Period. Full Stop.

I’m here to tell everyone – all parents really – that you have permission to set boundaries for yourself and your kids in reaction to everyone, anyone, for any reason and at any time. Period. Full stop.

And unless you’re being abusive to your kids, then nobody gets to tell you that your boundaries aren’t valid. Like, ever. I mean, they can try, but they will fail.

Because guess what?

BEING THE PARENT MEANS YOU GET TO DECIDE WHAT IS BEST FOR YOUR KID.

Not a stranger on the street. Not a neighbor or a friend. Not your cousin or sibling or parent or the babysitter. None of them are the parent or legal guardian, so it simply ain’t their job.

This is such a simple concept that it blows my mind when people don’t understand it.

And then, because I’m a therapist, I take a step back and try really, really hard to understand why someone may not understand such a simple boundary of how the world works. From my experience, people who either don’t understand boundaries or perceive them as unkind are people who did not grow up with firm boundaries and/or were not taught how to set healthy ones.

To be specific, boundaries are some form of communication or action that communicate a limit or expectation for how that person wants to be treated. Boundaries have two parts: the first part described above, and then the second part is the consequence – what the boundary-setter plans to do if that expectation is not met.

(I just wrote the above off the cuff, but I’d like to add the Wikipedia definition I just looked up because it’s much more succinct: “Personal boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards them and how they will respond when someone passes those limits.“)

Imagine someone grew up without these. Imagine that person could do whatever they wanted growing up and had no consequences. For a kid, that sounds like a pretty scary, lonely, and unsafe place to be. Not being taught how to act with respect and integrity must land a person in some confusing and frustrating situations growing up. A common reaction is to blame everyone else for these problems, because the alternative is often too painful to entertain.

Now imagine that that same person has grown up and is being told how to act or what to do by another person, and is being given consequences to boot. Especially if this new boundary-setter is not perceived to be an authority figure, the reaction probably wouldn’t be positive.

There’s often backlash, or an attempt at manipulation, or accusations that the boundary-setter is being mean and controlling, or simply ignoring the boundaries and blowing right through them.

[Side note: my above growing-up-without-boundaries scenario was the kindest, most benefit-of-the-doubt explanation I could think of. Worst case scenario when a person blows through your boundaries is that they are being abusive. The simplest red flag for abuse is when the perpetrator does not hear you say ‘no.’ When a person ignores your ‘no,’ it means they are trying to control you or the situation. And gaining power and control over another person is what abuse is all about.]

Even though I get it on a conceptual level, these people are so fucking hard to deal with.

How do you explain to someone that boundaries aren’t mean?

And yup, they are about control, because I have control over myself and my life and my kids – AND YOU DON’T.

It’s one thing having to set a boundary one time with someone who is a reasonable human being: “Oh crap, you don’t like when I do that? I’m so sorry, I won’t do it again.” Best case scenario, right? Because it’s quite another thing to have to set the same boundary with someone who is boundaryless again and again and fucking over again.

Setting boundaries, like raising children, is exhausting. It’s having to stay firm and respectful and consistent in following through with consequences. Again and again and again until forever. It’s teaching little people how to behave in the world and it’s teaching big people how you, as an adult, wish to be treated (or how you wish your children be treated).

And when I’m setting boundaries on behalf of my kids – that’s where the stakes are high. My bitch mama bear comes out and I take no prisoners. No, dude on the street, my kid does not have to smile for you. No, lady at the park, you cannot touch my baby without asking me first.

My kids are depending on me to protect them until they can protect themselves. And they are learning from my example. They learn bodily autonomy and the value of consent when I say, Do you want to give _____ a hug? Because you don’t have to if you don’t want to. And if someone gets mad about not getting a hug, then that is their problem (and also a huge red flag!). Not mine, and sure as hell not my kid’s.

I’m setting the boundaries for them now so that they can do the same for themselves (and their kids) in the future. Because I don’t want my kids to grow up without boundaries. It’s dangerous and scary!

And for those adults who might recognize that they have negative reactions to boundaries being set – instead of writing off the boundary-setter as mean, you might want to take a look at exactly what is being asked of you. Is it truly unkind, or are you just not used to hearing “no”?

At the risk of rage-filled rambling on forever, I will wrap this up. While this may read as a tutorial for an audience, it’s actually directed at myself. It’s my way of reminding myself that I’m doing right by myself and my kids; no amount of negative and manipulative reactions to my boundaries will steer me off course because they [the reactions] aren’t mine to carry, deal with, or worry about. Period. Full stop.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Do any of you out there have trouble setting boundaries with boundaryless people?

What are your coping strategies?

 

 

 

 

 

2020: There will be multiple abs

Happy New Year, y’alls!

I felt the urge to mark this milestone, the passage of time by writing. An attempt to reflect a little more deliberately.

It’s the end of another year, and I felt like this year was on the upswing, which is saying a lot. I’ve had a very tumultuous several years lately. My daughter just turned frickin THREE, started preschool, and folks, we’re finally out of the tiny human slash baby phase, and oh man, it feels so good. We’re getting rid of diapers and some strollers and the high chair and baby toys…and making room for Frozen dolls, Legos, big feelings, and books.

Speaking of books, my oldest turned FIVE and he’s starting to effing r-e-a-d. The other day, I spelled s-n-a-c-k-s to my husband in front of the kids and my son PUT THE LETTERS TOGETHER AND SAID THE WORD. I’ve never been so simultaneously proud and horrified. I’m now going to have to learn French (or work on my Dutch, ja?) because my kids already know too much sign language and Spanish (seriously). Also, my son’s entry into kindergarten sparked this huge turnaround in terms of his behavior and maturity level. Finally, he’s not melting down during every little transition. And finally, he’s decided to EAT FOOD TO LIVE (not every day, but it’s progress!)

Because both my kids are in school now, this fall I got 6 glorious hours a week to myself. I joined a gym, and you guys, I am the proud owner of an ab. It’s real and it’s spectacular.

It’s been a big year and we’ve all gotten some breathing room; it’s been a life-saver. Right now I’m in the middle of winter break where both kids are home with me full time again and I seriously can’t remember how or why I got through having them in my hair and watching me poop and screaming in the house every. single. frickin. day.

I can feel the days, weeks, months getting more crammed and hectic as the kids get older and more active. As I continue to try and keep a lid on that, I’ve been enjoying having more intelligent interactions with them and watching them turn into little humans. Dare I say it, parenting has gotten easier, for the moment. I plan to enjoy it as much as I can, for as long as I can.

As for me, well…eventually the plan is to go back to work, hopefully part time. I’m dying to do therapy again. But, as soon as I start thinking about all the logistics, I feel incredibly overwhelmed. First, I have to reinstate my license which means spending lots of time and money getting my continuing education credits. That also means finding and paying for childcare while I do that. Then comes the job search, cover letters, interviews (all of which I loathe with the fire of a thousand suns). Any job would have to feel worth it (a privilege I recognize that I have). It’d have to pay enough and be close enough to home. It would either have to be super flexible OR I’d have to magically find childcare to pick up my kids and then there’s early release days and teacher work days and breaks and holy crap. Without family here, or a professional network, all this put together sounds like Mount Everest.

I know, I know, one step at a time. And I’ll do that. At some point.

As for now, I’m enjoying the small bits of time I’ve gotten to do what makes me happy. In the past year, I took two painting classes! And one was a bucket lister because I got to work with oils for the first time – LOVED it. I Marie Kondoed my entire house this year, more or less. It’s a work in progress, as I love to shop for just the right storage containers. We took our first major family road trip! I completed NaBloPoMo for the second time ever. I became secretary on the board of my local MOMS Club chapter. I was able to volunteer in both my kids’ classes. I made it to my first Women’s March (hopefully there won’t be a need for too many more of those). I saw NKOTB, and, more importantly, THE BACKSTREET BOYS! Dear lord that was fun! I ran my second 5k ever, through downtown Portland where we got to stop for donuts and beer mid-run. It was all about moderation, my friends. We went tent camping and went to an airshow, both of which were much better experiences (read: no kid breakdowns) than the first time we attempted them. I’ve also read 21 and a half books this year, whereas in previous recent years, I’ve only gotten to read about one a month.

Also this year, I am happy to report that anxiety was way down, and I got considerably more sleep and exercise. I can’t emphasize enough how amazing this part has felt.

WHAT A GREAT YEAR!

I’m so glad I took the time to actually list all that, because that does feel like a full life, doesn’t it? I’m grateful.

I’m confident that 2020 will be even better.

There will be multiple abs, just you wait and see.

 

The Last Day

You guys, this is the last day.

I did it!

I’m actually genuinely super impressed with myself, because almost every single day this month I was able to generate original content, and some of it was actually kind maybe good-ish.

And, the fact that I was actually able to write about my daily life without too much trouble, means – wait for it – that I actually have a life! Actually!

Before, when I had tiny babies and was largely housebound and unable to string words together to make coherent thoughts, let alone get pants on my ass, I didn’t feel like I had much to say. It was the same shit, different day. Literally. At least now, my kids are growing and changing rapidly and I’m running to catch up and I have some time to myself to collect my thoughts. We’re also able to go to better and more interesting places, have more lively conversations.

In short, life is getting more interesting. And I’m thankful.

I hope, for those of you who stopped to read this thing, that you enjoyed it. I hope it was amusing at the very least, and at the most I hope it made you laugh, made you think, and made you get to know me better and want to be my very best friend. I like warm hugs.

Also, THANK YOU. If I didn’t care about anyone reading my stuff, I’d write in a private diary. So thanks for stopping by; I really appreciate it.

Now I am off to decorate my house for Christmas and then redo everything my kids try to decorate. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season. Stay warm. Stay sassy.

Stay psycho.

 


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You Have Died of Dysentery

I happen to live quite close to the end of the Oregon Trail.

Yes, that Oregon Trail. Covered wagons, food rations, the gold rush, and that super awesome game we all know and love that was made in the 70s, but captured our hearts in the 80s and well into the 90s.

Today, we went and visited the quite lovely and very kid-friendly museum located approximately where the wagons came to a halt and the log cabins started going up.

Part of the exhibit was about all the indigenous populations that were totally driven out of the area (either physically displaced, or by disease), and I was glad to be learning about that on Black Friday instead of participating in some mass demonstration in consumerism.

I’ve been living here in Oregon now for almost exactly 6 years, and going back and re-learning about the Oregon Trail was particularly exiting for me because all the places and landmarks at the end of the trail are places I actually know and some on which I have actually set foot!

The Dalles! I know where that is! I see it on the weather map each day on the morning news! HISTORY HAPPENED THERE.

Everything is cooler when you can put it into context.

Anyhoo, I was so jazzed by the museum that I came home and found the old game on the interwebs and played it again for old times sake. Dude, it was such a fun blast from the past! I had forgotten so many intricacies of the game, like the shitty, plunky music you hear at each landmark you reach, or that you get to raft down the Columbia River at the end!

 

My husband didn’t stand a chance. Sorry, love.

I encourage you all to carve out some time in your day and some room in your hearts and play this game one more time.

Not for me, not for Oregon, but for yourself.


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Gratitude Pie

Happy Thanksgiving!

I baked this and will consume it shortly.

Here is my top ten list of things for which I am thankful:

  1. My family: my husband, and all he does to support me without question. The kids, and how freaking adorable and amazing they are. I’m very lucky.
  2. Health. Mine and my family’s.
  3. That we have everything we need. Food, clothes, shelter, clean water.
  4. My friends. They support me emotionally, they don’t judge me, and they make me laugh.
  5. My extended family. I know I am loved, and for that I am grateful.
  6. I have freedom and choice and privilege. I try not to take these for granted.
  7. Creative outlets, like writing and painting and singing. They make me feel alive.
  8. Entertainment (books, TV, movies) that awakens me emotionally and spiritually, and those that release stress by making me laugh.
  9. Opportunities where I can be alone. I like to recharge and explore my relationship with myself.
  10. Yoga. It is my happy place; it is my place of worship, where my body is the temple and I get to say thank you for taking me through this life.

nanopoblano2019

Keeping the Cray at Bay: Some thoughts on small-town yoga

I have been doing yoga for a long time now, and I’ve figured out the hard way that if I don’t do yoga frequently, it makes me feel something something.

Recently, I’ve been signing up to do yoga through our local parks and rec. It’s cheap, it’s local, and there isn’t another way to do yoga in this town unless you’re selling your soul to the gym gods. That means joining a gym. I tried to make a joke but I’m tired.

Apparently, signing up for an exercise class via P&R if you’re under 40 means that you’re the youngest lass in the class…by like 15 years, at least.

Do you know what this means?

Unfortunately, it means that the class is pretty too very much easy for me. But at least yoga is an individual sport where I can just do an extra twist or add a limb in there and make it a little more of a workout.

On the upside, this means that I look like a friggin ROCKSTAR! The instructor takes all this time explaining the pose and how to use all these props to keep your shoulders in their sockets and I’ve already got both my legs behind my head.

Seriously, though, there are several poses that I can do that the instructor can’t, which means several times she’s been describing the pose while I’m already doing said pose, and I’m spacing-out-while-trying-to-concentrate-and-not-fall-on-my-ass, and she points to me and says, “Just do what Melissa’s doing.” And then I snorted. I was flattered and surprised; it was a flatprised snort.

On another random note: This instructor’s look and voice quality reminds me strongly of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, and you guys, I cannot express how calm and safe that makes me feel. She’s middle-aged, female, blonde, and her voice is calm, steady, earnest, and full of wisdom.

Before discovering this class, I remember saying that I really wanted to be able to do yoga to the commanding female voice-energy of Cate Blanchett playing Galadriel in Lord of the Rings.

Frooodooo…..now dooo down-ward facing doooog. AT ONCE!

But Dr. Ford is a close second. Or maybe not even second, just…different. Her energy is exactly what I need right now. What a lot of us need, I think. It’s protective. It’s quietly empowering. Right now, for me, it’s pretty transformative.

Another random thought: Just last night my yoga-teacher-Dr.-Ford-doppelganger said….aahhh crap and I forgot the exact wording, but it was something like:

The way you practice having balance is by losing it.

And maybe it was my headspace at the time, or the way she said it, or both, but it was one of those quotes that just hit me, you know? Probably because it works on both literal and figurative levels.

So, I’m not sure what my point is except that I enjoy yoga and it makes me feel great.

In short, it keeps the crazy at bay.

The cray at bay, if you will.


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Frozen Terror

Aaaand now I have two sick kids in the house. Ugh.

To put a funky spin on things, because normal illness isn’t fun enough, my oldest woke up last night in a sweaty, fever-induced screaming night terror. Well, technically he didn’t wake up, but my husband and I did. Thank goodness my other sick kid slept through it all. Oh, and it made the cat nervous in the service as well. Don’t get me started on how weird our cat is.

Most things about parenthood make you feel powerless, but this one pretty much takes the cake. And dear baby jesus, they are aptly named.

Took me a long time to calm down and get back to sleep after that.

The funniest part? My son was screaming lines from Frozen, which would have sounded way creepier had I not immediately known the reference.

Creepy because the line was, “HE HAS NO BONES!!”

I guess Frozen-inspired nightmares run in the family?

Maybe we need to lay off the Disney raves for a while.


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My Rock Alien

I was the last one alive on the ship, and I had just blasted the hell outta those alien assholes.

Seriously, slimy greenish translucent alien guts were raining down on me and were starting to coat the platform right next to the airlock.

I was too busy screaming in relief and celebration to notice that a few many-legged alien larvae scuttled right past me and disappeared into a crack between the wall and the floor. I looked and felt like a badass Sigourney – white tank top and toned arms.

The scene shifted abruptly and my ship had finally landed back on Earth. Somehow, I was able to maneuver and dock my poor, banged-up spacecraft into the interior of this official-looking massive gray building, like plugging it back into a socket to recharge. Was this NASA? Or some private entity, perhaps. A lot had changed since I’d been gone.

I disembarked and found the sterile, industrial building completely deserted. Something felt eerily off. I found the exit, shoved open the heavy steel doors, and ran to the nearest patch of dirt and grass, my whole body collapsing and my fingers pawing at the ground. The grass felt so good between my fingers and the dirt under my nails. Home.

And then, a clanging sound echoed from within the building. It became so strong that I started to feel vibrations through the ground. I scrambled to my feet and started to walk backwards, keeping the building in sight.

With little warning, the main double doors slammed open and a huge creature rumbled out. It looked like that rock-eating rock monster from The Neverending Story, only meaner. And faster.

It saw me and started walking. Crashing.

Oh shit.

I took off running, even though I didn’t feel like I had anything left in me.

The scene changed again, and I had found a house. Was it mine? It seemed familiar, and I knew it’d be unlocked.

I ran upstairs and hid, tried to steady my rapid breathing. The rhythmic thumping and crashing was shaking the whole house now, and any second I’d hear it start to rip the house apart.

Behaving more human than I’d thought, it came through the door and up the stairs, smashing them as it went. It was clearly searching. For me.

In an effort to not get cornered in the bedroom, I tried to slip past it and into the hallway. I figured out quickly that it had poor eyesight and relied mostly on sound. Maybe smell?

Pressed my back against the wall and held my breath, closed one eye. It (he?) stomped past and I wondered how long the house would stand at this rate. Once it was well into the next room, I threw myself down the stairs, avoiding the holes where steps used to be and all the broken, pointy shards of wood jutting out everywhere.

Sweaty, filthy, and heaving, I lunged for the door, or the wood in my way that used to serve as a door. I heard a growl reverberate from behind. My right arm reached out in front, and I turned my head to glance back over my shoulder.

That very moment…was when my kids woke me up.

That day, I was watching Frozen with the very same children who disturbed my slumber. It was the scene where Anna goes to Elsa in her ice castle to tell her what has happened to Arendelle. Her fear and desperation building, Elsa creates a huge and scary snow monster named Marshmallow.

Hey! I yelled at no one in particular, pointing to the screen.

That’s my rock alien!


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Some People Are Worth Melting For

Lately, I’ve been introducing my kids to more Disney movies with increasing intention.

I loved Disney movies as a kid – heck, I still love them – and I can’t wait to instill that love and share that love of magic with my kids.

Before now, we’ve seen a smattering of random Disney flicks, but last weekend I borrowed Frozen so that my kids would be in the know once the hysteria for the sequel hits young kids’ cerebral cortexes (cortesies? cortesi?) as of today.

I first saw this movie when it was new, which was before I had kids. What I particularly love about the story is the emphasis on family/sibling/sisterly love over romantic love. Not that you often have to choose in dire situations where you’re going to turn to ice forever – because everyone gets to have both – but you know. So it’s fitting that my kids are seeing this for the first time together, and that I get a front row seat.

We probably won’t be seeing Frozen II: Even More Ass Cold until it comes out on DVD because I’m still not positive my kids can sit through the entire thing in the theater (So no spoilers, please! I still don’t know who Olaf’s biological father is!). Along those lines, there’s a part of me that ABSOLUTELY CANNOT WAIT until we can get our butts to Disneyland but there’s noooooo way on this green earth I’m doing that until my kids are old enough to stand in line and be tired and hot and not completely fall apart.

Until that time…we have the movies, and the family sing-a-longs. And today, we met Anna and Elsa at a local mall.

And then we came home and did Frozen-themed Cosmic Kids Yoga, WHICH IS THE BEST THING EVER, btw.

When we were eating dinner, my son blurted out that the Anna and Elsa we met today weren’t real.

Was that because they weren’t like the cartoons in the movie? My husband asked.

My son shook his head yes.

But I went up and whispered to my son that they may not have been the same as in the movie, but they still had the same magic.

They had magic?! He looked at me like I was nuts.

Sure they did. The magic of the movies and the stories and songs and love and how cool it is to be a kid…or still feel like a kid. That Disney magic lives in all of us, if we just believe.

I hope he believes for a good long while.

 


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