Welcome to the very first “gueSTARtist” post on weirdforgood.com!!
I met Lisa in the summer of 2010 at a luau-style barbeque in Denver, Co. The sun was shining, the burgers were sizzling, and with tons of families around, you can imagine the loud laughter of a gang of kids cavorting around the back yard. Just as the running, jumping and shrieking of the children reached the annoyance level, this amazing mother quietly mentioned a few words to her kiddos and they transformed in front of my eyes into a slower-motioned, quieted and yes, still happy couple of angels! I was Stunned. Here’s the story of how she made “the Turn” into a strong and loving single-parent… Read her post and please leave her your comments on a fantastically honest and open sharing of her innermost experiences. Thanks for being here at weirdforgood!
My name is Lisa. I am a 28 year old full-time single mom of one boy (5yr) and one girl (7yr). Today, I’ll tell you they are the loves of my life and they’re what keeps me going every day. Four years ago, it was a different story. I adore my kids, and always have, but there was a time in my family where things were so out of control, I wasn’t sure we were going to make it.
I grew up with both my parents, but through TV and some of my friends, I saw what life was like for the typical single mom. It meant always struggling to make ends meet; being pitied for your situation and going without dinner most nights so there’d be enough for the kids to eat. When I found myself in the life of a single mom, I lived that way for a while too, buying into the “normal” pitfalls of a single mom. I struggled financially, with finding the balance between work and home and trying to keeping my patience with my kids. I was at a loss for how to handle my children and this new lifestyle. Sadly, it was my son and daughter who felt the short end of my exhausted patience.
All this newfound stress and my decision, made early on in my life, not to spank, led me to becoming a yeller. I would yell at my kids for everything they did and didn’t do. From putting or not putting on jammies to yelling because they were laughing too loud in the car. Taking them out in public was worse. It was out of control. The kids would be running around and I would be hollering at them to knock it off. Or they were sitting in the cart crying because I’d yelled and put them there to contain them. I hated being a yeller, but I was lost and had no clue what else to do. Now, I do love my children and even as I was yelling, I would be thinking to myself “This is not okay. This is not how you treat your children!” I needed help, but was too ashamed to tell anyone.
People were always saying how strong I was, and what a great mom I was, though I knew better. I knew what went on when no one was looking; what I didn’t want anyone to know. To me, admitting I was failing in private as a parent, would mean admitting I’d failed at motherhood altogether. Each time I yelled or snapped or got angry at my kids, I could see the pain I was causing, and it devastated me. I spent many, many nights crying myself to sleep, hating who I was and what I was doing to my kids. Little did I know it was all going to change…
My daughter is incredibly strong-willed and opinionated; traits I would admit she got from me. By the age of 3, she had mastered the skills of pushing my buttons, to suck me into an argument, where she could battle tenaciously. Arguments with my daughter almost always ended up in screaming matches and tears between her and I. Neither of us were willing to give in to the other. Because of these arguments, I was scared to death of taking my kids out in public. I feared I may even lose them if someone witnessed a meltdown in a store or restaurant, because they would finally see the terrible mom I thought I was. So, we hardly ever went out, and when we did, I always gave in to her to avoid a yelling match.
One night, a dear friend of mine witnessed what I had been able to successfully hide for some time. He watched in disbelief as my daughter and I reduced each other to tears in a screaming match in the living room. I don’t even remember what we were arguing about, but I remember hearing my voice in my head saying “you suck! What kind of mom screams at her child? Who teaches their kid that it is okay to treat people this way?” I also remember my 1-year-old son standing around the corner behind my daughter, watching her and I screaming and arguing. In that instant, my mind flooded with memories of an ex-boyfriend. He was an abuser and a yeller. I thought back to how his parents treated each other, and realized behavior like that is learned. I thought about my ex-husband (their father), and his parents, how he treated me the same way. My heart shattered as I realized I was teaching my son to be just like those men. I collapsed to the floor, heaving and sobbing, and all I could think was “I’m done, no more.” I was exhausted physically, mentally and spiritually.
It was at that point my friend, who had been standing there in silence, stepped in. He calmed my daughter and son while putting both to bed. I sat in the living room, trying to understand my racing thoughts. I was being selfish, that’s what I finally decided; my children deserved someone far better than I would ever be and it was plain selfishness that I was keeping them with me. When my friend came back out, I told him everything I was thinking: I was unfit to be a mother. I was teaching my children awful behavior and I couldn’t even find a balance to enjoy being around them. I was certain the best thing I could do for them was have Social Services find them a home with a great mom like they deserved, and I was tragically serious.
His response was not what I expected at all… he agreed with me, and that I was having issues! But then he challenged me; telling me about a parenting class called Love and Logic that had changed his life. I’d taken a court-mandated class for my divorce before, “been there, done that, SOOO not helpful” was all I could say. He laughed and explained that if I would agree to take the full six weeks of class and really truly try it at home, he’d go back through the class with me. I was certain I’d be ruining my children’s lives for another six weeks, but I wanted nothing more than to keep them in my life and be what they deserved. In a desperate attempt to salvage my family, I agreed to go.
Over the next month and a half, I learned all about Parenting with Love and Logic and it “Turned” out to be the salvation of our family. The first task assigned to me was to pick just one technique and master it. The first skill they taught was about giving choices rather than commands. It was an interesting concept, but I wasn’t ready to buy into something so foreign yet. It was the second week that turned my world upside down; each time one of my kids argued with me I was to repeat one phrase over and over until they quit…
“Love you too much to argue with you sweetie!”
Read those words again.
“Love you too much to argue with you sweetie!”
It was that response that hit me to my core, brought tears to my eyes in the middle of class, because I finally got it. I truly did love my kids too much to want to waste our time together yelling and arguing! In practice with the kids, I started out great. Like a broken record, I kept repeating the same phrase over and over. By the end of the second week, I began to feel like a failure. I was ALWAYS saying it. Then one night, when I thought all was lost and I couldn’t keep my composure anymore, my world shifted…
I was standing in the kitchen preparing dinner… My daughter walks in…
Daughter (peering up over the counter edge): “Whatcha doin?”
Me: “I’m making dinner. It’ll be ready and we’ll eat in just a few minutes.”
Daughter (whining): “but I’m hungry right now!”
Me (takes a big breath to ready myself for another battle): “Oh, love you too much to argue with you honey”
I was dreading having to repeat that phrase until I thought I might throw up! As I finished my response, I saw her anger boiling up… Those little fists clenched to the point of turning her knuckles white… Her nose and eyes were scrunched as her face turned red… Then, she picked up her small little foot, stomped it down with all her might, shouted “DANGIT!!” and stormed off.
I stood in stunned SILENCE… there was No Argument! She was looking for one and I squashed it on the first try! It worked! This little phrase that I was sure would make me vomit the next time I had to say it, really worked! There was no yelling, there was no more me being the bad guy who always says no; it was one phrase and we were finished!
Throughout the remaining four weeks I learned how to interact with my kids better. I implemented effective techniques that replaced the futile and painful wars of yelling. More importantly, I was learning how to properly teach my kids to be strong and confident adults. I was no longer saying “No” all the time; and when I stopped saying “no” they started to behave! Now, when we go out to dinner or shopping (events I used to dread and avoid) people comment on how well-mannered my children are. I find myself laughing and enjoying their company as we grow together as a family. Looking at where we are today, it is worth every awkward and new step I took to get here. Each time I apply a L&L counter-intuitive technique, the normal me says its wrong and I should just take control of my children but I don’t want to be normal any more.
I have now applied this realization to my whole life. I will not be told what I am capable of doing simply because I am a single mom. After my “Turn”, I started saying “watch me” when normal said I couldn’t do it. Normal said “you’ll always be living paycheck to paycheck.” I said “watch me” as I paid off all my debt. Normal said “you’ll never get out of that tiny apartment.” I said “watch me” as I closed on my first home. Normal said “you’ll never be a great mom, you’ll always struggle and they’re going to be problem children.” I said “watch me” and became a Love and Logic Facilitator; to share the gift I’d been given. I want other moms, single or not, to know they aren’t failures, and we all face challenges as a parent; the first step is admitting it, then getting outside of what we think we know is right and trying something new.
I am no longer ashamed people know I struggle sometimes. Normal says it’s shameful to admit you need help…I said “watch me” and have been facing and embracing my imperfections ever since. I am no longer embarrassed to be a single mom. I do not shy away when people pity me but instead tell them I am not a victim and there is no shame in who I am and how my family is. This is me and I will continue to live my life making “the Turn” whenever it presents itself. I will live my life telling normal to “watch me” as I continue being weird for good!