Life. 

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It has been months since my last post. And it’s not an excuse, rather it’s just life. Things came up and they took priority over my ability to journal them. 

We wonder at times what a survivor of toxic parenting is like and how it affects their willingness to have a family or become a parent. Personally, I always knew I wanted children, but it never crossed my mind that having children would actually equate to becoming a mother. Seems like a silly thought at first but I think there is so much truth to that; the physical delivery and journey of pregnancy doesn’t make someone a parent – it makes them baby machines, not parents. 

The responsibilities, worries, lack of sanity moments and everything in between of being a mother meant nothing to me then. But it is so real now. Every part of being a decent and good parent is real: real hard, real emotional, real work, and real happenings. 

But the other side of being a parent that I did not give enough credit is the continued existence of the self. Yes, we are a mother, a parent, a caretaker – but all of this happens simultaneously while we continue to also being a woman or man, employee or boss, wife or husband, etc. And each and every one of those titles brings with it many many more responsibilities and duties, and wants and needs. 

And that’s what crept up in my life. 

I was so consumed and overwhelmed in trying to become a gentle parent that I forgot: first, I am me. 

I spent the last bit of 2016 reflecting and more importantly, making changes to my marriage to revive it. But also, tending to my own self. It’s crazy how little has been done yet how great it’s affected me and my marriage. There’s a lot at stake, and there’s a lot of work. But we’re making it work; and we’re enjoying it every bit of the way. 

Someone once asked if love and normalcy is possible for adult children of toxic parenting. Nothing is impossible. But it sure doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. 

I like to believe that I am aware of my strengths and weaknesses but that doesn’t make me immune to the tides of everyday life carrying me whichever way it wants. I still overlook things, I still get emotional, physical and un-gentle. 

It’s about adopting a real, gentle lifestyle – not just gentle parenting. 

… This post is all over the place. It’s life though, isn’t it? 

Racism.

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It has been a couple of months since my last post, and the reason is simply: I was too busy mommy-ing. Today, though, I felt like I really needed to get something off my chest.

Growing up as a foreigner is not easy.  First off, when you are growing up, the immense pressure to fit in makes it that much harder to find out who you are.  Assimilation is so convenient and powerful – first it started with my clothes, then my friends, then my thoughts.  It eats away at you – little by little – and if you are like me, eventually it completely consumes you.

My husband is American, with little to no idea what his heritage truly is.  I am Vietnamese – I speak, read and write the language. But I also speak, read, and write English and French.  And like my husband, I don’t know my true heritage.

My husband has not dealt with racism – other than racist comments his family blurts out.  Usually, I smile politely when someone is being racist – it gets a little hard when these “someone’s” are your in-laws/family members/friends.  And I personally never saw the harm in it – I always justified it as “everyone’s racist, unless you act on it, it’s okay.”  But is it? Is it okay to be racist?

No.  The short answer is No.

It is NEVER okay to racist.  And when you’re a parent, it means that much more.

Racism starts in our thoughts. So if we can curtail our thoughts, we can change our perception and then, our behaviors.  Children are not born knowing races and colors – and I will ensure that my children are not going to be racist assholes.  This much I promise.

I am a parent and I am going to protect my children from ignorant fools who are out there bashing, degrading, belittling, name-calling, bullying, and hurting others by teaching them that that is wrong.  My children will not be racists.  They will not be jerks.

My children will learn to love, accept, understand and respect everyone.

Today – November 15, 2016 – I failed.  I did not stand up for me or my children’s heritage against racists.  Let this be the last time I fail.

A Reflection Piece

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I don’t have anything good to say today. Today was a gentle parenting fail. My thoughts are  shaky, my heart and gut knotted, my mind foggy. 

My toxic mother contacted me 4 days ago. 

Under the disguise of making up and trying to reconnect, she cut me so deep yet again. Not because I care, not because I was hoping things would work out, but because I even allowed her to text me. She said the Virgin Mary and God has enlightened her. She is saying sorry because she wanted to reconnect. She said saying sorry doesn’t mean that shes wrong but she wants me back bad enough she is willing to say sorry. She compared me to the sinful, frivolous, wrongful parable son in the Bible. She said, come home child. And she closed the text with if you don’t come home you’re never to see your baby sister again.  My littlest sister is like a daughter to me. She said she’s changed. That my dad too has changed. She said god is showing her the way. She said she didn’t mean to compare me to the parable son. She said she respected my boundaries – no she did not. She said I must respect her. She said I’m toxic. That I needed to forgive her and let things go. 

My toxic and narcissistic mother is suffocating. She siphons life out of me. She buries my clarity. I don’t hate her. In fact, I don’t feel much. I am just upset  that I even allowed her number to come through, allowed her to fill my head with her nastiness, allowed her to interfere with my zen and gentle parenting. 

I’m exhausted. 

And very sad that I won’t be able to see my baby sister again. I haven’t seen her in a year. The time during which a child is willing to hug or kiss you is so limited and I’m losing every golden second because my toxic mother has forbidden I see her. To her, I’ll soon just be a deceased soul that once existed in her life. A passerby who she may not recognize anymore. 

I am crying as I’m typing this. She is like a daughter to me. I’ve fed her milk from bottles, taught her to talk and mannerisms, saw her blossom to who she is today, and most importantly, she knew I was there when she needed help. She came to me when my mother called her fat. She came to me when my mother forcefully cut her hair and someone called her a mushroom head. She came to me when she was happy, but most importantly, when she was hurt and sad. I was her comforter and I was honored to be that. Now, it’s all over. 

My mother used my baby sister to lure me back in. She tells me that she’s teaching D a lesson about respect wheb she is really forcing me to abide her rules. And I know the part that scares me the most is that I’m leaving my baby sister with this evil. If I could, I would take her away and into my arms. 

I’d tell her everyday she’s perfect. She’s beautiful. She’s smart. I’d remind her there’s nothing to be ashamed of. I’d explain to her she’s only beginning to blossom and there is so much more that life has to offer. That not everyone is toxic or evil. I’d make sure to hug her and kiss her daily. 

She has 8 short and long years before she can decide to come to me on her own. 8 years. 

D, 

May you be blessed with resilience against her evildoing, love to keep you shining, intelligence and perseverance to outdo her cunningness and toxicity, and empathy to keep on loving yourself and others.

With love,

Your sister

Soft gentle hands 

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Toddlers are rough. Toddlers are loud. Toddlers are moody. Toddlers are real. 

They don’t bother hiding their feelings. 

My son, O, has been experimenting with his hands – by experimenting, I mean slapping me when he is upset, bored, cranky, or tired. We have been working on gentle soft hands for a while. We’re also working on no hitting or throwing … And day by day, there are less instances where I’d have to remind him, but the ultimate win happened today. 

After roughly 1 hour of running around and getting sweaty at Gymboree indoor gym, O was tired and was ready to go home. He displayed all the signs of a tired and cranky toddler. So, I went over to him, picked him up and said, “I know you’re tired, let’s go home, ok?” 

When he’s cranky, he rushes to hit or smack me as soon as he hears something he doesn’t like. So, as usual, he shrieked. Started to cry, raised his hands and was just about to do a double smack on my face. I closed my eyes and cringed … 

Then his small and soft hands landed on my cheeks. I opened my eyes and he was still crying but he was aware, conscious, that if he hit me, that would hurt me. And just as I was going to say “gentle hands,” he rushed in and kissed me on my lips. 

It happened quickly. He was still upset. But I am so very proud of my son. 

You do not have to instill fear or hit a child to teach a child right from wrong. We do gentle parenting, and look, it works. 

To the Walmart Dad

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“I’m sorry I won’t do it again” the little voice was heard sobbing and pleading in Walmart. By now, you have seen this story all over the news.

Maybe we’re not seeing things through the father’s eyes. Maybe she was picking out from garbage or eating stuff off the ground or whining incessantly?  Maybe he has asked her nicely but she simply refuses to do what’s asked. Maybe she’s been pushing his buttons all day, all week? Maybe she’s just a brat.

The truth is, it is never okay to treat another human being that way. 

Saying this is child discipline is a ridiculous claim. The child is harmed physically, emotionally and psychologically. She will forever be replaying this instance in her mind because our memories are only made up of the worst and best. Everything in between is important but shapes us subconsciously. These extreme moments – these are the ones we’ll live to tell and re-tell. 

If your child doesn’t listen to you, it’s your fault. If your child can’t connect with you, it’s your fault. If your child is mean or bratty or just disrespectful, it’s your fault. 

Children are mirrors, they reflect what you show them. If you discipline your child through fear, they will obey – but plot against you, quietly, secretly, until they are old enough, strong enough and brave enough to raise their own hands to you. If you discipline with threat, they will be conditioned to do what’s asked of them because you said so and only until they can look you in the eye and say, “no, I’m not doing that, what are you going to do about it?” Because you will run out of threats and those threats will lose power.  If you teach your child that they should be ashamed of their feelings and of themselves, don’t be surprised when you’re old, sick or sad and all you get is them saying “man up, figure it out, stop being a wuss.” 

You want your child to love you? Love them. You want them to respect you? Show them why you should be respected. You want them to be calm, collected, and confident? YOU need to first be that way. 

This little girl’s plight inside of Walmart went viral… But millions and millions of parents worldwide are treating their children this way, why are we only standing up for them now? Don’t act based on how uncomfortable a public incident makes you, be part of the movement and spread awareness about gentle parenting.  Because gentle parenting invokes gentle and mindful living 

Help make the world a better place through gentle parenting. Love starts at home. 

Moment of Truth 

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Today I was a little distraught. I must have raised my voice a bit to my husband. Things don’t always go smoothly in life…especially about finances, big life decisions, travel and what to have for dinner… such nerve racking topics. 

My toddler was playing nearby, he must have heard the tone of my voice, because he put down his toy and came over to me and gave me a hug. He stayed on my lap for a little while. Put his head on my shoulder. And closed his arms around my neck. 

This is the reward of gentle parenting.

It is using empathy to teach empathy. 

Sanity

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Body image issues have long existed. Not because of electronics or selfies, but because of the people that surround us. 

Some call it rude, mean or inconsiderate – learn the right term: toxic. If you surround yourself with toxic people, your mind will become toxic. Your inner voice is your sanity – protect it. 

Toxic parents, and friends, will continuously bring you down. They’ll tell you you’re ugly, stupid, fat, mean, selfish, sensitive, etc. This is emotional abuse. 

Young people are being treated left and right for depression. Why? It’s because of toxicity.  

Criticism is never out of love… Like, ever. 
Example:

Toxic parent: you’re fat. Lose some weight. 

Gentle parent: have an apple or a banana – we don’t have any more chips and junk food. They’re really not good for you. I’ll have an apple, you?  
Toxic parent: you have to do what I say or I’ll disown you. (Parent to adult child) 

Gentle parent: I’m here if you need some advice, you are old enough that I trust your judgment. 
Toxic parent: you’ll never be able to do anything with your life.

Gentle parent: no one can be good at everything but with hard work, we can all accomplish anything.