Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Big Girl's Take On Respect

We all love to sing the words to that song as sang by the timeless music icon and legend known as Aretha Franklin, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T…”  That song has been a personal anthem for women who have declared that they will be everything that you need, but you have to honor your responsibilities in the terms of your relationship, whatever those might be.  And while everyone likes to sing that song, before you go demanding respect you should stop and discern if those words are actually applicable to you.  While I have always favored salvaging those relationships that can be mended and leaving the garbage behind, sometimes mistakes we make in who we’ve associated with only have a place in the past.  But they like to follow us. 

Ideally, we all are deserving of respect for some particular reason or another.  If you’re a spouse, a parent or whatever role you’ve filled and have stayed true in honoring your role you should be regarded with respect.  Yet, there are some who have grandiose, narcissistic delusions about who they are.  Speaking from my personal experience, I have encountered throughout the course of my life many people who want “respect” just because of who they think they are.  One person in particular would always seem to imply whenever in my presence that she wants some respect.  Yet, the only thing she seemed to do was behave in a way that seems common among people who lack respect for others.  She went so far as to comment, “Let me show you who I am.”  How could she expect to ever receive more respect than she was willing to give?

It took a minute before I was mature enough to step back and take a look at the situation objectively.  What I realized has become an eye-opening revelation.  At first I couldn’t understand why she was implying that I don’t respect her.  I spoke to her in the same respectful manner that had garnered my mother many compliments on my manners.  I was polite.  So what the crap was that woman talking about?  Then I realized that her definition of “respect” is skewed.  She wasn’t implying that she wants “respect.”  What she wanted was submission and control.

If you have questions about whether or not you are or have been in a similar predicament, there are a few things you can do to help decide if your situation can be helped.

Trust your judgment.

Most times you probably have had an unsettling “feeling” about someone, but no real reason why.  Learn to trust yourself.  From the start there was an uneasiness I had about this person.  As mentioned earlier, she made the statement, “I’ll show you who I am.”  After having taken time to reflect on her actions, one day it was as if the skies opened up and I was able to discern just who that is.  I remember thinking to myself, “I knew I was right about you.”   

Talk with someone about it.

The one thing that helped me realize exactly who I was dealing with was a conversation with someone who could provide an objective opinion of the situation.  That person simply pointed out the age difference between the two of us and asked why someone her age is so focused on dominating someone so much younger than her.  That was incredibly helpful.  Find someone whose judgment you trust and confide in him or her.  That person could offer a perspective you haven’t considered to empower you to make the changes needed.

Realize it isn’t really you.

The worst thing you can do interacting with a person like this is to take things personally.  Realize that the behavior isn’t really about you at all.  You just happen to be the person that the other believes to be an easy target.  People with control issues and difficulties respecting boundaries often have a need to feel needed.  Some could also have a history of relationship issues and experiences that were personally traumatic and have never been resolved.  Rather than getting counseling, there is a tendency to feel as though they are “owed” something, and it somehow becomes your responsibility to fulfill the void.


Distancing yourself from this situation won’t be easy because the other person won’t want to let go.  Who else would be the object of that attention?  However, if at all possible begin to remove yourself from the situation.  How?  Start by minimizing conversations to what’s absolutely necessary.  Take each opportunity you can to establish healthy boundaries.   If you are privy to a little creativity you can convince him or her that it’s actually in his or her best interest if the two of you associate less.  That way you can lessen your struggle and speed up the process simultaneously.

Words that are synonymous with respect include reverence, admiration, value and esteem.  Nothing of these words implies subservience.  Neither is respect something that can be demanded.  If you’ve been convinced that the only way to satisfy someone’s need to feel respected is to take a backseat in your own life, take a second look.  If the two of you can reach an understanding, then good.  Otherwise, R-E-S-P-E-C-T yourself and move on to healthier relationships.  

Friday, June 21, 2013

4th of July the LISP (Low Income/Single Parent) Way

The Big Girl Chronicles:  A Fourth of July Holiday the LISP (Low Income/Single Parent) Way

As I was tossing around ideas to commemorate the 4th of July with my children this year, I was again left slightly downhearted that my ambitions far exceed my budget.  Commemorating this holiday the “Big Girl” way, I would want to visit Mt. Rushmore or take the kids to visit one of the first towns.  However being grounded by lack of funds, I began to prepare the same old same as we usually do during holidays.  While making plans to entertain, I had to stop and ask myself if I want to do just another holiday of eating all the traditional foods or revisit the reason why we set aside the date to celebrate.  Sure they understand that we celebrate our emancipation. But what more can we learn about this occasion?  The next best thing to venturing to these historical landmark destinations (and the most budget-friendly option of course) is to bring history to our home.  These are some of the ideas I came up with to include more of the history behind the holiday – the Low Income/Single Parent (LISP) Way.

Keep it educational.

One fun way to make certain that your child continues learning while celebrating is to visit your local public library ahead of time and check out some books about Independence Day.  Depending upon age range, decide if you will do a short storytime on the actual holiday or prepare some discussion for that day.  

Put it on the menu.

Another way to incorporate more of the original holiday in your celebrating is to include some dishes that could have been popular around that time in your menu.  Cuisine believed to have been popular then include more seafood rather than our traditional red meat feasts.  This would be a great way to shake up the family bar-b-que!

Challenge the “fun.”

My children like most kids are little social, hyper-energetic super-excited beings that love to be surrounded by their peers.  A quick fix would be to rent a movie.  And although that’s included in our festivities, I thought it would be more interesting to challenge their creativity and have them all organize a reenactment relevant to the holiday. Flip on the video camera and you have not only preserved another irreplaceable family moment but have something to add to family reunion entertainment that gives you bragging rights.

For more information about fun facts and activities to help add something extra to your traditional festivities, you can visit the following websites:

Family Education

Make this 4th of July celebration your most memorable yet by adding more cultural significance to your traditional BBQ and fireworks! These suggestions will continue the learning throughout the summer months without challenging your budget. Have Fun!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Big Girl's Guide to Effective Communication

The Big Girl Chronicles:  The Big Girl’s Guide to Effective Communication

I once witnessed two people at odds with each other having a disagreement.  I’m not sure what prompted their verbal altercation, but it was apparent from their dialogue that they were merely talking at each other out of frustration and anger rather than actually communicating.  One person was complaining that the other is never there.  The other person interjected (while the other was talking) that no one wants to listen to that whining.  What ended up happening is that both walked away from the situation probably more frustrated with each other than before they began with more angry words and hurt feelings and nothing resolved.

The lack of communication witnessed between those two could be common in many areas of our world.  There are likely many stories that can be shared about friendships that have been dissolved, marriages that have ended, family feuds that have lingered, and even business deals gone wrong because of miscommunication.  In my efforts to graduate towards a more mature woman, I’ve decided to polish up my communication skills.  These are some of the things I noticed with the couple arguing that I want to better in myself.


The first thing I noticed with the couple arguing is that neither one of them was listening to what the other was trying to say.  They seemed to be doing what I call defensive listening.  That’s when you only listen with the intent of preparing a rebuttal.  Being attentive to what another is trying to tell you sometimes means putting aside your feelings to get the message.  Information that could help create a better understanding of each other is lost because you’re only listening to discredit anything that you don’t agree with.  Ultimately, your conversation only becomes a tug of war about who’s right and who’s wrong.  To avoid this, accept what the person you are trying to achieve an understanding with is telling you.  If (s)he is saying that you aren’t doing something correctly and that’s causing a strain in your relationship, whatever that relationship could be, accept that.  Listen to the criticism.  It might not sound constructive, but make it constructive.  This is a very grown-up thing to do because it requires you to manage your emotions, feelings and reactions.  Eliminate the temptation to engage in a tug of war with words and just…listen.


After you’ve given the other person a chance to be heard (uninterrupted), restate what was spoken to make certain the two of you are on the same page.  In the argument that I overheard one person charged the other with never having “been there” and spending too much time preoccupied with other people and tasks.  That person who was marked as absent yelled back that (s)he wasn’t going to listen to all that negativity and ignored what was being said.  This way nothing gets solved and they’ll likely end up having the exact same argument at another time.  What went unheard is that there are feelings of abandonment and lack of support.  Whether those feelings are justified or not, those feelings should still be addressed in order to move forward.  When it’s your turn to express how you feel, you can then offer your views.   Sifting through what’s been said allows the two of you to separate what’s important from issues that were tacked on as the result of a larger problem. 


Once the two of you have had the opportunity to voice your feelings begin to negotiate a compromise.  Hopefully after you’ve both had a chance to be heard there should be a better understanding of exactly what the problem is.   You might want to begin by asking what would make things better.  Then the two of you can arrive at a workable solution on a trial basis to be sure that you really want what you’re asking.  In the instance of the argument mentioned above, it could be necessary to rearrange and reevaluate priorities to set aside more time and attention.  It could also be helpful to be more understanding of the other person’s responsibilities and demands placed upon their time.  Effective communication between the two could foster a degree of empathy that was being concealed or withheld before because of hurt feelings.  Now that those feelings have been heard, a healthier and more productive relationship can begin.

I remember arguments I’ve had where I just wanted to lash out and hurl accusations because I felt hurt.  My goal was to inflict the same degree of emotional pain or more on the person I felt had caused the hurt.  Though that’s a very normal reaction I guess, it’s also a very juvenile one and now has no place in my growth towards becoming a mature woman.   In some cases, my inability to communicate effectively could have justified the treatment I felt I was undeserving of.  As I move forward to form other relationships, I remove the baggage that ineffective communication can create by practicing the skills mentioned above. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Baby Mama Drama VS Co-Parenting Etiquette

The Big Girl Chronicles:  Baby Mama Drama vs Co-Parenting Etiquette

I was fortunate enough to host a parenting support group as part of my job duties during employment.  ALL of the parents that attended were single parent households headed by women.  As I listened to the parents discuss issues that they felt contributed to the reason their family has found itself stressed, the number one reason after blaming themselves was blaming the absent father.  The tales of how these women had felt abandoned by their children’s fathers left a feeling of bitterness lingering that actually added to the cohesiveness of the group.   It didn't take much longer before I realized that part of the problem – a considerable part – is that the teens are caught in the middle of the parents “war.” The custodial parent is “warring” with the absent parent, demanding more time, attention – and most of all MONEY- from the parent who feels that his responsibilities as a parent ended with the relationship with the mother.  Those whose “baby daddys” did make an effort to spend time with their children were held in the same regard as those who remained absent altogether because of their limited ability to provide financial support.  As the women shared the conversations and heated exchange of accusations, the children often are witness to the cruelty and subconsciously absorb the negativity and bitterness making the possibility of establishing a healthy parent-child relationship that much more challenging.

Now, I don’t claim to be any type of parenting expert or anything.  As a matter of fact, I could honestly identify with many of the feelings the parents shared about the difficulties of single parenting and (especially) the disappointment of an absent father who seems to have abandoned his responsibilities to his child(ren).  However, what I've realized is that someone has to at least pretend to be the adult in the process and set aside disagreements to make certain that priorities are being met with the child(ren).  The parents were behaving in a way that is classic of the description “baby mama.”  “Baby Mamas” are known for bringing the drama.  That drama is only adding to the problem.  The goal became to interject some “co-parenting etiquette” and introduce a different way of viewing their relationship with their absent fathers that could create more positive energy for the child(ren). Some of the things we discussed in that parenting support group are outlined below.

Team Kid(s)!!!

If you've ever had a child participate in a sporting event or some extracurricular activity – or even  witnessed parents who aren't “together” supporting their kids at some special event- you know the entire time the two parents spend there is all about the child(ren).  The two parents could be seated near each other or as far away as possible, but for that time the two are focused on the child(ren).  All their energy is poured into that moment, not each other.  If those two parents can apply that focus used supporting their child(ren) during that event to their relationship with each other   - a “team child” approach - they should begin to establish a healthy co-parenting relationship and create dynamics between the two of them that is more productive and conducive to nurturing the child(ren).  Rather than reacting to the other parent out of frustrations and anger, think of the child.  With the focus on the children, it’s no longer a thought or feeling of “I have to deal with this trifling (beep)” or “here comes that (beep) talking all that noise.”   Parenting instead becomes a team effort with each of you showing up to cheer on your kid(s), putting you that much closer to raising a productive member of society that is well equipped to handle the basics of life.  Regardless of the heartache or disappointment you have because of how your relationship as a couple ended,  you don’t want to sabotage your child(ren) by creating a home environment so dysfunctional that you place your child(ren) at a disadvantage and hinder his or her ability to form and be a part of healthy, intelligent relationships. 

The Parents/The Mirror

No parent wants to be made to feel as though (s)he isn’t an acceptable role model for his or her child(ren).  Yet, it seems that some parents underestimate the influence that (s)he has on his or her child(ren).    Whether we realize it or not, we are always modeling behavior that our child(ren) watch, learn and even pattern his or herself after.  Mom and dad, your communication skills, conflict resolution skills and every other aspect of your personality is under scrutiny.  You are a point of reference for your child(ren).  Therefore, you owe it to your child(ren) to be at your best 24/7.  Think of it as if you and your child’s other parent are standing side by side in a mirror.  The two of you didn't work together as a couple.  If you look at your reflection in the mirror together, you’ll likely recall all the hurt, frustration and disappointment that the two of you have come to mean to each other.  What you are overlooking as you study your reflection together in the mirror is that the two of you are what make your child(ren).  You don’t want your child to be symbolic of your failed relationship.  You instead, as any good parent would, want the best of both of you to be reflected in your child.  Thus, it’s up to you if you want your child(ren) to mimic the neck-rolling, finger-snapping attitude for which many baby mamas are well-known or model a style of communication that can be applied in difficult situations and is more socially acceptable. 

Monkey or Human?

As children we played outdoor games like tag and dodge ball.  We also played a game called “monkey in the middle.”  I know it's silly, but it seems like the games we played as children have become games we play with each other while raising our children.  When our relationship with the other parent has ended, we dodge responsibility for our children like playing dodge ball.  We treat the other parent as if (s)he is some lunatic that we should avoid or hassle every opportunity we get, making them an “IT” like in the game of tag – something to avoid.  But what’s most disheartening is how we use the child(ren).  We place the child(ren) in the middle of our mess.  And through the eyes of the child, (s)he is torn between the two parents that (s)he loves.   Your child should never feel that (s)he has to choose between you and his/her other parent.  Avoid this by refraining from speaking negatively about the other parent in the presence of the child(ren).  Withholding phone calls, time and other manipulative tactics that we employ when “warring” with the other parent don’t really punish the other parent as much as it does your child(ren).  Refer back to the “team kid(s)” approach and learn to manage your emotions and actions in a way that doesn't end up creating negative energy that is passed on the child(ren). 

Know your limitations

Although it would be ideal to think that two adults can work together to raise a child, the reality is that many times the parents are the product of broken homes themselves – ill-equipped to do or become more than the example that their parents set for them.  Take a moment to do a self-evaluation.  Reflect upon how your parents raised you.  Recall how you felt trying to manage your feelings for both your parents when they were at odds with each other.   If you find yourself behaving in the exact same way and you know how hurtful it was for you growing up, then you can identify with the impact your inability to co-parent is having on your child.  To protect your child from the pain that experience caused you, realize your limitations and begin to make adjustments for the better.  You can talk with a family therapist or other professional who can help you through your parenting issues.  But in the meantime, if you and the other parent aren't at an amicable level with each other, consider having a mediator that is neutral to communicate on your behalf.  That way you avoid confusion and conflict with the other parent and the child isn't the one to suffer.  The mediator can help establish a visitation schedule, parenting plan and keep each other abreast of important dates and activities.  This removes the strain communicating with each other on your own might impose.  Realizing your limitations and keeping them from effecting your child(ren) is the first of many steps you can take towards creating a healthier co-parenting relationship.

Below is a compare/contrast of some of the most well-known “baby mama drama” issues along with suggestions for a more mature approach that makes the child the focus rather than each other.

“Baby Mama Drama” Approach
Co-Parenting Method
*The other parent hasn’t paid child support in 3 months.  The child’s birthday party is Saturday and the other parent isn’t invited.

*The other parent was disrespectful during our conversation.  (S)he won’t be allowed to talk with my child.

*The other parent has had or is expecting a child with someone else.   You begin to talk with your child(ren) about the other parent not being as supportive or inclusive of him or her because the other parent has started another family with someone else. 
*Talk with the other parent about why there has been no financial support in 3 months.  Whether this has been something that has happened often or if this is a first, invite the other parent to the birthday party.  Follow up with an attorney or other professional to resolve financial support.  The reason for this is because there is so much more to parenting and raising children than money.  The other parent isn’t “paying” for access to his or her child.  On the other hand, if the other parent has become unemployed or other circumstance that has hindered full payment of child support, there is still something that can be done to offer some support for the child.  Whether it’s a $5 pizza or some small amount towards expenses, not having the child support payment in full doesn’t exempt one from offering any financial support whatsoever. 

*There’s no need to speak disrespectfully to the other parent in return.  End the call.  Phone a friend or relative to establish a schedule for communication with the child(ren) and make certain the child is available during that time to talk with the other parent.  Follow up with a mediator or attorney if communication between the two of you has reached a level of harassment that poses an unnecessary strain on you. 

*Explain to your child(ren) that there will be an addition to his or her family, preferably together with the parent present.  Take the exact same approach you would if the two of you were having the child together.  Don’t rob your child(ren) of the excitement they should feel learning that (s)he will have another sibling because of the bitterness you might have toward each other.  Remember, it’s “team kid(s).” 

There is no other job as important as that of a parent.  I don’t knock any effort that a single parent makes to raise his or her child(ren).  Yet it also holds true that we sometimes unwittingly behave in ways that we don’t realize have a direct impact on the kind of person our child(ren) will grow to become.  By learning to shift the focus to what’s most important – the well-being of the child(ren)- parents can raise a child together equipped to manage broken relationships in his or her adult life rather than a replica of parents’ emotional immaturity.  Invest in the kind of person your child(ren) will become.  Begin today putting aside the drama in favor of parenting that is conducive to forming and sustaining healthy relationships for your child’s future.  Team Kid(s)!!!   

For more information about co-parenting, you can visit:

Tips for Divorced Parents


Co-Parenting Skills Self-Assessment

*The opinions and content of this post are those of The Big Girl Chronicles.  The links and resources shared in this blog post should in no way be held responsible for the content therein.