take a step back and believe that this is happening FOR you. You can make the decision to let things happen to you or you can stand tall and take charge of the circumstances, however annoying, dire or negative they may be because after all, you have come out on the other side of every annoying, dire or negative thing that has ever happened to you before. 

It's your choice. 
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