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Unconditionally

I was listening to Katy Perry’s song, Unconditionally, with my tween daughters, when one said, “Mom, what’s up with loving unconditionally. Love doesn’t have conditions, does it?” 

unconditional-love

Like many others, I had been brought to believe that love can come in two forms: unconditional and conditional.Unconditional love happened when someone saw you, warts and all, and still felt all warm and fuzzy inside. Conditional love was one where you were loved but only if you showed up in a certain way.

I could not have been more wrong. 

Yes, unconditional love is one without restraint, limits, expectations. It is love that looks beyond the mistakes, inconsistencies, the whatever and still sees the inner beauty that touches one’s soul and makes it sing. If you think about it, love, by its being, is unconditional.

Conditional love, however, doesn’t exist. There is no love found in conditions, just approval. And, sadly, most of us live a life of approval rather than love.  Don’t believe it? Here’s just a sampling of statements I hear each week:

“My mom tells me she loves me but every morning she tells me that she can’t stand the way I’m wearing my hair or hates my clothes. Then she refuses to hug me.”

“I’m sure my dad loves me but he hasn’t talked to me once since he found out I’m gay.” 

“If I tell my boyfriend to stop, he won’t love me anymore.” 

 “I tried telling my dad I didn’t want to go but he doesn’t listen. I’m afraid if he really did listen, he wouldn’t love me anymore.” 

Deep down, my husband loves me. I know he does, but he gets so upset when I do something stupid. If I could just do better…” 

“I wrecked my dad’s car two weeks ago. He hasn’t even looked at me since. He ignores me and pretends I’m not there.” 

“I finally told my mom how I was feeling and she left. She hasn’t talked to me in two weeks.” 

“If I only I [weighed less, was smarter, didn’t cry so much, could make money, didn’t make him mad - fill in the blank], then he [she/they] will really love me.” 

 I think you get the point.

Love doesn’t have to be proved, justified or earned. When someone loves you – truly loves you, they love you for who you are, not what you do. Think about it … when a baby is born, the mom and dad don’t say, “We’ll love him if he keeps his room clean, excels at school, always says please and thank you, is respectful…”  That would be ludicrous. Parents simply love their child because he exists. Don’t get me wrong. Every parent has moments of frustration, but when a child feels loved – truly loved – just for who he or she is, they don’t experience the withdrawal of love or the complete breakdown of self-worth.

When a child is raised with conditions, they tend to develop a belief of, “If I can just [get straight A’s, be prettier, be smarter, be nicer, insert your response] I’ll be loved.” To know we matter and to feel loved is all any of us want.  At a young age, this child will consistently seek approval from his parents, teachers, coaches, and friends — anyone who will offer the validation he needs. As this child grows up, he will look for the approval in boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses, bosses, and still, parents. In his mind, approval equals love. He strives to prove himself, because he never felt what it was like to be loved just for being who he is. The more he tries to prove himself, the more he feels unloved, because approval never equals love. Only love equals love.

So, back to my daughter’s question, “Mom, what’s up with loving unconditionally. Love doesn’t have conditions, does it?”

“No, love never comes with conditions. If there are conditions, it’s not love at all. There is only one love and it is always unconditional”

“Mom?”

“Yep.” 

“I love you.”

“I love you too. Unconditionally.” 

* * *

What are you thoughts? I’d love to hear them below.

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Toxic Tarts

I was just reading back issues of Us magazine and, well, I got really annoyed. You see, I have two daughters and one son – all three very impressionable. And, I like that they are impressionable, because it provides me the opportunity to expose them to a variety of experiences, individuals and lessons that will help them find their authenticity. However, than same impressionability is constantly poisoned by today’s Toxic Tarts.

Oh, I know you know who I’m talking about. Toxic Tarts are those celebutantes and look-at-me-I’m-famous-gals whose revolving doors with relationships, treatment centers and now jail cells have provided them even more fame and money. (Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a purist, nor am I an angel. I’ve had myshare of wild antics – quite a few that I definitely wouldn’t want my children to hear about – but through it all I still kept my integrity, authenticity, and values intact.)

I’m certainly not the first to voice my displeasure on the following topic, and I know I won’t be the last, but I can’t keep silent any longer. These Toxic Tarts are poisoning the minds of our youth – both directly and indirectly. How do we protect our children from this poison – this debilitating disease on family morals? Here are a few thoughts we can all use to inoculate ourselves and our children.

  • Open the Lines of Communications:  Pose questions about the differences between celebrities. Who isn’t in the gossip page and who is? Ask your daughter how they feel about the decisions these starlets are making? Also, don’t get stuck in the past. Remember to expand your communication style and questions to match your children’s maturity.

  • Be uncommon and unique: Say to your child, “You are unique and special. You are exactly who you need to be.” Okay, it doesn’t have to be that overt, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. In doing this, you are encouraging your children to develop their own style that expresses their authenticity and individualism.

  • Get into Character: Core character, that is. Teach your children the importance of valuing and living the five essential habits of character (gratitude, responsibility, integrity, unity and service). Core character creates a springboard into greater self-worth and self-esteem as it plants the seeds of success from the inside out.

  • Teach True Beauty: True beauty lies from within. When my children were young, I would telly them that to be beautiful on the outside; you must first be beautiful on the inside. Teach your children what true beauty is. True beauty comes from within – it comes from being confident, polite, brave, respectful and smart – definitely smart.

  • X the Sex-y: Speaking of sexy…did you know that sexy images are marketed to children as young as 3-years-old? Don’t believe me. Check out the slew of Monster High backpacks in the preschool parking lot. Starting at a very young age, plant the seeds of modesty. Limit – or better – remove exposure to sexy media, toys, and clothes. (Really, does your five-year-old need to be wearing the skimpy bikini at the pool?). Let your children know what is and isn’t appropriate. And, for tweens and teens, let know that sexiest thing they’ll ever need is your brain.
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  • Be a Reject: Teach children to reject the shallowness of fame and fortune that is they are inundated with through modern media. Rather, support your children as they discover authentic fame and fortune through their unique purpose, potential and prosperity.

  • Be Positively Present: More than just spending quality time with your children, being present in life allows you to influence the positive results you want. Think of it like ripple-effect living. When you are positive and present in each moment, you influence the actions of all those that you encounter to create a healthy and happy world for you and your family.

 

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Wait a Minute? I Thought I was Their Mother (or How My Big Ol’ Ego Got a Smackdown)

Bam. Oooff. Smack. Completely sucker-punched. Feeling woozy. Wind knocked out of me. Completely nauseous. Black spots. Holding back tears. Tears spilling over. 

Ever felt that way? C’mon, I know you have. Maybe it was that day you found out you didn’t get the job, or when you found out your marriage was over, or you had the health scare, or when you found out you owe $13,000 in taxes. Or, maybe like me, it was when someone alluded that your kids had a different mother.  It went like this:

 

wait_what_logo“Hi, I’m here to pick up the race packet for my family.”  

“Oh, we don’t have it. Their mom was just here.” 

“Wait, what?” 

“Their mom already got it.

“Umm, nope, I’m their mom.” 

“No, their mother was just here and we gave her everything.” 

Silence. I was frozen for a minute and then I meekly said,  “Oh. Okay. I guess I’ll just pick up mine then.” 

Holding my head down low, I walked as quickly as I could without panicking to my car where I completely lost it. I screamed. I shouted. I behaved badly. I cried. I boxed. Then I picked myself back up, told my ego to take a chill pill, and made some important realizations:

Mom is just a name….like Julie or Matilda or Nana or Joyce or whoever. It’s the connection behind the name that really matters. And, that connection between me and the three is crazy strong.

Other people can guide and love this band of ragtag kids. People draw love from different places, and one love doesn’t diminish the other. They are blessed to have someone in their father’s life who cares not just about them, but about me as well.

It doesn’t matter what other people think or say. At times, I  put far too much emphasis on what other people think or say. Just because they didn’t think I was mom and doesn’t diminish my role or the connection with my kids. It just means they made a mistake. It’s not the end of the world, though, right?

These are not “my” kids. They are not possessions or consolation prizes. These kiddos don’t “belong” to me like a trinket or a car. Yes, I conceived them, gave birth to them, and have nurtured them through thick and thin, but they are not “mine.” They belong to themselves and to God. I have been given the ultimate privilege to guide and raise them into amazing, out-of-the-box thinkers, doers and be-ers.  (Disclaimer … I still will call them “my” kids, though. It is so much easier than explaining why they aren’t “mine.”)

There is only one me. People will enter their lives. Some will love them, some will like them; some will just tolerate them. None of those people can ever replace me.

 

So, there you go. I would love to wrap this little post up with a nice bow, but no, that’s not going to happen. My identity is tied so tightly in my children. When I am not acknowledged as the mom, I feel invisible. It will always sting a bit to know that another woman may step in as a parental figure. (Who I am kidding? It doesn’t sting; it’s bites.) With that said, one of the greatest gifts I can offer these three goofy, loving, quirky and compassionate kids is the ability to accept love and guidance from others. The way to give the gift is to let go of ego so I can hold that belief in my heart and show it through my soul.

With love and appreciation,

jws

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2013: the good stuff

good-stuffAs I sit here watching Miley Cyrus perform on Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Years Eve (or is it Ryan Seacrest’s – not sure), I realized that it would be far too easy to beat myself up for all the things I didn’t do in 2013.  I didn’t lose the weight I wanted – actually I gained. I didn’t make the income goal I set. I didn’t go to Ireland. I could go on, but I decided that rather than subject myself to unnecessary shaming, blaming and guilt, I want to share 13 things that impacted me in a positive way this past year. Here it goes:

 

I transitioned my practice from home-based to an office. For many years, I have operated out of my home. In January, I took the plunge to open the doors of a bonafide office. I loved the separation of work and home (although I still often work at home). It changed the way I view not just my work but myself as well.

I finished my post grad classes. I love, love, love learning,  I was also really excited to be done; it’s tough being a full-time mom, full-time business owner and full-time student. My plans for earning my PhD are shelved for now and I am quite okay with that.

I passed the national licensure boards exam for Marriage and Family Therapy. It was a grueling exam but I’m so pleased that my dedication to studying and learning paid off.

The kids and I moved into a new house that I adore in a neighborhood/town that we love. I’ve always been a bit of a gypsy when it comes to establishing roots (I’ve lived in 58 different places!). However, this move felt like I was finally growing roots for me and the kiddos.

I took my son to San Francisco where we cemented some plans to help others while also having an incredibly fun, memorable time. In 5-1/2 more years, he will be off to college. I want to treasure all the time I can with him and his sisters as well.

I started working out on a regular basis. I’m still not as consistent as I’d like to be but, holy moly, I love exercising!

I began working for the local school district helping families connect with local resources. It is rewarding work that complements my business.

I learned to ask for help from my friends. I always thought that asking for help was a sign of weakness on my part. This year, I learned that it is a testament of trust and love. I truly appreciate the patience my friends had with me while I learned (and continue to learn) this lesson.

I moved my office from Longmont to Louisville. The new office fell into my lap and has been one of the best changes this year!

I didn’t (completely) freak out when I had to go in for a biopsy over Christmas. It was definitely a scary time for me. However, it was also a time where I reflected and found incredible peace and insight. I’d like to say that receiving the news that I don’t have cancer was the icing on top of the cake, but it wasn’t. Uncovering my own strength and determination to live a life that counts was. (Watch out 2014!)

I started the process to convert my separation to a divorce. This was a tough one for me as I have been clinging tightly to an idea that doesn’t serve me and a person who has moved on.

I fell madly and deeply in love with myself, my kids and my friends. I am incredibly blessed to be surrounded by such amazing, intelligent, curious and goofy people.

And, lastly, as of 10:34pm tonight, I finished all the laundry in the house. Woohoo!!

 

Happy New Year!

 

With much love and appreciation,

julie

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Q&A Tuesday: “I’m worried about my 14 year old son.”

Question:    I’m worried about my 14-year-old son. He is putting himself into situations that aren’t the best and being very nasty in his tone with me and his dad. He’s fine with the rest of the world but not us. What should I do?

 

Answer 1 by 14YO, Kaci:

I think that young teenagers put themselves in situations like this to prove something, whether to themselves or other people. They want to prove that they are independent and grown up, or even cool. They think that doing things that are unsafe will make them seem cooler, even though it wont. Maybe he’s feeling pressured by his friends to do these things, or he could just be coming up with things on his own to feel older. I know from experience that 14 is a tricky age, you’re rapidly growing up, yet still feel like a kid, so this might just be a phase he is going through while trying to find himself. 

 

A2 by Julie:

This dynamic shows up frequently with kids as they are continuing to establish their identity and separate from parents.  As much posturing as boys do, they often feel at a loss of what they should be doing, often powerless to what their life looks / feels like. This, in turn, causes them to rebel or disconnect. There’s a good article on the Psychology Today website that address this: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/anger-in-the-age-entitlement/201306/parenting-teenage-boys. Boys – girls too – struggle with identity development at this age. They want so much to be their own person – separate from mom and dad – but they really don’t know who that person is.  As parents, we often see the situation through adult / parent eyes and we fail to see the flipside. Taking that time to put yourself in your son’s shoes can be extremely insightful in terms of figuring out his needs.  Once your do that, find a time when he is relaxed and open to discussion to explore what could be going on. Make yourself available to your son. Let him know that you have noticed that his choices have been putting him in risky situations and you are worried. Ask him what’s going on. Share how it is affecting you. Do not blame, put down or yell. Those actions will only cause him to shut down and tune you out. Rather, show compassion. Speak from the heart. Use your I-statemens while also letting him know there will be consequences, both natural and parent-imposed, for putting himself at risk. Be patient both in that moment of connection and with him. He needs your love as much as he needs space to discover who he is and what he stands for.

 

 

 

Do you have a question for our Flipside of Parenting youth advisory board and team? If so, email it to FoP@juliesmith.com. 

 

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