strengthening

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.

Perfect!

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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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chimes

We have an old mantel clock in our home that was in my childhood house when I was growing up.  I always loved listening to it chime as a child – on every quarter hour, half hour and hour – all through the day and night.

But for as long as we’ve had it in our own possession it had stopped chiming.  It would probably only take a very small adjustment at a clock repair shop to fix, but we put it off long enough that time passed, and the clock sat silent.

Recently, however, while dusting, the clock got jolted a bit and I heard an old familiar tone – just one – and oh, it was such a very sweet sound to hear, to remember.

As the days have gone on, so have the occasional chimes – sometimes only one, sometimes as many as eight or ten.  There is no rhyme or reason, they do not correlate to the hour of the day or night.

They just happen.

And every time the gentle tone sounds, I stop what I’m doing momentarily and I listen.

Since this has been happening, I have thought we should really have it repaired, bring it back to its full chiming status.  But there’s something about the randomness – the unexpected timing that appeals to me, and makes the moment that much more special.

As parents, we can try to pay attention when our own personal chimes happen.

Recently my daughter-in-law sent me a photo she snapped on her phone camera of Theo sleeping soundly. She shared that she thought she had heard him awake from his nap, but when she went in, he was still soundly sleeping.

“So sweet” she said.

“Bong” –  a moment that stops you and reminds you and fills you with warmth.

We can all be aware of the random personal chimes in our lives, as our children grow, as our relationships mature.  We can stop for just  a minute and notice – really notice -our children’s expression, happy, pensive, sad. We can enjoy our child’s giggle, that raucous exchange between fun-loving siblings, the concentration on a child who’s working hard on a project, the quiet humming of a busy preschooler as he “works” at playing, a spouse gently carrying a tired child to bed, an “I love you” perfectly timed.

Our personal chimes – small moments to realize and cherish.

Watch for them.

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what do you think?

At a recent celebration of life service  for a dear friend, Penny, there was much shared of her beautiful and full life and the difference that she made in so many others’ lives.

One quality that really resonated with me was about Penny as a teacher –  and how often when a child asked her a question, she would respond,  “what do you think?”. And she always listened, really listened, and the child learned to trust what she/he did think, and then the conversation would evolve.

Penny stretched children’s minds, challenged them, respected them and her students responded, grew in spirit and became learners – confident to share what they thought.

So often as adults, we feed information, rules, comments without even considering what our children already know or feel, need or believe. Yet the starting point, the connecting point, the spark that ignites may lie in that first question, “what do you think?”

By asking, we gain information ourselves how best to answer, how much to say, what to offer.

And what a gift, what a legacy to bestow – for our children to know and believe that what they do think, counts.

” So …what do you think?”

“Think left – think right – think low and think high.  Oh the thinks you can think of if only you try.”  from “Oh the Thinks You can Think – Dr. Seus .

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Boca

Way before baby Theo was born 9 months ago, I was called Gramma.

I was Gramma to Boca, a beautiful black standard poodle girl who on Friday passed on at the age of sixteen and a half.

I took being Gramma to Boca very seriously. It was easy to do. Boca loved a package in the mail with expectations that something in there must be for her.  I relished stories and updates on her experiences, friends and achievements. Boca was a “girl on the go”, privileged to “come along” and be included in most things, including weddings, graduations and work.  She was smart and well-mannered and was always welcomed.

Boca the beauty had become these sixteen years later beautiful in the “Real” sense – like the bunny in the Velveteen Rabbit book.  Some of her hair had been “loved off” and she was “loose in the joints and a bit shabby” but she was “Real” and “these things don’t matter at all – once you are Real”.

We learn about love in so many ways.

Thank you, Boca, for letting me be Gramma – and showing me the way.

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maple seeds

Maple seeds – you know the helicopter ones that are fun to throw up in the air and then watch them whirly twirl down to the ground. Well, this weekend, it was the wind having all the fun with the seeds on the maple trees that surround our yard.

Our lawn and driveway and that of our neighbor’s is literally covered with these seeds.  And what’s so amazing to me is that these seeds flutter down with such purpose and intention. Their job is to embed their nose into the ground (which amazingly they accomplish) with hopes to grow and develop into a maple tree.

Every Spring we expect this cycle will occur and we watch and wait patiently (and very often impatiently) for it to end.  We accept it, acknowledge it, knowing what needs to be done; sweeping at first, raking, and at last resorting to the big blower to finish off the job.

But a few seeds always manage to escape this fate – and instead snuggle into the ground against the fence – and begin to sprout – and become a seedling and develop leaves – with hopes to being like the big maple trees surrounding them.

Hmm – sound familiar?

Development and growth can often be messy.

From babyhood to toddlers to preschoolers to school-age, children go through so many developmental cycles and behaviors, both lovely and challenging. When we realize even the difficult ones are normal – that this is how our children develop and grow on their path to becoming adults, we can learn to expect them, understand them,accept them, work with them and help our children and us ease through them.

And as parents, that’s what we do – mostly.  But sometimes, during our children’s challenging stages, we fret too much, take things too personally, compare, push, distrust – want to resort to the “blower” to stop the behavior immediately.

However, just as we can understand and appreciate the purpose and the promise of the maple seeds (in spite of their messiness) so it is with our children’s development.

We can embrace the challenges and the messiness of parenting as we trust, watch and nurture our children’s sprouting, growing, whirling and twirling, and developing into strong, mature human beings.

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