emotional connections

I overheard a co-worker talking to her upset pre-teenage daughter on the phone at the end of the day.   “I’ll be right there”, she said.

“I’ll be right there.”  Something about those words kept floating around in my head.  I even jotted them down.  They seemed to be so simple, so ordinary, yet felt so significant in the moment.

I think those words mean that ” I matter”, that “I’m cared for”, that “I’m safe”.  I think those words translate love, security, trust.  I think they mean we’re in touch.

I think that’s what this young girl probably felt.

For as parents, the most significant gift we can give our children is our presence.

But when we can’t, we can still convey the strength of our caring.

Our adult daughter lives out East so we talk a lot on the phone.  When she is mulling over things and ideas, decisions in her life, I’m often an ear and means for her to sort things out.  Many times when we are saying good bye, I tell her, remind her, “Well, I’m here” – in case she wants to talk more.

One night I got an e-mail, a one-liner, saying “Thanks for always saying “I’m here”.

“I’ll be right there” – “I’m here” – emotional presence, emotional connections.

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I am all about making emotional connections when it comes to our interactions with our children.  I always encourage parents to consider first what’s going on with a child, why is he acting out – what her needs might be – to refrain from taking the behavior personally – to respond instead of react – to be empathic – to be there for him.

But being emotionally connected with your child does not mean never setting limits, or carrying through with the limits you set.  And when we do this, a child might be very upset.  Yet as parents, we often do need to take charge, to stay calm, yet get the job done, in spite of mighty protests and tears.

For there is, of course, plenty of time for discussions, choices, listening, explanations – until there’s not – and then children need us to lead them, to help them feel safe,  to be their security, their guide, to follow through, gently but firmly.

In fact, often a child’s behavior is “asking” us to do just that – to help them stop, to tell them no, to be the grown-up.

I observed two examples of parents doing just that as Play Shoppe came to an end this week.

I watched as these moms understood it was up to them to be in charge, to show the way, and they did.

And their talking will continue, and their connection is still strong, and I believe their children feel the security, the strength and the caring of their parent’s love even more.


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take care

I watched a mom change her young baby’s diaper the other day and was once again so aware of the power of this shared moment between parent and baby.

For diaper changing is not only about keeping babies clean and comfortable, but also about the personal exchange that takes place.  For diapering offers both parent and child the perfect few moments to emotionally connect.

Who hasn’t  made up our own silly songs as we “do the dipe, do the dipe”, repeat the last little piggy running “wee, wee, wee, all the way home” , done a diaper dance, shared a peekaboo moment with the clean diaper before putting it on, or made a diaper talk to a run-away 18-month -old?

Then, of course there’s often the familiar banter, deals made  between partners of whose turn it is to take care of the big job this time.

Take care – those are the two operative words here for me.  I love that expression “take care”.

Because as parents, that is our job, our purpose.

We take care of keeping our children clean and comfortable.  We take care when we do this most intimate task in conveying joy and love through our actions.

As parents, we mostly take this everyday task of diapering for granted. Yet there are families who are struggling financially – where the expense of diapers is a stressful burden they face everyday and often find too challenging to keep up with.

And so the banter, the exchange, the ability to “take care” is limited, and this lack is heavy in the hearts and minds of these loving parents, and as research has found,  in the very well-being of the family.

That’s why The Parenting Place is holding a Diaper Drive during the month of July to gather diapers we can offer to families in need – so they can have the peace of mind and feel the relief and the joy in being able to take care of their child’s needs.

If you are interested in participating in The Parenting Place July Diaper Drive, we are accepting  all sizes, (partial packs included) as well as diaper wipes also.  The most requested size is 4’s and 5’s.  You can drop them off at The Parenting Place.  We will see that families receive them.

Take Care.

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a selfie

When I was growing up, we had a side porch right off the kitchen, enclosed, with simple but comfortable chairs and many windows to look out.

This is where I remember my mom going to sit, to take a short break. She’d sit in her chair, put her feet up on the hassock and be still, lost in thought it seemed – resting, refreshing herself.

This kind of “self time” is often neglected when we are busy with children.  But it is very necessary.  With so many demands and emotions coming at us continually, we need to empty our minds for even a short time, and relax – by giving ourselves this intentional break.

A mom came into The Parenting Place last week with her two busy young boys.  She had a quick question so I went into the Children’s Room with them so the children could play while we talked.  After about twenty minutes, we had finished talking.

Mom had been over in the corner on the floor picking up Lego pieces and putting them back in the bin, while the boys had zipped off to the other side of the room, out of sight of mom, playing with some cars and trucks.

I saw the boys and wondered where their mom had gone.   I looked over to see if she was still where I had left her.

She was.

The Lego pieces  were all put away and mom was just sitting there, alone – on the floor – quietly relishing this precious moment to herself – to just be still, to be quiet, to breathe, to hide.

She laughed when I saw her and said it felt too good to get up. I appreciated that moment for her so much.

So this is something you can try at home.

Somewhere, somehow, in your day, find that spot, take that time, find the quiet within.

Try this different kind of “selfie” – steal a snapshot of time for yourself.

It will make you smile.

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Friday put a smile on my face and joy in my heart upon hearing the Supreme Court’s ruling for marriage equality.

Couples and families (and families and grandparents of couples and their children) were finally recognized, affirmed, and validated.  From 80-year old senior citizens who have lived their entire adult lives lovingly together, to high schoolers watching anxiously for acceptance of who they might be, to young children with two moms or two dads – feeling included, secure, and strengthened.

Strengthening families – all families – is what I hope my years working and sharing with families has been and will continue to be all about.

And that’s what I believe this Court ruling is all about also – strengthening families, strengthening commitments, strengthening communities.

I think of the power and dignity that inclusion, recognition, and acknowledgement brings to all of us – individually and collectively.   For as parents, as neighbors, as friends, as co-workers, as community members, as human beings – we are all strengthened by this unity.

We are all connected … and the connections and ties are many – and strong.

Joy in my heart!

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a squeeze

This weekend I spent some time with a mom and her little guy not quite two years old.  After an earlier than normal morning wake-up and a long hectic day, by 7:00 PM this little boy was revved up.  He was having fun, being silly, showing all his “tricks”.

“Gentle touches” his mom told him as he ran up to her and swatted at her with his two little hands flapping.

“Remember, gentle touches” his mom reminded him the next time he approached, but …

“Do you need to sit in your chair and think about giving gentle touches?” his mom asked softly.

Yes, I guess he did,  as he toddled right to his chair, just a few feet away and sat there proudly.

After a half minute, he was up and heading back toward his mom.  “Are you ready to give gentle touches?”

Oops – gentle touches, not quite yet – so back he meandered again to his little chair and sat – for about twenty seconds.

And so the “game” went on – until the game and the little guy escalated to bigger swats and flailing.  But this astute mom knew just intuitively how to bring him back, what he needed at that moment.

” Do you need a big squeeze?  Do you want Mama to give you a big squeeze?”

Oh, yes he did, as he collapsed into her for a giant hug, the biggest squeeze ever – that playfully and emotionally connected both of them, and gave this tired little boy the best antidote possible to help him stop and regulate his emotions.

A squeeze – a very long and loving squeeze.


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the difference

As parents, it’s easy to catch ourselves expecting too much of our young children, especially in social situations. Why can’t they just sit still longer, be more patient, respond more appropriately?

And then when the resounding answer comes – often too late – it’s usually in the form of a forceful melt-down – your child’s and very often, your own.

I observed a young family recently at a local restaurant.  The mom and dad were there with a bright-eyed, smart little guy who was just short of two.  He was doing so well.  He was eating and talking and staying put – impressively so – until he wasn’t.

And then  – it was all over.  He was finished, he needed to move on.  Fortunately for him, his parents quickly recognized his cues and packed up the rest of his meal, paid the check, and left, waving good bye to us, his new friends.

Behavior is a child’s main means of communication.  Reading our child’s behavior will tell us what he/she needs – will make the difference. As parents, we often try to ignore the first hints of what our child’s behavior is telling us – especially when we’re busy or out visiting with family and friends, enjoying ourselves.

Summertime presents many of these situations – picnics, family get-togethers, trips, social occasions, when we will be faced with how much and how long our children can last, before they hit the wall, before they show us in strong emotional and physical ways, that they are done. There is always the fine line of how far we can push things – how late we can stay, before we’ve stayed too long.  And often, relatives’ and friends’ feelings are hurt, thinking we should stay longer, differing opinions about parenting surface, making our choices that much more difficult.

We can help by planning for all eventualities –  thinking ahead, packing appropriate clothing, food, “loveys”, pajamas –  making sure we are all rested before we begin. Having an end time in mind before we even get there and sharing that with family and friends, gives us more structure to our plans and, perhaps more understanding and acceptance from our friends and relatives.

And always – trying to keep in mind what is most essential, what is least stressful, what will make the difference between a lovely shared day or a stressful memory.

Have a great summer together!

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