When the Wind Blows

Our lives begin with the breath of God and we are full of promise. The future is ours and the world is in our hands; we are life. We do not get to choose our families, our social standing, or our child-hood experiences. We are molded and we become – different from what was initially intended by our Creator. We each have a different walk, an individual road we must find and establish as our own. The lucky ones are guided gently by loving parents, by a family, a village filled with villagers carrying only our best intentions in their hearts.

And then there are the others – those left to their own devices, to learn, to fend for themselves, to grow on their own. Their families are riddled by alcoholism, drug addiction, lawlessness. They are beaten, molested, given drugs for their silence and abandoned. They are the future and sadly, their future seems bleak. Some rise above, some drown in the sorrow and some stay stagnant – neither failing nor succeeding in a life once filled with so much God-given promise.

I have tried so many times to reinvent myself, to wash off my past, to move beyond the long arms of depression caused by not only my own choices, but by transgressions against me at the hands of those villagers who were entrusted with my care. I have stood strong in the face of adversity, only to fall face first into the pits of my own, self-imposed emotional hell. It does not take much for this to transpire; one moment I am fine and life is perfect and then the wind blows and though life is still as perfect, I do not feel emotionally so.

It has been years since depression has grabbed me and taken control of my life. It has been years since I have allowed myself to wallow in self pity. I was well on my way to completely reinventing myself and living the life I know I was intended to have and then the wind blew. That was in March and four months later I still have been unable to take a control on my emotional well-being. I had so many good things going on, so many dreams I was close to fulfilling and so many Prayers finally being answered – and yet here I am, filled with such a deep sense of despair I am unable to relinquish the hold it has on me.

Just as in the darkness of years past, I know I will shake this off and I will be well on my way to reinventing myself once again. One thing which is most important to me is this blog – it is the one step I need to take in order to get back on track with the parts of me I wish to retain. Writing has always been my release, but my desire for To Motherhood and Beyond; The Unforeseeable Journey was not to share the bleakness that was my past. My dreams and wishes for this blog were and are to share the possibilities, the possibilities of success we are each born to achieve. With this being said I think it is time to move onward and upward, to new and brighter things. To Motherhood and Beyond; The Unforeseeable Journey – yes, it is time for my departure from melancholy and my ascent into a future free of guilt and afflictions from a past best left forgotten.

©KLynn Shelton Miller

He Will Not Carry Guilt

I suppose all stories are different. Yours is not the same as mine, and mine is not the same as hers. I grew up in a home where guilt trips were the family vacation of choice. This continued well into my adulthood as my mother pounded the guilt she must have felt into me, making it mine to carry. Nothing was ever good enough. I did not clean my house good enough. I did not visit her often enough. I did not put my life on hold enough. I did not close the door to my father, because she decided she didn’t love him anymore. I will not even get into the guilt she made me feel for being born with heart problems, or the ensuing five open heart surgeries I would have and the care she would give as she took time off from her job to tend to me. I repeated I am sorry so many times, it became the basis of our conversations.

Was this a reflection of her mirror? Was she casting  her own guilt on us for the times she left us home alone while she went out on dates, to parties, dabbled with her drug of choice, off to play soft-ball or to bowl? And yes, she was entitled to those things, entitled to a life outside of her children. What she was not entitled to was the physical and mental abuse she dished out to my brother and me. What she was not entitled to was to make us live our lives with an overwhelming amount of guilt which she dumped on our shoulders for her own misgivings.

I try very hard with my daughters not to take them along on these guilt trips, though I realize at times I fail. Because she lived with her for eight years, my eldest daughter is very much like my mother, in the fact that she is both mentally abusive and loves to pack a big ole sack of guilt and pull me along for yet another trip. And admittedly so, I join her for the ride and I retaliate throwing it back her way and then – and then I feel more guilty than I did before because I have allowed her my power, given in to the trip and carried the guilt of others actions which have caused our relationship so much damage. And then I say the mandatory, “I am sorry” so we can move beyond the latest scuffle.

A few days ago I read an article on a news blog in which the author was stating she wished there were a way for all Momma’s to unite, without the judging of how we raise our children, without the criticism when we do not see eye to eye. In the end she decided this was impossible because of the “Mean Mommies” in the mix. The ones who turn their nose up at other parents, the ones who mock another’s parenting style, the ones who are obviously so much better at parenting than we are. In reading this article I was reminded of a day in the park with my Little Man a few weeks ago. I was reminded of the Momma who decided I was not raising my son right, because I had yet to teach him to say he was sorry. I was reminded of the fact that she returned to the park bench where her friend sat waiting, pointed at my son and went on to talk about how he must have learning disabilities because he could not say, “I am sorry”. I commented on this article with a reflection of this particular incident in the park. Before I tell you about the assault on my character which followed, you will probably want to know what transpired at the park that day.

There is a little park in our town behind a museum which is normally empty when Riley and I visit there for a play date. I like it this way; I am a long time sufferer of agoraphobia and though I have been able to overcome the most difficult symptoms of this mental affliction, I still prefer less crowded places. On the day in question there were two women along with their four kids and a couple with their three children already playing at the park. Though this did make me a bit uneasy, Riley had already seen the slide and was running straight for it. He was obviously younger than everyone there and because he is more accustomed to singular play I stayed right on top of him. (Well, that and I have an unnatural fear of people and their intentions.)

There is a three-year old at the top of the slide who continues to sit there as Riley Jabe climbs the stairs, of which I am standing next to. I am telling Riley to be careful while he waits three-quarters of the way up on the ladder. He moves up two more steps and he touches the boy on the shoulder. I remind him he needs to wait his turn, just as the other kid starts to scream and cry. I move my Little Man down a few steps, the other mother comes to the bottom of the slide, encourages her son down and begins to check him for any signs of injury. There are none, Riley really only touched the little boys shoulder. He did not push him, he did not hit him and he did not grab him. Of course I realize he may have done any one of these things, had I not been standing there to remind him to wait his turn and to physically move him down a few steps – he is two years old and though close to it, he is not perfect. As the other mother consoles her son she says to him, “It’s okay, ask for an apology. I am sure the little boy didn’t mean to hurt you”, or something along those lines. I am thinking to myself, I am not sure if Riley has ever said I am sorry before, when the other mother looks up at me and says, “We will expect an apology” in a most indignant tone.

All I could think to say was, “I am sure he is sorry he touched your son, but I highly doubt he will say he is sorry”. I was turning towards Riley with the intention of asking him to say he was sorry, when she asks me why he wasn’t going to apologize. I sort of chuckled when I replied, “Well he’s never said those words before”. Before I could get another word out of my mouth, to her or to Riley, she looks up the slide at him and asks me with condemnation dripping off of her tongue, “Why hasn’t he said those words before? How old is he anyway?” I answered her honestly, “Well he’s two, but he has never been asked to say he was sorry”. Before I was able to finish my thoughts she was walking away, back to the park bench next to her friend, literally pointing at my Little Sugar Man and loudly stating he must have a learning disability since he is two years old and cannot say he is sorry. And of course the underlying insinuation being, what kind of mother am I anyway, that I have yet to teach my son to apologize?

Had she waited for the rest of my answer, she may have learned the following. He is a late talker and we are lucky when we can understand one thought he is trying to convey. Yes he has words; yes he says please and thank you – they apply to his life and being from the south, I am a stickler for manners. However he has never done anything to warrant, “I am sorry” and is too young to understand the difference between “I am sorry I hurt you” and “I am sorry you feel that way”. Of course it may not have mattered if she would have let me finish because I was able to convey these things on the news blog repeatedly as my character and parenting skills were attacked, insulted and criticized for three days by yet another stranger. Apparently because I have not enforced, made, taught my son how to say I am sorry I am raising a child lacking in empathy and as a result he will grow up to have an antisocial personality disorder.

I am so glad to know this. I am so glad this stranger has so much insight into my life, in how I interact with my son, the depth of respect I have already instilled into my two older children, to know I am doing it all wrong. She must be able to see into the future, to know my Little Man will grow up to be antisocial. (And you know he just may. I mean, I am – but it has more to do with my fear of people and their intentions, than it does with my inability to empathize with someone’s emotions.)  I wonder if she even realizes she has proven the authors point that we cannot band together in unity as women, as mother’s, simply because we are too busy judging and criticizing how others raise their children?

Now I realize you may think I am crazy because I do not think Riley has done anything which warrants an apology, as all children do things which are wrong. He is no exception, but he is not a mean child; he is sweet and gentle by nature. Saying you’re sorry implies you have done something intentionally and/or with malice, it implies you know what you have done is against the rules; it implies GUILT. Given the fact I am not sure how much Riley actually understands given his limited vocabulary, it is unrealistic for me to expect him to carry guilt or feel regret when he makes a mistake, not to mention I do not want him to. At this point in his life anything he does wrong is an innocent mistake, it is not intentional. He is still learning; he is learning what his words mean, he is learning that for every action there is a reaction. He does not purposefully head butt me, but when he does he gets a sad look on his face and hugs me. He shows empathy for my pain and his little pats on my back as he sweetly hugs me, convey what the words, “I am sorry” never could. And my guess is, when the time is right and when I am certain he understands everything he needs to in order to feel a healthy amount of regret, I will instill in him the importance of a genuine apology. There are plenty of mistakes for him to make and feel guilt over in the future and you can bet, I will be the first one to put him in his place and remind him of how important it is to respect and be respected.

But for today, he will not carry guilt.

©KLynn Miller
February 17, 2012

The Age of False Entitlement

Does this sound familiar to you?  Perhaps your cousins children, your neighbors or God forbid, even your own children have grown to have a false sense of entitlement.  Is there a way to raise your children in a society where we are always trying to Keep up with the Jones’, without them believing they are entitled to the best of everything whether it fits within your budget or not?  Is it more important to raise well-rounded, honest, hard-working adults who appreciate what they have, than it is to be your child’s best friend?  Is there a way to do both?  These are the questions parents my age are facing as a whole generation of children become young adults – young adults who expect to be given everything their hearts desire.

I am the mother of three; their ages are almost twenty-one, fifteen and twenty-seven months.  To write this article I will first need to tell you a little about our history as a family.  My eldest child is my biological daughter and my middle child is my chosen, or as most would say, my step daughter from a previous marriage and my baby is biologically my grandson, though we have raised him since birth, giving us more of a parental love for him.  Though we have not adopted him legally, we do have legal custody and he does call us Momma and Poppa.  He is our son. I am going to keep the hardships to a minimal, as they are only slightly relevant to this article.

When my eldest child was eleven and my chosen daughter was six, my ex and I divorced.  This was a very difficult time for me, as he had controlled me and my actions for so long I did not really know how to function without his commands – not to mention he prevented me from seeing my youngest daughter from the moment he made my eldest and I leave his home.  During the first few months of our separation, I found myself slipping further and further into depression and the mixture of medications the doctors had given me were making me hallucinate.  Realizing this was not a healthy situation for my eldest daughter, I called my mother and asked for her help while I detoxed from medications prescribed to me.  Her answer to helping me was to take custody of my daughter and prevent me from seeing her until after her eighteenth birthday.

My middle child had never had a relationship with her biological mother, as she spent most of her life in and out of prison.  I have been the only mother she has really ever known, though she did know and spend a little amount of time with her biological mother.  Her father has spent time locked up as well and after we divorced he went back to prison.  This opened the door for me to have a relationship with my chosen daughter, through the love and understanding of my ex-husbands mother. So while my mother was keeping my biological child from me, my relationship with my chosen daughter grew stronger through the years.  Her biological mother passed away in 2006, which entitled my chosen daughter to social security monies intended for her biological mother.  These monies came at a good time, given the fact her father went back to prison for the second time since our divorce and he would therefore be unable to help with finances again.  This being said my chosen daughter has been paying bills and penny-pinching since the young age of eleven.

I must admit I have been guilty over the years of making sure my children had everything they needed and at times, many things they did not need.  Some of these things were given because the girls wanted them and some (like TV’s for their bedrooms) were given for my convenience.  If you have ever watched The Lion King for the millionth time in one week, you know what I mean.  Because I was not allowed to be a part of my eldest daughters life during the very important teen years, she did not get some of the lessons I taught – and life taught – my middle child.  These are important life lessons – ones which teach us to earn things we want because nothing is free and we must work to have a better life than the one we were handed by fate.

My eldest daughter returned to me four months after her eighteenth birthday, six and a half months pregnant with a child she made clear she did not want.  Apparently nobody was paying attention, as my daughter has stated not even she knew she was pregnant. (I promise we are getting to the point of this article – but this paragraph is necessary to tie our history up in such a way as to explain how it applies to my thoughts.)  It has become clear to me that my eldest child was not taught important life lessons which would have ensured she would become a productive  member of society. I can only think my mother, instead of teaching these lessons, was busy making up for all the things my daughter had lost. She was molding a  young adult who would have a false sense of entitlement through her desire to be her friend and to keep my daughter within her walls.  She filled her mind with untruths in regard to me, she closed her up in her bedroom hidden behind a computer screen, where my daughter would build her life and she gave her everything.   There were bi-weekly trips for a manicure and pedicure.  There were the monthly trips to the beauty shop to have her hair professionally tended to.  There was one of each gaming system and every game she desired stacked high upon her shelves.  Her laundry was washed, dried, folded and put away.  Her sheets were cleaned and her bed was made.   She was not expected to work on the weekends to earn her playing money, nor was she encouraged to take drivers ed so she could become an independent young lady.  She was not taught to prepare meals for the family, or made to do yard work.  The maid came in weekly to clean her bathroom and vacuum her floors. She was not taught to take responsibility for her actions, nor does it seem there were repercussions for untruths she may have told.  Simply stated, she was handed everything she required and desired on a silver platter. Ahhh yes, welcome to The Age of False Entitlement!

Now for the point of this article.  In my frustration I spoke to many of my friends, both in the real world and in the computer world and I found most of them have, or have dealt with young adults who live with this same sense of false entitlement.  I have read article after article, story after story and frustration after frustration in search of answers on how to reverse this way of thinking.  What I have found is the age-old adage of, “tough love”.   You do not need to be in my unique situation to realize how difficult this can be.  You need not have your child legally kidnapped and kept from you for seven and a half years and then returned to you with a sense of false entitlement.  You need not be a divorced parent, where your ex spouse tends to spoil and give in to your child in an effort to make up for their broken family. Quite simply, any parent in today’s world has the potential to set themselves up to raise children who then become young adults who believe the world should be handed to them on a silver platter, simply because they exist.  Are we so eager to not repeat the sins of our parents when raising our children, that we forget to teach them the most basic of life’s lessons?  Are we so eager to be our children’s best friend, that we forget to teach them how to lead productive, meaningful, healthy lives?  Are we so eager to provide our kids with all of their hearts desires in order to stay on their good side, that we forget what they really need is guidance to become  successful, hard-working members of society who have every right to be proud of their accomplishments?  I say yes, yes we are that eager.

Sadly it is our children who pay the price in the end; it is our children who wake one day disappointed in themselves, in the world around them – in us, their parents, for having failed them. We have raised their expectations so high, given to them so freely, without making them earn rewards, that one day they will have no choice but to fail because they will not have the required tools to acquire things they desire. Will they in turn raise their children to have a false sense of entitlement, or will they instead repeat the sins of many generations where children were put to work at an early age, where they were to be seen and not heard, where discipline was swift and hard in an attempt not to over indulge them?  Is there a happy medium?  One where we can be our children’s friends and still be their parents?  Is there a place where we can give them all of what they need, some of what they want and guide them gently in to becoming productive members of the human race?  I want to believe there is.

I am not saying we should stop rewarding our children, or praising them when they do well.  I am not saying we should not strive to be our adult children’s friends – the key words here being adult children. What I am trying to say is this: when our children are young they need our guidance, more than they need our friendship.  They need to know they can depend on us to be there to listen, to help them when they fall and to teach them how to work through issues which cause them stress.  They need us to teach them about friendship, loyalty, love and family.  They need to learn about trust and faith through not only our words, but through our actions as well.  They need to know they can rely on us to provide them with the necessities like food, clothing and shelter – while also teaching them that the comforts of home do not come easily, they are not free and we are not entitled to live with heating or air-conditioning simply because of the era we live in.

There is a time for getting down on the floor and rolling around with our children.  There is a time for finger-painting and dancing in the rain, a time for singing and cuddling on the couch.  There is a time for enjoying the beautiful beings we have brought in to the world and for applauding their accomplishments as we watch them grow.  And then there is a time for teaching, mentoring, molding and rewarding the gifts we have been entrusted with by The One I Am.  And finally, there is a time for basking in the light of the wonderful, well-adjusted, self-reliant, proud and accomplished  adults we have raised, which we can now call not only our child but also our best friend.  Is there such a time?  Such a place?  I want to believe there is.

©Kesia L. Shelton~Miller

A Very Pagan Christmas

Let me start by saying, yes I am a Christian.  I do believe in God and I do believe the Son of Man died for my sins.  I believe in all things good; I believe in sin and I believe we will answer for our wrongs on the day we face our Creator.  I also believe in Santa Clause!

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I struggle with my Christianity and my addiction to Santa Clause every year as most of society celebrates the birth of Christ on such an obvious pagan holiday.  We celebrate Christmas with our beautiful Christmas tree front and center, with our Santa’s on display and gifts beneath our tree.  We gather round with friends and family on the first Sunday of December for what my family has fondly dubbed Christmas Tree Day and it is by far my most favorite day of the year.   We call  it Christmas; we do not say Happy Holidays, we do not decorate a holiday tree and we never write “Merry X-Mas”.

It began as the Winter Solstice, which over the years became a celebration of different gods; for our purposes we will focus mainly on the Saturnalia .   The Saturnalia was the most popular of Roman holiday’s; it was a time in which families gathered in celebration, gifts were traded and large feasts were had.  It was a time when restrictions were released and public gambling was allowed.  It was a time when slaves were permitted to use dice and were given the day off from their work.   It was a time when they (slaves) were treated as equals, were given their master’s clothing to wear, and were waited on at meal time.   It was a time of honoring the sun-god, the god of seed and sowing.  Quite simply, it was a time when social order was inverted and drinking, singing naked and frenzied clapping hands were all a part of the grand celebration which gave homage to the longest night and shortest day of the year.

Saturnalia was officially celebrated on December 17th, however the merriment would continue a full seven days through the 23rd of December, though celebrations could continue until the 25th of December as this day signifies the end of the three-day period of solstice – meaning “sun stands still”.  What a delightful time of year, so much so, even the Christians were caught up in the festivity of it all.   Given the fact evidence suggests the Winter Solstice was celebrated during the Paleolithic Age, it could not be in recognition of the birth of the Son of Man.   This fact did not go unrecognized by the Church and there were many failed attempts to turn Christians away from joining this yearly observation riddled with pagan beliefs and songs written in vulgarity.  Though the Church could not agree Christ was actually born on December 25th, since none of the recorded dates coincide , they did finally concede to recognize the final day of the pagan holiday as the day of His Birth.

And so it came to be, in the year 354 AD, the Winter Solstice was first marked on a calendar as natus Christus in Betleem Iudeae: “Birth of Christ in Bethlehem Judea.” and would come to be known simply as Christmas in years following.  All of this just so we could ease our minds of the guilt carried by celebrating another god, other than The One I Am.  The earliest English depiction of Christmas comes by way of an anonymously written  carol which dates from circa  1458 AD and reads as follows:

Goday, goday, my lord Sire Christëmas, goday!

“Goday, Sire Christëmas, our king,
for ev’ry man, both old and ying,
is glad and blithe of your coming;
Goday!”

Santa Clause enters the picture when his name is first mentioned in American press in the year 1773.  He is the product of Saint Nicholas, Sinterklass and Father Christmas merging  into one.  He is the perfect combination of the Christian based gift giver and pagan folklore to cause a corporate explosion of indulgence and, the rest as they say is history.

Yes, I am a Christian and yes, I love Christmas.  Though I do not celebrate Christmas as the Birth of Jesus Christ, I do believe in Him and the Gift He brings to all of those who choose Him as their Savior.  I applaud the Church and Christians from days of yore for having the insight to incorporate the Birth of the Son, into the pagan celebrated birth of the sun-god, through acceptance and the power of marketing.   (Acceptance – if you cannot beat them, join them.) So thank you to the pagan’s of yesteryear, for celebrating in such high fashion our ancestors could not help but join in.  Thank you to my Christian forefather’s for changing the path of the celebration so we all may enjoy the merriment and thank you to my fellow American writers of 1773 for inventing Santa Clause and bringing joy to so many children over the years.

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I do Pray you had a very Merry Christmas and the New Year will treat you all very kindly!

©Kesia S. Miller

January 03, 2012