Sunday, December 20, 2015

We are Earthlings - Why Saying "Girls Rule" Isn't Helping Anyone

As a mother of three children, two boys and one girl, I truly want to pass on a better world than what we are seeing now.  Everyone seems so polarized - politically, financially, spiritually.  We attack each other over our differences, which breeds fear and anxiety.  And what do we do when we are frightened?  We retreat into our own little corners and attack, attack, and attack some more.

We all know this isn't working.  And we already know what will help.  I mean, how long has it been since The Beatles sang, "All You Need Is Love"?  (For all you trivia buffs, the answer is 46 years.)  Yet, the second we encounter anyone who seems slightly different from you, our reaction tends to be to attack rather than love.  You know you've done it.  You've criticized people inside your head even if you didn't let out a peep.  I know I certainly have.

So how do we stop this?  How do we change the world?  I believe the answer is one thought at a time.  I think we should all take a good look at the beliefs that's been passed down as truth and really examine them.  Ask yourself, "Is it REALLY true?  Do I actually want to believe this?"

I want to write a series of posts called "We are Earthlings", so that we can all challenge our old beliefs that separate us and learn to love each other as co-inhabitants of this little planet called Earth.  So, here we go.  I hope you'll come along with me on this mental roller coaster ride.


Today is my oldest son's birthday, so in honor of him, the first belief I'd like to tackle is the currently rather popular belief that we should be teaching our girls that they "rule".  Supposedly, this is supposed to make them feel "empowered".  Don't get me wrong, I'm all for gender equality.  I'm not suggesting that we should go back to the olden days of male dominance.  But the word "equality" is the key here.  "Girls Rule" crosses that threshold and suggests that girls are superior than boys.  That's when I say, "No, thank you".  I want a world where my boys, as well as my daughter, are respected equally.

I see so many grown women these days who treat men as if they are supposed to be their servants.  I don't mind parents teaching girls that they are princesses.  Every girl IS special and should be worshiped like a princess.  But we should also be teaching our children that every boy is special, too, and that he deserve to be worshiped like a prince.  Every man is different.  Every woman is different.  The only thing that isn't different is that everyone deserves respect.

Once the children understand this, it should help immensely when they start dating - though I'm sure some of you would rather not think about that stage yet!  :)  When my children grow up, I want them to be in a partnership where both parties feel loved and respected.  Should the relationship fail, I want them to have the courage to examine what they could have done differently because no one is perfect.  And I certainly don't want them to result to the frail excuse of "I just don't understand women" or "If he had treated me better".

Ultimately, I want all our children to learn that the key to happiness lies within themselves.  They don't need someone else to make them feel validated, and they certainly don't need to put down the opposite sex to make them feel empowered.

So next time you see or hear comments that tries to distance the sexes, stop and think "Is this true?  How would I feel about it if the genders were reversed?"  If you don't think you would like it very much, then don't let it continue.  Don't pass it on.  And most definitely, don't pass it on to our children!

By the way, I'm well aware that in many parts of the world, girls are still treated as second class citizens, if not objects to be owned.  Recent series on NPR comes to mind.  I certainly want equality for girls like them.  I certainly want them to see that their lives matter.  I certainly think that girls like that should be encouraged and have role models to follow.  As I said before, the word "equality" is the key.  We are Earthlings, each and every one of us.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Are Your Parents Obligated to Love You Unconditionally?

OK.  I know my answer to this question is going to ruffle some feathers.  But I've been thinking about this for a long time now, and my answer is NO.  That's right, N. O.  I don't think so.

Why?  Because I think the only person you can truly rely on to love you unconditionally is you and yourself alone.  I can add God to that list if you like, but I believe God is already within you - you are part of God - so that would be the same thing.  You expect anyone else to love you unconditionally, and you give up control of your happiness.  You're always relying on love from an outside source to make you happy, and that's unreliable!  Don't look for someone to be your savior.  YOU are your own savior.  YOU are responsible for your own happiness.

Maybe I should back up a little bit so you can understand how I got to this point.

This summer, when I was really questioning myself and my parenting skills in particular, I kept wondering "Is it even possible to raise your children without scarring them somehow?"  So I went to the Great Google and typed in the question.  What I found out was that not too many people were asking the same question.  What I did find out was that there are A LOT of people asking, "Do you think your parents loved you unconditionally?" and the resounding answer to that question was "NO!"  It seems pretty much everyone felt that their parents were selfish, if not narcissistic.  There's even a whole website devoted to daughters raised by narcissistic mothers.  Even the ones that felt relatively well loved remembered incidents in their lives that made them feel unloved.

My first reaction was, "Oh lord!  Is this how my children will see me when they grow up?"  But the more I thought about it, I started to feel like, "Well, why not?"  After all, I am a human being.  I'm not some perfect saint!  Sometimes, I need to do something else before I can sit down and read a book with them.  Sometimes, I don't have the patience to deal with the constant bickering among siblings or the obnoxious repetition of a really annoying song.  If my children choose to see those moments as my being selfish or a sign of lack of love, there really isn't anything I can do about that.

And this is true for all parents, including yours and mine.  It's completely normal and routine to feel unloved at some point in our childhoods. What's insane is that we've all bought into this lie that our parents are supposed to love us unconditionally, and then we lick our wounds collectively, blaming our parents for "messing us up."  Please, let us all get rid of this unrealistic burden!  I know a lot of people, personally, who didn't feel loved as children and are carrying this huge load of resentment, anger, sadness, as well as a faint hope that someday, somehow, their parents will turn around and tell them "I'm sorry, I love you."  Why wait until then to be happy?  What if that day never comes?  Wouldn't it be better to just recognize this as a myth and get rid of the guilt that comes with thinking "My parents must not have loved me because I wasn't good enough"?

Now, I'm not saying that no one is able to love unconditionally.  I'm sure some people are capable of loving others unconditionally, and some of you grew up without ever doubting your parents' love.  I also believe that all of us are capable of loving others unconditionally, too.  But before that can happen, we must learn to love ourselves first.  When we love ourselves, we take responsibility for our own happiness.  When we take responsibility for our own happiness, we stop seeking validation from others.  When we stop looking for validation from others, we stop seeing others as possible attackers of our fragile egos.  And when we are no longer afraid of receiving attacks from these people, we can love them freely.  Unconditionally.

So that's where I am now.  I may feel differently a few years from now, but right now, I'm working on loving and accepting myself.  I at least recognize my immediate anxiety when I hear a word of criticism from my parents and try to just observe that anxiety from a distance.  I'm trying to allow my children to feel whatever they want to feel without turning it into a personal attack on my parenting skills.  I feel more connected and loving toward all earthlings.  Baby steps.  Baby steps.  Baby steps.

Do you think your parents loved you unconditionally?  Do you think we can raise our children without scarring them somehow?  Do you feel at peace with your answers to these questions?  How do you feel about my stance on unconditional love?  I'd love for my thoughts to start your inner dialogue - a seed that begins your search for a deeper answer.  And do let me know what you found in the comments below!