Author Archives: fswift

a life’s work

Sometimes you know for sure when a sincere thank you is in order – when someone has contributed to your life – sometimes when you don’t even know that individual personally.

I feel that way about Dr. T.Berry Brazelton, internationally revered pediatrician, author, baby whisperer, who died this week at the age of 99.

When Jodi, our Director at The Parenting Place, stopped me in the hall to pass on the news of his death, it was universally significant because to parents everywhere, to other physicians, to those of us who work, value, and believe in the strength of parents and children, Dr. Brazelton has led the way.

Dr. Brazelton’s first of many books was Infants and Mothers and came out in 1969, the year our daughter was born.  So you could say – Dr. Brazelton has been with me personally on a long, positive and enlightening journey as a mother, a teacher, and a parent educator.

It is from Dr. Brazelton’s research and lifetime work with infants that The Parenting Place is able to offer support and education to parents of infants through our New Born Observation Program.

The NBO is a set of observations designed to help parents observe their infant and understand and appreciate their baby’s uniqueness, needs, and personality from the very beginning. The Parenting Place has several staff members who have been trained to do NBOs with new babies and their parents.

Dr. Brazelton’s belief that parents need support at least as much as they need advice has resonated with me throughout my years working with parents.  His belief in looking at the child’s behavior and discovering what that behavior is telling us has opened the eyes, the hearts, and the responses of many parents and caregivers.

And his advice to parents to relax, to love and enjoy their child and themselves is simply refreshing.

So I appreciate you, Dr. Brazelton, for your contribution to me personally and to all the parents and babies and children who have benefited from your life’s gentle work and dedication to love and understanding.

Thank you.


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There’s different ways of noticing behaviors, acknowledging them, labeling them.

Sometimes as parents, the names we may apply to our children’s behavior or trait or physical looks can make a significant impression in the way they grow to think about themselves.

We’ve all heard parents and relatives refer to the “slowpoke in the family”, “our whiny one”, “our sly one”.  Or perhaps it’s referring to the way they look – “she has the stringiest hair, hard to do anything with it” , “he’s a beanpole just like his grandpa was”, “she’s always been so clumsy”.

When I was little I had a mark on my upper thigh that could be seen when I wore a bathing suit – which as a child growing up on the sea shore was everyday all summer long.

My mother called it my beauty mark.

Wow – a beauty mark!  That made me feel pretty special.  I loved it.  In fact, when I got my new hip a few years ago, one of the first things I did was check to see if my beauty mark was still there.  Sure enough, it was.

I was glad to see it.

At my last well-physical check-up, however, my doctor told me “keep an eye on that mole on your thigh!”  “Mole?” I said.  “You mean my beauty mark?”

We had a very good laugh about that when I explained how it’s always been called my beauty mark.

“My mother told me so.”

Those names, those adjectives and descriptions said often times in jest can remain, however, what a child believes about himself, good or bad, for a long time.

Look at me.

My mom told me, a very long time ago, that I had a beauty mark … and I’m sticking with it!

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when it’s time

It seems like the weather can’t quite make up its mind.

Just as we’re getting used to dry sidewalks, yards and roadways, mild temperatures, blue skies, and sunshine, there’s a winter storm alert!  Snow is falling and wind is blowing, schools have been let out early, grocery stores are bustling.

What’s that about? 

I guess we were all jumping ahead just a little bit – rushing the season,  being impatient – as Spring is still a few weeks away – and even then …it will show up when it’s ready!

It’s definitely kind of like parenting.  We see a little progress in our child’s behavior and wow, it’s Spring!

We can’t help ourselves – the baby slept through the night, my three-year-old went right to bed this weekend – my one-year-old took a step, my two-year-old went pee in the potty, my toddler tried peas last night, my four-year-old brushed his teeth last night without a struggle – Yay!

Until … “I guess it’s winter again!”

Much of our children’s behaviors are on a continuum.  It takes time for a behavior to change – to become consistent – to become learned.

It’s called baby steps.

Letting things happen in turn – being patient yet prepared – to welcome Spring –  and our child’s new developments – when it’s time.

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” Lao Tsu


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We watch our children develop and grow and it is such a wonder. I love when parents share with me their child’s new developments, latest stages, creative tricks.

But every once in a while, I get to hear about a parent’s personal growth, understanding, realization – and that is always especially meaningful.

For just as our children are learning and developing daily, monthly, yearly – so are we as parents.


I talked to a mom recently who has two children – always a very conscientious woman – who, as she told me, read parenting books continually.  Until, she says, she reached a point where she feels able to trust herself – her own parenting instincts – her own development – to read her children more and the parenting books less.

She feels more secure paying attention to her own judgment and experience to know when her children’s behaviors demand a limit from her . She understands when they are looking for that calm but firm and confident assurance of “stop”, “I won’t let you”, “no thank you”, “not today” that helps a child feel secure and embraced.

As parents we come to our personal parenting styles in our own time – in our own ways.

But we all get there.

And when we do arrive – its a settled feeling, a more relaxed but knowing feeling.  It doesn’t mean we don’t still question, puzzle, worry at times – but we rely on what we know about our children and how we want to relate to them.

We pay attention to our own parenting instincts.

We’ve reached the well-seasoned parenting stage – and we’ve earned it.

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“Hope is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all -“

Emily Dickinson

This past week I spoke with several parents who were reeling from this latest school shooting.  Fear, anxiety and grief foremost in their hearts.

This is when it’s hardest to be a parent – to face this type of vulnerability in our children – in ourselves.

And that’s why this first stanza of Emily Dickinson’s poem means so much to me.  Because despite our fears, hope resides – and stays “perched” in our souls – to lean on, to count on – to heal.

For it is this “hope” that helps our children as well as ourselves to carry on, to be brave, to look ahead, to find strength. And with this hope, we see our children, our friends, our neighbors in a new light – a new togetherness.

Because parenting is universal – and I believe one parent’s grief is felt in every parent’s heart.

Parents want to know what to do, how to protect their children, what to say.

I say for now – slow down a bit – circle the wagons – have family time – connect with those who are close to you – and let yourselves and your children feel held, feel the love, feel the connection, the safety -without words.

Let you all feel the genuine “hope that perches in your soul”.


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Let it happen

We’re coming up soon on one of my favorite times to play outside.

It’s usually late February – definitely in March – when we begin to have bright sunny days, warmer (above freezing) temperatures, and longer hours of daylight that start the streams of melting snow begin their “river” journey along the curb sides and driveways of our neighborhoods.

And it is in these streams that I found such satisfaction when I was a child – as well as a parent alongside my child.

There’s something about these “rivers” that invite rubber boots to slosh in them, sticks and leaves to float in them – dams to change their flow and create new channels – the river of the world – our own special childhood world.

It takes being dressed for it, prepared for it, time for it.

It doesn’t happen on the way to the car, or in between errands.  It’s an afternoon of outside play – some shovels, (extra mittens – they may get wet), some sticks, maybe some rocks – each child will know what he/she needs.

And then the magic will happen I believe,  for it’s easy to lose oneself in wonder, in exploration, in trickling sounds of water, in the crushing of melting snow.

Trust your child – treat your child –  to this free adventure – and let it happen.

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I am the youngest of six siblings and I think it gave me much practice observing and noticing other’s expressions, moods, and feelings, as I “studied” the world of brothers and sisters whirling around me.

Most Friday mornings for me are very busy – keeping the Play Shoppe schedule moving, responding to the quick pace of the group.  This week, however, it was the first Friday of the month, and a children’s librarian from the public library comes to do our Play Shoppe story time. (Thank you- we love it!)

And so I got to sit back during circle time and observe the children responding to Ms. Brooke as she read, sung, and engaged with them.

What a treasure to watch and appreciate these children, their individual expressions, their responses, their hesitation, their eagerness, their “wheels turning” – each and every child so different from the next.

As busy parents, however, we are often just that – busy – and our own time to step back and really breathe in our child’s uniqueness often slips away.

But whether we have one child or four children, we know each child’s personal expression hints at what lies within.

So not every minute, not necessarily even everyday – but definitely when the opportunity presents itself – take advantage of the moment – to notice, to celebrate, to feel the uniqueness of the child in front of you.

It doesn’t require comment or praise or acknowledgement, except to our self.

It’s simply just for us – FYI – to add to our understanding, to our appreciation, to our future responses –  to our deepening relationships with the separate individuals that make up our families.

Don’t miss it.






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back on track

Is  it just wishful thinking – or is this winter almost over?   January is all but done, then February’s upon us – and then there’s March – announcing the first day of Spring.

Wow!  It’s practically summer!

But …I know- I know.  February, the shortest month can sometimes seem the longest.

And – anyhow – why am I wishing the days away?

As parents, though, haven’t we all sometimes been guilty of doing just that about our children?  Instead of appreciating the infant nighttime- feeding stage – or relishing the 18-month-old “on the go” run – or understanding (and admiring perhaps) the 3-year-old “defiant” stage – we wonder when does this stage end, can’t wait until.

And then  for sure – we  end up missing the meaningful moments that are the present.

There are so many things that we do hurry through, complain about, dread, only to realize later, they are gone, and this time will not be repeated.

It only takes little things to get us back on track.

Just at Great Clips, for instance, I observed two adorable young brothers, hair slicked down from fresh cuts, sitting and waiting for their older brother to be finished, playing a “game” on their mom’s phone.  They leaned into each other, laughed, shared so compatibly.

And I thought “What a moment!”

(and, yes, I couldn’t help myself – I did tell their mom when she came over what I noticed!)

So – okay, February, bring it on.  I’m ready to appreciate every one of your 28 days – and March too!

Spring and summer are sure to come.  But in the meantime, I’m going to look for and appreciate what marvelous moments the present holds.

Thanks, boys!


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It was one of those moments that I cherish as a Parent Educator – witnessing the struggles and joys that parents experience with their children.

This one was so sweet – so personal – this sharing from a dad who showed up with his 4-month-old daughter and 3-year-old son at Play Shoppe this week.

This dad has been a regular participant with his son,  but this was his first time back with both children in tow. We talked about the challenges of juggling life with an infant and a busy 3-year-old boy.

He admitted he had been so nervous about having a daughter. “What do I know about girls?  My experience with the opposite sex was during dating and it was wrought with stress and anxiety.  “Will she like me?  Am I cool enough?  How do I look? What should I say? How should I act?”

“But this little girl – she just loves me so much – and I don’t have to even do or be anything and she loves me.”

Oh my – such a pure, tender, honest moment it was!

But concern over being the right fit for your child is so very common.  I can’t say how many expectant woman I hear comment “what will I do if it’s a boy – I don’t know anything about boys!”

Only to find out – just as this dad did – yes, you do know just what you need to know.

Love is what it’s all about.




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ah yes

There’s much to be said about gratitude.

I think when a new year is beginning, many of us vow to be more grateful – to appreciate our families and friends more – to be content with the things we have in our lives that bring us joy.

As parents, even with the best intentions, however, we sometimes get lost instead in the details – in all the things that need to be done, that don’t get done, that we wish could be changed.

So our days – as full as they are – are often only described as “crazy”, “hectic”, “OMG what a day” with a strong hint of exhaustion and distress attached

This year I received a sweet little journal that’s called “favorite moment a day” journal.

I love it!

For there’s twenty-four hours in each day to think about.  And stuck in even the most tiring “crazy” day, there has to be a moment – a moment that deserves to be remembered, felt, appreciated, cherished.

For a moment can be as simple as a conversation, a smile, a lovely cup of tea, the precious grin your toddler gives you when he wakes up from his nap,a friend’s phone call, a teenager’s unexpected hug , a neighbor’s warm response to your children playing in their yard, making all the green lights when running late to work, siblings happily engaged in pretending and “dress -up”, a quiet moment when you stand at the window and gaze at the cardinals at the bird feeder.

You fill in the rest.

For you don’t need a little journal like mine to do this.  It can just become a part of your day, a gift to yourself, by spending a few minutes being mindful – being grateful for those moments – for that one moment perhaps, that makes us say “Ah yes!”

“Ah yes, indeed!”




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