The Parent Trap

I’ve been waiting.  I’ve heard the saying all my life, “this hurts me more than it hurts you.”  As a parent, I’ve been frustrated, angry, sad, and bewildered by the choices my children have made.  However, I can’t really say that I’ve felt exactly like they did when they screwed up or worse…until this week.  Can I tell you that it really sucks?  Can I also tell you that I’ve never felt more like a parent?

I work in education so I hear tales of big, ugly conflicts between parents, coaches, and  students.  Parents get angry, cry, blame, defend, deny, accuse, and flat-out threaten to undo the very foundation of the institution when something goes wrong in their children’s lives.  Now, I am blessed to see all sides of the situation.  My advice wouldn’t change from the beginning to the end of it, but I can tell you that I certainly gained some perspective and compassion for all sides.

Here’s a rundown of what I learned:

  • No parent has the right answer all the time.  My ex-husband and I ran the gamut of emotions when we first got the news.  What was the right thing to do?  Hell if we knew at that very moment.  Go with the gut, add a strong dose of logic and reason, top with compassion and go with it. Toss everything you’ve got at the wall and hope it sticks.
  • When your child loses something that they really, really want, it feels like it’s your own personal loss.  Seriously.  I had no idea that I could feel this for my kid.  I cried as much as he did and I couldn’t stop.  I knew what he was feeling when he woke up yesterday morning, knowing that reality was about to hit  him in the face.  I winced when he mentioned his pain as it floated across his consciousness.  Why?  Because I’ve been there.  And here I am watching the closest thing to my existence go through the aftermath of pain that I’ve felt before.
  • For a few moments, I did exactly what every other parent does.  I Monday morning quarterbacked the situation to death.  I found fault in every system that was in place. I second guessed my part in it, what was going on with the leaders, the effectiveness of the boundaries, and on and on.  Why? Because I’m at this stage in life, as a parent, that I’m well-practiced in exhausting all the options of any particular situation.  But, I believe that using these skills are just a mask for the real reason we do it.
  • I think the main reason parents want to bail their kids out when they screw up to the point that it hurts is this:  to squelch their own pain.  Hey, we can own our mistakes but to be taken off guard and feel the pain with our external heart?  Stop, can’t do it.  I’m gonna go into warrior mode because I can do SOMETHING about THIS.  However, we are missing the lesson if we do this.
  • In looking back over my life, the sleepless nights with anguish over my screw ups were game changers.  Reflection and reconciliation can help facilitate change no matter what the age.  This is not something that I want to deny the people that I love to experience, is it?

To kill the suspense or ideas of grandeur, he was kicked off a sports team because he was being a punk when he was expected to be a leader.  He is also considered to be better than his actions, so luckily he will have many more chances to prove his capabilities.  On the bright side, he told the truth, he was reflective, he was remorseful, he was brave in his apologies and he took the blame for many on his own shoulders. What I am telling myself and anyone that will listen today – when a loved one reaches a place that they screw up and it hurts you…resist the urge to fix.  I sit in a new level of connection today and while I am praying hard that this is the one thing that makes an impact and steers him away from the teenager foolishness, I know that we are likely to have many more trials ahead of us.  God, give me the strength of heart to handle and accept the consequences that any of my children get because, in that acceptance, I give them confidence that I believe that they are worthy of failure and capable of their own decision to be better with self-led determination.  Who am I to ever step in the way of that, no matter how much it hurts? My heart hopes that one day my kids are proud of who they’ve become because of the decisions they’ve made, not because of the carpets we’ve laid for them.  Other than the wrinkles and gray hair that this week has caused, it all will be worth it.

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Risk Taker

Risk Taker​:  We approach uncertainty with forethought and determination; we work independently and cooperatively to explore new ideas and innovative strategies.  We are resourceful and resilient in the face of challenges and change.

It’s crazy to think about really.  We live in a country that clean water runs to our homes with near 100 percent consistency, providing all of our daily needs to cook, bathe, drink, and clean.  And yet, there are entire societies that have no running water and must drink from an unclean water source.  Our country’s state of emergency is another’s daily life.  That thought alone makes one pause about the risk involved.  However, we teach that risk (healthy ones) are important to our growth.  We risk every day.  We ​drive cars, ​we, ride in planes, we drop our children off for hours in ​a school’s​ care, we try something new​, we fall in love, we make change.  I have two teenagers.  I talk to them continuously about the importance of ​risking their thoughts, their heart, their ideas. Risk allows being pushed to the edge of their comfort zone. Growth comes from there.

Water Is Life 2.pdfToday I took a risk that I’ve been thinking about for years.  Two years ago,  I was looking for an adventure and an attitude adjustment.  I wanted to see more purpose in my life.  I was a part of countless conversations with those in WATERisLIFE and I was so intrigued.  Here was an opportunity to make a difference in strange land with just enough familiar by knowing a few of the people involved.  I had my deposit ready, a check written and in an envelope ready to hand over.  I have a lot of food allergies though and it kept weighing on me that while visiting a remote village in Africa, turning down offered food by village hosts might just be the thing that did me in.  I met Mrs. Fine in the parking lot at OI, asked some more questions, and decided that it wasn’t my time.  I tore up the check and went back to life as usual.

Today as ​Mrs. Fine and I​ waited to board the plane, I thought about the timing of it all.  My allergies are still a pain.  The shots that are required for the trip were potentially dangerous to me and it took an extra trip to see my allergist (luckily he’s a cutie so the extra tests could have been worse) and then had to take ​four​ different trips to Passport Health to receive the shots slowly over time just in case something went awry​.  The difference is that I looked at my fear differently this time around​ and I was able to work past the risk to gain the reward.  It was a full circle moment acknowledged in that we can risk a bit at a time, even put it down for a bit.  Moving forward is still the most important part​.

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Odyssey and WATERisLIFE

The partnership started several years ago when an Odyssey family got involved with the WATERisLIFE organization, a nonprofit committed to bringing clean water to people lacking clean water around the world.  Odyssey is an International Baccalaureate World School believing that we belong to a global community.  Global-wide compassion, understanding, as well as job market competition will be just a few of the considerations on the horizon of our scholars.  It was with great enthusiasm that Odyssey partnered with such an important organization bringing ​a very basic resource​ to those in need​.  It allow​ed us to connect on a global level but to also work at a local level in our own community with the skills and knowledge that we obtain​ in the process.​

Mrs. Mil​akovich, (you may remember her by Miss Lusin) was the first Odyssey staff member to visit Ghana and our sister school in ​Kpaachiyili​.  The work she did there changed her life, eventually steering her career path to water conservation.  After every visit to Ghana, she returned to ​our​ school committed to educate the importance of hygiene and share a small view in to a world that our children can only imagine.  Mrs. Snyder is the new WATERisLIFE club sponsor for Odyssey.  She has a history of volunteering and service, mixed with a background in science and teaching.  She gladly took the torch of being the leader compassionately connecting our scholars to the children in Ghana and educating hygiene in the classroom.

My name is Stephanie Crawford and I wear a few hats at Odyssey, one of which is writing press releases and school stories for the Odyssey website.  I became intrigued with Ghana and WATERisLIFE several years ago.  I will write a little more about that later, but for now, I will share the goals of this trip I’m taking today to Ghana.  After some brainstorming between Mrs. Snyder and I, we decided to define the goals with each campus.   We will be educating on hygiene and sharing information about Ghana at the elementary campuses.  In the winter, we will do a Change Challenge to raise money, showing that every little bit helps and the youngest of us can contribute.  At the Junior High, we decided that interpersonal relationships would be the best way to connect on the other side of the world.  They are all about the social at this time, right?  Our PFS teachers have been working on establishing pen pals and writing letters to our fellow scholars that are the same ages.

Kpaachiyili liked the idea and have been working on writing letters back to our Junior High.  A “fun run” will likely be a fundraiser that we are earmarking in the spring, as well as the change challenge. This trip will help determine the involvement in the classroom with the Odyssey Institute.  Strategies and plans are being made to bring water from the well that Odyssey helped make at ​Kpaachiyili​ into the school, as well as continued education with the village on making and selling soap.  There are so many opportunities to bring in business, math, science, ​and art ​to our scholar​’s curriculum​.

Finally, ​I want to show that ​this is the perfect trip for Odyssey scholars. I decided to share the reasons ​why this is the perfect trip by connecting ​my ​adventure with the IB profile.  I knew it was a ​great​ plan when I realized my trip was 10 days long and that there are 10 IB profile attributes.

Outstanding!  So, here we go!

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Calling All Cowards

One definition of the word coward is a person who lacks the courage to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things.  Well, well, well, I think most of us have a little coward coat hiding in our closet, don’t we now?  I mean, depending on the day, unpleasant to me can be as simple as getting up at 4:30 am to get that workout accomplished.  It’s dark and freeeezzzing outside…..ok, so it’s only 42 degrees, but in Arizona that feels super cold. 😉  I know that I’m not alone here because I watch us as a society check out when the sheer prospect of boredom or down time approaches.  Walk into a doctor’s office or look at any waiting line, and you will see every other person checking their phone for social media updates or attempting to master the 258th level of Candy Crush for the 15th time.  Most of us have courage to defend our family, stand up for a cause, contribute to a purpose for a short time……but how many of us care to sit in uncomfortable for very long at all, much less make it a daily proposition?

That’s exactly what I’m proposing though.  I’m sitting here on my couch after the return of my trip to Ghana, feeling a little sad because for a minute there (10 days to be exact), my life had a pretty defined purpose.  It was also a bit uncomfortable in as many ways as one would care to imagine.  It was: hot, dirty, far from home, long travel days, chaotic, boring, and overwhelming.  The result was simply amazing.  Work at a basic level leaves one grateful for the simple, humble for the opportunity and desperate to feel the community of humankind.

People ask what I took away from the trip and the answer is many things.  But what I sit with the most right now is that I don’t want to let go of living life with purpose while being a bit uncomfortable.  I challenge all of us cowards to consider how we can live on the edge of our comfort zone.  I’m going to share here on my blog what I wrote to the community of The Odyssey Preparatory Academy, the school I work for, while I was traveling.  It explains best why I went to Ghana and what I hoped to accomplish while I was there.  As I’m sure my long time readers can imagine, there are deeper concepts that I will be mulling over and will share soon.  In the meantime, have a wonderful holiday season.  May you be a bit uncomfortable in all that you do.  😉

P.S. The opposite of coward?  Hero.

Amen.

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Show Me

One of my favorite movie quotes – “SHOW ME THE MONEY!!!”  Over and over Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding, Jr. screamed the phrase to each other in the movie Jerry McGuire and eventually the money did indeed “show up.”  It was hysterical but it was also very powerful.

The words “show me” have been pretty powerful in my life, especially when I speak them as a prayer.  Show me the truth.  Show me the way.  Show me what you want me to see.  Show me what I need to change.  Show me how.  Show me.  It’s an active request.  It’s a desire to know T-R-U-T-H.  It’s a humble admittance of unknowing with an urgent vocalization to change the view that you currently have.

The answer may not be pretty.  Yet, the words aren’t meant to be pretty.  They are brave.  They are brave especially if you accept what you see.  Sure, you can shake your head, misinterpret, explain away…whatever you want to do, really.  But when you whisper the words “show me,” and you mean it, and you’re awake for the answer, get ready.  Heart open.  Eyes open.  Ears open.  Knees to the earth.  Get ready.   I look forward to hearing your stories.

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2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 790 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 13 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Beyond the Doorway

I  received a great gift from a friend for my birthday last year.  It’s a book by Mark Nepo of inspirational stories and musings that often touch me or get me thinking on any given day.   Today’s reading is one such gift because until I read the words, I had not shaped any sort of  goal or theme for this next year.  I’ve spent the last few years “managing” my life’s changes and how I respond to them.  Whether it came to me on January 1 or hit me halfway through, each year had a theme.  A few years ago, the theme was to “breathe.”  Yep, it was that simple.  The next year was “the year of yes.” Most of my friends and I had a really good time with that one.  Last year was a tough one, though, because it was the one where the “rubber meets the road” in the healing process, so to speak.  It included big highs, like driving my kids on a 10 day Yellowstone vacation and big lows of feeling trapped in a place (literally and figuratively) that I did not want to be stuck in.  This was when the desire to be independent, happy and whole met head-on with the hard work that it takes to get there.  Here is a little secret to wanting to be better than your past – you have to change how you deal with your present.   This process is ongoing, of course.    The ebbs and flows of growth have been a little less dramatic lately and perhaps I sit today at a new plateau of acceptance.   I am forever grateful for those that stood by me in the drudgery of this phase and humbled by the love.  So what’s next?

Nepo’s writing today is about a friend of his who gets excited about a painting project, gathers all of his supplies and tries open the door to the house with a gallon of opened red paint in each hand, a drop cloth under his arm, and a brush in his teeth.  When he almost has the door open, he falls  off-balance backwards and spills red paint all over himself.  Nepo reflects about the comical situation, “Amazingly, we all do this, whether with groceries or paint or with the stories we feel determined to share.  We do this with our love, with our sense of truth, even with our pain.  It’s such a simple thing, but in a moment of ego we refuse to put down what we carry in order to open the door.  Time and time again, we are offered the chance to truly learn this:  We cannot hold on to things and enter.  We must put down what we carry, open the door, and then take up only what we need to bring inside. ”

Well, amen to that.  I have been working on my ego and surrender for sometime now.  However, I’m still a slave to my head.   Many an uncomfortable feeling or  problem has been solved with the “thought first method” of my logical existence so, it’s not that I’m not grateful for the grounding thoughts and reflection skills.  It’s how I learn.   I  also put down a bunch of things so far to get through the doors I’ve walked through.  However, I would really, really like to connect continuously with other feelings besides anxiety, pain, frustration, and doubt.  Hold on to crazy for just a second…… I would like to lean into some joy.  Not the kind  of joy that is simple and soulful that I feel with my kids,  or the contentment of enjoying the beauty of a day.  I already appreciate that because I know that the sacred is the best stuff of this life.  Instead, this is me being a broken but blessed person asking for a bit more.  This is me saying to the fear in my head, “the heart you have is worthy enough to have a say in this life as well.”  This is a small whispering desire that I would like to lead more this year with an open heart than a thinking mind.  This is going to take me putting down some more things to get through that door, because sadness, bitterness, jaded outlooks, and regret have no place on the other side.   No, Joel Olsteen has not taken over my computer.  I just have a little curiosity of what is through the next doorway….and I’m ready to enter.

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The Courage of a Slave

“Courage! What makes a king out of a slave? Courage!” –  Cowardly Lion, The Wizard of Oz

In my break from writing, I’ve had frequent recurring thoughts cross my mind.  I write now to quiet one of the pesky themes that visit me while driving, trying to sleep, or in the middle of a yoga pose.  Sometimes, like a real writer, words won’t leave me alone until I release them on a page.  More often, I resist releasing them until I myself have mastered  what I’m passing along to others.  The more I navigate out of ‘broken,’ however, the more I realize that our issues are never really mastered.  They are battled.  There are days when I feel like a king, others a slave.   Both are equally wonderful, equally humbling.   It takes great courage to build yourself up to a king, even greater to bow as a slave.  It takes courage to soar, courage to humble oneself to what is more mighty, and courage to even give up that other ‘C’ word, control.

My intention has always been to share and connect with common themes of ourselves with this blog.  I know some wonderful people who are outwardly fighting a courageous battle, and even more that are battling the daily fight.   For those of you  that connected to my writing for the commonness of our humanity and the desire to grow, you drive me to write again…for you, I risk this.

To be continued…………

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Co-Dependent…Still No More

It has baffled me.  This past year, I watched some of my dearest friends go through tough times and I wondered, why do some of us face our greatest fears and are forced to work through them, often in public view?  I would ponder what our fears are, how people deal with them differently, who survives them with grace, who crawls to the finish line, who checks out….and on and on.  Want to know what I figured out, other than recognizing that I keep my mind thinking to prevent my heart from feeling?  I figured out that us controlling folk tend to attract each other.  We prop each other up and quote fantastic verses about surrender and turning it all over to God…and then we feel our way to the next dark crack in the floor of a pitch black room and begin filling up the holes with our desire to influence, impress, please….and control.

The last time I made my own goals?  Not really ever.  My goals were dependent where that friend was going to school, on his job, in conjunction with the location of the college campus, the distance of the downtown commute, or how much time my kids could sacrifice away from my wonderful mothering skills.  I knew me, but I didn’t really know me.  Sacrificing of oneself in order to build a reputation of solid, is not really that admirable, you know?  Deciding that you shall control your destiny and right your childhood is all grand and noble until you find yourself in a pile of ruin looking around thinking, “Wait a second..I tried harder than the next person, what the hell happened?”  Exactly.  I tried harder than the next person.  I dug in, I sacrificed, I quietly resented, and when it all fell apart, I blogged some honest feelings so I could be sure to back-end a solid reputation and wait for the accolades to come.  None of this was of conscious mind, of course, but all of it completely on a sliding scale of…if I can’t control one thing…maybe I can help this other aspect of my life until it makes me feel better about the thing that is so obviously beyond my control.

Yes, I know I am not alone in this, and I don’t care.  This four-year journey ends today.  I do not want to look back one more second at what happened last year or the year before that, or even yesterday.  I want to be done reflecting on the past, mind reading those in my present, and wishing for specific outcomes in my future.  This is what it looks like at the end of being broken open.  My feet have touched the bottom.  What does it look like from here forward?  I do not have a clue….and while I appreciate very much everyone’s support and kindness along this journey, I do not know if I can write about the pathway up from here.  I want my best self to be present…for me, my children and new relationships from here forward.  I have proven I can be honest, proven I can be real, proven I can change…to most in my world and few beyond that.  Big deal. What I am trying learn this moment is that I have to learn how to be present and to accept the grace and will of God….and the only one I have to prove it to is myself.  And so, love and tremendous gratitude to you all, always.

Until we meet again,

Stephanie

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The Love and the Logic – Part 2

I will call him Luke. He was the only one to show up the first day of my new journalism club in January. I noticed him around campus before. He was kind of small for his age, but I knew he was in fifth grade because of the color of his uniform shirt. He always wore a cross necklace and was extremely polite – trust me, you notice the polite ones – there are not as many as one would hope. As he sat with me in the club, I showed him the school blog I created, ripe for school reporters to bring in the campus news. He was advancing in the school spelling bee later in the week and promised to do some reporting at the event and write the story over the weekend. Next week’s club time would be an edit and publish session. I met his mother afterward and we laughed that he was to be my one and only reporter, but I was happy to have him. My kids made fun of my lame club attendance but mentioned that Luke was a good writer from seeing his work around campus. Sweet.

Later that week, my principal walked up to my desk with a look that I recognized by that point the school year. It said concern and it said serious. Before the Christmas break we became aware of some tagging around the school. Our principal was patient and quiet with the information and waited for someone to slip up. Apparently, that day had arrived. He asked me to call five boys to the front. My heart sank as I realized one of the names included my little school reporter, Luke. The principal called them in one by one and after the investigation, he asked me to call five mothers to come pick up their sons….for good. Apparently, the club of misfits these five started, turned into something inappropriate when they started defacing property and being mean to others. When I called Luke’s mom, she gasped audibly over the line and asked in shock, “does this mean he won’t be able to attend the spelling bee?” I hung up the phone, went into the file room and cried. How does this happen? How does the “good” kid get mixed up in this kind of nonsense?

The campaigning began as teachers heard of the story. Teachers on both campuses asked for special consideration for this kid. Surely, we could find a way to let him stay. He was normally so kind and a good student. He was one of the only ones that fully confessed. He was honest and remorseful. In the lobby of the school, the investigation process took hours. All five boys sat separated under my watch. Three were unemotional. One of those sat by the door with a Cheshire grin enjoying the prospect of going back to his old school and old friends. One went back and forth between acting cool and sobbing. But Luke sat still and quiet, crying like his life had become unraveled before his eyes. This is where at times I can get myself in trouble by stepping in unnecessarily. You will never know when sharing encouragement with a student will be remembered for a lifetime or if it will cause their guard to go up. For better or worse, I will usually say my peace, because in my opinion the unspoken word doesn’t have a shot to make a difference. In thinking back to some of my life lessons when I received encouragement and grace in the face of disappointing behavior, I walked by him, leaned down and said, “This is a really rotten day. The next few are going to be awful also, and I’m sorry for that. But, I want you to remember that you are more than this. There are a lot of people here that believe in you and everything is going to be okay.”

The parents then came and met one by one with the principal. Some walked out angry…entitled. They pulled siblings out of class without an explanation or opportunity for them to say goodbye. Some walked out hopeful. Perhaps they could reapply next year? Luke was the only one that was given the definite chance to start over in the fall. We were all exhausted….sad…..upset….reflective. How do we avoid this if we can in the future? Some even asked, why couldn’t we give him a break? All good kids deserve one, right? But, what if this was his wake up call at the tender age of 11? When the day was over, we all walked out heavier than we came in.

We can speculate the path of protecting and nesting a child vs. letting the consequences come all day long – in the end it’s a guess to what makes a difference. There were the immediate lessons to be learned, however, here are the things I took from the day that I will never question:

*There are a large number of caring people in education, and these people show this love in many different ways – but the desire for our children to grow, learn and be successful is at the forefront of every good school.
*Lessons are sometimes painful for the child and also for the adult. Consequences must come, but compassion and encouragement go a long way when they do.
*You really can find yourself at the midpoint of your life caring deeply for children that aren’t yours or your friends…they are strangers in every way other than the interaction under the roof of a school. Bonds are formed and you find yourself wanting the very best for these little people. Unfortunately, like with your own children, you can control very little in the choices they make along the way. Our hearts soar and ache with these kids as they maneuver this path and figure out how to get it right.

This is just one story, that happened in the span of one day, with one student. The crazy thing is that I have even more stories about amazing kids I met last year, and so does every other person in my school and in schools in this country and worldwide. I have been lucky enough to witness first hand the heart that goes into a day at a school, and it is a beautiful. Even the tough days were beautiful in their own way because, in my opinion, they included just as much love as the others, if not more. There is just as much love in the lesson, and sometimes the lesson hurts. This is the story I wish I could tell the angry person that walks out the door, mumbling “where’s the love in the love and logic policy” when they couldn’t drop off the forgotten band instrument or homework. I could spend hours telling them what I learned last year, and how some students paid a higher price than a deduction on an assignment for their mistakes, yet they still wanted another chance to do better. But my dream is that Luke will tell them…..in a valedictorian speech or by graduating from a top notch college with leadership skills that are evident to those he helps along the way. My hope is that he looks back and tells a story where there was this really bad day, but he paid the consequence, he made a decision to do better…and it made all the difference.

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