guilt.

I met the most lovely high-powered career lady / brand-new mom the other night. Within moments of chatting, she emphatically encouraged me to keep doing what I do to help other parents. She explained that women like her “have no idea” what they are doing and that women like her “need all the help we can get”.

Women like her?

“There are days when I only see my baby for thirty minutes,” she explained. I could tell by the look on her face that she was bracing herself for whatever words of judgement, advice or consolation she’d conditioned herself to hear, none of which I had to offer.

All I heard was a new mom trying on a sentence she wasn’t quite sure fit.

Me: Do you love your job?

Career Mom: Yes.

Me: Do you love your son?

Career Mom: Yes.

Me: Does he greet you with open arms and a contagious smile every day when you walk in the door?

Career Mom: Yes. {tears}

Me: Then what’s the problem?

Career Mom: I just feel so guilty. I worry that it just isn’t… enough.

Me: I know the feeling… And I see my kids all the time.

Why is that? Why do we as parents feel so guilty no matter how much or how little we give to our children?

So often we feel guilty because we compare the amount of love we have for our children with the things we aren’t doing or think we should be doing. When we don’t meet our own high expectations, we come up short and we feel it isn’t… enough.

But here’s the deal. Our kids don’t track our hours. They don’t count the minutes. They don’t comprehend the passing of time. They don’t judge us the way we judge ourselves. They don’t complain about our parenting style. They are blind to our self-prescribed shortcomings.

Children live in the moment. And if all we have today is that moment, we can’t squander it with distractions of guilt but rather fill it with love and an open heart.

And that is always… enough.

aMomentWithEmmeline

survival and traveling with four children… alone.

I made it! I flew by myself from Maryland to New Orleans… with four children… 18 months to 8 years… alone. I have to admit that I was hoping to have a crowd of people cheering for me when we all exited the plane in nola holding up signs that said “Way to go!” or at least handing me a gold metal for the marathon that I just completed.

I also have to admit that I was completely full of anxiety when my husband and I decided that he needed to go on an important work related trip, which meant that I would have to fly back from Thanksgiving vacation by myself with our four lively children. I have never flown with more than one child alone, which as we all know can be a challenge in itself. I had flashbacks to one plane ride where I flew with our daughter Adi, seven months at the time, by myself; I remembered the challenge of trying to hold a crying baby, a diaper bag, and a carry on and the shock that no one offered to help.

My anxiety about flying affected my whole Thanksgiving trip. I imagined my 18 month old screaming and throwing food and toys on the plane, my 8 year old teasing his siblings without remorse, and my other two hitting each other until everyone on the plane questioned my credentials at being an effective mother entirely.

And then there was getting through security…

I had many comments throughout the weekend that were all meant to be supportive remarks such as “You can do it!” “You’re capable” “You’re a great mom!” But there were no encouraging words that actually pumped me up for the experience.

It wasn’t until the plane ride home that I realized I had it all wrong. It wasn’t about whether I thought I was capable of going on a airplane alone with my four strong-willed children. I knew that I’d survive this stressful situation like I have with many others. It wasn’t until mid-flight when I looked at all my peaceful children (well, for that moment) and realized that it wasn’t about believing in myself at all (although I should have more faith). Rather, it was about believing in my children that would help me have the strength I needed to get through the rest of the flight.

As I stared at my kids, I realized that I often become anxious or irritable because I am not looking at and appreciating my children’s strengths and believing in their unique abilities to face life’s challenges. And if I didn’t believe in them enough, how could I possibly expect my children to have the confidence to believe in themselves and their own capabilities. After all, if I would have taken the time, I could have focused on how much I love Elyon’s (age 8.5) eagerness to always want to help, Itai’s (age 6.5) ability to make his siblings laugh, Adi’s smile and joy of life, and Liat’s easy going nature.

As I sat there on the plane, I decided to try to make it a priority to express more often to my children my confidence in who they are. And I hope in my next moment of angst, that I allow this knowledge, of each of their beautiful qualities, to give me strength to face whatever challenge lies in front of me, as a more relaxed mom.

What surprises have your children afforded you lately?

the art of discipline.

Discipline can be a downright dirty word that stains the canvases of our parenting masterpieces. A scream, a scribble or a sleepy time battle, may create splatters of red rage or depressing blues.

Every move you make as a parent is an opportunity to add perspective to the bigger picture, so take a moment and think about what the word discipline means to you.

Does it result in a cascade of thoughts imbued with visions of time out, favorite toys being taken away, or restricted time on the Nintendo DS?

Is discipline something that you do TO your children or something you do WITH your children?

Quite often disciplining children turns into a dynamic of throwing our weight around as parents and disciplining children because their behavior is inconvenient or annoying, not because it is morally wrong. With bold strokes we punish children because of what they are doing wrong instead of teaching them good ways to act.

Dr. Justin Coulson writes in his book What Your Child Needs From You, that true discipline helps a child discover his or her own reason for making good choices, rather than forcing them to behave out of fear or promise of a reward.

True discipline takes the management of our children’s behavior out of our hands and puts it into theirs. Children then internalize correct ways of behaving and see how problems can be dealt with in a mature way, feeling a sense of competence because they are the ones doing the thinking and talking.

Does this mean you should adopt a parenting style remiss of consequences? No.

The research urges parents to consider prioritizing relationship above behavior. Become the coach, not the parenting police. By teaching your child good ways to act, the instances of needing to manage behavior will decrease.

Here are some ways to get started:

1. Induction. How will children know how to act correctly if they don’t know what is expected of them? Set some ground rules with your children and discuss them frequently. Choose three to four rules for the family based on your values and do this collaboratively when your children are old enough to contribute. If respect is an important value, you may brainstorm ways in which you will show respect.

Here is an example of a ground rule:

In our family, we show respect to one another in our words and in our actions.

  • We speak in a kind tone and keep our voices calm.
  • We wait our turn to speak if someone else is talking.
  • We solve our problems with words.

2. Perspective Taking. Find opportunities for your children to take the perspective of someone else. When a conflict arises , encourage them to play the part of the other person and then ask open-ended questions like,

“What was it like when ____happened?”

“How did it make you feel?”

“How could (insert other person) help you feel better?”

3. Understand your child’s development. You will know what your child is capable of handling by understanding where they are developmentally.

Did you know that a two-year-old is not capable of fully understanding the consequences of his/her behavior and a child isn’t capable of following multiple commands until the age of six?

4. Gentle Reminders. If your child has forgotten a rule, do the following:

  1. Get within arm’s reach of your child and call her by name.
  2. Look at her and quietly remind her of the issue with as few words as possible. Brief and calm. “Your backpack” or “Brush teeth”. Sometimes nonverbal cues, like pointing to the dish at the table, works as well.
  3. Say please and smile kindly.

Discipline, when shared WITH your children, can be a vibrant yellow that adds incredible dimension to the big-picture of parenting.

What will you add to your parenting palette today?

yell much? what your child needs from you.

Do you want to end the yelling, become less frustrated and enjoy your kids more? Join local parent/family coach, Elizabeth Elizardi of  StrengthsHub, for a four-week interactive, online program based on the book What Your Child Needs From You: Creating a Connected Family by Dr. Justin Coulson. This is a rare opportunity to work at your own pace, wherever you want, whenever you want!

This four-week online program starts on October 29th and continues through the week of November 26th. (Don’t worry, no class on Thanksgiving!)

Program Details:

Week One: Emotional Availability
Week Two: Showing Understanding
Week Three: Teaching your Children Good Ways to Act
Week Four: Kindess, Love and Compassion

What is Included?

Your payment of $150.00 for the four-week program includes:

  • a copy of the book What Your Child Needs From You by Dr. Justin Coulson;
  • a weekly email from Elizabeth outlining activities for the week and questions to ponder;
  • a three-month membership to the Parent Hub online community;
  • access to the online discussion forum;
  • a one-hour weekly group call with Elizabeth;
  • one individual 15-minute coaching gym session with Elizabeth; and
  • a BONUS Expert call with the author, Dr. Justin Coulson, at the end of the four-week program.

How does it work?

Upon registering, you will receive in the mail the book  What Your Child Needs From You: Creating a Connected Family and an invitation to join the Parent Hub, a private, online parent community and discussion forum with weekly activities.

Beginning the first week of the program, Elizabeth will send an email to all participants outlining the reading, weekly activities to try, and questions for the discussion forum. Parents are encouraged to do the assigned reading, visit the forum, comment on the questions, try out the activities and report back to the group.

Elizabeth offers support through a one-hour weekly conference call with Q & A and community discussion. Parents are also invited to schedule a one-time fifteen minute coaching session during the four-week program.

How do I get started?

There is limited space for 20 participants in this class. Register here, spread the word and invite friends, too. Be sure to enter your email address, first/last name and mailing address so that you can receive your book in time for the first class on October 29th!

Get connected and boost your Parent Well-Being.

For questions or more information, email Elizabeth at elizabeth@strengthshub.com.

is it okay to drug test your kids?

The other day I was listening to parents of non-teenagers discuss the idea of routine drug testing their kids regardless of suspicion. The argument was that by starting this routine at an early age (say, eighth grade), the belief that drugs are bad becomes ingrained.

brainwashing     present participle of brain wash
Verb:     Make (someone) adopt radically different beliefs by using systematic and often forcible pressure.

My husband thinks this is brilliant. It’s never too early to get our five, two and one year old on the right track.

I, on the other hand, am not so convinced. Here’s what comes to mind:

  1. If we drug test our children without cause, is this a violation of privacy?
  2. What message are we sending about trust and communication?
  3. Are we really teaching our children how to make smart choices if we essentially make the choices for them?
  4. What about personal responsibility and the opportunity to live with the choices we make and learn from our mistakes?
  5. Would we rather know our kids via threat or via trust? Or does it even matter so long as they are safe, healthy and alive?

As parents, we fear for our children and our natural instinct is to keep them safe. But at the same time, we are not our children. They are separate from us. Yes, we are here to protect them, guide them, educate them, give them the tools they need to navigate the world but their life is their own and no amount of hovering will prevent them from making their own choices, suffering their mistakes and living their life.

How do you feel about routine drug testing? Do you think there is an appropriate age to start? Is this an effective method for teaching your kids to “Just Say No”? Is there a balance?

Visiting los animales at the Audubon Zoo

One of my favorite things to do with my 19-month-old, Elle, is a trip to the zoo. I’m raising her speaking Spanish, so besides the fact that she loves the animals, it’s a good opportunity for us to go over some of the animals’ Spanish names we’ve seen in so many books.

A recent trip to Audubon Zoo started easy enough. The elephants (elefantes) and monkeys (monos) were easy to point out and talk about. Then we hit the petting zoo – and I realized just how far I have to go to properly raise my daughters speaking Spanish.

I was raised in a Spanish-speaking household in Miami by Cuban parents and grandparents. But having never studied Spanish in school, I have glaring gaps in my vocabulary and grammar. As we walked around the animals at the petting zoo, I struggled to come up with all the names. Sheep I knew (oveja), but drew a blank on goat. The Google Translate app on my iPhone offered ‘cabra’ for goat but that didn’t sound right. Then I remembered ‘chiva.’ Google, I’ve noticed, rarely gives the Cuban Spanish translation to words, and its suggestions need to be cross-checked with a phone call to my mom.

The rabbits were easy to point out, as we have books filled with ‘conejos’ at home. But guinea pig – no idea. Didn’t see a lot of those growing up in Miami. Google Translate suggests ‘conejillo de Indias’ for guinea pig, which is a wonderful, lyrical phrase and one I’ll probably never remember.

For other parents with bilingual kids – or those who just want to add a fun twist to a zoo trip – here’s a list of common zoo animals in Spanish, with their English translations (in parenthesis):

jirafa (giraffe)
león (lion)
camello (camel)
gorila (gorilla)
burro (donkey)
tortuga (turtle)
flamenco (flamingo)
foca (seal)
búho (owl)
serpiente (snake)
avestruz (ostrich)
cebra (zebra)

It’s best to try to memorize them before you head out. You miss a lot of the magic of a trip to the zoo if you’re constantly turning to your iPhone’s translator app.

¡Buena suerte! (translate)

Grandparents’ Day

Everyday on our way to school, we drive past the cemetery on City Park Ave. And for some strange reason, I always think of my grandmother, Patricia Ann Casey.

She’s as Irish as the whiskey she drinks.

And I adore her.

Age 3ish, sitting poolside with Patricia. New Rochelle, NY.

The older I get, the more we talk. And I have a gained a better understanding of what wisdom is…or at least how it comes to be:

Wisdom is the culmination of time and experience.

I am grateful for my daily reminder, even though it comes with a brief, dull jab to my heart, as I know that time is not on our side.

My mother’s wedding album. 3rd grade, maybe? San Antonio.

Other than photographs and a few diaries, all I have are memories. And I have 3 kids under the age of 6, so you know what that means.

I have held on to the article Getting to Know You by Erik Jackson, which was featured in the November 2005 Real Simple. Every year I think about doing something with it but every year, I get busy.

The article is a roadmap to gaining a deeper understanding of relatives and friends and exploring “the deeper stuff–the childhood memories, the hopes and fears, the truest sense of self”.

Jackson outlines dozens of questions to help you get started, many of which may or may not be obvious:

~ Childhood ~
What was your childhood like?
Your neighborhood?
What were the happiest times of your childhood?
What were your biggest disappointments?

~ Work ~
What was your first job and how did you get it?
Is there anything you think is absolutely crucial to success at work?
Was there one person–a mentor, maybe–who had a big impact on your working life?
What was the best job you ever had? The worst?

~ Love & Family ~
Over the years, what was the most rewarding thing about raising kids?
The toughest?
Do you have any advice about being a good parent?
What would you say love is? Have your ideas about it changed over time?
Who in the family is most like you?

~ You & Me ~
Is there anything you’ve never been able to ask me or say to me?
In what ways do you think we’re similar? Different?
What were your favorite times with me?

~ You as You ~
Who knows you better than anyone?
What is the key to a great friendship?
Who makes you laugh the hardest?
What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done? The scariest? Dumbest?

“While such topics can seem scary (or, face it, best avoided), this season is a perfect time to start the conversation, whether at a family dinner, in a letter, or by email.”

Get to Know Your Family and Friends Better Personal History Worksheet

What better gift to give your grandparents (and yourself, your children, your family) than to honor them by simply taking the time to listen, read or write down their words and memories, dreams, ideas, regrets, loves, passions, hopes.

An unexpected gift is the invitation for them to think about their own life – moments in time they haven’t thought of in years because nobody asked.

How fun for the kids to make up their own questions and interview their grandparents, learn things they never would have known, be inspired and see their grandparents in a new light – as people with great history, great stories, great advice.

Great wisdom.

My grandmother on her wedding day

Some other ideas:

  • Celebrate their memory by writing down a favorite memory of your own (or draw a picture of a favorite memory) and share it at dinner. Make copies and create little books for everyone to keep. It doesn’t have to be fancy.
  • Create a little photo album for your children of pictures they’ve never seen before and tell them stories of when you were little.
  • Make an old family recipe together – food and smell are powerful memory-makers.

How ironic that Grandparents Day follows September 11th, a day that reminds us how precious life is and how fleeting it can be.

My grandfather – a WWII pilot

Capture the wisdom, the lessons, the life of those you love.

Is there a lesson or piece of wisdom that you learned from a parent or grandparent that you hope to pass on to your children? Tell us about it here.

Quick Review:

Parenting in New Orleans Discussion at Rising Tide Conference

On Saturday, September 22, Rising Tide: A Conference On The Future Of New Orleans will feature its first ever PARENTING panel, Mardi Gras Moms & Who Dat Dads. GET YOUR TICKETS and join Ashley Bond of nolaParent.com, Keith Spera of The Times Picayune’s The Paternity Test, Andrea Dewenter of Pistolette.net, and moderator Bart Everson of b.rox.com for a discussion of the unique problems and benefits of raising children in New Orleans.

“Known around the world for its debauchery, hurricanes, and crime, New Orleans seems an unlikely place to raise a child. So why would you stay here, or even move here, to do so? ‘Mardi Gras Moms and Who Dat Dads’ will explore the strong cultural and familial bonds that make New Orleans hard to resist, but also those dark moments that make us second-guess ourselves. While some of the issues parents face here are typical of urban America, others are distinctively Nola, and the intersection of these can lead to unfathomable obstacles. But the benefits cannot be denied. New Orleans provides one of the most genuine and unique urban upbringings you can have in America today. On a good day, it’s like raising your child in the Land of Oz after living in Kansas; the senses endlessly overstimulated, the passion for life cranked up to maximum. But on a bad day it’s like raising your child in an unstable foreign country – without an embassy to run to. Parenting here is for those who like great challenges, and curious rewards.”

The Rising Tide conference will also feature an EDUCATION panel, The Education Experiment: Petri Dish Reform in New Orleans and Louisiana, where panelists will discuss the controversial topics of charter schools, vouchers, the future of public schools, and the experimental nature of our post-Katrina education system. Moderated by The Lens’ education reporter, Jessica Williams, panelists include Brian Beabout, an Assistant Professor of Education at UNO, Elizabeth Walters, writer, editor, and high-school teacher in St. Bernard Parish, Zack Kopplin, a student at Rice University working to make sure Louisiana kids will be able to get jobs after they graduate, Dr. Lance Hill, Executive Director of the Southern Institute for Education and Research, and Caroline Roemer Shirley, Executive Director Louisiana Association of Charter Schools.

Other panels and speakers for 2012 include:

  • Lawrence Powell, “The Accidental History of an Accidental Book: How the author stumbled into the 18th century and post-Katrina New Orleans through the lens of her colonial past.”
  • Lolis Eric Elie: “At War With Ourselves: New Orleans Culture at the Crossroads… Again… And Again… And… “
  • Black and White and Red All Over: The digital future of the New Orleans media market.
  • Oil & Water: Can Louisiana save its coastline and have a thriving oil industry at the same time?
  • Community or Commodity?: Is profiting from our culture also stifling its evolution?
  • Take This Job and Love It: What it takes to own a business in New Orleans.

The Rising Tide conference was created on the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina by the local blogging community to respond to the massive political and cultural changes our city was – and still is – experiencing. Every year since it has addressed the hard issues facing New Orleans through prominent speakers and engaging discussion panels. Learn more about the history of Rising Tide.

Sharing with other parents takes you beyond surviving to thriving

Sharing resources of time and energy with other parents benefits our children, our families and our personal well-being. When we share, we shed the tendency to criticize, judge and compare and we realize that each and every one us is always enough.

When parents create networks of value or connections among individuals, this leads to reciprocity, trustworthiness and a social intercourse that cultivates child, parent and family well-being.

Reciprocity is a deep, human instinct. It is the basic currency of social life and it makes the transaction costs of everyday parenting less burdensome (think carpooling, sharing meals, swapping playdates). We’ve learned these lessons from our primal ancestors who engaged in cooperative breeding practices to ensure the survival of the child, parent and group.

Among the !Kung foragers of the Kalahari, babies are held by a father, grandmother, older sibling or other adult 25 percent of the time. Among the Efe foragers of Central Africa, babies spend 60 percent of their daylight hours toted around by somebody other than their mother.

From our primal ancestors to modern-day parents, cooperative parenting in groups and relying on support from others are effective survival strategies.

When we work together as parents and share challenges, accomplishments, parenting strategies and resources, we are less burdened by the pressure to do it all ourselves. This also creates more space and relief in the day-to-day life of parenting, affording us more time to focus on the self and accomplish personal goals.

Sharing with other parents takes you beyond surviving to thriving because other people matter and the good life is a social life.

Share your your stories, perspectives and experiences here.

Submit a parent tip here.

 

Skip to toolbar