My Children Have A Right To Be Here Too

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Over the last few months, I have become acutely aware of how other adults react to my children in public. I have concluded that people fall into one of three categories. People either:

1. don't care or pretend not to notice my children,
2. engage with them or me in a friendly, understanding way - ranging from a simple smile to physical interaction like hugs and high-fives, or
3. are completely disgusted or annoyed by them.

Obviously I prefer the first two kinds of people. To those people who talk to my kids kindly and treat them warmly, I love you. Thank you for being decent human beings.


To those who have a problem with kids in public, I have a message for you.

My children have a right to be here too.

Go ahead, argue with me. I can listen to your stupid reasonings all day. I've already listened to my three-year-old cry "I want some spicy!" (soda) over and over for 30 minutes. I have the patience of a pony giving free rides at a petting zoo.

 You say, "Oh, well if your kids can't behave in public, maybe they shouldn't be out."

How about you take your big head out of your butt and imagine for just a moment that you have walked into a foreign market for the first time. You don't speak the language. You're surrounded by strange people. The vendors are selling all kinds of things around you you've never seen before. You are completely sucked into the experience - the smells, the sights, the sounds. Suddenly you realize you're walking opposite the flow of traffic. Maybe you're standing in someone's way. Maybe you can't read the sign that says "Don't touch". You don't know where to check out or how much something costs. All you know is that you found some things you want because they look fun or familiar. You become confused, overwhelmed, and frustrated. That is probably exactly how children feel in a store.



Luckily, kids have parents to guide them through this crazy, foreign world. They can translate words so children understand. They can teach the finer social customs and skills little humans need to navigate the world. But how can these things be taught and learned if they aren't practiced?

Children need experiences and opportunities to learn these social skills and customs. They require extra time and understanding because their brains and bodies are learning and adapting. Parents act as a buffer for kids from the outside world. We give them a safe space and time to learn skills. As a stranger, your primary responsibility is to either help us parents or shut up and GTFO.

Parents are charged to ensure children's health and safety. Part of that means exposing our kids to new experiences at a level and pace they can reasonably handle. That's why there are kids sections at libraries. That's why there are special kid movie times at the theater. Those are an appropriate space and pace to learn.

I don't take my young children to the swanky, hipster restaurants to eat. I don't take them into jewelry stores or let them run willy-nilly in art museums. They don't have the skills to cope with those situations.

Places like Target, the grocery store, the library, the thrift store, the doctors office, those are all places my kids are reasonably allowed to be. Stop acting like their presence there is an offensive surprise to you.



So, ornery old lady at the dollar movie theater - when my one year old peeks his little face between the seats behind you to say hi and get a better view of the screen, don't turn your head around and scoff at me. My son is learning what a movie theater is and how it feels to be in one. YOU are the one who walked into the kid's show at the dollar theater. YOU are the grown-up here. Act like one.

Adults at church who are annoyed at babies crying and nursing and toddlers being walking, destructive destractions, I'm talking to you. Strangers who make off-hand comments in the grocery store about parents enabling bad behavior, you're on my hit list. Downstairs neighbors who complain daily and make recordings of kids playing and laughing from the apartment above them, there's a special place on my bad side for you. Not like I know anyone like that in real life.



Kids are allowed to be kids. They are allowed to run, play, laugh, cry, be sad, feel joy, dance, sing, and explore. I do my best to give them the space and freedom to do these things without disturbing others. But as a mom, I can only do so much. Kids are their own people too, with independence and curiosity. They have feelings and opinions just like adults do. Our expectations of children should not exceed their level of experience and skill.

For the first five years of a child's life, the world is their school. They are learning how to be in a store. They are learning how to be in church. They are learning what things are and how to behave. In the school of life, every single person plays a role. By your words and actions towards them, children learn about the world. You are either a teacher or a bully. You choose.


Thoughts on Mom Bod Shame

Thursday, July 20, 2017

I spend a lot of time at the gym.

Its so nice because my gym has an amazing daycare and I can totally leave my kids there for long enough to get an amazing workout in, shower, AND do my hair and makeup. I get a much-needed mom break and usually walk out of there feeling pretty good.

As I stand in front of the giant mirror blow drying my hair, I see women walking by. Some of them red-faced and shining with sweat, others laughing with friends after a yoga class. I notice myself looking at their bodies. Looking at their bellies and wondering, do they have mom belly like I do?

Sometimes when I see young women walk in with tight, stretch-mark-free skin featured by their adorable crop-top shirts, I have the feels. I can't stop the waves. I have jealous feels. Pride feels. Shame feels.

I try to stop the onslaught of pain by thinking, "They don't know what its like to have babies. How sad!"

I pull those words over myself like a last-resort blanket to comfort my heart and hide my saggy pancake mom boobs.

As I walk out of the gym holding a hand with one arm and a baby in the other, I remember to square my shoulders and stand up straight. I've been working on standing with better posture because I have a giant slump. Some of it is from carrying the weight of babies. The rest of it is from carrying a heart full of shame.

I hate the way my stomach pours over the front of my jeans. I hate the fact that nothing fits, even though I've tried all the odd and even numbered sizes. I hate the dark colors of stretch marks and the sagging skin between them. I hate the way clothes look but the thought of being naked is disgusting. Its a fight every day to have to come to terms with the fact that I take up 130 pounds of the world and I have to eat, breathe, and take up space to be here. If everything about me could just shrink a little, I think that might be nice.


And yet, my soul whispers truth.


You have a big heart. Its full of love and purpose.
Big hearts need bodies.
And just like hearts expand to fit all the people who belong inside,
bodies expand and grow too.
bodies are extensions of the heart.
hearts need food and water.
hearts need hands to hold.
hearts need safe places to be.
hearts need equal work and rest.
You are allowed to be big and take up large expanses of space.
There is room for everyone here.


So in light of this message from my intuition, I am going to practice being big.

What does that mean? I don't know. First I will notice the things I do to make myself small. Probably by taking note of times I say things like:

There is not enough _______.
This is a dumb idea.
I should have _______.
People are annoyed by me.
People think I am too much to handle.
I ask for too much.
I eat too much.
I talk too much.

I will keep ya'll in the loop of my thoughts and progress.

I am thankful for this space and community to practice being big.

I'm The Author Now - Guest post by Kameron McKenzie

Monday, July 17, 2017

I am so excited to introduce you to Kameron from Mombie and the Munchkin Monster.com! I put out a request for Mother Stories and she responded with her powerful story. As a survivor of childhood trauma she shares her path of healing and her determination to write her own happiness on the story of her life. I am proud to share such an amazing, inspiring woman with you!

*Trigger warning: contains details of childhood trauma and sexual abuse.*


My Story – I’m The Author Now 

I was 6 years old. I can't even think back on how small I was. I know I was in Kindergarten and my parents weren't living together anymore. But I never remember a time they did live together, as is a common story with many children in our world.

I look at other children at that age now. I see their innocence, their exuberance for life. I see their energy and desire to play and explore their world. I particularly see the ways in which they look up to their parents.

Around this age, I think I wanted to be seen by my parents. I say 'I think' because I don't actually remember it that well.  I wanted to be seen by my father in particular, although I don't explicitly recall that desire. He was an emotionally distant person… so was my depressed and alcoholic mother actually, but at least she was kinda there. (My mother is a WHOLE other story).

No, at this age I look back and only see the bad. I remember the time I peed my pants on the playground and was so embarrassed. I remember the time my mom dragged me out of school for showing up in pajamas after staying the night with my father. But the memory that dims all other potentially good memories at this age is the intrusive one of my father sexually abusing me.

I'm currently 37 years old. I spent nearly a decade… maybe more, processing this trauma. Before that it shaped my life in ways that I didn't understand until much later. I spent many years in counseling. I experienced failed relationships and made a lot of decisions I very much regret when it came to men.  I dealt with PTSD symptoms such as intrusive memories,  hypervigilance, and extreme body memories to name a few. I spent many years depressed and full of anxiety. I hated my body and was disgusted with my reflection in the mirror.

I placed blame on myself, and still fight shame about what happened.  Couldn't I have stopped it?  Why did I want to be around him when this happened?  Why did I experience pleasure? 

Like I stated, it took years and years of therapy, and a self-driven desire to understand and heal, to realize it wasn't my fault. What I experienced was a normal reaction for something that is in no way normal. Children are not supposed to experience these things. Ever.

But now I'm a statistic. Statistics show that 1 in 5 female children are sexually abused. 1… in… 5!! 

If you consider your child's classroom of 15-30 or so children. 3-6 little girls have possibly experienced this kind of trauma. Yes, that's an extremely depressing fact.

Now that you're thoroughly bummed let me turn the page here.

I have come a long way in my healing. My resiliency in life has astounded me many times. I should have been a drug addict, suicidal or possibly dead by now. Through my darkest times, I managed to somehow gain a Master's degree in Clinical Psychology and maintain a full-time job in the field of Police Dispatching. After a lifetime of being agnostic, I found Christ, learned to love myself through His eyes and married the incredible man God used to bring me to Him.  This is the healthiest I've ever been.  My life has been made anew.

And now I'm a mom.



At the age of 36, I became a mom to a beautiful and healthy baby girl. She has changed my life in the most extreme and beautiful ways.  She makes me want to be a better person. Because if I'm a better person, I can be a better mom, and through this, she gets the childhood she deserves… the kind of childhood every child deserves.

Since I'm a new mom, I pretty much have no clue what I'm doing!  I've found myself googling tons of things about the development of my now eight-month-old child. I've spent hours on the couch while my baby nursed to sleep researching developmental milestones, what's normal and what's not about a ton of topics.

Why does my little one flail and arch her back?  Why at three months is she eating like a linebacker?  My munchkin started acting clingy and fussy at the same time she learned a new skill… what's going on??  What are the reasons she cries?  How do I best soothe her?  Is it ok to nurse to sleep… because I totally do.

I've become quite obsessed with learning and learning… and learning. It's in my nature I suppose, to want to be as informed as possible about things I don't understand.  And I sure don't understand my child. I have instincts that I rely on to guide me. But researching facts helps me to understand her. This knowledge empowers me as a mom and helps me understand realistic expectations so I can better interact with my child.

But here's what I kinda expected but had no clue how it would manifest… how my trauma history shaped the way I parent.

I had no idea I'd be anxious about the way my child is cared for. Who knew I'd be uber protective over who watched her in my absence when I go to work or have the ever elusive date night.  I also had no idea how much I'm drawn to being a stay at home mom.  I want to be able to provide my daughter with as much of my time and love as I can give.

I want to be better than my parents were. I want her to know love, tenderness, and safety. I want her to know I'm present and can always be a safe space when she's scared or needs to talk... WHEN she can talk of course.  I trust in myself and my relationship with her father to know she will be daddy's little girl. I want to learn how to love her more and more and raise her in a way that gives her every opportunity to have a rich, wonderful childhood.

I've learned self-sacrifice and how to be attentive. I've learned to manage my frustrations, mixed emotions and found my voice to advocate for my daughter when I need to do so. 

I'm the mom I am because of my difficult journey.  And for that I'm grateful. 

I have found a passion for being a better mom for my little girl. But I've also found a passion for helping others to be better parents to their children as well.

 I've started a journey to do just that.  My blog www.mombieandthemunchkinmonster.com is a testimony to my love of researching child development and passing along what I've been learning.

I hope, soon, to be starting a new project that inspires, educates and encourages parents who have experienced childhood abuse because the cycle of abuse can be broken. But more so, we do not have to be defined by our past.  Nor do our children need to live in the shadows of this during their lifetime.


I'm excited to be able to start this new book in the story of my family.  I'm the author, and that knowledge empowers me!  The generational cycle of abuse and dysfunction does not need to continue.  My family's future and the story that is told, it starts today with me.  If you hear yourself in my story, know that your story can indeed change, and it all starts with you.


Thank you, Kameron, for sharing your heart with us! If you'd like to learn more and connect with Kameron, check out her blog at www.mombieandthemunchkinmonster.com and her Facebook page ! Also, remember that if you have a story you'd like to share please contact me!

Channing

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