definitely

“Parenting is the intersection of our struggle as a parent and their struggles as children.”

During this long Covid season we are living through, we all are left at least a bit fragile from the experience – both parents and children.

The insecurities, the unknowns, the questions, the decisions to make for ourselves, our families, our children on how to be safe, how much is too much when we think about interacting with others – when we thing about social invitations, when we think about finances, about work/home, about schooling.

On top of those are the everyday minutia between children and parents like  learning to listen, sibling interactions, cleaning their rooms, picking up toys, staying in the yard, sharing, whining, too much screen-time, follow-through.

And it’s especially when our children disobey, find excuses, don’t listen, that their struggles meet our parent struggles head-on and personal.

Yet it’s up to us as parents to try and separate our frustrations (why can’t he ever listen, just pick up the toys, go to bed?) and respond instead first to the struggle our child is facing, by acknowledging it – by naming it – “I know it’s hard to stop playing and come to the table to eat” and then following through with what we need him to do.

For it is during this patient parent understanding and response to a child’s behavior that helps children move forward in over-coming their struggles –  even as we, ourselves,  grow and learn in an understanding  of our own parenting struggles.

Nobody said it would be easy, right?  But definitely worth every struggle!

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a smooth ride

From my home desk windows, I get to look out at my world these days – my neighborhood.

Across the street from where I sit is construction taking place on a new house to be built.

In the process this summer, the part of the street immediately in front of our house, about a 30 by 20 foot patch was dug up to lay pipes extending to the new house.  And what was left was  sand and stones and bumps.

But last week, more trucks, machines, and workmen arrived to repair this dusty patch we’d grown used to.

And so now – there lies a beautiful  patch of smooth black asphalt, resting in between the older bumpier roads on either side.

I was not the only one to notice and appreciate this however.  By dinner time, the patch was dry and looking out my window, I saw the 8-year-old neighbor boy on his bike – gliding around and around this small but beautiful smooth patch of road – appreciating the even ride it provided.

Next he exchanged his bike for his scooter, again making the rounds, treating both to this enjoyable experience.  I could see the contented expression on his face.  This was his space right now at this time – and it was definitely a great ride.

And isn’t that what we are all trying to find- to anticipate – in our homes, our work places, with our families and friends, personally – in this challenging time?

We’re all looking for and appreciating the smooth parts of life – no matter how small – that bring us contentment, security and joy even as we meet the bumpy ones on either side.

Here’s to kids on bikes who know where the smooth ride lies.

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a bright light

Over the years I’ve been at The Parenting Place as a Parent Educator, my greatest joys are the connections I’ve made with families.

I surprise myself sometimes  when out of the blue, a family from years ago pops into my head, and I remember something about them that was special, that was meaningful, that was funny, that was endearing.

I guess that’s what it means to hold those memories, those families, those children in your heart – for that’s where they remain.

Ben was the youngest of two brothers who came to Play Shoppe 24 years ago.  In and out, over the years, both these boys and their families have been in my heart.  And today my heart is heavy from the loss of this bright, sensitive young man in the prime of his life.

And my vision that I hold is a young toddler lovingly cuddling on his mama’s lap – a preschooler atop his father’s strong shoulders – and the stories in between then and now that have been shared.

A few nights ago, after dark, I was out in the backyard with Tootsie and saw a magnificent scene.  There were more fireflies than I can remember ever seeing  at one time – each one’s light flickering its own luminous response.

I was really moved by that experience.  It seemed so momentous – so celestial.

Hearing about this special young man’s death today, I can’t help but think of Ben and his brother, his mom, and his dad and know for sure that Ben’s special bright light will never dim in their memory.

Hug your children, laugh with them, and be kind to one another.

 

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Would you rather?

I started thinking recently about children and how they begin to share their unique opinions about things – about likes and dislikes, about rather this or that.

I remember doing this – kind of like a game – with children – and I was always surprised by the power of it.

It would be simple questions.

Would you rather eat a piece of cake or a cupcake”  Would you rather go to a movie or stay home and read a book? Would you rather give a speech or write a paper?  Would you rather play hop scotch or kickball? Would you rather take a shower or a bath?  Would you rather go on a bike ride or take a hike?

The power comes from being asked – and then being listened to.  In my memory, I recall some children changing their answer after hearing a friend choose another.

Over time though – they learned that different answers are personal, and they don’t have to be the same as your best friends.

Yet you can still be best friends.

It’s a good start – a positive fun way to empower a child’s choices to be his/hers and to recognize that we can have different opinions, likes and dislikes, yet still value each other as friends.

Never too early to learn that!

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a growth spurt

Recently a grandma shared with me her Covid  Zoom relationships with her absent grand-daughters.

She was giving them cooking lessons.

They were all connecting (even though in different households), learning, laughing, and eating whatever they made – omelets and memories –  at the same time.

Now this same grandma actually has one of her grand-daughters – thirteen-years-old, staying with her for the summer.  Last I heard, she was teaching her how to clean a bathroom!

At the right time, with a fun spirit – our children (or grand-children) are open to gaining new skills – some “let me show you” moments.

Another sharing – a young girl who just turned six years old – surprised her mom who often, in a hurry, just dumps the whole load of clothes from the dryer onto her bed.  This young industrious child has taken to carefully folding all the laundry and then … even delivering it to its rightful owner’s room.

This I was told was a skill – the skill of folding items – also learned from her own grandmother.

I guess my point is – chores aren’t chores unless we make them so.  Often I think, as parents, we assign the most simple (read boring) jobs to our children – if we do so at all.

Expectations – sharing – inclusion – enjoying – trust – reaching our children at the right age – starting earlier than we might think to – making it positive, casual, connecting and personal.

It’s not like we’re handing our young children a Chore List.  It’s more like partnering – and sharing a skill that boosts their confidence.

“Let me show you how to…” “I bet you’re able to pour the milk now”, “sweep the floor”, “wipe up the bathroom sink”, “maybe even vacuum”.

“Want to try?”

And then – watch their competence develop.

A true growth spurt in so many ways.

 

 

 

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courage

I came across this quote again recently from poet e.e. cummings and couldn’t ignore it.

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”

Who you really are – not who your dad is or your mom is – or any one of your siblings – but you.

And what a powerful thought to share as so many of our young graduates have recently completed high school, college, enlisted in the Armed Services, entered the workforce.

Who are they?  Do they own the courage to be who they really are?  Who they want to be?

When our children are little, every stage is like a new shared adventure, it seems.  In some ways, we are involved and move along closely with our children through their toddler years, preschool, elementary, and even middle school.

But there does come a time when we realize our children’s development is not as predictable.  They may have interests unique to themselves, different from our own.  They are pursuing challenges that are significant to them – perhaps leaning toward teachers and mentors outside the family.

And that’s what growth is about.  I still recall teasingly saying to my son in early high  school that I felt a bit out of the loop these days compared to other years.

His good-natured but definite response was “Well,  you’re out of the loop now, Mom!”

And it’s true – our children from childhood through adulthood are on their own personal journey and development.  And there comes a time when this journey is naturally theirs – when the courage is theirs to yet explore and claim.

As parents, we are on our own, “out of the loop” so to speak, hopefully progressing also to understanding, valuing, and rejoicing in who our children really are.

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one of those days

We’ve probably all said – or at least heard someone say “Today is just one of those days”.  It’s usually shared when there’s nothing more to be said- “one of those days” says it all.

Because we’ve probably all been there – at one time or another.  It’s kind of like a universal understanding between people – whether you’re parenting small children on a rainy gloomy day like today – or you’re at work and your computer is down or the copier won’t print or, perhaps, just because the sun’s not shining or the uncertainty of the year ahead, because of Covid 19.

So what do we do on a day like this?  How do we turn our thinking around – to switch “one of those days” to have new meaning.

Can we step back and marvel instead of cringe when our toddler is in the midst of taking all the canned goods off the lower shelves – stacking them – putting them back – and then, beginning all over again .

Can we focus and  boast of his dexterity, his concentration, his satisfaction?  He’s a genius!

Can we suggest a romp in the rain, get soaked, come in and have soup for lunch, read books, work with play dough, practice tying shoes, make jello, color, do puzzles, be happily lazy.

I know it sounds like I’m simplifying matters.

But sometimes we need to push ourselves a bit – through the clouds – to find the sunshine that is there.

The sunshine that we find  in our hearts.

 

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Moms rock

Moms – they certainly have been in the news lately as they share their grief, their loss, their love, their torment after losing sons to violence.

And so moms have been on my mind – even more than usual.

But today is my own mom’s birthday – and although she has passed on – never ever from my heart.

As everyday moms ourselves, we often underestimate our value.  Swamped with the 24/7 work of caring and providing  for our children, we don’t often notice the gifts we offer.

But our efforts, our love, our joy, and our sacrifices in so many ways – provides our children with strength, resilience, and love of their own to grow and to give.

As I talk with so many of the moms that I see at The Parenting Place,  I’m always struck by the awesome power of love that mothers carry for their children.  And I’m just as aware, though, that as moms we often doubt ourselves or feel less than.

But I’m here to tell you – we’re not talking about perfect moms.

We’re talking about good-enough moms – who do our best – who share our hearts – who sometimes struggle  – but are always there – right to the end, as we so poignantly heard called out in the last breath of a grown man.

And so I lovingly remember my own mom today – Happy Birthday, Mom  — and remind all the moms out there to trust and believe deeply in yourselves and the gifts and love you share.

Moms rock!

 

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a family thing

I got to watch just a small portion of the first remembrance service for George Floyd.  I’m so happy this was the portion I got to see.

It was when his family  – his two brothers and sister and a younger nephew, who was brought up together with them in their household, shared their memories of growing up.

And they spoke so genuinely about their youth – funny endearing stories about their oldest brother, George – and their adored mom, a single parent who embraced them all – and anyone else, child or adult, who needed a roof to be under, a stomach to be fed.

There was so much intimacy revealed in those few minutes that they each spoke.  They “didn’t have much” each one related. But they always had each other’s backs,  shared suppers, much laughter,  and hearty agreement on the “banana and mayonnaise sandwiches on toasted bread”.

It was these very warm insights that they shared – so personal and poignant, that I wanted to hear.

“It was a family thing” each family member repeated.

And this is what I believe we all should recognize and hold dear about our own families  and  each and every family we meet at group events, at school, at work, at grocery stores, in our neighborhoods and who are all a  part of our own community.

Different colors, different foods, different styles –  it’s a family thing.

Be open to them.

Because that’s what nourishes all of us.

 

 

 

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getting rid of the wrinkles

Parenting often has more questions than answers – and at times we find ourselves struggling with our responses.

I think it’s that kind of time right now.

As parents we are faced with the uncertainty of just what the “new normal” means that Covid -19 created for our families, our schools, our work places, our lives in the months ahead.

And now this past week of critical unrest and national grief  leaves parents with an overwhelming barrage of unanswered questions as we search to find responses and meaning to what’s going on around us.

And what I offer might certainly not be enough – but I suggest finding  in yourself that personal core of gentleness and of strength, of decency and goodness and let your child feel its presence by sharing eye contact when they are talking to you – by taking the time to respond – by gentle hugs,  and by sensing what it is your child needs or what his/her behavior is showing you.

I do some of my best thinking – my best confirming, resolving, and,  ironically,  my best sorting out when I am folding laundry – fresh and still warm from the dryer.  I love reaching in and pulling one item out, and the next and the next, giving each item my full attention  – folding, sorting and putting them all together – as my thoughts wander, expand and resolve.

And that’s what we do as parents, right?

When our children have questions for us, we open up, reach in, and try to find the best responses that matches what our child needs at the moment, fold it together with caring, gently trying to get rid of the wrinkles, knowing, just like folding laundry, there will be plenty more questions to come – if we’re open to them.

Take care.

 

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