Somehow it seems we just don’t recognize the feelings in our boys.  Maybe they just don’t show them that often.

But, as for me, I’ve said it before – and I’ll say it again – I know there’s tenderness in “them thar boys” – a lot of it.

Recently a mom shared with me, that in a particularly rushed moment, she said to her 6-year-old son, “Come on – you need to help.  If you are a part of this family, you need to help!”

That’s all it took, however, for this young lad to crumble and blurt out “I am part of this family.  Without you, I’d be nothing!”

Oh such a heartfelt baring of his soul – proof of his deep, deep love and need to belong.

But – it’s true – on any old ordinary day – who would know this?

I felt the same for another little guy – 5-years-old, happy and content at Play Shoppe- an independent boy, not prone to showing his emotions.

Until he noticed his dad was gone.  This boy was very familiar with us at Play Shoppe  and since he was busy playing,  his dad didn’t think twice when he ran out to their car to get something – without telling his son.

But this little guy noticed and his expression turned to fear and loss and the tears flowed.

Of course his dad quickly appeared and the both of them hugged – and I got to see his dad’s usually reserved emotions openly shared with his son.

So, that’s it  …  young boys… they grow up to be loving dads.


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“We have to stand up and say when things are wrong” a local La Crosse Dad told his 5-year-old daughter.

Sometimes we wonder how to explain to our children about difficult subjects such as bullying, hate crimes, intolerance, meanness.

But this dad said it all – and made his point.

“This is a really simple thing we as neighbors can do.”

This conversation this dad and daughter had was about signs that are showing up in local neighborhoods –  in this 5-year-old’s very own yard – and the park she plays in.

Her Dad was involved in starting a Go Fund Me campaign to purchase“Hate Has No Home Here” signs for local residents to put up in their yards. With increasing intolerance of others and hate speech rapidly growing across the country – yes – even here in La Crosse – it is time to take a shared action.

And even young 5-year-olds will soon be able to read the words on the sign – Hate has no home here – in English – and see those words written also in six other languages.

And when it sits in their front yards – and the front yards of many –  it encompasses a sense of belonging and safety – to know what their family believes – what their community believes – and feel embraced by its message.

Think about it.

To request a FREE yard sign, donate to the campaign, or learn more – visit:

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a compliment

I talked recently with a mom who shared that she was struggling with her 5-year-old son who doesn’t always listen – especially when asked to pitch in to help, get ready to go, wash up, stop doing this or that.

And we acknowledged that this was a work in progress – as are all changes in behavior  – for both children and parents.

But something else this parent said really jumped out at me.

When telling her child something she wanted him to do recently, he respondedIf I do it, will you give me a compliment?”

Aha! I thought.  Maybe that’s the answer – maybe this young boy is actually in need of a bit more acknowledgment, encouragement, appreciation – something to empower him.

Maybe he was feeling discouraged.

He wasn’t asking for a prize, candy, or money – just being noticed.

Perhaps such positive attention could change the “role” he’s chosen to play – could turn his negative reaction into a positive response – by receiving a compliment –  by feeling worthwhile, by being recognized.

We all understand that.


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Celebrate the trees

Most people who know me realize how much I love trees – bark – sticks. I love the sight of them, the feel of them, the warmth of them.

I have my own personal collection of sticks that remind me of different kinds of animals.  I’ve had “bark” and special sticks left on my desk at work – from someone(s) who thought of me when coming upon a treasure they knew I would appreciate.

When I think about why – and how this passion for trees developed, I go back to the very large maple tree that graced our side yard as a child – where I played daily around its roots sticking up from the ground – embracing the trunk as I stepped from root to root circling around the tree.

It was  shady under which to play “house” with my dolls – or drive my toy cars up and over the hilly roots –  then place them in the niches that made perfect parking spaces.

It was a beautiful very special spot.

So there’s no surprise that the new Bandshell at La Crosse’s Riverside Park has won my heart.

Eighteen white oak trees form the arches of this new structure. You have to see it to experience its natural, majestic beauty.

In this world of noisy computerized games, images, exchanges, glitz – how fortunate we are in La Crosse to have this magnificent display for our children to see –  to remember – for the whole community to appreciate and admire the strength, power, beauty and serenity these white oak trees add to our new Bandshell at Riverside Park.

Yes – let’s celebrate the trees!




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Can I come too?

Being included.

Who doesn’t want that feeling of being included – a part of a group – a part of a family – a part of the plans.

A mom who recently moved to this area from a very long distance was sharing that when she and her husband were making their moving plans and finalizing the details together, their young 3 -year-old, listening nearby, spoke up hopefully, “Can I come too?”

This mom felt terrible that he would ever feel so left out about such a big move.

Not taking anything for granted, however, this little guy thought he’d better speak up.

Our children really do want to know how and where they fit into our plans – whether it is a big move, a week-end trip, a night at Grandma’s, or a morning baby-sitting- exchange with a friend.

But, certainly, telling your child too much too soon – before details are worked out – can be confusing and stressful.

Best to wait till plans are set for sure.  Then the news can be shared at the dinner table for all to hear –  quietly at bedtime – while taking a walk – giving a child a bath – over breakfast – whenever there is time and space to share and answer questions.

This kind of inclusion lets everyone – little to big – know “they can come too“.


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many hands

Once again I’ve witnessed it, seen it with my own eyes, smiled to myself, shared mutual appreciation with others, believed it – loved it.

And what is it?  It’s simple – but significant.

It’s children – helping – alongside adults – in a common purpose – where they feel included, needed, and valued.

Every year when The Parenting Place packs up the items for The Children’s Festival- small ones, big ones and really big ones – into our rental U-haul truck, it requires a lot of help – hauling in and out from our building to the waiting truck.

Then it’s off – everything and everyone to Myrick Park – where we begin again – this time unloading the U-Haul into the Shelter. All of this activity is in preparation for what The Parenting Place believes is the magic of the Children’s Festival.

And when the morning is over, the festival is taken down – packed up once again into the truck, and driven back to The Parenting Place to unload into the building.

And through it all, there are children with their parents – eager to help, to carry, to experience being a valuable part of our working group.

And one can sense their satisfaction, their confidence, their strength, their pride – palpable before your eyes.

And so I encourage parents to think of sharing jobs with children, working together with others, and having your children experience this power of unity.

Here’s a hint – raking leaves is right around the corner.  How about your kids, your relatives and friends and their kids jointly working together – to have fun while the yards get clean – with rakes and baskets and treats for all.

“Many hands make light work” – and strong connections.


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Ceremony – when it happens,  you can feel it – sense it- breathe it.

But ceremony doesn’t happen all that often in our busy day-to-day lives.

But it could.

Actually, you can create a sense of ceremony just by simply lighting a candle at dinner once a week – holding hands around the table for a moment of silence – end with a squeeze gently passed hand to hand.

Believe it or not, your children will be responsive to this quiet pause in their lives.

A few weeks ago we went to a reunion of a school that our family was involved in in the Seventies.  Ceremony was present.

It was there in the memories and gratefulness shared as our large group stood in a circle, and one by one revealed what Riverhaven School in Winona, Mn meant to them – as children, as now-grown adults, as teachers, as former parents.

Speaking with a dear friend from Connecticut recently whom I taught with years ago, we got on this subject of ceremony.

My friend has been a nursery school teacher for 40 years – seasoned and passionate still.

She shared that when the children in her class are moving on at the end of the year, she gathers them in a circle.  She has a velvet box – and in the box is a firm rock.

The rock is carefully passed from child to child as their teacher shares something about that particular child – unique to each.

She told me that there is perfect silence in this group of 4’s and early 5’s as they sit , wide -eyed, listening attentively to what is being shared about each child – as they wait for their own turn.

My friend said a few other faculty who witnessed this power of ceremony were speechless.

I believe it.

That’s kind of how ceremony leaves you.



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