The Problem with Being A “Fixer”

 

I never thought of myself as being “controlling.” I don’t “bully” people to get my way, I’m not abusive, I don’t have combative relationships. If anything, I run from conflict.

But I am a “Fixer.”

What is a “Fixer?” Well, if someone comes to me with an issue or a problem that’s plaguing them, my first instinct I to “fix them” or “fix it” for them.

The car is broken? I find a way to “fix it.” The doctor over-billed me again? I “fix it.” Kids need help with a personal situation, I’m the mom to ask. Husband wants a better paying job? Let me help you find one. Friend is buried in emotional turmoil? Let me help you find the right professional to call. I mean, if they’re asking for help and can’t see the forest for the trees, then they need someone to help them, and I’m that person, right? Not necessarily.

What’s the problem with being a “Fixer”? I mean, it’s just wanting to help, right? Well, there are a lot of problems with being a Fixer.

First and foremost, it’s emotionally exhausting! Taking on other people’s problems as your own only adds to your own laundry list of problems.

Secondly, not everyone WANTS their problem fixed. Not everyone wants to even recognize their problem (including the fixer). Sometimes, someone just needs you to listen.

Another problem with being a Fixer is assuming that you have the answer or are qualified to give one. I certainly don’t pretend to know everything, and I do research all the time to find solutions for my own problems. Why shouldn’t I do the same for you? Sometimes it just isn’t any of my business. Some problems are too big for someone else to fix. Some problems can’t be fixed at all.

I recently joined a study at church where we are working through the book “Boundaries: When to Say Yes, and How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life” by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. What an eye-opener! I wasn’t even aware I had boundary issues. I mean, that’s something you have with a mom that won’t stay out of your business, or for people who don’t know how to say “no.” Trust me, I have no problem saying “no” to people. And I’ve learned to “handle” my mom in recent years. How was I to know that I was the person with the boundary issues?! LOL

I think, as a Mom, it’s an easy trap to fall into. We generally run the household: we decide on the weekly menu, we make sure homework is done, we make sure people get up in time for school in the morning, we watch the clock like a hawk some days because if we don’t, no one else will! The responsibility falls on our shoulders. If we don’t help our kids “succeed,” then we’ve set them up for failure, right? And who wants to be THAT mom?! Who wants to be the mom that didn’t have her act together to give her child every opportunity possible to be the best they can be?

Who wants to be the mom that doesn’t dry the tears, give the hugs, fix the hurts, celebrate the joys?

Who wants to be the mom that FAILS HER KIDS?! Not me! And probably not you either.

I can’t speak for your situation, but for me, being the “fixer” hasn’t made my kid a straight-A student. It hasn’t made them the happiest kid in their class. It hasn’t kept conflict out of the house or their lives.

True, there’s a point in their lives when they rely completely and totally on us for everything. But we have to learn to let go of the rope a little at a time…to set boundaries. Otherwise, we end up hating ourselves for every time they fail, asking what we did wrong when they do the exact opposite of what we taught them.

In actuality, they’re pushing back is a completely natural response. It’s what they are supposed to do when they get to their teen years. They don’t WANT us to fix ANYTHING for them at all. And if that’s the role you’ve set for yourself, “The Fixer,” then what are you supposed to do? What is your role? I ask myself these questions on a daily basis.

So, as my kids go through their teen years, and I reach my 50s, we’re both learning to redefine our roles, to set up NEW boundaries…not walls. Boundaries are made to go through with permission, not shut out completely. And I’m not going to lie to you…it’s a very hard thing to balance. It’s a tightrope that is constantly moving. But I’m learning. And I pray…A LOT.

So being the “Fixer” is not all it’s cracked up to be. You don’t have to “fix” them to still be their hero. You don’t have to “fix” things to still love them. “Fixing them” won’t “fix” anything. It’s an illusion, something we’ve built up in our minds as our role as “Mom.” But it’s not true.

Now as situations arise, I try to pause and ask myself if they need a “fixer” or a “Mom” because the two are not synonymous. I’m finding that they need a “Mom” more often than they need a “Fixer.”

How about you? Are you a “Fixer?” Do you have to stop yourself from “fixing” everything? Please tell me that I’ not alone. LOL

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A Letter to My Kids – My Fear

In this life, you will face a lot of decisions. Some of them will be easy, others will be hard. Some will affect you immediately, others not so much. You won’t see the results, or the consequences, of some decisions for a long time. Those are the ones I worry about the most.

Your life’s journey will be, at times, like walking through a marketplace with vendors screaming for your attention. Tempting you with their offers that you can’t refuse. There will be snake oil salesmen and tricksters looking for unsuspecting victims. You need to watch out for those people the most.

There will be times in your life when you will feel like a square peg in a round hole, trying your hardest to fit somewhere. That’s when you will be most vulnerable. Don’t be afraid to seek wise counsel in those moments from people you trust. And I don’t mean people you meet on the internet.

When you are without confidence and haven’t figured out who you are, there will be people that will be looking for you, waiting for you to seek them out, and that’s when they’ll strike. Some call it grooming, and I don’t necessarily mean in a sexual way. They will be looking to form an emotional connection with you, one that you haven’t found from your peers. But that connection will be trivial at best. They will see you coming, they will sense your insecurities, your vulnerabilities, and they’ll use them to get what they want from you.

I know you don’t believe me and think I’m being over-protective and even over-reactive. But it can happen in an instant and take a lifetime to heal. These people will cross your boundaries and push you further than you are comfortable with and won’t care what harm they do.

I will always be there for you, even if I have to watch from afar. I may not agree with some of your decisions, but it doesn’t change my love for you.

The best thing you can do is arm yourself, first with God, but also with confidence. People who want to cross boundaries hate confidence. It undermines everything they try to do. It means you don’t “need” them. Confidence will put a road block in front of every trick they have.

So, be the square peg in a round hole. You don’t have to fit in. You don’t have to conform. Some of the smartest people are known for not conforming. Embrace your “weirdness.” Because even when you think you are the only “weird” one out there, you’ll soon realize that we are ALL weird in some way. That’s what makes us human. That’s what makes us beautiful.

When you feel the worst, listen to Christina Aguilera’s song “You Are Beautiful” until you believe it to be true.

My Kids Think I’m an Idiot

Originally posted 11/17/2015

My kids think I’m an idiot…maybe I’ll keep it that way.

I don’t mean in an intellectual way, but in a social way. When I first realized my kids thought of me that way, my feelings were hurt, and admittedly, depending on the day, I still feel a little tinge of hurt when  my daughter says “You don’t understand how things are now days” or “things are different now than when you were my age.” Wow…have I really hit THAT age?

And she’s right…things were different 30 years ago. But not as different as SHE thinks they were. We just got into trouble in different ways “back then.” True, we didn’t have the internet that put the world at our fingertips like they do now. Our trouble wasn’t usually on a global scale.

But trouble always managed to find us, just like it will find her.

There are moments of “Mom cool-ness,” like when we’re shopping in Hot Topic and I know the band playing in the background (Bauhaus) and she catches me singing along, to which I’m met with a look of shock and, “YOU know THIS?” I just smile, and nod. Like I said…she thinks I’m an idiot, like I never had a life before I was a mom.

So if they think I’m an idiot when it comes to not knowing what they’re doing when I’m not around, maybe letting them think that way is not such a bad idea after all.

The bottom line is this: what she DOESN’T think I know, I don’t mind keeping from her. But what I DO know will save her a whole lot of grief some day. She just doesn’t always need to know that I know…ya know?

More than a record store

Until recently, I had forgotten how important, scratch that…how VITAL music is to a teenager’s soul.

Feeling angry? Put on some thrash metal. Feeling sad? Cry to a good sad rock ballad. Feeling happy? Celebrate with a good punk rock number.

Sure, as adults, we enjoy music too. But not the same way that most teenagers LIVE for their music.

But it’s different for them. Just as video killed the radio, MP3 killed the record store. Yeah, we have an endless choice of music now, and our kids don’t know the beauty of sitting by the radio with the tape recorder waiting to tape the song they love. But they also don’t get to enjoy the romanticism of the record store. Remember those?

I grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles, so the music scene was huge for us. We had access to concerts (they were still affordable then), to alternative thrift stores like Aardvarks and Restyle Too (for those of you from Southern California), and to…well…Hollywood and all the alternative music you could stand.

At the alternative thrift stores we found more than clothes. It was a place where we could find “our people.” Other music fanatics who had more in common than SAT scores and Baseball or college admissions. We were considered the misfits (and I use that term affectionately), but we were misfits together. For those of you who might not understand, think Andy and Ducky in the movie “Pretty in Pink.”

I’ve blogged about the area where we live several times. It can be a pressure cooker of status and grades and fitting in. And when you don’t, well, life can be hard. Don’t get me wrong, I love the opportunities my kids have here, things they would never have been afforded in our old area. But it’s sort of painted with one brush.

I’ve been scouring our area for thrift stores or vinyl stores (there are very few) where my daughter can find some heavy metal and rock patches and pins for her new jacket. And, other than Hot Topic, there are very few. When I first moved here, I asked one of my new friends where the thrift shops were, and you would have thought I was asking where they kept the slaughter house. People don’t shop there, unless it’s a consignment shop that only accepts gently-used designer labels. And there’s nothing wrong with that, unless you don’t fit that mold.

It looks like I’m left to amazon, the great shopping mall in the sky, to find patches. But it isn’t the same as walking into the record store with Souxsie and the Banshees or AC/DC blaring on the sound system. It isn’t the same as exchanging a knowing glance from the stranger across the clothing rack that you both know the lyrics to the song being played. Or striking up a conversation with the clerk behind the counter about the concert t-shirt he’s wearing, and realizing you were both at the same concert.

Which leads me to the bigger picture: perhaps technology has separated us as much as it’s united us…perhaps even more so. I know I miss those days of connecting.

So, if you’re a “misfit,” just where do you fit in? How do you find your people?

Maybe we need more record stores and less cell phones. Maybe we need more affordable concerts and less YouTube videos. And if anyone knows where to find patches on the Mid-Atlantic Coast, please let me know. And don’t say Hot Topic, lest my daughter burn your corneas with the look of a teenager scorned.

When Your Teen Doesn’t Share Your Beliefs Anymore

 

The following post is a reminder to myself in this season of my life and my teen’s life. But I thought someone else might benefit from it as well. I hope you can find some comfort in the following words if you’re experiencing growing pains of your own.

My child’s “unbelief” was pre-ordained. It’s only a surprise to me, not to God. He knew this was coming, and He knows the outcome.

It’s not my job to “convert” my child. It’s my job to guide and let God do the “converting.”

Forgive myself. It’s nothing I did wrong. Sometimes when your child is coming to their own conclusions, it means they are acting on their own. They are doing exactly what you taught them – to think on their own. They are maturing and thinking about what life means to them.

Don’t take it personally. Sometimes their unbelief is out of rebellion, but more often it’s out of discovery. Sometimes I think it can even be out of sheer laziness – they don’t want to be accountable to God, so they are taking the easy way out. It’s the “because I don’t want to” reasoning.

It’s a growing pain. Both my teen’s and my own. Just like growing out of dolls or playing with legos, they’re maturing and deciding what works for them. For me, it means learning to let go. They’re getting closer to adulthood, and my belief will not always be their belief.

The best thing I can do in this time of their life is to love them. It should be a time of “show” and not “tell.” Lecturing will only push them away. They need to know I love them. They need to know that my love for them doesn’t come with conditions like sharing a belief in God.

Let them experience Grace – mine and God’s. Forgive when they don’t deserve it, be kind to them just because. Really show them God’s love with how I respond to them.

Most importantly, this is God’s battle, not mine. I don’t have the ammunition or the army or the stamina to run the race with them, but God does. He’ll be there when they choose Him. And even if they don’t choose Him, God will love them in spite of themselves.

God tumbled down the walls of Jericho by having men walk around, time and time again He brought people out of despair and raised them up when they didn’t even know He existed. He waited while his followers groaned and walked through the wilderness for 40 years, and He was there every step of the way.

What makes me think He will not do the same for my child?

Take a breath and say a prayer and love your child. There is a time for everything under the sun. And now is a time to wait.

Parenting Teens – Unshakable Love

Parenting Teens

My oldest child is 16. Sixteen! How did that happen?!

It’s been an emotional roller coaster this last year. Lots of tears, lots of hurt feelings and misunderstandings, and lots of times when her father (who had no sisters) had no idea what he was in for.

I think we’re at a good point at the moment. I can’t say how long it will last, since emotions run high, and things seem to turn at the drop of a hat or the slam of a door.

I think parenting teens is so hard because we remember what we did as teens, and how much we didn’t tell our parents. We know what they’re probably doing when we aren’t around, or, thanks to technology, even when we’re in the next room.

I have a new slogan for my kids that I keep repeating:

“It isn’t what you do that makes me love you, it’s who you are. I will always fight for you…ALWAYS, even when we disagree.”

It’s sort of a mantra for both me and them. I want them to know there is nothing they can do to lose my love…NOTHING. There is also nothing they can do to EARN my love. I love them because they are my children. That’s it. It’s just that simple.

Let’s face it, there are going to be times when we will disappoint one another, but that disappointment will never make me turn away for them.

There will be times when we make each other really mad, maybe too mad to even speak. But they can’t shake my love.

Why Teens Need A Job

Let me start by saying that I know “things are different now days.” But that’s a relative term…things are ALWAYS different nowadays. Just ask your parents.

When I was a teen (GenX-er here), when a teen turned 16, they got a license and a job. It was a “rite of passage.” Usually, we got our license as close to our 16th birthday as possible. Yes, yes, I know…things were cheaper back then. Insurance didn’t cost an arm and a leg for one, but again, that’s kind of relative.

Today, teens are perfectly happy to “make friends” on-line and communicate with them almost entirely on-line. Especially now that summer is here, and they don’t interact in the school day. Believe me, I’ve been reminded of this over and over by my own teens.

But here’s the thing. Today’s teen may be technically savvy, perhaps more so than their parents’ generation (though I must remind my younger counterparts that my generation invented a lot of the technology they use today), and that technological ability is fabulous, but nothing can replace actual human contact.

There are a lot of things they learn when getting a job.

First and foremost, they learn TIME MANAGEMENT which is huge. I hear so many teens complaining of “anxiety” and “social anxiety.” Now, I’m not denying that those aren’t real things. But everyone has something. You succeed when you learn to function in the real world IN SPITE OF whatever that something is.

I think a lot of that “anxiety” comes from not being able to manage their time. When you have a job, you don’t have a choice. You must show up when they tell you or you don’t get paid. Therefore, you have to plan your time accordingly around that job. See? Time management.

And some of the “social anxiety” comes from not socializing. When you shut yourself off from other people, in the safety of your own home, I think your brain “forgets” how to be social. You don’t exercise that “social muscle.” It’s out of shape. A job will help get that muscle back into the shape it should be in.

Then there’s the little things that having a job helps teens deal with: how to endorse a paycheck, how to read a paycheck stub and see where their money is going, how to manage that money, how to have their own bank account and manage that bank account, and how to pay taxes.

It also teaches them how to deal respectfully with authority figures in the form of management, ie. their boss. I wish it were different, but a lot of teens don’t respect their teachers because they don’t feel they have anything to lose. A teacher can’t “fire” you. But if you disrespect your boss, you can lose your job.

Depending on the job they take, they can learn a practical skill. They can see how something they learned in school (say math) was not a “total waste of time.” They may also have to deal with the general public, which in itself, is an education. They can see how being polite goes a long way. They will also learn how to hold their tongue when dealing with a not so savory customer. And they can learn how to discern between the two and know when they aren’t being treated fairly.

But one of the biggest things it gives them is CONFIDENCE. There’s a sense of ACCOMPLISHMENT in a job well done, that ends with a paycheck, that you don’t get from just getting a good grade. From some, the good grade is all they need. But for others, they need something more tangible, and currency is a good way to do it, especially when it isn’t coming out of Mom and/or Dad’s pocket.

Not to mention, if parents play their cards right, teens can contribute to the their own cost of living, whether it be car payments, or car insurance, or college books, or clothing, or whatever you work out with your teen. Again, there’s a sense of pride and accomplishment when they contribute to their own success. It also gives them a sense of what it takes to make a living, and what it doesn’t take, in a “real time” sort of way.

What do you think? What other positive things can a teen experience from having a job?