Archive for the ‘parenting’ Category

She is mom. Wife. Business woman. Delicate flower. Steel tower. She struggles to raise grounded amazing little people in a world of chaos, to contribute to a highly competitive career world, to tame the mom guilt that is a bi-product of her career, to maintain a hot, steamy relationship with her spouse of umpteen years, to convince her pig-headed toddler to eat the damn peas…and then she, one day, finds herself pining away for that sassy young anti-pea eating activist after he becomes a surly teenager with an endless array of new challenges to present to her. So many balls to keep in the air. So. Many. But she does. She may falter along the way. She may doubt herself. A ball may slip here or there. But she’ll catch it, and she will toss that ball back into the ring with grit and gusto. Because she is a circus juggling phenomenon. It IS her circus. It IS her monkeys. She is juggler and ringmaster.

She is every woman.

These are just the given day-in and day-out struggles. She may also find herself going head to head with some of life’s more generous and bountiful gifts…like the gut-wrenching death of a close family member, a debilitating depression following childbirth, a life-altering cancer diagnosis, a messy minefield of a divorce, a 2-headed monster called co-parenting, that famed mid-life crisis she keeps hearing about, a moment of pause when she looks in the mirror and wonders “Who the hell are you…and why didn’t you bring a younger, hotter, bouncier body with you?” The list of hits just keeps coming for her, as she incessantly treads water…both familiar, and not.

But she is every woman.

At times, she will feel inadequate. Alone. Unsuccessful. Terrified. Unqualified. Misunderstood. Taken for granted. Lost. She will join the sisterhood of bathroom hiders, wine soothers, and private sobbers. She will cry it out. Confirm to herself that life is over…that she is all alone. Once she feels she has successfully won this argument with herself (and the wine is gone), she will pull it together. She will regroup, refocus, and reassess the situation. She will understand that balls drop because of the gravity of life. She will wipe her tears and put in check her fears. And then she will realize that she was never, in fact, alone.

Because she is every woman.

She is stronger than she knows. Braver than she feels. Smarter than she thinks. More badass than she believes. And more resilient than she ever thought possible. It is her strength, her bravery, and her brains that will pick up the dropped balls and get them back into her juggling act. But it is her resilience that will restore her confidence after the fall. It is her resilience that will bring her back to her center, back to herself, ringmaster. The American Psychological Association defines resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress. It is the act of “bouncing back” post traumatic event. And bounce back, she will. Each and every time. Back into the ring.

For she is every woman.

Speaking as a mom who has had more than a few balls to juggle, I can attest to the excessive and rotund plumpness of some. For example, the depression after the birth of my extremely premature one-pound son who wasn’t supposed to make it, the doctor’s emotionless newsflash that this very stressful pregnancy would be my last, the impossibly devastating decision to help my baby sister pass in peace after months of suffering on life support, the mid-life crisis complete with a career hop into the medical field (fueled by my sister’s passing) and the struggle of knowing that I had absolutely zero medical knowledge at the time, the ever dreaded breast cancer diagnosis that derailed everything familiar to me for a short time, and even the narrowly escaped divorce. Throw in there raising a beautiful adopted daughter who has challenged everything I thought I knew about life, and you have the new me.

She is me.

The new…older and more tired, yes…but more self-aware, more attuned to my own mental strength, more experienced, more confident, more determined than ever…me. She has learned what she never knew about herself. When faced with adversity, it is our instinct to look externally for strength, for peace, for advice. But true resilience comes from within. She has only to look in the mirror to find what she’s looking for. That woman looking back at her…she has always been there…just past the insecurity and fear. Just past the veil of uncertainty. She is brave. She is strong. She is smart. She is resilient. And the sooner she knows this, the sooner she can get back to her juggling act. Her monkeys are waiting. They are in place…most likely the wrong place. But the show must go on.

And it needs its ringmaster.

She is you. She is me. She is we. And we are resilient.

Juggle on.

Chick Hughes

As mom to an 11 year old boy barreling his way towards the teen years, I sometimes wonder (in the collision course of parenting, preteen rebellion, and life lessons) just who is teaching who. From his first kindergarten experience, throughout the entirety of his elementary school years, to his first almost completed year of middle school…he has shared a classroom with Ben (*name has been changed for obvious reasons), who has remained somewhat an outsider to his peers since taking his first step into elementary school. The beginning years were kinder.  A time when innocent acceptance was the norm and kids were more focused on their similarities rather than their differences. But times change. Kids grow up.  They begin asserting their independence and searching for their identities amid a sea of possibilities. Trying to “fit in” and avoid being singled out. This search for identity coupled with the need to belong leads to a survival of the fittest showdown. Who will make the cool cut?  Who won’t?  Bullies, on patrol looking a victim, troll the school for an ego to shred…in efforts to boost theirs.  Sacrificing an easy target’s ego for their own.

It’s just recently that my son has entered the social battle field that is middle school.

In all of his 11 years, I’ve been persistent when it comes to compassion and empathy for others. Having seen, first hand, the short term and long term effects bullying has on a person’s self perception, and consequently, self destruction ~ I couldn’t bear the thought of a person I was responsible for ever having a hand in bringing that kind of misery and insecurity to a fellow human being. I pushed him regularly to see life through the eyes of someone other than himself. To be compassionate and empathetic. To be a friend, rather than a critic. So, in kindergarten, when he took notice of Ben’s challenges and befriended him, I couldn’t have been more proud. Becoming a safe place for Ben in a place where he didn’t quite fit in was so admirable, so simply and beautifully…human. He was doing exactly what I’d hoped he would.  Accepting without judgment.

He was an inspiration to me, reminding me to practice what I preach.  A daily reality check on my own reactions and feelings towards others.

Ben was crazy about him. Followed him everywhere. As time went on, Ben’s difficulties fitting in became more and more obvious. The other students were beginning to take notice. And they were much less compassionate and accepting. With our first year of middle school almost behind us, I began to notice he ~ who had always loved school and was riddled with stress at the thought of missing class ~ was asking to miss school, to stay home…day after day. He feigned the usual…a tummy ache, a headache, a muscle ache. But never a heartache, which I would soon discover was the culprit.

After my endless questioning about his sudden desire to miss school, he finally curled up beside me, broke down, cried, and begged me to stay home.  He had confirmed my worst fears. He was being picked on, bullied. And for the very thing I had pushed him to do since he had entered school. For taking in the underdog. For not following the herd. For refusing to join the taunting and exclusion of a fellow student. He was being bullied by association. The other kids had succumbed to the need to fit in, set their sights on Ben’s weaknesses, and were descending on him like hungry wolves. Because Ben had found a safe place in him and clung to him for support, and because he couldn’t bear to hurt him by joining the taunting herd, he had become easy prey at Ben’s side. The pecking order establishment of his middle school years was in full swing. And his kindness was quickly sinking him straight down where the bottom feeders would peck away at him and dismantle his self confidence.

Always having guided him away from becoming the bully… it hadn’t really occurred to me that he may one day be the bullied.

He was crushed. I was crushed. He felt defeated. I felt guilty. After all, I was the one who had harped on the realities of what harsh words could do to a person’s spirit. And now, it was his spirit that was taking the beating. What could I do?  An education in psychology, years of experience with children, past struggles as a parent…all left me helpless in the face of an untouchable bully who had targeted my son.

I wasn’t prepared to prepare him for psychological battle.

As his mom, my knee-jerk reaction was defense. I had to protect him, even if it meant forsaking another child. So, I found myself advising him to do the opposite of what I had told him for so many years. I told him to avoid Ben, who had depended on him since kindergarten as a friend. Not to join in on the bullying of him. But to look the other way. To abandon him when he needed him most. To distance himself from him in order to remove the target from his own back.

I cringed as the words escaped my mouth. Mortified at my own feelings. But this was my baby. And I had to do anything I could to keep his very delicate and developing self confidence intact. I knew that middle school was a dog eat dog world…

And I knew that if he carried around a bone, he would be eaten alive.

But his response was yet another thing I was ill-prepared for and left me ashamed and in tears. He looked me straight in the eye and said,

“But mom, if I don’t talk to him, no one else will. I don’t want him to be all alone.”

My heart broke…for the second time. The first time out of empathy for this chunk of my heart that was walking around outside my body. The second time as a result of clashing pride and regret.

How was it that he could be stronger than I in this scenario?

He had confided in me. Had I said the right thing? Advised the right thing? I still don’t know. But I do know that for the time being, he doesn’t feign illness to avoid school. His confidence is back, if only until the wolves descend again.  I can only hope that I’m able to arm him with enough self confidence to fend them off.

Since then, his school principal has instituted a mandatory film for the entire school to watch. A film based on the real life struggles of a young boy who was bullied, how he had become desperate enough to physically hurt himself, and how the bullies dealt with the guilt of what their actions had done to another human being. That film had a huge impact on my son. He cried recalling the details to me. I could not be more proud of the middle school we call our academic home ~ for their proactive efforts in exposing and educating young children on the realities of bullying. Preteen and teen children are naturally inept at seeing things from another person’s perspective. Especially a person with whom they have nothing in common.

But the parents, the schools, and the media are finally saying “no more.”  No more sweeping this issue under the rug. No more making excuses for our youth. No more allowing our children to suffer in silence. We’re uniting for the sake of young innocence, for the sake of broken spirits, and for the sake of missed opportunities for those who have resorted to taking their own lives to escape the mental torment.

For the first time, we’re forcing kids to look at bullying through the eyes of both the bully and the bullied. For the first time, we’re holding kids accountable for the cruelty they impose on a weaker peer. For the first time, we’re holding ourselves accountable for allowing it to happen as we look the other way. And for the first time ~ hopefully ~ we can find the courage and the leadership as adults to stop the cruelty and teach compassion.

I taught my son compassion. But in the face of the bully when the cost became too great, I retreated…

And he taught me that compassion doesn’t come cheap.  And that sometimes, with matters of the heart, we adults have more to learn from children than they do from us.

The movie Bully opens in theaters on March 30. If you have children in or approaching the very difficult years of middle school or high school, take the time to see it with them. It could change, or save, a life.

Chick Hughes

First comes love.  Then comes baby.  Then comes the all American question:  Suburbs, maybe?  Parenthood instantly propels us to superhero status…called on to protect and serve that perfect little mini-me. We do anything and everything to keep him safe.  We put up baby gates, cover outlets, lock ourselves out of our own kitchen cabinets, and become human security blankets magically resistant to anything from the the boogeyman to the boogie wipe.  But sooner or later, he’ll want to venture out into the wilds that await on the other side of the door we’ve so carefully baby proofed.  Now easy peasy electrical outlet covers, cabinet door locks, and staircase baby gates are menacing streets filled with unpredictable drivers, strangers with candy, and shady slow-moving vans on the prowl.  If you have kids, you got the memo.  City bad.  Suburbs good.

They say birds of a feather flock together.  We parental birds make this suburban migration in droves for the well-being of our little people.  So that we can shield them from danger.  So that we feel comfortable letting them play outside without constant supervision.  And so that we can put head to pillow at night knowing we’ve done one more thing to keep them from becoming the misery-spreading anti-family rebel with fangs that every teenager is destined to become.

It wasn’t long after I jumped on the manic mommy wagon that we did the inevitable and followed the droves.  We bought…a neighborhood.  I say neighborhood because, as any of you who have bought a home knows, it’s akin to getting married.  You don’t just buy the house.  You buy the whole damn neighborhood.  The cookie cutter houses, the manicured lawns, the white picket fences, the neighbors’ dog doo on your shoes, the forced neighborhood how-do-you-do’s, and the futile attempts to avoid the obligatory gossip news.  It’s a deceptively package deal.  And the day we sealed the deal and moved into our white picket fence ~ homeowner’s association ~ gated community ~ neighborhood was the day we were to begin our purchased “safe haven” life.  We were naively giddy with newbie enthusiasm.

They say it only takes one rotten egg to stink up the joint.  And the stench was wafting in our direction.  Pulling the overstuffed U-Haul up to our exciting new abode, we were happy to see a child’s birthday party underway…complete with the blur of running kids, the sound of contagious laughter, the rented bouncy house, and the child’s parents…a twosome that would soon make me grapple with why my dream of moving to the city was ever deemed a bad idea.

My first impression of him was one of “What..the.. hell did we just do?”  And as time marched on, he managed only to validate that impression.  Sluggish, overweight, beer in hand, a slight buzz, and an obvious itch to stir trouble.  The kind of trophy neighbor a realtor pays to stay clear of the hood until the ink is dry on the loan papers.  With a cocky demeanor, he strutted over to me, introduced himself, and proceeded to brief me on his wife’s name.  He took a hearty swig from his beer, gave me a manly punch on the arm, and verbally trashed her like day-old empty beer bottles.  On the outside, I was smiling and feigning understanding.  On the inside, I was planning my escape route.  He was, and is, your typical neighborly nightmare.  After executing my escape plan, I turned to introduce myself to what I hoped would be his polar opposite, a fellow mom I could befriend.  But when she refused eye contact with me, left me hanging, and darted in the other direction like I had bared my fangs and taken aim at her throat, I watched my white picket fence fantasy go up in flames.  And I wondered who lit a match?

Days turned into weeks.  Weeks into months.  Being the new kids on the block, we were privy to our fair share of rumors swirling about the couple in question.  All coinciding with my original impression.  But I tried to keep an open mind.  Remain neutral.  I failed.  Neutral is hard to pull off when I walk outside to hear him barking profanities in one of the faces of his many children, when I hear him -over my television- in the wee hours of the night standing in the middle of the street ranting drunken insults at a neighbor who is inside asleep in his bed, or when I realize that politely asking him to keep his large dog from peppering our front yard with T-Rex sized crappy patties signals -to him- a war of not-so-clever words that may end with his waving of the rebel flag and the threat of his 12 gauge shotgun between my eyes.  Clearly, the last thing I want to do is enrage a drunk redneck exercising his right to bear arms.

Bumping into his wife at our nearby grocery store or in the neighborhood was a routine occurrence.  Eye contact and conversation were still, apparently, off limits.  Word of my Medusa stone turning abilities had somehow been leaked.  Nevertheless, our kids had become fast friends and wouldn’t see each other without speaking.  So completely evading the situation wasn’t an option and chance encounters with her became an awkward game of chicken.  Who would speak first?  Who would look down in avoidance first?  She had mastered the role of chicken well.

I gave up trying to talk to her, settled in the notion that she hated me.  But I do think about her often.  As a woman, I wonder if she’s happy?  Miserable?  Afraid?  Stuck?  As a mom, I wonder if the kids are happy?  Miserable?  Desensitized? Resigned?  If his drunken public persona is so unsettling to the rest of us, what was living with him like?  I presumed happiness wasn’t an option.  Maybe avoidance was her defense mechanism.  A way to keep new unfamiliar people at arms length to project the perception that all was good.  That she had everything under control.  Maybe it wasn’t me she hated at all, but the threat of yet another neighbor witnessing the very things she was so desperate to hide.  Not only from the outside, but from herself.

While I prefer to avoid them, my kids want to play with their kids, putting them directly in his path.  So, here we are in a house, in a neighborhood, that we’ve bought for the peace of mind that our kids could play without threat.  But within months of escrow closing, rumors of the unstable “father of the beer” were joined by those of drug dealing neighbors and the realization that registered sex offenders lived too close for comfort.

So it turns out our neighborhood is just a hood, like any other.  A white picket fence is just wood and nails.  HOA rules are only as good as a handshake and a neighbor’s word.  An electric entry gate is easily broken away.  And the people we’re so desperate to protect our kids from live on BOTH sides of the gate.

A gate that serves no real purpose aside from perceived status.

On my side of the gate, I continue to avoid him.  There’s a tangible tension between us that is challenged daily by our kids’ friendship…a friendship that reminds me that young innocence without judgment does exist…prior to life’s jading.

She speaks to me now, although her dislike for me proves hard for her to hide.  We fake it anyway, as do most neighbors.  And every so often, I look out toward her house and wonder what I may do if I were in her shoes.  Is she simply out of options?  Or does she truly love him and lead a happy life?  Am I being presumptuous in assuming her misery?  After all, the only thing I really know about her life is what I see playing out in the streets of our little utopia.

And then I wonder if she wonders the same about me.

Is her perception of me just as haunted by questions?  Does she see my skeletons peeking from my closet as I do hers?  Does she presume to see through me as I do her?

Am I too living under white picket pretense?

Of course I am.

But at least for now, our kids are youthfully unaware of what lies beneath our pretense.  And to them…

A fence is just a fence.   


Chick Hughes

The wide world is all about you; you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot forever fence it out.” J.R.R. Tolki

An alumni member of eager, starry-eyed children who once stalked the holiday season with the stealth of a hungry bear in a kiddie pool brimming with trout,  I learned, as a child, that the lighting of the tree brought with it three things consistently.  The wafting aroma of baked delicious Goodies, the building anticipation of commercialized Gifts, and the promise of perfectly timed maternal Guilt ~ a tool so successful in controlling young children (and adults alike), it’s outplayed only by some omnipresent athletically-challenged senior citizen who watches all gestures, naughty and nice, and visits every child on the planet in one night…but somehow needs a flying deer with a flashlight for a nose to do it.  I guess something has to drag his fat ass and tricked out sleigh from suburban chimney to inner city hood.  Believer, or not, no child takes lightly the threat of running into the living room to find lumps of coal where trendy iphones and 3DS gaming systems should be.  Nothing corrects unwanted behavior quite as well.

Nothing…except maybe the sad beaten down eyes of a loving mom who is resorting to good old fashioned guilt for the holidays.  She works so hard to give us everything our little hearts desire while we take, take, take.  I, of course, was no different from any other egocentric adolescent and, in all my child-like selflessness, wondered:

What should I give HER for Christmas?  Should I buy her something cheap she’ll hate, make her something lame she’ll love, or just wrap something from her room she’s surely forgotten she owned?  Children have limited resources, after all…

Assuming simply asking her was the most logical means to an end, that’s just what I did ~ foolish as it was.  As soon as I could peel myself away from the anytime, all the time fighting with my sister, who was ~ at all times ~ dressed out in boxing attire and ready to initiate a throw down, which she would later blame me for.  We fought over everything…which was the better daughter in the family, which was the worse daughter in her adopted family, who took the trash out last, who looked at who for too long and WHY, and why in hell one sister ever felt she had the right to touch, talk to, or talk about the other.

So, when we expressed interest in what we could do for the woman who tolerated us day in and day out, she was quick with her plea.

“I just want everyone to get along.”

And there it was…guilt.  All wrapped in pity and tied with a pretty bow.  Ugh…guilt dished, eyes rolled, gag reflexes tested, and sisterly war resumed.

As a kid, I always hated being served up guilt with a side of disappointment… and the shame that went along with it.  However, time has a way of altering one’s perspective.  Years have passed.  And I now have two feuding bundles of joy of my own.  A sassy 4 year old girl who melts all hearts who dare to cross her curly-headed, quick-witted path and an almost 11 year old boy who physically can’t survive unless he’s strategically positioned directly in her path wreaking havoc and doing everything in his power to top his high score in aggravation from the day before.  Luckily for me, I’m present for every little dig, every brotherly needling, every attempt at a frustrated whiny reaction from the curly-haired cutie…who, by the way, isn’t so cute when her head is spinning with fury.  But nevermind all that.  The holidays are here.  The tree is twinkling.  My bank account is dwindling.  And the gift of guilt is officially up for grabs.  I’m spending my days frantically searching for all the hot items Santa has been taxed with this year and gushing over my two beautiful, healthy, intelligent, gonna-take-this-world-by-storm future humanitarian millionaires…and my nights moonlighting as an unpaid, unappreciated referee for two barbaric sumo wrestlers who’ve turned my house, my car, and my mental health into a no holds barred, last man standing death match.

But, it IS Christmas, so my 10 year old was kind enough to break from his torment ‘n’ terror streak to ask me that all important question:

“Mom, what do you want for Christmas?”

At this moment, my childhood guilt flashed before my eyes.  The eye rolls, the gagging, the wondering why she couldn’t just suggest to me a gift idea I was actually capable of giving her.  Life had come full circle.  I finally got it.  There was NOTHING he could buy me, make me, or wrap from my room that would thrill me as much as one evening packed with peace and quiet and void of sibling war.  So, I said it.

“I just want everyone to get along…”  Yep, I wrapped it in pity, stuck a pretty bow on it, and re-gifted the gift that keeps on giving.  GUILT.

Only when we become parents ourselves do we empathize with the complete and utter desperation that breeds motherly guilt.  Only when we find ourselves locked in the bathroom crying because somewhere along the way, the shitter has become our safe place…and because sooner or later, the “others” will learn to pick the lock.  Only then do we get it.

And one day, when my grandchildren are using their parents’ sanity as a dart board, my kids will get it too…

And re-gift the guilt that keeps on giving.

But, as for now, his response to my desperation was…

“Never gonna happen, my friend.”


Chick Hughes  🙂

Technologically advanced guilt



photo by: omster-com

There’s a popular notion spoon fed to us by barbie media…willingly embraced by the conservative woman, vehemently rejected by the liberal woman, yet, on some level, wrestled with by every woman.  Open wide!  The notion of “happily ever after.”  A studly white knight on a horse who whisks us off to the land of eternal bliss.  Rescues us from…reality?  As “Sex and the City’s” most beloved princess, Charlotte, so shamelessly put it… “Women really just want to be rescued.”  Now chew on that.  According to princess pop culture and every wedding coordinator taxed with the job of creating “happily ever after,” women do indeed want the fairy tale.  A prince charming who will sweep her off her feet, wed her in an over-the-top elaborate princess style shindig her friends will never match, give her to-die-for genetically endowed cooing babies, and take care of her forevermore, forevermore… forNevermore?

This notion proves to be very enticing…that is, until the honeymoon is over, she ages, her prince charming drops the charm, her adorable grown “babies” are mouthing off to her, fighting, and turning her into a screaming referee with a “Your face is gonna get stuck like that!” complex.  Add to this dwindling romance and escalating financial stress.  And suddenly, she doesn’t feel so princess-esque anymore.  In no “happily ever after” does mass media suggest the princess will later be spending her days cooking, cleaning, and refereeing while dragging the tired exhausted shadow of her formerly hot ass around the house in a sloppy pony tail and holey sweats!  As if! Cinderella was rescued from her shabby clothes and household chores.  Hmmm…now that she thinks about it, she’s not feeling so rescued after all.  The media has patronized and misadvised her. What the hell happened to her fairy tale?  Or was the fairy tale just…a tall tale?

From the moment we take our first step or utter our first syllable, we’re slammed with one fantasy of “happily ever after” after another.  The Disney animated princess…Barbie…or better yet…the animated Princess Barbie!  Blurs of blond-haired blue-eyed beauties winning over their prince with one flutter of their exaggerated eyelashes, one toss of their synthetic hair, and not one ambitious bone in their “made in china” bodies.  All hail the media!  As little girls, we aspire to be “pretty in pink” princesses.  Why?  Because we’re encouraged to, of course.  This parent trying to “out-love” that parent by indulging us in over-the-top princess birthday parties.  And our parental crowning doesn’t stop there.  In case the metaphorical crowning wasn’t enough, we’re encouraged to tan up, wig up, and dumb down to walk “beauty” pageant runways straight out of the womb.  All in hopes of being adorned with the awe-inspiring symbol of beauty itself…the over-sized tiara…the bigger, the glitzier, the better.  As we grow into young women, we aspire to find our handsome prince charming, become Mrs. Charming, and live “happily ever after” …replacing the tiara with a diamond ring intended to represent just how “BIG” he loves us.  Finally, as newlyweds, the pressure is on to help populate our tragically underpopulated planet.  One baby, two, nineteen...and counting?  It’s our privilege…our duty, no?

When we do finally get word that the stork is circling overhead, we rejoice over the success of our dutiful whoopee.  Baby on board!  It’s at this moment that our fairy tale is complete.  Or at least the one set in motion by June Cleaver and popularized by the mass media.

Reality calling!

No sleep, dirty diapers, and non-existent sex life aside, there’s a flaw in Cinderella’s perfectly stitched gown of happily ever after.  Ambition!  Today’s woman goes to college, becomes educated, and adds successful career to her dreamy fairy tale checklist.  She dreams of all the things princess pop “cult”ure has washed her brains with.  But princess pop culture has an elephant in the room…and that elephant is college educated and dreams of changing the world…one poopy diaper at a time.  Apparently.  She wants to marry the perfect man, raise the perfect children, and attain the perfect career.  She can have it all, right?  When she first embarks on this feat, she fails to see the practical conflict of her maternal and professional ambitions because she’s young…because she has no concept of “can’t” …and because no one warns her…no one exposes the “fairy tale” for the lying sham it is.

Happily ever after is a myth.

It is an elusive sasquatch creeping into our adolescent psyches touting its over-sized existence, yet failing to produce cold hard proof.  But experience will educate her…reveal the truth.  She CAN marry her prince charming.  She CAN have 2.5 kids.  She CAN have a reputable successful career.  Disclaimer:  The simultaneous combination of the three may cause spontaneous combustion!  And extinguishing the problem will leave the bigfoot supermom drowning in the puddle of despair she fears most…Failure.

The working mom tries to do it all.  Rushes the kids to daycare, drags into work, tries to be all she can be professionally while juggling the disapproving sneer from her boss and phone calls about sick or misbehaving kids, scrambles to pick up the kids on time..and races home to complete homework, baths, dinner, laundry, dishes, bedtime, and sex like a Stepford wife on speed.  A forced smile through it all.  But behind that robotic smile lurks a bottomless pit of guilt, self-doubt, exhaustion, and a persistent sense of failure.  For no matter how much she does… it’s never enough.  So, she pushes herself to the brink of insanity, and then she dares to push a little more.  As she continues to spread herself too thin, she begins to feel her world crumbling around her.  She loses her bearings.  She feels…lost.  But lacks the “me” time to find her way out.

Maintaining a full-time successful career while trying to slay the child-rearing dragon is a feat that will eventually leave her charred and begging for mercy.  Consequently, some modern moms are opting to put a career on hold, stay home, and take on the dragon full time.  Seems the easier option…for now.  But is the dragon’s head the only trophy she seeks?  The reality: a stay home mom may slay the child-rearing dragon with ease…but it’s the demon in her own head that proves to take her down…the struggle between herself and her myth.

The college educated stay-home mom is riddled with unfulfilled professional ambition.  Her own personal fairy tale hell threatens to bring her sanity to its knees.  On one hand, she weighs the commitment to her children…to be available whenever they need her…as a nurturer, a teacher, a playmate, a friend.  On the other, she weighs the desire to work, have an identity, make her own money, be successful, and make a difference in her corner of the world.  All the while, the weight of both relentlessly crushing her.

How does she do both…and do them well?

If she opts for the 9 to 5 career, she sacrifices fleeting time with her kids.  They miss out on parent-child events at school, afternoon soccer, baseball, dance, help with homework.  They become latch-key kids.  They see her for two chore-filled hours a day before they must sleep to prepare for the next day, another in which she will play a minor role.  They act out because they feel last in her list of daily priorities.  Guilt consumes her.  However, if she stays home and forfeits her career, she sacrifices herself.  Disappoints herself on a daily basis.  Begins to drown in her own pity pool of missed opportunities.  Watches the professional life she planned and dreamed of in college slink off into the night robbing her of self-confidence and leaving her a stranger to herself.  Mid-life looms…she wonders… “What now?  Who wants to hire a mom who has been at home for so long…college degree or not.  I have a resume filled with diaper duties and fending off cooties…and Dora the Explorer as a reference.”  Her struggle continues.

Regardless of the choice she makes, her maternal side and her professional side remain in a perpetual tug of war.

Ambition proves to be her double-edged sword.  She struggles daily not to disappoint the supposed “fairy tale” she’s created…and, at the same time, not to disappoint her “me” she’s yet to create.  But at the end of the day, it’s her “me” she’s yet to create that seems to be falling by the wayside.  She wants it all, damn it.  A prince charming.  Happy kids.  Love and success for them all.  But she also wants…HER.  Her career.  Her success.  Her happiness.  She wants to look in the mirror and recognize her once ambitious face.  To be proud not only of her family, but of herself.  To make a difference in the world she’s introducing to her children.  To set a feminist example for her daughter…convince her she can do anything she sets her mind to.  The sky is NOT her limit, for beyond her sky lies an unknown and unexplored universe.  But a paradox presents itself.  As she preaches unbridled ambition for the taking, she does so as a mother who has done the opposite…

telling her daughter to take on the world and let nothing stand in her way, but showing her to sacrifice it all to raise a family.

So she wonders…is she teaching her to be all she can be?  Or is she simply perpetuating the fairy tale hell?

How can she possibly teach her kids to raise their hands and reach for the stars when she’s tied her own hands behind her back?  How can she manage to satisfy the dreams of both herself and her kids?  How can any mother?

Mirror, mirror, on the wall…

What DO women want?  DO we want the fairy tale?  Or does the fairy tale want us?

Chick Hughes

“Obsessed by a fairy tale, we spend our lives searching for a magic door and a lost kingdom of peace.”  ~ Eugene O’Neill


Yours…  Mine… Ours.  “Our” marriage, “our” kids, “our” exes, “our” baggage, “our”……..happily ever after?  Here’s to hoping.  Blending together two families who each have their own set of family dynamics, daytime dramas, “well-meaning” grandparents, sappy traditions, unbending belief systems, and set-in-stone parenting styles is most often good in theory…but may feel like captive torture when played out.   Now throw in two exes, their new spouses, and more extended familial “strangers”…and what do you get?  Kids who don’t know which way is up, who to direct their anger at, or if anyone even cares that they’re angry.   To them, it may seem the adults are so busy being angry at each other…who’s listening anyway?

How do we, as parents, manage to successfully blend two families AND keep our children from feeling like the forgotten luggage we’ve tied to the bumper and drug along behind the moving vehicle that is our new life?

The modern blended family is quickly replacing its traditional competitor.  Divorce, followed by remarriage, is the new normal…whether our kids are ready or not.  And let’s face it…they’re not.  Kids are creatures of habit, rejecting any semblance of a new life.  After years of emotionally bonding with BOTH of their biological parents, they’re now thrust into the middle of a divorce…they have no idea how they got there, or why.  What they do know is it wasn’t their choice.  They then realize… their vote doesn’t count…it never did.  And now that the divorce is inked and official, mom and dad want to remarry.  Granted… blending a family is about as challenging as publicly disciplining our two-year-old, tantrum-throwing, eardrum-piercing, who-is-this-child? toddler without having “someone” accuse us of child abuse.  Amateurs!  But, Yes…it can be done…and Yes…it can be successful.  🙂

When thrown into a blended family, our kids typically act out and become rebellious, difficult, and withdrawn.  Unfortunately, we get angry, seek punishment, and get our heels so deeply dug into the punishment muck…we can’t get out, step back, and gain perspective.  We can’t examine what the thoughts, fears, and insecurities are that drive our kids to behave in such a way.

After having the cold ice bucket that is divorce dumped over his head, a child has already recoiled and felt the disappointment of parental letdown.  His safe, protected cocoon has been split and he’s been peeled out, limb by limb- against his will – into the harsh “elements” that make up life.  Reaction:  self defense… a.k.a. withdrawal, lashing out,  and self-imposed isolation.  This rebellious, difficult, withdrawn hoodlum –  who has hijacked our precious baby’s body and is now using it to wreak havoc in our new life- is simply hurt, frightened, and keeping his guard up.  If his guard is up, he can’t be let down again.   He feels powerless in the changes that are affecting his life…acting out is HIS choice… the only thing he CAN control…he will exercise it.  His self esteem, confidence, and security have taken a hit, and our job as parents is to do whatever we can to restore that which he has lost.  That means giving him space to express his disappointment, grief, and anger.  That means encouraging his continued relationship with BOTH parents.  With the steady love and presence of both biological parents, our child will adjust to his new blended family more quickly and have higher self esteem.  He needs this like he needs air to breathe.   Our kids need to know that though we couldn’t make it work, they are more important than the conflict that ended our marriage.  Knowing this, for kids, makes all the difference.  All too often, our emotions and resentments from the failed marriage dictate our behaviors, our attitudes, and our words when it comes to our kids and their relationship with the ex.  Though we may think otherwise, our body language is sometimes louder than our words.  So, even when we’re biting our tongue, we’re yelling criticisms from the rooftops.   Whether we’re tackling discipline, parental swap, or trying to help our kids cope…here are a few things to consider:

—-Drop kids off…never pick them up:  While it may seem harmless and more convenient to pick them up when doing the parental custody swap, try to avoid it.  Picking them up conveys the subtle insinuation that we’re taking them from the other parent.  Yes…sounds silly to an adult.  But to a child, it feels like a threat from one parent to another.  And once again, he feels caught in the middle.  “Do I go with this one, or stay with that one?”  A child’s mind in this situation is always one of self-blame.  “If I go with him, will it hurt her?  If I refuse to go to avoid hurting her, will I hurt him?”  When we drop them off, we send the message that we’re giving them permission to go have fun.  Kids are amazing little people who strive to please both parents ALL the time.

Routine:  A great way to give kids the predictability they crave is to create a special routine just for them.  For example, after every visit away, on the first night of their return to us, we might make their favorite dinner or dine at their favorite restaurant.  Kids find comfort in routine.  A traditional coming home meal, or any consistent routine we may choose,  can provide them a small security in an otherwise scary world of unknowns.

Verbal praises:  While kids prefer hugs and more physical contact from their biological parents, they prefer verbal praises from stepparents.  They may, in time, become more comfortable with physical praise, but in the beginning, keep it verbal.  It respects their personal space, allows them to slowly take us in – rather than our cramming ourselves down their throat –  and lets them call the shots where our connection is concerned.  Little choices like this give them a sense of independence and help them adjust.

Time alone:  There’s a time for the whole family to be together…and there’s a time for us to treat our biological kids to some one on one time with just us…no stepparent…no stepbrothers or sisters.  This strengthens the bond that has taken such a blow.  When armed with an intact bond with his biological parent, he doesn’t feel he’s being replaced.  He feels he is “sharing” his parent, rather than having HIS parent “stolen.”

Rules respected and followed:  Rules, as well as consequences, should be as similar as possible between the homes.  If our child doesn’t complete his homework and loses video game privileges while at our ex’s house, those consequences should be enforced at our house until punishment is complete.  Consistency and respect between the homes will provide security, keep expectations clear, and rob him of a loop hole with which to play one parent against the other.  Trust me…given access to a loop hole, he’ll jump right through.

Biological parent disciplinarian:  The last thing a kid wants is another bossy know-it-all.  When a blended family is in its beginning years, the biological parent should do most of the disciplining…allowing the stepparent to play the role of friend or counselor.  If a new person comes barging in, takes his parent away, changes life as he knows it, AND has the nerve to discipline him, the only thing he’s creating is a brick wall with no means around it.  That bond will never happen.  A child needs time to get to know us, develop a relationship with us, and come to respect us before he will take kindly to discipline of any kind.  If we stomp into his world beating our chest and barking orders, those orders will only bounce off that brick wall and smack us right in the face.  None of us enjoy having our words thrown back at us…do we?  😉  Once a bond has been established, discipline will be accepted and respected.

Kids so often carry around the burden of a divorce between their parents, wondering what they did to cause it, or what they can do to fix it.  Remarrying and introducing a blended family to them will be difficult – there’s not enough candy in the world to sugar coat that sour note.  But, the good news is children are resilient…and given time and room to grieve, they’ll come around.  Children who experience divorce and blended family life, children who are encouraged, and, above all, loved…these children learn adaptability and develop the compassion and empathy needed to embrace outsiders, making them more accepting, more flexible adults.

We’ve ordered this blended family.  We’ve added many ingredients to our tall glass of new life.  It WILL be stirred by the many variables butting heads in our glass.  However, with love, patience, and understanding, our blended family will withstand the stirring and remain strong…and unshaken…in the face of adversity.   Drink it in.

Chick Hughes

A glimpse into the mind of a child:

“My mom cries when I tell her about Dad’s girlfriend. I can’t help it if I like her just a little. She’s nice to me.”
Twelve-year-old girl

Dad left so suddenly that if I don’t take care of Mom, she might leave me too.
Eight-year-old boy

“Dad couldn’t really be as bad as Mom says he is.”
Nine-year-old girl

“My dad left because I wanted to ride my bike my way, and I told him to go away. He did and divorced my mom.”

“If I go live with grandma can you and dad stay married?”
Seven-year-old girl


Gone are the days of “Leave it to Beaver”…a time when families were supposedly nauseatingly happy, the kids were a little too mild-mannered and obedient, and the parents were blissfully unstressed and free from the bondage of disagreement.  And can I just say…

What the hell was that about anyway?

When has life ever been that simple?   When was marriage ever easy?  When were kids ever obedient every second of every day?  And when were women truly content staying home all of their lives without any ambition or dreams of their own?  NEVER.  Life has never been easy… more repressed maybe, but not easy.  Thankfully, repression AND oppression went out of style years ago, along with that hideous, clunky wooden piece of furniture that brought the “Beav” into our living room.  Real-life adults are actual people with actual problems, rather than the brainwashed, robotic “Stepford Wife”  and the always dutiful, never over-worked, never over-stressed husband depicted on tv.   I much prefer a down to earth parent who owns his problems…how his relationship with his wife is suffering because of the long hours he works to make ends meet, how his wife is distant because — well, he’s not sure why, how she feels resentful because he actually gets to leave the house that has become her prison every day, make his own money, and be productive (rather than watching one day roll into the next washing dishes and behinds), how his kids are acting out because they sense the uncertainty in the household.  While certainly not ideal, they’re honest and very much the reality of our everyday lives.  Families are complicated… and synonymous with dysfunctional love.  Couples marry, divorce, remarry, and struggle to resist the urge of hiring a hitman to take out their “mistake”  every day.  But, instead of surfing the net hunting for the perfect hitman, we have to learn to make peace and co-exist.  Easier said than done, right?  We may have better luck convincing a  top modeling agency to grace the cover of Vogue with our tired faces, dark circles, and stress-induced extra pounds?  So, once divorce has taken hold and each remarries, how do we maintain a manageable relationship that allows us to co-parent our little look-a-likes?

Co-parenting after a divorce is about as fun as tossing our cookies on the tilt-a-whirl after overindulging on hot dogs, chicken on a stick, cotton candy, and popcorn at the county fair.  It was delicious going down…wickedly vile coming up.  Though it’s very difficult to make peace with the ex after a divorce, it’s also the healthiest and most essential thing for us to achieve…not only for us, but for the kids as well.  Hate requires much more emotional energy than forgiveness…and forgiveness is a way of life our children will hopefully emulate… if we display it.

When trying to co-exist, co-parent, and co-operate with our ex, there are a few R’s we need to practice:

Respect:  This will be difficult, but may also reveal our true maturity level.  We’re both parenting our kids, so keep it that way.  We should never disregard our ex’s opinions or feelings about issues with the kids.  On those issues we don’t have a particular opinion about, we should ask our ex what he/she thinks about the situation.  Always include the other on major decisions with the kids.  If we ask for our ex’s input on what should be done, rather than dictating what we’re going to do, our ex will feel validated and included in his/her kids lives.  Result: emotional walls will remain down, and communication will be fluent.

Restrain:  Keep our emotions in check where our ex is concerned.  Kids are extremely perceptive…so those little sneers we entertain on our faces when our kids are slamming us with information about their week away are not gone unnoticed.  They notice…and take note…of our opinion… and follow suit.  Remember, we may have chosen to move on from our ex, but our child will never move on from his parent.  The last thing we want to do is sabotage the relationship between ex and child.  Also, our kids are not our messengers.  They’re not responsible for informing our ex of his late child support or any other point of contention we may feel the need to “share” with our kids.  They’re kids…allow them to be.  They’re allowed to love our ex…and sending hateful messages back and forth only tells them they should choose sides.  If this is what you’re angling for, be prepared…when they’re older and wiser, you’ll lose.

Reply:  Take advantage of modern technology.  EMAIL!  We should communicate with our ex through email as much as possible.  This way, our kids won’t be watching as our emotional floodgate falters and threatens to wipe out everyone within earshot of our conversation.  Also, our ex will be less likely to “push our buttons” over email.  We’re much more rational through email than face-to-face confrontations.  When face-to-face, emotion runs the show, tempers flair,  and words become weapons.  Unfortunately, those weapons usually hit an unintended target…our kids.  The less emotion and shotty glances, the better.  So remember:  EMAIL…don’t raise hell.

Rebuild:  Regardless of who wronged who and who said what, we must accept that our ex is not solely responsible for our breakup.  While it’s easier to point a finger, rather than claim our own contribution, we must let it go and own our responsibility in the breakup.  The sooner we do that, the sooner we release some of the resentment…and the sooner we move on.  To rebuild, we have to do away with what our marriage was…and embrace what it is now.  Treat it as though it’s a whole new experience with the focus on the kids’ well-being…not on what did, or did not, happen between the two of us.  The marriage has been bulldozed.  Now it’s time to clean up, do away with the rubble, and rebuild our relationship from the ground up as co-parents.  A relationship “renovation.”

Trying to bring together adults who would rather forget the others exist is a difficult feat, but a necessary one if there are kids involved.  We all want a safe home with a white picket fence to keep our kids safe from “outside” dangers.  But a divorce will tear down that fence and leave our kids open to three danger doozies:  fear, doubt, and insecurity.  The only way to keep our kids feeling secure and loved is to forgive, rebuild, and mend those fences.  Otherwise, not only did we fail with our marriage…we’ll fail our kids as well.  Mend a fence…save a child.

Chick Hughes

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” Lewis B. Smedes

Our kids believe us to be superheroes-capable of cooking, cleaning, creating, and buying anything with a wave of our magic hand.  Our husbands believe us to be  nurturing moms by day/mind-blowing lovers by night.  Our friends believe us to be unfaltering in the face of the endless demands of motherhood.  But what do we believe of ourselves?  What do we see staring back at us in the mirror? Do we feel like superheroes?  Do we feel like mind-blowing lovers?  Do we feel like we’re sailing along with everything under control?  Don’t bet on it.

Staying at home with the kids is an incredible privilege, one which I try not to take for granted.  Being the one person your kids turn to for every whim and every problem is definitely a benefit for both mother and child…some days anyway. With that being said,  there are days where we’re left feeling drained, overworked, and underappreciated.  We’ve all had these days.  From the time our feet hit the floor in the morning to the time they’re reunited with the bed at the end of the day, we’re running around tending to someone.  The kids are starving to death because they haven’t eaten in 30 minutes!!  (Gasp)  The clothes waiting to be laundered are mounting and now leering at us tauntingly.  The ironing board is daring us to convert it into a dart board.  The dishes are teetering over the edge of the sink.  The bills are waiting to remind us of the negative spending money we now have.  The pets are demanding to be fed as if this may be their last meal.  The toys are littering the floor begging the question, “Why do I buy them so much JUNK?”   The grocery store has been beckoning us for days disguising itself as our “me time.”  The kids can find NOTHING to eat or play without our expertise.  “Mom, I need a drink.”  “Mom, I can’t find my shoes.”  “Mom, he won’t stop bothering me.”  “Mom, I’m hungry.”  “Mom, I’m bored.”  “MOM!”  “MOM!” MOM!”  And this is all before you’ve had a chance to shower, brush your hair, or use the restroom.  Feeling overwhelmed yet?

While our kids mean well, we may still find the occasional day tempting us to “Run, Forrest, Run!”  We may work so hard at taking care of our family that we begin to wonder who that face is in the mirror.  We’ve been so busy tending to others, ignoring our own needs.  We look in the mirror and wonder, “when did I start to look like that?”  “Who am I anymore?”  “I miss me.”  It’s very easy to reach this point when all day every day is spent on the well-being of everyone other than ourselves.  No time to work out, fix our hair/makeup, take a break, or do something we enjoy doing.  We become starved for adult conversation and desperate for our brain to resist the mushy, vegetative state it seems to be mutating into.  We feel like nothing more than a maid, cook, or personal assistant to our family.  Our kids and husbands have lives outside the home.  However, we do not.  Taking care of our family and the house IS our life.  Our quicksand is engulfing us, sometimes to our relief.   We have only one sentiment:  HELP!

We love our kids, but we need to maintain our identities as well.  Finding an outlet for intellectual stimulation is of utmost importance, whether it’s a hobby, a side job, or anything that gives us that sense of accomplishment we all need.  This outlet holds the key to our self-esteem and our sanity.  Without it, we lose our edge, our vitality, our spunk.

Sometimes, we just want to lock the bathroom door, run a bath, retreat, and pretend we’re all alone.  This fantasy won’t last long…soon, there will be a knock at the door accompanied by “MOM!”  When this is ignored, it may be followed by the wandering fingers under the door and a softer ,”mom, guess what?”  Fingers under the door may seem harmless, but eventually those fingers will find a way to pick the lock.  This will mark the death of our bathroom solitude. Road trip anyone?

Will you strive for the myth: the supermom who manages to do it all and keep your sanity because you’ve made it a priority to include yourself in your daily juggling act?   Or will you settle for the mess: the unhappy, unfulfilled mom who’s drowning in a sea of chores and searching for your missing self?  M.O.M. (Myth Or Mess) Choose wisely.  Your sanity depends on it.

Chick Hughes

“Lose your dreams and you might lose your mind.” Mick Jagger

In any marriage, there are a few major contenders vying for title of “Most Fought Over Issue.”  The way in which we discipline our kids proudly takes its rightful place among these contenders.  When we marry our chosen love, we’re pretty naive as to what we’re getting ourselves into when it comes to disciplining our future look-alikes.  In fact, we tend to romanticize the idea of having children a bit… only imagining the adorable little baby babbling away…failing to imagine that mouthy little 5 year old who has the uncanny ability to oppose us at every crossing, whether it’s wanting candy for breakfast or screaming aloud at us publicly in an attempt  to shame us into buying him that “can’t live without” toy that will meet it’s fate in the Bermuda Triangle of lost toys within the week.  But now that reality has set in as parents, how will mom and dad agree on how to discourage the unwanted behaviors and encourage the opposite?

Discipline is as necessary to a child’s upbringing as love.   Our children crave boundaries, rules, love, and discipline.  Without discipline, rules and boundaries are imaginary to a child…only clouds of empty gibberish floating from our mouths, bouncing off of them and back at us like tiny boomerangs.   Empty promises of “I’ll spank you if you do that!” only teach them to ignore and disrespect us.  If we do want our children to respect us and learn boundaries, we must back up our threatened consequences.  But how exactly do we do that if one parent preaches “spank him” and another parent prefers taking away that prized Nintendo DS that is seemingly glued to his hand?

While we may disagree on our paths for discipline, our desired destination is the same…we want to raise well-behaved, respectable children who are able to follow rules, find happiness in themselves, and love and accept those around them.  Our chosen paths for accomplishing this will often mirror our parents’ paths.  If one parent was raised by authoritarian parents who were very strict and insisted that the children do exactly as they say, or else, then that parent will likely parent in a similar manner.  On the other hand, if a parent were raised by more lenient parents who gave the children more of a voice and tended not to focus on rules and discipline, that parent may follow suit.  Whichever path you choose, it’s rare that it be identical to your spouse’s path.  Given this, at some point, we will butt heads over how to punish our kids.

Probably one of the most important things that can be done initially is to educate ourselves on age appropriate expectations.  Different expectations, as well as punishments, apply for children of different ages.  Once aware of these, we can come together (without the kids) and discuss punishments we prefer and which punishment fits which crime.  If one of us feels very strongly against a certain punishment, but the other parent feels it should be employed, maybe we could agree on that punishment being used only under the worst of circumstances.  For smaller crimes, we could employ the other parent’s choices.  This way, neither parent is being “unheard.”  Each of you has a say in how to discipline your children without one overriding the other.

Because many families today are blended, a child’s disciplinary kitchen may be spilling over with cooks…between biological mom, her new husband, biological dad, and his new wife.  I can only imagine how trying this can be for all involved.  Children will, in the beginning, have a certain amount of distrust and resentment towards new spouses, understandably.  While his newly married parent may be blissful in the new marriage, it can be a very emotionally confusing time for a child…whatever the age.  It’s recommended that in the event of a new marriage, the stepparent take a backseat with discipline for the first couple of years.  Let the biological parent take the lead and be the “bad guy” for a while.  During this time, the stepparent and child can bond and develop a friendship, followed by love and trust.  Once the trust is there, discipline can follow.  Until then, discipline on the part of the stepparent will only be met with resentment and frustration, and will, therefore, be counterproductive.

At some point, parents will engage in a battle of words (in front of the kids) over how to handle a situation.  While debating the issue, it’s best to keep the focus on the child’s behavior–not on parental bickering.   Children catch on very quickly  and will pit you against one another in an attempt to manipulate the situation to their benefit…BEWARE of these cunning little cuties…looks deceive.  🙂  While most of our decisions should be made in private regarding punishment, it’s not always realistic.  New “situations” rear their ugly heads at the most inopportune times.  When this happens, we have an amazing opportunity to provide a  life lesson for our child.  Hearing his parents talk rationally (without degrading, verbally abusing,  or disregarding the other) and hearing them listen to the other’s viewpoints will be beneficial.  This will teach him how to have a healthy argument and how to come together toward a common goal, while respecting his own AND others’ opinions.  On the flipside, listening to his parents yell back and forth, make snarky remarks towards each other, and eventually stop speaking will teach him to only think of himself, never to listen to others, and to avoid differences.  Result: an adult completely ignorant on how to hear, be heard, and come to a healthy agreement.

While we will inevitably differ on ideas of discipline, we must remember that our goal is the same.  Who’s right?  Who’s wrong?  Who cares?  This shouldn’t be our focus.   Raising wonderful, caring, law-abiding individuals-THIS should be our focus.  Entering into marriage and parenthood begins our long, winding road of confusion and pandemonium.  But if we work alongside each other, instead of against each other, our road is much more pleasant.  At the end of that road, we’ll find that our once mouthy, difficult 5 year old has evolved into an intelligent, well-adjusted, successful individual….no one ever said the road was short, or easy (for those who may have made that stupendously stupid assumption, ignorance is bliss — as I’m sure they were not yet parents).  As you know, parenting isn’t for the faint of heart.  Sissies need not apply…

Chick Hughes

“When mental energy is allowed to follow the line of least resistance and to fall into easy channels, it is called weakness” James Allen

photo by: duchesssa

“You’re ugly.  You’re stupid.  You have no friends.  Don’t sit by me!  Everyone hates you!”    Ever stop to think about  just how powerful your words are once they depart from your mouth?  Words may just be the most lethal in our arsenal of weapons.  This applies even more so in junior high/high school where acceptance is vital to one’s ego.  While physical wounds will heal, emotional wounds are likely to forever haunt us.  Even when we think we’ve overcome our childhood emotional trauma, like a thief in the night,  it will  manage to return and claim yet another piece of our self worth.  Words have the power to build a person up, and consequently, to tear a person down.  Bullying among children is not a new phenomenon.  But, having children of my own who are reaching the age of the “bully,” I find myself  pondering the whys, hows, and what ifs surrounding these aggressive attacks.  Why do bullies bully?  How do they choose a target?  How does the targeted child cope?  What can we, as parents, do to prevent our kids from becoming the next statistic?

We know that the bully’s motive is simply to mask his own insecurities. He is fueled by two things:  a succumbing victim and a pack of followers cheering him on and providing him the social validation needed to further raise his own self-esteem…in other words-to gain social status at the cost of another’s demise.  We also know a bully will choose as his target anyone lacking the one most coveted possession by any and all teens: popularity.  Without it…well, you’re nobody, therefore fair game for ridicule.  The wrong look, clothes, labels, friends, size, sexual orientation, parents…any one of these “differences” can doom one to social exile.  It seems that these days, one doesn’t necessarily have to fall into the “unpopular” category.  One can fall victim to bullying simply by making an enemy out of the wrong person.  Getting just one person’s feathers ruffled can result in a domino effect…bullying by association.  “My friend said she ______.  Don’t speak to her anymore.  If you talk to her, you’re not my friend.”   By the end of the week, a small transgression against this one person has grown into mass treachery of the most unforgivable kind.  From here, the victim spirals downward thinking his reputation is irrevocably damaged.  While some adults tend to minimize the mini-dramas created by their kids, this kind of social devastation can be paralyzing to children.  Some become severely depressed and lose interest in every aspect of their lives.  They may refuse to attend school in an attempt to avoid the inevitable taunting… tragically, to some suicide seems the only imaginable solution.  Children as young as 11 have committed suicide as a means of desperate escape from the emotional tortures of bullying…both from school and from technology.  The newest bully on the block: the internet.  Children were once able to escape their social hell at school and feel safe at home.  But with home now becoming a battleground on which they are attacked via facebook, email, texting, etc., there is no “safe” place for retreat.  So now a sense of social drowning is taking over, and the idea of suicide is more and more seductive to teen and pre-teen victims.

Perhaps the only real way to confront this epidemic is head-on.  Many victims’ parents are speaking out on the fact that schools are looking the other way when it comes to bullying.  Our silence is not only providing the cover needed to conceal these devastating  social attacks, but it also robs victims of the validation needed to fight back.  The cost of this “let’s not get involved-it’s not our problem” attitude is loss of innocent lives, not to mention the broken spirits of countless other victims who may entertain the thought of opting out of life.  We owe it to our kids to give them the ammo needed to fend off  attackers. Schools and parents are the two main educational resources available to children.  If we don’t get involved, who will?  Perhaps a solution lies with schools including lessons on bullying as part of the curriculum.  Armed with knowledge, understanding, and exposure of the behavior, victims may be better equipped to cope with impending fallout.  Maybe this same knowledge and understanding will trigger self-analysis on the part of the bully, while also creating a little empathy for his victim.  Exposure can be quite the effective deterrent.   Without doubt, this behavior will never go away.  But isn’t it our job as parents, educators, and nurturers of our children to arm them with the education and awareness needed to fight against and conquer one of the most prevalent trials of growing up…social warfare?

Maybe it’s time to bully the bully?

Chick Hughes

“When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.” Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes