One of the greatest gifts our daughters’ wise and beloved preschool teacher gave our family long, long ago is the concept of “big feelings.” It’s kind of like a child’s version of being verklempt, that sense of feeling overcome with emotion, but often not knowing why or what to do about it. The nifty thing about it is that my husband and I quickly appropriated it as well. Big feelings don’t stop with puberty or even adulthood. All through life we have “big feelings” that we don’t know quite how to handle, and the gift is in giving ourselves permission to have them. I’m not advocating full-blown meltdowns or tantrums, but rather just allowing our children, and ourselves, the psychic space to be sad, upset, angry, moody, to be heard if that’s validating, or to have room to be left alone to simply FEEL. Healthy catharsis is underrated…
If you take it really seriously, parenthood is the most challenging job you’ll ever have. The hours are long and the pay stinks. It requires the most emotional investment and the greatest patience. And no matter how well you do it, there will always be that nagging little voice in your head wondering, “Should I have handled that differently?” But parenthood is also the most rewarding and important role you’ll ever play. And the good news is that we're all in this together...
Thursday, December 13, 2012
I could hear the screams from my daughter’s bedroom echoing down the hall. “I got in, I got in!” She just learned she was accepted early decision to Duke University. It has been her dream school for over two years, and she put all her emotional eggs in that one basket, even knowing that it is one of the most competitive schools in the country and one that doesn’t have a history of accepting kids from her high school. I must admit that, despite fiercely believing she deserved to be admitted anywhere she applied, I had my doubts about her getting in, knowing what a crap shoot college admissions can be. I’d even asked the school psychologist just a week or so ago at a PTO meeting, “How can we be prepared to help our kids if they don’t get into colleges they have their hearts set on?”
Her advice was simple and confirmed my own instincts:
Saturday, December 1, 2012
I’m really not one of those people who shouts at the TV. Or at least I haven’t been until now. But there’s something about the folks on “Parenthood” that really push my buttons. I like the show. It’s topical, dealing with a lot of real situations families often confront on a daily basis, and it’s one of the few shows my daughter and I actually make time to watch together. That’s why it’s seems so out of character for me to be verbally berating the main family figures and their unfortunate foibles. “Ooh, bad call,” I moan
at 3:10 PM
Thursday, November 22, 2012
Somewhere along the line, I stopped waiting for Thanksgiving to count my blessings. I mean, I don’t exactly enumerate them and make exhaustive lists that I ceremoniously share with others. But almost every day at some point, I find myself in this little ritual of sending out a karmic thank you for some of the things I’m grateful for. On really good days, it’s mostly for the big things – family, health, a roof over my head, plenty of food, etc. During periods of high stress amidst chains of little crises, I can often calm myself with little things – an extra half hour of sleep, a really strong cup of coffee, a cat on my lap, warm boots, etc. But rarely a day goes by that I don’t have some moment, no matter how fleeting, of profound perspective and thankfulness, throwing my gratitude out to the universe and hoping it creates a little positive energy.
I’m not exactly sure when this ritual became so ingrained, but I think it started on a more conscious level as I began talking more regularly on the phone to my father.
Monday, November 19, 2012
As a parent, one of my most primal instincts is to “make things better” for my children. Whether it’s kissing a booboo or helping mend a broken heart, my immediate response is usually to try and “fix” whatever problem my child is confronting. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not the dreaded “helicopter parent,” hovering over my children to monitor and micromanage every aspect of their lives. But when one of my kids comes to me with an issue, my “make it all better” gear can sometimes go into overdrive. I reflexively want to suggest solutions, offer advice, brainstorm some effective strategies.
However, as my children have gotten older (and I have gotten a little wiser), I’ve come to realize that many problems aren’t and shouldn’t be “fixable.”
at 6:39 PM
Monday, November 12, 2012
“Dad, I know the boot is heavy and uncomfortable, but you have to wear it if you want your foot to heal. Put it on and leave it on.”
Lately, I often find myself talking to my father as if he’s a recalcitrant child, which is actually a pretty apt comparison. Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in May, he has rather rapidly lost the ability to remember simple instructions – “Take your medicine.” “Close the door so the dogs don’t get out.” And the latest admonition after he slipped and broke his foot –“Don’t take the boot off!”
Today’s baby boomers are often in the challenging position of parenting both their children and their parents at the same time.
at 10:06 AM
Saturday, November 10, 2012
With this week’s election, Massachusetts joins the ranks of states legalizing medical marijuana. For many people, the vote marks the end of the discussion. For parents, however, it should be only the beginning, or perhaps the continuation, of a very important conversation that stresses one message – for the developing adolescent brain, marijuana can be extremely dangerous. (I keep thinking about the landmark New Zealand study showing that adolescents who regularly smoke marijuana lose an average of eight IQ points by adulthood, an irreversible cognitive deficit.)
The article in yesterday’s Boston Globe points out some of the inherent pitfalls
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
The 22-second YouTube video clip of four-year-old Abigael Evans crying because she’s “Tired of BroncoBamma and Mitt Romney” went viral just days before the election, echoing the strain we all felt from the extraordinary media blitz this time around, not just invasive television commercials and radio ads, but phone calls interrupting the dinner hour. However, when she was later asked why she was crying, the four-year-old explained, “I just want them to stop fighting,” reflecting not just fatigue from political overexposure but real emotion over the anger and hostility the election brought into our homes every day.
at 11:30 AM
Sunday, November 4, 2012
The essay is done, the common app is in, the transcripts and the letters of recommendation have all been sent – my daughter’s application for early decision into college is DONE! I thought we would both feel this huge sense of relief. And yet…
Saturday, October 27, 2012
A new iPhone/iPad game called Letterpress is apparently all set to become the latest fad in a slew of word games. It was downloaded 60,000 times on its first day out, according to a recent article by The New YorkTimes. But as the article’s writer was extolling the virtues of this nifty little game, he described the game’s genesis – the creator, Loren Brichter, was waiting for a table at a restaurant with his wife. During the lull, they both took out their smart phones to play word games. WHY AREN’T THESE PEOPLE SIMPLY TALKING TO EACH OTHER? Not to be a luddite, I continue to worry that the more clever we become with technology, inventing a billion little ways to pass the time by teasing the brain (or worse, numbing the mind with drivel), we also are creating not only monumental time sucks and a dependence on technological diversion, but socially acceptable ways to avoid conversation and relating to one another face to face. And when grown-ups repeatedly exhibit this anti-social behavior, what does it say to kids?
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
With elections looming just around the corner, the issue of medical marijuana is heating up big time in Massachusetts. Ballet Question 3 offers voters the opportunity to legalize medical marijuana in the state. If it passes, it validates the substance as a credible form of compassionate care. However, it also may open a Pandora’s box of unintended consequences, especially regarding youth access to marijuana, and as a parent, that’s a big if. I'm still sitting on the fence...
In theory, medical marijuana seems a worthy addition to a select arsenal of pain relief.
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Did you know that today is the first annual national “ABOVE THE INFLUENCE” Day? The program is a laudable effort by the White House office of National Drug Control Policy, and while the special day may come and go without major note in many parts of the country, the ongoing message is one as parents we should embrace – that instead of always focusing on the problem of teen substance abuse, we should also find time to celebrate the adolescents who buck the trends and choose to live “above the influence” of alcohol and other drugs. It reminds me to find a moment to validate good choices.
Sunday, October 14, 2012
I interviewed multiple intelligences theorist Howard Gardner recently for The Boston Globe, prior to joining him for a forum about the impact of digital media on the lives of our kids (“Shaping Our Digital World: You Have the Power” sponsored by Common Sense Media and the GoodPlay Project at Harvard Project Zero). A renowned professor of cognition and education at Harvard, he contends that the transformation of our world by digital media is as radical as the invention of the printing press was in its day, representing a fundamental shift in the way we acquire and process information, as well as impacting how we form and maintain personal relationships. It has had an extraordinary impact on our children, offering tremendous empowerment and access to knowledge as well, unfortunately, as unparalleled
Monday, October 8, 2012
If you take it really seriously, parenthood is the most challenging job you’ll ever have. The hours are long and the pay stinks. It requires the most emotional investment and the greatest patience. And no matter how well you do it, there will always be that nagging little voice in your head wondering, “Should I have handled that differently?”
But parenthood is also the most rewarding and important role you’ll ever play. Though no one can push your buttons like your kids, no one needs you more and tethers you more firmly to the world, to the here and now. It is an intensely visceral connection to another human being that is forged through primal, unconditional love. And it’s a lifetime commitment. No matter how many first children ask, “Can we take ‘em back?” when the second baby arrives, we parents are in it for the long haul, and it’s a wild, wooly and wonderful journey, perhaps life’s grandest adventure.
The good news is that we’re all in this together. I do believe the adage “It takes a village to raise a child.” As a parent, my greatest sources of insight, guidance and comfort are usually other parents. So I hope this blog can feed into the mix. Please feel free to comment on an issue, ask a question, pose a problem, or share a strategy as we strive to be
informed involved connected