Mama Didn’t Mean That Honey…

Words matter. Words have the power to embolden and empower. They also have the power to destroy and denigrate. This is especially true with children. It is important to contemplate the words we say to children. And, people who want to be decent parents try. We stay away from language that will brow-beat, disregard, or mistreat our children. We forgo frustrated statements that will scar children in years to come.  

I pondered the hidden messages that children may hear in or between our words. Communication is a two person activity. It is not only the intention of the speaker that matters. Interpersonal communication requies listeners to interpret the message. I have contemplated the benign words we use that unintentionally impact children. I came up with three types I wish to explore.

Unsaid Statements

Sometimes, we communicate positions and expectations to our children without even knowing. Most often these unsaid statements are due to defaulting to assuming the status quo. Contemplate the following example:

A young man embarking upon high school is nervous about dating. His parents tell him that he is a smart and handsome young man and any girl would be lucky to date him.

If the young man in question is gay then our affirming statement may create the wrong impression. He may now assume that his parents demand heterosexual behavior from him. The young man may feel rejection of who he is. Instead, his parents intended their words to be supportive of his likability.

This is tough because the parents may not have a problem with whom their son chooses to love. They may not expect him to default to a status quo relationship. But, he now assumes that; unnecessarily so. Language conventions require us to have some specificity in our words. But, this can be misinterpreted. 

As my son has reached high school, I have tried to work outside of the status quo. When he has felt bad about himself, I remind him that any person would be lucky to date him. I have said, “once you meet a boy or girl you like.”

To which he replied, “oh mama.”

“I want to make sure you understand that who you like will not impact how much I like you.” I said and walked away.

Blanket Statements

Blanket statements, overgeneralization, stereotypes. All these words fall under the logical fallacy known as hasty generalizations. Hasty generalizations are statements without adequate supporting evidence. Hasty generalizations illicit assumption, stereotyping, unwarranted conclusion, overstatement, or exaggeration. I know all this because I took too many philosophy classes in college. And yet.. I find myself committing the fallacy of hasty generalization with my own child. Like, always. (see what I did there?)

When I make blanket statements to my son they usually have to do with house chores and begin like “You Never…” or “You always forget….”

It may feel like he never does X or always forgets to do Y. Those all or nothing words serve to undermine the impact of the message. Even if there were truth to such a statements, how does stating that truth help you get the result you want? I posit that it does not.

Young people justify actions when situations seem hopeless. And negative thinking can lead to future negative actions. Thus, we must prove that for every problem there is a solution.

“She never notices when I do things right anyway.”

As parents the key to raising children that think like you is to make them want to emulate or please you. When we act with good and maintain high self-expectations, children will rise to our level. To this end, I am going to change my words. When I want to say,

“You always forget to throw out the trash.”

Instead, I am going to try to say,

“I do not like it when you forget to throw out the trash.”

Regrettable Statements

The final type of statement to curb are the statements we make that we later regret. I have been guilty of it. I am horrified to think about the number of times that I may said something that I should not have said to my child. I suffer from foot-in-mouth disease because I am temperamental and impetuous. A dangerous combination.

I do not have any examples for statements in this section. Because I cannot think of any now. And, likely because it is too embarrassing to recall the ugly words I may have said to my sweet stepson. But, I have begun to develop a technique for lessening the number of times that “Amada Piranha” rears her ugly head. (And yes, my bite can be so sharp that my family’s nickname for me is in fact, “Amada Piranha.”)

When you feel those ugly words making their way out of your mouth. Bite down. Cover your lips with your hands and run away. Do not talk. Use a two to one ratio for this practice. In other words, “for every one minute of talking you are about to do, think for two minutes first.”

How do you prevent from making these types of statements with your children?

Family Time Reset

It is commonplace to live near family members among Latinx communities. Unfortunately,  I live in a town where the extent of my family connections are my husband and stepson. No big. We have created a “family circle” by forging excellent friendships. Our friends have become our family. These bonds developed through spending time together and establishing traditions. 
 
Among our favorite activities is the Family Dinner Party (FDP.) It is an excellent way to create camaraderie for your social circle or even extended family. The goal of the FDP is to focus on relationships rather than refined niceties. Thus, to enjoy its benefits, re-evaluate and reset your expectations of what a social gathering requires. To start an FDP tradition with your friends and family, consider the following three tips.  
 
Reduce work
 
The purpose of this party is to enjoy your circle of friends. But, it is hard to enjoy a party if you have a stack of dishes to wash afterward. A key to making this a tradition you want to uphold is to reduce work.
There are many ways to reduce the work. I use disposable dish-ware, divide cooking responsibilities, and sometimes take the fun outside.
It sounds controversial, I know. Your inner Martha Stewart cringes at the thought of using disposable dish-ware. After all, not only is it ugly, but it does not bode well for reducing your carbon footprint. I get all those arguments; but, hear me out. Life is about the people you have in it. People coming to your FDP are or should feel like family. They are not going to judge you. They shouldn’t. Besides, you have two choices. One, you can reduce the work and enjoy your party. Or, you can enjoy the perfect house and not party. When in doubt, party. Let it go, the fun will be worth it. Just be yourself… unless yourself is a clean freak perfectionist. Do your best for that moment and let go of the rest.
 
Another way to reduce the work? Divide the food responsibilities. This is an excellent way to reduce the work AND help others become invested in your party. People want to share some of themselves also. By giving them the ability to bring a side, you share not only the responsibility but the accolades for a delicious meal. If you are responsible for the main dish, ask others to bring sides, drinks or accompaniments.
 
One of my worries early on was ending up with a hodgepodge dinner. There was no reason to worry.  My friends brought sides that worked with my entrees once I let them know what the entree would be. You can assign people to help clean up afterward. Or do something simple like order takeout. Ask everyone to contribute towards its cost and enjoy your party.
 
Get everyone involved
 
To turn this activity into a tradition for your VIPs, make them feel involved. Essential. Start by inviting a small enough group that everyone can interact. Our core group began with fourteen people. Yours should be the size that feels right for you. Part of the fun is interacting with all your guests so starting small will help with that. Once everyone is participating in the tradition, you can add more guests. A bonus tip to getting everyone involved? Consider letting everyone vote on who is added to the group in the future.
 
The best way to make everyone feel essential? Greet each person as they arrive and spend a little time talking to everyone that attends.   Looking for more ways to get others involved? Suggest that others host, if they seem interested. Another option? Ask everyone to take turns designating and preparing the main entree.  
 
Create fun
 
Now that you have gotten everyone together, mix it up and have fun. Include time to socialize, communicate, and even compete. Add a board game night; interactive activities ensure participation and involvement. Not into board games? No worries. Consider your circle for inspiration and choose activities that appeal to your group. Are your friends movie buffs? Watch a movie together but add an interactive discussion afterward. In the summer, plan a croquet game and a cookout for a fabulous time.
 
Don’t have a yard to play croquet or a home large enough to have a group over? Don’t sweat it. There are still many ways that you can enjoy create traditions. Consider taking the party to a park, as appropriate. There will be plenty of activities for all involved. When the fun ends, you clean up your picnic space and go home to a clean house. Check out your city’s parks and recreations department. Many cities have community spaces available for public use. Whatever you decide to do, enjoy the process. The family dinner party is supposedto be fun and enriching. Don’t stress out and enjoy your crew.
 

If it sounds like fun to you, I encourage you to try it. If you do, don’t forget to report back and share your experience.

Reset The Romance

The world demands your attention. Life divides you into two. Your professional life. Your personal life. Your time then gets sliced into paper-thin pieces as obligations mount. These demands on your time make focusing on your romantic relationship tough.
 
You get to the point were everything seems more important than the romance. As you place less priority on your relationship, your partner often does the same. This is where the danger begins. The quote “complacency kills” is not just for empire building. It is also one that applies in marriage. If you feel that the complacency is killing the romance in your relationship, now is the time to change it.
 
Are you ready to get out of the relationship rut? If so, hit the reset button and change it up quick. Here are three ideas that you can use over the next month to help you reset the romance and your mindset.
 
DO GOOD
 
“Do Good” is a motto that has been a constant in my adult life. It is my sorority’s motto and a phrase through which I examine the world. It has been a part of my life for twenty years. Yet, I had never thought about applying it in my romantic relationship until recently. When I did, I saw a shift in my spouse’s response.
 
First, I spend a few minutes each week thinking, “how can I do good in my spouse’s life?” I start by learning what my spouse’s schedule for the week. I try to find times when he could benefit from support. Once I identify a few ways that I can make his life easier, lovelier, or more fun during the week, I make a list. I try to incorporate one or two of those ideas throughout the week.
 
Next, I encourage our son to think of ways that he can do good for his father. I remind him to show respect in the way he speaks to his father. I ask him to oversee chores his father does not enjoy like managing our trash and recycling efforts. (Note, my stepson is 15 years of age.) Every chance that I can, I remind my son that we must look out for his father as his father looks out for us.
 
Finally, I look for spur of the moment opportunities that I can show small acts of kindness. An example of this is getting my spouse a glass of water if I hear him coughing. Another is cooking his favorite foods and meals during the week. I love to cook, the question is will I have time to cook? If I do, I try to consider his palate, mostly because he is pickier than I am. But, he appreciates that I try. PS- If cooking is not your forte, no big, find what works for you. These are not fancy actions but they are actions that my husband notices.
 
USE YOUR SENSES
 
You know them; the five traditional senses. Sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch. If you are trying to reset the romance in your relationship, consider the five senses. Consider the following thoughts or questions:
 
Sight
 
Sight helps you take in the greatest amount of information in at a time. For that reason, it is the most important in this analysis. It is important to create positive sight cues for your spouse. It is okay to start with basic questions. Will my spouse find me appealing to the eye? Do I look attractive? These are relevant questions. But, go beyond the simple am I pretty? (of course you are.) Dig further. Consider asking yourself tougher questions. Will my spouse be happy to see me? Do I look happy to see him? Does my face reflect the way in which I want him to look at me. In other words, am I smiling, frowning, upset? If yes, would I want the same facial expression mirrored back to me?
 
Sound
 
Hearing is a powerful tool. It helps us absorb the world around us. And, it is a fun tool that you can use to your advantage in a relationship. I use hearing in several ways.
 
First, consider the words that you use. Words have incredible power. Words become an amazing tool. I use alliterative phrases. This means I like words that have the same sounds. For example, I refer to my partner by calling him my “sweet spouse, handsome husband, or beautiful babe.” 
 
Finally, I use the power of volume. When I want a good thought to remain in my husband’s head throughout the day, I talk soft into his ear. It can be something sweet. It can be something naughty. Whatever it is, I want that idea floating in and out of his head throughout the day. And, I seldom use the “HIGH” volume as I have found that to be most ineffective for my spouse. But, when I do he knows I am not messing around.
 
Taste
 
Taste is a particularly hard sense to contemplate when considering your relationship. After all, I could suggest making him a good meal every once in a while. But since I mentioned that earlier, reiterating it sounds all sexist and gross. No.
 
When I contemplated taste, the truth is that only sexual scenarios where hitting my head. Yes, I am talking about oral sex. Specifically, I thought of how different cunnilingus feels when you are hair-free. If you have never done it, consider a full on Brazilian wax job. It will definitely change the experience for your spouse. And for you. 
Smell
 
This is not about to get all silly and remind you to shower. I have heard some stay at home moms complain that they do not have time to even shower. I have no position on that because I have never been a stay at home parent. But, in general, I do not think that I should have to tell grown ass people to bathe. 
 
What I am envisioning is different. I believe that smells can bring about comfort and even nostalgia. So, consider aromatherapy in the home. Provide your spouse with the ability to differentiate between work and home. Run an aromatherapy machine in your bedroom to set a more relaxing ambiance. Make sure that it smells nothing like his place of employment. You want to use scents to create different moods.
 
Another option is to stick to a signature scent for yourself. In doing this, you train him to associate a scent with you. Thereafter, whenever your spouse encounters the scent they think of you.
 
Touch
 
Touch is important to human experiences. As babies, touch and the need for it, is the first sense to develop. Without touch, we atrophy. The warmth of someone’s touch can make all the difference in the world. For that reason, touch your spouse often. But, this is not about the need to have more sex (which you should.) No, this is about simple touch. The touch that says, I am here for you.
 
I use touch in several ways. First, I use touch to help assure my partner. An example of this type of touch is the way in which I caress the back of his neck when he is driving. Why do I do this? Well, I have done it since we were dating. But, I have noticed that it helps my spouse control the road rage when he is driving. Another example of a good touch is that intended to relax or calm your partner. This can include a small shoulder massage before bed or scratching his back. Figure out what type of touch your spouse responds to then use it liberally.
 
TAKE CARE OF YOU
 
Women believe that it is our job to take care of everyone before we take care of ourselves. But, this is the wrong approach. Like the instructions given at the beginning of a flight, to help others, you must help yourself first.
 
I began to work out with a trainer a few months ago. I started weightlifting; free weights, not machines. The exercise proved very helpful for my emotional well being. It reduces my anxiety and depression. It even helped me sleep better. Plus, I have begun to develop muscle and have noticed some weight loss. This makes me feel sexy and confident.
 
You know what else has happened, I have changed some of the ways in which I interact with my spouse. I am more willing to let go of the small stuff because I am too worn out to care. I am more comfortable in my own skin. This means that like when we first started dating, he can touch me anywhere- stomach included. And I am not going to push his hand away or tell him how gross my stomach looks. PS- ladies, never tell your husband something about you is gross. He doesn’t think that until you implant that shit in his head.
 
But, it is not the workout that has changed the way I interact with my sweet spouse. It is the change in me. Now, that I have carved out some time to take care of me, I am not worked up about every little thing. And, that is the best thing that I could do to reset the romance.
 
Thinking about resetting the romance in your relationship? If so, what steps are you going to take? If you have found success in resetting the romance, share your story in the comments below.