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Monday, January 18, 2021

What We Don’t Know

 What we don’t know could fill a book, right?

A while ago I posed a question about trying to see other people’s parenting motives from a different perspective. I asked my readers how they see this issue - where you see a parent acting a certain way and you just jump to judge if they’re handling a situation properly. 

I never did get to publish those answers - I might have mentioned some in a different post. At this point there are too many posts for me to scroll through and see so if this is a repeat, forgive me. Some things are kind of worth repeating anyways. 

The best answer I got on this question was from my sister. She said everyone loves their children. If you can remind yourself of that, you’ll never jump too fast to judge them. Clearly whatever choices they’re making they feel they are best for their children. They might be making the wrong choices but usually it’s at least for the right reasons.

I had a thought to add to that amazing answer. We have no clue what battles are being waged in anyone’s lives. Everything can seem so calm and “instaperfect” from the outside but that tells us nothing of what is actually happening in those lives. Everyone has their struggles and every parent at any given moment is dealing with myriad issues in their own and their children’s lives we most likely know nothing about. We have discussed normalization of mental health issues in the past but as a society we are so far from being there. People aren’t necessarily going to explain to you the why of what they’re doing with their kids. And frankly they shouldn’t have to - it’s their own business. 

I feel like it’s a good thing to remember this in our everyday lives. Instead of seeking to judge or criticize others parenting - let’s seek to empathize with them. Whether or not we understand what they’re dealing with - we all know raising kids is never simple. Let’s be partners, teammates, a support system of parents instead of the peanut gallery. 

Sunday, January 3, 2021

New Year - Moving Forward

 If you’d ask most people, I think they’d say 2020 was a bust. I don’t agree but I can see their point. When 2020 began, I wrote a post about my hope for the year - of it being one of Vision.  I believe in many ways it was - perhaps it taught us more about clarity and priorities than we ever imagined possible. 

This weekend, 2021 began. I heard a fantastic clip from a speech given by Stacey Abrams this morning which very much resonated with me. She said she moves forward because moving backwards isn’t an option and standing still isn’t enough. 2020 has taught us lessons. It has tested us. It has forced us to adjust. Prioritize. Rethink. But the time has come to move forward. We are ready for the new normal. We are ready for 2021.  Two things struck me that I wanted to share.

First, as we’ve discussed in the past, creating the new normal - the post corona world - is a unique opportunity.  I don’t believe we need to go back to what was. We can choose what things we’d like to bring back into our lives and what things we’ve been better off without. What a unique opportunity.

Second, often in life we dwell. Things happen and pull us down. Life happens. Unexpected circumstances arise. Our job as parents (and people) is to keep moving forward. Take the next step. Show our children that we don’t live in that past or hold onto that reality. We can move forward with hope and energy. Yes, this past year was tiring and trying. No, the pandemic is not yet history. But we are able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The vaccine is slowly making its way to us. The next steps will take patience but change is always a slow process. 

I wish everyone a safe year, filled with happiness and good health. A year full of hope and new and better normals.


Sunday, December 27, 2020

Changing the Narrative

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, right? Too cliche I admit. 

This past week, one of my children’s teachers tested positive for corona. To put this in context - winter break was starting in two days and everyone found out the kids would need to be quarantined for most of winter break. Out the window went any plans (lucky us we had made none) and the kids were slightly bummed, to put it mildly. 

I really wanted to be sympathetic- and I am - but I also wanted to change the conversation.  This is disappointing, no doubt. Everyone needs a break - especially during corona. And even if that break wasn’t taking the shape of a new place to see or relax in, just getting out and getting some nature time in sounded like a really nice change of pace. But still, this is a blip, an inconvenience, and I felt like as the parent I could help my child dwell or totally change the spin on this. 

So here’s what we did - we took the focus off of us and our quarantine and shifted it to kids who had to be shut in for other reasons - kids stuck in hospitals over the holidays and break time. Kids who might be bored and need their minds taken off their illness. I suggested to the other moms we do a group activity where we make activity boxes for kids at the children’s hospital nearby. Once I suggested it - it was amazing how everyone jumped on board. Offers of funds and help literally flowed in. We bought a bunch of toys and boxes and my child set up a Zoom meeting for later in the week to assemble and decorate their boxes and make cards. I’m really excited how he got into it - really took it on full speed. We contacted the volunteer services at the hospital and set up a drop off time.The wheels are spinning and I’m hoping it turns out well. 

And it reminded me how much we set the stage for how our kids approach situations.  It’s so easy to be negative - it’s almost a natural state of affairs. It’s too easy to set the tone without even realizing it.

 After we started this, I heard almost nothing about how bummed he is to be stuck in. He’s been playing games with his little sister, reading, and overall just having fun. True staycation. We went on a night drive to see the city all decked out in lights. He’s thinking outside the box. In this case, maybe he’s thinking about the boxes. Ok, start and end with corny...

Happy staycation!

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Can they teach us?

 My daughter was zooming last week so I had the chance to overhear what was going on in her classes, always a nice bonus. One teacher posed a question to this group of 7 year olds: “what is tech?”  One child’s answer had me in stitches. Tech, she explained, is stuff you use to make life better AND stuff that sometimes makes teachers very mad when they can’t figure it out.”  Say it like it is, sister. 

Kids speak truth. Sometimes their truth is a different version than the reality we perceive - but they always speak the truth. Some people have a really difficult time hearing that truth from their children. It can be perceived as chutzpah. It can touch a nerve and leave us feeling vulnerable. It can make you feel powerless and ineffective. It’s hard to listen to criticism from anyone, let alone our own children. 

This might sound crazy - but I firmly believe our children are some of our best teachers.  They experience the choices we make. They feel our angst. They see us for the people we are - with all our faults. They can actually make us better parents. 

I’m not advocating for kids to become their parents parent. I’m not in any way saying they don’t have to be respectful and find a way to share this truth. Like anything, I believe there’s a time and place and way for them to share. But I think it’s most important for us to listen to the messages they are giving us. 

Some of their critiques are a product of their age and stage and their perspective will shift as time goes on. But if they say something that strikes a chord - it hits home because we know it to be a weakness - I think we would do ourselves and them a favor to heed the messages.

When your child is little and catches you using a bad word - they call you out on it. Whatever  the procedure is - soaped mouths or penny in jars - follow it.  Showing you slip up but can be held accountable is a more valuable lesson than showing them you’re “perfect” all the time. 

When they’re older and the truths get more difficult - they get upset because you directed your frustration at them when it clearly was not about them. When you hear them telling you that you’re absent while present (something far too many of us suffer from with all this tech in our lives), listen. Take it to heart.

Years ago I recall hearing a speaker discuss how much he had to learn from his kids to become the parent and person he was at that point - and how painful the process was.  Change is hard but crucial. Listen to their truths, own up to the issues that are valid. Make the moments teachable and hopefully we’ll all grow as we go.



Friday, December 18, 2020

Reflections

Today is the last day of Chanukah- the Festival of Lights. For me personally this holiday has always been one of extremes. My second daughter was born on the fifth night of Chanukah, 21 years ago. The ultimate gift. And, just two years later, my father passed away suddenly the second night of Chanukah. It took me many years to recover from the shock of losing a parent so suddenly and I being so young. It took even longer for me to rediscover the joy in this holiday. 

So today, instead of touching on a parenting topic, I mostly want to reflect on some aspects of my parent, my father, who was such a huge part of my life and has shaped my perspectives. 

One thing I have realized over the years is that the father I experienced, as child #6, was very different than my older siblings. By the time I came around - whatever discipline there had been kind of fizzled out and my father was completely indulgent of me and my sister right above me. We had my mom to discipline us, of course, but my father was all spoils. I kind of see that happening with my youngest two - you just mellow as you age.  I think it’s ok and you discipline when needed but mostly the things that seemed so critical to correct in your older kids seem like passing phases in the younger ones.

My father taught me about giving. He was a true community leader. In his quiet way, he effectuated so much change in our world. He spent countless nights participating in board meetings, serving as our school president for over a dozen years. This was not an easy job. There were always many opposing opinions about how things should be done. In a communal role such as his, you had to be extremely diplomatic. It was easy for tempers to rise and people to get personal. One thing he always seemed to do was calm the waters. He never seemed bothered by people’s apparent aggression- at least from my perspective. He set quite an example for me of being able to separate between the person and the issue. To him it wasn’t personal. This kind of reminds me of something my sister told me recently about parenting. We often see parents doing something and immediately judge them or their parenting - but she reminded me that every parent loves their child. If they are doing something which seems counterproductive- it’s at the very least coming from a good place. A good thing to remember.

My Dad wasn’t a man of many words in general - most people thought of him as quiet.  I believe if you’d met him in a courtroom you’d have a very different perspective on him. That’s another thing I admired and learned from my Dad. There’s a place and a time for everything. Some situations warrant a lot of passion and aggression. Others are much more mellow. To know how to be comfortable in both is a feat. 

Accepting a loss is a difficult thing. Time helps concretize it in your mind. I don’t believe we can or should prepare our kids for a time when we aren’t there. Maybe once they’re adults that’s a discussion we can have, but as kids I believe it’s a no-go topic. Let them believe we’re concrete and steady and will always be there for them. Life will teach them the lessons of passing later on. I don’t think I could ever have been prepared to lose my father that young. I was at the beginning of my life journey. I had 3 small kids and a busy life and I needed my Dad to be part of that journey. But it wasn’t meant to be. Clearly I needed something different than what I expected. But no matter whether he’s here with me or watching over - the lessons I learned from him live on day after day. 

So as we wrap up another Chanukah season, I take a step back. I look at my Chanukah baby, now a wife herself - and I pray I’ll be there for her for many years to come. I remember all that was light about my father - and all the light that keeps shining through from what he started and created. And I remember all the light that shines through the darkness. I pause, try to absorb it and take it with me, until the next holiday comes to light up our world. 

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Seeing the Miracles

 Life is busy. Complex. Scattered. Sometimes it’s hard to take a pause, see things from a different perspective. 

One of the reasons I started writing this blog was to rethink things, or think them through more, crystallize. See the bigger picture. As parents we get very involved in the minutiae. This was a way to help me see beyond it. 

We’re about to celebrate the holiday of Chanukah in our house. It’s a time where amazing miracles happened - but when you look at the story as it happened - a lot of those miracles took time to see. When they lit the oil they’d found, they didn’t realize it would burn for eight days. Only after it kept going did they realize what had happened. 

It reminds me a lot of parenting. We see changes in how our kids act and react, see the seeds planted - but sometimes it takes a long time to see the results. That doesn’t make those gains any less miraculous. 

One thing I want to try this Chanukah is to notice the miracles. There are miracles everywhere - waking up each day and all the systems in our bodies working correctly and letting us wake up is a miracle in and of itself. Our kids accomplish great things every day. I want to take notice. Appreciate the gains. Make them realize we see them. 

If everyone made an effort this Chanukah to see beyond the minutiae and to the bigger picture, our families will truly have gained something miraculous this holiday. 

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Knee Jerk Reactions

 “When angry count to ten before you speak. If very angrycount to one hundred." - Thomas Jefferson 

I have a short thought to share today but I believe an important one. 

How often do you react instinctively to something and realize, as the words leave your mouth, that had you taken one deep breath before saying something or counted to three your response would have been very different. 

I’ve noticed this all around in life but especially with our kids (and spouses). Kids can be annoying at times and bring out the best of our knee jerk reactions - but how easy would it be to force ourselves to wait - breathe - and respond ten seconds later to whatever the situation might be? How different would our response look if we did this?

Picture the kid who is up too late and ignored bedtime - instead of a “what are you doing up?” In a snappy tone, a calm “wow I’m surprised to see you here but I always love seeing you. Now go to bed” - how different would that feel on the receiving end? 

Imagine your child is completely rude and going off on a raging tantrum about how awful you are - and instead of snapping back you breathe, tell them you love them and move on? 

It’s amazing how these reactions can diffuse even the most challenging situations. 

Breathe. Count to ten. Do your thing to give yourself the moment you need to collect yourself and respond as your best self. Leave the knee jerking to those reflex tests at the doctor!