Disappointment, Competition, And Community. The Value In Learning About All Three.

Being an author, artist, athlete, or any other professional in which one is forced to compete is not an easy thing. As an author, I continue to have to deal with rejection and disappointment.  And sometimes, as a part of business, I must reject and disappoint others.

Writing books and finding an illustrator for my children’s book about my life with Cerebral Palsy has turned out to be much more difficult than I thought.  I hope to be able to contractually secure an illustrator for my children’s book this summer and still have it published in the fall, but nothing is guaranteed.  I may be disappointed again and/or have to disappoint someone else if the samples of illustrations don’t fit my vision of my children’s book.

Since this is a children’s book about me, it’s an absolute requirement that the cartoon character depicting me both as a child and adult is accurate.  I want young children to see what severe cerebral palsy looks like while showing them how much one can accomplish despite the disability.  I also want other children with cerebral palsy to be able to relate to the book.

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All of this got me thinking about disappointment, competition, and community.  I am 36 years old and I still don’t handle disappointment as well as I would like, yet we expect young children to deal with it better than we do. When they have a meltdown due to disappointment, we punish them instead of helping them learn to cope with disappointment.

And, at times, we even set the children up for disappointment by expecting them to do things that they are not ready to do like compete at a young age or go to a candy store without getting any candy when we know they can’t control their impulses.

Children are put in sports or other competitions and are expected to compete.  Even going to school has become a competition to see who can get the best grades and who can be the most popular.

While there’s a movement to give everyone trophies in competitions, I’m not sure if that’s the answer either.  I absolutely hate the way many conservatives talk about this; that giving everyone a trophy is turning them into “snowflakes (too sensitive).”  Yet, this culture and life requires hard work and earning things through hard work and talent.

Plus, children should be able to enjoy the journey towards their goals and accomplishments.  It is often the journey—whether or not it results in success or failure—that teaches us all important lessons.  We should not take this away from children by making everyone a “winner” or trying to shield them from all rejection and disappointment.

I love this meme from Calm:

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I believe that learning to work hard and how to cope with disappointment is very important for children. I also think for young children, there’s nothing wrong with getting a certificate of participation for participating in an event.  Teaching children that while everyone may not be able to be the best and win, it’s still important to be inclusive.

Then there’s community. Community is very important to teach children.  Having a communal attitude can go along way in helping this society to be more united. Children must be taught that, in basic human terms, everyone is equal no matter what!  Celebrating individual talents is fine but that doesn’t mean anyone’s “better” than the other when it comes to simply being a human being.

In many other countries, the culture is alll about community and putting others first. Children learn this from a young age and have been known to run together to reach a prize and then share it.  The children don’t believe that one can be happy if the whole group isn’t happy.  This is another great argument that children are not born sinful!  They act how they live. We are their teachers.

I recently attended an event with my husband and friend which was very community oriented. Everyone was happy, loving, and peaceful. It was very refreshing that there was no judgment or anything negative. We did play a game but it was all in fun and we were happy for the people who won.

I guess there’s a time for disappointment, competition, and community. However, we must teach children how to cope with disappointment and not push competition on them. Playing should be fun while teaching children about teamwork which is community. Disappointment is a part of life. We must teach them how to deal with their big feelings in a kind, compassionate way.

I must also point out that the Church is failing in community because the Church tends to pick and choose who they allow to be a part of the Church. The Church has been known to reject, be oppressive, and even abuse weaker groups of people of all ages.  Yet, Jesus calls us to love, help, and include everyone in the community.

But most of all, may we teach children community and inclusion. That looking out for everyone is what truly matters.  Working hard together and understanding that everyone has different talents is more important than anything else.

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Love Should Always Triumph Over Manipulation

 

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I recently heard something similar to this quote, “Love should always triumph over manipulation,” on a television show and it spoke to me. Unfortunately, manipulation triumphs more than love does in the parent-child relationship.

It’s not always a conscious thing, though, sometimes it is. We unknowingly usually start manipulating children at birth by not respecting their bodies and feelings.  We force them to do things that their bodies are not yet ready to do such as “tummy time” or propping them up.  This is so uncomfortable.

We make them stand before they can. We try to quiet their cries by shushing them, distracting them with a toy in front of their faces, and/or leave them to cry-it-out.

As they grow, we try to force our own agendas onto them even more.  When they are acting their ages or doing something that is developmentally appropriate, we punish them.  We spank/hit, give time-outs, and arbitrarily take things away.

This is all manipulation. Young children are often accused of trying to manipulate their parents but they are not able to think that far ahead. They’re always in the present.  People who tell parents that children manipulate are usually extremely manipulative.

This can continue into adulthood.  But love should triumph over manipulation. Love should think of the other person and do what is best for them. This does not mean letting people of any age walk all over us!  It should mean putting others first as God wants us to do.

True love accepts all, puts others first, tries not to hurt people, tries to have empathy, and gently corrects when appropriate.

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I don’t know who’s quote this is but it is spot on!

Encouraging Self-Expression

Lately I’ve been thinking a great deal about self-expression because if it veers off from the norm, then children are punished for it and adults are harshly judged.

I love my tattoos and my rainbow hair.  Children also have their own ways of expressing themselves.  Of course, if it is harmful to anyone, then appropriate alternatives should be given to the children.  We have to teach them right from wrong.

But when a child has a different way of expressing him/herself, it should be encouraged.  Instead of punishing reactive children, validate them and give them appropriate outlets for self-expression.

If you have a clown at home, encourage ways of being a clown.  Expect the child to do stuff at school that may not always be at the appropriate time because children just don’t always have the ability to control their impulses.  Good teachers will gently but firmly steer the child in the right direction without having to punish.

If you have a shy child, encourage the little attempts of putting him/herself out there.

My friend’s almost 9-year-old daughter recently wanted rainbow hair.  At first she wanted it all over, but my friend had to bleach her brown hair and she said she’d do the bottom layer to show the child how it would affect her hair.  Once her daughter understood that it will take 3 years for her hair to grow out as brown again, she agreed to just color the bottom layer.  My friend helped her daughter see the consequences of permanently changing her body instead of just saying, “No, you can’t have your whole head colored.”  The meme below shows how her daughter’s hair turned out.  Beautiful!

It just feels like the world is so controlling, harsh, and judgmental.  We punish children for the silliest things.  We punish them for being children and acting their age.

I’m not saying that we should let children do whatever they want.  But we should give them plenty of room to be who they are instead of punishing them for not being who we want them to be.

I don’t know if it’s just me but I have never felt the need to put down somebody’s style just because it’s not what I would do.  When I started getting tattoos, I was suprised at how a few people had to tell me that they were not into them.  Ok, but I am. It is a very personal style.  We shouldn’t judge each other over style.

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My rainbow hair and most recent tattoos.

Finally,  if your boy likes dolls, encourage that in him. God may be preparing him to be a teacher or a pediatrician. If your girl enjoys playing with trucks and dinosaurs, encourage her. God may be preparing her to be an archeologist or a missionary that drives trucks full of supplies for poor and needy people.

Let’s respect individuality and personal style as long as it’s not hurting anyone else and respect our children for the people that they are!

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Another Tattoo, Love, And Acceptance

On January 27th I got my third tattoo which is of my beloved first kitty, Sara. It was the ten year anniversary of her going Home. I got Sara when I was about nine years old and lost her when I was 25 years old. This was the original tattoo that I had been wanting since soon after she went Home.

I made it through the tattoo with flying colors and took the same medications as I did with my last two tattoos in order to slow down my muscle spasms.  See here and here about my first tattoo experiences. Again, my mom was so excited and proud of me.  It’s funny how even though I am 35 years old, I still need my mom’s approval and acceptance!  It truly means a lot to me!

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My beautiful Sara tattoo!

I have been thinking a great deal about love and acceptance with everything going on in both my world and the world in general.  My husband and I no longer attend church because we’ve never found one that the people totally accepted us. Some people have and we are still friends with them, but many people assume that I am mentally disabled and talk to me like I am a child, well actually, worse.  They are often patronizing to me. It drives me crazy! Of course, as I said, there are some who can see past my disability, but many can’t even after telling them that I have a Master’s Degree. 

So when my friend, Jackie Heim, posted the following on her Facebook page, I felt sad but could really relate.

“I read that between 80-90% of parents with special needs kids do not attend church. There is no source for my information, so I can’t verify this. But, I believe the number is high (for sure higher than it should be). I’ll take my son anywhere – the library, the mall, the beach, swimming, a museum, a park, the grocery store, Disney World – anywhere but church. I can handle the comments and looks from strangers. Not being able to talk and not understanding everything said to you is a frustrating disability. From Christians, the one group of people who I want support from as as special needs parent, I get judgmental comments. Burdens of expectation concerning my son’s behavior are thrown on my shoulders. And, always by people who are doing nothing to help me with this burden. I have experienced this ever since dealing with my first language delayed child over a decade ago. It hasn’t gone away. And, the third time around I am dealing with an even more severe delay. So, I just don’t go. It’s easier that way.”

The very people, the Church, who are supposed to love and accept you for who you are, don’t!  They want children to be these perfectly obedient robots and if they’re not then you need to spank/hit them.  They never stop to think that the children may have special needs or they never try to understand about child development.  To be so judgmental to parents and children is so wrong and un-Christlike.

I see the world becoming worse and worse which the Bible tells us to expect.  But what I have been struggling with for years is that I didn’t realize that it would be the Christians that are often leading the way to destruction.  We’re supposed to be leading people to the Light.  I just don’t see that happening.

I believe that this is due to church doctrine.  Church doctrine often appears to be aligned with the Bible, but when you look deeper, you see how much it strays from the Bible.  Jesus was constantly with sinners and making them feel loved and welcome.  In fact, people would run to Jesus when He was in their town!

When they had crossed over they came to land at Gennesaret, and moored to the shore. When they got out of the boat, immediately the people recognized Him, and ran about that whole country and began to carry here and there on their pallets those who were sick, to the place they heard He was. Wherever He entered villages, or cities, or countryside, they were laying the sick in the market places, and imploring Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were being cured” (Mark 6:53-56, NASB).

It was always the self-righteous Pharisees and the teachers of the Law that scoffed, badgered, and ultimately crucified Jesus.  Regular people just wanted to know more about Him and to understand Him.

Not long ago I posted on my Facebook personal page that I have recently found myself relating more to the tattoo culture than to the Christian culture. As strange as that may sound, it’s because the tattoo culture is so real, loving, and accepting!  They are so Christlike and they don’t even know it.  That is so scary and sad that a tattoo shop does what the Church ought to be doing.

We are born with a deep need for love and acceptance.  Children absolutely crave it from their parents and never outgrow it.  Jesus put us here to love and accept people in order to lead them to Him.  There are a lot of people out there right now, young and old, of different races and ethnicities, and of different religions, and of all sexual orientations that are craving for love and acceptance!  May we do our best to stop judging and begin loving and accepting the way Jesus does!

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