Category Archives: Parenting

We have to do better.

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I remember it clearly.

I remember when I looked at my daughter sleeping. She was only a few weeks old at the time. So perfect, so amazing. And I burst into tears because I knew that no matter how hard I try I may not be able to to protect her. And she might not always be safe. Not when 1 in 5 women will be raped at some point in their lives and 1 in 4 girls will be sexually assaulted by the time they turn 18.

I remember it clearly.

Watching her in her dance class. Marveling at how un-self conscious she was- clad in tights and a leotard. Neither she nor the other girls in her kinderdance class comparing their bodies. None of them thinking or worrying about what they look like. Not thinking about what might be “wrong” with their bodies, only exploring some of the wonderful things their bodies can do. And then I wondered how long that would last- how long until she started viewing her body as her enemy? A recent study found that 85% of women and 79% of girls opt out of important life activities when they don’t feel good about the way they look.

I remember it clearly.

I remember being angry as I read about the reports of mass sexual assaults in Germany this past New Year’s Eve. But it wasn’t my anger at the assaults that really got me riled, it was the outrage by the world- an outrage that, to me at least, seemed more about backlash against immigrants and refuges than really about the assaults. It was the politicization of sexual violence. Why would it seem like that to me you ask? Possibly due to the lack of outrage of sexual assaults that happen EVERY SINGLE DAY to women in nightclubs or events. It is a conservative estimate that 80% of the time I went dancing with friends, I experienced a sexual assault. And you know what is so weird, I only recently started identifying them as such for myself. I pretty much took it as a given to expect at least an ass grab or two every time I went out. Every woman I know who has gone dancing has developed their own techniques for getting away from random men grinding their semi-erect penises on us- and most of the time ending up getting called some choice and disgusting names by the spurned man. There was the time the bouncer lent a hand to help me up when I fell, only to plant a kiss on my married lips. Or that time at my bachelorette party, after my dozen or so friends and I had been hanging out all evening with a group of guys that seemed “safe.” These guys were respectful and pleasant. Actually talked with us and seemed to listen when we talked. And then, near the end of the night, the nice guy that had been talking with me all night about his wife and children, and listening to me talk about my excitement of getting married in a couple of days- that nice guy grabbed my breast. Just grabbed it- right there in front of my friends, his friends.

We have to do better.

We have to do better for our children. We have to do better for ourselves.

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Victory for an anxious mama

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I have always been an anxious person and becoming a mother certainly did nothing to decrease my anxiety. It took me until well into my 30’s to really start confronting my fears and doing things that I always wanted to do but was too afraid to take the leap.

By virtue of both nature and nurture, my kiddo also has her fair share of anxiety. And while I make light of situations such as when we were in the produce section of the grocery store and she told me she “needed” to fix that someone had set a garlic bulb randomly on a bunch of tomatoes, I am all too familiar with the inner dialogue that accompanies those behaviors.

It can be difficult to keep myself in check and have a “perfect” balance of challenging my daughter to push through her anxieties and not let them impact her life, but also listening to and respecting when it is too much for her to manage.

Which brings me to swimming.

We live in Florida. We have a swimming pool. We have a pond behind our house. Water and water safety are a huge concern for us, so naturally we put our daughter in swim lessons early. It was a great program and she definitely learned how to swim and how get to safety, but even after 3 summers of lessons and countless hours in the swimming pool, she would still cry when asked to swim any distance in the pool, or jump in, or anything other than sit on the steps. She would bargain with us about how many times she had to do a skill before she could go back to her float. She would cry and hyperventilate.

This summer, she and I were in the pool and I asked her to swim to the far side, which was where she deemed was the deep end and thus off limits. I reminded her that since she was swimming and not walking, it didn’t matter that it was over her head.

And then it happened. My scared 6 year old took a deep breath. She closed her eyes briefly and said to herself, “Don’t let your fear control you.” And she took off and swam across the pool.

Now she is a regular mermaid. She jumps in the pool and will swim and swim and swim. She is the coolest kid. I want to be like her when I grow up. beach pic

“I’ve just had a really long day.”

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She suddenly looked up at me, big blue eyes, glistening, “I’m sorry. I’ve just had a really long day.”

I cocked my head to the side and furrowed my brow to indicate I had no idea what she was talking about.”

She looked down sheepishly. “I’m sorry I snapped at you earlier. I’ve just had a long day.”

Quickly, and with a little amusement, I mentally reviewed this “really long day” for my not-yet-6-year-old.

This day was my first day back to work after a week vacation, but she still had the day off for teacher planning day following her spring break.

I let her sleep until the last possible minute. I even did her chores of feeding her dogs and fish. I let her have M&M cookies for breakfast. She came with me to work, and she quickly took over my office, the conference room, and eventually my boss’s office with her LalaLoopsies, markers, paper, tape, sand. Plenty of play on her tablet. Then, after work, she got a quick nap in the car on the way to dance. After dance, some running around on playground with friends. Tried out a new podcast on the way home, which she loved, then made plans to take the crazy dog for a walk. (We have 2 labs. One is old and calm. The other is only 2- that is the crazy dog.)

It was then she snapped.

Except, she really didn’t. I think she did yell at the dog, who was jumping, excited to see her, and briefly had a tone in her voice with me, that I called her on. For me, it was quickly forgotten. But as we walked with the dog, enjoying the weather and the discussion, it was bothering her- which brings me to the start.

I fought my natural inclination to respond with a sarcastic comment about wishing I had really long days like hers, and attended to HER feelings instead of mine. I thought about what I want when I am tired and irritable. I just want someone to hear me.

I brushed a wayward curl out of her face as I smiled at her. I acknowledged her really long day. I told her that when we got home we would eat and she could have a relaxing bath and then we would cuddle and read together before bedtime.

 

I’m so proud of my daughter on the primary Election Day.

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My daughter is not yet 6.

I’m watching her swinging for a few minutes before we get ready for karate. Her crazy blonde curls are flying everywhere and she has the biggest grin. Joy. Open. Kind. Pure.

20 minutes before, in the car heading home from the precinct after I cast my vote for my registered party’s presidential candidate, my brilliant daughter was talking about what she thinks makes a good president. She said the president should have courage and should help people.

And then, in the simplest of ways explained why a president should seek to resolve conflict, not create it- should seek to solve problems not create division. She said if people don’t get along and just go on to the next friend, and then don’t get along and move to the next friend and keep going and going like that, pretty soon the whole world will just be mad at each other and not listening.

No matter what happens in the election today, or in November, or in 4 or 8 or 12 years from now, I will make a commitment to myself and to my child that I will continue to love and to be kind. I will seek to understand the other side, even if I don’t agree, and in conflict will strive to do so with respect.

I will do my best to live up to my daughter’s expectations for a president, so by default, a leader: to have courage and to help people.

 

Update to my last post…

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Sometimes being a mom means having a 10 minute, in-depth, conversation about diarrhea while listening to your kid have diarrhea. Apparently 5 year olds honestly think there is some kind of world record having to do with diarrhea.

Being a mom is super glamorous.

Stubbed toes won’t get my husband out of our pottery date- but this might. UGH!

“Mama, you are just like a nurse.”

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For much of the past week, the hubby has had a bit of a cold. Nothing earth shattering and for the most part, he handles himself well when sick.

However, when either of us are sick, we tend to sleep separately. Just makes it easier so the tossing and turning won’t keep the other up and the sickie can get comfortable without having to account for another person. So this week, I have slept on the couch a few nights. No biggie.

Two nights ago, since I had to go to work the next day and he didn’t, he suggested Newt and I go to sleep in our bed and he would sleep on the couch. No problemo. It would save time from our nighttime routine when I put her to bed. She fell asleep fine but I couldn’t fall asleep until probably 2 am. Again- whatever. It happens to me a couple of times a week.

Until approximately an hour later, when I woke to the sounds of my sweet daughter violently retching in my bed. I guess the best thing about the rest of that night is that she was turned away from me and most of the considerable mess landed on the floor and down the side of the mattress.

I did a pretty good job suppressing my own gag reflex until I was safely in a different room than the kiddo, who kept apologizing. I spent the rest of the night doing laundry, holding her hair and her, and cleaning up puke. Eventually my husband joined in to help and we ended up blowing up the air mattress and all 3 of us slept in the living room.

As the sun was coming up, Newt and I had a nice moment noticing that had we actually slept, my alarm would be going off at that moment in time. Instead, we were sitting on a blow up mattress watching old Smurfs cartoons with a puke bucket between us. Good times.

Midway through the next day (yesterday for those keeping track), I started to feel not only queasy, but also a sore throat coming on. The good ole double whammy. But, I pressed on, trying to work from home and take care of the family. Several hours later, after much frustration and not much work done, it was almost time for bed. And then, the love of my life (besides my kid), stretched his legs out and kicked the coffee table, splitting his big toe nail in half and breaking in down about half way. Cursing and blood ensued.

Newt cried to see her daddy in pain, but as soon as I grabbed the first aid supplies, she was stopped and watched intently as I cleaned his wounds and carefully bandaged his toe. She commented, “Mama, you are just like a nurse.” I was pleased that she recognized the additional hat I had been wearing for the last several days.

That’s the thing. Moms often have to be like nurses. And teachers and therapists and cops and seamstresses and short order cooks and chauffeurs and secretaries and mediators and the list goes on and on. We have to know how to do a lot of things (or how to use Google well) and we don’t usually have time to prepare for which skills we might need to use in a given moment. And we have to do these things even when we are not feeling well ourselves.

So this week, even though I was hit with the double whammy of 2 different illnesses at the same time, thankfully I had the “mom versions” of them, which is apparently when moms feel symptoms less intensely than other family members in order to still carry on their “nursing” duties. The mom version of the illness does seem to come with the additional symptom (at least for me) of significant irritability when not directly administering comforting measures to others.

Oh- and to my husband- if you think that the little trick that you did with your toe will get you out of our triple date tomorrow to go paint pottery- you are sorely mistaken.  Love you!

I will never* homeschool my kid.

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Don’t worry. This isn’t a post critical of the concept of homeschooling. I fully accept it as a valid educational decision that works really well for certain families. Mine is just not one of them.

Sure, there are plenty of families who choose to homeschool for really, really scary reasons. And plenty who say they are homeschooling but there is not a lick of education actually happening. Just as there are really messed up family situations for many kids in public school or private school. And believe me, I have seen all of those kids at some point in my career as a therapist.

But this post is just about knowing yourself and your limits as a parent.

There is nothing, not a person or thing, on this entire planet that I love more than I love my daughter. I love watching her learn new things and explore her world. There is nothing better than cuddling with her. But, by the time Monday rolls around each week, we are both ready for a break from each other.

I know home schooling is not for our family because I would not be the best mom or teacher I could be. I know my limits and the limits of my patience. The healthiest relationship my kid and I can have is one where we have a healthy amount of time not together. Absence does make the heart grow fonder.

One of my good friends from high school home schools her 2 kids. They live out of state and though I end up seeing my friend every year or so, I haven’t seen her kids in several years but was able to hang out with them last weekend. I can say that her 2 home schooled kids are deliciously weird. They have social skills and all- they aren’t “weird” weird. And I don’t really thinks it’s because of being home schooled. My public school educated kid is pretty darn weird too. Five years old and she announced yesterday that she wants to be a cryptozoologist when she grows up.

 

*I do know to never say never. In the event of a zombie apocalypse, I would probably homeschool.

 

 

Go Shout Love…because cancer really sucks

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I woke up yesterday morning super excited to see the paintings Newt and I did and donated for the Go Shout Love auction to benefit Anya and her family, posted on their Instagram page in preparation for the auction Saturday and Sunday. Don’t forget to check out the stuff for auction here. It is 1/23/16 to 1/24/16. There is some really cute stuff.

A few short hours later I learned that a good friend and great woman was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.

So between contemplating what my friend is facing and what little Anya has already been through and what she still faces, all I can say is, cancer sucks.

I can’t fix it for either of them. I can’t do a great, life changing thing for them. But I can do small things. Small things with great love. For my friend, this might include cupcakes and laughing at inappropriate things. It already included me taking Jedi selfies to send to her as she waited for the dr.

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For Anya, I am just trying to spread the word for ways to help her and her family. We also made 2 paintings to donate for her auction.

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Newt and I collaborated on this piece. As you can clearly see, there is a green unicorn with blue magic coming out of its horn, and a large, translucent dragon breathing fire. You can own this masterpiece yourself by bidding on it here. It’s item #056.

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I was inspired by the Batman shirt that was designed specially for Anya. I know, doesn’t look Batmany, but the shirt says, “Greatness often arises from darkness,” which is the truth. You can bid on this lovely painting here as well. This one is item #057.

You can also still purchase the t-shirts that were made for Anya here. They are really, super soft and comfy, and cute!

 

Just ’cause you’re right, that don’t mean I’m wrong

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Probably almost 12 years ago now, I was chatting with my brother. It was one of those long, meandering conversations about life, goals, hopes, stuff like that. It may have even been the night we discovered Jtv and stayed up late into the night, talking and drinking and realized the next morning that we somehow purchased like 5 loose Padparadscha sapphires. They were just so cheap and pretty!!!

Anyhoo, at some point the discussion landed on my own anxieties about my relationship with my boyfriend and if he was the guy for me in the long run. My concerns were that we saw the world too differently. We had different political ideologies and thoughts about social and cultural issues. I mean, our voter registration cards were the proof. One had an R and one had a D. What would that mean for us? What would that mean if we had kids? How would we know how to raise them? What values do we impart? I wasn’t sure if that was just a sign to me that we were too different.

My brother just chuckled and said we were great together. He suggested that it may actually be BETTER for our future children in the long run. It could teach them how to examine issues from all sides, use critical thinking skills, and come up with their own thoughts and opinions. I’m pretty sure at the time that his answer irritated me more than reassured me, mostly because (and I never would have admitted this) I was too afraid of raising kids that might use those critical thinking skills and come to a different conclusion than me about something when, clearly, I am right.

Fast forward to today. I did end up marrying that guy and have a great, independent thinking kid with him. We still have some differences in how we see the world, but it turns out that we are alike in more ways than we are different. We value hard work, kindness, honesty and family. We are fiercely loyal, and wickedly sarcastic. Our greatest goal in life is to be good parents to our daughter. When we do disagree, we try to be respectful to each other and if we just can’t in the moment, we have gotten pretty good about knowing when to take our corners. I feel more comfortable with the thought that my child will use her critical thinking skills to come to her own conclusions that may actually be different than mine. But I also hope that we are teaching her to have respectful, constructive- rather than destructive- conversations with people that have differing opinions.

And honestly, the difference that has affected us the most in our day to day lives isn’t our political affiliations. It’s the fact that we don’t come down on the same side in the Coke vs. Pepsi argument. (In case you are wondering, the correct choice is ALWAYS Coke.)

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I choose to love.

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As a therapist I have spent a great deal of time thinking about how people feel, how people think and how and why they behave certain ways.

As a therapist who specializes in trauma, I have spent countless hours with people who have trusted me enough to share details of horrific things they have been through. I have seen the devastating and long term effects caused by the violence of man.

I have seen what living in a near constant state of fear does to the human spirit. How it impacts relationships. How emotions and perceptions are affected. I have even seen how people lash out with anger and aggression because of fear.

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But I have also seen hope and I have seen healing. I have experienced healing. I have never seen healing happen from fear or anger. The moments of healing happen in a place of love and compassion. They happen when people are open to receiving and giving kindness. It happens when someone stands defiantly up to the fear- refusing to let the fear color their world anymore.

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It would be easy for me to let my fears of what might be or what could happen win. To circle the wagons and insulate myself and my loved ones from a cruel, harsh world. And it is a cruel, harsh world. But it’s also beautiful and peaceful and interesting and joyous and weird and so much more. I live with eyes wide open to the beauty and to the danger.

And every day I make a choice to approach myself and others with kindness. Every day I choose to contribute to the healing of others, of myself, of society. I choose to live in a way that reflects the kind of world I want for my daughter. I choose to make my love greater than my fear.

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