Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Teach kids to jump

These are tumultuous times we are living in.   The constant barrage of things being put forth that lead to shouts and protests.   "It's not fair .. person X is not fair.... person Y is mean".  I am talking of course about raising kids and particularly a boy throwing distance away from 13.

I listen to my son and his friends and the things they protest and find utterly against them seem so trivial and frankly ridiculous to me as an adult.   A teacher raising their voice but not really shouting. Practice that interferes with their ability to do nothing or hang out with friends.  The rules of the house around screen time and not eating sugary snacks as a meal.  These things are just NOT FAIR.

It is the age also were adversity in life is just all consuming, they discuss it with each other, a mini union that has yet to get up on a desk with a Norma Rae sign but getting there.  Discussing, organizing, rating those in their lives that are deemed tougher, work that is harder than the stuff that they can just easily learn - these are matters for full on kid union meetings that happen via group texts and angry emojis.

Of course adding fuel to this fire are the hormones.  You know those pesky things that are coming for your child so that there are tears in their eyes when they cannot find the shirt they wanted to wear today.  The ones that lead to walking away and mood swings that come fast and furious.  The sheer enormity of how difficult life is and how NO ONE understands, especially you the parent.  I mean you did not of course experience any of these things.

I recently dismissed one of these "it's not fair and this teacher" complaints from my son and then went to pick up his younger brother who was excited to tell me about his day.  At 10 angst is not yet on the defcon scale that it is for tweens and teens.   I left a very disgruntled child at home who had also rolled eyes and walked away pretty much as equally distraught at my lack of understanding as he was at the situation.  The drive is not long enough for reflection, it is done as a treat both boys get when I work from home, I got there a few minutes early and I sat in my car and thought about my reaction.

How could I expect a child to open up when his important, oh my god moments are not taken seriously?  These things are all to his world and I remembered they were all in mine at his age.  The drama I felt as a girl at that age, that awkward age about what I wore, what I looked like.  The vast hours spent with friends discussing these same topics and how I know we never really shared them with our parents.  We didn't because what could our parents add to the discussion and more so we had parents who tolerated this type of "non-issues" with strong words about how lucky we were.   We were lucky but it wasn't so to us then.  We were in pain, struggling and most of all the lack of fairness we talked of, the meanness of rules and teachers was about our growing up yet being given so little control.  We were angry because we wanted to fly and we were still not butterflies yet - just like our kids in a cocoon for a while longer.  As parents we hope that cocoon is made of reinforced cloth, as kids of gauze.

I thought of all of this and I also knew my reaction was also based on my person dislike of what I see as a trend in too many parents these days.  If there is something a kid dislikes, an obstacle, an inconvenience or any perceived challenge too often they step in and remove it.  I am not talking of legitimate situations were a kid is in harm's way or in an activity beyond their current capabilities which they would fail if we did not help them.  I am talking about complaining about a test grade and having a parent take it to the principal because their child said they should have done better.  The times kids are yanked out of a sport or an activity because though you committed and paid good money for it they "don't like it".  The times when a teacher or coach is tough on them, demanding but not demeaning and the parent addresses the adult rather than helping the child understand what the person is trying to help them accomplish, that they see more in them and that's why they are asking for it.

My son had felt the result of my pure annoyance with this parenting and it was not fair.  I went back and I apologized.  We had a good discussion where I shared my perspective on what I thought was just being blown out of proportion by he and his friends.   That at times a teacher in school or in an activity will push them, make them uncomfortable and that situations sometimes are unfair or harder than they need to be but they need to be conquered.  I told him I wanted him to learn when it was a hurdle like on a race track, that you can trip over so you need to learn to run and jump over to go over vs when it was a mountain and he needed the mom bulldozer to help.

I believe in teaching my sons that through life's difficult moments is when we learn of our own strengths and convictions.  I tell them that what they see as unfair is really the result of frustration on the part of teachers who are just done asking for the umpteenth time for the same thing to be done so they may be louder.  We talk about the difference between truly unacceptable behavior and just teacher's annoyance.  We talk about how good their lives are and what true obstacles look like.

All of that is good and we need to teach these things to kids how to deal with adversity because in life they will have it and it will either break them when we are not around to fix it or they will bounce back and jump over it.

I went back home and the other thing I told my son was that he was 100% right.  That these are big things and that his feelings were not wrong.  That teachers sometimes suck and so does being a kid with so little actual power.  I told him that I remembered those days and how much time was spent with friends doing everything he and his friends were doing only texts were notes left in lockers and the phone got your ear hot for being held there so long discussing and dissecting the events over and over and over and over again.  Those things that today most of us as adults no longer remember and some that we do.  I told him a few war stories and he laughed because hey maybe mom did sort of, kind of understand what was going on.

We talked a lot that day and we talked of ways to get over some of the things that were frustrating him and I told him it was ok to be annoyed, angry and hormonal.

We cannot fix it all for our kids nor should we.  It is good to learn from defeat and beat odds but mostly it is good to know I am here to listen, to commiserate, to be honest but never to dismiss that as the "my world will end"  literally but  that it is the end to them for that moment.

"It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine" R.E.M.

Monday, January 9, 2017


Image result for I hate youI remember being a kid and watching some show and the teen on screen shouted "I hate you" ran off, slammed door and the parent looked upset and then knocked to see if they could go in. 

What?????? This girl grew up with Eastern European parents "I hate you" would have led to serious repercussions, slamming doors - too scary to think about  and a parent knocking still chuckling, as if!.  Who were these people who parented this way ?  I mean for sure TV writers were way out there - not the experience of the mostly immigrant based parents I knew.  Hell doors meant nothing to them. 

I have never told my parents I hated them.  I know I thought I hated them at times.  I mean my mom I more "hated" her in typical angst "you just don't understand me" and the fact that she was a woman who was so different than the woman she was raising in terms of my independence.   My father I "hated" because he did not appreciate the fact that I was growing up and because his narcissism made him manipulative and mean.  Yet while thoughts with words that will not be repeated went through my head at various times and snarky attitude paired with classic passive aggressive teenage "whatevers" were said, the I hate you, run out slam door just did not happen in my house. 

In my own parenting I have come across the run out from my boys.  I struggle with it.  Do I let them have the time to cool down, do I go and let them work through whatever we are doing with me and not alone, are they entitled to that privacy that I too have asked them for? You know the one you as a mom have said "you need to leave me alone for a few minutes for your own good..." - trust me it is for their own good, 

The one rule I have asked to be followed is that they never shout "I hate you" at me.   I cannot control their thoughts (no you cannot though you can help form their thought process) and they will hate situations and when I help them make the right choices but they cannot say they "hate" me.  So far, and we are only at the 12 year old stage, hasn't happened.

Hate is such a harsh word and so overused because we feel it is ok to be that dismissive, that harsh, that frankly mean to another person from our parents to strangers.   Hate diminishes both the person who says it as well as the person who is the recipient of it because it takes energy, it is the word for hurt, anger, powerlessness.  Hate should be reserved for situations and for those who create those situations.   Maybe we use hate and it's energy to dis-empower them.  It is not ok to tell your parents you hate them even if you think well you saw others do it or you saw it on TV.  

We work really hard at being good parents, talk to one another on how to be better parents, are dedicated to making life better for, easier for, way more about the kids than previous generations because our parents did the same compared to their parents.  We are fallible and sometimes unreasonable but we are madly in love with our kids and deserve no part of the word "hate". 

Part of growing up means being against those things that keep you a child and being a parent means stepping back a little to appreciate that kids need to do this.   

I treat my children with respect and part of that respect is telling them that I love them especially when they least seem to deserve that moment of affection.   The sense of confidence, happiness is what kids that get praise (yes we love hearing praise) from other parents and teachers seems to be pretty tied to parents who have set boundaries that are not about being in control but about teaching these future adults how to be good people who add to the world.  One of those things is dealing with what kids don't like and as much as a part of me was fascinated by the storming off, door slamming, "I hate you" screaming tv characters the truth is teaching kids to deal with adversity and learning to make their case is more the reality I live in  Empowering them to be better than that is hard but hearing those words would break me and they know that and maybe the fact that they know that and don't use them so they don't break me means I am doing pretty damn good for now in this parenting gig. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

See ya 2016

I am having a hard time with knowing what direction to take this blog in as the year ends and a new one begins.   There is a part of me that is just so despondent on a political front, seeing the wars around the world, the general state of too many poor children who do not have basic necessities, the attack and continued rage people display at others differences.  It is hard to not want to write the blog as someplace to air these feelings - to share with others that feel the same - and maybe even to have it reach a place of dialogue with people who are on the other side of the spectrum.

I started this blog and I am still eternally grateful for the friend who started his, then stopped, who told me that there is never a reason not to try it.  It was a place for all those things that bind us, a place for shared experiences and most of all a place to add a little humor to day to day occurrences that are in many ways universal.  Motherhood, friendships, lovers, loves or just plain how the hell do you get through folding laundry fatigue - or is that just me ?

As I started to think of writing the last blog of the year I went back through the blogs I have written and with quite a bit of feather fluffing on my end (yes I made that expression up - yes you can use it even if it is in jest) I love that I have over 22, 000 reads.  I mean I never imagined that it would reach that.  Then I looked at who reads this thing anyway, besides my super awesome friends and especially a core group of loyalists that I never tire of hearing from when they tell me they liked one of them.   It is people from all over the world - I mean ALL over the world, beyond my circle of friends.  I have gotten the best notes from people who I never met who connected with something I wrote.  I have gotten a few less than loving notes too but to those I responded too and somehow we did not need to be uncivil, in fact they led to some good dialogue.

We accuse each other, rightfully so, in an age of fake news and memes as truth of also having a social media presence that is an echo chamber.   This is so true - after all how else can we feel as brilliant on some days as to see others cheer on our beliefs, because hell they believe them too.  The downfall to this is that we stop hearing from the other side,  we stop the dialogue and even stop - you know interacting except with people like ourselves.  What a miss this is - I live for learning different views, information, expanding my little corner of the world and even when I don't agree with someone I find a good, robust, heated discussion is great - the polar opposite of the advice on don't talk about politics, religion, sex, money.  Talk about all of it because if we cannot be civil with one another we are losing the opportunity to be more than we started out.

So where am I going with this blog in 2017?  I am going back to those things that unite us.  My most successful blogs, based on reads, seem to confirm that I am right to think we share so much more than we don't.  That the world has more in common than not.  That we all lose it, then breathe deep, when say a child leaves a pen in their pants and you get ink on clothes and have to wash them again.  That at that moment the idea of stabbing said child with said pen is a fleeting thought.  That you get most of it out with hairspray, dabbing (no not the kind all these kids are doing) and OxiClean.  That you tell said child he is lucky that you took the deep breath and that you wanted to stab them with said pen and boy aren't they lucky to have you for a mother who did not do that.

I am going to focus on things that may seem trivial but isn't it the day to day, more mundane things that most of us share and just want to survive?  Things like that most of us are sad at the death of celebrities that we like even though we know that well we do not really know them.  Maybe they are the soundtrack to a portion of our lives. An actress who rocked a gold bikini while chained to a lecherous blob and did not lose her sass.  We mourned the passing of a man who was a Prince then was a sign then was just simply a trouble person who happened to be a brilliant musician.  We mourned the passing a boxing legend who wasn't always a nice guy but was always willing to stand up for what he believed in, his strength in his convictions of fair play made him more a world champion than those gloved boxing hands.

We share sorrow at loses on a personal level.  Are touched by kindness from others and in the end are parents, lovers, spouses, friends, children and people who just want to laugh, scream, kiss, dance, sing and be present.

In 2017 I am going to take back my optimism and bring back the blog to being the place where a mom born in the 20th century is just trying to raise awesome kids for the 21st century.  Yeah I know I will have the occasional rant because hell it is who I am but I love the saying that you can change the world one random act of kindness at a time.  What could be more kind than welcoming 2017 with those things that bind us for the future ???

Thanks for reading and please keep doing it -- goodbye 2016 you sure have been memorable.

Happy New Year

Friday, December 23, 2016

Do they know it's Christmastime?

I see beauty in the hustle, decorations and bustle that cities have during Christmastime.  I love how places decorate, I love the lights, I look for window displays each year in the big department stores on Fifth Avenue and I even brave the Rockefeller Center shove and push to see the tree at least once. I love the season and it's total devotion to just making the ordinary look dressed up.    

I will admit that the crowds get the occasional curse words, short lived because then I look at a pretty light display and I am like dog with squirrel, distracted and slightly amused in a way that I may not otherwise be. 

I also really get so psyched to give gifts, to get gifts and to hopefully have given something that the person receiving it just totally loves.  So in that spirit here are my virtual gifts to all the amazing people who read this blog. 

In this year for those of us who may not have gotten the candidates we voted for it is easy to fall into cynicism but that's not going to change the outcome nor will it be a driver to keep going, to keep working for what we want for the future.  So my gift to all in this category is a pretty snowflake, look at it, so pretty, unique and independent yet put together with other snowflakes it is a force to be reckoned with.  

In this year that we have seen so many reign terror on innocents I give you the gift of knowing that we mourn those lost by celebrating life to the fullest.  Here is your shiny gift, wrapped in a bow, pretty paper and all full of opportunities and dreams.  These acts of terror remind us not to put off for another year those things that we want to do.  

After knowing that many live in war zones take a moment to appreciate your moments of peace. Maybe it is a warm cup of coffee or tea, maybe spiked or not, but there is no maybe about how good it is to have the ability to just stop and enjoy a moment.   So here is your mug, bow on the side go fill it and take a deep breath - peace begins with each of us. 

Here is to fun - yes fun, the kind that is not good for us because it is too much of whatever you enjoy, it is fun with kids and laughing at ourselves for having a piece of tape stuck to our hair after wrapping presents (oh is that only me?).  It is fun in letting people rip the paper that you did everything to wrap so meticulously. The joy of laughter that reaches the eyes when the gift is just as perfect as you hoped it would be. 

Here is to all that holiday music - yeah, yeah but admit it there is a smirk when it comes on, a sing along here and there.  

Christmastime - full of pagan rituals like the tree and decorations - celebrating a man whose birth came to his parents who struggled to find love and caring instead of cynicism even when things got rough.  Jesus is the reason for the season because you can be a devout Christian or an atheist and appreciate that he was a man dedicated to the possibilities we all have to be better to one another, to forgive and most of all to enjoy the moment (after all he did turn water into wine). 

Do they know it's Christmastime is from a song done many years ago to benefit a drought devastated area but really it applies to all of us - we can give more if we love, live and enjoy our own lives more. 

So with that I wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and all that jazz

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Parenting children for the future not from our past

Image result for parenting in 21st centuryI recently watched a terrific middle school production of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory", this was top of my list of favorite books when I was middle school.  I think what strikes me more as a parent is that the parenting in it is pretty awful, except for Charley of course.  The parents seem to not understand that to raise children you need to teach them boundaries and accountability - luckily the Oompa Loompas do in the story.

I raise my children with a goal that they understand a few things - the world owes them nothing except a chance to prove themselves, that being kind is part of being part of this world, that we should behave as we want others to behave toward us, that you don't hit first but that at times bullies need you to strike last and stand up for what is right and to embrace who they are and who they want to be. 

I also raise my kids and struggle with understanding that they are not me at the same age.   They are growing up in a digital world and while we as parents often are befuddled by the fact that they can sit next to their friends and only communicate via a scree.  They are actually preparing for the world they will inhabit, it is different than ours.   They have their own version of social skills. They are very change agile and unafraid.  They question everything and while this is very frustrating at times as a parent it is also truly something to celebrate because they do not accept anything just because it is told to them, they want to know why and how.

It is not easy because they make us face things we are not comfortable with - we work differently, we learn differently and we see machines as less integrated than they do.  We may use social media but it is static - we view - they see it as action  - they use it.  They see the possibility of continuous evolution. I was in 6th or 7th grade when my father was very annoyed that I could use a calculator for tests.  His argument was that I should not need one and be able to do math at that level.  The teacher explained that I was going to live in a world where I would never not have access to a calculator.

Now full confession I do roll my eyes and get annoyed when a cashier cannot give me change without putting it into their register for the right amount to be calculated,  but my kids do not.  They do not see this as an issue because in their world this is the reality they have always lived with.   They are right they will not be in a situation ever where they will not have access to something that could help do these calculations and that is a skill, utilizing these devices, they need for their world much like my father had needed to know how to do this in his head for the world he inhabited.

Parenting is about adjusting to the world our children live in but the foundations of teaching kids the joys of not always having immediate satisfaction, that setting a goal and accomplishing it is really a great feeling, that you survive when you are in a bad situation if you learn from it and are lucky to have friends and family to support you and most of all that they need to treat others with kindness and respect.  The devices and their world are not the same one we were children in and while it is easier to try and make them conform to what we are comfortable in I try and remember I have to parent to make them great.

As Christmas or whatever holiday you celebrate around this time of year it is ok to give them the things they like and expose them to things we may have enjoyed while teaching them to appreciate the gift of love they get.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Give the gift of confidence

If there is one thing I want to make sure my kids get from me it is the gift of confidence.  Not because I have it, actually I don't and it took a lot to even put that out there, but because I believe that giving that to them will help them not to hold back and go at life as if it is theirs for the molding.  

I believe most kids are born confident. It goes well with their curiosity, a toddler or young child knows no limits, no boundaries which can be frightening and exhausting as parents to watch but it is here that we as parents can teach caution or we can teach fear.  This parenting stuff is exhausting and totally amazing. 

My older son and I love watching a show called "This is Us" and if you have not seen it I recommend it for those of you who like intelligent dramas that are entertaining.  The acting is really good, the plot realistic enough and most of all it shows us that being part of a family is great and painful and horrible and wonderful and a work in progress.  One of the things he and I both picked up on is that of the 3 main characters, who are siblings, they have varying degrees of confidence yet they often appear to be totally kick ass confident.  The one sibling who has it the most appears to the be one that after much self-reflection and brutally honest conversations with his brother acknowledged he did get some favoritism, maybe because he is the adopted one, or maybe because he had so much in him that he learned to never fully let it go.  

Watching this show went well with a recent conversation I had about how fear has held me back so often.  For those people who know me it often garners a reaction of "You ? I think you are so confident" but from my very close friends who have threatened me with physical violence and big giant hugs and support because they understand that it is not confidence that is what most see but rather a really big, extroverted, love the world personality.  I am a person who embraces my curious and inquisitive nature and that may be some confidence in knowing that I can ask but there is a battle that rages within me to not let the "why don't you know that" or other things the negative commenter that lives in me take over. 

This lack of confidence is something that I have been working on, and as I approach 50 I am planning on kick some of the doubt's ass.  I have gotten more confident with age but it still is not where I would like to be, am on the road just not at the destination.  

It is the small things that we often can do as parents that diminish our children's confidence and it is something I actively work on not to do and to own up to if I do it with my own kids.  The small way that we never give a child a break when they are learning a new sport or hobby because we want them to be perfect and not to suffer at all when they are in public with this activity.  Maybe it is the "great job but" followed by asking for more of them.  It is when we kindly tell a child to eat better because it is not good to be overweight.  That moment when they do something so ridiculous that we shout "what is wrong with you".  If you are not guilty of any of these well then you are a lot better than almost everyone I know and I know some amazing people who excel at parenting.  

We do not do any of those things, unless there is a psychologically abusive situation, because we are bad people or even mean parents.  We do them because we have been exposed to negative reinforcement in our own lives.  For some it was even a driver - to prove that parent wrong, to throw it in their face, to get their attention.  For others it was glue, held you in place because you were going to prove them right and then some by failing or being mediocre.  

There are so many things I would have done differently in my mind but in reality I would probably not change any of them because they are all part of the fabric that makes me who I am.  I am just trying to teach my kids confidence. Confidence to know that there is no recipe for success unless they are part of writing it.  Confidence to not take a job only because of the pay but to love what they do or use the job that is just for pay to fund the life they love.  Confidence to go for it in love and ask for more and expect the world because that is what they will give to their future partners.  Confidence to not be grateful for settling for "just good enough" because you do not want to be told that is all you deserve or less.  

I do this and I fail at times and succeed at others.  The world is really good at telling us what we cannot do, how we failed, and tearing us down but that is mostly if we let it.  The world is really good at being awed by those with confidence.  This year I am looking to give my kids the gift of confidence by praising them, by making them feel safe to trust me with anything and expect that even when I do not agree with something it will be in their best interest.  I want my kids to be proud and excited and excel and that comes from celebrating their success and building on their unique talents.  
Confidence .. yeah it will be the gift that keeps on giving. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

There is always something to be thankful for

product Thankful Cards - TurkeyThis is not going to be a long blog because for those of us in the States this is Thanksgiving week.  We are busy prepping, making lists, wondering if politics will be the actual turkey at the table and getting ready to travel or host.  

In all that frantic rush it is so easy for us to start to focus on the "crap the store is out of",  member X of my guests will annoy member Y, am I really going to get all of this done ?  For me I do not really stress it. 

The first Thanksgiving I made was in an apartment I had that was 600 sq feet. Yeah the place was tiny.  It meant my friends who were coming over, as this was for them and it was the week before, were going to find a place and not have to use the bathroom once they sat down if they chose the other side of the table.  The table was actually borrowed folding card tables and pretty much with seats, also borrowed and folding, took up the entire living/dining room.  I asked for no help from my mother, yeah I was 20 so of course I knew it all, and nicely bought a frozen turkey that day.  Did you just gasp ?  I put it in the bathtub w cold water to defrost it -- at least I had a bathtub - after radiating myself by running an old fashioned microwave with the door open and half the turkey in.  I may also have over estimated and thought 2lbs per person so this thing was more of a brontosaurs sized bird than anything else.  

The turkey was made with an oven that had a tendency to go off, help of one of the guests, doused in beer (still think it was delicious) and feast was served at around 10pm.  Somehow it makes for good story and it was filled with laughter and yes people were creative in getting in and out of the room with the table.   

I did not really stress then and I do not stress now.  I am much more organized, I get organic birds at obnoxious per pound prices and of course like everyone I know who is in immigrant have my own take on what goes with Thanksgiving.  The turkey is a staple other things not so much.  

I love Thanksgiving - favorite holiday ever.  I love it because how awesome is it to have a day marked to take a look at what we are grateful for.  This year I realized how grateful I am to my mom. She really is an amazing person.  My mom is really giving and even when we do not see eye to eye through time I have come to appreciate how she gives me wide leeway to have an opinion.  That may not seem like a big deal but it is because it is her way of empowering me.  She is a radical feminist that does not admit it.   

I loved the crazy first Thanksgiving for the same reason I love the current one and future ones.  It gives me a chance to send little notes to people who make my life that much better and tell them I love them, maybe make a date to give them a big ass kiss.  It is a time where I take stock and think while there is so much that breaks me in the world there are so many people who want to make it right.   There is so much beauty, creativity and wonder in the world that I am grateful for - so many super smart people in my life or that I read about that give me hope. 

So go forth and do not wait until the day of to buy your frozen turkey but take a moment this Thanksgiving to appreciate the people you choose to be grateful for. 

PS if you like the image it is from HamptonPaperdesigns.com - it is their thankful cards, helps as folks write down what they are grateful for, usually at least one good chuckle in there from one guest or my sons.