Archive for the ‘Thinking’ Category

Lessons from the Trenches of Parenthood: Anger

03 Apr

angerIt’s funny how raising kids forces you to take intangible concepts and solidify them for the sake of teaching them to others.  Because it’s one thing to understand something, and quite another to PUT IT INTO WORDS so someone else can understand it.

So here’s something I was forced to put into words the other day, while leading my children through the resolution of a confrontation.

Anger: a Secondary Emotion

The biggest myth about anger is that it’s a direct response to something that has happened to us.  But that oversimplification leaves out one very important link in the chain.  Anger is only a secondary emotion.

Most of the time, anger is a defense tactic employed to mask the vulnerability we feel from other emotions – often pain or fear, but there are a variety of emotions that expose this vulnerability we would rather keep hidden.  In Kaelin’s case, Koren was making her feel inferior.  Threatened by this emotion, she lashed out at him in anger, one of the two methods we humans have for defending ourselves when we feel vulnerable (the other being withdrawal).

While withdrawal is more like a shield, anger is a knife: a defense-via-offense tactic, and used much like a cornered cat uses its claws, or a frightened snake its bite.  Emotion has a tendency to block cognitive function, so we flail our knife about in an effort to restore our own security, slashing whatever (or whoever) happens to be in our way.

But anger doesn’t solve anything.  It typically makes our insecurity worse instead of better, because then we have regret to deal with, and usually end up causing in others the very wound we perceive to have incurred.

It isn’t really fair to bring anger unless you’re willing to own and admit to the underlying emotion.  In Kaelin’s case, we worked on saying, “Koren, when you boss me around, it makes me feel like you think you’re better than me, and that hurts my feelings.”

Elementary, but it was so much more effective than her previous reaction, which sent Koren running to me in tears.  Koren apologized for hurting her and said he would not do it again.

Dealing with Anger

The flip side to this is communicating with someone who is displaying anger.  This concept is a little mature for Koren, so we didn’t go into it deeply at the time, but I’m going to put it here anyway.

There are basically three ways to react to someone who is flailing their knife around in response to something you have said or done.

  1. Engage them in the knife fight.  This is basically allowing yourself to be caught in the same trap of mistaking your anger for the true emotion and refusing to admit the underlying vulnerability.  We’ve all done this.  Both parties get injured and nothing gets solved.
  2. Run away.  This option is so very tempting.  When you start to lose control of the conversation because you’ve set somebody off, it’s easy just to withdraw from the range of the knife, or put up your own impenetrable shield.  Even though this may protect you from a few nicks, it still doesn’t solve the problem.  Rather than restoring the relationship, it establishes distance.  Distance demonstrates rejection and abandonment, which are damaging to the person who is already trying so hard to mask and protect his/her own vulnerability.
  3. Compel the other person to drop the knife by responding to the underlying emotion instead of the anger.  In addition to patience and self control, it requires some insight to detect the underlying emotion.  Generally it can be picked up by the cues of the conversation and the timing of the anger response.  Had Koren been a little older, he could have analyzed Kaelin’s reaction instead of just responding to it.  He probably would have realized that her anger was the result of being threatened by his attitude and dictation of the items on her chore list.  It would then have been appropriate to say, “I’m sorry that I’m treating you unfairly.  I don’t want you to feel that way, so I will stop.  Also, it will help me in the future if you can tell me how you’re feeling instead of yelling at me, because yelling at me only hurts my feelings and makes me confused.”

The most important thing to remember when dealing with someone who is angry at you is that the anger is only a facade.  What’s underneath is vulnerable and likely linked to a deep fear or pain, that the angry person themselves may not even recognize or understand.  Handle with care.


I Swear She Didn't Learn This From Us

03 Sep

I’m a might concerned about the social and relational skills Kaelin seems to be exhibiting. She’s an angel with people, so perhaps my concerns are mute, but watching her interact with her stuffed animals has me a bit disturbed at times.

I’ve mentioned before about the abusive, dominant relationship she has with Baby Tad.

She also has this Care Bear Monkey thing that she sleeps with at night. It’s her cuddly. It has this little tuft of hair on top (dude needs some Rogaine) that she loves to pet and stroke. While she’s going to sleep, she holds him and cuddles him and rubs his hair tuft all over her face.

Most of the time, she’s clutching him tightly to her chest. But sometimes Monkey misbehaves. We know this because she stomps around the crib holding him at arm’s length in front of her, with both hands firmly wrapped around his neck. She looks as though she’s giving him a firm reprimand in her mind.

If that doesn’t work, she gets all Michael Jackson on him and goes to the front of the crib to hang him over the edge, threatening to send him to his demise. If he needs some extra convincing, she’ll let go of his neck and dangle him by one arm, swinging him back and forth until he repents.

Invariably, Monkey pleads or does whatever is neccessary to appease her, so she pulls him back in and clutches him to her bossom, stroking his measly little tuft. Major catastrophe averted. Amends are made and he is her snuggle monkey once more. Maybe he’ll learn his lesson and behave next time.

Should I be worried? Do I have a potential spouse abuser on my hands?



20 Aug

I don’t usually get on the soap box about issues in politics and religion. I’ll probably get hate mail for this one. But one of the things that drives me up the wall is the hypocrisy I see on a consistent basis when it comes to tolerance and living amiably in a society full of differences.

I was really disappointed today in another blogger. I read her blog regularly and though she and I disagree on some issues, that has never stopped me from enjoying her writing.

Today, however, she wrote a post on how terribly offended she was by an online store that placed a Bible verse on the checkout page of their website. She went on and on, whining about how indecent that was for them to force their religion on her, and how she would never shop there again because of their lack of respect for other people.

And all I could think was, Oh grow up and get over it already. What, did your eyes shrivel up and fall out of your head because you SAW a Bible Verse?

If simply being exposed to another religion and just looking at a piece of their belief system, is that offensive to you, then a) your worldview is too small and your head is stuck up your own butt, and b) you have no business living in a country built on freedom of religion.

There is the misconception going around that freedom of religion equals freedom from religion. That is entirely impossible. If you are granting citizens the right to their religion, you can’t turn around and force them to censor it and keep it in their closets in case anybody else might SEE.

While you have the right to believe and practice anything you choose, you do NOT have the right to expect censorship of others, just to keep yourself from being exposed to it. To imply otherwise is absurd.

You have the right to choose your religion. You have the right to choose no religion. You do NOT have the right to be offended that other people are believing, practicing and displaying their own beliefs in a country that gave them that right, and it is not going to kill you to witness it every once in a while.

Nobody is forcing you to participate. By displaying a verse, nobody is shoving you down on your knees and pushing a Koran into your hand. You’re simply witnessing the fact that other religions exist and there are people who profess them.

It simply comes with the territory and if you don’t have enough tolerance to be exposed to that kind of thing, consider either moving to a country without freedom of religion, or one in which everybody has the same religion as you do.

If you choose not to shop at a store that hangs a Star of David in the window, fine. You certainly have that option. But don’t pretend to be the “Victim” and try to hide behind accusations of insensitivity and lack of respect, when the only real issue is your own narrow-minded intolerance and oversensitivity.


Cursed Words

22 Jul

I was listening to the radio a few days ago and realized a few seconds after hearing it that the station had not bleeped out the “f” word in the song.

I’m not sure if that was unintentional (seems hard to miss) or if the laws regarding swearing in song lyrics on public stations have changed, but it did get me thinking.

My generation is significantly less sensitized to such words than the generation before me.   I read multiple instances of every imaginable variation of “fuck” in blocks every day and just sort of pass over it without even noticing.   And I’m very aware that younger generations are more and more exposed to that kind of language, as I find myself shocked to overhear young children using words that my mother would have slapped me silly for.

So it appears that the verbage we were instructed never, never to let pass our lips on pain of death and sure passage to hell is becoming less and less offensive to each generation.

And what makes a word “offensive” anyway?   It’s certainly not the meaning.   I can talk about poop to any mommy on the block, but refrain from using the word “shit” in most company.

It’s not the usage of the word that makes it offensive.   Nobody bats an eye when a four year old yells “Oh fiddlesticks!” (that’s a southern phrase, for you who are wondering what nonsense I just typed). But that same child would have his mouth washed out by substituting a shorter word.

So what is it that gives curse words their significance?   I guess it’s nothing more than the culture.   I generally refrain from using the words, not because I think the devil will claim my soul should I utter one, but out of respect for those around me who might still be offended by them.

But as previously mentioned, the culture is changing.   Which leads me to wonder if we will eventually have a society in which there are no “forbidden” words…or will some numnuts start making up new words and labeling them as profane?   Who knows.   Personally, I hope for the former.   I think it would be an improvement if everybody could use all the words they wanted to without being considered offensive.

I’m speaking strictly of curse words here.   I know there will always be ways to make vocabulary offensive in tone and context, but I’m just speaking of words that are offensive because they are words.

But I do hope for a world without profanity because really, I think that the whole idea of “no-no” words is kind of stupid.


Letting Myself Go…to the Movies

10 Jun

Texans.   They talk funny, their eyes don’t focus, and their skin kinda rots and comes off their bodies in flakes.   But nobody’s perfect.

-Guy Noir, Prairie Home Companion

Saw Prairie Home Companion tonight.   It was…odd.   It bugs me when movies don’t tie up all the loose ends.   I enjoyed it, but it was one of those movies that didn’t have a plot.   Stuff happened, but it wasn’t actually ABOUT anything.   Probably makes more sense if you have any experience whatsoever with the radio program.   J used to listen to it when he lived in Minnesota.   He’s even sat at the table in the diner that the movie’s end was filmed at.

Before we left, I asked J if he would be totally embarassed to be seen with me if I didn’t wear makeup.   Being the good husband he is, he said of course not.   Actually, he said “Yeah, that would really ruin my evening,” which means the same thing.

So I did it.   I left my hair (mostly) wet, ditched the makeup, and wore ordinary shorts with a slightly-too-large-to-be-flattering t-shirt, and sneakers. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted in Film, Health...or Lack Thereof, Marriage, Parenting, Such is Life, Thinking


Just a Rant, and Nothing but a Rant

25 Apr

Well, I unintentionally caused some family strife yesterday. I mean, my decision was fully intentional, I just didn’t mean for it to become a fiasco.

In the midst of all the stress of yesterday, I chose not to tell my parents about Kaelin’s fall until today. My mother has a tendency to freak out about things like that, especially when she is removed from the situation and feels helpless. I knew she wouldn’t get to see Kaelin until today, so I chose to keep her in the dark because I know she would go crazy worrying. I didn’t want her at the doctor or at my house yesterday because Kaelin just needed some quiet downtime to sleep.

Unfortunately, my plan backfired. While we were at the doctor’s my Sis-in-law called the house and the housekeeper answered the phone and told her what was going on. Naturally, she told my brother. Who told my mom.

And yes, she did freak out. To the point where she had to sit down and calm herself before she could pick up the phone. She was hurt beyond belief that I didn’t tell her myself immediately. By the time my dad got the story, Kaelin had cracked her head open and had a concussion and a black eye and had to be life-flighted to Children’s Medical.

My dad called, completely worried, and questioned us about everything – did we check her pupils? Did we look for lumps? Did the doctor see her? He also told us that Mom was totally offended because she thinks we don’t trust her ability to handle the situation.


Pardon my French. (By the way, Spell Check doesn’t recognize the word “shit” – I don’t know why, but that amuses me)

Frankly, I just didn’t have the energy to deal with her yesterday in addition to all the stress I was already under. I was so exhausted from the ordeal that I fell asleep while playing with Kaelin on the floor. I didn’t need her telling me how concerned she was that Kaelin wasn’t getting proper care and was being neglected.

Nor did I need my mother in law suspecting that this was no accident, and that our nanny is really a child abuser. Fortunately, that one got filtered through J.

Mom showed up today fully expecting Kaelin’s face to be black and blue with dried blood in her hair. She did calm down once she saw that her baby wasn’t mortally wounded or brain damaged. But I did receive one of those emails this morning, in which she expressed her concern about negligence and Kaelin’s health. Usually Jens’ mom is the one that sends the dreaded email, but not today.

I’m relatively short-tempered today, so she got a Corporate Blow-Off for a reply. The cold and distant “Thank you for your opinion, we will keep that in mind” message that really means “I just permanently deleted your email.”

I guess you could say I’m indignant. That would be a true statement, I suppose. There are just some things that are NOT HELPFUL and just add extra stress and it bugs me when people act like that after the fact. Where was all the helpful advice BEFORE this happened. What, Mom? You didn’t see it coming either???

Well imagine that.

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Posted in Confessions, Family, Feeling, Makes Me Grumpy, Parenting, Thinking


Reality Check

04 Apr

So I’m watching some show on the home network, which I think is called “Houses you will never be able to afford in the first place, made even cooler by people who obviously have more disposable income in a year than you’ll ever see in your lifetime,” when it occurs to me that this show has been on an entire hour and I haven’t seen any of these renovating couples start tearing each other’s eyes out.

I mean, this is Reality TV, right? Where’s the conflict, the drama? Isn’t that really what RTV is about these days?

Generally speaking, if it’s not Jerry Springer, it’s not good RTV. Why? Ratings. Conflict attracts interest.

Which makes me wonder if that’s a reflection on our mindset on entertainment. As a population, are we so blood-thirsty that we are unable to enjoy watching two people interact on a peaceful level? We see it in politics too, picking up on a detail and using it to push real people into extremists.

What, you sneezed in public? Obviously you have no consideration for air pollution and are in fact trying to ruin the environment for our children, and therefore hate children and are campaigning to implement policies to reduce heath care for kids everywhere.

Frankly, it makes me weary. I wish we were satisfied with people being real people instead of crazy lunatics out to get us. We make such an effort to promote tolerance toward people outside our ethnic and socioeconomic circles, but we can’t bring ourselves to exercise it toward our own.

The end.

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Posted in Television, Thinking



08 Mar

This happens to me every time it gets slow at work. I start thinking if I didn’t really have to work to maintain our same lifestyle, would I still do it?

Especially when I pass women who are obviously SAHMs, walking and jogging with their kids in the mornings. Women who have time to put the kids in the car and go stroll around the mall, just because. Women who don’t have to worry about finding a nanny, keeping a nanny, and what to do on days the nanny can’t come.

I used to think I would have no idea what to do all day if I were to stay home. Now I have a clue:

I would go for walks with Kaelin, get outside and get some exercise.
I would scrapbook during her naps.
I would take her on field trips and excursions to get out of the house.
I would co-op with other mommies I know who I don’t get to see as often as I would like.
I would still take one day a week for myself to do things I couldn’t do with baby in tow.

I especially start thinking about it when I get to work and spend the day dealing with people who are DENSER THAN A DOOR STOP.

People who, after being told 6 times that they are no longer eligible for refunds, still badger me with reminders to issue a pickup of goods.

People who don’t understand BASIC INTERNET (How do I install a website on my computer) and think that they can use it to build a business. And that when they have questions about this website (which has nothing to do with my company or job function) that they can come to me with these questions just because I know the answers. Note to self to STOP ANSWERING these questions…I’m probably not helping myself out.

People who think I am the IRS and that they can come to me with tax questions about this, that and the other.

People who take advantage of the fact that I have guilt about cutting someone off mid-conversation, and choose to tell me their entire life’s story, or brag about how they know Donald Trump, the Prince of Wales, and the President of I Don’t Give a Crap, Inc.

When it’s crazy-busy around here, I love my job and am convinced that even if I won the lottery, I would still work for the fun of it. But I must confess during times like these, there are moments when I’m tempted to leave it all behind.

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Posted in Feeling, Parenting, Stupid People, Such is Life, Thinking, Work