Make your home the place where parents and children set aside shame, and work in fearless collaboration
When my youngest (who is 25 years old today) was 12 years old, he called me into the garage. He had been sorting the recycling. That was one of his incomes in addition to a paper route and walking dogs in the neighborhood.
“Oh maaaa-ther!,” he called, in a very whimsical tone.
He opened the garage door from the hall in our home, to reveal all of the recycling sorted, and in the very center were all of the empty wine bottles… and there were a lot of them. It is important to note here that I am the consumer of wine in our home. I usually have a glass at dinner and while preparing dinner.
He smiled and suggested, “Let’s count them, shall we?” And he proceeded to count. As he was counting, my mind was racing with thoughts. How long have these wine bottles been collecting? I was trying to recall the entertaining we have done in the home with family and friends where wine is consumed. A little panic started to set in as he finished counting, “nineteen, twenty, twenty-one!” he declared, smiling.
“How long have we been collecting this recycling,” I asked him. “Three months,” he replied, looking at me with great interest to see my reaction. And before anxiety took a complete hold, I noticed the empty bottles of Snapple from the summer, which meant it was at least nine months and during that time we had Christmas and Thanksgiving, and a few other dinner events at our home. “Wait a minute,” I declared. “Those Snapple bottles are from the summer; this collection is much older.” And we both busted out laughing.
My son pointing out how many wine bottles were collecting was a wakeup call for me.
Listen to my story with Lisa Daggs, host of recovery talk this Sunday evening, 7pm to 8pm on 103.9FM The Fish.
When I was a young adult my uncle died from alcoholism, and I remember thinking I did not want to drink like that and make myself so inaccessible. He was a magnificent man, very successful in his career, and wonderful uncle who showered us with attention when he visited. But he was not able to make a family and have a long-term relationship. He introduced us to a few of his girlfriends, who were lovely – and the relationships never lasted. He seemed committed to being alone. At one point, I was perhaps 15 years old, he leaned over and whispered in my ear, “I want to die.” There was a part of my little mother heart that was not surprised that this was his desire, and a part of me that was desperate to save him. The only thing I knew to do was to simply say, “But we love you.” And the subject never came up again. Eventually he died alone in his apartment, surrounded by empty bottles.
So the empty bottles my son presented to me in our garage, doing a simple and mundane task, the recycling, reminded me to be on guard; to be mindful about my own personal consumption. It was God winking at me.
I believe that God gave us generations to learn how to love one another as He does: fearlessly. When our children point out our flaws or are acting out and suffering, it is an invitation to learn more about your child, yourself and what it means to really love. My faith and life experience has taught me that the first thing we need to do in order to become fearless, is recognize shame for what it is. A signal emotion to change course, to correct thoughts and actions so as to avoid patterns of behavior that nurture pain and torment.
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ABOUT: We are a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. The BMF mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all BMF proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your Donations are greatly appreciated.
Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She is a mother of two grown sons, the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM. Her new book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media is now available for PC and all eReader formats including Kindle, Nook, iPad.