Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

Creating a Daily Rhythm and Routine

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009
Creating a Daily Rhythm and Routine

Creating a Daily Rhythm and Routine

When creating a rhythm for your days, think of this rhythm as if it were a rubber band. The rhythm is there as a pattern to hold something in place, to add stability to your day. Yet it’s a pattern quite capable of stretching, of being flexible to meet the needs at hand. Like a rubber band, our daily rhythm can only be stretched so far before it loses its structural integrity and everything falls apart. So, nurture a rhythm that allows for both stability and ease. Stability provides the boundaries that small children need to feel safe. Stability creates a comforting sense of predictability, of knowing that naptime always follows lunchtime. A rhythm with general predictability deeply reassures a child’s soul that all is well. At the same time, we must avoid the trap of being too rigid by creating a rhythm that allows for ease. A rhythm that is gently flexible makes room for the unpredictable and helps children learn to be adaptable. Flexibility encourages a comfort with life that allows people to flow from one experience to the next, even when things don’t go exactly as planned, which, in these radically changing times, is a highly useful trait.

A Message of Hope

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

This post from Janet resulted from a comment regarding our “Making Connections”post.

Hi Polly,
Boy, do I ever agree with you regarding your word of caution! In fact, I was just thinking about this subject the other day when I overheard some elementary school teachers talking about some unruly kids in class. You can imagine how I felt when they chalked it all up to poor parenting! Nine years ago, when I was in the thick of some pretty tough (and that is so an understatement!) parenting times, I wrote a piece to offer comfort to other parents. (Really, I think I was writing it to comfort myself too since I had no idea what our future would bring. At that time, I could only hope for better days.) Anyway, I’d like to post what I wrote back in 2000 again in hopes that it might help other parents who feel that things aren’t turning out quite like they “planned.”

I’m ecstatic to report that while my daughter and I are two very different people, we’re very close today, and I’m proud of the young woman she has become — a wonderful mother of 5-year-old Tristin and a very talented, passionate and hard-working vet tech at an emergency clinic. If there’s one thing I’ve learned on my parenting journey, it’s what you wrote, Polly — that kids are not “all about us!” They DO have a will of their own, and all we can do is set a good example, provide them with the best resources we can, and have faith that everything will turn out for the best. My heart aches for the parents of “prodigal” kids because I’ve been there, but I do want to encourage you to hang in there and know that there are plenty of other GOOD parents out there who can relate. Thanks for bringing this topic up, Polly. Wishing you all the best, Janet

Janet’s original article from 2000:

I’ve often wondered how certain memories wind up in my brain’s hard drive forever, while others seem only to be stored on a temporary disk. Take, for instance, an afternoon 16 years ago, when I intently studied every inch of my beyond-adorable baby girl, attempting to freeze frame that particular image of her in my mind’s eye forever. My hope was to always be able to conjure up all that cuteness in my mind - sort of a cerebral cryogenics, so to speak! Sadly, the only thing I can actually conjure up of that afternoon now is the memory of my intent. Any mental pictures of my beautiful girl on that day did not survive the test of time. On the other hand, plenty of other downright mundane memories have lodged themselves permanently in my fickle memory bank: the memory of a random yard sale, the face of my daughter’s first pediatrician, and the words of a stranger in the produce section of Larry’s Market in Federal Way, Washington in 1985.

Here’s what happened: Sitting in the basket of our grocery cart, my happy toddler was absorbed in figuring out how to open a package of toilet paper, when a middle-aged woman walked up to us. There was a soberness on her face as she spoke: “Savor these days. My daughter’s a teenager now, and I’d give anything to go back to the days when all it took was a roll of toliet paper to make her happy.” She then briefly shared with me how her daughter had become caught up in “the wrong crowd” and how drugs had taken over her life. We wished each other well, and went our separate ways, but our brief encounter has stayed with me all these years.

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The Joke’s on You!

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Well, it’s here once again… April Fool’s Day. Even though I tend to fall for most pranks on this silly day, I still love it. Here at Chinaberry, there is laughter coming from all corners of our building. We are a company that laughs often normally, but today light-heartedness abounds. April Fool’s Day reminds me not to take life so seriously and to recognize the revitalizing, cathartic and stress-reducing attributes of laughing. I love the times when I laugh so hard that tears come streaming down my face. I especially like when I’m open to letting this happen as a family. Being a single parent, I feel as if I spend way too much time being the nagging, multi-tasking, no-fun disciplinarian. My six-year-old twin girls LOVE to laugh-everything is funny to them. “Why did the chicken cross the road? Because he wanted to.”-jokes that only kids can fully appreciate. When I can “let my guard down,” the results are spontaneous family bonding & fun.

One of our best fits of laughter as a family came when my then 5-year-old girls and I were attempting to play badminton in our front yard (they for the first time). All the air swinging, jumping, being hit on the top of the head with the birdie, having the birdie land in the perfect spot in the tree-it was too much to take-I felt as if we were in an “I Love Lucy” skit. After being so serious about trying to hit the birdie, we finally just broke down in laughter. My girls couldn’t exactly figure out why I was crying so much, as usually crying is preceded by sadness or utter exhaustion. The girls and I enjoy remembering that moment. My wish is that I can create more space for humor in our lives.

The Chinaberry April Fool’s Day tradition:
Our Customer Service Manager, Patti, had made it a tradition early in the day on each April 1st, to announce over the office intercom, “Donuts in the break room.” Almost every year an unsuspecting Chinaberry newbie comes rushing into the break room to discover… no donuts and a foolish look on their face. The first year, Patti heard the oncoming stampede of hungry, hardworking warehouse workers rushing into the break room. This has been a Chinaberry tradition for 14 years now. Well, today, Patti changed it up a bit and actually brought donuts. Of course, except for a few fellow tricksters, everyone else thought “There she goes again. Won’t she ever stop that joke? Nobody falls for that one anymore.” So, the donuts sat there undisturbed by the masses until the real joke happened once her co-workers found the donuts. Maybe this is a ‘you had to be there’ kind of prank, but it sure had us Chinaberrians laughing out loud.

Please share one of the funniest pranks you encountered today-and remember to keep your sense of humor active throughout the day and all year round.

Raising Kids Who Care

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

Article written by Martha Fay in Reader’s Digest

Raising kids who care

It’s easy–if you lead by example. Five families show you how to get started, stay committed, and make a real difference.

ENCOURAGE THEIR PASSION

Phil and Anne Holland-McCowan
John, 16; Harrison, 13
Atherton, California

John Holland-McCowan was sitting on a beach in Hawaii with his parents and his baby brother, Harrison, happily playing with coconuts and driftwood. “I’m so lucky,” the almost-five-year-old suddenly announced. “I have all these toys to play with and all my toys at home.”

His startled parents replied that he was indeed lucky, since a lot of kids didn’t have any toys at all. “That’s when he started to cry,” recalls his mother, Anne.

“How can that be?” John asked. “We have to get toys for those children.”

His parents naturally wondered if it was just some kind of phase, but as soon as they returned home, John began hoarding his small allowance to buy toys for other kids and urging his friends to do the same. His parents responded by organizing pizza suppers for other families interested in helping underprivileged children. “We just want to cheer kids up,” John explained.

“It was so great and so simple,” says Anne, who set out to find a place that would allow children as young as six and seven to volunteer. “It took a lot of phone calls,” admits the longtime volunteer. “We finally got Scribbles and Giggles [scribblesandgiggles.com], a day-care center for medically fragile children, to let John and his friend Jane visit. They went and just played with these kids, zipping around the room as if they belonged there. And these were children with tubes in their throats and all kinds of medical problems.”

John and his friends named their enterprise Kids Cheering Kids (kidscheeringkids.com), and today there are 19 chapters in the greater San Jose/ South Bay area; another in Metairie, Louisiana; and still another in Portland, Oregon. John is 16 now, a six-one sophomore and a water polo star at Menlo High School. He still visits kids at the San Jose Family Center, helping out with a carnival they’re putting on. He’s also working with Angels on Stage (angelsonstage.org) in the South Bay to prepare a performance of The Wizard of Oz starring children with disabilities.

The spirit of helping is as fresh as it was that day in Hawaii. “The whole purpose,” he says, “is to make the kids feel better.”
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Words of Wisdom from Eda J. LeShan

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

“In all our best efforts to provide “advantages” we have actually produced the busiest, most competitive, highly pressured and over-organized generation of youngsters in our history — and possibly the unhappiest.”

– Eda J. LeShan

Making Connections

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Because I travel a lot, I often observe some pretty amazing things in airports and airplanes. Many of these “amazing” observations don’t exactly make my heart sing, so it was particularly refreshing to have an experience recently that did. I believe it helps to share such stories, especially considering the not-so-great news that bombards us from every direction.

Not long ago, a coworker and I were trying to make a tight connection at the end of a particularly grueling trip. As our plane pulled up to the jet way, my colleague bemoaned, “our next flight has already boarded.” We were seated in the back of the airplane, so it looked pretty hopeless that we’d make our connecting flight. But a girl who was part of a group of teenagers traveling home from an FFA convention overheard the comment and took it upon herself to organize her large party to stay seated and let us get off before them. This gesture allowed us to skip ahead 30 people, enabling us to make our flight by the skin of our teeth.

Now, as most of us know, the teenage years can be difficult ones. So many times the kids get a bad rap. More often than not, what you read about them is less than complimentary, especially compared to the endearing infant and toddler years when we can’t get enough of our kids’ cuteness, can’t stop taking pictures, and want to capture every moment. But things change through the years: we, they, the world. Expectations become more complex, and how our teenagers choose to be in the world affects a wider and wider circle of others with whom we share this planet.

I recently ran across a quote from Dr. Benjamin Spock that got my attention: “In automobile terms, the child supplies the power but the parents have to do the steering.” Without parents who showed by example how to be gracious, how to be patient, and how to be considerate of others, these teenagers on our flight would have never even thought of allowing us to deplane before them. But kudos to them and those who raised them! In this generation of “It’s all about me,” I believe it’s more important than ever for parents to live in a way that demonstrates that it isn’t “all about me.” It’s about all of us, together, connected and aware that we are all in this together.

Thinning Out the Garden and Our Lives

Thursday, March 19th, 2009


Spring finds me out in my garden every chance I get. Nothing is as nourishing to me as working the warm soil, seeing new growth on trees, and stumbling across new shoots of plants that looked all but dead in the torrid days of August. Few other things are as much of a delight as receiving my order of seeds from my favorite seed catalog, sketching the vegetable garden layout, and then preparing the soil. My son, Evan (a.k.a. Mr. Dirt), loves to help me. He’s the self-appointed organizer of the earthworms, and as we move along digging in the soil, he picks up every one, says something admiring to it, then places it exactly where he thinks life will be good to it. The cats drop by to visit us, mourning doves touch down a safe distance away to check us out, and if I hear our phone ringing, too bad. When I’m in the garden, I’m immersed in another world.

When it comes time to plant the seeds, the dirt is so fine and smooth that all we need do is run our fingers through it, making a shallow line. Evan’s the expert at distributing the seeds, and does so one by one, no matter how tiny they are. (Last year, he admonished me for shaking the seeds directly from their package into the soil, explaining that each seed needs to be touched by the person planting it. “That makes sense,” I think to myself.) So the seeds go in, the rows are reasonably straight, I note in my gardening journal exactly what went where, and finally we lightly mist the soil, wishing the seeds a healthy life. Few times during a year do I feel as alive, as accomplished, as good as I do when I’ve planted my garden with care. Then, about two weeks later, the sprouts appear, and soon it’s time to thin the seedlings according to package directions.

Now, as anyone who gardens knows, “thinning” means plucking out sometimes three quarters of the baby plants so that the ones left will have enough room to grow. It’s my least favorite part of gardening. In fact, most of the time I can’t bring myself to do it. I can’t simply discard what turns out to be most of the seedlings-healthy seedlings-that have sprouted, at my beckoning, in the soil I’ve so carefully prepared. Nope. I can’t do it. I won’t do it. “Somehow, they’ll all manage to survive,” I tell myself. But, of course, what always happens is that as the plants grow, they eventually crowd each other out. Not having the space or nutrients they need, all of them become less pest- and disease-resistant. Gnarly and mottled, they die an early death, and even though I know from experience that this will happen, I still can’t bring myself to thin the rows of seedlings.

Yesterday afternoon, as I scrutinized the dense new strips of one-inch tall sprouts, I was struck by the similarity between those crowded rows and a pitfall of modern family life. In an effort to expose our children to the right things, we expose them to too much, in hopes that a few of their encounters will “take.” But what really happens is that life gets too crowded and nothing really flourishes. It just seems to be made up of a bunch of experiences, all of which turn out to be shallow, because there is no time in between them. There is no time to daydream; no time to be with one experience (or toy or whatever) before the next experience is plopped in front of them; no time to dig deeply enough into anything and realize that it could grow to be a passion if it were well-tended. It is so easy to lose focus of the fact that just as seedlings simply need good soil, the right environment, and room to grow, children have equally simple needs: love, respect, and space to be themselves. Life can get so cluttered, and then it’s hard to thin it out- just like my rows of seedlings.

Early this morning, before it was light, I heard the unmistakable sounds of one of our neighborhood skunks rooting through the garden. I sneaked out our bedroom door and sat for a long time on the steps in the warm night air, straining to see him (her?) in the darkness. I didn’t want to scare him away, for I knew he was up to something very important, indeed. In dawn’s first light, he finally left, and I made my way over to the garden, knowing what I would find. Sure enough, he’d been feasting on grubs and things, and in doing so, had uprooted most of my seedlings. Granted, the job wasn’t quite as orderly as I’d have done it (had I ever done it), but my rows were now thinned, and each plant would have enough space, soil, sun, and fresh air in which to thrive. I chuckled, and wondered if some giant skunk would ever lumber into my life and thin it out!

The Art of Storytelling

Sunday, March 8th, 2009
Nova (Ali's daughter) asleep with Gus-Gus after storytime

Nova (Ali's daughter) asleep with Gus-Gus after storytime

Don’t forget the magic in a came-from-your-own-heart, straight-out-of- your-imagination, in-your-own-words story. The “Mommy (or Daddy), tell me a story” kind of story. It’s a completely different experience from reading a book to your child and I heartily recommend it!

Some of our family’s closest times together revolved around that kind of thing. There was a stately old beat-up chair in toddler Elizabeth’s room that she named “The Story Chair,” for it was where she sat every single night while I told her the animal-filled, gentleness-infused original tale of Whoopie the Whale. (The story was really lame, but she absolutely insisted on it at both naptime and bedtime.) And then there was Evan, whose taste in stories I never quite got a handle on until I learned to routinely ask him to tell me three things he wanted his story to be about that night. (His answer was generally along the lines of “a boy, a policeman and a robot” or “a snake, a bomb and a boy.”) Within about ten minutes, I’d told him his made-to-order story, he’d drifted off and I was left in the quiet of the night to caress his back, run my hand through his hair and be full of wonder at the lessons he was teaching me, my heart welling over with love for this tired little boy.

Fully Engaging With Our Children

Friday, February 13th, 2009

Janet's daughter and grandson

When I was recently at the grocery store with my 5-year-old grandson, the clerk asked if I’d like help out to the car. But, umm, all I had bought was a carton of eggs. I laughed and said that while I may be a grandma, I’m not too feeble to carry a dozen eggs to my car! The dour clerk told me they had to ask everyone that question or they’d ‘get in trouble.’ She then smiled and said, ‘Have a nice day!’ (You just know she’d also be in hot water if she didn’t say that!)

As a grandmother who wants her grandson to grow up to be a common-sense kind of guy and an independent thinker, I felt I had been handed one of those ‘teachable moments.’ For the life of me, though, I was at a loss about what to say! I so wanted to instill in him the value of thinking something through rather than just doing what you’re told because somebody said you’d ‘get in trouble’ if you didn’t. Suddenly I felt like a loser grandma because I didn’t have a clue how to get this principle across to a 5-year-old. Yikes. Why do we always put such pressure on ourselves to suddenly transform into Ward Cleaver at times like this? Why do I always feel as if I should have pearls of wisdom dropping from my mouth around my grandson? But mindful parenting (and grandparenting!) isn’t scripted any more than mindful customer service is (take note, big grocery store chain!), and it usually isn’t what we ’say’ to children that makes the lasting impression. It’s all the gloriously messy and rich and colorful stuff in between. It’s about fully engaging with our children on a daily basis, being in the moment rather than going by a script as we explore critters in the backyard, learn a new board game, or try a ‘yucky’ new food.

Years ago, my mother-in-law cautioned me not to parent too much ‘by the book,’ and she was right. In retrospect, when I think of the things I did right as a parent, it was allowing my daughter to explore at her own pace, and many times that meant refraining from pressing for that ‘teachable moment.’ Sometimes in our eagerness to be the ‘best’ parents we can be, we end up overstimulating our children with unduly long lectures and the latest ‘educational’ toys, bombarding them with so many activities and so much stuff that their little brains and souls go on overload.

With this new year, my wish is that we remember the importance of nurturing our child’s natural curiosity and thought processes, and that we cut ourselves some slack regarding the ways we go about doing it. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children (and ourselves) is simply to be there for them with open ears and hearts, lovingly listening, patiently guiding. Call it mindful parenting or just plain common sense; you can’t go wrong with this approach.

Power Struggles

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

If we keep our eyes open, we find inspiration in the small moments of our life with children, even on the worst of days. Sometimes we must slow down, take a few breaths and regroup to find it, but the wisdom is always there, hidden in the shadows of every moment if we take the time to see it. One of my all-time-hardest parenting lessons—and the eventual wisdom that came with it—involved power struggles.

I used to feel so completely helpless in power struggles. How could this small child, whom I loved so dearly, produce such extraordinary levels of frustration and even rage in me? There were such strong feelings over whether or not she could have another cookie. Weren’t two cookies enough? Why couldn’t she see the reason in the situation? Why couldn’t I? The intensity of my feelings (not to mention my child’s feelings) astounded me at times. Why won’t she bend her will to mine and just make this easier? Doesn’t she know I’m the parent!? Does this really have to be so hard? (There is nothing like arguing with a two-year-old in public to humble a person.)

I used to struggle with these questions until one day I had the revelation that the very thing I was battling against in my child was a trait that I honor greatly in adults. I love adults who persevere against all odds to manifest their dreams. I love adults who have the strength of will to stand up and speak their truth. (They know they want that third cookie and aren’t going to let anyone stop them from having it!) Nevertheless, here I was arguing with my child when she was directing these identical traits toward me. Like a bolt of lightning, insight dawned in my heart. I realized that I didn’t want to squelch these traits in my child, but merely to help her channel them toward more appropriate situations. Suddenly, it became my job to teach when to use willpower and when to be flexible. This enormous will that I had battled so mightily against had many important uses. Why would I ever want to subdue it?

Once I could step aside and see my child’s will for the powerful, remarkable trait that it was, it lost its power over me. My anger magically dissipated with this new understanding. Suddenly, it wasn’t about winning anymore. It was about honoring this magnificent trait in my child and helping her learn to use her will wisely in the world. In honoring my child’s tremendous will, I mustn’t let it rule her life and yet, without the strength of her will intact, she might never reach her soul’s destination. In the end, it’s all about the intention in our heart and the words we choose to use as we reinforce our message. “Yes, sweetie, I know you really hate that you can only have two cookies, but two cookies are a reasonable amount. Asking again isn’t going to change my answer. Let’s read a story instead.”

Respecting the power of our children’s will allows us to transform our feelings about it. We no longer have to conquer it. Like a tai chi master, we simply redirect the flow. Respecting the power of my children’s will didn’t make those times when I knocked heads with my children go away forever, it just transformed how I felt about them and how I responded to them.