Wednesday, December 29, 2021

It’s the small things…and the big ones too

My birthday just passed and I heard a similar thing from a few people - about what a milestone year it was - I became a grandmother and ran my first marathon. It’s true, both huge things that were life altering. It got me thinking about what truly defines a year or a time period…or our lives. Is it the big things or the small ones? Everyone says it’s the small things in life that count most. I think I might buck conventional wisdom on this one and say I think it truly is both. And maybe the small and the big aren’t as different as we think. And at some point in this post you’ll see how I find this connects to being a parent…

The little things in life make up the everyday. They are crucial. They set the tone and the overall feeling for how our life is. How our house feels. Do we have a relaxing environment to nurture our kids ? Is our life generally a stress free zone where people can enjoy and accomplish. That note you wrote someone just because you wanted to make them smile. The pictures you draw on your kids lunches so they’ll know you’re thinking about them when they’re in school all day. The small things stack up to make a big difference. 

But the big things matter.  And sometimes I think they matter more than we realize. If your life is one that includes many big trips this might not apply to you - but if you’re like us and going on a trip is a big adventure then you might find a family trip is one of those big things. We went to Iceland two years ago as a family. It was the first time we all flew together. My kids can pretty much recall every nuance of that trip. How it felt to experience each piece of it. I can still close my eyes and hear the wind on the coast and smell the sulfur. And it wasn’t just experiencing frozen waterfalls and amazing ice caves that they remember. I think they’re equally fond of telling you how they walked barefoot on ice to get to the backyard hot tub and just hang out. Those memories were made from something big. Stepping out of the ordinary brings out a different side of us. We can walk away from the everyday practicalities of our lives and just be.  Those moments are important.

Becoming a grandmother was another big thing. When it happens it seems to have come on so fast - they were literally your baby just a second ago.  It’s really a lifetime of your child rearing coming to a crescendo.  Every up and down you had with that child, every struggle and triumph. Every sleepless night, diaper you changed, the hours you sat and did homework, the big and the small - all helped shape your child into the person they have become and the life they’ve chosen to live.  Their introduction into parenthood and their approach is all part of that.  The amazing human being they are and the new life that joined your family - all pieces of that.  

And then there is working towards a big goal. For me this past year, it was my marathon. It took a lot of small goals and worked into bigger and bigger ones until I finally was able to tackle the biggest of all. But for me, that wasn’t where that journey ends. It wasn’t about checking a box off and moving on.  It was also about getting there and then saying what’s next here that I can do? And deciding to keep running and loving the everyday part of it. About combining the big and the small together.

Not all big things are one off grand adventures. Just think about when you were dating and decided to get married. Everyone prepares and prepares for that big day - and that day is important and exciting and can be amazing. But the real amazing is what comes next - the life you live together. The everyday you will then spend for years and years. 

So back to being parents in this world of big and small - I feel like sometimes we focus on the big things a lot (currently bar mitzva planning and it definitely gets the lions share of attention) and we forget the small things but other times, we get caught up in the small everyday and forget to make time for those big things. Now, when everyone is either on break or about to have break, is a good time to reassess that balance. Enjoy the big things when you get the chance, keep chugging away at both the big and small - and hopefully you’ll reap the rewards of both types to be able to look back on every year and really feel it was a milestone for you and your family. 

If this was 43, I’m really curious what 44 has in store!

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Bullying - Old story, new tactics

 They used to say "Punch a bully in the nose" when advising kids how to deal with bullies.  I'm thinking that should probably be revised for the current day and age.  We have talked in a previous post about realizing your child is bullying other kids, but we haven't yet discussed what to do if you own child is being bullied.  This topic is complicated and certainly doesn't have a one-button answer but I will attempt a beginning in this post.

Before we even begin the how to section - we must acknowledge that bullying has taken on many new faces with the metamorphosis of the internet.  It is easier than ever to bully someone when you’re not face to face, at times with the guise of anonymity, making it an ever more difficult issue to tackle. Our conversation is going to begin with an “in person” bully and hoping we can do a part II of online bullying.

Know Thy Enemy…It’s important to understand what creates a bully. Bullies are usually kids who have self confidence issues.  Bullying others let’s them focus on the perceived shortcomings of their victim instead of focusing and understanding their own feelings.  It is the classic make someone smaller in order to feel bigger scenario.

When a child is being bullied, it is so easy for them to feel like the victim.  The more we empower our kids, the more likely it will be that they can overcome a bullying situation.  

One key element we can give our children when it comes to any situation is the language to address it.  If they can define it, it becomes something more manageable.  Identifying that they are being bullied, letting them share their feelings about the situation and expressing how the behavior makes them feel can empower them.  Make sure not to disregard what they are saying or disparage them when they are sharing. Children need to feel heard and understood. 

Once they have shared, I think it helps to teach them the underlying issues that cause a child to bully them.  If they see the situation for what it is, the other child being weak instead of strong, it helps reframe their understanding of the other child.  I’m not asking you to have your kid pity their bully, but it is truly empowering to let them know that the other child is likely jealous of their strengths and so seeks to diminish them in the eyes of others.

Psychology Today wrote a very practical article with 7 skills  to help a child deal with a bully.  (7 Skills for Teaching Your Child to Stand Up to Bullies | Psychology Today) These include keeping eye contact, reacting quickly so the bully doesn’t have extended power over you, using assertive language and voice and other practical steps. 

There are several important tools to give your child when dealing with a bully:

- Deescalation: it is always easy to stoop to the level of an aggressor  and be mean or physical back but it doesn’t stop a bully. If anything, it encourages them. The best tactic is to walk away. If that isn’t possible, deescalate. Don’t respond to their taunts. Leave situations where they are being aggressive. The less opportunity they have, the less power they have. If your child is very self confident (going into the situation), encourage them to smile back and be polite.  Nothing makes an angry person more irritated than kindness. 

- Be assertive not aggressive: it is good and reasonable to stand up for yourself in a bullying situation.  It is not ok to yell back - it actually makes you look and seem weak to the bully. The best tactic is to learn to respond respectfully but assertively. Examples of this could be  “I don’t like being spoken to in that tone.” “Don’t come into my personal space and intimidate me, I’m not scared of you no matter how close you come.”

- Stay away: If the bully is physical, avoid close contact. Involve an adult as soon as possible. The longer a bully is allowed to behave poorly, the stronger and bolder they tend to get.

- Stick together: having friends around you when near a bully makes it much harder for them to try and taunt or bother you.  Hopefully your friends can stick up for you as well and tell the bully their behavior isn’t cool or acceptable. 

- Involve the School - no matter if the bullying is done on school grounds or off, make sure the school administration is aware of the issue. School is a place that should feel safe for all children and having a bully in your midst does not make kids feel safe.  If needed, ask for more adult coverage during break times. These are prime times for bullies to strike. 

The bottom line is that bullying is a crime of opportunity much of the time. If kids learn to stick together, stand up for each other and know their own strengths, we can help them stand up to bullies and overcome the long term effects of having been bullied. They can’t and shouldn’t have to face it alone. 

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Everyone deserves a second chance to make a first impression

 



Today I reran my marathon - yup, you read that right. I had a really tough race this fall and wanted to get another stab at the distance and walk away feeling good and having enjoyed every step. Today, I did that. My good friend who has run more than several dozen marathons was my dedicated pacer (self-proclaimed Sherpa) and we set out long before the light to see if we could re-enact my marathon but better. The experience was incredible. We had company from some of our track friends along the way. I felt uplifted and supported. I literally felt great til mile 25 and then it was far too close to give up - just pushed through some momentary discomfort and crossed our finish line feeling amazing. 

Why am I writing about this on my parenting blog? Well, for starters I write about whatever I want on here 😂. But like most things, this got me thinking. How often do we make a judgement based on a first impression of something and never revisit it? How often does one of our children do the same with a child or a teacher and we just let them sit in that place of judgement? It is so easy to fall into this trap. So easy, especially in today’s hyper media world where everything is done at lighting speed, a text or a post sent out without thought, a brief but off encounter with someone, any number of scenarios I can name which leave us with an impression, often a wrong one, of someone or something. 

We need to take the time to reset our first impressions. We need to allow ourselves to revisit ideas or concepts we have - about people, situations, the world around us. We need to constantly grow and change and evolve and revisit and rethink. The more we do this, the better we will be as humans overall. The less we sit in judgement and the more we open our eyes and our minds to the current realities of things the better we will interact with all parts of our world. 

So yes, I wanted a chance to make a different first impression of what I was capable of in a marathon - but more than that I wanted to reteach myself that everyone deserves a second chance to make a first impression. 

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Hybrid Parenting

 Some of my best ideas start from conversations we have during running. The people I run with are amazing and help me see the world through clearer glasses. This morning we had a fantastic conversation that centered on parenting, specifically kids who tend to corner themselves and just dig their heels deeper. 

Many of us have been in some form of the same scenario - we, the parent, want our child to do something that seems extremely reasonable. For no reason we can discern, our child can’t or won’t comply in a reasonable manner.  We get into a power struggle and usually things devolve from there. These scenes play out over and over - often with the same characters and different backdrops and circumstances. 

There are so many approaches people use to deal with these situations and most people take a hard stance about whatever approach they choose. I think the key in this and so many parenting dilemmas is to realize two key factors:

1. There is rarely one size fits all when it comes to parenting.  What works for one child may not work for another. Often, we need a blend of different methodologies in order to find the exact right concoction that will work for our child.  And it won’t work every time despite how perfect it might be.  Staying consistent with your approach despite each instances success or failure is vital to long term success.

2. Often what appears to be obstinance or disobedience or (fill in the blank behavior) is just our children’s way of trying to communicate distress over something in their lives. It’s rarely about the homework sheet, the shoes, the (fill in the blank). As parents/detectives - we need to figure out what is really going on beneath the surface that is causing our kids to act this way. 

Once we realize these two keys - we move on to the third step: deescalation. No matter how correct or crazy what’s happening is - no one wins when you escalate the matter. Usually it turns into a snowball effect. Someone ends up in tears (let’s not pretend that isn’t us) and there is very little gain. The best thing to do is deescalate the situation. Add some humor if you can. Make a funny joke. Walk away if there’s no alternative. But don’t get into a tug of war with your child. It just frays the rope. 

Hybrid parenting - as we termed it on this mornings run - is truly realizing that there are great elements from many parenting approaches and finding the one that works best for your child and integrating the best of whatever methods is key to success. 

As always, good luck creating your model - I love to hear about your thoughts and process!

Sunday, October 24, 2021

My First Marathon









Musings of a Marathon training mama 


Pre Race

I’m heading towards my first marathon and decided it was about time I wrote some of my thoughts down. So here goes- 


Recently I’ve thought a lot about the training and planning that I’ve put into this. Probably more than almost anything I’ve done in my life. Funny how I likely planned more for this than my wedding, having kids or any life changing event. I think I’ve learned so many lessons from this entire experience - 


“You have to run your own race” - when we would do our speed work on the track it was easy to fall into the feeling of I have to keep up or why can’t I go as fast as someone else here. But my friend wisely counseled me one week saying - you have to run your own race. What a life lesson - we need to stop all the comparison, being someone or doing something because others expect it. Because others are doing it. In this life, it’s only our own race that matters. 


“Make a plan”- true marathon training requires discipline. Building up the stamina to keep running despite whatever is thrown at you takes months of training. Getting out there, running one long run after another - week after week - takes a level of discipline and commitment to the plan. If only we could think through our life goals with the same sort of plan. How amazing would it be if we decided to tackle a character trait or bad habit with the same type of planned approach and we stuck to it. 


“Be flexible or you’ll get injured” - even with the plan and keeping to it, you need to be flexible. If you wake up on your day for speed-work and your legs are cramping or you’re supposed to do a long run but something doesn’t feel right - you need to be able to tweak and adjust. Still getting those elements in but not necessarily as you had planned them. Life needs flexibility- there’s almost nothing I can elaborate on for that because it is self explanatory!


“No excuses” - if we waited for all the pieces to fall into place for the “perfect run” - it’s likely we would never get out the door. There will always be reasons why you can’t do something, the trick is to find the reasons you can and always focus on them. Some of my longest and hardest training runs were in terrible conditions. I’ve run in extremely hot temperatures with 90% humidity, I’ve run after sleepless nights and with bad stomach aches. Every one of them reinforced this lesson. 


“You can accomplish as much as you tell yourself you can” - the power of your mind is incredible. You are only as limited as you tell yourself. When you believe you can do something, when you tell yourself you’re capable and it’s possible, your body follows. On so many of my long runs I saw this - the minute I started to think about being tired, my body slowed down. If I told myself the end was near and I could push through my body just listened to those instructions. So much of our life can be changed if we just realized that our attitude and approach controls the actual outcomes. 


“Trust in the process” - there are so many times you just want to go for it - run the full distance and just be finished. But the process is almost like building a house. You have to dig deep, set the foundation, and lay brick by brick. You don’t usually see the full picture until the house is built. If you skip steps ultimately the house won’t stand or last. 

 

“It takes a village” - this pretty much goes without saying. You can do this yourself but it is so much better with everyone’s support. I benefited from having an amazing running group who helped me get out the door for the last few years, rain or shine. I am lucky to have more than one group to run with who teach me everything from how to build lung capacity to how to marathon plan and train. Without the support of my family, letting me get out there whether it is or isn’t convenient - I couldn’t have done this at my age and stage. 


“Invest in yourself” - all too often life keeps moving and we’re so busy with the business of it we forget to LIVE. As a mom and wife, I’m often busy with the needs of others. Investing in myself gave me a chance to remember who I am, what I’m capable of and how much learning I still have to do no matter what age I am. 


“Be able to conquer the out and back” - when you’re running, there isn’t always a perfect loop to run. I had a hard time conquering the idea of going out and back over and over. On short distances it never bothered me, but the longer runs really started to make it hard. I would turn around and be like - shoot I have to run the same thing again?! Life is about routines and it’s easy to get stuck in the routine rut. The ability to repeat tasks and find nuance, energy and excitement is something that needs constant work. By the end of my training, I was able to run these routes without trepidation and focus on different elements of my run while I covered the same ground. 


“Every step is forward” - I love the idea of moving and growing in life. One particular long run all I wanted was to go forward - it made me think about how we can spend our lives looking back, dwelling, regretting or we can choose to always look forward, move on and take what lessons we can to do it better next time. 


“The journey is the destination” - not everything is about the big race day. Every ounce of effort that we put in along the way is a priceless gift to ourselves. Yes, the race is exciting (and somewhat terrifying) but what we’ve gained along the way is the ultimate reward. 


“Keep your eye on the prize” - there will be good days and bad ones. Easy runs. Hard runs. In the end, every one stacks up to help you reach your goal. You won’t feel great every time you start. Most days the first couple miles will feel like a massive effort and you’ll wonder how you ran 16 the other day but 3 are so hard today. In the end, the big picture is what you gotta focus on. 


“You put in the effort but ultimately G-d is in control of the outcome” - it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you did this, you put in the work and effort and it’s because of you that you succeeded. In the end of the day, the health abs strength is a gift from a higher power. Always keep it in mind and be thankful every day.  


People who haven’t run a marathon often say “this or that is like running a marathon” or “life is a marathon”. In truth, it would be great if all of us lived our lives as if we were running a marathon! 


Post race endnote:

I finished my first marathon today. I still can’t believe I made it through. It was not the race I planned for and I didn’t make my time goal - but I am humbled by the accomplishment and by the gift of being able to push through even when I felt pretty awful. Had I kept to plan I might have made it in my planned time but I trusted others to set the pace and they didn’t quite keep to the plan. I didn’t trust my gut and by the time I realized it was a bit too late to recover my speed. But I learned a lot from this experience. 

Luckily my wise running friend told me beforehand that the journey is the destination. That gives me comfort post race since this was a totally different experience than I had imagined.

My first thought when things got rough was you have to run your own race. And sometimes the race you plan isn’t the one G-d had in mind for you. And I thought how maybe I needed some humbling - that what I thought would be a totally doable goal was out of my reach. When I realized I had to let go of my time goal and walk a little to reset I was disappointed but then I realized that I was blessed to have no cramps, no places that were extremely painful. Hashem had blessed me with a race where my body was working. I was fighting nausea and dizziness mostly. Likely a combo of going out too hard on the first half (rookie mistake) and not drinking enough and the cold.  I kept pushing, stopping another two times to try to reset my body before I could push more. I learned that it’s ok to feel bad and acknowledge that voice but that I had a louder voice pushing me, telling me quitting was not an option and I was going to finish. 

I literally said “hey Siri text husband” at mile 21 and told my husband I felt like crap - and he was so encouraging and told me I could do it and they were all at mile 22 so just push a little more. Coming past my entire family cheering and holding out their hands for me in a long line pushed me through. It reminded me that the village is real and they are my biggest cheerleaders. I knew I had to get through for myself and for them. 

By the time I got close to mile 24, I knew I was so close. I kept telling myself I’ve done way longer distances than 2 miles. Seeing my family at the finish line was the fuel I needed to surge. 


After I had finished my sister asked me how it was and I told her it was really tough. She told me that every time I passed them I had a smile and they had no idea what I was dealing with. We both realized it was a reminder of the age old lesson - just because everything looks ok to someone on the outside doesn’t mean things are ok.  It also reminded me that no matter how tough something is, you can always put on a smile. 

Overall, I’m so honored and privileged to have been able to have this experience. I keep reminding myself that the goal was the finish line and I made it. Technicalities aside, I am so grateful to G-d for giving me the good health to do this. I am so grateful for my supportive husband and kids who enabled me to train. And for the incredible running community I’m part of who make me feel like I always belong. 

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Settling In



It’s that point in the year again - finally settling into some sort of routine. The holiday season is over and regular school is here. This is a time that always reminds me of the pros and cons of routine. 

I’m a person who thrives on routine in many ways. I like the predictable. I function best in an organized environment where I know what to do and when to do it. I think it helps kids to have a solid routine, they know what’s coming and what’s expected of them.

But routine has its pitfalls - it can make us complacent and stilted. There has to be some counterbalance not to become boring. 

This year I’ve upended my regular routine and taken on what feels to me like a huge challenge. I’m not even sure when the idea started to germinate but at some point it was just there and grew. I decided to take on a full marathon - something many people have done the world over and yet to me wasn’t even on my radar a few years ago. 

I put in the work, ran the long training distances - met the “wall” and pushed against it. I’m one week away from the big day and all there is left to do is run the thing. 

But like most things in life - there’s always a but. Silly mundane things can change your approach. Silly mis-steps like stubbing your toe. And so, 8 days out, instead of following the plan - here I am resting in my bed with my foot elevated and iced and skipping my run. 

But these things, like most hiccups, shouldn’t deter you. They’re just our small reminders that with the best laid plans, we’re truly not in control. That routines are made to be broken sometimes.  That it’s ok to go off script.

Why am I rambling about this on a parenting blog? Honestly probably two reasons. First, when you’re training for something big, your life kind of begins to revolve around it. Second, because I really think this lesson applies to most things in life and especially with our kids. 

You can do everything right or everything wrong with planning for your kids. You can have the best routines and structures and supports in place for their success. But ultimately you can’t control their outcomes. 

They are small humans who become big humans. They have their own ways of doing things, seeing things, approaching things. They will have their challenges despite whatever effort you make to pave a smooth path for them. 

These challenges will build them if you give them the right tools and attitudes towards them. The ability to know the routine exists will allow them to bend and mold it to the style that works best for them. 

The key element is to set them up for success but not to bind them to your version of routine or structure; Respecting their world view. 

As someone who hasn’t yet run an actual marathon, I won’t make the reference of something difficult being like running one - too cliche and overused - but hopefully in 8 days …

Monday, September 13, 2021

Don't Look Back

I don't get much time to write lately.  Between work, kids, and marathon training (what was I thinking??) time is kind of at a premium currently.  But those long Sunday runs for my training do give me a lot of time to think.  This week, I didn't want to do an "out and back" where I retrace my steps for the second half of the run and my husband so generously offered to pick me up at the end so I could just go forward.  It got me thinking about how much running and training teaches you so much about life in general.  Two really quick examples - 

  • When I run and I'm getting stuck in a rut, I think about putting one foot in front of the other.  Not always thinking about how long I have to go, just one step at a time.
  • When I run and I pick a destination - I don't look back.  Reflecting is good, don't get me wrong, but moving forward and not dwelling is key.  It doesn't matter what happened before, it only matters what happens next.

So...how does this relate to parenting? Funny you should ask.

I was thinking about how often we dwell or fixate on what type of kid we have.  I was recently discussing with someone how all too often, kids get labeled as ...

  • weak student/strong student
  • wild/calm
  •  cooperative/disobedient
  • you name it...
Sometimes we get so stuck on seeing a child in the light of certain events or experiences and we forget about giving them the space and the ability to be more than just their label.  Behaviors don't define our children.  Behaviors have many sources.  They can be the result of a stage they are going through.  They almost always are expressions of something going on inside them that needs to be broached or figured out.  But they are not the be all and end all of what your child IS.  They should not define how we approach them or how educators view them.

Yom Kippur is approaching, a time of reflection, forgiveness, introspection.  I'd like to encourage everyone to take this time to look forward, move forward, and see forward.  If we all try to see our kids as people, individuals expressing themselves in a variety of ways, to not type or label them but to just see their behaviors for what they are, I hope we can move forward into this new year with a fresh attitude and giving our kids a fresh start.

My destination for this week's run
Life really is like going round and round this track - just watch for the sunrises, they do make it worthwhile