Sunday, October 25, 2020

The Journey to Love: Healing Birthday Trauma

Photo by Tore F on Unsplash

As I write this, it’s my birthday.

Like many trauma survivors, my birthday has never really been a day of celebration and joy. Rather, it’s been a collection of traumas big and small, a message layered year after year that I’m not worth celebrating.

Until this year. Because this year, with a lot of help, I processed the trauma around my birthday.

I see now how I was taking other people’s words and actions (or lack thereof) and making it about me. That’s easy to do, and a normal part of child development. And as happens with trauma, we can get stuck with unprocessed trauma, in the same stage of development we were in when it happened. So the child who blames themself for being unlovable, as children do when they are rejected, overlooked, ignored, punished unfairly, and so on, becomes the adult who blames themself for being unlovable. And every time those old wounds get triggered by current words or actions (or lack thereof), it’s taken as proof that the old wound’s message was right: I am unlovable.

When we process the trauma, we can separate ourselves from it, create a more empowering belief from it, and place it appropriately into the narrative of our lives that makes us who we are today.

But it must be processed. And to process it, we have to be honest about how we feel, be willing to feel the emotions, accept that the emotions are a natural and necessary part of who we are as human beings, express those emotions in a way that does not cause harm to ourselves or others, and love ourselves on the other side.


The day before my birthday, I sobbed. I grieved for the child who so often was rejected or ignored. I grieved for the child who believed that a pleasant birthday experience had to be earned. I grieved for the child who never wanted to have another birthday because it was only a reminder of being unloved.

I had a call with my coach that day. Knowing she’s a safe person, and our calls are sacred space where I can freely be my full self, I sobbed in front of her. She saw my tears, witnessed my grief, and heard my pain. And when I had shared enough for her to understand why birthdays were so painful, she gently reminded me that what others say or do (or don’t say or do) does not diminish my worth one iota.

An image from my three years of EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) trauma therapy came up. In the image, I was standing on a crowded beach, in pain. Everyone around me was wearing sunglasses, but as I looked more closely, I realized that some of these glasses didn’t just block the sun. They also blocked the ability to see others, or others’ pain, or only certain people.

It wasn’t that they didn’t care. It was that they couldn’t see me. It’s no one’s fault, including mine, and it also doesn’t change who I am. How others see me (if they do), has everything to do with their perspective (glasses) and nothing to do with who I am.

I am neither diminished nor elevated based on how others perceive me, including if they don’t perceive me at all.


On the morning of my birthday, I woke with a physical feeling in my body that what others say or do is not about me. And making it about me is what I as a child did because that was developmentally appropriate for a child. I don’t need to do that anymore.

I felt a complete separation between what others say or do and who I am. I felt in touch with the truth of who I am as a spirit being of love. I felt joyous. I felt loved by the universe. I loved myself.

At 11:56 p.m. the night of my birthday, I saw the clock and that internal, critical voice noted, “Only four more minutes of my birthday, and then it’s over.”

“No,” I said aloud, shaking my head. Because every day is a day to celebrate the truth of who I am, to love myself, and feel loved by the universe. Every day can feel like my birthday, and I can celebrate everyone who comes into my life and invite them to celebrate love with me.

Every day is another opportunity to experience life from a place of love. Every day is an opportunity to truly know that we matter.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Stay In Your Lane

I spent several weeks in June helping my oldest son get all the practice he needed to take his driver’s license road test. And he discovered, as all of us who learn to drive do, that when driving on the highway, even small movements at the wheel can significantly change the trajectory of the vehicle when you’re traveling at 60 miles per hour.

The refrain he most often heard from me during those highway trips was, “Stay in your lane.”

So imagine the surprise and a certain amount of frustration when that became the refrain from my guides to me.

It went like this.

I was scrolling through Facebook, as one does, finding myself getting sucked into reading arguments about Covid-19, about masks, about the USPS, about racism, about the upcoming election, and about politics in general. People were doubling down on conspiracy theories, supplementing them with QAnon talking points. And my energy went from open and peaceful to fear and anger.

“You need to get off of Facebook,” Dresden, my primary guide, cautioned me.

“How are people believing some of this?” I asked. “Have you seen this?”

“What I’m seeing is you not getting off of Facebook.”

“This is just wrong!” I continued. “This isn’t true at all. Science debunked this years ago.”

“Don’t go there.”

“Here, look. Someone else posted a well-written rebuttal from a verified source. I should copy this source for use in the future.”

“Sheyna,” Dresden said in a tone I hadn’t heard in a while. “Stay in your lane.”

“What? I’m not driving.”

“You’re heading in a direction that will not take you where you want to go,” Dresden said. “Remind me what you uncovered as your mission.”

I remembered a kind of psychic download that I’d just recently received. “I connect you to your true self and your own kick-ass team of guides, who are ready to help you live a powerful life of love, joy, and freedom.

“And what did you then discern was your mission on social media?” Dresden asked.

“I share what I've learned and experienced — both pleasant and unpleasant — in my journey to that powerful life of love, joy, and freedom.”

“And how is this,” Dresden waved toward my phone, “helping you stay true to your mission?”

“Um…”

“You think you’re just browsing posts,” Dresden said, “but is it taking you anywhere close to love, joy, or freedom?”

“I need to know where people are, where they’re coming from,” I argued, knowing already it wasn’t helpful.

“How is allowing yourself to get mired in anger and fear going to help you experience love, joy, or freedom, or for that matter, helping anyone else experience that?”

“It isn’t.”

“And what will?” Dresden prodded.

“The things I’m drawn to: meditation, time in nature, talking with you, laughter.”

“So…?”

“So, I don’t need that rebuttal? Or any other evidence that would support where I stand on these issues?”

“That isn’t your mission,” Dresden said. “Not this time.”

“I need to be very mindful of what I consume on social media,” I said. “Stay true to my mission. Stay in my lane.”


  

Thursday, June 04, 2020

On Confession, Denial, and White Privilege

Image by Betty Martin

I’m white. I’m Jewish. I’m an abuse survivor. And I’m a former mental health counselor and current soul guides coach with a specialty in adult survivors of trauma. This collection of experiences and perspectives comes together and leads me to invite my fellow white people to be with me here in the pain and grief and rage and powerlessness in this week following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

I invite you, fellow white people, to be here with me and to consider another perspective.

We Jews don’t do individual confession the way Catholics (and perhaps other Christians) do. On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, we recite—five times—the Viddui, a prayer for the confession of sins. And what makes this different and unique is that we recite it communally. We all confess to the same failures, whether we know we are guilty of them or not. We do this for a few reasons:


  1. As a communal people, a tribe, what one of us does, it affects our entire community;
  2. We are creating a sacred space for those who know they need to confess, but don’t want to admit it;
  3. We are acknowledging that even if we don’t think we’ve failed in this particular way, we know we could have unknowingly, and that we have the capacity to do so.

In the Viddui, we confess to failures such as being self-destructive, betraying ourselves and our families, stealing from others (including time, energy, attention), being impulsive, stubborn, ignorant, and this one, especially now: we have diminished the importance of others.

We Jews have historically always been on the side of the underdog. We’ve been the underdog. In some places in the world, we still are. And we are all, Jewish or not, much better at empathizing with the victim than the perpetrator. We can’t help but imagine what Mr. Floyd’s last few agonizing minutes were like, we see the injustices and feel angry and called to protest them in some form, and we place our solidarity with those who have been wronged.

Most, if not all of us, know what it feels like to not be able to breathe.

My invitation for you today is to step away from that perspective for a few minutes. Make sure you’re in a safe space, as you do this, and if you also have trauma in your background, that you have support people nearby, physically or virtually. Begin to take deep, easy, rhythmic breaths. Any distracting thoughts can be let go for now. They’ll return when you need them. Feel the support beneath your body and allow your muscles to relax. Then, focus on your heart, on the love you have for others, the love you have for yourself, the love others have for you.

Remember that we as human beings are all connected energetically. On one level, we are all George Floyd. And that means we are also, on one level, all Derek Chauvin.

Saying that we are all George Floyd gives us a sense of righteous fury, of fighting for equality and justice. And for all of us who are white, it means being less likely to be shot down (literally or figuratively) for that. Because like it or not, believe it or not, the reality is that we have white privilege.

Saying that we are all Derek Chauvin? That has an entirely different feeling to it. And I would submit to you that almost no one wants to say that and mean it. But that’s precisely what I’m asking you to do right now for this exercise.

In the same way that we confess in the Viddui that we have caused pain to others, say silently or aloud, “We are all Derek Chauvin.”

What feelings come up? Denial? Anger? Disgust that I’d even suggest this? For many, the immediate reaction is, “No way, I am nothing like him.” But that’s not the point. The point is not whether you, an individual, have acted (or even thought) like another individual. The point is that we are part of a community that has, and that continues to, treat Black, indigenous, and other people of color as less-than. We are part of a community that has discriminated in housing, employment, social services, policing, law, and education, among others.

That’s the discomfort I invite you to be with. The discomfort of knowing that we are part of a community that has caused pain, betrayal, that has stolen futures and lives.

Am I suggesting that you are equally guilty of murder? As an individual, no. As a community, yes, we are. And here’s why: The people we vote for, the people we trust, the people we defend, the people we elect to lead us, the people we give our money to—these are the people who have written the laws and policies and contracts and rules that have led to where we are today.

When we as white people elect a racist person to lead any part of our community because that racist person values businesses and profit and property over the quality of life—and the lives themselves—of Black, indigenous, and other people of color, then we are part of the problem. When we as white people make excuses for police brutality because “the people they arrested shouldn’t have done what they did,” we are part of the problem. When we as white people use racist language and excuse it by saying we mean it as a joke, we are part of the problem. When we give money—in donations or by using our purchasing power—to racist and white supremacist business owners, we are part of the problem.

In myriad ways, we are part of the problem that has led to where we are today. And we are part of the solution. But we can only be a part of the solution by acknowledging and owning our collective responsibility, our communal sin, and how the decisions we and those who came before us made, how the way we have bought into even subtle systemic racism, have created the Derek Chauvins of this world.

Be with the discomfort, the anger, the denial, the disgust. And recognize that those feelings are there to point you in a direction toward healing. None of us want to be Derek Chauvin. So, what are you going to do to atone for our communal responsibility? Whose voices will you amplify? Who will you invite to speak at your organization? Who will you vote for? What petitions will you sign? Where will you donate? What will you repost? What words will you choose? How will you show up in your life, in your family, in the world?

Our communal responsibility is not a sentence of punishment. It’s an opportunity to do better, to be better. Will you take it?

Friday, April 17, 2020

Uh...

Uh…
“Um,” “uh,” “you know,” and “like” were verbal diarrhea, according to my eighth grade speech and debate teacher. He added that using words like this made us sound stupid, and I did not want to be seen as stupid, so I threw myself into eliminating every filler word possible.
Two years later, working a summer job, I drafted my legal research on a pro bono case involving the definition of the word sunset for my father, a well-known attorney in the south San Francisco Bay Area at the time. Rather than rewriting it, he thought it good enough to present to the judge as I’d written it. Then he asked me to accompany him to court for the case.
The judge recognized immediately that it wasn’t my father’s writing style, and asked who wrote the brief. My father said I did, and motioned me to stand. Then the judge addressed me.
“What do you want to do for a career, young lady?”
“Um…” I began.
I didn’t tell him I wanted to be a writer, because my parents already convinced me I’d never make any money at it, and I should give up that dream. I didn’t tell him I wanted to be a psychologist, that I wanted to guide others toward healing emotional wounds, because I’d already been lectured on the “soft sciences” not being real science. I told him I was thinking of law school.
I wanted his approval. (He was a judge, after all.) I wanted to present an image that others would approve of.

For the next twenty years, I did my best to perfect that image. I called it my mask. And behind it, I was dying. I didn’t want to always look and be professional and competent and constantly prove myself and subject myself to judgment every time I opened my mouth. I wanted to live in jeans and go without makeup and give voice to the voices in my head—those of my guides and those of the characters that had stories to tell.
I had a 90s power suit, was the assistant to the executive director of a university business department, and spent a good deal of time on the phone soliciting money from wealthy donors. I wanted to write and watch the clouds go by and eat ice cream messily.
In my thirties, I got that chance. I had kids. And I wrote two novels. And I spent a lot of time looking at clouds and hunting for Little Boy’s Other White Sock.
Now I’m just into my fifties, my kids have become well-adjusted young adults, and I’ve embarked on my true love—even beyond writing: teaching others how to connect with their soul guides, their intuition, and their joy, and how to use those in every aspect of their lives. In making this shift in my work, judgment came back. How should I dress? How professional do I need to look? What should I say?
Uh…
But here’s the thing: I don’t want another mask. Now, when you get me, you get me, ums and uhs and awkward silences and all.
There’s actually a science behind all those filler words. Sometimes I use them to let others know that I’m trying to find the right word, that I’m not done talking yet, or that I’m trying to sift through my thoughts and all the input my guides are giving me. (It can be very noisy in my head.) So, Mr. R. in eighth grade speech and debate, I understand what you were trying to teach us, and, um, I reject the sacrifice of authenticity to the altar of image.
And now, in the middle of this global pandemic, when millions are unemployed in the United States, and we’re all stressed to some degree about who’s going to get sick next and if they’ll survive, and what about the economy… I encourage you to give yourselves a break. Accept all your ums and uhs and live in denim if that’s your gig and embrace who you really are, not the image you’ve been trying to project.
We have enough false images in the world today. It’s time to be real. And whole.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Connection

Time to reconnect
Breathe
Listen

The gentle whispers
Soft as caresses
Reminding me
I am
Loved and lovable
No need to 
Prove anything 

Trust
It will all happen
As it should 

My focus
Must be on 
What I can do
Not who sees it
Or doesn't 

The goal is Connection
For those who wish it
And it cannot be forced
Where it is 
Neither wanted
Nor needed 

Breathe
Listen
Trust
Connect

Saturday, August 31, 2019

My (True) Scariest Story


I’ve told a lot of scary stories. Some are published; some aren’t. But there’s one scary story I’ve never told: mine.

It’s time.

It’s time because it’s been holding me back for thirty years. It keeps me at a distance from others, untrusting, wary, afraid.

It’s easier now for me to say publicly that I’ve been seeing and speaking with my spirit guides since I was little—running the risk that disbelievers will question my mental health while those on the religious right call me evil—than it is to tell this story of my past.

It is the last great block in my healing, the thick quicksand of shame that slows my progress, keeps me from moving forward, and takes a toll on my mental and physical health.

To those who know me, this may or may not come as a surprise. Any relatives who read this may find it difficult to accept, and that’s okay. None of us want to hear less than stellar things about those we love.



It really begins in my early childhood. 

I grew up in a chaotic, frequently violent home. My mom’s mood could change from jovial to angry at the drop of a hat, and she’d sometimes go into rages for no discernible reason. My dad liked getting reactions out of me, and intentionally used sexist, racist, homophobic language. He sent me pornographic photos (always exposed males) via email. He repeatedly talked about my body in a sexualized way, through my childhood and well into adulthood. He frequently touched me inappropriately, claiming each time it was an accident. He said he was a “dirty old man” like his father, and he took pride in that.

My mom blamed her moods on me. On what I had or hadn’t done. Nothing was ever good enough. I was never good enough. The gifts I gave her weren’t thoughtful enough, my housecleaning skills didn’t meet her standards, I talked too much, I didn’t call her enough, I was in her way, I’d distanced myself too much. And how dare I be happy when she was feeling sad. Anything she liked that I didn’t was a rejection of her.

And when I reacted the way one would expect a child to react, they told me I was wrong. I was too sensitive and needed to learn to take a joke. I was ungrateful for wanting or needing more than I had, or for desires that were different from theirs. I was a prude for not wanting to be touched or ogled. I was a slut for wanting to experiment with makeup at age sixteen. I was ungrateful for not setting my life aside to be there for them whenever they needed me.

My feelings of hurt or anger were labeled selfish and ungrateful. My mom said I ruined every family gathering and holiday, but I felt completely powerless. I attempted suicide more than once, and my parents ignored it. When Child Protective Services got involved, my parents got me into therapy, but then told me that they’d only pay for it if I told them what I told the therapist. 

I later found out the psychiatrist they hired to see me was someone for whom my dad had done work, someone who owed him. And that psychiatrist shared everything with my dad anyway. So much for confidentiality. After a handful of sessions during which the psychiatrist diagnosed me with depression and tried to convince me to take medication, they quit paying, saying they weren’t the problem. I was.

They brought up every time that I’d conflated two similar events (a known and normal trait of human memory) as evidence that my memory couldn’t be trusted. Every detail that I got wrong, every time I remembered events out of order (even when all the events were true), they told me I couldn’t trust what I remembered. I was prone to suggestion. I made things up.

But then, in the early 1990s, they admitted to me the things they’d done. They wouldn’t go so far as to call it “abuse” because to them, that meant broken bones and hospital visits. All I had were memories of welts, bruises, sickening touches, hurtful words, and a broken spirit. They said they did the best they could. They did say they could have done better. And then they shared some horrifying stories that they remembered, times when my mom “snapped” (her word) and went into a violent rage she couldn’t remember later. My dad recalled times when my mom called him at work, telling him to come home immediately, because she was going to kill us. And how my dad came home and wanted to know what my brother and I had done to cause this.

I didn’t feel vindicated. I just felt numb. I wish the story had ended there. 

But within a year or so of their confessions, they discovered the False Memory Syndrome Foundation—an organization founded by a guy who was accused of child sexual abuse by his adult daughter. (Those accusations against him were later corroborated by other family members.) It didn’t matter that I had never forgotten any of my memories, that none of them were repressed, or that the only therapy I’d had up to that point was the psychiatrist who’d shared with them everything I’d told him. My parents jumped on the bandwagon and claimed that everything I labeled “abuse” was actually a false memory, implanted by a therapist. They were innocent victims.

Granted, the psychiatrist I saw was unethical, but his only agenda in treating me was getting me medicated, which I consistently refused. 

They went one step further: they told all of our relatives and family friends that I was a victim of so-called “false memory syndrome,” that I was sick and not to be believed. They said they had no idea why I maintained this vendetta against them, but they were the victims. 

To this day, I don’t know what my relatives think about that. No one’s ever talked about it with me. But the family I knew growing up never talked about the unpleasant stuff. Everyone pretended it didn’t exist. And those who did dare speak about it were shamed. “We don’t air our dirty laundry in public.”

I found a letter that my parents had written to my husband, urging him to have me committed to a psychiatric hospital “for my own good,” and pleading with him to see their side, how much I was hurting them.

My husband witnessed some of the abuse. He read the threatening letters and email, he heard the sexual comments my father made about and to me. He remembers well pulling up to the house to pick me up for a date when I was 17, and hearing my mom screaming at me from inside the house because I had tried to fix a cheap necklace clasp and it broke. He heard similar screaming at me over the phone when my mom would call me.

I responded the way I honestly think a healthy adult would respond: I cut off contact with my parents. (This gave them more fodder for the “our daughter is sick” file.) A couple years later, my brother reached out to me via email. I was wary, but I wanted family so badly. I had my husband, a few friends, but no one else. I wrote back to him, but I was anxious about how much I told him. I tried to keep everything vague. I’d double- and triple-check my email before I sent it, because I couldn’t trust myself either. 

I didn’t trust doctors, therapists, anyone who offered something to me, because I was certain they’d want something in return, and whatever they wanted would be debilitatingly painful. I didn’t trust anyone enough to develop friendships, and the isolation fueled the recurring depression and anxiety I’d had since my early teens. I’d try to work, but I would wind up in the hospital with suicidal intentions. I thought everyone else would be better off if I was no longer on the planet—if they even noticed that I was gone. 
Throughout all of this, my guides were with me, but I didn’t always choose to listen to them. In the worst of my depression and self-hatred, I had a hard time connecting with them. And to be honest, I questioned if they were real, or if they were part of the delusions that my parents claimed I had. They were never wrong, and they always made me feel better, but maybe they were just the creations of a sick mind.

In 2003, I got into therapy. I’d kept copies of all the emails and letters I’d sent my parents while I was in touch with them, along with their letters to me. I gave them to the therapist. I avoided talking about memories and stuck to my current conversations with my parents, most of which revolved around their parenting advice about my two children, mostly warning me that I’d have spoiled children if I didn’t spank them. The therapist said the letters and emails were one of the most severe cases of gaslighting she’d ever seen. 

Eventually, I trusted her enough to tell her about my guides. She was skeptical at first, but asked a lot of questions. (My guides answered some of them.) She took my case to a board review, which included psychologists, psychiatrists, and clergy. They discussed it, considered other diagnoses, and unanimously declared me a “mystic.” They didn’t know how, but they were completely convinced that the entities I talked with were both divine and real.

My therapist heartily encouraged me to work more with my guides. I began to stop doubting their existence. And slowly, I began to trust them. 

For years, they talked about how I also needed to trust myself. Taking baby steps, I let go of my self-doubt too. When I posted in a very vague way on my blog about what it was like growing up, and the time CPS came to the house, my brother angrily commented that I was wrong, that none of this happened, that I was lying and hurting everyone. Fortunately for me, I had a witness to the CPS investigation—my best friend in high school, who also witnessed some of the things my parents did and said. But that experience left me too frightened to publicly state anything about what I’d experienced. Until now.

In 2009, my mom died. My dad had died a few years earlier. Going through my mom’s house, I found a file with my name on it. In it, she’d amassed every article she could find on false memories. She also had printed email correspondence with my brother. Back when he’d reached out to me by email, and I’d cautiously started talking with him, he was forwarding my responses to my parents. Between them, they’d discussed this, agreed it was best that I shouldn’t know what they were doing.

This time, instead of feeling like I was wrong or sick, I was angry.

My guides led me to a coach who was able to help me have experiences of trusting myself and trusting others in a safe space. Bit by bit, she helped me see that I could share myself with trusted people, safe people, and be supported. Even loved.

When I was later faced with another betrayal—this time from my (now former) faith community—I chose a different response. I walked away. 

I share all this with you now for several reasons. First and foremost, because I need to end the silence. In silence and secrecy about this, there has been shame, and I have nothing to be ashamed of. Instead, I want to walk forward in integrity and authenticity, and that requires honesty and speaking my truth. My guides are 100% behind me in this, and their support has given me the courage and strength to sit down and write this.

Second, I’m sharing this because every time I have wanted to post something about my experience, whether with my guides or about how I grew up, there has been an imposing What will people (especially relatives) think? hanging over my head. It keeps me in a wounded child position. I do not owe anyone my silence in exchange for maintaining their comfort.




Third, I’m sharing this for all of those who want to share their truth, who want to be free from the shame, but can’t yet. Maybe it’s not safe. Maybe they’re not ready. Maybe they still believe the gaslighting, the lies that it’s somehow our own fault, that we’re only speaking up to get attention, that we’re troublemakers or bitter, that we can’t let it go, we’re too sensitive and can’t take a joke, that it’s all in the past and we should forgive and forget.

No. I have forgiven my parents for myself, but to forget is to condone what was done, and what is still being done to others. To forget is to dishonor the past, to say it’s all okay now. It was not, and is not okay.

And as I see now parents and partners of people I know gaslighting them, verbally abusing them and then claiming they’re making it all up, that it’s their depression or anxiety talking, that what they remember are false memories (or fake news), that they’ve blown it all out of proportion, I can keep quiet no longer.

I am not sick or deranged or making it up or trying to get attention or wanting to file a lawsuit. I am claiming my truth and standing in it. I am no longer ashamed. I am free to be who I am, regardless of what others think or say.

And for all those who get me on a deep level, when you’re ready, I’ll be here and we can stand together.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

The Three Children

The following is a story I wrote over twenty years ago, as a way to understand multiple covenant theory (that there is more than one divine covenant with humanity). I'm guided to share this here, now.



This is a story about a Mother with many children. The Mother, like mothers who came after, had difficulty getting Her children to behave. Sometimes the children would disobey and get hurt; other times they would hurt each other. Distraught by the pain which they so unnecessarily endured, the Mother decided to make a contract with Her children.

Like all mothers that came after, She began by explaining, "I love you and I don't want to see you get hurt; besides, we are running out of Band-Aids. You are old enough now to take on some responsibility around the Home, so..." and She outlined the contract. The Mother would protect them against harm, make sure that their needs were met, and provide a special dessert after dinner every Friday. In return, the children would respect one another, treat new kids on the block with kindness, keep themselves clean, and wash their hands before dinner without being reminded.

All the children protested and wanted to know why things must change. But the Mother knew the children were not yet old enough to understand why, and so, like mothers who came after, explained with, "Because I'm your Mother."

A few of the oldest children, led by Her first-born, accepted the terms of the contract. They had experienced enough of the Mother's stern lectures that they knew when to stop arguing and do as they were told. Not that this was easy for these children, for to this day one can hear the occasional "But Mo-om!" echoing throughout their Home.

The younger children, however, had a more difficult time with this contract, and the Mother realized that She had not made this contract accessible to all Her children. So, after thinking about it for a while, the Mother came up with an idea. She gathered her younger children around Her and said, "I love you and I don't want to see you get hurt. I know that the contract I made with my oldest children doesn't allow for some of your needs and the differences in how you learn. So I am going to ask one of my oldest children to teach you by example."

The Mother then went to Her oldest children, a few of whom were in the middle of a game of Monopoly. Several of those children were arguing over the payment of a Community Chest card when another knocked the board over and said, "Come on, you guys, this isn't about money; we're supposed to be having fun and playing by the rules. Mom wouldn't like it if she saw us fighting." Another group of the oldest children were reading books to each other in a corner, looked up briefly at the interchange, and cautioned the outspoken one, "Shhh! You'll get us in trouble."

The Mother watched all this with a mixture of concern and amusement. Then She pretended to have just arrived and said, "I need a volunteer to teach the younger children how to behave and what I expect from them."

The oldest children looked at each other and then back at the Mother. "Can't we teach them as a group?" some asked. But the Mother knew the younger children would learn best from an individual, and explained as much. "Well, how about him?" the children in the corner said, indicating the outspoken one at the Monopoly game. "He likes talking to us about the rules."

The Mother looked at the outspoken one, who said, "Okay. I'll do it." And so, the Mother explained that there would be a different kind of contract, and She would use the input of this one child to adapt the terms to the needs of the younger children. She also cautioned him to be careful, because his new status could bring about both great praise and great pain from those around him. The outspoken one nodded and said, "Whatever it takes."

The younger children learned well from him, and the contract was adapted to their specific needs. But the youngest children still had a difficult time, and the Mother realized that their needs had not been met by either contract. And so She thought for a while and came up with another idea. She gathered her youngest children around Her and said, "I love you and I don't want to see you get hurt. I know that the other two contracts I made don't allow for all of your needs, and while you have learned some from the the others, I think you need someone else to teach you, to whom you can relate better."

The Mother then went to one of several of her oldest children who had never accepted the first contract. They were busy playing around the sandbox, building elaborate castles and then enacting a variation of capture the flag. She called one child aside, and said, "I want you to teach my youngest children how to behave and what I expect from them. I have watched you playing with your brothers and sisters, writing your stories, dreaming your dreams. I believe my youngest children will relate best to you. I will teach you anything you don't already know, particular to my youngest children's needs."

And so, the one child taught the youngest children, and they learned well from him.

Are there children who accepted none of the three contracts? Of course. Some insist on being rebellious, some have only recently been born and are too young to be accepting such responsibility, and many others—like the Children who were often seen camping and taking nature walks—have made other contracts. But that is for another story, another day.


Copyright © 1997 by Sheyna Galyan