A child’s odyssey of hardship defiance and hope

Does hardship in childhood keep your child from being successful?

Divorce, chronic illness, trauma, abuse, addiction and neglect are common settings for childhood. 75% of children experience at least one of these ongoing stressors.

So we worry as parents, “Is a child’s full potential limited by these difficult circumstances? Or worse, do these childhood events result in an adult life of despair and dysfunction?”

The good news is NO!

Social scientists studied 400 of the most successful people in the 20th century and this is what they found:

1. Less than 15% were raised in supportive, untroubled homes, and

2. 75% grew up in a family burdened by poverty, abuse, absent parents, alcoholism, or serious illness.

Adverse childhood events teach resilience.

Children learn a way of life to courageously face repetitive and ongoing battles with determination. They are trained to handle adversity and succeed by surviving a decades-long endeavor. Born of the forges of an adverse childhood is a soul ready to flourish.

They flourish by seeking people who care, fighting for a better life for themselves, setting goals, and seizing opportunities.

They possess an inner defiance. Some show it externally by being in a constant battle against others. Others surrender externally while remaining internally defiant. The common denominator is inner defiance and either manifestation is essential.

Basically, inner defiance creates a decades-long resilience that results in a scale of success uncommon among us.

Stress can be a teacher and a coach.  Through the exercise of responding to stress, reshaping an attitude towards stress, and overcoming stress resilience is born. It is born of habit. You become stronger with practice.

People are not more successful because of a happy, stress-free childhood. They are more content and accomplished because of internal fortitude and believing in themselves.

Addressing ADD Naturally?

A mother recently asked me how I would naturally address inattentiveness (ADD) in a 14-year-old.
Like her, many of you know and love someone with this common condition and would like to try a natural approach before resorting to medications.
Symptoms of inattention, as listed in the DSM-IV, are:
  • often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities;
  • often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities;
  • often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly;
  • often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions);
  • often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities;
  • often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork or homework);
  • often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools);
  • is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli;
  • is often forgetful in daily activities.
Begin with diet.
Lots of ADD/ADHD children have GI issues that may include: abnormal carbohydrate digestion, esophagitis, and pancreatic dysfunction.  The GI tract produces most of the brain’s serotonin and serotonin helps to stop “loop thinking.”
Since the gut is the main entrance for nutrients and the main exit point for toxins then GI issues are the first point of correction. Supplements alone are only half the story.
Proper digestion and absorption are essential to give your brain what it needs to stay on track. Furthermore, if your child’s GI tract has a problem than their brain may be receiving inflammatory markers and this increases the chance of excitability and inattention.
Make sure carb intake is controlled to avoid sugar highs and crashes, to ensure a yeast problem does not exist, and to check that all sugars are digested (especially the FODMAP ones.)
Further, the stool has to be checked to see if the consumed foods are being digested. If not then the stomach acid may need to be boosted and/or pancreatic enzymes needed.
Once this is done then focus on energy and anti-inflammation via food and supplements.
Supplements would include mitochondrial support, multivitamin, probiotics, fish oil and vitamin D3.
We have these in the office. The world of supplements is huge and overwhelming so I have done the homework for my patients. I am happy to share them with people who seek wellness.

Backseat Mishaps

 

Have you ever seen the sharp line between fresh and salt water when a river and the ocean meet? You can see the clear blue of the sea and the muddy brown of the river pressed up against each other, both inherently refusing to commingle with the other. Each has their differing chemistries and clear differences. The same is true for the front seat of a car and the backseat when you have a toddler.

The front seat is understandable and logical; the rules are certain. You feel peace and clarity sitting in the front. The toddler’s backseat is quite different with its illogical and impulsive murky rules of decorum. You can poop in your pants, vomit, smash food into the seat fabric, scribble on everything, feed your rear-facing 2-month-old sibling M&Ms, punch your sister several times and act innocent when mom turns around at the crying, and make deals with each other with the same ethics as a Chicago gangster. Anything goes.

But sometimes the backseat is dangerous. In the past month, two children in my practice found drugs in their mother’s purse and consumed them. A 4-year old injected his mother’s EpiPen into his thigh and had to go to the hospital for monitoring for several hours. A 15-year old found her mother’s homemade brownies, ate some and learned they weren’t just brownies. And earlier this year a 5-year old opened the door of a moving car and fell out. Fortunately, all three (and the parents) are fine and wiser for the time.

Here is some genuine Wise Guy advice to help forego the firsthand experiential OMG abyss.

1) Fundamentals. Rear-facing car seats until age 2 or outgrow seat, forward-facing car seat from age 2 to 5, booster seat from age 5 up until seat belts fit properly, and seat belts when lap belts lay across the upper thighs (not stomach) and the shoulder belt lays across the chest (not the neck). Parents and caregivers lead by example.

2) Simple living. All manner of things make their way into our purses and man bags over time. The bigger the bag the more we stuff into them. It’s time for an honest and fearless bag inventory.

3) Frisking. Your inquisitive little one has the swift hands of a magician. Give your kids a maximum-security prison level pat down before putting them in the car. My mom used to sneak in a breath check and pat down with her hugs before my friends and I would leave the house on weekends during high school.

4) Shakedowns. A child can choke on something inside a vehicle and children put everything in their mouth. Check the nooks and crannies of your backseat for

potentially dangerous objects, old goldfish crackers, and old french-fries that can be repurposed as a shank.

5) Diversions. Car safety also means being able to drive free of distractions from the back seat. You can repurpose a shoe organizer stocked with activities and safe toys to put distractions at your child’s fingertips.

6) Lockdowns. There is a stage when children are too young to open a door then one day out of the blue they do it. Engage the child locks early, like at conception, because the first few days months years are a blur.

7) Heat stroke. A child can begin to suffer life-threatening symptoms of heatstroke within minutes. A child’s body temperature rises 3-5 times faster than an adult.

8) Car Theft. Vehicles are stolen with children alone inside quite frequently, even in safe neighborhoods. Most of the time the thief doesn’t realize there is a child in the back seat until they are already gone in the vehicle.

9) Power Windows. Power windows have killed or injured thousands of children. It takes 22 pounds of force to suffocate or injure an infant while power windows can exert an upward force of 30-80 pounds of force.

10) Into Gear. Every year hundreds of children are hospitalized or even killed after accidentally setting a car into motion. It can be done without the car on and without a foot on the break.

 

Sources:

http://www.kidsandcars.org/files/2013/07/Other-Dangers-fact-sheet.pdf http://lifehacker.com/9-tricks-to-protect-your-car-from-your-kids-while-kee-1685400638 https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/child_passenger_safety/cps-factsheet.html

When Teachers Turn Clouds into Spaceships

The Sun Sets Sail

Painting by Rob Gonsalves

Did you know the Native Americans could not recognize the first galleons arriving in the Americas? They stared at the ships for days but misidentified their sails for clouds on the horizon. The galleons were so unique and out of their world that they could not see them. The Indians could only process the experience through their understanding of the world. How surprised they must have been to learn these “clouds” carried men of white skin who came from beyond the edge of the earth.

Sometimes things that are so obvious elude us then drastically change our appreciation and understanding of life. You cannot describe an experience, an object or a person unless you have the words for it.

Imagine walking through this world day in and day out and not seeing something so noticeable and so apparent. This is why teachers are so esteemed and respected. They provide a word or an explanation of a concept that changes our lives forever.

Robin Williams made us laugh at ourselves. He was a teacher who used comedy to show us our insecurities and prejudices. In one of his early stand-up performances, he pointed out our willingness to ignore our bigotry and need to find crazy to deal with governmental policies. Appears the zaniness of the world in the late 70s is no different than today.

He pretended to be an elderly man who was a bit crazy, “a bit fongooze bozo.” The government was giving people methadone to help them cope with the world “since the aliens arrived. And the aliens weren’t the little green suckers we thought they were. They were 8 feet tall, black and they were pissed.” He closed the show with this skit and left the stage by telling everyone he loved everyone regardless of who they were.

So play with the mystery of life. Support the teachers who turn clouds into spaceships. Release the dogmas that create bias and limit our understanding of the world. Our children will be pissed if we don’t.

“This ain’t about you.”

Forgiving someone for kidnapping you at gunpoint requires a Gandhi-sized pill of compassion, and most of us do not have this depth of empathy. Last week my family member—let’s call him John—made the worst mistake of his life by second-guessing himself. His mistake serves as a prescient reminder of how quickly the tectonic plates of life can shift under your feet and forever change the landscape of reality as we know it.

Have you ever wondered what drives people?  By understanding human needs we can interpret human behavior.  Depending on which source you turn to, human needs may range from about five needs to more than a dozen needs, or some 89 needs in total.  These are often structured as a hierarchy, but can also be seen as oscillating. Max Neef developed a model that has 9 needs: subsistence, protection, affection, understanding, participation, leisure, creation, identity, and freedom. These needs have been found to transcend cultures and history. However, the way in which these needs are met has evolved and changed.  So much of what we do and say is governed by our drive to meet our needs.

On August 5th, John was traveling to Stuart, Florida, to join his family for a summer holiday when he stopped at the first gas station from his exit. A fairly clean-cut and well-spoken man in his thirties approached him with a gas can explaining his car ran out of gas on I-95. Could he please get a ride?

What would you do in such a situation? John told the man he could not help him, as he had been on the road a long time and his family was expecting him. The guy walked away to stand on the corner with his gas can, and that is when the fault lines began to shift.  This is where he made the worst mistake of his life by second guessing himself. I can only assume what went through John’s mind. “Am I being prejudiced? What if I were in his situation? It is just a few minutes out of my way to help a guy down on his luck.” John confessed he felt sorry for the guy and after filling up his car John changed his mind by offering him a ride to his car.

He asked John to get onto I-95 and after a few minutes, a semi-automatic handgun was pulled from a plastic bag and pointed at John’s abdomen.  “Sorry, but this ain’t about you. You do what I say and I’ll let you go and you will see your family again.”

John pleaded that the man take his car, credit cards, and wallet if John could just pull over and get out. The gunman ignored the requests. He asked for John’s name, bank, birthday, and iPhone password. He said they would go to a branch of his bank. John drove as this man went through his iPhone. He followed the man’s directions but knew he would have to choose between fight or flight.

I am reminded of the poem “Design” by Robert Frost as I try to understand what was driving the decisions of each of these individuals and how their paths crossed.  In the poem, the narrator observes that a white spider and a white moth each choose to go to the same white flower for different reasons.  The spider seeks safety and a jump on his prey.  The moth seeks to blend in on the white heal-all.  The poem concludes when the spider makes a meal of the moth. The narrator asks, what had the flower, the moth, and the spider to do with being white? What drove them there in the night, if anything at all? What had brought the good Samaritan and the con man (gunman, and possibly a killer) together, if anything at all?

After twenty-nine minutes with a gun on him, John was instructed to get off on Okeechobee which signaled that this ride was coming to an end. Fortunately, they had a red arrow at Okeechobee Blvd and Parkway/Peters Road.  As they slowed down the gunman looked out the passenger window to check his surroundings. That is when John dived from his moving car, hit the ground, jumped up and started running. His car was still in drive so it collided with the car in front. This motorist never stopped to examine damage to the car likely out of fear upon seeing a man jump from a moving car.

John looked over his shoulder to see the gunman yelling something and now standing at the driver’s side. When he got to a place of relative safety he called the police.  Unfortunately for John, this would only be the start of his trying time.

If the start of this was nearly unbelievable what follows is incredible.  The police suggest that this entire story is made up and would like to know, “what really happened.”

John decided to advocate for himself and in less than 24 hours went back to the scene to search for cameras, look for his car, and look for the individual who did this to him.  To his disbelief, he got a ping from his iPad that was with his stolen car.  John called the police and after an hour of waiting he gives the officers the address from the GPS of his iPad.  The officers reported that the car was not seen and left it at that.  John drove to the GPS location to have his own look.  One street over from the iPad location he found a car that matched his make and model one residence immediately behind the address sent from Apple.  John drove by slowly to verify the license plate when just at that moment his former captor, the person with the con-story who held a gun to his abdomen, walks into the street to get a closer look at John in his mom’s car.

Life presents John a choice. Understandable thoughts cross John’s mind. Shall I run this person over who threatened my life, stole my car, wanted me to empty out my ATM? Besides, he ruined a perfectly good family holiday! Can I meet this person with an equal amount of disregard for human worth as he has shown to me? Will I be able to accept my choice and the gravity of the consequences?

Violence can be seen as the language of unmet needs.  Violence is the outcome of a person’s inability to identify truly and deeply what he/she needs along with an inability to communicate those needs, in which case violence in the heart takes over and manifests itself in harm, ill will, hurt and pain towards others.  Nonviolence, on the other hand, is the natural state of compassion.  When we work to listen to our needs and the needs of others through an emphasis on deep listening, we discover the depth of our own compassion.  This language reveals the awareness that all human beings are only trying to honor universal values and needs, every minute of every day.

 John chose not to run this man over, although I cannot say for sure it was the path of nonviolence, the path of compassion.  However, John was deeply aware of his own needs, which included being whole and having justice. 

 He chose to drive by him, call the police, and in a barely controlled voice tell them, “I’m the guy that got kidnapped at gunpoint, car jacked, and jumped out of my car in an intersection to escape yesterday. I’ve found my car and the person who did it. I think you better get over here soon.”

The police questioned the suspect who claimed he had never seen that stolen car before. Things would not go quite how John would have liked.  The police would not search the house; therefore a gun was not looked for or found.  The keys were not on the suspect so the car would have to be towed.  Several papers that have personal identification information were no longer in the car and conceivably with the suspect.  The suspect was arrested and charged with grand theft auto, but nothing else and released five hours later.  Also, John was called down to the police station to be questioned because the new narrative was that John was trying to buy crack-cocaine.  The police seemed unmotivated to pursue this case further because of this new ‘revelation.’  John, in absolute disbelief, pointed out that he was an attorney, a member of the Florida Bar, and a marathon runner.  He did a half marathon every day in May and ran 18 miles on the morning of the incident.

He suggested to the detective it was unlikely he ran 18 miles that morning then decided to celebrate with some crack-cocaine before joining his family at the timeshare.

John will have to put this all behind him.  He will have to accept that systems are not perfect, and people turn to violence when they have unmet needs, an inability to communicate their needs, and threaten others instead of making reasonable requests. 

If John cannot find forgiveness for his transgressor, he will be bogged down by anger and resentment.  His health will deteriorate and this experience could begin affecting his loved ones. 

I’m sure that John will indeed forgive and move forward in a manner that is both gentle and magnanimous.

These are my thoughts on ways to forgive transgressors in our lives so that we too can move forward with compassion for people who have unmet needs.

  1. Recall that all any one is ever saying is please and thank you. This person was saying, “Please give me some money.”
  2. People are more likely to meet your “please” if you make a request rather than a demand. John had a negative reaction to the demand of “give me your money” and chose not to fulfill the need.
  3. Train yourself to look past words and actions to see the human need driving the behavior. John may have given this man money if the man said, “Can you please give me $50 to help my child who has asthma and is in desperate need of an inhaler?”
  4. Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly. We are not perfect so forgive yourself as you learn to hear needs.

In this manner, we will as a human race begin to eliminate the language of blame, judgment, and domination while we absolve our hearts of the want for violence against our fellow man, our neighbors, our coworkers, and our family.