Tag Archives: parenting

New Year’s State of Mind


The concept of New Year’s Resolutions has declined in popularity, hopefully showing that as a culture, we are realizing making decisions to do things differently, backed by an underlying tone of shame and only needing to apply more effort, does not create effective, satisfying change. Characteristics we do not like about ourselves can attach to us much more firmly when we frame them as something we need to lose. Rather than try to change who we are, let’s change how we view ourselves to become more accepting of ourselves and others. As we come to accept how each of us is unique, and yet all the same, what we thought of as stubborn habits may melt away into a beauty that shines so brightly from within us, all who interact with us will only see our gifts and talents.

Listed below are some states of mind that help us all shine more brightly.

1. I am who I am.

The list of what we would like to change about ourselves can be long. A great place to start is by really accepting, “I am who I am.” Perhaps I frequently arrive late to events. Shaming and criticizing myself doesn’t help me get anywhere faster. Accepting that I am a person who has a more fluid view of time than others provides me with more peace for this characteristic about myself. Once I feel peace with myself while preparing to go to a destination, I have more presence of mind to actually be present in the moment and see that it’s time for me to leave the house.

2. In this present moment, all is well.

Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power of Now, is a great game-changer for what is in people’s heads much of the time. Apparently the thoughts streaming through our minds are consistently about the past and the future. With our minds remaining in times outside of now, we are able to remain in a constant states of crisis. We think about everything that has gone wrong in the past, and the future is open to so many more possibilities for life’s problems. However, the actual, present moment, not a minute from now, is completely okay. Stay in the moment that is happening, taking calm, deep breaths, and give your body a chance to stop pumping the adrenaline and pressure on yourself.

3. To let go of judging myself, I will avoid judging others.

Of course we all judge people. To say to never judge again would not be possible. The unfortunate part about judging others is that it causes us to continue to judge our own selves more harshly. In the moment, it may feel better to judge another person and think we are in some way superior. The long-term problem is that we then assume everyone else is judging us. Then we drop into feelings of disgust for the aspects of ourselves we assume are being judged.

Accept others. Assume the best. This shift in thinking will help us realize we all are human and that we can accept who we are as well.

4. I feel what I feel.

We all experience happiness, sadness, excitement, anger, and all of the other feelings. There might be a moment of angry rage that doesn’t make sense. Don’t judge the feeling. Know that everyone sometimes goes through these weird emotions that may not match the situation. Just honor the feeling, note that the source of what it felt is likely from something unrelated to the current situation, and gently give time for the feeling to subside.


5. I will do more of what brings me joy.

This is not as much a state of mind but conscious permission to honor what gives you pleasure. Perhaps you like being alone, reading, window shopping, going to parties, hosting parties, writing, golfing, meditating, spending time with friends, organizing, running around your house naked, or anything else. Do the things that make you happy, allowing you to feel more in touch with who you are, honoring yourself.

Happy 2017!

Valentine’s Eve Eve Frenzy

Running HeartFebruary 13th is the last school day before Valentine’s Day, so at home my kids and I are preparing their valentines on the evening of the 12th. Our family is recovering from a week-long illness, and I am fortunate that my mother-in-law took my kids to shop for loving characters of their choice earlier this week. I know she was thinking ahead for me by getting each kid a box of valentines that already had a matching tattoo in it. No need to add a piece of candy or some other small bonus with the card. Minimal work for the mom in a rush. Not that our valentines would have been picked out any differently if there had been no illness in our home and I had purchased them myself – we are consistent in our skill to patiently wait until the deadline to complete a task in our family. Actually, it’s only me who has the gift of patience. My husband is driven to accomplish tasks ahead of schedule. No need to focus on his weaknesses, though. Still, looking at the box, I felt comfort in knowing a class of completed valentines was just a step away.

My plan was to open a box for each of the kids, set them up on the table, and let them add their own special touch to each card. My son would write his name on his, and my daughter would place a sticker on hers.  Simple and fast. Unfortunately, a visual scan of the actual contents of the box revealed there was much more prep work waiting just for me. All of the valentines had to be separated. All of the tattoos had to be cut apart. Then all of the tattoos had to gently eased into two not-as-precise-as-I-would-like slits on the valentine. Resisting my urge to abandon ship, I spent the next hour carefully placing all the tattoos inside each valentine, narrowly avoiding ruining each one as the clear paper on top threatened to separate from the tattoo is was protecting. Whew!

Finally it was time to call in the kids to do their part. I figured my daughter would have an easy enough time placing one heart sticker on each card and that my son might get frustrated with having to write his name somany times. Should I hover and watch? What if they mess up the tattoos? What if my son writes in the wrong place? What if my daughter takes everything apart? I decided to walk out of the room and let fate decide the designated destination for those notes of love.

IMG_1240Once I returned, I was surprised to find that my son had quickly created an organizational system to write his name on each card and and place it in a “completed” pile. My daughter, however, felt that rather than one heart sticker per card, she should decorate with eight to twelve heart stickers per card. She did run out of hearts, but I found some smiley face stickers for the other valentines. We survived!

For a family attempting to dodge all the crafty aspects of a holiday, we still managed to get rather involved. Perhaps the manufacturer’s of these “easy” cards are actually designing them with more work to keep people from cheating? It seems there’s cultural pressure to stop and give thought to the love and care that’s being expressed. Would it be easier to break out the construction paper and make our own cards? Could I find a quick and easy idea on Pinterest? Who knows? I’ll start thinking about ideas for my kids’ cards next year, the night before Valentine’s Day.

Parenting Priorities

Photo by Crickett Photography

Photo by Crickett Photography

Like so many parents, my goal for each of my children, starting at birth, has been to give them the best possible childhood experience to help them grow up into productive and happy people who posses an intrinsic zest for life. At times when one of my babies was peacefully sleeping with all immediate needs met, thoughts of successful, well-balanced people I admired came to mind. At other times, when my bundle of joy was nearly inconsolable and demanding I remain awake all night to a point where I wasn’t sure why I willingly chose to have a child, images of unhappy, angry, or sad people who must have not gotten the consistent parenting they needed growing up flooded my mind.

We’ve all been told there’s no manual for parenthood, but I have wondered if there isn’t at least a loose set of instructions that if followed, will prevent me from ruining my children? So much advice and research suggest the sense of security we as parents seek. Perhaps picking a philosophy and following all of the accompanying rules is the way to go? Still, when looking at the end result of all the parenting methods available, there is no guarantee of positive results. This leaves me wondering how to make my parenting decisions without later regretting them.

It took me a while to realize it, but my parenting philosophy not only has to resonate with my beliefs and the personality of my child, but it also has to make use of my strengths and sources of energy. If you go with a parenting style that requires a strict schedule or routine but have significant trouble following a consistent plan yourself, you may have difficulty with maintaining the routine. Or, the parent who needs a schedule to feel functional throughout his or her day would likely struggle uniquely planning every day around his or her child’s expressed needs. In my situation, I wanted to follow a daily routine that my child appeared to need, but my natural tendency to change plans frequently as opportunities become available or stop as rest is needed resulted in me needing to compromise. Fortunately, both of my children are content with a very loose routine and unexpected changes. They know I will plan ahead to meet their needs of food, rest, and opportunities to release energy as they arise. We schedule events and attend them but do not follow a consistent plan. For us, my need for flexibility and my children’s needs for some predictability are fulfilled to the best of my ability.

I feel content with my laid-back parenting until I see someone else with a similar style but displaying more thought and effort; more attention to detail. It might be that I pull out a processed, packaged snack for my child at the park and see that my respected friend is giving her daughter sliced fruit in a reusable snack bag. Or at another person’s house, I might witness a boy who is told he can’t watch TV happily choosing from three parent-prepared independent activities that will all stimulate his mind. It’s not too difficult for me to stop my children from watching television, but I am overwhelmed at the thought of always having fun and educational alternatives available for them. At times, I am desperate for my children to watch TV or to please do the one activity available just so I can finish my own tasks. Does this mean I’m a bad parent? No, it means that I am my children’s parent – one of the two parents guiding our kids through what they are meant to experience in this world.

Wait, I’m still stressed about how some children are getting the superior experience of parents who seem to handle life better and are more consistently prepared to meet their children’s needs than I am! My kids could be at a disadvantage because I don’t have the energy to make every moment special and meaningful! Then I realize that first, I don’t know what other families do when they are alone, and more importantly, that I have different strengths I don’t acknowledge. I only see my weaknesses and how other people are able to be better parents than I am. Having an awareness that parenting abilities in my mind are exaggerated as better or worse, depending on if I’m thinking about myself or someone else, helps me keep my overall perspective more evenly balanced.

Photo by Crickett Photography

Photo by Crickett Photography

A strategy I use to reconcile my frustrations when I’m encountered with feeling inadequate is to consider if an activity or idea I’ve witnessed could realistically fit into my own parenting repertoire. If I cannot see what I view to be a superior parenting ability aligning with my strength or source of energy, I let it go and maintain admiration for the other parent’s ability to be so clever, thoughtful, or disciplined. If I think this new idea could fit into my life, but it still sounds overwhelming, I put it on a list of ideas to be considered later when I’m not so overwhelmed. We all continuously improve ourselves one slow step at a time in between long stretches of survival. It’s okay to see a change you want to make and save it for a less stressful time.

Recently I have realized that more importantly than any particular aspect of my parenting, how I treat myself is what my children are internalizing. If I feel self-critical for what I cannot do, my children learn to have their own inner voice of self-criticism. If I continuously overlook my own needs to only focus on what’s in my children’s best interest, my children will ultimately learn to overlook their own needs to focus on others. Knowing that my children will become what I model, I make every effort to balance being accepting my needs and who I am while also giving back to my children and others. Because I want the best for my children, I must live my life as the productive and happy person who posseses an intrinsic zest for life – the end result I want for my kids. By learning about my own priorities for success and happiness, I am able to teach my kids who I hope they will be when they become adults!

Photo by Crickett Photography

Photo by Crickett Photography

10 Things You Never Thought You Would Do Before Becoming a Parent

1. Eat half a banana that was abandoned on the floor.

2. Realize you haven’t had a shower in two days and then decide that you’re probably okay waiting another day.

3. Post a picture of poop on the Internet for verification of health or illness.

4. Make a serious plan to have the neighbor’s dog abducted after sudden, loud barking wokeRobot Costume up your baby or toddler at the beginning of a nap.

5. Enthusiastically approve your child’s request to wear a costume to the mall if that means he will be pleasant and agreeable to all of your requests for several hours.

6. Clean up vomit that has just arrived on the dinner table, followed by finishing the interrupted meal as if nothing more than a glass of water has been spilled.

7. Notice someone has wiped their hands and nose on your shirt but feeling like it’s still good enough to wear for the rest of the day.

8. Keep the car endlessly stocked with a never-ending supply of goldfish or similar mouth-filling snack.

9. Hand your thirsty child a juice box that you think was opened yesterday but could have been opened three days ago.

10. Look at another parent in public struggling with his or her highly emotional child, and instead of judging, thinking, “Hang in there! We’re all on the same team, and being in public with your kid is about survival!”


World Autism Awareness Day

Photo by Crickett Photography

Photo by Crickett Photography

Autism. I remember the time in my pre-child life when I felt like autism would be one of the worst diagnoses a parent could hear. I thrive on personal connection, and the thought of a child who could not relate to others or to me sounded like a parenting experience of all work and no joy. Occasionally I would meet parents who mentioned they had a kid with autism. My immediate reaction was to feel a deep sadness for all that they had lost. These parents who acted like life was normal and enjoyable while loving and raising a child with autism absolutely amazed me! If I ever heard that kind of news, I knew a darkness would enter my world and remain there.

When my son, my first child, was born, I was completely certain he was perfect. Perhaps he could have typical flaws in the eyes of other people, but I knew any weaknesses were somehow still indicative of hidden strengths. I was careful to make sure I was a dedicated mother who provided exactly what he needed, and of course, I felt every characteristic about him reflected his solid development and my ability to be an attentive mother.

As my son developed into a toddler, I did notice he had a strong, intense, and unusual interest in watching movement. Water, water fountains, escalators at the mall, moving strings and wires, and other continuously moving objects would capture his mind and body, leading to him reacting as if he was being ripped away when we tried to direct his attention elsewhere. This was odd, but he was hitting his milestones on schedule, so I saw this fascination as an ability to find joy and appreciation in details no one else noticed. I liked that he viewed the world a little differently, and I took it as a sign that his unique perspective would help him be noticed when he shared his gifts with the world.

Completely in love with the increasingly unique strengths my son displayed, it wasn’t until he was three years old that I started to wonder if perhaps his communication skills weren’t as traditionally fluent as other children his age and that he might even need some help. He had a broad vocabulary, but I was becoming a little frustrated with his difficulty in understanding what I meant when I asked him questions. I had to be very careful about how I used my words for him to be able to interact with me. For other people, I felt they could never get it right when talking to him. They would frequently say something that was distressing and overwhelming to him, causing him to scream or shut down. Confident that his strength in processing information so deeply was the reason for his odd reactions, I decided to seek out some evaluations on his communications skills to determine if perhaps speech therapy would help him learn to manage his depth of feelings to be able to have an easier time interacting with others.

After what ended up being six months of meetings, observations, and evaluations, the public school preschool team told us he had autism. I was immediately certain the team must be confused. My son was affectionate and flexible with schedules. He didn’t even seem to care for a routine, and I had heard all children with autism want to follow a strict, repetitive schedule. And ultimately, I had worked so hard to meet his needs and provide a stimulating environment. Wouldn’t a diagnosis of autism somehow imply I had somehow done something wrong?

However, I spent several months reading and reading and discovering that autism looks different for each person. The commonly known signs of autism are only common but not a requirement. My loving, creative, funny, and curious child had autism because of his strengths that allowed him to see the world differently. My attentive mothering had been effective; this was not caused by something he was missing. I then also realized that his ability to see life through his own perspective would also present challenges for him as he moved forward in the game of life.

At first I was stuck on the word autism and what I imagined autism to be. I kept having images of non-communicative children who don’t seem capable of love. Was my son going to turn into this type of kid? I started to feel like I had lost the amazing child I thought I had and that some new, labeled child had taken his place. My confidence was shattered. I thought he would turn into a different person who I did not know. I felt the darkness of doubt surrounding me.

Photo by Crickett Photography

Photo by Crickett Photography

It has now been close to four years since my son was diagnosed, and I’m so happy to have learned in that time that I never lost my son. Apparently he is still a loving, creative, funny, and curious person. That is what autism can look like. I’ve also learned that my fearful images of children who did not communicate was not accurate because I thought they couldn’t feel love. All of these children feel love. The challenge is in finding out how to communicate with them and help them see what the world has to offer.

My son does have a diagnosis of autism, and now I realize that label is one that means I have a super-cool kid. His humor, intentional and sometimes not intentional, keeps my perspective of the world fresh. His excitement for the how and why of everything from the structure of dog families to telescopes to life after death keeps everyone around him excited about life. Even his enthusiasm when shopping at a grocery store is contagious, and I frequently hear people around us laughing at his energy and celebration around buying food.

Learning that my son had autism was devastating for me, but realizing that he is still an amazing, quirky, and fun kid who has so much to offer the world has been such a joy in my life. Autism exists in the world to keep our perspectives fresh and to help us realize appreciation of life comes in many forms!