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What I Learned About Parenting in Al-Anon

Dropping off the dry cleaning is not my job. I do not drop it off and I do not pick it up. My husband takes care of that, because it is all his stuff. A few female items do end up in the dry cleaning pile, which I am sure we pay an exorbitant amount of money to be cleaned, but it is still his job.

Unless he forgets and then I get a call that usually involves the words, Can you please drop the dry cleaning off? To which I say, No problem, because the place is two seconds from our house and I am always up for a legitimate errand if it means my kids will be strapped in their car seats and for a few minutes I will have a little bit of personal space. And my husband says, Thanks, and please don't forget.

Like I would ever forget.

I load the kids up, strap them in, and then I think, Why not make some phone calls too?

I crank the car, roll the windows down to get some cross ventilation going, hand my kids some snacks, and stand in the shade of a nearby tree and make some calls.

My kids sit in the car. They quietly eat their snacks and watch me through the open windows.

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Awhile back, I spent about a year in Al-Anon, the recovery group for family members of addicts. Every meeting began with each person sharing two adjectives to describe exactly how they were doing that day. Or exactly how they were feeling.

Sitting there, in a group of people who had the same problems you did, which was essentially trying to cope with an uncontrollable addict in your life, it forced you to think about the state of your heart. You had to think about why you felt the way you felt; about what was upsetting you; or better yet, what was infuriating you. You were forced to get to the core of it all and get to it fast using only two adjectives.

I think about that exercise as it relates to my kids. Shouldn't I be teaching my kids to do the same thing; to think about the state of their hearts; to think about how they feel; and about why they feel the way they do?

Not to create overly emotional kids who grow up to be overly emotional adults, but to raise kids who think about their emotions; who then grow into adults that are able to monitor the state of their heart; who know when their heart is right and when it isn't; who can detect when something unhealthy is taking root and needs to be dealt with and dealt with fast.

I try to ask my older daughter at some point every day: How is your heart? I try to take a moment, to slow down and make sure all is well; make sure that I haven't missed something; that I haven't unknowingly hurt her feelings or forgotten something and she is upset, but not telling me.

Because little kids are like that. You tell them something or agree to something that gets forgotten about in the chaos of the day and in the process you hurt their feelings, but don't even know it.

After I leave a few messages that do not have laughing or crying or screaming in the background, I open my daughter's door.

I ask her how she is. Good.

How is your heart? Good.

Really, everything is good? Yes.

I give her a big hug and a few kisses. My baby is watching from her car seat, so I go around and give her a few smackers too. Then we are off to drop off the dry cleaning, which I was supposed to pick up. But I forgot.

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