Tara Kennedy-Kline
Our family keeps a Christmas Journal. It was a gift from my mom in 1997 and I have written in it every year but one (2006, the year mom passed away). I regret not writing anything that year so badly because I don't remember much from that Holiday except for the sadness and loss I was feeling. I truly believe that there must have been some joyful, happy moments that occurred and had I journaled about them...my memories of that Holiday would probably be very different.

Anyway, my tradition is, before I write about the current year's events, I read over the prior year to see where I was and what I was focused on in my life at that time.

As I read back over 2010, in the "Things we want to remember" section...this is what I wrote:

"I want to remember how overplanning makes the Holidays too hectic. To always remember how much fun it is to have children who still believe in Santa Clause. How relaxing it is to stay at home on Christmas Day. How it's less important to get a bunch of stuff to open than to get 1 thing that means something to you, and that little traditions are more meaningful than big, new ideas."

As I finished reading my 4th realization of 2012 hit me:
Take time to look for something beautiful and joyful in each day...even in times of sadness, frustration or sorrow. And if I want to remember something (REALLY remember it.) I must Write it down and put it where I will see it every day...because the truth is, if I don't, I'll forget.

Tara Kennedy-Kline
The Holidays provide a wonderful opportunity to spend a great deal of time with family, friends and loved ones...particularly ones we don't see very often. Usually, our time together is spent indoors and after the kids have been out of school for WAY too long! Those kinds of conditions make for some pretty explosive interactions between parents and children...friends and children...and children and children.

It was during one of these explosions that my 5th realization came to light.

2 children were bickering over a game and the bickering became louder and louder until it became obvious that it would soon turn physical...the father of one of the children intervened with a booming voice "I'm tired of all the fighting! We are just trying to relax and have a nice time!" he then took the game and hurled it across the room with a final "THERE, now no one can fight over it!"

He did accomplish one thing...the room was quieter...however, he did cause a lot of tears and hurt feelings. There were several people in that room who were incredibly offended by his actions and poor example and quite frankly, expected an apology from him. When dad refused to apologize, the silent treatment became too "yucky" and the evening ended. When I spoke to some of my friends later, it became clear to me that most parents, particularly Dads, assume apologizing means saying they are "sorry"...sorry being synonymous with "weak" and "pathetic" as in: "you're a sorry excuse for a man". (Let's all say Thank you to Dirty Harry...)

But apologizing does not have to mean being sorry at all! When we as adults make a mistake which impacts another person (including our child), we must be willing to look at what we have done and ask ourselves; is what I did, or the way I reacted, something I would tolerate from or teach to my child? Is that a behavior I would coach and say is acceptable? Is that a model I want my child to follow?

If it is not, then an apology becomes as absolutely necessary as saying please or thank you.

"I want to apologize for the way I acted (what I did or said). I was angry/frustrated/embarrassed, and I made a poor choice. If I had that to do over again, I would..." No "I'm sorry" required.

What that all boiled down to for me is my Realization #5 of 2012:
Being the parent does not excuse me from apologizing when I'm wrong. To the contrary, it REQUIRES me to do so. If expressing an apology is something I expect my children to do...the lessons of when and how to do it must be taught by me.

Tara Kennedy-Kline
Today, I realized that even when I'm wrong...If I feel scolded, I will defend my position to the death!

Here's what happened...see if you can relate.

I had an appointment with both of my boys, during school hours, right after a very lengthy Holiday recess. I knew precisely what time I had to leave in order to pick up 2 children from 2 different schools and then fight traffic all the way to my destination which is more than 30 minutes away. I left my house on time and arrived at the first school where I waited for over 20 minutes to pick up my oldest son...now I'm late!

At the second school, my youngest took his sweet little time and once he did arrive at the office, he realized he had to use the restroom (yes, kids have realizations too...but NOW I'm extra late)

Traffic sucked and the kids lolly gagged into the office because they had fallen asleep and really didn't want to be there.

UBER late!!!

When I walk into the office, I am pounced upon by the first person I see "YOU'RE appointment was over 20 minutes ago!!!" And she whisked my son away as I replied 'OH WELL!"

Then the Big Dog came out to speak to me (under the guise of talking about my son...like I didn't see THAT one coming!) Complete with hands on hips, the first words out of Big Dogs mouth were "You were late AGAIN!"

NO KIDDING! ARGHHHH!!!! Now I'm pissed!

The next thing I know, I'm unloading on The Big Dog about how I warned them when they made the appointment that the time they gave me wouldn't work! How I told them I'd be late! How my kids are at 2 different schools and they're slow and the traffic sucked and GET OFF MY BACK!

To which Big Dog sheepishly replied "I guess we will have to make sure your appointments are after school next time."

Yeah! Ok......that would work...thanks for that. I'm better now.

Then it hit me, Realization #6 of 2012:
"If my approach makes people feel attacked and guilty, they will feel they need to defend themselves and nothing will get resolved. If I notice a problem and simply ask "What can I do to assist you with this?" or "How can we make this easier for you?" They are more likely to hear me and be willing to try."

Tara Kennedy-Kline
In a conversation I had with a friend this weekend, we discussed a situation that involved a child and their dad which ended in a way that my friend considered "bad".

The child was bounced from parent to parent...home to home, none of which were "fit" to raise a child. Finally, the child wound up in a children’s home and had to be taken in by another family member. The child was legally adopted by that family member and the child's father came to live in the house as well...temporarily.

Eventually, the father was told to find his own place and because the family was so disrupted by the new arrangements, it was also necessary for the child to go with the father.

My friend felt a tremendous amount of guilt over the whole situation and felt they had "let the child down" by not following through with the original custody arrangements. "But you can't save the World...so why bother trying?" Was the statement that caught my attention.

"Did you change one child's view of the World?"
"Did you not show one child that no matter what life throws at you, there are people who care about you and are willing to turn their lives upside down to do what's best for you?"
"Did you not inspire one parent to set an unbelievable goal and hold him accountable to it?"

"Did you not save YOUR piece of the World?"


Then I spoke my 8th Realization of 2012:
People have given up on the "Save the World" mentality because it’s just too overwhelming. To most people our world is too big and too broken for 1 person to fix. And although it's true, I, all alone cannot save the World...I can save my little piece of it! And by doing so, I can inspire others to save their piece too! So if I am going to "Save the World"...I have to start with my little piece of it.
Tara Kennedy-Kline
I understand the passion behind a good spanking. I feel the urgency of the Mom trying desperately to get out the door while her toddler kicks his shoes toward my face for the third time and the older 2 argue over who gets to sit behind moms seat in the car…I feel the heat in my face as think to myself “Holy Crap! I swear I’m gonna beat all 3 of you!”

I’ve been there…in that moment…I get it! But the difference is, my kids don’t get it…the beating that is.

Instead, I take a deep breath, put the toddler’s shoes in the diaper bag and tell the older two that if they don’t be quiet and get in the car, they’ll hear what yelling really sounds like and I’ll get to pick the radio station!

What my kids did get was the best of me in that moment. It may not have been pretty, or perfect or even calm…but it was the best I was going to get. It was the me that I would want them to copy. The me that can teach them a lesson in self control and self discipline without losing it or hurting them.

I guess that’s what I don’t understand about physical discipline. I mean I got hit (spanked, swatted, butt warmed…whatever cutsie name is vogue for hitting these days)
And I can honestly say, that was NOT the best of my parents. When I see a friend spank their kid, or a parent at the mall, or at the playground…I don’t think to myself “I’m sure that is the best that parent could do in that moment.” I think to myself…”There has got to be a better part of them that could have solved that issue.”

Why do we allow our fellow parents to be less than their best when teaching, guiding or disciplining their kids? Why do we allow ourselves as parents to be less than our best in that moment when we are supposed to be the model?

I guess that’s why I choose not to hit my kids…and why I choose to speak up when I see someone I care about hitting theirs…because we are grown ups. We are parents and we are better than that; and don’t we all want to teach our kids to always be the best they can be?
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