Carrie Maldonado – Author, Speaker, Life Enthusiast

Read, laugh, empathize, (and if you leave inspired then I did my job)

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Surviving the abundant life

Launching my novel Grace Group, has caused me to jump completely out of my comfort zone into a space of total vulnerability and faith…a lot like motherhood, now that I think about it…

If you know me or are connected with me in the slightest way (or ever were), you are probably aware that Grace Group was released last week. I’m the kind of person who loves goals. I always am working on goals, and I achieve a good amount of them. This is not always a good thing, as it puts me at great risk for busy-ness (to draw a biblical analogy, I can definitely be a Martha and not a Mary) which can sap my joy and leave me feeling guilty and anxious if I’m not working on ‘something’. Add to this an almost superstitious compulsion to finish my ‘work’ before I play (i.e. relax) and I can definitely be accused of being wound a bit too tight.

This has placed me in an interesting (read uncomfortable) position when it comes to my writing and my parenting, while also maintaining a consulting practice. First and foremost because it means my work is NEVER done and never will be. I figured out a long time ago that if I didn’t schedule in play before I got everything done, I’d never leave my desk, see my kids, or go to the indoor playground (actually, that part I wouldn’t mind so much). In short, work-life balance isn’t so much balance as deciding on a minute-by-minute basis what I’m NOT going to do right now in favor of the more important stuff.

I don’t want to discount the stress that men feel, but there are men bloggers who can write about that, so I’m going to focus on us women and just say what the HECK have we done to ourselves? Isn’t there some curse that says may you get what you ask for? If there’s not there probably should be. I know I say, and feel, like my kids are my biggest priority, and yet there are big chunks of my time where I’m pursuing other interests. I’ve read all the things out there congratulating me for taking my ‘me time’, and reassuring me that my kids will be way better off if I do my own thing because….I don’t remember the reasons. Maybe that’s true, but all I know is Every. Single. Time I come down from my office, they all run up to me, faces lit up asking “Mommy! Are you done with your work?” and if I say yes, they cheer and clap like a visiting celebrity has arrived. If I say no, they sometimes cry, and it breaks my heart.

On our worst days, I have a hard time being patient when I’ve got all three of them all day. Whether it’s the fighting, or all three wanting my undivided attention all the time, sometimes I feel completely depleted, impatient and snappy. On those days, I honestly believe that they’d be better off if I did work full time and only saw them on weekends. If you’re like me, the day to day noise can get completely overwhelming. Sometimes the anxiety is stifling. When that happens, I usually try to meditate and pray for clarity and comfort. I’ll be honest…sometimes I feel like I’m just crying out in the wilderness, and no one hears me – and that’s a scary place. But inevitably, comfort comes. Often it sneaks up on me, and suddenly I’ll realize that it’s all okay. That I can do this. That I’m not wrecking my kids by trying to be an author, and have a business. What a relief when it comes.

Sometimes it’s the little things that can remind us we’re doing better than we think. In the case of the Grace Group pandemonium, for me, it’s Bisky’s book (All about God). See, she decided since I wrote a book, she would too. Hers is better, though, because it has pictures. Like me, she is also producing little videos on ‘her’ phone talking about her book. She wants me to put them on Facebook, and I had to explain that kids shouldn’t really post on FB because of tricky people. Part of her motivation is a highly developed competitive streak, where she wants to excel at anything that is getting attention around here. But she also wants to be like me, and she also really loves God. And that tells me I must be doing something right.

I have no words of wisdom on balance. Nothing. I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants for three years, questioning almost every decision I make, but I do know a couple things that are true for me, at least. I know that it’s almost always the right choice to choose relationships. I know that 30 minutes taken to play has never ruined any of the other stuff. And somehow, through none of my own doing, I know that when I choose the ‘right’ things, even though it might mean losing out on some sort of material gain, that the material has a way of showing up when I most need it.

So for now, my priorities will remain playing with the kids (but not at the indoor playground that kills my soul), talking about Grace Group, taking care of my awesome clients and of course hanging out with Dreamy. In varying proportions.

How do you ‘balance’ yourself?

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Good-bye Preschool! (Or, cha cha cha changes)

So the Biscuit is graduating from preschool. If you don’t have preschoolers, or haven’t in a while, it may surprise you to know that preschool graduation is a thing. Like, a big thing. Caps and gowns. Now, if you are like I was oh, 2 months ago, you might be tempted to think preschool graduation is a bit over the top, or even silly. After all, I don’t want to set Bisky up for Trophy Kid Syndrome, expecting over-the-top praise for accomplishing life’s basic expectations, and to be brutally honest, graduating preschool is not even an accomplishment per se, since all they had to do to achieve it was…attend preschool some of the time, which was not in their control (for the most part).

But after a trip back home and some reflection on change, I’ve decided that it’s awesome, and here’s why:

First, is that I’ve had a lifelong tendency to discount significant milestones in my life without celebrating or noting them, and looking back, this makes me sad. A lot of it’s due to my ongoing fear of commitment. If I say a proper good-bye, it means letting go, and THAT does certainly not come easy for me! The positive side to this is that I usually maintain a strong connection to friends and colleagues after I move on. At least, I used to. Current life circumstances being what they are, I’m pretty much a terrible friend to everyone in my life and formerly reciprocal relationships have definitely suffered from my neglect. But even prior to the twins, novel releases, two startups in one family chaos that is our lives right now, I’ve steadfastly refused to acknowledge endings in my life.

On a related (I promise, this is related) note, it’s funny how most human beings say they don’t like change, and yet life IS change. You’d think finally accepting it would be an evolutionary advantage, given how toxic stress is to our general well-being, but that just doesn’t seem to be the case. Most psychologists consider any change at all (even positive change) to be a major stressor. This basically means that I’ve been in a state of high stress for five, no seven, no probably 13 years now thinking about it. Good thing I work out regularly or I’d probably be dead. But anyway, when I go back ‘home’ (home being basically anywhere I used to live, since I’ve moved around a considerable amount), I’m always taken aback by two things: The fact that some things have changed from the way I remember them, and the fact that some things haven’t! Going back to the street I grew up on (which I do every time I go back to my home town because as I mentioned, I don’t let go), it’s funny to see how TALL the trees are compared to in my imagination. I guess trees really do keep growing over twenty-five years….and WOW I’m old!

The fact that there can be such dramatic change makes it feel almost impossible that anything could stay the same…that’s almost more surreal maybe because my whole existence has been re-written several times in the last five years. As an example, I worked out at the gym I used to go to every day for just about ever back in Southern California last time I was there. It had been just over five years since I’d been there, but there were still some of the same regulars!! And the same posters on the wall, and many of the same machines! Talk about cognitive dissonance! And many of the people and places that used to be as familiar to me as my own face are still the same…but I’m not. It’s a hard feeling to describe…homesick, and unsettling, but also comforting. I know that if I wouldn’t have moved or had kids my life would probably also be much like it was. If I’d have had any say it would have been, at least because a) I loved my life and b) I hate change.

It’s funny, but they say having kids keeps you young. I don’t know about THAT but it certainly keeps you in a state of change. It’s alarming and sometimes sad (but also sometimes reassuring if you’re going through a particularly difficult season). Just when you get used to handling nighttime feedings, pumping, and odorless poopies like a boss, the little suckers sprout teeth and want real food. Then you master stroller configurations and redesigning life to revolve around two three-hour daily naps and after that BAM! One nap bites the dust. Then preschool starts, and long lazy days, park time, and not being around OPK (other people’s kids) is a thing of the past. But that’s cool, because after about a year, you get to kind of like, or at least tolerate OPK without eye-rolling (but not free choice play. Never free choice play), and the obligation to volunteer weekly in your co-op becomes less a burden and actually something you enjoy. It seems like you’ll be a MOP (Mother of Preschooler) forever. And then there’s ‘graduation’, and suddenly you’re looking at the beginning of 12 years of institutionalized school, test scores, and your sweet little buddy being gone all day every day! Wahhhhh!!

Kids’ main purpose in life is to grow and change and trying to stop it is not only stupid, it’s abusive, so there’s no way to survive them except by learning to be more open to and accepting of change. Other than the by-product of life-ending stress, I am remaining hopeful that this will keep me resilient, flexible, and more open to new ideas than your typical forty-something Gen-Xer. So because of all this, and because I don’t want my kids to be sad that their special moments went by without notice, we celebrate. We have parties for EVERYTHING around here, at least for them (I’m still a work in progress…hence the lack of date for the official release party for Grace Group). And that’s why I will be sitting in an auditorium, watching my five year old own the stage this Thursday night in her cap and gown, probably crying like a fool. Well, it wouldn’t be the first time I cried in Chapel…at least this time it will be happy tears and not just because I let the children break me.

How do you celebrate milestones?

**As I alluded to, I have a big milestone coming up in a few days – Grace Group will be released this Friday. I’ll be inviting you to help me celebrate in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

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Ways that the release of Grace Group is and is NOT like having kids

There are two types of people in the world; those who insist that relationships that don’t involve children are just the same as having kids, and those who don’t. If you’re in the first camp, you call your dog, cat, employees, friends, plants, car, characters in your novel etc. your kids and become highly indignant when people suggest that since none of those things grew in your body, are legal obligations for 18  years, and basically depend on you for their entire intellectual, emotion, and social well-being for much of their life that you are somewhat deluded. Then there are the people in camp B, who are the ones who make the camp A people so indignant. I guess actually there’s not just two types of people after all, because there’s also the people who have switched camps from one to the other depending on life circumstances.

I am in camp C when it come to Grace Group (my novel, that will be released June 17th if you haven’t been keeping up). After I transitioned from being ‘mom’ to a dog (barf) to being Mommy, I typically don’t think anything really can be equated to parenthood, just because I’ve never encountered anything so all-encompassing, demanding, and capable of eliciting the very best, and the very ugliest, most terrible aspects of my personality. However, now that B-Day (book day) is nigh upon us, I have noticed some similarities, and some differences. For instance:

In both cases, I enjoyed the gestation process very much right up until it was time to deliver. I actually loved being pregnant – even with the twins. I loved the seething potential, the excitement, the thrill of the baby (or babies) kicking, getting presents, and being prescribed cheeseburgers and milkshakes to make sure I was gaining enough weight (true story and best day ever). Similarly, I absolutely love writing books. That’s why I’ve written five. I usually hate re-writing, but even that wasn’t so bad this time around. This process also seethes with potential as I daydream about how this book might encourage people, or how it will be made into a movie and I’ll be the Christian version of JK Rowling and will be able to take amazing family vacations whenever I want. In both cases, though, there is a definitive point when the potential is birthed and ‘stuff’ becomes real.

Can you say Aaaahhhhhhhhh because I can, and do, and have been for the last couple months. I remember when Dreamy and I went to a parenting class when I was about 7 months pregnant with Bisky and it suddenly dawned on me that the baby was actually going to come OUT and I’d have to figure out how to change a diaper and feed her and prevent her from choking. For my whole life I’d had a recurring dream/nightmare that I had a baby but forgot to change/feed/care for it. Driving back from parenting class, I calmly explained to Dreamy how we had to give the baby up for adoption, after which he calmly explained to me that if I did that he’d have to divorce me and raise the baby on his own, and he wasn’t super chill with that. So anyway, that’s kind of like Grace Group in that in 10 days I’ll have a book out there that I’ll have to tend, and market, and arrange for signings and publicity and I don’t know how to do that so it’s weird and scary and awkward and no one wants to adopt it.

Another way having my book released is like having kids is the expectation (albeit one I place on myself). I feel like both are extensions of me and that if people don’t like them, or if they do badly in the world then it means I’ve failed and let them down. This of course, leads to fear and anxiety which never in the history of ever has done any good. The reality is my kids are going to be who they are only partly because of me, probably more in spite of me and realistically independent of me. The difference with my book is that I am 100% responsible for the finished product and if people hate it then it pretty much DOES mean that they hate what I have to say (or how I say it).

Where it’s the same though is that it’s more or less out of my control and actually more or less none of my business. One thing I’ve learned is that choosing to ‘put it out there’ whether it’s through social media, blogging, or writing means that I have to let go after I do it. It’s not like people are breaking into my house and reading my diary, after all. I’m pretty much going to their house, knocking at their door BEGGING them to read it. After that, I figure I lose the right to get in a snit if they don’t like it.

I guess the third way releasing Grace Group feels like parenting has to do with my faith. About six months ago, I wrote how I struggled with how to present my faith in my writing. Much like my character, Holly, I did not become a Christian until the pain of my bad choices became so overwhelming that I finally reached a point of desperation where I became slightly willing to try even ‘that God stuff’ that seemed to work for other people (but which I was pretty sure wouldn’t work for me). I grew up in Canada and now live in Western Washington, and so turning to Christianity was a very uncomfortable process. I was groomed in a society that actively despises what Christians represent. I get it. I grew up ‘knowing’ that fundamentalist Christians were hateful, bigoted, judgmental, ignorant, and dangerous. I blamed most of the problems in our society on these people The most charitable opinion I could muster was that they were naïve and ignorant, but I was pretty sure most of them were actively evil.

And you know what? Some are. Some Christians hurt people. Sometimes I get twisted up between what I know about my God, and how the spirit of religion can get it so wrong. Why do we spend so much time worrying about who’s sin is worse, and which people are making God the most mad, and all that? When I spend too much time there, my joy gets sapped. I wanted to write about the hope, excitement, peace, acceptance, and love I feel from my God. That’s also the God I’m sharing with my children. In both cases, I’ve sent these creations of mine out there, talking about a God in a world that won’t hear them. The world will hear hate, and judgment, and condemnation, even though I’m teaching and writing about a God who saves us from our brokenness, not one who condemns us because of it.

Of course, it makes me far more sad that my kids will be mocked than my book will. At the end of the day, I don’t really think my book will be the Christian Harry Potter because I think CS Lewis already wrote that series and I don’t know if anyone cares anymore. And that’s okay. And I guess by the same token, my kids might not get included everywhere if they hold onto their faith the way I want them to, and that’s okay too.

It’s kind of ironic that Bisky will graduate from preschool (and that’s a whole other blog, believe me) the day before my book is released. I guess it’s only fair, as she came first. And, as the delivery date of this ‘baby’ approaches, I’ll just hold on and remember that despite my terror and trepidation with babies 1, 2, and 3, everything is (for the most part) pretty freaking awesome. Maybe this will be too.IMG_8657

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Why summer is the best of times AND the worst of times

Summer has been officially kicked off, and to be honest I’m not quite sure how I feel. Due to choices 90% of my own making, I am a Consult From Home Mommy, which either means I have the perfect life for me, or am letting down pretty much everyone who comes in contact with me depending on the day and the state of my hormones. As much as my arrangement allows me time with my kids, time to use my grown-up skills (note I did not say adulting. I will not say adulting), and the ability to earn that stuff which we need to pay bills, my arrangement also often puts me in the predicament of experiencing the worst aspects of the stay at home mom and the work outside the home mom situation. And as if I didn’t need help in the angsting department, social media has kindly decided to remind me of all the things I should be worrying about this time of year.

The stay at home mom part of me is absolutely thrilled that summer is here because it means I get to hang out outside with my kids, go to the park, look for ants (don’t actually need to look too hard), stay up late, and play, play, play. That is also kind of the bad part. Not the stuff, just the expectation of doing so much of the stuff. I’m as bad as they are in that if it’s sunny I want to go outside and play in the sprinkler. But unlike them, I also have to clean the mud off of EVERYTHING, clean up picnic crumbs before the stupid ants overrun us, make sure no one gets food poisoning, and deal with the extra energy mixed with partial sleep deprivation. Oy!

But that’s only part of the story! There’s also a need to keep up on my consulting assignments and that side of my business is continuing to grow. Not only that, GRACE GROUP IS GETTING RELEASED—-EEEEEEEE (sorry, can’t help it) mid-June and that is requiring some time and energy as well. And inconveniently, the kids are on school break at that exact same time. Now we are very blessed because we have an angel who comes and helps with our kids for most of the day, but it’s going to shake up everyone’s schedule to have them home All. The. Time. And even though I want to be spending time playing and all that, whenever I can’t, there are always the sad looks and ‘Mommy, do you HAVE to work’ stabs that make it so hard.

And then there’s social media who makes sure I know at any given time that my parenting decisions are turning my kids into sociopaths at best and may be actually killing them worst case scenario. Not to mention the general expectations of Moms in general. Used to be, a woman of 45 years of age who had had babies (twins no less), had very low expectations of physical perfection to live up to. Well thanks a lot Beyonce, but that’s just not the case anymore.

So now, in addition to the usual dangers, there is an additional list of things to worry about, summer edition:

  • Sunscreen or not to sunscreen (not a huge concern as my kids transition from light brown to dark brown in minutes and have never burned).
  • Displaying the correct body-positive message to my daughter by ‘wearing the bathing suit’ as I’ve been admonished by social media, while still living with the reality that the expanse of oh-so-white exposed flesh is more vast and wobbly than ever before.
  • Battling the intense desire to sit outside and read a book with the slightly less intense desire to keep my kids from disturbing the neighbors – all the neighbors – with the heated battle that inevitably ensues about which way the sprinkler is pointing.
  • Should I give them popsicles (which I’m pretty sure make #NoBen loony due to the dye), ice cream (which besides not being cheap, is a little calorie-dense for as much as they want to eat it), or should I pop organic fruit into the freezer for natural treats? HAHAHAHAHAHA – just kidding on that last one.
  • Trying to decide on almost a minute-by-minute basis if I should just drop everything to play, because they’re only this little once, or if I should put some limits on that $hi+ because a) it increases expectations that I can play ALL the time and b) could cause us to have no home or things if carried out to an extreme.
  • Coming to terms with the fact that with three little kids, every adventure is going to be fraught with peril…or at least, fraught with arguments because everyone wants to do something different.
  • Reaching a level of acceptance that when we DO hit the parental lottery of finding something that everyone likes to do, it’s almost worse due to the UNSPEAKABLE DRAMA of it having to end. Ugh. Just Ugh.
  • Do I let them stay up late and watch sunsets and enjoy my favorite time of day with me, or do I reserve that for myself, as the fantasy of sharing my special time usually is dampened by the 2o minutes it takes to find shoes, and then water, and then ask why we’re going outside, and then playing in the dirt instead of watching the sunset, and then wanting to walk instead of sit, and then wanting to sit instead of walk, and then screaming at the top of their lungs when it’s time to go inside (our neighbors LOATHE us, I’m sure).

Despite the admittedly first world nature of ALL my summer problems, I’m still glad it’s here. At least, I thought it was here. After all, this is the PNW and just because it was summer over the weekend does NOT mean winter weather is a thing of the past!

What are your favorite summer activities?

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Bisky goes to Californ-ra

Before we get to our regularly scheduled blog – I wanted to remind you that ‘Grace Group’ is scheduled to be released June 17th! I’m so grateful to  Electio Publishing and wanted to let you all know that I’m starting to line up signing/speaking extravaganzas (well, extravaganza is perhaps a bit strong…shall we say ‘events’ to sound more classy?) If you have a book club, MOPs group, bible study, or anything where having a successful published author come and do a reading would be fun, but one can’t come and you need a fill in…(totally kidding…it’s a great book and my self esteem is perfectly healthy)  I’m really excited to share this book and would LOVE to come read/speak/sign…just let me know.

And now…here’s what I’ve been up to.

I wrote the majority of this about a week ago, on the plane back from California. It was the last time I had any peace and quiet, and seems so, so long ago. To back up a little, I have a couple clients in California who needed to see me, and since I’ve been wanting to take a road trip with the Biscuit for a while, and Kindergarten is right around the corner, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. Of course, given that our families and families of the heart are all in Southern California, and that Dreamy and the boys wouldn’t be coming, it wasn’t without its angst. Here are the things I angsted about terribly:

  • That the boys, particularly #NoBen would be devastated to know there was a vacation and they wouldn’t be on it.
  • That despite our proximity, I couldn’t see a way to make the trip down (up? over?) to Hemet to see our grandkids – especially to meet Melina for the first time.
  • That I would have to go to Disneyland.
  • That I would miss the preschool Mother’s Day Tea. Again.

All that aside, I was pretty excited to be able to do a girls’ trip. Bisky loves Grandma more than anyone else, and she’s the only granddaughter, so it was a pretty special trip. One of the hardest parts for me was keeping it a secret from her for three weeks. I did break down and promise her a very big, special reward if she was good. She did her best to guess what the reward was. Some of her guesses included:

  • A new lamp
  • Her own phone to facetime and text Grandma on
  • A new dress
  • A new house

I guess she’ll have to learn the hard way just like I did about managing one’s expectations.

She never came close to guessing the real surprise. I revealed it in the form of a treasure hunt, where she got information written on a card, envelope by envelope along with clues of where to find the next envelope, with the big D-Land as the big reveal. It was a bit anti-climactic, due to the fact that Bisky really, REALLY loves treasure hunts and was too disappointed that it was over to really take in what we told her. To her credit, she was very conscientious about not talking about her trip to B-E-N (now that she can read and write, she’s taken to spelling words in front of the boys, and sometimes just for fun). When it finally kicked in, she fortunately only had a night to wait before our big adventure.

Overall, it was an amazing trip. I was a little concerned that Pat and Dreamy were sugar-coating to help my ‘I-abandoned-my-babies’ angst but it appears that #NoBen and #StopThatAiden barely skipped a beat while I was gone. And I’m very glad for that, but now that I’m back, they definitely seem a bit more neurotic and get a bit clingy when I leave the house. Or the room. Or their side.

I still don’t love Disneyland and can’t imagine that I ever will. I always say that an unmet expectation leads to a resentment, and it’s difficult to discern the expectations a five-year-old might have about Disneyland. We don’t have TV so she’s not exposed to commercials, so all she really knew is that a few of her little classmates have gone, that it’s in ‘Californ-ra’ and that there are princesses there. Princesses. And therein lies the rub.

Because one doesn’t merely SEE PRINCESSES in the Magic Kingdom. That morning Bisky donned her favorite blue princess dress, tiara, sparkle shoes and princess eye patch and cheerfully endured the drive, shuttle ride and wait at the entrance so that she could enter princess land. She was confused and a bit peeved when we entered the gates and there were no princesses. She immediately asked to go on the Peter Pan ride, which already had a 60 minute line, so I took her on the Snow White ride instead which had no line.

It had no line because it’s a freaking horrible experience! Basically you’re riding in the dark, with explosive loud noises, scary witch cackling, sharp turns and very scary witches popping up unexpectedly. So that was the first thing. Then we stood in line for an hour to meet the princesses, only Bisky didn’t understand that and was just PO’d. She demanded to go home and sat there with her arms crossed glaring at me. Even when we jumped out of the line to meet Jasmine (and barely made it back in in time) she was still mad. When the gate attendant said “Hello Princess! Are you having a good time?” She said “No.” “Oh, why not?” “Because MOMMY LIED about the princesses,” she answered pointing at me, probably hoping they’d take me away to jail.

But finally it was our turn, and I do have to say, despite all the commercialism, sexist BS and overpriced everything, they did a great job on the meet the princess thing and the three we met were wonderful with Bisky. That pretty much made the day and we could have happily left at that point. But we didn’t because it cost as much as the plane fare there to get in, so we stayed. Turns out Bisky is a roller coaster fan. But not a Splash Mountain fan (the singing turkeys are creepy apparently).

The next two days we spent at the beach and Knott’s when I wasn’t working. Despite my guilt at not bringing the boys, it was totally apparent that it would have been an unmitigated disaster to have them there – particularly at D-Land. As it was, we allowed Bisky to dictate the events and even then there was a lot of back and forth. Trying to deal with three, keeping #NoBen in line, and not losing anyone would have been enough to break me completely.

As it was, this was the longest time I have gone without changing a diaper in over five years. I’m so grateful to Pat for going above and beyond with the boys, for Dreamy for filling in the gap when he’s pretty busy himself, to Mom for coming with and making it so special, and for Grandpa for fending for himself for nearly a week.

And like all wonderful times, the peace and serenity was very difficult to hold on to once I got home. The boys were so happy to see us and I swear #NoBen was talking twice as much when we got home. Unfortunately, he becomes distressed when other people talk at the same time he does (which I understand…I really do) and he handles it by screaming. So it’s been a very noisy, chaotic, happy, angry, crazy kind of week since we got back. In other words, business as usual!

One thing to note…if you have a kid Bisky’s age and you’re debating on whether a big theme park is worth the money…every kid is different, however when Bisky got back and was sharing about her great adventures she said (and I kid you not)…’I went to California with Grandma and Mommy and we went in a SWIMMING POOL’…just sayin’.

And speaking of crazy…summer is beginning! I’m SO excited for the adventures we’re going to have this year! What’s on your agenda?

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Stranger Danger, Tricky Persons, and the REALLY SCARY stuff

If you’re a mom, or a kid, or someone who used to be a kid, you probably know about stranger danger (which has been rebranded to tricky people). Did you see the Facebook video that’s been circulating lately about this guy who approaches moms in the playground to see if their kids will leave with him? All the moms said OF COURSE their kids had been taught about strangers and would never leave with a stranger. And so this guy whips out his puppy (Duncan) and within three seconds lures each kid away to what we viewers imagine would have been torture, mutilation, and death had it not been a staged event. Of course I shared it, because we all need our kids not to get lured away from the playground.

I was at just such a playground the other day when this lady came up to me and introduced herself and asked me to try to lure her kid away. I asked which was her kid (he was right there) and agreed to do it. The first thought that went through my head was to wonder if this was some sort of elaborate set up to distract me so someone could steal one of my amazing and incomparable kids, so I really just did it half-ass, keeping an eye on my three the whole time.

It was disturbingly easy. I went up to him, said hi, asked if he liked bubbles (he did), asked if he wanted to blow bubbles with me (he did) and so I grabbed his hand and walked out of the play structure. So obviously this kid is just one more narrow miss.

I actually felt bad after sharing the video, and even more so after taking place in the experiment, because I think it may be contributing to scare-mongering. I mean, yeah, all these kids went with a stranger, BUT at the start of the experiment the kids were all right there watching this person talk to their Mom just before he walks over to them, and their moms are in sight so I’m not sure it’s reasonable to assume that they could have ‘easily’ been taken.

My other problem with the real-life experiment (and maybe it’s just a guilty conscience) is that I have been training my kids to worry about tricky people (or tricky persons, as Bisky calls it) and not strangers. I have expressly told them all that the only safe person when they are out and about is a mom out with kids whether they know her or not. So I’m not sure it was a total bad call on the part of this kid at the park to go blow bubbles with me, since I did show up with three kids and a bottle of bubbles. As an aside, when the mom was scolding the kid for talking to me, a ‘stranger’, Bisky walked up and explained to her, “That’s my Mommy, not a tricky person!”.

I’m sure we could debate this whole thing, and to save time and energy, I’ll   concede that child abductions do happen, and it’s better safe than sorry, but I’m not sure worrying about this is my biggest concern. Because I think there are more dangerous things that my kids are facing right now, and I’m not sure there’s anything I can do about it.

I’ve noticed that in just the last month, Bisky has reached a new level of independence, where she wants to be able to make choices on her own, and is getting frustrated when I tell her no. At the same park, on the same day, a group of older kids befriended her and wanted her to play outside the gated playground area. She came and asked me, but was visibly surprised when I said ‘No.’ Which resulted in tears, arguing, and demanding to know why. I am a huge proponent of explaining why to kids but not on demand, and not in the moment, necessarily, so I just left it at ‘no’. But it made me realize that we’re on the cusp of elementary school, and friends, and freedom and she’ll be exposed to things that I wish she wouldn’t be. Such as:

  • Kids who think it’s okay to not listen to parents.
  • Adults and kids who think our belief system is wrong, narrow-minded, foolish, dangerous, stupid, bigoted, etc., etc., etc., (without asking us a single question first, mind you) and who ‘shame’ my kid for her enthusiastic love of Jesus.
  • A society that whole-heartedly endorses the sexualizing of young kids (demonstrated by the size 4 and 5 dresses I found in the store with the same peekaboo cutouts for little girls as the teen styles).
  • A culture where my public school system dictates to me that their policy about my kid’s mandatory physical attendance supersedes my parental judgment about their state of health and/or emotions.
  • A world where people can host very popular YouTube channels depicting child abuse or other flat out despicable things and get a million followers who find this sort of stuff funny, acceptable, and/or in any way endorsable.
  • A society where children are bullied 24 hours a day on social media to the point of suicide for the way they look, believe, befriend, or any other social step or misstep.

I could go on and on, but today I’m a lot more worried about the world abducting my children’s joy, happiness, faith, and confidence.  And I don’t have a solution. I agree with a popular blogger I read recently that says it’s not fair to expect our kids to be salt and light in the world today, and it’s not really a matter of telling them to get out there and practice the principles I teach them. It’s too big a job, and they’re not equipped. And as much as I’d really, REALLY, like to go off the grid and live in the wilderness somewhere and just opt out of ALL of this, I probably can’t right now.

And I do take great comfort in realizing that every generation thus far has survived the gloomy and dire predictions of immediate social decline by their predecessors so I’m sure that as my kids brave their way into a foreign, scary (to me) new world, they will live, love, laugh, dream, cry, get hurt, hurt people and all the other ‘human’ stuff that as much as I’d like to protect them from, is what makes us all who we are.

What do you do to protect your kids from tricky people, or tricky situations?