As a blessing to us all, “Aunt Jolene” calls in this week from a pay phone in New York. She is in the Big Apple for the Gift Shop Retailers Convention, working to get her legendary baklava sold in gift shops around the country. While there, she is taking in the sights, including Trump Tower. She’s hoping to bump into the Don and offer her home for a place for him and his family to come and stay. She actually has supported Trump since the beginning of his presidential run, despite the mass of criticism she has received, especially from her family. Her son-in-law, Jesse DoNuthin’, has been the worst culprit of criticism. Of course, he is voting for you-know-who, and the relationship between the two of them has become quite volatile.
For instance, not long ago, Aunt Jolene asked Jesse for a ride and he handed her a broom!
This from a guy who is trying to get a job as an Expert Witness for Slip-and-Fall cases. He used to be a Disk Jockey, but that didn’t pay well enough, so now he is analyzing footsteps. To do this, he listens to audio recordings of footsteps and tries to determine whether or not the people walking are wearing socks.
He really upsets her.
But, actually, a lot in this world upsets her. For instance, she got really bothered by the security guard at Trump Towers. He insisted on checking inside her bag – despite her stern warnings to stay away from her purse. To no-one-who-knows-Aunt-Jolene’s surprise, the guard ended up tazing himself as he rifled through her bag. He fell to the ground and then everyone around snapped their heads to look at her as if she was a terrorist. All she could say was, “Are you going to let me in, or does somebody else want to go through my bag again?”
Next up, I am at the Hearts at Home Conference, which aims to connect moms with great speakers. One of those amazing people is speaker, author, mother, and embracer of emotion and sanctified sarcasm, Julie Barnhill!
Julie is great at bringing out into the open the emotions and hidden thoughts that most people don’t reveal to the public.
According to Julie, one of the biggest struggles moms around the world face comes in those early years of parenthood. Frustration turns to irritation, which turns into anger. This anger is the emotion that very few moms will ever cop to. Sure, they will easily talk about being irritated or miffed… even so mad they want to spit. But anger? Not so much.
Julie has been through many of these storms, raising three children of her own. In hindsight, as she looks back on how she raised her now adult children, the key for her was to lower her expectations.
She, like many moms, had hopes for her first child that they would soar through school with straight A’s. When she had her second child, she realized that B’s were good grades and quite acceptable. By the time her third kid entered school, she realized that C’s get degrees, so that’s good enough for her.
And, today’s moms have it even rougher than Julie did. With Google, Facebook and Pinterest, any mom is two clicks away from seeing what she is doing wrong in all aspects of her life. As hard as it is to do, though, when we lower our expectations, we find ourselves being much more content with where we are at.
Now, some parents reply, “Well, if I don’t have high expectations for my kid, then they aren’t going to do well for themselves in life.”
To this, Julie offers this bit of advice, “The truth is that they are just going to continue on the path that they are on. If they don’t do well for themselves, sooner or later, they will run smack into that hard wall of reality and change their course.” Every kid’s wall is different, but it is one that should cause them to pause and realize the direction they are headed in and contrast it to where they could be headed toward. As parents, we need to be careful not to overburden them with our impossible expectations.
In her book, She’s Gonna Blow, Julie offers real help for moms dealing with anger. As she puts it, so long as there are kids living on this planet, this book should sell!
The first key to dealing and overcoming this anger is to name it and own it. Look yourself in the mirror and say, “I am angry”. Then, take the time to look introspectively and see what it is, exactly, that you are struggling with. The more specific the better… the harder, but the better.
Another key for moms (and dads for that matter) is to be proactive in your parenting and speak truth to your children. For instance, there have been times when Julie did not feel like she was glad to be her kids’ mom. Yet, she would compel herself to tell them often, “I am so glad I have you”… regardless of what she was feeling. Some might say that she wasn’t being honest and truthful with her kids. But, she actually was being incredibly truthful. Truth supersedes emotions.
To help with realizing these truths, Julie recommends what she calls “Top-to-Toe-Truths”. Start with the top of their head, and pray, “Thank you, God for his dark hair that curls like his dad’s.” It may be a struggle to come up with something you are thankful for, but it is imperative that you do this for each of your children. It’s especially difficult to do this when you are frustrated with that child… but it’s in those moments when it is even more necessary. Almost always, as moms do this and work from their kid’s hair downward, they won’t get past their shoulders before mom’s heart starts to soften.
It’s not only refreshing and assuring for the kids, but for the moms as well. Too often, moms think to themselves, “How can I love my child and yet be angry like this?” Yet, Julie offers this test – one that she performed on herself – even in the worst of moments, she would ask herself, “If I woke in the middle of the night and smelled fire in the house, what would be the first thing I would do?” It seems overly simple, but it exposes truth. Her answer was always – even when she was furious with her daughter – I would run to save my girl! This exposed the truth that even when she didn’t feel very loving, the truth is that she loved and still loves her kids!
The truth is that, while moms may not always like their children (because, let’s face it, they often behave like their father’s side of the family), moms nevertheless do always love their kids! Moms just need to be reminded of this every now and then.
You see, our emotions are a great servant, but they are horrible masters. We can’t undervalue them, but we can’t let them control or identify us. You can learn more from Julie at JulieBarnhill.com.