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Thursday, June 10, 2021

Worry

 I am sure I had a better title when I was originally thinking this up but no such luck now. I decided to put something out hoping it both speaks to people who have had to go through their own health issues and to encourage discussion and testing as a public health message. Mostly when I write, I think about my kids reading this as adults and I hope the message speaks to them.

Let’s start at the beginning. I’m having surgery today to remove what the doctor believes is a benign growth. There’s a very long backstory which is too detailed to get into here but the reason I’m sharing this is mostly to encourage women to do their annual testing. All too often we put things off because they’re uncomfortable or we’re too busy caring for everyone else. So I’m here to encourage and remind you to take care of yourself and your health. Do regular breast exams and start mammograms at whatever age your Dr recommends. Since the 1990s, mammograms have reduced the mortality rate from breast cancer by 40%. Yes there are false positives, but the overwhelming benefit outweighs those!

Why on a parenting blog? First - hoping this reaches many moms. Second, I thought about how to approach this with my kids and hope it might help to share that. 

When the kids are little they think we’re invincible. We can solve any problem and have every answer. We don’t have weaknesses in their minds. That all changes when they become teens and we’re all weak and lacking answers. But whatever stage they’re in - it’s scary when something happens to us. If we don’t share anything, I think they worry more. 

My experience is that sharing to each at their level helps them process it. Make sure that your worry doesn’t become theirs. They’re not your confidant. They need bite size information that helps them process the experience. I think it’s important to answer their questions honestly. 

I told my older kids the full story because they’re basically adults, my teenage son (“mom this is gross don’t tell me”) so I didn’t go into details, just the basics. For the younger kids, I told them I needed a surgery and that it wasn’t dangerous and the doctors just need to double check what they believe they’re seeing on other tests. My 12 year old had some questions and asked me if he needed to worry. I told him that Hashem does the worrying so we can skip that part because He’s got our back. But I told him the truth - the surgery itself was a little scary to me and I’m trying to control my own reactions. That’s my part in the process. 

Everyone’s got their own approach and their own attitude. It’s ok to be scared, I just think when it comes to the kids we have to show them both the human side and the braver side. They’ll likely model it when it’s their turn to be adults and put on a brave face. 

Hoping to share many good news posts. Please spread the message to all the moms and women in your lives - prevention is the best medicine!

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Reflecting


להגיד בבקר חסדך, ואמונתך בלילות

I had written a whole piece on how to start exercising that I was going to send out to the group (and still plan to) but there are times when we just need to pause and reflect. 

My main goal with this blog has always been a type of journal that I use to think out life (and possibly help others sort thru their parenting dilemmas and challenges) and also for my kids older selves - so they could look back to see how and what I was thinking and feeling as we went through our daily lives. 

The tragedy in Meron, Israel last week is one of those times. When something so huge happens to our own people, we need to pause. Everyone processes tragedy differently. Some people need to sit with the pain and feel and let it sink in and pass. Others can’t think about it because it’s plain too much to take in. Some people felt this one far too close to home as they had kids there, family or friends there, knew someone who didn’t survive or had some close or even tangential connection. Some people need to understand how it happened while others search for the why. 

I can’t answer any of these questions for anyone. Nor can I actually tell you the best way to present this to your children or to process it yourself.  I do think that wherever you go from here, go changed. If this or any tragedy passes as just happenstance and we resume life as it was before, than there is wasted opportunity. Hold your children tighter, appreciate what is without worrying about what isn’t or cannot be. 

I can’t help but feel that sometimes, G-d is whispering to us and other times He is on a loudspeaker - what message He is delivering is likely different for every person and I’m sure there are many messages we will never understand.  Open your heart and try to hear whatever the message is for you. 

May each person touched by this tragedy find healing and comfort in the days to come. 

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Carving it Out

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me how important I feel it is to exercise.  Some might go so far as to say I’m a little crazy when it comes to the topic.  Aside from the practical piece of it - feeling that it is a key element of being on top of our physical well being - the mental health benefits are extremely rewarding.  We’ve discussed in a previous post about the Body aspects - modeling for our children the need to integrate healthy behaviors in our lives in order to make it part of their norm.  We’ve also discussed the ME TIME  aspect of it in a Previous post. Today I want to discuss a different key element. 

Before turning to the main point of my post, I want to put one disclaimer out here. The why not to do this. Don’t get me wrong, I think everyone should integrate some form of exercise into their lives. But I tire of people saying things to me about how they should really exercise for weight reasons. Exercising DOES help maintain a stable, healthy weight but it is not an Avenue to weight loss (if you ask me, a non professional, I may add).  It IS a good part of a healthy lifestyle but PART is the key word.  Exercise for the multiple benefits - but don’t see it as a magical diet fix.  The best way to lose weight, if weight loss is one of your health goals, is to make a full plan that includes healthy choices and exercise.  And if you’re struggling with weight related issues, there are many professionals (doctors, dieticians, etc) who can help you make a plan. 

Ok so back to the previous idea - to me, those benefits we discussed are some of the whys. What I want to talk about today is the HOW.

I think to figure out a way to make something work, we first need to understand what’s holding us back. I see three main barriers to making exercise part of life: TIME, SUPPORT & MONEY.

TIME - even before you became a parent, you were probably busy and overcommitted, it’s the norm in today’s culture.  Everyone is pursuing something at all times.  When my kids were little someone once told me that everyone can make the time for something (I can’t recall what it was they wanted my time for) and I disagreed - even things we care deeply about get shunted to the side when practical life takes a front seat. But I stand corrected because I have seen time and again that people find the time for essentials.  You make the time when you see it as essential.  If you see your physical and mental health as a priority and you see exercise as a key piece in that equation, you will find the time.

SUPPORT- this element takes on so many meanings in my mind. You can do things on your own but it’s always harder. Having a supportive partner makes a huge difference in your chance for success.  This could mean a partner in your exercise - a spouse or friend is ideal - but it could just as easily mean a supportive partner who makes sure you can get out the door.  I always find that having supportive community in my exercise enables me to not only have someone to exercise with but also someone to be accountable to and to push me farther or vice versa.  I’ve developed some of the best friends in my various running groups and they’ve truly become an incredible part of my life.  

MONEY- no matter if you’re in a crowd that discusses this or not - many people struggle with finding funds for extras.  And many people think they need to put out money in order to get going on a new exercise regime.  Be it for a gym membership, trainer, equipment or classes.  The truth is - you need nothing more than a pair of sneakers to start (and starter tip -  Ross sells cheap ones of older models).  It doesn’t matter what type of exercise you want to do eventually - just start with something and go from there.  You can walk or run - the important part is taking that first step.

Now that you’ve thought about what’s holding you back, you’re more likely to find solutions to make it possible. 

 If time is the issue, figure out what can be trimmed from your schedule here or there - don’t feel like you need an hour a day - start with something attainable like 3 times a week for half hour. Like anything new, introducing it in small doses is your surest way to stick with it.

Support - If your partner or kids don’t realize the need you have for some flexibility to fit this in - discuss it. Explain the benefits.  Have small kids and can’t leave? Take them along for the ride.  Talk to friends or other parents - see if you can find someone to partner up with. It is both someone to commiserate with while you’re overcoming the beginning challenges and someone to talk to and pass the time.  Sometimes, it’s actually the best support group you can ask for while raising children.  

Money - there are no shortage of streets, paths and beautiful places to explore while you fit this in - and they’re all free - double benefit! If outdoors doesn’t appeal - YouTube! There are tons of free videos with workouts from yoga & pilates, cardio, abs and everything in between.

So get out there and move - 

— carve out the time

— set up a support system before you begin 

—take the first step 

You’ll likely be a better parent and a more energetic person once those endorphins kick in.

Good luck, hope to see you on the trails!




Friday, April 23, 2021

Inch by Inch

Two interviews I heard this week made me want to write.  I've felt a lot lately that there's too much repetition in what I'm discussing - like parenting basically boils down to two main things:

1. Actions speak louder than words

2. Every kid is unique so there are no one size fits all solutions

And while its true that it kind of does boil down to those two basic ideas - its also true that there's a lot of nuance.  So I'm hoping the ability to discuss the different situations we face and the predicaments we find ourselves in helps us to channel those two things in the best way possible.

In one interview, a man was discussing his personal religious transformation and he said "it was less step by step and more inch by inch."  I loved this quote.  It crystalized a lot of how I see parenting.  So often we are mired in the details of everyday life, in the small battles and struggles, we fail to notice the micro changes going on around us.  Then one day, we wake up and we're dealing with an entirely different person.  All those tiny changes somehow add up and shape our kids into the people they are becoming.  When you're in the midst of a hard stage, it is really helpful to remember this.

It also reminded me that even when we don't noticeably see the effects of all the work we are putting into something, even something as small as an inch is a gain.  Human nature causes people to be their harshest judges, sometimes I think it is worth remembering that every inch we gain is an inch achieved

I heard Michelle Obama interviewing her mother about how she brought them up and  she said parenting was just natural - you did what seemed right.  Nowadays, she said, there's just too much talking and discussion and everyone telling you what to do but people aren't coming out any better.  I think some of what she said is true, we do talk too much.  Our kids aren't scared of us (which I think is a good thing) but sometimes they also lack a basic respect for their parents and adults.  It is generational.  But I still think the more we talk, the more we get things out in the open, the more we treat them like the cognitive, aware beings that they are, the better the chances of them being emotionally open and available and thoughtful as they get older.

So while I agree, there's no parenting technique which just works for every kid across the board, there are some basic ideas and concepts that, when applied, really do help us make the best, strategic decisions to help guide our children.

I feel somewhat like I'm rambling without a concrete to-do here, but its more of a thought provoking ramble than a call to action...

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Can We Move On?

This past week was the holiday of Pesach/Passover.  We were lucky to have all our children home and together.  The difference between holidays with tons of guests and ones with mostly family-only meals is the level of focus on your own children.  The discussions revolve around them.  It is amazing, in my opinion.  And one of my daughters made a comment that really struck me - "What will people discuss when Corona ends?"  Of course there are always THOSE topics.  The public and private conversations ebb and flow with the news cycles.  But what it really made me think about is - are we giving our kids the right message with all this dwelling? Maybe now we have a real opportunity to help them learn how to move on.  Stop dwelling.  

Harvey Mackay said "Every morning brings new potential, but if you dwell on the misfortunes of the day before, you tend to overlook tremendous opportunities."

How many times have you sat around with friends and the discussion turned to the tuition crisis? We all know it exists. To date, no one has a solution. We keep sending our children back into the same school system and then complaining about the cost. Maybe it’s important to move on and accept we’re not changing it so let’s stop whining about it. 

Before we talk about the how of moving on, I want to stress that moving on and processing a painful or tragic experience is completely different from what I’m discussing.  Someone who experiences a tragedy and needs to move forward has to go through a totally different process of therapeutic healing.  If, for example, someone lost a family member or friend to Corona, the discussion would be completely different.  My focus here is on dwelling on the same issue over and over as a general idea.

So back to the how: Modeling this behavior is the key.  And it doesn't only apply to the pandemic and the endless Covid discussions.  Every argument should be dealt with and put to bed.  Bringing up the same mistakes, experiences, negative interactions over and over will not change them.  


Teach them this skill in 4 easy steps:


  • Acknowledge the experience
  • Dissect it when appropriate
  • Take the best lessons we can from it
  • AND THEN MOVE ON!

Failure to take the time to do any of the steps will result in being unable to move on from the experience.  If you've truly dealt with an experience/interaction - you can move forward.  I know how difficult this is because I suffer from the spiral - going back to old issues and digging them up over and over.  Believe me, it never helps.  It is a healthy mindset in every relationship to live in the present.  


So move on from all your discussions revolving around Corona, your kids will be grateful.  It isn't past, we are still going to have to deal with this as part of our reality - and it is a shifting ever-changing reality - but we all know the story and we don't benefit from dwelling on it.


Thursday, March 11, 2021

Strength

This week is international women’s day. Many people have been discussing strong women. Lauding them. Strong women create strong families.  “A woman of valor.”  And it begged the question - do you think being strong is something inherent or something we can teach?

That’s a question I ask myself often. I’ve worked hard the past several years on my personal strength - internal and external. I believe they go hand in hand. If I feel strong and powerful in my physical self, it helps build my mental strength. Using mental strength I can endure more physically. They are intricately linked. It’s amazing the way our minds work. I can convince myself to keep going on a hard run by using these kinds of mind games. I can be at the end of my physical endurance and somehow convince myself to do just a bit more - and somehow I find myself finishing a half marathon spontaneously. 

I hope that strength can be taught. Likely more modeled than taught. 

In order to know what strong means - I thought I’d define some aspects of what I see as strength  I would love comments on what you see as strength as well.

Strength is...

-understanding what you’re good at 

-emotional honesty - without embarrassment and not seeing it as weakness 

-willingness to take reasonable risks 

-speaking your mind and opinions unapologetically-  not rude or brash but honest 

-pushing limits - both physically and emotionally 

-being able to feel pain without being consumed by it 

-being able to recover - from whatever comes your way 

When it came to naming my youngest daughter, it was my turn to choose. I wanted to imbue in her a sense of becoming a strong woman. I named her after a woman in the Bible who was a warrior, Yael, who killed the general Sisra in one of Israel’s wars. And I made her a mantra I remind her of often when she’s scared - that she is brave and strong like the woman she was named for. I believe, in time, she will internalize that lesson. 

Kids see how we live. They absorb everything from our mannerisms to our reactions. They see our confidence. They feel our power. Give your kids the gift of your strength. 


Sunday, February 28, 2021

Take Five

We’ve discussed taking a few minutes or even just a few breaths before responding to any given situation with our kids  (see the Recent post about knee jerk reactions). I was recently having a discussion with a friend about this and how it would serve our kids so well  if we impart that skill to them. I figured it was worth a post of its own. 

These days I feel like parents are much more involved in their children’s day to day struggles. The entire approach of our generation tends to a much more hands on, into the nitty gritty type of parenting. There are so many benefits to this - we are more approachable and relatable, our kids benefit from the day to day involvement in numerous ways. But there are drawbacks as well. Some parents tend to become over involved - solving all of the kids problems for them in our attempt to give them a more perfect view of the world. 

Sometimes we forget that they’re going to be out there on their own and need the skills to solve their own problems. I’ve seen more than my share of overwhelmed kids who don’t know where to start when faced with their own adversity - whether in school, with friends or elsewhere. 

Obviously we can’t solve this issue in one post - but teaching them an essential first step can get us on the road to helping. 

Take five. 

Any problem - big or small - can be solved. But the more overwhelmed we feel, the less likely we are to find the optimal solution. The importance of taking a few minutes to compose ourself, calm down and think of a good approach cannot be overstated. Waiting and taking a breath shouldn’t only apply to anger. It helps in most problem solving. 

As with so many things, we can model this for our kids when we are overwhelmed. Coming into the house with kids from school and groceries and dinner to get on the table after a long day - show them you take a few minutes, settle yourself and figure out the best way to approach the evening. Once they see us doing it, they’ll likely do it for themselves when needed. It’s the type of thing which is easy to give a nudge in the right direction. 

My youngest sometimes gets overwhelmed by situations and starts to cry and honestly can’t identify what is upsetting her. We’ve started to just ask her if she’d like a few minutes to sit and compose herself. The endless talking and discussion with an overwrought child will not likely resolve their issue. A few quiet minutes will. 

I hope giving them this essential first step to problem solving will jumpstart kids to become self reliant.