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My last post talked about ego and the need to sometimes step outside yourself to say "I'm sorry." After all, as I always say to my kids when they argue, "Is it better to be right or kind?"

"Kind!" they scream back, before going back to poking at each other once again. (And really, who can say anyone is right?)

Regardless of my son's need to win every verbal match, and my daughter's ability to latch onto an emotional hurt like a pitbull on steak, I'm proud of their humble spirits. They aren't mean kids. They can laugh and love and be silly far more than I ever could.

For these reasons, I didn't harbor some of the anxiety some parents feel about sending their kids to this very Catholic, formal ritual. I think admitting our weaknesses out loud give us a great opportunity to start fresh. We don't have to be perfect - no human being is.

Many folk see the ritual of confessing to a priest as "shame based activity" or "hurting their kid's self-esteem". Ask any of my friends and they'll tell you my son has enough sense of self for his whole class. Bringing him down a notch or two will hardly damage his stronger than truck stop java personality. (That day, truthfully, I was more worried he would ask Father White Beard why priests wear dresses and if the communion wafers - aka: "those little cookies" were gluten free.)

Regardless of our religious affiliation, I'm going to make the sweeping generalization that we parents spend too much time pumping up for kids for the most basic of tasks. "Ooooh, good job on setting that table! Here's a gold medal for your fanastic display of mediocrity! And dude, the forks go on the LEFT!"

Since when did being part of a family, and contributing, warrant the fanfare and aplomb of graduating from Harvard? In fact, expecting my kids to be more self-reliant will get them to Harvard quicker than doing everything for them. And frankly, even if they bypass college to sell hemp weaved baskets at Redondo Beach, they will know how to inventory, price and market them. (And I expect a discount.)

I am not going to lie. I hug and kiss and support and obsess over my kids' emotional well being far more than I should. (Ask my mom. I'm not a helicopter parent, but I'd qualify as a remote control airplane at least. And seriously, even that amount of hovering is too much. I can parent by staying rooted on the ground, thank you very much!)

I need to practice detachment.

I need to work on my own self-reliance.

But until I get there, I'll forgive myself for being a less than perfect mother.

This TIME article talks about the ever growing debate over if American kids are spoiled. I'm sure, compared to many others',  my children are hellions. But I can't worry about your kids, my friends' kids or even family members' kids. All I can do is teach my own kids that "please" and "thankyou" matters, money can't buy character, soul is as important as logic, being funny is the most underrated qualtity on the planet, and that under no circumstances will Mama speak to them in the morning before her first cup of Yuban.

So, tell me: What are your thoughts on teaching kids the art of the apology, whether it be a First Confession or just encouraging a humble heart? What are you doing to encourage your kids to be self-reliant?

You can also find me writing about my faith journey at Joe Beam's place.

 
 
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Toward the holidays I had a "confrontation" in a public setting with someone over an administration situation at my kids' school. While we hardly resorted to fisticuffs, I left the meeting feeling emotionally charged up. "I showed him!" was reaction on a gut level.

And yet, a few months later, that interchange stuck with me. Turns out, as time moved on, it became clear that my anger wasn't just about his ego. It was about my own. After all, if I were so confident in who I was and what I saying, I wouldn't feel the need to get so vocal. I could state my opinion in a calm, collected manner, and then move forward.

In an effort to be a bigger person (and really, how much bigger do I need to be at 6'1/175 pounds) I emailed him. I admitted my faults. (I'm not perfect? Who knew?) I also admitted my weaknesses. (All that yoga and I'm still not strong enough for plank. I am able to put my foot in my mouth, but that's not a true yoga pose. Too bad.)

Growing up in a strict Catholic school, I wasn't really able to voice my opinion. I followed the rules. I played it safe. And yet, inside of me, was raging voice ready to break free. "I'm an artist! I'm a writer! I'm a thrift store junk turned treasure finder! Don't hold me back!"

For the most part, I am happy with who I evolved into. But certain people - certain situations - they trigger my PTCD: Post Traumatic Catholic Disorder. I feel threatened. I feel frustrated. I feel ANGRY. And whose fault is that? Certainly not the situation nor the person's. It's my issue.

To this day, I am a relatively peaceful Catholic. The rituals and sacred prayers of the mass ground me, but the acts of kneeling and genuflecting themselves are not ever mistaken for faith. They are roads to God's wisdom, strength and love.

And so, keeping God's wisdom, strength, and love in mind, it's essential that when I feel pressured from something, to not react from my very frail human nature. I cannot let my ego run the show.

Wayne Dyer likes to say that Ego stands for "Edging God Out." In my case, that's more than true. If I can just get out of my own way, I can let true wisdom, love and peace enter into any situation I'm in.

Many of you readers come from different faith backgrounds, and that's why I love you. We all are on this journey together - with our very own minds and hearts and souls moving forward the best way we can. But I can't help but wonder if we all set our egos aside if maybe, just maybe, we could find room for that person who drives us the most crazy.

And God forbid (emphasis on the God part in my case)  learn from them.

You can also find me writing about my faith journey at Joe Beam's place.


 
 
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My son is an enigma. On one hand, he has bouts of defiance where he gets kicked off karate mats. (Apparently "horse stance" does not mean yelling "giddy up! giddy up" and cracking a pretend whip.)

On the other hand, he's one of the most empathetic people I know. One look at the jail card in Monopoly will set him off into a crying binge for five minutes. "That poor man!" he'll cry. "He just looks so sad. I just don't know if I can play this game anymore!"

Yesterday after school, he heard Pip mention, "Mommy, what book are you writing now that you are fired?"

* Note:
Good Housekeeping let me go after 3 years. I wouldn't call it being "Fired" per say. They are going in a new direction and it's completely okay. But Pip doesn't mince words. I think she'd like being raised by Amy Chua. They could write The Year of the Tiger First Grader, practice piano for hours on end, and organize their desks every Sunday.

Suddenly water came spurting out of Stink's eyes like a fire hydrant on a hot L.A. day. "Ohhhh, poooooor Mommy!"

"No, sweety! I'm fine! Really! I get to spend more time with you guys! I get to write new things and start over!"

To no avail. Stink kept right on wailing. "It's not fair! They don't like you! They need to bring you back!"

"Stink," I said, wrapping my arms around him. "Have you ever noticed that new gardens are kind of smelly?"

"Yeah," he said, through his tears.

"What do you think they use for planting?"

"I don't know..." he sobbed.

"Fertilizer!" Pip chimed him.

"That's right," I said. "And what is fertilizer made from?" I went on.

A hush fell over the play room. "CRAP!" I proclaimed.

All crying stopped. Stink looked up at me with the same expression I probably had when he was nine months old and I had a positive reading on 99 Cent Store pregnancy test. I didn't let the silence linger long.

"Did you know crap, despite smelling horrific, turns out to be the best breeding ground ever for flowers?"
 
I could see my kids' little brains churning like the wheel in a Life game.

"Guess what our vibrant geraniums got their start in?!""

"Crap!" Pipsqueak squealed.

"Guess what the tallest, brightest sunflowers grow in?"

"Crap!" Pipsqueak said again.

"Guess what Mommy is going to grow from?" I shouted, really feeling the spirit now.

"Crap!" Stink said, half smile, half pout. He added, "But you're just saying this story to make me feel better!" Then he slumped on the couch, downing his last taquito.

I stroked his hair. "Is it working?" I asked.

"Yes. But you are very very tricky."

Yup. Mamas know how to grow, and dish out, the crap.

What amazing growth experiences have come from your personal fertilizer?

Image found here.
 
 
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Hi all -

The bad news over the past few months? Our family of four has collectively endured lice, dog bites, croup, bronchitis, chest pains, busted toes and a job loss.

The great news for us is that, like my son's tooth, something else will fill the hole in  in 2011. It's going to bring a ton of changes, but I personally plan on being brilliant. What other choice do I have? I hope you'll join me and be brilliant as well!

To celebrate my grand re-opening, I have accepted a giveaway contest. Want to win a $25 gift card?
Check it out over here.

Meanwhile, let me know what's been happening in your life the past six months. I've missed you!

Andrea