Parenting the New Kids on the Block

Care and Maintenance of Your Crystal, Diamond, or Rainbow Child

“You’re More Beautiful than You Think”

A friend posted this on Facebook recently, and it really shook me up. Maybe you’ve seen it. Click on the blog title.

The skincare brand Dove did an experiment: women came one by one into a large, airy room and sat behind a curtain from a forensic police sketch artist. They didn’t know what he was doing there, and he could not see them. He asked them to describe themselves, and he sketched them according to their descriptions.

Then the women were paired with random strangers and told to make friends with them, chat, find out about each other. Then the strangers came into the room and described the women for the artist to sketch.

Oh, my, I’m tearing up again. Watch the video; you’ll see what I mean. The women were then shown the two sketches–of how they described themselves, then how the strangers described them. The reactions on their faces said it all: “I look… happy.” One woman just wanted to be held by her boyfriend. Most were teary, all were somber.

One woman summed it up best: “The way we view ourselves affects everything: the friends we have, how we treat our children, the types of jobs we apply for.” That this ad came from the same company–Unilever–that uses misogynistic and objectifying ads for its Axe products is rather mystifying, but that aside, this ad is truly transforming, and I applaud Dove for making it.

I was so moved that I showed it to Lily. She is always amazed when I’m moved to tears, and this was no exception. She’s young enough that she doesn’t have the body image angst that older girls have–which seems to be hitting them younger and younger these days–but on rare occasions she’ll think she looks “stupid” or “fat” (she’s not!). I wanted to show her the difference between how we see ourselves and how others see us.

Lily is, by every measure, a cutie pie. People stop us on the street to talk about how freakin’ cute she is. This has actually always bothered me somewhat, as it begins an obsession with the perceived importance of looks. Yes, she is terribly cute, but I always add–within her earshot–that she is also incredibly brave, smart, funny, and kind. Still, I know that even as enlightened as she is, and as supportive as her grandmas, father, and I are, she may well have body issues one day.

So Lily and I talked about the real message of the Dove commercial–that we should see ourselves as others see us. As Source sees us–which is perfection. What the strangers were seeing in these women was their God essence. If we could see that in ourselves, we would be much happier and accomplish great things. If we could see that in others–not just those we were told to make friends with, but even those we disagree with–well, see my previous post. Events like the tragedies in Boston and Newtown would not be possible.

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The Boston tragedy: a bully on steroids

After the horrible tragedy Monday; the hopeless feeling; the sensation that the floor dropped out from under us; the pain in my heart and soul; feeling the confusion, pain, and fear of those there (which I did after Newtown, as well), I asked Spirit for the lesson in all of this. As the Rev. Emanuel Cleaver asked during our neighbor’s funeral, “where is my blessing”?

And Spirit replied, “What is terrorism but escalated bullying?” and pointed me to a Facebook post I shared a few weeks ago (borrowed from my high school friend Margaret, now a hospice counselor):

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Bullying 101: Empathy

The ability to imagine oneself in another’s place and the thoughts, intentions, emotions and direct experiences of them.

Bullies are challenged by this. Not that they don’t have empathy but rather that their needs, wants and/or emotions are the priority. They have the ability to distance themselves intellectually and emotionally. As we age, the ability to distance becomes more difficult to change. Empathy is an emotion that is taught and can be taught. Remember yesterday when an Alpha Male mostly listens? That is one of the keys. In our brains there are specific neurons that activate during communication and if we are truly listening and attentive, our body begins to mirror the other. Our ability to quiet our mind, set aside our internal desires, emotions and thoughts is directly related to our ability to learn, develop and feel empathy. If you are empathizing with someone you are truly listening. If a bully was truly present and understanding someone else’s pain thereby not self-centered, do you think they would bully? Probably not.

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My friend Tom added a link to an article on bullying: http://news.discovery.com/human/psychology/bullying-phoebe-prince-teens.htm

The gist of the article is that, contrary to popular belief, bullies have average or higher than average self esteem. Now, self-esteem is a GOOD thing, but more importantly, the article also points out that bullies can lose their moral compass when driven by their peers.

Empathy is the key that keeps bullies and their peers (really, the driving force of bullying) from losing their way–and as Margaret’s post points out, it is an emotion that can be taught. If you are here, reading this, you are a likely a parent, grandparent, teacher, or caregiver who already teaches empathy and the sacredness of others. If you don’t make it a focus, perhaps you’ll be moved to do so now. As with anything dealing with the heart or emotions, teaching children empathy is not something you draw up a lesson plan for and say, “Kids, today we’ll be talking about how to imagine yourself in another’s place.” It’s something we model regularly, mention off-hand frequently, and let our children catch us doing daily.

As a believer in creating our own reality, I often stress to Lily that no one can “make” you feel anything. However, we do have intentions behind our words and actions. Using words and actions that are intended to hurt is not being respectful to the expression of God in others. Lily gets that. I let her know my occasional slip-ups of being thoughtlessly unkind, and we discuss how I could have done it better. As she grows and gains mastery over her emotions, she’ll share the same with me. Again, empathy is key–realizing that another person also has thoughts and feelings, as we do.

Those behind the bombings in Boston are bullies, plain and simple. They do not have the spark of empathy inside them that tells them that others’ freedom from pain and suffering is equally or more important than their need to make a statement. That their feelings of pain, of “righteousness,” of mayhem, do NOT take priority over the freedom of others to live their lives in peace. Like those in the news who have taunted and tormented others to taking their own lives, or adults to break down on a school bus, or who make countless children afraid to go to school, those who caused this event have not had someone model empathy to them.

WE–you, me, others we reach out to–can stop this. I see it on my child’s playground. The bullying starts young, and parents stand by. We can reach out to them and to their children and talk about empathy. It can start with us.

An open letter to the church from an aware teen

It seems light years from me now, but I know one day Lily will be a teen. I’m just glad that it’s at a time when her gay friends (and who knows, maybe she) will have more acceptance in their lives for who they are.

As this writer mentions more than once, her generation has very strong bullshit detectors–of course, a hallmark of the New Kids. As you read this, you can feel her strength, her presence, her Crystal heart. Sometimes it seems like the hateful voices are drowning everyone out.  I am glad she and others like her will be the leaders in a decade or two.