I imagine my mind has a million places and when I’m put together and focused and present, these places communicate effortlessly with each other. Gentle waves of bright energy fly through my brain grabbing exactly what they need – a past memory, a piece of knowledge, a feeling. The result – what flows out my mouth is exactly what I intend. My words sound coherent. I feel coherent, like I fit perfectly in my skin. My body and mind flow as one. I feel in one piece.
When my anxiety punches me, these millions of places become abruptly inaccessible. It feels like each one of them is closed off with a steel door, so now the seamless flowing of ideas is replaced by the sound of thudding steel. This thudding blurs me. I’m in a fog and the fog is in me. But I’m still there, frantically looking for a way out. I’m walking through mud holding a terror that wants me to run as fast as I possibly can. In this moment my anxiety doesn’t speak English. That skill lies behind steel. In this moment my only reality is pure fear. I have no rational thought and no way to stop the rising wave that attacks me all at once – my head, my heart, my hands, my stomach.
When the anxiety is too much, I am a blubbering blob unable to function. But sometimes when it is less, I am able to do things like walk, talk, drive, brush my teeth and get dressed. In fact I can do everything (maybe without the usual gusto) that is habitual – things that are so second nature, I don’t have to think about them. During these times I respond from my unconscious and the more I have put in place there, the better I can cope.
For people without anxiety, the unconscious is something they can pretty much leave alone. But for those of us who suffer, it is key to coping. I live with anxiety and I think I do it quite well because I understand the role my unconscious plays in my anxiety and more importantly, how it can be effectively used to help deal with it.
A simple way to think of our unconscious is this: anything that feels out of our control probably belongs there. Much of our unconscious is essential for living. If we had to think consciously about everything we do it would be exhausting and debilitating. Right now I am watching my daughter’s unconscious working beautifully and efficiently. She is learning to drive and I watch her as she mumbles all her checks – mirrors, blind spot, gear, check for cars, seatbelt. Soon, as all drivers know, she will not think of any of these. The checks will still be done but from her unconscious mind. And if she’s anything like me, she may drive from A to B sometimes and have no idea how she got there.
Unfortunately, anxiety also resides in the unconscious, which is why anxiety sufferers must learn how to feed their unconscious with strategies that will kick in when they are needed the most. These have to be practiced to the point of habit because ALL habits are unconsciously driven. To deal with anxiety we have to create habits that kick in automatically in response to our anxiety. You cannot tell yourself to breathe deeply in the midst of an anxiety attack unless you have practiced deep breathing to the point of habit, crossing this skill into the unconscious.
Life is complicated and we are complicated. There is no “one” thing to do for anxiety and I would suggest some skepticism towards someone that claims they have the one answer. Truthfully, I have embraced many ideas and strategies and continue to do so. And depending on the situation, I may grab one over another. My personal favourite is to allow myself to ‘feel’ and resist pushing my feelings away. In my experience, when I allow myself to really feel my anxiety, I diminish its power to grow and lesson the duration of its stay. This may sound absurdly simple to do but trust me it took years of practice! In situations where I have to act right away, this may not be appropriate and I may engage instead in mindful breathing. What works for you is what works for you.
Here is some advice for people who want to help someone during these times. Don’t. Not in the traditional sense anyway. Their anxiety will not hear you. It does not understand. “Think positively, stop wallowing, it’s all in your head, pull yourself together,” are not helpful and may cause anxiety to increase as feelings of failure are added to the mix. Hold them, be there but let them be. If you want to help, timing is everything. Wait until they can understand English.
When I was about 13, my best friend at the time and I memorized every word of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence.” We wrote down the words by playing, pausing and rewinding a cassette tape, which we had recorded by placing the tape deck beside the radio. Yes, I’m that old.
“Sound of Silence” became “our” song and to this day I remember every word of it. The haunting words appealed to our dramatic teenage angst and supported our growing realization that life could be sad simply from living. We had lots of big questions with no answers but it didn’t matter because delving into the questions made us feel mature and acutely aware that we were no longer kids. The song comforted us as we transitioned from childhood into no man’s land of pre-adulthood. At that time I never thought about the lyricist’s life experience that lay beneath the words of the song. Today I think particularly about the first verse:
“Hello darkness, my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again”
I have lived with depression for most of my life and through the crests and valleys I understand how I must face this disease. This past year, I took on too much, got sick with a month long virus and together with the start of fall, I had the perfect storm for depression to pay me a visit. Depression, as reliable as ever, didn’t disappoint. At some point, when I was able, I shared with a new acquaintance the reason I had not responded to her email promptly – I called depression “my old friend.” With the best of intentions, because she is a lovely lady, she told me to never call depression my friend and that it is no part of me.
I have never felt the need to defend my perspective of my disease but here’s what I believe. Depression is a part of me – a big part. It has shaped the way I think about life, my family and my friends. I choose friends who accept me for all that I am, not for the best of me. It has made me a more empathetic person towards anyone suffering with anything, mental or physical. It has broadened my perspective of people, understanding that there is a place for everyone at life’s table. It has helped me be a better wife and parent (I hope) because I have become a good listener and kinder person.
I must make depression my friend or it will be my enemy and the more we hate something, the greater its power.
Depression is my old friend and I accept that it is a big part of me. It is not all of me, in the same way that people with other illnesses, mental or physical, don’t become their disease, so I don’t become mine. Acceptance, however, is key. Acceptance diminishes the impact of this disease immensely. With acceptance I lose shame. As a result, I can open up to new ideas and different ways to help myself. Most importantly, I can love myself.
So, depression, I will tend to you when you need me and when you are quiet I will keep you by my side in my warm, protective embrace, so that you can feel safe. I will not abandon you, my old friend.
A pelican came to my beach. I watched with both interest and amusement as it swooped down time and time again trying to catch a fish. While it glided through the sky with incredible grace it impacted the water with a heavy, loud clumsiness. It seemed to ignore the water’s surface to focus only on it’s silver prey just below. I found myself rooting for a successful dive. It didn’t care. The only difference between failure and success was a brief pause to throw back its neck to swallow the fish in one mighty gulp. And then up to try again. The boldness of this bird drew me. It’s prehistoric appearance made me acutely aware of its lengthy existence on this earth. I reflected on this wonderful bird. I welcomed it to my beach, recognized its beauty and felt a little smug with my appreciation of this miracle of nature.
But this was not my beach. I see a different perspective and feel humbled. The pelican didn’t give a hoot about my perception of ownership. It owned this beach and all the beaches. While I needed proof of mortgage, fortune of birthplace and luck of money, it needed nothing. Its ownership of the beach was dependent on simply being there and looked the same as its predecessors a hundred years ago and a thousand years before that. Mine, on the other hand was about as flimsy as the survival of a paper boat on rough seas. How easily we are able to fool ourselves. We ignore the tenuousness of human wealth to the point of stupidity. We let it define not only what we have, but also ridiculously who we are. Possession gives us a sense of invincibility. It draws us further away from becoming nothing until this inevitability of all man is buried so deeply under our pile of things, believing it is easy. Maybe we have to do this to survive our finite lives and moments of reflection like this should be just that – moments to remind us briefly to seek not only the joy that things give us but to know that our bare self underneath it all is someone we still know and love.
I gazed at the pelican on his beach and thought I heard a laugh in its screech.
If we manage to avoid cancer, heart disease or diabetes, get great genes and don’t develop Parkinson’s, MS or Alzheimer’s, and don’t crash a car or get hit by one, get struck by lightening or slip and break our necks, we could get really lucky and live to a hundred or more. Given the states of the first and last twenty years of our lives, we really only have 60 years, at our luckiest to make our mark on the world.
There are two ways to be. We can love or we can hate or so it seems when we start out. Because somehow in the disastrous fray of this world even the lovers come to hate the haters. Hate is our enemy. Hate solves nothing and yet we cling to it with righteous fervor. Wars don’t count. Wars kill my loved ones and yours. Social media perpetuates it. We show videos to support our beliefs and to discredit our enemy’s. We exist in a constant state of crowd mentality. Love and acceptance of all people is elbowed out. There is no room for it on our Facebook pages or in our hearts.
Research shows us that humans are born with a natural propensity for empathy. Empathy, the ability to put oneself in another’s shoes, is our greatest weapon in the war on hatred. The empathy that we allow our children to develop and cultivate occurs early in their lives. In many cases, by the age of five we are already who we are to become.
How can we mess up so badly. How can we teach some of our children to not fear death but to fear instead the disgrace and shame of not embracing it, that to be right is more important than happiness. As a mother it is beyond my understanding how parents can not want their child’s safety and happiness above all else. A mother’s instinct across the board of all living creatures is to fiercely protect their children. Humans are the only ones who have buried this basic instinct and allowed ourselves to believe that for the greater good it’s okay to send our children to fight our wars, to wear them as shields and to teach them that dying for our cause is a godly achievement. Let us love our children more than we hate each other.
And then the world and world leaders try with great futility to sort things out because we can rarely change adults once their course has been set in stone.
We have to reach the children. Children are the key to everything. Children are the beginning and the end.
At his wedding, my youngest son stood up to give his much anticipated speech. His reputation as a public speaker is well known and he didn’t disappoint. His two older brothers had spoken about his eccentricity and how, as much as they love him, he is the weirdest guy they know. Half way through his, on point, hilariously funny speech, he calmly addressed his brothers’ comments by walking to the centre of the dance floor, pulling down his pants and slowly mooning everyone, possibly performing the first ever groom-moon.
Along with many others, I gasped and I held my mouth, muffling the words – OMG. I can only describe what happened next as a piece of my life flashing before my eyes. I realized many things in a matter of seconds. Here they are:
I raised my kids to follow their truth, so put my money where my mouth is.
Just because I wouldn’t do it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.
This kind of humour makes him uniquely him and I love all of him.
Who cares what other people think.
My perception went from horrifying to hilarious in seconds and I laughed harder than anyone. Turned out the “moon” was hilarious to most and to those who weren’t amused – tough! I felt incredibly proud that I had raised a kid who could step away from the expected and be so okay with it. And seriously, is this any more risqué than string bikinis?
My quirky son is a paediatric resident and appreciates fully the frequent tragedy of life. He has more than his fair share of anxiety and holds onto a strong moral code, heading, each year, a Movember team – in great humorous spirit as his moustache growth is puny at best. His ability to find the fun in a life that so often feels overwhelmingly heavy is completely necessary so that when he has to, he can be his best.
Unlike others, I am privy to my son’s back-story. I don’t feel I have to explain to anyone why I am so proud of his “mooning” but I am doing so, as I believe the lesson to us all is to judge the actions of others less quickly and less harshly. My son would laugh at this last statement as one of the things he is fond of saying is “I judge people quickly and harshly with very little information!” Did I mention he’s hilarious?
At 57, I don’t feel old, but surveys and forms I’ve filled out recently tell me otherwise. According to the vast majority I fall in the last age bracket. Up until 55, there are numerous classifications, often with a mere ten year span defining each one, but apparently after 55, the feeling seems to be, “Is there any point?” Is this discounting of age limited only to superficial and arbitrary categorizations in surveys or does it reflect a much deeper bias in general towards the value of older people?
Generations do not live out their lives in a vacuum. We learn from our past and this, combined with our understanding of our present, is passed on to the next generation. Religion, culture, family and social values, to name but a few, rely on this continuity – this passing of the baton. There are no short cuts to this kind of wisdom. It can only come from a life lived. This is not to say that we cannot learn from the young. On the contrary, we have a great deal to learn from our children but it is a different kind of wisdom, one that can only come from a life not yet lived, from fresh eyes and the innocence of childhood. Teachings from the old and young are both equally important to our survival and growth.
What’s changed? Two things: “Old” wisdom is no longer considered essential and ways for the old to share ideas has become prohibitively difficult. In a word – “technology.” The growing young generation has no need to turn to the old for answers, not when they have what they think they need at their fingertips. Smartphones define this generation. What can the old offer that can’t be found more quickly through an Internet search?
The simple solution would be for the old to share their ideas through the Internet but here’s the problem: The young wear technology like a second skin. We face this same technology with trepidation at best but usually with fear and despair and it is this hesitation that costs us dearly in the competitive world of communication. The road between our ideas and a public forum to showcase these ideas is difficult because we have in place a monstrous infrastructure that values the ability to process ideas rather than the ideas themselves. Entire publications focus on articles of “lists,” which unsurprisingly mimic the growing lack of attention span of this generation, who want information in bite form or not at all.
The publishing world that used to value writers who were wise, no longer exists. Instead, success in this much broader domain depends on the abilities of those who can shamelessly self-promote, a skill directly derived from confidence in navigating the system. The number of published articles with little substance abounds because young people have become our new experts. The young are learning from the young, a first in the history of mankind. So unchartered is this phenomenon that only history can be the judge of its outcome.
To clarify, I am not ignorant in this new era and have worked hard to understand technology. I have a website, Facebook page, Twitter and Linkedin; but understanding how to use them in combination to create a competitive online platform, is where I find myself lacking. And what of those who do not know that a Tweet is not a bird sound and Linkedin is not walking arm in arm? What of those who find mastering the ability to right click a mouse too daunting? What have we lost?
Even if we recognize our downward spiral, can we change direction? To do this, there needs to be enough dis-ease about our circumstances. We’ve heard the rumblings of our reliance on technology and our deterioration of emotional and social connection. Yet we still cling to our smartphones like they are lifelines. We are romanced by games to appease our boredom and Facebook friends to make us feel liked even though these relationships bear no resemblance to real ones. To take a stand we simply step off alone as this era of technology forges on ahead, with or without us, with momentum that has now become much greater in power than the combined power of those who invented it and set it in motion.
My grandson is almost three and along with “I do it!”, “No!” and “Mine!” one of his favourite words asked a hundred times a day is “Why?”
“Carsie, let’s go,” I’ll say on any given day.
“Why?”, he replies.
“Because we have to go to school.”
“Because it starts at 9.00 o’clock.”
Carson always wins this game, not that we don’t have answers each time, because we do. He wins because at this age the need to understand is new, exciting and knows no bounds and we exhaust more easily. These are easy questions. They have the power to annoy or irritate us but they don’t make us anxious. As our kids grow so does the depth of their curiosity. Some questions can make us uncomfortable, like early sex questions and then there are those that can make us feel like we’ve been punched in the gut, like, “Am I going to die?”
My oldest son was eight when he realized mortality. Over a few weeks, his anxiety escalated to crippling proportions and so did mine. I would hear the sound of his feet running to our bedroom and could easily distinguish between a “normal” run and one that spoke of terror. With the latter, by the time he reached my bedside, my anxiety would equal his. I had never before felt so out of control in my parenting. Still trying to be the best parent I could be, I would placate him and calm him. I would reassure him that he wasn’t going to die because he was young and neither were we until we were a hundred.
Overwhelmed by my own anxiety, I lovingly lied. I made things worse – a lot worse. After struggling for some time, we took him to a psychologist to help him, and after assessing my son, my husband and I, she told me that my son would be fine but that I had a problem. I was furious at first but she planted a seed that took hold and gradually grew. With four kids who all faced death anxiety to some degree, I had many opportunities to work on my approach. I became better each time and by the time I had to deal with my last child, I considered myself well-versed and while I am usually adamant that the words expert and parenting do not belong together, I consider myself somewhat of an expert in this particular area.
Not all children journey through death anxiety but there are many who do. For parents who struggle like I did, here are my words of wisdom:
Don’t ever lie to your kids. You will be found out. Young people do die. They will hear about that mass shooting in a preschool or that child who wanders away from his parents and freezes to death. Life reliably and consistently throws young tragic death at us. You cannot protect your children from knowing this. When you lie to your child about this, her anxiety will increase dramatically because she will feel unheard.
Some “why” questions are not clearly resolvable but this doesn’t mean they cannot be dealt with. With this kind of anxiety, the best thing we can give our kids is our understanding. Our job is to effectively communicate this. When my daughter would fall apart over the possibility of her death or ours, I would lie with her but not lie to her. I would hold her, stroke her head and tell her that I understand how terrifying these thoughts are. I would allow her to have all her feelings. I wouldn’t try and calm her hysteria. I would simply comfort her while she did that on her own. This was the greatest tool I gave her. She is now 15 and I see her strong ability to deal with overwhelming anxiety about many different things.
Share your own anxiety and personal perspectives. I tell my kids, truthfully, that I had similar fears as a kid and as an adult. I share ways that help me cope, like talking to others with similar fears. We are all in this together and all face the same fate. Talking is connecting and through connecting we find strength. I also share my personal belief in the afterlife.
Teach your children relaxation techniques. Death anxiety is still anxiety with all its physical manifestations. My daughter’s particular favourite is one we both call “the dot.” We do this lying down. My daughter closes her eyes and takes a few deep, relaxing breaths. I tell her to imagine a luminous dot – this can be any colour. I then trace my finger around her body. Beneath my finger, the dot attaches like a magnet and follows the path I trace. The luminosity of the dot creates calm wherever it travels. That is its power. I start at her head tracing slowly and gently around the features of her face, her ears, and her neck. Imagine that you are drawing a whole human body. On reaching her toes I would reverse and finish the process once again at her head. As your child gets older his technique can easily translate into something they can do on their own, using only their imagination. I use it in this way on myself with great success.
Anxiety’s greatest enemy is physical activity. For so many reasons, both physiological and psychological, exercise helps reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. I would go so far as to say that for me physical exercise is the best medication I have ever taken!
Don’t tell your child (or anyone else) who is feeling intense anxiety to calm down. This is not helpful. If you feel the urge to do this, and as a parent I understand how strong this urge can be, help them breath instead. Simply say, “take a deep breath,” and take one yourself. This doesn’t discount their feelings and at the same time may calm them a little.
As a mortal, I am truthfully more perplexed by children who do not experience fears around death. Many parents will, as I did, try and push these fears away because they make us afraid too. Pushing away any anxiety, let alone death anxiety, never works. It will resurface, maybe not in its original form, but most certainly as a limitation to your happiness. When you help your child face death anxiety head on, their own life force will find ways to deal with it and give it as little power as possible so that, over time, they can enjoy their life more than the anticipation of their death.
The overwhelming response to my previous blog – “7 Things Everyone Should Understand About Depression” – highlighted the number of people affected directly or indirectly by depression as much as it reflected the prolific silence surrounding this illness. This silence is unique to mental illness and understanding why is important, because advancement in the treatment of a disease relies heavily on strong advocacy, a role usually headed the loudest by those suffering from the disease.
The entertainment industry shows us a perfect example of this. When Christopher Reeve sustained a spinal chord injury, he and his family poured their time and resources into research. When Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, he did the same. On the other hand, no one had a clue (not even some of his closest friends) that Robin Williams suffered from depression until his suicide. And here was a person who was easily able to stand in front of large audiences and talk about countless controversial subjects, just not depression. We will never know what his thoughts were about this but I have 7 ideas, drawn from my experience, why he and many others who suffer from depression find it so hard to speak out.
Stigma – What does this mean for someone with depression? There are commonly held negative beliefs about depression that make people with the disease reluctant to share that they have it. One of the big culprits for this is the language often used to describe this illness. “Nuts,” “crazy,” “not quite there,” “a misery” or a “head case,” are not ways we would choose to be labeled. There is also the misperception that someone suffering from depression cannot perform well in the workplace. The result is that competent people with depression will often keep it quiet at all costs, for fear of the potential effects on their work environment and job security.
Guilt – I know that when I’m depressed I’m less of a partner, mother, daughter, sister and friend. I’m hard enough on myself without being reminded of all the people in my life I should be thinking of. This does not help my depression. Depression is an illness unaffected by how much we love those in our lives. For many, feelings of shame are a part of living with this disease, limiting their ability to talk about it.
Faking it – When I’m depressed I don’t feel normal but I desperately want to. I spent many years acting “normal,” when I felt anything but. I also held the false belief that talking about my depression would add to the time spent in negativity. My experience now is that this is the exact opposite. Being okay to be out, can be extremely empowering.
No words – Symptoms of depression include difficulty in finding words to describe our feelings as well as problems with thinking clearly and coherently. One of the reasons depressed people don’t talk about their depression is because they simply can’t. When I write about depression, it is never during times when I am depressed.
No motivation – The simplest act of getting out of bed or showering takes enormous effort for a depressed person. Tiredness and apathy are defining symptoms of this disease.
Self hatred – The attitudes towards depression are very often shared by sufferers themselves. Two symptoms of depression are negativity and pessimism. It’s not hard for us to believe we are weak, self-indulgent and self-centered rather than sick. We don’t need much encouragement to hate ourselves. Self-loathing is already part of the disease.
No desire – Having the desire to talk about depression implies that one has hope, even if it is the smallest glimmer. Feeling hopeless is another symptom of the disease. It is almost impossible for a depressed person to see life from a positive perspective. If we could, we wouldn’t be depressed. Why talk about something when resolution seems futile?
Depression is a disease of the mind, the very thing a spokesperson needs to be in good working order. Certainly there are many people with depression who are, for various reasons, able to speak out about their disease but our ultimate strength in advocacy will come from others stepping up, whether it is for a loved one, a friend or from simple kindness.
When we hear that someone we know has cancer, we will often ask: Did she smoke? Is there a history of cancer in her family? The more reasons we can find to explain away someone’s suffering, the safer it makes us feel. We look for evidence to support why that awful thing couldn’t happen to us. Depression cannot be rationalized as neatly. It is a disease of emotion and because we are all emotional beings, it is more difficult to find reasons why someone else has it and not us. Instead we see depression as a choice because that means we can choose to not have it. I have been told: “snap out of it,”“think positively,”“how can you be depressed when you have so much?”…I am fortunate. I have more than any person could hope for. I have an abundance of people who love me and who I love, but I suffer from depression, not ingratitude.
This disease is widely misunderstood and those who suffer from it perpetuate popular beliefs by hiding in shame, which makes it a “double whammy” disease, as we must then battle the illness as well as it’s stigma. However, this is not the only reason to remove the silence of depression. Effective treatment depends on feeling okay to share our suffering. The incidence of suicide, the result of severe depression could be decreased radically if those suffering sought treatment as they would for any other disease, unencumbered by faulty perspectives and personal shame.
We often fear what we don’t understand. For many years I feared my own depression. I had no clear reasons why I had it, no simple solutions for treating it and no idea where it would take me. But after having lived with bouts of depression for more than forty years, I believe I can educate those who fear or minimize it and help lesson the shame of those who suffer with it:
DEPRESSION IS A DISEASE – it is not an infection. It cannot be caught. But it is a disease, a chemical malfunction in our brains. We readily accept and understand that many different chemicals, both legal or not, can have a huge impact on our emotional state but believing that our bodies can produce chemicals that do the same, does not have as widespread acceptance. Where is the logic in this?
DEPRESSION IS NOT SIMPLY FEELING VERY SAD – depression is a faulty perspective of reality. A sad person who is not depressed can think rationally about solutions. A depressed person is unable to do this. A severely pessimistic perspective of life defines depression. In the midst of an episode we are unable to see our world in any other way. Depression does not depend on our experiences. I have seen people suffer terrible life events and not get depressed, while those with charmed lives have.
DEPRESSION IS NOT A CHOICE – at thirteen my world turned upside down. I went from a positive little girl who loved life to a haunted teenager who suddenly couldn’t understand how happiness was an option for anyone. I couldn’t eat, as frequent bouts of anxiety descended on me like waves of heavy clouds. While that episode of depression lifted, I lost my blissful innocence and never found it again. Why would I choose this? Why would anyone?
IT IS A SELFISH DISEASE – but we are not necessarily selfish people. Just as diabetes doesn’t pick certain personality types neither does depression. It attacks equally and without discrimination the kind and the unkind, the selfless and the selfish. Depression, however, creates self-absorption. This is a symptom of the disease beyond our control, regardless of how kind we may be during times of remission. When we are in the midst of an episode of depression we are incapable of seeing outwardly. If we were able to do that we wouldn’t be depressed.
OF COURSE IT’S ALL IN OUR MINDS – that’s where depression resides. “It’s all in your head” is thrown around as if this is a good reason to discount the disease. With these types of statements we are being asked to take control when control is the very thing we are struggling with. By similar logic, this would be like asking someone to turn off the love they have for someone – another emotion that is “all in our heads.”
WE ARE NOT OUR DISEASE – depression is something I have, it is not who I am. The fear of being seen only as our disease is one of the reasons that we keep our illness a secret. I no longer do this. This choice has helped me greatly and I would encourage other people struggling with this disease to take this particular step. We embrace shame when we live it.
WE DESERVE COMPASSION – when blame and shame are removed from this terrible disease, there will be room for compassion, the same kindness that we would give to anyone struck down by an illness beyond their control.
When my daughter was younger, she couldn’t understand why her friend was so afraid of our dog. She thought it was silly and she was angry because it was impacting her play date. I reminded her about her fear of the dark. I explained that she didn’t have to understand her friend’s fear of dogs but that she absolutely could understand fear. She got it. It was one of many discussions about empathy and over the years she would make her own observations about her peers and issues arising from lack of empathy. If a little girl can learn to understand this, then can’t we all? We may not understand exactly what depression feels like, but we have all known suffering in some form and that should, at the very least, make us kind.
Children can so often be cruel as they navigate their place amongst their friends. It is our job, as parents, to teach empathy to our children, the forerunner to peace and all things good – things our world right now is sorely lacking. My sister’s seven-year old is a very sweet and sensitive boy. His empathic perspective is food for thought.
“I had to share what Aden said this morning. We were talking about school lunch and he asked me please not to give him cheese strings anymore. When I asked why – he said Saul is allergic to dairy. I asked if Saul or his teacher had asked that he not bring them and he said no, he just knows he’s allergic. I thought it was very cute. I assured him that Saul is now old enough to know not to eat things he’s allergic to. He said but what if I eat it and then touch him, so I said he could take wet wipes to school.”
Many have tried but not succeeded in understanding emotional intelligence and more specifically, how we can raise it in our kids. The way we work is complex beyond words so words that try and tie EI into a neat package, fail. The best we can do is talk about aspects of EI and we shouldn’t claim to be able to do anything else.
So what do we know? We know that measures of IQ alone cannot accurately predict a person’s success. We know that definitions of success vary greatly between people who talk about it. We know that other factors like kindness, empathy, perseverance and social competence contribute equally, if not more to the prediction of success. We know that people in the field of psychology combine these characteristics in various ways, to define Emotional Intelligence.
However, the complexity of this subject shouldn’t detract from its importance or our efforts to continue to examine each aspect. We simply need to be honest and not “factualize” that which is at best an informed opinion. Many great insights have come from minds not reliant on scientific research but from the wisdom of a life lived. And what’s wrong with that? Must we only focus on that which can be placed neatly into the parameters of the controls required from traditional science? To take this approach in the field of Psychology would leave us sadly lacking and with not much to talk about! So there it is -my preamble to a discussion on perseverance.
“I can’t do it!” Growing up, whenever I spoke these words, the adults in my life would become angry and tell me that “can’t” is not a word that should be in the English dictionary. I hated hearing that but can say with confidence today that I have great perseverance. But here’s the thing. That response was a decree for our entire generation and while I, and many others developed perseverance, there were as many who didn’t. For my children’s generation, we went to the other extreme (a generational rebellion) and helicoptered our children, providing solutions for them at every turn. Some of them developed perseverance and others didn’t. What made the difference?
I’m going to go out on a limb here, with research-less intuition. I think that everyone is born with the ability to develop perseverance. Like all characteristics, however, we all have different starting points. See for yourself. Offer two babies a small challenge, like a toy slightly out of their reach, and observe how long they each persist in trying to get it. Understanding their differences is key to successful parenting. Individual differences must produce tailor-made parenting if we are going to allow our children to reach their potential. I feel pretty certain that I was a persistent baby so regardless of the parenting approach used on me, I was bound to develop perseverance. The challenge then is to help children who need it more and it seems to me that both generations failed in this regard.
We cannot, in any aspect of parenting, adopt a one-size-fits-all approach. A child who struggles with persistence will learn nothing from a scolding and also nothing from a parent who removes the source of her frustration. What we can do is try and see the world from that child’s perspective and help them put words to it. This is called mirroring.
In short, mirroring is when our response allows our child to feel heard. For example, if your child finds drawing a circle difficult and becomes angry, your response may be something like: “You’re trying so hard to make a good circle and it just won’t work the way you want it to! That must be making you feel so mad!!” Be sure to inject the appropriate emotion. Mirroring is different to reflecting, which simply lets your child know that you understand they’re feeling bad. Think of it from an adult perspective. When you’re upset, do you want to be understood or placated?
Mirroring can often feel counter-intuitive, particularly with a very upset child. Our instinct is to calm them with platitudes followed by reassurances or suggestions about looking on the bright side of life. With four kids I’ve tried both approaches, and while the second has made me feel better and, in the moment, my child, the mirroring approach has had far greater, long-lasting results. When children learn to understand what makes them tick, they create a solid foundation from which they can figure out solutions that are specific to them.
The magic of parenting happens when we place more importance on following our child’s lead and less on the latest parenting trend.
I never really thought about my name and didn’t know that anyone did until I was about 11 or 12. It was simply the word that meant someone was addressing me. I neither liked it nor disliked it. So it surprised me the first time a friend shared that she hated her name. I think I would have understood if her name could be easily ridiculed but it wasn’t because of that, it was just a regular name. In university I was friendly with a girl who had legally changed her name from Janet to Diana (pronounced Dee-aana). Knowing this girl quite well, I understood that her name change was less about her hate of the name and much more about her hate of herself and her life. My understanding of the connection between names and emotions grew enormously when my husband and I had to name our first child. Names were immediately discarded if they were existing names of someone we weren’t crazy about, if they were “old-fashioned,” had any potential for being teased or sounded strange with our last name. The task was much greater that I had ever anticipated! After doing this four times I gained some respect for why someone would name her child “Orange.”
What I find more fascinating, are those who would prefer no name. “The artist formally known as Prince” doesn’t count. His name is simply longer now and a pain to get through. However, I recently heard of a girl who has chosen to have no name and is comfortable being referred to as “They,” which, as nameless as that sounds, is now her new name. There seems to be no escape – the need to name and be named.
“Mommy,” “Mom,” or in my daughter’s case, “Mama,” introduced another layer to my name. Despite the universality of these names, when I first heard them, I felt like it was the first time they had ever been spoken. The emotional connection to these names far outweighed any other connections they might have.
When other family babies were born, including my three grandchildren, I was interested in their names but not vested, understanding that I would love whatever name they were given because I would love them. I thought I was done with the whole name thing but I was still to experience one of my most beautiful name events.
When my beloved oldest grandson was born, my son and daughter-in-law asked me what I wanted to be called. I gave it some careful thought because I knew that this would be my name for all my grandchildren, present and future. I settled on “Granny,” and waited. My grandson, now 2 said “Mama,” “Dada,” “Jenky,” (the dog) and even “Grandpa.” I think I drove him crazy asking constantly, “who’s this?” – pointing to myself. I repeated “Granny,” an abnormal number of times, until finally he said, with great clarity – “Gwa-Gwa.” I realized in that moment that the love I had for my grandson meant that he could call me anything as long as he called me something. Gwa-Gwa is my new favourite name.
I remember when my oldest son fell for the first time, bruising his head. I remember it well because it was my first gut-wrenching, hyperventilation-inducing moment of realization that I couldn’t always protect him from harm. My crazy obsessive love for this little boy was not enough to do this. I have spent a huge chunk of my parenting journey feeling anxious, either about something that has happened or about something that might. Some moments were worse than others and born from these times the word “frappachino” was created, to describe the mixture between fright and c**p! In a family like ours, where anxiety is higher than average, it is a word we use frequently. Less “frappachino” but more guilt inducing was when my second son, seven at the time, fell on the soccer field. He wasn’t crazy about the game so when he came crying that his arm hurt and he didn’t want to play, I told him that he would be fine and he had to finish the game. I felt like a good mother actually because I was teaching him perseverance. An x-ray and broken arm later, I felt the opposite.
Three of my four children are grown up now, two with babies of their own. You’d think it would make a difference but it doesn’t. I now fully get my mother’s words “you never stop worrying.” Both older “boys” bought scooters a couple of years back, raising my “what if” anxiety to new levels. I tried everything – even pulled out the guilt card. Ilan, my oldest, who had gone through hell a few years ago, having two back surgeries, said this to me: “Mom, I hear your concerns but this is my decision. After what I’ve been through, I want to live and this makes me happy. Whatever happens, remember that I have chosen to do this, being fully aware of the risks.”
So here’s what I have learned because that’s what parenting does – it teaches you; it changes you. I have learned the obvious; that I have no control over many aspects of my children’s lives no matter how closely I stand behind them. I have learned that I shouldn’t stand too close because it will make them feel smothered and unable to trust in themselves. I have also learned the hardest lesson of all – that my anxiety belongs to me alone and I have no right to give it to my kids or expect that they will feel the same as I do. Deep in my heart, I want my children to feel free and feel able to take risks so that they can reach their full potential in all areas of their lives. I know that my anxiety can be the shackles to this freedom so I consciously choose every day to give my children the gift of my trust, in the hope that they will trust those around them and believe that the universe will always conspire in their favour and not against them, because really what is the point of believing anything else.
Will I continue to worry about my children? Yes, but if I had my time again, would I immediately rush my son off the field to hospital and check for a broken arm? My answer would have to be no because that would mean that I was standing too close. Yes, I have and will continue to miss some things that I would definitely rather not (like broken arms) but the alternative is to create lives for my children that are restrictive and not fully joyful. Knowing this, I will continue to fight my own demons and try my best to keep them off my children’s heads and on my own.
As if becoming a parent for the first time isn’t terrifying enough, we have to sift through too many “dos” and “don’ts” about child rearing, through the fuzzy vision of uncertainty and very often under a cloud of raging hormones and sleep deprivation. Between articles, books and well meaning friends and relatives, we receive advice ranging from “this is the only way” to “don’t listen to anyone, just follow your instincts.” To new parents, either one can feel confusing and frightening. The problem with dogmatic advice is that there is an abundance of it, making much of it contradictory. As for instincts, this can create a different kind of anxiety, as many of us starting out are not even sure that we have them.
As a fifty-six year old mother of four and new grandmother, I am seeing new parenting through the eyes of my son and daughter-in-law. I am reminded of old anxieties, because while strollers have changed, worrying about parenting hasn’t. I have been through more parenting trends than I can remember and I can say with certainty that the only thing that is absolutely certain, is that trends change. You only have to have lived through the variations of how to put babies down to sleep, to know what I mean. So how do new parents filter the information they get from different directions and what and where are these instincts we’re supposed to have?
It is not the plethora of opinions about all things parenting that I object to, it’s the prescriptive delivery of these opinions that irks, because it limits a potentially beautiful experience, with parents very often feeling that they are falling short and sometimes falling apart. I think I became a better parent (and by that I mean more relaxed and self-reliant) with each child because I learnt to look at my child as the most important variable, in collaboration with any advice I was being given. My children became a part of the overall equation and an important part of why I chose to do something (or not to). I developed antennae for phrases that began with “you must” or “you have to.” I also realized over the years that parenting is never about extremes and to be very wary of such advice. I heard recently that parents should never let their child (under the age of two) watch TV. Really? That half-hour of Teletubbies was a lifesaver for me, giving me some brief respite from exhaustion and overwhelm. Did I put them in front of the TV ten hours a day? – Of course not, but that half an hour gave me time to take a breath and be a better parent the rest of the day. This worked for me and I’m not suggesting it’s the answer for all parents but let it be a choice unencumbered by guilt – an emotion detrimental to the parenting process, and to life itself. It is not possible to have a “one size fits all” approach to parenting when children and parents are so different.
Don’t get me wrong, I pay close attention to new ideas and if I was a new parent today, I would put my child to sleep on their back (until new research emerged that told me differently) but I assess how I feel about the megabytes of information and look at how it fits in with my parenting style and my child’s personality.
One of my big problems with the phrase “follow your instincts” as it relates to parenting is that it is used too broadly. I believe that there are some instincts about children that most of us have, usually involving love and protection, however, whether they should know the alphabet by the end of JK is not something we can find in this reservoir. In this regard, I would do away with the word “instinct” altogether and look rather at how you feel about something and how you think it would work for your child. If you’re going to follow anything, follow your child’s lead. Parenting becomes much simpler when you learn how to do this.
Parenting is a relationship, not an education. Parents have to find ways to connect their own unique personalities with that of their child’s, so that they create a loving and harmonious environment – the only place where growth and creativity can flourish.
My advice to new parents would not be to ignore all advice. Talking with friends and learning from the wisdom of experienced parents helped me enormously on my parenting journey. I would simply caution against “know-it-alls” who believe that their way is the only way. They don’t know your child – you do.
So we know that avoiding feelings doesn’t work. That doesn’t mean our kids will stop trying. Who likes feeling bad? We need to really convince them that these uncomfortable feelings are not only impossible to avoid but can also greatly impact their lives in positive ways if they learn to face them and deal with them. This can help them –
MAKE GOOD, WELL ROUNDED DECISIONS: All feelings help your children decide what they like and what they don’t, what they like doing and what they don’t like doing, and who they like and who they don’t. When your child does what feels right for them, they are more likely to do things well and to be happier.
BE PREPARED: Bad things happen to every person. It is part of being human. At some point in your children’s lives, they will experience sadness, frustration, disappointment, and anger. Everyone does. Welcoming these feelings and learning to understand them will prepare them to deal with them better in the future.
BE A KINDER PERSON: When your child understands their feelings they will be able to better understand other people’s feelings. They will develop their empathy. To understand another person’s feelings does not mean you have to have the same experiences as them. You can explain it to your child with this example: “Your friend may be afraid of dogs and you may be afraid of the dark. You are afraid of different things, but the feeling of being afraid is similar.”
GET ALONG WITH OTHERS: When your child learns to understand all their feelings, and subsequently the feelings of others, they will be someone others will want to be with. Good relationships happen when people understand each other’s feelings, the good and the bad.
Our grandson, Zackary Gavin, was born on October 24, 2013. My son and daughter-in-law’s closest yardstick at the time was their seventeen-month-old nephew and so they eagerly anticipated a baby who slept most of the time, could be passed around at whim (whether awake or asleep) and when awake would lie quietly looking around at his new world. Zackary was not exactly like that… not even close. Instead they had to deal with a small (5lb 12oz), hungry baby who cried a lot from the get-go, didn’t sleep for any decent stretch of time, woke easily and had acid reflux to boot. Now, at three months, Zack is still a hungry baby, cries a lot, doesn’t sleep for any decent stretch of time, wakes easily but (at least) takes something for his acid reflux. Without humour in our lives, we can sometimes succumb to despair; hence, our nickname for beautiful, much-loved Zackary, is Zack Attack.
The joy of being a grandmother is enormous and I think my greatest asset is having perspective, born from raising four children and from being wiser and older. When I look at Zack, I see past this transient time and understand that these same characteristics that make him so difficult as a baby, will flower into a person full of life with a capacity for intense love. I see him becoming someone who attacks his existence with vigour and energy. And when I look in his eyes that look so intently back at mine, I see intelligence and a desire to seek answers to life’s great mysteries. To think these things as a grandmother is my prerogative and I make no excuses for them.
I don’t, however, for one second think that my perspective gives me the right to dismiss the anguish of these first time parents, as they struggle with sleep deprivation and not knowing when things will ease up. They need to be this way because it is this perspective that will allow them to get to understand Zack and love him in a way that fits. They feel too often that they are floundering but I see parents who are growing to be experts on their little boy. I remember many times (to many to count) where I felt like I was floundering as a parent. Retrospectively, I understand now that each and every one of those times helped me understand my child a little more and perhaps equally helped me understand myself more. The old joke that parenting doesn’t come with a manual must have been created by a parent who really understood that it couldn’t possibly, and the most successful parents are those who grasp this early on. Just as clothing comes in different sizes, shapes and styles to suit the differences in our bodies, so each parenting experience, with each child, must be tailor made for them.
So if Zack needs to be swaddled tightly and rocked in a quiet, dark room with a white-noise machine (sometimes the kitchen extractor fan will work too) and a pacifier in his mouth, AND loved to distraction by his parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends, then so be it. That’s what Zack needs… that is, until his needs change but that’s a whole other discussion.
To increase our child’s emotional intelligence we must help them develop the emotional literacy or language to explore their experiences.
This learning is a little different from the kind of learning they do in school. Pens and paper are not necessary. When your child learns about herself, she must let her feelings guide her, and because her feelings are unique, this means that her learning will be unique, too. She will be her own teacher. There will be no tests or exams. Measuring her success only requires her to answer, with understanding, the simple question: How do I feel?
A good place to start is to teach your child, by example, to welcome all her feelings.
What does this mean?
When you welcome a feeling, you let it happen. The opposite of welcoming a feeling is pushing that feeling away. Sometimes a child will push a feeling away in a very direct way. For example, if something happens that upsets them, they may say things like, “I shouldn’t feel this,” or, “Stop being a baby!” At other times they push a feeling away by making themselves feel something different. For example, if a friend tells your child that you can’t join a game, they might think something like, “I don’t care,” or, “They’re just dumb!” when you really do care.
Let your child know that everybody has feelings and that it doesn’t matter whether it’s a small feeling or a big, overwhelming feeling, or whether a feeling is good or bad. All feelings should be welcomed for two reasons.
Feelings cannot be ignored. If we try to push them away, they will always come back. It is easier to deal with feelings when they happen.
Feelings, including uncomfortable ones, help us make decisions.
Why do feelings come back if you push them away?
Here is a little experiment that will show you what happens when you avoid thinking about something. You will need to do this in a quiet place.
Close your eyes for a minute. You can set an alarm, or ask someone to time you. During that minute you can think about anything except for one thing. You absolutely may not think about a pink elephant. Go!
Not so easy, is it? It’s almost impossible. Some of you may have thought of nothing else except pink elephants!
Now close your eyes for another minute, only this time you must think only of a green giraffe and nothing else. Go!
How did that feel? Did you manage to only think about a green giraffe? Did you start thinking about other things? Thinking about only one thing gets tiring after a while, doesn’t it?
When you try not to think about something, that thought seems to be all you can think about, which is exactly what you don’t want.
When you give yourself permission to have a thought, you may think about it for a while, but at some point it will feel like it’s enough, and you will focus on other thoughts.
Does the same thing happen with feelings?
Like the pink elephant, feelings don’t like to be ignored. The harder we try to ignore them, the more they worry us. When feelings are pushed away, they hang around waiting for you to notice them and welcome them.
Letting a feeling happen is a lot easier, takes less effort, and will worry us for a less amount of time than trying to avoid it. Pushing a feeling away is hard, takes a lot of effort, and will worry us until we allow the feeling to take its natural course. We are human and humans are made to experience all feelings, good and bad.
Trying to not feel some of them is a waste of time—it is like trying to stop the rain from falling.
My six year old nephew told me that he is “an artist in the making.” He also knows all the colours on the colour wheel and how they mix and relate to each other. He worries about dying and has a greater vocabulary than any other six-year-old I know. However, he’s not reading as well as some other kids in his class and is feeling very bad about himself. It’s become a big worry for him.
This is what I think: The education system needs to give its head a shake. My nephew is thoughtful and smart with much higher than average emotional intelligence. There is something very wrong with a system that allows a child like this to develop self-esteem issues. We all know that he’ll read. I once took my daughter to a reading specialist because she wasn’t reading like she should and this teacher told me something I will never forget. – “I can teach any child to de-code (read). I never concern myself with that – only with how they think.” A few years later my daughter was identified as gifted and some years after that a teacher gave her class a test to see what kind of learners the students were. My daughter stood alone out of a class of 30 as an auditory learner.
My point here is that many children don’t fit the norm (whatever that is) and a system that doesn’t recognize this needs serious revision. I believe some of the greatest philosophers and thinkers in our past would not have fared well in our present school system. My nephew has the potential to do great things with his life and this could well be thwarted by how he is received in grade one. How sad is this?
Should parenting be about negotiation? The answer is yes and no. Much of our parenting direction comes from knowing who we are and what we want. Some of these things are up for discussion and some aren’t and it’s important to know what belongs where. For example, one of my “non-negotiables” was that my kids could never swear at me (they could swear, just not at me or my husband). Bedtimes were negotiable. I don’t care much for routine and I didn’t expect it from my kids. When parents don’t know what belongs where, it can result in unnecessary conflict. When we identify our non-negotiable expectations we are more likely to stick unwaveringly to them and kids sense that. Children push the boundaries when they think there is the tiniest bit of room for things to shift in their favour. They become surprisingly compliant when we really mean business, and that means consistency over time and between both parents (if applicable). It goes without saying that “non-negotiables” must reflect our behavior. You can’t have zero tolerance for swearing if you swear at others yourself. Walk your walk and talk your talk.
To know what’s non-negotiable for you, check in with your feelings. They are usually your best indicator. It can take some practice because we come into parenting with many pre-existing “non-negotiables,” usually from our parents, and often persist with those even when they don’t really belong to us. I was raised to never leave the house un-groomed and it took years of fighting about un-brushed hair and low-lying jeans to realize that I just didn’t care. I transferred this to the negotiable pile and my kids and I were much happier! I learned to ask the question, “Is this important to me or does it need to be examined?”
Ask your child: “What would make you happier than you are right now?”
Let’s look at some possibilities:
If I had more friends.
If I wasn’t bullied.
If my hair was curly.
If my hair was straight.
If I did better in school.
If I made the basketball team.
If there was no global warming.
If I didn’t worry so much.
If I was taller.
If I was skinnier.
If I got a new computer.
If my teacher was nicer to me.
If my parents didn’t bug me to do things.
If my brother stopped teasing me.
If I had a dog.
If I could go to Disney World.
This list can be endless. Of course, what happens in our lives and our children’s lives affects them. However, when we completely depend on things around us to make us happy, we take the risk that we will never be happy.
Let’s not leave our happiness entirely to chance.
How can we change this?
How can we feel happy if we have no friends, or fail a test, or a bully picks on us every day? As impossible as this seems, even at times like these, we have the power to be happier. We have the power within us to change the way we feel. And when we learn to do this, we not only change the way we feel, but very often the way others feel around us and the way others behave toward us.
How do you think your child would answer these questions:
Who are you?
How do you feel?
What do you think about?
What do you like about yourself?
What don’t you like?
What makes you, you?
If the answer is “with difficulty” they are not alone. Through addressing questions like these, our children can learn to focus on their perspective of life. These are the seeds for developing a strong sense of self and self esteem. Children need to believe that how they see the world matters.
When I became a parent for the first time thirty years ago, I was focused on sleeping through the night, first colds, milestones and solid foods. I think it’s just as well that parents don’t get to see the whole journey at once. There may be far less children born if we did.
From the moment my children were born, I did everything in my power to ensure their happiness. For every unhappy situation that arose, I was right there to provide a solution. If they felt anxious about doing something, I would tell them they were wonderful and they could do anything. If they felt unloved by friends, I would make sure they knew how lovable they were. At every turn, I tried to take away their pain because I understood happiness to be the absence of emotional pain. This unrealistic perspective and my inevitable failure to control my children’s happiness left me feeling, on a regular basis, that I was falling short as a parent. I now understand that I was attempting to do the impossible. A person’s feelings belong to him or her, as do the experiences that produce those feelings. My children’s feelings were not mine to have, to face, or to deal with.
This new understanding forced me to recognize that my parenting perspective needed revision. Facing adversity, disappointment, envy, sadness, and fear are natural and inescapable emotional experiences in all our lives. A child not doing well on a test, being rejected by a friend, not being chosen for a team, losing a pet or loved one, or fearing monsters under the bed are all situations that most parents can identify with. At times like these it would feel counterintuitive as a loving parent to withhold comfort, and I’m not suggesting we do. Comfort and love are to parenting as air is to life. I would like to suggest, however, that we add another layer to our parenting realm that I believe can dramatically increase our children’s chances for both a happier childhood and a happier adult life.
Emotional pain exists for similar reasons that physical pain exists. If we heed our physical pain, we learn how to live away from danger and harm. Similarly, emotional pain, if addressed properly, can help us live harmoniously with ourselves and with others. To learn from our emotional pain we must face our feelings, understand them, and ultimately deal with them in healthy and productive ways.
Children who learn to deal with all their feelings, not only the happy ones, do themselves a great service. These are the children who will develop a strong sense of self and will be more able to stand up to bullying, develop leadership qualities, and have the determination and perseverance that will make them more successful in school, in relationships, and in their adult lives.
Here’s a fact. Humans are capable of a full spectrum of feelings. So when we avoid the less comfortable ones or minimize their importance, we in essence understand less of ourselves.
Babies exhibit mostly negative feelings, intuitively understanding that these are the ones that will get the attention they need. Not to distract us from attending to their needs, babies hold back on smiling for four or more weeks. And a cry is not a cry. Parents, in particular mothers, can identify the reason their baby is crying by subtle changes in pitch, intensity etc. almost from birth. Crying can be from physical reasons like hunger, pain or a wet diaper or from emotional reasons like loneliness and needing a hug.
When our baby smiles for the first time, we do everything we can, short of standing on our heads, to get them to smile again. This is the moment when many parents, unintentionally, begin to focus on positive displays of emotion in an effort to keep their baby happy. Now when their baby cries they will do things to make them smile, rather than focus directly on the crying. This change is subtle but important as it sets us on a path where we focus less on negative emotions and more on positive ones. Many might ask, “Why is this a problem?”
There is a generally held belief that when we focus on our child’s negative emotions, we encourage negativity and pessimism. This is simply not true. When we teach our child to accept and deal with a negative emotion we help them understand what they are feeling and why. Children (and adults) need this information to resolve problems and to learn how to deal with similar situations in their future. When children (and adults) identify their negative feelings, face them and deal with them, they will be able to put them aside and embrace their happier emotions. Ignoring, avoiding or minimizing negative feelings, gives them a power that they neither need nor deserve.
When we focus on all of our child’s feelings, we see them as whole, and they will learn to see themselves in this way too. Life provides us with challenges and adversity with high predictability. Our child’s ultimate success and happiness depends not on the challenges that she faces, but on how she faces them. When we teach our child to give negative emotions equal status to their positive counterparts, we raise their emotional intelligence and give them the tools to reach their full potential.
In 1995, Daniel Goleman introduced the idea of emotional intelligence (EQ). Before this, it was widely accepted that a person’s IQ was the sole contributing factor to their intelligence and that it was a genetic given, unable to be changed by life experience. Based on extensive research, Goleman showed how a person’s success in all areas of their life is influenced equally, if not more, by emotional characteristics, which combined make up their emotional intelligence. In addition, he stated that EQ could be taught and raised.
The implications of these findings on education were enormous. Sadly, after almost twenty years, our obsession with our children achieving high grades is greater than ever before, with little integration of what we know about EQ into the success equation. Many parents with very smart kids, still don’t understand why their children don’t do as well as they should in school and in other areas of their lives.
Lets look at a hypothetical situation. If Child A and Child B have equivalent IQs but Child B is able to persevere with a challenging task more easily than child A, who will do better at that task? Child B would be the one that most, if not all would pick and yet somehow teaching children how to be more persevering is not a part of the school curriculum. Perseverance is only one of the traits that research has shown to contribute to a child’s EQ. When combined with other characteristics like good communication skills, strong empathy and high self-esteem, the potential impact of EQ on our child’s success is enormous.
In a perfect world teaching EQ should be a part of the school curriculum, having equal status to subjects like mathematics, language and science. In the absence of this scenario, the question that remains is this: what can we, as parents, do to increase our child’s EQ?
I have some starting suggestions that require little effort from parents other than changing their perspective on the importance of EQ.
Make sure that the ratio of factual learning and social learning is balanced. Much of EQ growth takes place in a social environment. Extra math when your child is doing fine in math is not necessary unless it is something that they really want to do. Playing with friends is equally important.
Don’t over-program your child. Children need time for relaxation, self-reflection and self-discovery. These times are crucial to the healthy development of EQ.
Try to see success in all areas of your child’s life and not only in school. Feel good in the knowledge that academic achievement will benefit from your child’s social and emotional success.
As a mother of four, I understand the pressure that parents feel. We all want our children to have the best lives but sometimes we have to question preexisting beliefs to make that happen.
When my oldest son was about eleven, fear of his mortality hit him like a ton of bricks. I did what I believed any loving parent should or could do. I lay under those bricks with him, barely able to breathe. For weeks my husband and I tried to console him but to very little avail. I would hear his running feet as they charged from his room to ours and my heart would lurch at the anticipation of what lay ahead. The tears streaming down his face would mimic my own internal ones coursing through my veins.
Through the clouded vision of my racing heart, I would tell him that he was too young to worry about death and that it was a long, long way away. I assured him that we too were healthy and would live long lives. In summary, in trying to fix his feelings of anxiety, I lovingly lied.
Unable to cope, we turned to a psychologist for help who, after interviewing my son, my husband and I, told me quite bluntly that my son would be fine but that I had a problem. These words were unwelcome but needed. I understood for the first time that my children were truly separate from me. My son’s demons were not mine to have or deal with. I would like to say that I became a better parent there and then but I didn’t. However, a seed had been planted and slowly my thinking and the way I approached parenting, changed.
Eighteen years later, my daughter faces a similar anxiety but I am happy to say that she is dealing with a different parent. I no longer give placatory untruths but instead allow her to feel what she wants to. Sometimes, she cries for a long time and I give her my time, my love and my arms. With every sob, I feel her strength grow and prepare her to face other adversities that life will most surely provide her.
I let her know that I understand how fearful she is and I sometimes share my own fears and tell her about her brother’s. I don’t take away her feelings as these are the very tools she needs to grow into a healthy adult. When we listen to our feelings, especially the uncomfortable ones, they become our emotional compass. We learn that we can steer our way through life by making our feelings work for us and not against us. When we understand what we feel even in the most adverse situations, we can choose courage, persistence and acceptance over helplessness and its close partner in crime, free-floating anxiety.
When I was a little girl I used to have giggling fits with my sister. These are wonderful memories despite the fact that my father quickly became annoyed with us because we couldn’t stop giggling. And it seemed the more he wanted us to, the less we could.
When I was about 15 I belonged to a youth movement. My reasons for being there were totally social, but the leaders attempted to create a somewhat academic environment. The organization took pride in its focus on deep contemplation of the world. So we were subjected to discussions and debates, which I suffered through to get to the fun stuff.
On one such night, we were all seated in a room waiting for a debate to begin on something. The first speaker stood up. She clearly had taken her task very seriously and hauled out a wad of preparatory notes. She spoke intensely about her “side” and then sat down. We looked expectantly at the young man who was to retaliate. He stood up with a slight smile on his face and had no notes whatsoever. He started to speak but instead began to laugh.
His opponent glared at him and the leaders looked stern but all this response managed to do was to fuel his already fast escalating giggling fit. He doubled over holding his stomach and laughed until the tears poured down his cheeks. I joined him because I couldn’t help myself. When the fit finally died down I think we were both surprised to see that he and I were the only two who found the situation hilariously funny. That was my first real connection with this young man. I have now been married to him for thirty-one years.
There are many reasons I love my husband, but the humour and giggling fits that we have shared over the years form a special glue of connectedness. Our mutual value of laughter has passed to our children. We laugh often and many times uncontrollably. There is no better feeling. It tells me that regardless of what else is going on in my life, the essence of connectedness with those I love most, is there.
“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college she attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
Agreed. In particular, the power of the parent-child connection cannot be underestimated. You cannot get closer to home than this. Freud believed that our personality is mostly formed in the first five years of life. In some sense I believe he was right.
Attitudes, beliefs about ourselves and others, how we feel and how we think are powerfully formed in those first years. Ideas introduced in childhood are learned easily and form the foundations on which all other ideas are built. Healthy attitudes seeded in childhood become powerful lifelong habits. This is not to say that we can’t change throughout our lives. I believe we can but not with the same ease that we can learn things right from the start. It is like a golfer who has played for twenty years with a poor swing. He can correct it but it will take great determination and an extraordinary amount of time to do so.
Parenting doesn’t come with a handbook because it can’t. Each parenting experience depends on the individual needs of the child, the unique wholeness of the parent and the way the two interact and gel. So how do we make sure that we start our child out right?
Parenting is as complex as we are, multiplied by two. However, our child’s complexity is exactly where we need to focus. Value your child’s uniqueness. The most successful children are those who are allowed to be true to themselves, and are valued for this. When a child feels he has disappointed his parents, the resulting destruction to their self esteem can be enormous. Often parents realize after the damage is done that the disappointment they feel belongs to them and has never been about their child.
How can we steer clear of this parenting pitfall? I have a few ideas that may help.
Ask yourself the question: How much of this expectation belongs to me? Is this something I wished I had done?
When ask your child the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” don’t offer suggestions.
Create habitual thoughts like: My child has her own journey to travel. He or she is not me.
See your child as interesting and someone that you have to get to know.
Don’t let ego get in the way. If you allow it, you can learn from your child.
Don’t overly stress. We all, with no exceptions, make parenting mistakes. When love is at the core of parenting, mistakes are less earth-shattering, can be rectified and can be a lesson to both you and your child.
My eldest son became a father, which makes me a grandmother. Before this, people said, “Wait until you become a grandmother. There are no words to describe it.” Well now that I can speak from the other side of the fence, I am going to try and find some words.
I remember as a kid running relay races. I never quite got their purpose because it seemed like I was trying to pass a baton to someone who was running away from me. For me, parenting has been a bit like that – trying to pass on the wisdom for fulfillment with the persistent sense that I wasn’t quite there.
When I left my son for the first time at preschool, I remember feeling that I had relinquished some invisible hold. I pushed him gently with the baton held firmly in my hand. We had left a place to which there was no return. When he turned sixteen, he refused to give his high school permission to call home if he skipped a class. This time it was his hand that reached back for the baton. When he left for university and then got married I felt that I had finally let go but it wasn’t until my grandson was born that the baton was in my son’s hand facing forward toward his own child.
The love I feel for my grandchild is light and joyful, unweighted by the parental burden of responsibility and unhampered by the kind of worry and anxiety that I feel with my own children. When I’m with my grandson, I think less about his future and more about his present. I can stare at his face, and watch his expressions change for a ridiculous amount of time. I kiss his head constantly because it’s kissable. I love him as much whether he’s crying, smiling or sleeping.
I’m sure there will be times that I will worry about him, but not as much as his mom and dad will. I believe I will be calm and grandmotherly, not through trying, but because that’s the way I will feel.
I have planted and sowed. It’s my time to reap. The baton has been passed.
Bullying saddens me. With four children, the subject has been the focus of my attention many times over the past twenty-nine years. I have had to deal with bullying in the school, in the neighbourhood and as they got older, bullying in the workplace. When I watched the YouTube video of Karen Klein being bullied by a group of grade seven boys, I was both saddened and horrified. I suppose there are no rules about the direction that bullying can take.
I felt more distressed as I began reading the comments posted on this viral video. They included anger at the situation, anger at the boys, anger at the parents, wanting the boys to suffer for their crime and even wanting them to die. There were also those who used this as a platform for their own hatred and prejudices by commenting on the presumed ethnicity of the boys. And finally, there were those who felt that what had happened would and could never happen to them.
I don’t believe that this is a simple problem involving these boys, their parents and Karen Klein. I’m not saying the boys should not be held accountable for their actions and take responsibility for them. They should. Nor am I saying that their parents should not be doing some soul searching. They should. I’m saying that the problem extends further.
Responsibility also lies with those who respond to this situation with hatred, perhaps because deep inside of them they know that given the right circumstances they could do the same. Responsibility also lies with those who react with piety because it makes them feel better about themselves. Responsibility also lies with those parents who firmly believe that this could never happen with their children. This naivety is the fuel for ongoing bullying.
Responsibility also lies with those who feel good about themselves for being a part of a “non-bullying” campaign in schools but don’t realize that a campaign like this only works if the schools are vigilant and proactive because children bully in secret. Responsibility lies with those parents who teach their children to stay away from trouble and turn the other cheek. You are responsible. I am responsible.
There are only two questions that we should ask about this situation. What do I do to perpetuate this? What can I do to make it better?
There are two places where our children learn humanity – at home and at school.
Walk into a book store and look at the parenting section. There are a huge number of books to choose from. This is reflective of the many parents wanting to do better. There are many resources for parents and many parents who are enlightened regarding bullying and how to teach their children to not bully and to not become bullies.
However, from the age of three, in many cases, we entrust our children, for a large part of their lives, to schooling and many of us assume that schools are doing it right. But are they? Teachers can barely cope with getting through the curriculum of academic subjects. With the competitiveness between schools to perform, any spare time that they might have is spent aiming for higher academic achievement. It is no wonder that there is no room for educating our children in empathy, peer pressure, bullying or crowd mentality.
We no longer question the content within the curriculum of our schools for fear of being left behind. For many parents, the academic school curriculum is not enough. Their children spend time after their school day at extra “something” to put them further ahead. I think we should question this education model. I would rather my child know less about chemical compositions and more about being a decent human being. With all the research that has been done in the past few years on emotional intelligence we now know it can be taught and more importantly, children with higher emotional intelligence are more likely to be successful in all areas of their lives.
Why can’t all of this be it’s own subject at school? Let’s call it “Humanology.” In this class we can teach children to be empathic, rather than dealing with the fallout of bullying. We can teach them perseverance instead of punishing them for not working hard enough. We can teach them self-awareness, self-regulation and motivation. We can teach them that it is not our relationship with computers and books but with people that determines our success.
Our children rely on us to teach them, show them by example and let them know what they should focus on. Bullying is everyone’s problem. I’m sorry Karen Klein.
When a baby is born, there is a moment when everyone in the delivery room holds a collective breath, which is released at the first cry. We respond to this with relief and joy. This cry sets the tone for many weeks to come! While we sometimes feel frustrated when we hear it because we can’t figure out a problem, or exhausted from lack of sleep, we are always completely accepting that crying is simply something babies do. It is almost their only way of communicating that they need us do do something for them. Sometimes the cry is a tired cry and we know to rock them. Sometimes it’s a hungry one and we know to feed them. If we leave them too long the cry can become an angry one and we smile at the cuteness of it.
At around six weeks, babies smile for the first time. There is once again great excitement. We do everything short of stand on our heads to elicit this wonderful curve of their mouths. They still cry but now we have another goal, another solution – we aim for the smile. All things being equal, life progresses. They laugh, they throw tantrums and finally they learn to talk. I sometime wonder whether talking, meant to be the ultimate in communication, diminishes it. When babies begin talking, we finally have the tools to instruct rather than respond. We can now say things like, “you’re okay,” “it’s not necessary to cry,” or even “that’s enough.” We no longer find it necessary to pay close attention to our baby’s non-verbal cues and interpret what they want. We expect them to tell us. “Stop crying and tell me what’s wrong,” we say.
Now, I’m not suggesting that we cry our way through life but I do think we all need to hold on to and value the uncomfortable feelings that we have. If we give them our full attention, they can help us understand ourselves and then make decisions about our lives. Very often we learn more from our uncomfortable feelings than our comfortable ones. It’s a natural human tendency to want to avoid difficult feelings so we have to view embracing them the same way that we look at workouts and healthy eating. We would rather not but the end justifies the means! We should remember that in the beginning we love and value our baby’s cry, for what it tells us and simply for the fact that it exists as a part of their humanness.
So here goes. I’m going to share something from my stash of stuff never seen and never to be seen by others. Famous last words. So to my 12 fans out there, here it is. This includes me (to bulk up the numbers), my husband (because he loves me), my sons (because I send them a direct link and then ask them later if they’ve read it), my sisters (because they love me and I send them the direct link) and finally 4 loyal friends for all of the same reasons listed before.
A Writer’s Tragedy
They form like the bubbles in a hot spring
propelled by mystical energy
filled with excitement of possibility
they race to the surface and explode, releasing
inside, outside, everywhere, all at once
“Here we are!”
their wordless cry
announcing existence boldly
then like good little soldiers
these words gather round
consumed with direction and purpose
they grasp and hold
disappearing into collective rationality
why do you run?
I want you so badly
we cannot be caught
they scream in pure glee
we are wise
Now the words do what words always have.
They organize, add grammar, semi-colons; stops.
And sadly in doing so, the best of it
Beyond our control,
we have no other choice.
Even cliché’s must have a voice.
This burden we carry
This challenge we take
This compromise we make
Whether we like it or not, our experiences change. It’s an inevitable product of life. Sometimes these changes require very little of us. For example, noticing a colour of a rose that we haven’t seen before means that we have to expand our knowledge of roses to now include that colour. Some changes, however, demand much more from us. These are changes that affect many aspects of our emotional lives. Take a person who has never had to cope with anxiety but at the age of thirty, has a panic attack. This often causes chaos resulting in emotions such as confusion, denial, helplessness, anger and depression. This is because it is not simply the anxiety that this person must now deal with. Their entire belief system, conscious or unconscious, is placed in upheaval and must be re-organized to accommodate this new experience. This is complicated further by the existence in many cases of opposing beliefs. For example, it is common for someone who has never experienced anxiety to have formed a belief about themselves to include a “that could never happen to me” statement or worse, “people with anxiety are weak.” That many of these pre-existing beliefs are unconscious, does not help matters. When beliefs about ourselves oppose our experience, havoc occurs. The key to dealing with anxiety or any other uncomfortable emotion is acceptance. This acceptance has to be from the inside out, from the very core of who be believe we are. Acceptance requires that we change the beliefs that counter our ability to accommodate a new reality. This process can often begin with a question different from the one we are already asking. “Why is this happening to me?” must be replaced with: “What do I believe about this that prevents me from accepting it?” Don’t confuse acceptance with complacency. As unintuitive as it seems, these two are conversely correlated. When we are in a state of non-acceptance, all our energy and focus is on keeping our experience in a negative holding-pattern. This is complacency. Acceptance frees us to focus on moving forward, a place much more likely to house resolution for any state of mind that we happen to be in.
Six months ago my son’s father-in-law suffered a massive heart attack requiring emergency intervention and four stents. Feeling short of breath a few weeks ago, he visited his Cardiologist and, within three days, had an urgent quadruple bypass. This man has a zest for life that I have personally never seen in another person. I happened to be with him and his family the night before surgery when his surgeon paid him a visit.
“When can I get back to work,” was the only question that my son’s father-in-law asked the surgeon.
The surgeon replied with a smile, “Many people take months; sometimes six months or more. You will be ready in four weeks.” We all laughed at the surgeon’s astute assessment of my son’s father-in-law.
I did the math. If a positive attitude can make that much difference to healing after major surgery, then the emphasis generally placed on emotion in medicine, is sadly lacking.
Some would say that when it comes to mental illness, we have come out of the dark ages. I would rephrase this and say: When it comes to mental illness, those suffering have begun to emerge from the dark ages. Speaking from my personal experience, and having suffered with depression and anxiety for most of my life, I now, at 54, am comfortable with who I am. The vast majority of people, and I include those that suffer and those that don’t, remain prisoners or gatekeepers. Either way, mental illness, or as I like to call it, humanness, remains compartmentalized within medicine.
My oldest son herniated a disc in his lower back three years ago. He had an MRI and a report was sent to his family doctor, stating that his herniation was mild to moderate. His doctor sent him for physiotherapy and when this didn’t alleviate the pain after some months, gave him painkillers and sent him for a series of nerve blocks. After eight months of suffering, both physically and mentally, his doctor became frustrated with my son and told him that he shouldn’t be feeling this much pain based on his MRI report and that he believed that the next step would be for my son to see a psychiatrist. My son felt helpless and desperate. A radiologist friend, who had himself suffered with chronic pain for years, decided to look at the original MRI. His conclusion was that the herniation was severe and that the nerve block that my son was receiving could not possibly reach my son’s problem area. My son had surgery and is doing well.
I tell this story for two reasons. Firstly, to demonstrate the either/or approach and the resulting separation of the physical and mental. Secondly, my son’s suffering was increased tremendously because of the lack of kindness and understanding that he received from his family doctor. My son wanted to feel understood and heard. He needed empathy.
Empathy is understanding how someone else feels and being able to put yourself in their shoes. Receiving empathy validates a person’s feelings and helps them feel understood and less alone. Empathy alone can diminish feelings of anxiety, fear or depression. You don’t have to have the same experience as someone else to have empathy. I explained it to my 12 year old daughter,who did not understand her friend’s fear of dogs, like this: “You love dogs so you can’t understand why someone would feel terrified. Are you afraid of something?” Of course the answer was yes. “Don’t look at what your friend is afraid of. Simply understand that she’s afraid. Think of your own fear to help you do this.”
Empathy in doctors is essential to effective medicine. It is not something that doctors should bring into play when they feel that a problem has become weighted on the side of mental illness. It must be in place during every interaction between a doctor and a patient. The absence of empathy makes doctors both less humane and less human. While the physical and emotional may be weighted differently in people, they are always integrally connected. To separate the two would be like severing your legs and believing that they could walk on their own. I find it so interesting that most of us understand that in everyday life, empathy is key. Our personal and professional relationships depend upon it. Why then does this knowledge not reflect the approach of many doctors? Could the fault lie in their training? Perhaps if they were giving the tools to incorporate their feelings and the feelings of their patients into their practice as doctors, things may be different. Without specific training in empathy, and appreciating the importance of emotions in healing, it is understandable why doctors would shy away from empathizing with their patients. No other profession carries the burdens that medicine does. Mistakes matter. Why would a doctor, even those with natural empathy, focus on anything other than what they have been trained to do? The consequences are too enormous.
The medical profession has assumed for too long that doctors will show empathy in their practice of medicine. It seems that there is a breakdown between this assumption and its translation into practice. The time taken to train doctors in empathy should reflect the value of empathy to a doctor’s ultimate goal – healing.
My final comment comes from a place of hope. My son was accepted this year into the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University. He began his year with some trepidation. He knew the school did not follow a traditional approach to medicine and was uncertain what to expect. He has enjoyed every moment but I believe of all the things that he has been exposed to thus far, the thing that has spoken directly to the heart of him, has been their human approach to medicine. The school’s emphasis on empathy, kindness and understanding in their future doctors define’s their difference from other schools. Hopefully this school will pioneer schools throughout the world. Hats off to them.
Many eons ago I dragged myself through a master’s degree in clinical psychology. There were six of us in the program and no one was happy. We were all at various stages of questioning our lives. For some of us it was life in general and it’s purpose and for others it was the ability to function in any way, shape or form going forward. Our times together were filled with intense, anxiety ridden and often frantic discussion. Life, from a depressed point of view seemed normal. Seemingly happy people made us feel jealous, which of course we covered up with a big dose of cynicism.
One day one of the six did not show up for class. (let’s call him Bill) After a couple of days, his closest friend (also in the program) swung by his apartment to investigate. He found him unbathed, unfed and suicidal. This friend stayed with him, day and night, for three days, while we all waited in silence born from the most extreme kind of worry. Finally, the feedback we received was that Bill was going to be okay. Bill had chosen life. At the time I joined my friends in relieved chatter, faking that I understood what “choosing life” actually meant. I had suffered with depression from the age of thirteen but even in my darkest moments, I had not contemplated suicide. I was doing my masters in psychology. How could I let anyone know that I didn’t quite grasp the depth of this experience?
More than three decades later I think I understand. All those years ago I thought that somehow I had to “choose life” when I had already chosen it. The human experience is so complicated and at some point I had bought the belief that for me, suicide was not an option. It could have been something I heard or simply the fact that my anxiety about dying was always greater than my possible desire for it. For some though, like my friend, it has to be a conscious decision. If you belong to the human race, life is hard. I am no longer conned into believing that life is a piece of cake for some people. I know that if I was given the opportunity to dig deeper that the icing on any person’s cake would be covering some form of angst. When I look for mental health in another person, I don’t look for the presence or absence of anxiety, depression or even psychosis, but instead I look at their attitude towards life and openness to change. Our successful recovery from despair correlates to commitment to life and conversely to our belief that suicide is not an option.
When the possibility of suicide is removed from our belief system, we are able to resolve issues more positively and with greater strength. The idea that suicide could be a solution can immobilize one from moving forward even if the actuality of suicide never occurs. For some people thoughts of suicide are almost comforting and give them a reason for genuine apathy towards their lives. Finding ways to overcome despair, depression or anxiety is extremely difficult and often requires that we dig deep to find resources that seem at times to not be present. If we have not chosen at some point, with total commitment, to live, then I can understand why overcoming these hardships can be impossible.
Choosing life must be at the very core of a person’s existence. Only from that point can one hope to attain a life of personal fulfilment and peace.
Has anyone noticed how parenting ideas swing back and forth over the generations, but when we’re in it, we somehow fail to recognize this fact? Take independence for example. In my grandparents’ day, children of five were expected to pull their weight with responsibilities that would make us gasp today. The generation after that seemed to mollycoddle their young. My mother was brought, daily, a hot lunch to school. I grew up thinking that parenting meant taking care of children as much as possible, for as long as possible. But of course, the trend has transitioned during my parenting lifetime. Terms like “helicopter parents” are thrown out smirkily by those who feel that they are raising their children to be strong independent human beings, while the rest of us feel a little guilty every time we edit our child’s essay or do their laundry, but we do it anyway.
I feel like taking a stand on this. Is independence really so wonderful? Don’t we also, at the same time, value our children’s ability to be in touch with their emotions and their capacity to connect with others? I believe that a certain amount of dependence is natural and necessary in all of us. In our world today, it scares me to think how easy it is for any of us to become lost in cyberspace, connecting with others by BBM, Facebook or email. In relation to this dependence, is not our hovering over our children at least of the human kind?
I think that a lot of people believe that children who are overly dependent on their parents/families will achieve less, think less critically and have less successful relationships. Is this really true? Speaking personally, and as a definite “helicopter parent,” I can say with conviction, that my children, at least, have proved this premise wrong. From my perspective, the only thing that has resulted from “dependence” has been family cohesiveness, a sense of security and an overall happiness with what we all share.
I believe in moderation. I’m not suggesting that I want to live my children’s lives for them, but I will continue to, happily and guilt-free, take their outstretched arms when they are offered.
Yikes! Has it been this long since I blogged?! With four children, my husband (sometimes as demanding!), a dog and a guinea pig, I find I am constantly putting off my stuff. I was determined to blog, meditate and work on my book today but once again I had to reorganize my plans to make room for Dustin’s essay which needs to be edited before tomorrow! So I chose blogging and sigh a little as the other two are put off until tomorrow (hopefully). Enough whining! I have and hour and fifteen minutes to finish this and the essay before I leave to pick up my nephews for our weekly play date. I’m taking my baby nephew for the first time today so I’m pretty excited.
About a month ago I was going to full up with gas knowing full well that I had let the gauge dip dangerously low. “So what’s new?” said my son. Anyway, with the gas station in clear view my car putted to an embarrassing halt, not giving two hoots that we were almost there. I rocked back and forth, begging, “Come on, a hundred meters. That’s all I’m asking of you!” It wasn’t going to happen. Of course this had to happen during peak traffic so within a minute I had a line of cars behind me even though I had put my hazard lights on. I heard a couple of honks and felt my menopausal hot flush kick in.
It was at this moment that a truck with gardening equipment pulled up alongside me and the driver gestured, “what’s up?”
I responded, also with gestures and a tad aggressively (and to my shame now), “I’m stuck! What do you expect me to do about it!” With that, the guy pulled up in front of me, stopped his truck and got out. As he was walking towards me, my initial reaction turned to major embarrassment as he asked me what was wrong. “I’ve run out of gas.” I replied, wanting to climb under my chair. Without a word, he went to his vehicle, grabbed a container full of gas, walked to my car and asked me if I wouldn’t mind popping the lid to the gas. I did, (not minding at all) and he emptied his can into my car. By this time I had managed to form the words to thank him profusely and of course offer to pay for the gas. “Don’t worry, my pleasure.” he replied, and simply walked off. He had no sign on his truck so I had no way of even knowing who he was.
I’ve run out of gas before (maybe more than once) and it is a royal inconvenience. This entire “pit stop” took no more than 5 minutes.
One of the delights of children is that they say it like it is. As an adult, before kids, I thought I had a good handle on my life and a fairly accurate understanding of human functioning. What I had was a story of how I believed things should be. There were right ways to behave and think and these had been filed away in that part of me that thought that there was no need for further examination. It served a purpose. To constantly question everything you believe can drive you crazy. So, apart from the obvious, I think that one of the reasons we have children is to re-question the unquestioned. And to point out our inconsistencies. And to make us practice what we preach.
I had (rather piously) brought my kids up to be true to themselves. What I actually meant was to be true unless it conflicts with what I think you should be doing. One of my sons doesn’t spend his life worrying about how he comes across to people, like I do. For many years this was a problem for me. One day, once again, I was telling him that he should have behaved differently to someone who in fact had treated him critically and judgmentally. I found myself saying “two wrongs don’t….” I don’t remember his exact words but they went something like this. “Mom, I’m not going to do something just because you want me to. I am being who I am and truthfully, I’m OK with it. I know some people will not like me but I can live with that.” His words that day had a huge impact on me. I realized that being true to one’s self doesn’t always make friends but if my son had the guts to live his life like this then good luck to him. I felt, acutely, my own limitations from being a well-established people pleaser and just a tad envious.
There have been many times over the years that my children have unintentionally questioned my integrity. One called me out once because I was being mean about someone. He said that it was to make me feel better about my life because it wasn’t serving any other purpose. Another, because of the unbelievable way that he accepts his anxiety disorder, has made it so much easier to accept my own.
A couple of weeks ago, I arrived to pick up my daughter from school about 30 seconds late. She suffers from anxiety and in particular, in this instance, a fear of being forgotten at school (not that it’s ever happened). I always make an effort to be waiting for her at the door so that she can see me as she’s packing her backpack. I was not without some anxiety because I was a tad late and broke into a run as I tried to make up lost time. Unfortunately, as I rounded the last turn before I reached her door, she had walked out and was looking around, visibly anxious. “Gabs!” I called.
She ran to me. “Why are you late?” she asked. “I was freaking out!”
I had spent some years telling my daughter to acknowledge and accept her feelings. I also understood anxiety and how overwhelming and irrational it can feel, so of course I replied, in a less than kind voice: “But Gabs, you saw me one second after you walked out the door!”
“Mom, it only takes me a second to freak out.” she said.
For a long time now I have understood that I am not one whole person but rather a sum of many. I’ve learned to listen to my inner voices and to recognize who’s making the most noise. I know how to take my “prophet of doom,” or as I fondly call him, my “grim reaper,” and send him to positivity school for the day. I’m also adept at conversing with Mrs. critical and even sometimes emerging strong from the interaction. From necessity, I have added to my existing group by creating my kind and nurturing Aunt to take care of everyone and make sure that they exist in a somewhat peaceful cohabitation. You get the picture?
It struck me the other day that I could have fun with this and help myself to boot! So I created a new part who I’ve named OMG (Don’t let it be said that I don’t move with the times). I am more than willing to share this person with all those who feel, at times, unappreciated. Let me explain by example: I’ve dropped my daughter at school, done a quick shop at the grocery store and filled up with gas. I arrive home with the groceries and unpack. I quickly check my emails and get in a 30 minute run on the treadmill. I write a blog and work for an hour on my book. I realize the time and rush out to pick up my daughter from school and take her to the orthodontist, and then to dance. Grabbing odd minutes during the day, I’ve also edited one of my son’s essays and dropped off a shirt to be mended at the cleaners. Did I mention showering? When my family waltz in one at a time at the end of the day, I very often hear, “I’m exhausted, what’s for dinner?” or “There’s no food in the house!” or “Can you massage my neck.” It is at this point that my OMG person springs to life.
“What! You did what today??” That’s not even possible for a single human to achieve! You must be a super-woman, super-mom and super-wife!! OMG, I am so impressed by your amazing achievements!! OMG!! You’re incredible!!! (The use of multiple exclamations is recommended)
Forms! I hate them! My husband cannot understand my reticence to fill out forms. I’ve never really understood it until recently. While I have only called myself a “writer” in recent years, I think I have always thought like one. I’ve never been one to put into written words, thoughtless material. I contemplate and often agonize. This is not to say that everything I write is a gem. Far from it, but it is thoughtful. So filling out forms, which often requires doing them there and then, drives me crazy. I particularly hate the occupation question and I think I know why. It would be easy to say “writer” but is that my primary occupation? No, it is not. I have figured this out by assessing situations when I have a choice. For example, when I sit down to write and I get a call from my son asking me to edit an essay, I put the writing aside and edit the essay. This also happens with school shopping, meal making, dance schlepping, wedding venue searching, backgammon playing, hugging and talking, to mention a few off the top of my head. So if I always choose the demands, requests and needs of my children over my writing then I guess my primary occupation is “Mom.” At least I know how to fill in that part of the form now!
After 4 days of bat terror, we finally felt safe and convinced that said bat had left the premises. Last night during America’s got talent, right in the middle of a particularly high rendition of operatic singing, the black terror of the night appeared (from nowhere), sending Russ and I under the covers and Adam screaming from the room in a pitch to further incite the bat! Said bat now escapes our room to the rest of the house. Once again Adam and Dustin swat viciously, missing by miles due mainly to their own terror. So, once again we lost the bat!!!! No pest company will come because they said that it’s like finding a needle in a haystack. And now we’ve been advised to either catch it somehow and check it for rabies or go for rabies injections because people often do not even feel bat bites if they’re sleeping! My usual amount of barely manageable free-floating anxiety has reached new heights. Any advice or help (preferably physical) would be greatly appreciated! (possibly even to the end of my days)
Usually, when I sit down to write something, I have been inspired to do so. Today, not so. My son is going in tomorrow for a second back surgery. Since the last one some five months ago, he has not been pain free. However, a few weeks ago his bearable pain crossed the line into unbearable. Convinced he had re-herniated he managed to get a quick MRI (thanks Pete) and a quick appointment with his Ortho surgeon. He was right and very luckily his surgeon agreed to perform surgery almost immediately.
We grow and learn from suffering. Period. So what lessons have we all learned so far through this painful experience.
My son has learned who his “bad time” friends are. They know who they are. He has learned just how much his family loves him. He has also learned that he truly has a wonderful wife with incredible patience and understanding. He has learned that he can bear things that he would have previously thought unbearable. We have all learned that people who understand pain are more compassionate. We have learned that those who don’t understand will often diminish the experience of others so that they might feel better about their own helplessness. We have all learned that the most dangerous people are those who believe that they know everything. This kind of arrogance creates the greatest weakness in human beings.
My husband and I have sadly learned that the professions that we believed to be the most caring are the ones where we sometimes find the least. We have learned to advocate. We have learned to stand strong from a weakened state. We have learned that we can’t fix all of our children’s pain but that we can do our best to hear them. We have learned to take one day at a time. We have learned that even with our history of people pleasing, we have limits. We have learned that our son’s happiness and our loyalty to that is more important than any social embarrassment that we may ever feel.
With experience, I do not see things more simply but realize that they are more complex than we can grasp. My growth as a human being is often more about understanding what things aren’t rather than what they are. For example, I choose a more holistic approach towards my body because I realize that no single discipline can explain it all. So yes, I am that “go to” person if you want to be put in contact with an Acupuncturist, Homeopath, Naturopath, Nutritionist, Psychologist or Chinese doctor or if you want to know about various forms of meditation – traditional or alternative. I believe that when I visit my doctor (because of course western medicine has a place in the scheme of everything), I have the right to be a part of the process. So when I stepped on a rusty nail the other day and paid a visit to the doctor’s office for a tetanus update, I was horrified to read a sign that read: PLEASE LIMIT YOUR COMPLAINTS TO ONE PER VISIT. Wow, just how far have we not come! Aren’t doctors themselves trained to view many symptoms in order to make a diagnosis. How do I know that the pain in my left toe is not related to the nausea that I feel. I simply don’t understand this policy. Can anyone? Have I misunderstood something? I feel, sadly, that this is more a sign of the general state of medicine in Canada and overworked (and underpaid) general practitioners than a reflection of the attitudes of doctors who have worked long and hard to understand their patients as whole human beings.
My father-in-law recently died. I will miss him and wish him happiness and fulfilment in his journey ahead. Pa, as he was fondly known, was not highly educated in the traditional sense but he was a student of life. He taught a love of family because he loved his so much. He taught laughter because he understood the subtlety of humour. He taught a love of animals by showing how different and beautiful that love can be. He was unconcerned with what “others” thought of him but very concerned with what we, his family, did. He often told my children things that made me cringe at the inappropriateness of them. But he knew something because all his grandchildren loved him for that. He appreciated our love and attention and never focussed on our lack of it. (Unless we forgot to kiss him hello. Now that was trouble!) Personally, I always felt he understood me without needing explanations. When my father died 24 years ago I remember that Pa felt like a solid person next to me. He was the first person I called when I crashed my car into a stationary one on a rainy night. He always gave me the benefit of the doubt and saw my good intentions even when I made mistakes. We had a connection, him and I, that is built on years of that kind of unconditional love. Thank you Pa. XX
My oldest son, Ilan and my niece Tamryn spoke at his funeral. Their words were heartfelt and I believe their grandfather would have appreciated them greatly. In essence they were both saying something similar. How did he make his mark in this world? It is not so much about the things that he did but how he affected the lives of those those around him. The passing on of values and how we treat our family and fellow humans is our true legacy, is it not?
Yesterday, Gabi and I were watching a slide show of photos taken about a year ago, with my 3 year old nephew, Aden. Gabi was amazed and then concerned that Aden did not remember the events (in this case, a zoo) depicted by the pictures. Later she expressed that it seemed a waste to take young kids to anything because they didn’t remember them. Our conversation went as follows:
Me: Aden loves Polar bears, right?
Me: Well, he saw Polar bears at that zoo for the first time. And then perhaps a couple of months later he saw a picture of a polar bear and that sparked his interest. At that time he probably related that to the one he saw at the zoo. Maybe 6 months later he saw another polar bear and became very excited even though he didn’t remember the other ones. Memories build on each other like that. All experiences are important even though we may not remember all of them.
Gabi: Yes! And sometimes photos remind us of things and we think we remember them even when we don’t.
Me: That’s the purpose of photos.
Gabi: And sometimes people remind you. Like I think I remember when Dani pulled my arm and dislocated it (sorry Dan, she’ll never let you live this one down) but I don’t think I do. I just think people have told me the story so much that I think I remember it.
Me: Yip. You’re right.
So while Aden may not “remember” Pa, he may remember my ingrained game of bouncing him on my knees chanting “dumpie, dumpie.” Thanks Pa.
We lit fireworks last night and they were a tad pathetic. I am undertaking to improve our choosing techniques for next time. A little internet research, perhaps? Gabi took the whole thing personally because she had helped choose them and of course her brothers were very vociferous about their feelings. I tried intervening but it was received with confusion. “But she didn’t make them?” True. Another undertaking is to build my daughter’s resilience and teach her what she is and isn’t responsible for. On a bright note they were perfect fireworks for my nephew, Aden, to break his teeth on. Their tameness for us appeared to be borderline scary for him but just enough for him to feel oh so very brave!
The week ahead is going to be hectic in a great way. My youngest sister is getting married in our garden and my sisters from Israel and California are flying in for the occasion. All five sisters together – what a treat. Also making the trip are my three nephews, a wife and an almost wife. It’s going to be great family time. Beds to prepare. Must fly!
The school office is a scary place for most kids. Here’s a conversation I had with Gabi yesterday:
“Our lunch ladies are so mean!” she said.
“Why?” I asked.
“They were teasing this girl I know and calling her fat and chubby and laughing,” she replied
“What?! These are grown-ups, right?” I asked.
“Yes. I asked my friend if she liked what they were saying and she said no but that it was ok. So I told them to stop because my friend didn’t want them to say that.” Gabi explained.
“What did they say?” I asked. – These were adults?!
“They said that my friend knew that they were joking and did I want to go to the office with them?” my daughter replied.
“What did you say?”
“I said sorry and walked away. That made me scared.”
I was very proud of Gabi and told her so. She clearly felt that she had failed her friend and I explained to her that she had done something that most people wouldn’t have done. We had a big discussion about the office and why she felt it was a scary place. She said that the office was a place you went to when you had done something wrong. I replied that while that was true sometimes that it was also a place to go to for protection or help. She didn’t look convinced. And here’s another problem. She does not want me to “deal” with anything and I have to respect her wishes if I want her to continue to feel comfortable sharing with me. Any suggestions anyone?
The last few months have seen me running next to life and barely managing to keep up. I am in the process of realizing that unless I make time to do the things in my master plan, I may never get around to them. Russ and I spent a week in Mexico doing just about nothing. Our biggest decision was what we were going to eat for dinner. But… I had time to write (part of my master plan) so that was good. It’s not about making decisions and then sticking to them. Experience of life is dynamic so we have to constantly check our progress and where we are. It is so easy, as I have discovered many times, to slip into a rut of existence. Weeks, months and sometimes years pass and we realize that we haven’t got to that one thing that will bring us happiness and fulfilment. Why are we sometimes so sabotaging in nature? I think it’s partly because we live in a “too much” world right now. We may have only lived to 40 in the 18th century but we probably got more done! But a think a part of it is that we are also emotionally lazy. Anything great and worth pursuing takes effort and procrastination becomes our greatest accomplice. OK, that’s my pep talk to myself!
The key to growing is believing that you always have room to grow. It’s strange to me that people often believe the opposite, limiting their growth. Comments like, “I’m too old to change” or “I’m set in my ways” are just sad. How can any of us have the presumption to believe that we can possibly know all there is to know in 80 or so years. Change is hard. I get that. It is comfortable to stay in the known and transition from one state to another can feel very uneasy but let’s face it, nothing worth having is easy. Children provide us often with the most unimagined rewards but getting to that point requires hard work, exhaustion and sometimes despair. Do any of us sail through relationships, careers? But it has to be worth the effort. We have to keep our goals in mind and refuse to settle. We have to work on fear. Fear, the very thing that closes our minds and “keeps us safe” also leaves us fragile and vulnerable and unable to achieve our own greatness. Sometimes fear does keep us safe but we need to learn the difference between those times and the times when it needs to be stared right in the face and challenged. Does aging make this too hard? I’m 52 and I can’t speak for an 80 year-old. Do we just become too tired? I refuse to believe this and if I’m wrong, I will go down kicking and screaming!
As parents, one of the fine lines we walk is between attentiveness to our child’s emotions and remaining in charge. This is particularly difficult when dealing with a strong willed child who is very emotional! Speaking from experience, it is very easy to get caught up in the emotional side and equally easy to lose sight of the “being in charge” one! Our married son and his wife have been staying with us while he recovers from his back surgery and the other day he stated bluntly, that in his opinion, our 10 year old daughter ran the house. He also gently pointed out that I have a particular problem witnessing pain in my kids. Hmmm…. When did he become so insightful!
I am aware of this battle. I research and write about these exact issues! How then do I lose sight of them in myself? It’s called being human. Maintaining balance between what I bring to the parenting experience and my child’s input, is a challenge. I want to be the best parent that I can be and for me this means remaining open to new ideas, having a willingness to look at myself and being committed to change. These are the things I work on constantly so that when my son speaks, I listen.
We are now 9 days post surgery and Ilan is doing well. His back has healed wonderfully. I really believe the arnica he took helped a lot in that regard. I’m a firm believer. The week was pretty rough. Having had a few surgeries myself I should have remembered the experience. Aside from the terrible pain it is an emotional roller coaster. Anyway I think his feelings of fragility are less and he is feeling more optimistic about outcome. Onward and upward.
Dustin came in from university and because Ilan and his wife, Carrie are staying with us for a bit, we had a full house for the first time in a long time. In this honour, my husband and I decided to make a scrumptious dinner last night. We don’t have a barbecue yet so had to pan-fry the chicken, which had been marinaded in, amongst other things, brown sugar. In no time at all, the smoke set off the smoke alarm and then it was simply a comedy of errors. We forgot that the smoke alarm was connected to the alarm company and unbeknown to anyone, the phone had been left off the hook. (Ok, fine, I did it!) By the time the alarm company contacted my husband on his cell, they had already notified the fire department. Despite attempts to halt the dispatch, lo and behold, 2 fire trucks with many firemen duly came. They were jovial and understanding and all ended well.
After the week we’ve had, the experience felt like light relief!
Tomorrow my son gets his leg pain fixed! He never thought he’d feel excited for surgery but he is! A little scared too, of course. We are all looking forward to his pain free future. It has been a long five months for all of us. I don’t even attempt to put myself in his shoes, literally and figuratively. Lan, I am rooting for you with every cell in my body – with much love.
Here is the surgery that he is having done (for those medical junkies like myself). Click here.
Check out Karen Nemeth’s guest blog on mychildfeels.com. Karen is the author of “Many Languages, One Classroom: Teaching Dual and English Language Learners: (2009). With the multicultural issues that our classrooms face today, Karen’s perspective is heartfelt and thoughtful.
I think the definition of a move completion is when you can use your computer! So while we still live amongst boxes and dust, I can check email and facebook and have access to the internet and that’s what counts. Haha.
First night in our new home was interesting and not quite what I had anticipated. I knew Gabi would be unsettled but I wasn’t prepared for her extreme distress. If she could have walked to our old house, I think she would have. I kept on reminding myself about something that I have learned about parenting and life – nothing stays the same. I’m happy to report that we are now 5 days later and things are much better. As I write this I hear my daughter happily playing with her friend and excitedly showing her around her new home. I felt strange and unsettled myself the first night, as did my husband and my 24 year-old son, so I can only imagine how much more frightening it must have felt for Gabi.
Only 2 more sleeps! We move homes in 3 days and it is hectic! We’ve lived in the same home for 15 years and I had forgotten how much work a move is. I did not anticipate having to go through the overwhelming accumulation of years of unnecessary stuff! As exhausting as it has been, there is something very cleansing about a “spring clean,” albeit in winter! Thank you Mr. Garbage person for schlepping extra weight these past weeks.
My poor son (the one who just got married) has been nursing leg pain for many weeks now. He oscillates between determination to recover and frustration. Can’t say I blame him. Physical pain can feel physically and emotionally draining. After weeks of physio, massage, acupuncture and bed rest he is now trying, with a large degree of optimism, a back decompression clinic. He is booked to go on honeymoon to Mexico on the 19th so the clock is ticking!
Gabi wrote a book report on “Boom… Boom… Boom…” and I was invited in for “show and tell.” I always love speaking to kids and this was no exception. I had now read to grade 5’s before and was surprised how attentive they were. Their understanding of the book was at a higher level and most interesting. My baby is growing up!
My daughter Gabi was home sick from school and we decided to climb into bed and watch a movie. With a little prodding from me (shameless, I know) she decided that she wanted to see Julie and Julia, directed by Nora Ephron. I loved it! Oops, sorry, “we loved it!”
I won’t spoil the movie for anyone but let me say that if you love food (which I do) and a good story, you will love this movie. For me, there’s something about being invited into someone’s kitchen that feels more intimate than being invited into their bedroom. I’ve always had the belief that people who really enjoy food feel more passionate about life in general. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! Also, for a writer who dreams about being whisked away by a great publisher, the film was a fantasy. Sigh…
Gabi is in Grade 5 in an Arts Program and is loving it! There are 4 general categories: Visual Arts, Drama, Music and Dance. She is comfortable in the last three but has mixed feelings about the first. Here’s some background.
Her 3 brothers, her father and I believe we can’t draw. This is emphasized by the fact that my sister, her husband and their two girls are amazing visual artists. Their oldest daughter and our youngest son went to preschool together and the difference even then was astounding. So much so that she became extremely upset one day because she believed that her cousin was going to “fail” preschool because he couldn’t draw. My 3 sons took their lead from my husband and I and good-naturedly accepted that we had other strengths. In fact, they liked having their cousins to lean on when they need help with projects!
Gabi, on the other hand, hard on herself at the best of times, does not enjoy that her strength doesn’t lie in her “drawing” skills. It has caused her much distress and heartache. It took us a while to realize that the problem was, that, unlike our other children, she loves to draw. So we bought her instruction books, encouraged her and praised her and stood helplessly by for the most part while she continued to berate herself.
This past week changed our perspective. We had conformed to the “normal” expectation of art and felt that a true artist could replicate objects, in particular the human form. I’ve lost count of the times that I have said, “I can’t draw a stick figure.” Anyway, Gabi and I paid our local arts store a visit and she chose a pack of two canvases and some acrylic paints. Feeling like a real artist she sat down to paint and I left her to it.
“I’ve finished it, Mom,” she said. I was truly surprised at what I saw. It was absolutely beautiful and made me understand that art is not only about form but about colour, feeling and passion.
Everyone who wants to be can be an artist. It took my ten year old daughter to show me that.
I babysat my nephew Aden of two and a half, for four days. He is an absolute joy! It is refreshing being around a child this age because they are completely honest. They haven’t learnt not to be! He also helped me put a new perspective on something that I spend a lot of time considering.
Imagination. My observations of people have shown me that generally speaking, those with greater imaginations are able to achieve greater things in their lives. Unfortunately, there are few of us who are able to fully engage our imaginations in our daily lives. I think it’s because we see imagination as an innocence that can only exist in childhood. It occurs because children really believe in Santa Claus, the tooth fairy or Mickey Mouse. My nephew showed me that this isn’t entirely true. We took him to Reptilia, a zoo for reptiles and left with a happy little boy and a newly purchased green snake. When we returned home, my son Dustin named the snake “Harry” and it stuck. Harry went everywhere with Aden and he spoke to the snake constantly.
At some point I was on the floor with him and getting into the spirit of his imaginative play. “Oh no Harry!” I said “Don’t bite me!”
Aden promptly replied.”Don’t worry Marshie. He can’t bite. He’s just pretend.” And then almost condescendingly he added, “he’s just plastic.”
Wow! Children know it’s pretend and yet they can still become immersed. Which means we can too. I began thinking and remembered years ago an incident with Gabi when she was about seven. She had just begun losing teeth and was very excited each time with the tooth fairy’s arrival and deposit. One day, she came home from school and announced, “my friend told me that the tooth fairy is not real – that it’s really my parents!” I felt sad that this bubble was about to burst and spent some time trying to convince her that the tooth fairy did indeed exist. Eventually she wore me down and I told her the truth. With that, she ran to her room and cried for ages. I was puzzled. She had really wanted to know. She had even said things like, “I’m not a baby any more. You can tell me.”
Reflecting now, I think that Gabi knew all along that the tooth fairy wasn’t real but she really wanted to believe that she was. Believing was adding joy in her life and we took that away by removing the myth. I’m not suggesting that we lie to our kids but I do think that we should spend more time teaching them the importance of holding onto their imaginations. It is the super power of children and if we foster it correctly it can become the super power of adults too.
Our very cute and mischievous Havanese puppy, Oreo, ate Gabi’s homework. It was a project that she had worked on for a week and she was completely devastated. My husband and I rallied and helped her recreate it and fortunately we were successful!
I learned a few things that day. I learned that the cliche “the dog ate my homework” actually exists. I learned that it is possible for a ten-year old girl to cry for a solid 30 minutes and gush enough tears to fill a stock pot. I learned that love overcomes all. Gabi forgave Oreo when all was said and done. And finally, I learned that often, out of the worst situations arises the best and most memorable ones. We ended the evening in giggles and Gabi had great fun taking in her chewed up project to show her class the following day!
Our almost fourteen year old Shipoo, Flash is sick. Actually he’s been sick for a while with an enlarged heart and two leaky valves. It really only hit home a couple of weeks ago when he began collapsing. At first it happened after he ran up two flights of stairs and but as the week progressed he seemed to need less and less activity to induce an episode. It reached a point when barking alone could topple him. Frantic we rushed him to his Cardiologist. I honestly was bracing myself for “the discussion” that every dog-owner dreads but instead she discussed adjusting medication. So we juggled a few meds and after a few days, lo and behold, he was back to his “old self.”
This experience really made me think. I asked myself, “Why was I so ready to think the worst?” Yes, it will come, but what a waste to live it before it does. Flash has been an amazing dog. He is loved by all who know him. So, from here on I am going to give him the respect that he deserves. He is happy. We don’t believe he has pain. He doesn’t know that he’s sick. So what right do I have to surround him with negativity. So Flashie, if you fall over, we’ll wait patiently for you to get up and if we have to carry you up and down the stairs, we will. This is the very least we can do for you to thank you for your years of selfless love.
Sue founded the organization Parent’s Universal Resource Experts (P.U.R.E.), an association that provides families with valuable information and resources for their children and teens that are at risk. Visit Sue’s website to read more about her dynamic work. You can also follow Sue on Twitter.
I began running to get fit and to shed some pounds and also discovered, accidentally, the huge benefits that pounding the earth has on my mental state. While I can never presume to understand Daniele’s personal “hell”, I understood as it related to me her description of depression as being an “isolating disease.”
I also remembered my pain in childhood because no one, not even myself, understood what was happening to me and why I felt so different. I blame nobody in the generation before mine because I understand that they were working within the constraints of their era. I believe, with exceptions, that every generation produces a unique parenting imprint that is related to the mood of the world at that time.
After years of war and depression, both physical and emotional, baby-boomer parents needed joy and a lightness of spirit in their lives. It was time. These parents were scarred themselves and mine were no exception. Being protected from truth in a time of extreme fear, I believe can produce an anxiety with no name – the worst kind. Both my parents were victims of this time. I was a product of their perceptions.
We cannot and should not forget our past. In our bigger world we need to analyze and dissect our history so that we don’t repeat our mistakes and so that we can repeat our triumphs. Just the same, we need to understand our personal history so that we can understand who we are and why we became that way. More importantly, understanding our past allows us to shape our future with conscious intention and by doing this, have a far greater chance of achieving personal happiness.
While depression has definitely lost much of its social stigma, there are still many who view it as a shameful disease. Many also believe that depression completely defines who someone is and not just one aspect of that person.
For these reasons, I choose the people I share with, but I no longer hide.
Our oldest son, Ilan, got married last week. And our ten year old daughter, Gabi, began her first day in grade 5 today. Having children spread over 16 years of age provides for an interesting existence.
Ilan (26) married Carrie, now his beautiful wife. It’s very hard to put into words the feeling of that experience. But try and stop me!
There is certainly a feeling of “OMG, I have a son who’s getting married!” There is also a feeling of excitement and anticipation after months of preparation. Mostly though, there is a feeling of gratitude. Gratitude that he chose an amazing person. Gratitude that they found each other. Gratitude that she demonstrates compassion for his struggles and pride and joy for his achievements. Gratitude that we love them both and they seem to feel the same way. Gratitude that we get along so well with her family. Gratitude that my son seems so happy.
And then there’s resolve. I have strong feelings of resolve to always know my place and to offer opinions only when asked. I resolve to always try and understand personal boundaries and respect them. I resolve to keep an open mind and to continue growing and learning from my children.
OK, enough introspection! The wedding was beautiful! The flowers were amazing, the bride and groom looked incredible as did everyone in the wedding party, including me! I felt great! The band was seriously unbelievable – Grooveyard. My daughter-in-law, usually a woman of few words, gave a lengthy, heartfelt speech.
It touched me and many others. Two of Ilan’s best friends also spoke. Their speech was humorous but really showed a deep understanding of Ilan. The humor continued when Adam and Dustin (Ilan’s two younger brothers) sang a medley of songs with their own lyrics. Hilarious! Little sister Gabi spoke which amazed me. I was so proud of her. I knew that she was anxious but she did it anyway and very sweetly I might add. All in all a “couldn’t be more perfect” evening.
Yesterday, we began a new school year. Walking Gabi into the playground and witnessing hundreds of boisterous children clamoring to be heard I could really understand her anxiety. It feels like chaos and for children who feel less secure in chaos it can be a nightmare.
On the way to school she said, “Mom, I don’t feel so brave today.” I thought that was a wonderful thing to say for so many reasons. How many ten year olds know what they are feeling and can express it so eloquently? We did lots of hugging and kissing and I will be sure to be at the school early because I know that my coming late is one of her anxieties. I never am, but she fears it and that’s what’s important. So my plan for the next few days until I see she is feeling more comfortable is to give her lots of love and empathic listening.
Our oldest son is getting married and we are now counting down the days.
Who knew that putting individuals in preassigned seats could be so time-consuming? My daughter’s dress is still at the dressmaker. We’ve only had one fitting and I’m trying to not panic but as the days go on it’s becoming more difficult! Other than that, everything seems to be in order.
Months of preparation and “poof!” it’s over in one day. I am determined to enjoy every minute of the day. I hope everyone else does too.
On a more spiritual level – yikes! Am I really old enough to have a married child?? My husband tells me that soon we’ll be grandparents and the worst thing about being a grandfather is that you get to wake up beside a grandmother! Very funny!
I know from my personal experience that writing about something that is on my mind is helpful to me in processing it.
I am very afraid of spiders. I would rather face a lion (which I did, albeit with a game ranger and a rifle in South Africa) than come within 3 feet of a spider, no matter how small.
Titivating (my father loved this word) in front of the mirror the other day something caught the corner of my eye. It was a small spider, but one of those thicker set one’s, you know, the kind that jump. With no-one around at the time I had to capture the creature on my own. I ran to grab some kleenex. To my complete dismay, it had disappeared when I returned to the scene. Now what?
I became hyper-vigilant and spent a ridiculous amount of time looking for this poor thing but it outsmarted me. I was left feeling that it would jump out at every moment until enough time passed and I could convince myself that somehow it had “gone.”
I now take a deep breath and assess. Did this writing help. Hmm… Back to the keyboard!
Dr. Michele Borba is an internationally renowned educator and award-winning author who is recognized for her practical, solution-based strategies to stregthen child’s behavior, self-esteem, character, and social development, and to build strong families. She is also a sought-after motivational speaker. Her new book titled “The Big Book of Parenting Solutions” will be released September 2009.
I promised in a recent Q&A video that I would answer the question about the inspiration behind my children’s book “Boom… Boom… Boom…”
Five years ago, my daughter and I had a day that changed both our lives.
The day was warm and we were well into summer, my favorite season. It was a day like any other. In fact better because I was lunching out with friends. My daughter Gabi, who was 4 years old at the time, had a friend over and she happily kissed me goodbye. She was really comfortable with her nanny, who had taken care of her since she was just a few months old.
A few hours later, I was driving home with my friend after lunch when she turned to me and asked, “Do you want to go shopping?”
I’ve thought many times about that moment because as someone who rarely turns down an invitation to shop, I did that day. For some reason I wanted to go home and said so.
As I walked into my house, the first thing I heard were my daughter’s screams. I opened the back door and collided with her. I asked, “Gabi, what’s wrong? Are you girls fighting? Where’s Nanny?”
“She’s in the pool!” she screamed.
The next twenty minutes felt like hours and it felt like time stood still. In fact, time simply became unimportant. I peered over our deck and saw the nanny lying at the bottom of the pool. It is this image that stays with me. For months afterwards, it would pop into my head unexpectedly and hold me prisoner to a crippling anxiety.
That day I discovered how I act in a crisis.
Throwing off clothing as I ran, I dived into the pool and somehow found the strength to drag the nanny’s lifeless, water-logged body to the side of the pool and onto the ledge. Her face was blue and her eyes were glazed. I began to perform CPR. Between breaths I pleaded with her to breathe.
And she finally did.
During the chaos, I sent Gabi four houses down the road to get my friend. That I sent my four year old daughter to do this, weighed on me for a long time. By the time that they both returned, the nanny was breathing and now with another adult present, I called 911.
Gabi’s nanny made a full recovery and was celebrating her birthday four days later. Gabi and I on the other hand had only begun our journey of recovery and discovery. I cried many tears that year and I like to think now that each one cleansed some little part of me.
Surprisingly, Gabi had no issues with swimming after the event but was left with a debilitating separation anxiety which affected so many many areas of her young life. She stopped going to friend’s houses and birthday parties. She became terrified whenever I went out the house. She had problems going to sleep at night and wouldn’t have anyone other than my husband or I take care of her.
She also hated us leaving her at school and we began receiving calls regularly from the school office with requests from Gabi to pick her up as she wasn’t feeling well. She also had no desire to talk about the incident. We eventually realized that we needed help.
We tried a few different therapists, which really didn’t seem to help at all. Then one day a mother at Gabi’s school referred me to Jennifer Kolari, calling her a “miracle worker.” I was definitely ready for a miracle and contacted Jennifer.
She was more than that. She blew life again into Gabi and me. We both loved her and Gabi loved going to her. I am happy to say that today, at 9 years old, Gabi is a happy little girl. When I felt that Gabi was going to be ok, I began to focus on myself.
I discovered that trauma or not, everyone can benefit from therapy. One of the things that I felt compelled to do was write. I wrote all the time. I wrote about my childhood, my experiences and my feelings. I would highly recommend writing to anyone who wants to process their feelings and live a positive life.
Somewhere along the way I began writing about parenting and parenting anxious children. I have four children and they have all had their fair share of anxiety. They are fine with me sharing this because we all feel that anxiety, depression and any other mind/body related illness is nothing to be ashamed of. We see it as a strength to admit to our feelings in an open and accepting way.
And so, together with my background in Clinical Psychology, being a parent and my life experiences I felt well prepared to write “Boom… Boom… Boom…” and so I did!
This book is the first of what I call the Feel Ease Series. I’ve begun working on the next one. It’s entitled “Seven of Everything” and will be a story about separation anxiety.
For a year after the incident I was not capable of clear thought. I felt like it was the worst day of my life and nothing good would ever come of it.
I now know that often the best things arise from the very worst.
I feel excited and honored to have written a guest post for Maw Books Blog. Posted today, it is entitled “Reading with Feeling” and I wrote about to use stories to help children explore their feelings.
Maw Books Blog is a wonderful book review blog site and, if you haven’t already, well worth bookmarking. Natasha Maw is a mother of two young children and pays special attention to the value of books for children. As I believe that the books kids read should enlighten them in positive ways, I like this.
I also love finding out that the person behind the pen is nice! Watch her videos of her and her boys. They are very sweet.
One of the great lessons I have learned from my children is to say what I mean. Children are experts in many ways and one of these areas of expertise is being able to see right through innuendos. Non-verbal “speaking” has as much impact on kids as verbal.
When my youngest son, who is now grown up, was little, he once asked me, “What are you saying to aunty Dalya?” I was confused because we hadn’t been talking.
“Nothing,” I replied.
“Yes, you always talk to her with your eyes!” he said impatiently. Wow, not only was it true but I was amazed that he could see that.
When I had my first child, I floundered, I agonized, I sweated. I had no idea what it meant to be a parent and somehow I felt that I needed some kind of formal training. Reading parenting books is great and helpful but really, really (and I say this emphatically) the best guide is right before us in our children.They will always tell us when we are doing something right and when we are not. Our job as parents is to learn to listen and to respect what we hear. This does not mean no discipline or teaching. If we manage to find the right frequency for our child, both of these are a cinch.
Children need the truth. They flourish with the truth. This means answering all their questions honestly even if we sometimes have to say, “I’m not going to answer that.” I will often explain to my young daughter that I am choosing not to share something with her but that I will when she’s older.
Truth, however, is not just answering questions. Truth is believing what you say because children know the difference. It is also validating their truth.
My middle son has dyslexia. When he was younger he was not doing well at school and would frequently anguish over this. For a long time, my husband and I would reply that we knew how smart he was despite how he was doing. Firstly, we were worried, which he no doubt picked up on and secondly, we should have explored the way he was feeling because they were his real feelings.
It was not until I was given a book by a friend called “Smart but Feeling Dumb” by Harold N. Levinson that I realized what I was doing. It wasn’t so much the content of the book, which is quite interesting, but more the title which struck home for me. I understood for the very first time how discounting it feels to anyone when they are told that they are not feeling what they are indeed feeling.
So in conclusion, check in with yourself by asking the question, “Am I saying what I feel and am I respecting what my child feels?” It’s a simple philosophy that could make a big difference in how you parent.
Can anyone explain the blood and water thing when it comes to family?
We’ve just said our sad goodbyes to my sister-in-law, my seventeen-year old nephew and fourteen-year-old niece. They’ve gone back to South Africa and chances are that we won’t see them for another couple of years. But the connection is like an invisible cord woven from granny’s wool. Even my daughter, who has only seen them five or six times, spent three weeks draped around her girl cousin. And my niece didn’t mind sleeping on the pull out bed in Gabi’s room despite the four year age difference and the fact that there were free beds in our home.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that we don’t have to work really hard at family relationships. We do. It’s just that when they are forged, their mettle seems stronger. And easier. Easier to hug, easier to tease, easier to relax.
I’ll really miss these guys. Thank goodness for Facebook!
In this episode: discipline and emotional intelligence. Topics include disciplining from baby to teenager, helping parents handle their feelings, and how to incorporate emotional intelligence in discipline.
I’ve decided to change the format for this videos slightly from a “faq” format to a “q&a” one. Before, I would answer many questions per video however I felt the videos ran too long. Instead, now I’ll be anwering one question per video so that the content is much more specific.
I love answering questions about children, emotional intelligence, anxiety, Boom… Boom… Boom…, or anything else from visitors to my site. Please feel free to write to me with yours.
As a young mother I noticed that from an early age my children were drawn to stories that explored feelings of fear, sadness and anger. I remember clearly my eldest son, who is now 26, loved a particular book called “Sooty‘s Painting Trip” by Lesley Young (seems to be out of print now). In this book, a bear accidentally spills some paint all over the floor.
The bear was mortified over what he had done and was scolded for his mistake. My son would cry every time we reached this page in the book and was so upset by it that we had to remove the book from his room before he could settle down to fall asleep.
The very next day he would bring the exact same book to me and say, “Read, Mommy, read!” At this time I had already received my Masters degree in Clinical Psychology and was familiar with the many theories on child development. None of these adequately explained what I was observing in my son.
I pondered over the strangeness of this for many years until I began exploring the concept of emotional intelligence. Through reading and life observations, I came to understand that all emotions are part of our human experience, which we need to understand in order to become strong, emotionally well-rounded adults.
In our desire for our children to be happy, the most desirable emotion for most people, we forget that happiness is only one part of our emotional spectrum. I believe that children intuitively understand that which “grown ups” have almost forgotten: that is, “negative” emotions should be acknowledged, accepted and explored as much as “positive” ones.
We underestimate the importance of raising children to have the ability to recognize, understand and react appropriately to their full array of emotions. This ability has been described as emotional intelligence and it gives children and adults the strength to cope with the stresses that life so reliably delivers.
It is not our children’s exposure to fearful things that shapes their personality and success. It is how they are taught to process their fear. I for one can’t wait for the movie version of “Where the Wild Things Are” directed by Spike Jonze to be released in October 2009. I look forward to watching it with my daughter. I look forward to the clinging and hugging in the scary parts and mostly I look forward to the discussions it will evoke.
At a recent family function, I was sitting and chatting with two cousins whom I have known since my birth. For many years I kept my struggles with anxiety to myself, convinced that I was alone in the way that I felt.
My cousins were interested and curious to know more about my book “Boom… Boom… Boom…” They also wanted to know how it had been conceived. I explained the focus on anxiety and emotional intelligence. I told them about the importance of helping children understand that it’s okay to feel, accept and communicate with others about their feelings. All their feelings.
Both my cousins then shared with me their personal experiences with anxiety. This heartwarming conversation confirmed two things for me. Firstly, we should never assume that others don’t experience anxiety or related feelings just because they don’t talk about them. Secondly, sharing with others often encourages others to share with us because they feel safe to do so.
This is a good lesson to teach our children. With four children I have heard many times, “No one feels the way I do.”
I always answer them in the same way, “You’ll be surprised how many do. They just don’t talk about it in the same way that you do.”
I teach my children that anxiety is part of our human condition. Ignoring these feelings gives them a power that they shouldn’t have. Acknowledging and exploring anxiety empowers us in ways that we would not expect.
When “Boom… Boom… Boom…” was about to published, I asked child and parent therapist Jennifer Kolari (she also founded Connected Parenting) to read my book and offer her comments. I was thrilled when she agreed and even more thrilled when I read her comment:
“What a delightful book! This is a story about a child with very big feelings and deep emotions. It offers parents and children the opportunity to discuss anxiety, what it feels like and what to do about it. How wonderful to read a story where the parent is comforting, validating and really listening to their child. This book will be on my list of recommended reading for the children and families I work with.”
Imagine how excited I was when, a few months later, Jennifer informed me that she would be listing “Boom… Boom.. Boom…” as Recommended Reading in her (now newly) published book by “Connected Parenting” by Penguin Group. Thank you Jennifer – I am tremendously grateful!
I purchased a copy of the book when it was released and there was a tiny misprint with my name which I would like to comment on in the hope that Jennifer’s intention to direct her readers to me will be realized. My name was incorrectly credited as “Marsha Jackson” instead of “Marsha Jacobson.” The internet is one big magical mystery to me but I’ve been told that if I connect Marsha Jackson to Marsha Jacobson, then somehow, somewhere, so will Google.
Congratulations to Jennifer Kolari on her launch of “Connected Parenting.” It was hosted by Parent Books and the atmosphere was wonderful. All who were there believed in the connected parenting approach and in Jennifer. Jennifer has touched my life significantly and I was very happy to share in her success. The book provides parents with hope. Sometimes, as parents, we are so caught up in the things that our children are doing or not doing that we forget to focus on simply connecting with them. The methods in Jennifer’s book reminds us how to show our children that we are listening and that we care. Read “Connected Parenting.” You will be glad that you did!
My son Dustin helped me out today and picked up his nine-year old sister from school. I know that she prefers me to get her. When my cell phone rang and I saw it read “Home” I fully expected a hundred-question conversation. But as she often does, my daughter surprised me. The conversation went something like this:
Very cheerfully, “Hi Mom!”
“Hi Sweetie…” I replied a little guarded.
“I have some good news, some bad news and some news that could be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. What do you want first?”
“I’ll take the bad,” I said.
“My tooth chipped…”
“Oh no!” I interupted.
“But it’s the tooth that was about to fall out!”
“That’s not bad news. That’s perfectly fine news! What’s the good/bad news?”
“I forgot to tell you that I have a bake sale tomorrow. Can you make muffins?”
“That’s not bad news either! I’m happy to make muffins.” Now I was really excited for the good news.
“And the good news is that I’m feeling better!”
It took me a moment, but I remembered that she had complained of a sore tummy the night before.
“That’s wonderful news sweetheart. I’m so happy.”
All in all it was a good day. Three bits of good news. Who could ask for more?
How many possibilities are there to think? To behave? To see? To imagine?
Most of us would have trouble putting a number to this question. How gallant we are when we don’t need to be! How we answer this question when we are content is unimportant.
When life throws us challenges, when doors close or slam in our face, when discouragement threatens to overcome our ability to go forward, then how we answer this question becomes all-important. Bravery is only measured by the amount of fear we feel.
When the possibilities that we can count don’t happen for us and we feel disappointed, we often close our eyes to the infinite other possibilities that could be in the very next moment. If we close our eyes we will not see them. The one thing we all know with absolute certainty is that nothing remains the same. Change is reality. It’s non-sensical to know this about the past and yet not believe it about the future. Believing bravely that our futures hold infinite and positive possibilities is the most powerful ignitor of our very essence.
Living bravely, regardless of what we know for certain about our future, is far better than the alternative where possibilities are rendered useless because we choose to ignore them.
My son Adam has a lovely voice and loves to sing. I know there are those who think that I see him through rose-tinted glasses. I see it a little differently.
Why is it that the better we know someone the less acceptable it is to extol their virtues? Shouldn’t this be the exact opposite?
Beginning with ourselves. A pervasive unwritten rule in our society is to not speak highly of ourselves. Bragging, full of ourselves, self-centered are just a few of the words to describe this act. But who is more qualified?
When my son sings how many of you will see what I see? Who sees his goodness? His generosity of spirit? Who looks at the twinkle in his eyes and remembers that he was born with that? Who understands that his love of singing is a far greater accomplishment than any singing ability that he has?
We all exist as separate human beings and spend life times trying to connect with others. Shouldn’t this connection be revered? If this is seen as rose-tinting our vision then I say, “Down with glasses of any other colour!”
Yesterday was a beautiful day in Toronto. At 11 degrees, we all felt that Spring had finally arrived. After a winter of running on my treadmill, I donned the same shoes but instead of my usual route to the basement, I opened the front door, breathed the fresh air and with some trepidation, I began to jog. Being my first run, I chose a looping one-kilometer route back to my house. At about 200 meters, I remembered. Running outside is not the same as running on a treadmill. You have to propel yourself! With old familiar palpitations, I persevered. Passing my house for the first time, I felt strong. Dare I say it – a little cocksure. The second time around was great. I could feel my legs burning a little but what runner doesn’t? Boldly I past my house and began my third kilometer. At some time during that loop, my confidence dwindled and at some point I felt sick to my stomach. As I neared my house again, another familiar, albeit hibernated feeling emerged. This is the feeling that all runners experience. Without it, we wouldn’t run more than a couple of kilometers. Without it there would be no marathons. This feeling of determination, unconnected to the exhaustion of the body, is what made me run past my house and head on for a fourth kilometer. Non-runners may ask, and rightly so – Why? The truthful answer. I don’t know.
My hairdresser washes and conditions my hair with products designed for horses and call me crazy but I think I just bought into the whole idea. My hair feels great and honestly have you seen the shine on those horses! It’s an all natural product called EQyss and according to them, they’ve been in salons for years. I have to get my head around the fact that I can’t help noticing the word “pet” every time I pick up the bottle. Maybe I’ll decant it…
My nine-year old daughter, Gabi, had to write a story for school. She chose to write about a near-drowning incident that she witnessed when she was four. This was a first. She proudly showed me her first draft. It was a terrible experience and I am in awe of her strength. Together, we’ve worked hard at overcoming the emotional ramifications of this event, so for her to write the story, knowing also that it will be shared with her class, is an achievement of gigantic proportions. Good for you, sweetheart!
The second a word is read by even one other person, it becomes final. Hence the phrase “in black and white.” Another way of saying cast in stone. To let their words “go” a writer must commit. With the infinite possibilities of word combinations, this can often prove quite challenging and immobilizing. It is no surprise that many authors experience long periods of writer’s block, a condition based in fear. The fear of judgement by self and others, the fear of disappointment and the fear of falling short. The fear itself creates a jumbled mind and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. This poem was written during one of those self-doubting times.
What if every word inside my head
Have all already been said
What if those words were never true?
But only said to please you
What if the authentic self, the real me
Lies deep inside, in lock and key
What if, worse, these words fight free
And into abyss, I fall and this is me?
What if I wish I never know
Does this mean I’ll never grow
What if I carry on the same?
And never give inside a name
When I die will I be true
Or will I be what I meant to you?
I have not experienced anything equal to the glorious pain of childbirth. It was pain in its purist form. Moments in time when only the present existed. At that time I wanted it gone but looking back I think it was probably the only time in my life when I have felt angst-free. I believe there is brilliant reason, just out our grasp, for the existence of this pain, together with the reality of bringing a new person into the world. It almost seems necessary to have this distraction so that we can deal with the enormity of birth.
During my time at university, I knew a young man who had one war cry. He was not bringing a child into this terrible world of ours. I was already twenty-three, only two years away from the birth of my first child, and already I was mentally preparing myself. I rationalized his beliefs away as extreme and escapist and went on with my life. Now, at fifty one, I reflect on this man and can understand why someone could believe these things.
Nothing prepared me for the pain I would feel when I felt helpless to remove pain from my children. It began with something as small as their first fall and the look of surprise on their face when they realized that pain existed and that I could not protect them from it. And then time and time again, like unrelenting lava, I was faced with their pain, both physical and emotional. Often they would beseech me for answers, drowning in their own sense of helplessness. Finally, I asked the same question that my friend had posed all those years ago. “I brought them into the world, for this?” I often say that I have learned more from my children than I have taught. This has possibly been my greatest lesson. I fundamentally realize that everyone is responsible for their own pain and their own path. Pain is not a bad thing. Our most important and most valuable understandings are brought about through suffering. “The truth will set us free”. We all know this phrase but perhaps don’t understand the perfect correctness of it. All I’ve ever wanted for my children is for them to be happy and have often been devastated when my desire alone has not accomplished this. I realize now in later years that my focus has been misplaced. We can’t want them to be happy, we have to teach them how to be happy. We have to teach them to recognize their feelings. We have to teach them the real feeling behind an action, no matter how negative it may seem. And we have to teach them that they and they alone are responsible for their feelings. A child who breaks his toy needs to understand that he’s feeling angry, as well as feelings of loss and sadness.
Where do the days go? We’re in full force now trying to get the book out there. Not an easy task! I can’t understand it. Doesn’t everyone love the book as much as we do?!
Wedding stuff is going really well. The venue is booked for both the wedding and an engagement party. A good friend of mine has offered to do a “LLLL” – don’t worry, I had no idea what it was either, but we are all looking forward to “A lovely little ladies’ lunch”! My future daughter-in-law found a dress – absolutely beautiful. I saw “Bride Wars” in the theatre last week and despite being a light movie, I was moved. I must be in wedding mode!
Writing begets writing. It most definitely does not end with the book. Emails to potential customers, press releases, requests to read in libraries or schools, writing articles and of course keeping up with this amazing blog, test my writing skills on an ongoing basis. Forgive me for my “off” days.
Books are heavy! Unpacking many of them yesterday, I was reminded of my early school years – a time before wheelie-bags and even before backpacks. It was the time of the school bag. Anyone remember those? I was really very proud of my mini suitcase. In fact, it is probably my strongest memory of grade one. Without straps or wheels, I carried my bag, leaning to one side to accommodate a case almost as big as I was. As the years passed, I learned the art of switching hands and if I was lucky, persuading my oldest sister to help me out. Today, with wheels, both on our bags and cars, our kids have lost an appreciation for the weight of books!
A book should carry its weight with pride. Unless you have taken one from conception to birth, it would be difficult to fully appreciate the enormous work that goes into one little book. When I look at a book, I no longer see paper, pretty pictures and a cover. I see the birth of an idea, the months refining the idea, the search for the perfect illustrator, the endless editing, the uncertainty, the story-boarding, the preparation for marketing, the anxiety, the late hours, the burning eyes, the unpacking, the promoting and most of all, the believing.
Weigh on, little book!
Yes books are heavy, but wonderful. Having taken every step from conception to birth, with this book, I know I will never look at a book in the same way I did before.
Truth – a word bandied around by so many. If the discovery of truth exists I don’t think it is reachable by man. It is presumptuous of any of us to believe that we, with the limitations of our human minds, can state that we have the truth in hand. And yet so many people espousing religions, politics and philosophies do just that. Does this mean that we choose to believe in nothing? No. Is anything all or nothing? Believe what makes sense to you but not to the point where we put down, hate or murder those who disagree with us. Tolerance of others is the solution to all our problems. Realizing that our “truth” is relative and that we choose our beliefs is key. Choice about anything as it pertains to humanity makes us more thoughtful and less reactive.
The reaction to Barack Obama is a phenomenon and I believe that it is the aura of tolerance that flows from him, that speaks to the people. When he speaks I feel as though he is sharing his thoughts and not trying to replace the thoughts of his listeners. It is thrilling to witness a man with such enormous potential power display equal enormous humility.
I’m back! I apologize for the dry patch of blogs. The webmaster (aka Gaurav) is revamping the website! Please excuse the unfinished new categories but the wait will be worth it. The blog has also been updated to a much more user friendly one – for me! When I see what goes into the back end of a website and I only understand a smidgeon of it, I am in awe of a skill that I’m quite happy doesn’t belong to me!
It’s been a hectic time. I have most happy news. My oldest son and wonderful girlfriend are engaged! I’m going to be a mother-in-law! – A whole new world about to open up for me.
Pre-Christmas was crazy. We sold out of our first shipment which was great. A promotion on City TV didn’t hurt! The response to the book has been heart-warming. Adults and children really seem to understand the meaning behind the story. Our next shipment is arriving yesterday. I guess that means any day now. Can’t wait.
This is what I know about being a parent (No, you didn’t skip a paragraph. I decided to jump right in). I know that it’s sometimes difficult, easy, terrifying and wonderful – often all at the same time. I know that parents who appear over-confident are usually the opposite. I know that the hardest part is hitting a bump and feeling helpless. I know to allow children their pain. I know that the greatest moments are realizing that I rose to the challenge in the best way that I could. I know that making mistakes is inevitable and that sharing those mistakes with my kids is not a bad thing. I know that by showing my children that I am human is also teaching them that it’s ok for them to be human too. I know that I can’t ensure their complete safety but that I will die trying. I know that the best gift I can give them is to teach them to like who they are. I know that I can take them to the water, show them that the water is sweet and nourishing but that the drinking will always be up to them. I know that I always have to recognize my expectations as belonging to me. I know that I can’t walk their path even though they feel a part of me. I know that they are not. I know that my love for them flows from a bottomless well but that their love for me must be earned.
This month has flown by in a blur. It began with our first careful (and yet barely able to contain ourselves from ripping) unwrapping of the books. We scrutinized them, breath held, until we were satisfied that they were indeed perfect! With hardly any time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of our long labour, we were organizing, packing, filming, printing, cutting, constructing and shopping. Finally, the three day parenting show! Sharing Boom… Boom… Boom… for the first time was heartwarming to say the least. An unexpected bonus – we met some lovely people. Adrian and Connie, with their lovely Bkids series of books, stories for 3 to 6 year-olds about the importance of being yourself. The two of them exuded this belief themselves.
The book launch, an interview with the Liberal and then down to business – showing the book! Thus far Parentbooks and Caversham booksellers are keeping our book and we couldn’t be happier.
And then there’s my other life, my real one. School pick-ups, dance lessons, editing essays, cooking (occasionally) and generally being all that entails being a wife and mother. I am now smitten with a bad cold which could be a sign to slow down and even if it’s not, that’s what I’m having to do!
I knew some parents who intimidated me as a young mother. They seemed to get everything just right. Their children were always immaculate, clean and well-behaved. They slept when they were supposed to and ate what was good for them. These same parents found the time to teach their barely toddlers to recognize their abc’s and still find space in a day to work out!
I crawled through those early years, happy to make it to the end of each day without a major calamity or concern. I noticed however, with great interest, that these same parents seemed a bit thrown when their children reached eight or nine. Those fun years when kids realize for the first time that you, their wonderful parents, don’t know absolutely everything there is to know on this earth. They learn that their mouths move and they’re not afraid to use them. These parents now go into full gear and ground their kids at the drop of a hat and manage, through these and other punitive techniques, to keep their children, yet again, on the straight and narrow for another few years. Then, TEENAGERS! I’ve come to realize that these years define parents way more than they define children. Parents of teenagers who’ve never doubted their parenting skills could run into serious trouble here. Children of this age want to explore their own wants and desires. They want to experiment with limits and they definitely don’t want you telling them what to do. Parents of teenagers have to become expert diplomats. They have to learn to parent with backbone and understanding in the same sitting. Parents with control issues do not do well parenting this age group. They take rebellion and withdrawal as a personal attack and lose sight of the true role of parent. They are so hung up on getting their children to listen that they forget to look for emotional and social cues. I’m not saying that parenting teenagers is easy. It’s not. But it doesn’t have to spiral into an endless existence of negativity. This is the greatest period of adjustment for parents. It is almost, symbolically speaking, the real cutting of the cord. Parents unable to do this will start to do one of two things. They will start to blame their child (for somehow being innately bad) or they will start to blame others – wrong friends, wrong school, wrong area etc. Sadly, many “perfect” parents do not look to themselves.
Where does it begin? Does a book begin with the very first thought? Does it begin when you write the first sentence (which will always change)? Does it begin when you have the book in hand? Or does it begin now, book in hand and transferring that ownership to other hands. I think the more accurate question to ask is, “Does it ever end?” My answer to that is that I hope not. I think my real dream is that the story will hopefully be a positive spark forever. I received an email the other day from a woman who had read the book to her three-and-a-half year old son. He asked her afterwards if “maybe when we’re scared sometimes, we could read that book.” I felt a glow of gladness when I read that. I hope the book is bound strongly enough that it can withstand the test of time and be kept and handed down to children and grandchildren. Please excuse the soppiness of this blog entry. I’m feeling a little soppy today.
Books arrived. Spent three days at the parenting show. It was great. Very rewarding. Called on some book stores. That was fun. Launch tomorrow. Oi vey! Sorry. No time for joining words (or whatever you call those things). Back soon.
My nine-year old has joined a “secret” club. When I asked her what it was about, she wouldn’t reveal because then it “wouldn’t be secret.” More importantly, she told me that you had to “believe” to be part of the club. I asked, “In what?” Changing the subject, she asked if I had belonged to any club as a kid. Racking my brain, I vaguely remembered belonging to a “no boys allowed” club, and shared this. “No, I mean did you ever belong to a club where you had to believe in something?” At this point, I became confused. “Like what?” I replied. “Like dragons, fairies anything!” Now she was a little frustrated with me. “Well, not a club but I did believe that my toys came to life after I fell asleep.” I felt a little relieved that I remembered something. “So why did you stop?” she asked. I started to stumble. “I, I… guess I just grew up.”
“Why does growing up make you stop believing? she asked. At that moment, I felt as though I had never heard a better question. I had no answer. After some silence she asked again, “Why don’t you just believe that they come alive?” I replied, “I don’t know.” I felt so lame. She’d asked the question as if I had a choice to believe. “Well!” She said, emphatically. “That’s why you can’t know about the club. You have to believe in what we believe or it doesn’t work. You should believe. It makes life interesting. Adults are very boring.”
I have retold this story with no embellishment. For those who know my daughter, Gabi, the story will indeed ring true! I love kids.
Finally! At last! It’s here! Boom… Boom… Boom… is in hand and ready to be seen by all. Gaurav, Troy and I are all very proud. We will have pictures up on the website very soon. Poor Gaurav is working around the clock on e-book production, website update and the Full of Ideas website. He has a cold and I’m not surprised! Come Christmas and I think we will both slump happily into anything that will hold us!
“Because I said so!” The one phrase I vowed never to use, ever! Sad to say, it has popped out my mouth on more than one occasion. Speaking (I think) for all parents, I think its accurate to say that we can only tolerate a certain number of whys and buts before we reach our absolute human limit and “because I said so” flies out our mouths. In that moment, many other things that we have learnt about being a ‘good’ parent, fly out the window! “Because I said so” is our little (perhaps childish) way of hanging onto the control that we feel slipping from our grasp. Therein lies the universal parenting misnomer. We have no control to begin with! Parenting is learning to live with this with grace. Don’t get me wrong, having no control does not mean bad parenting. Quite the opposite, I believe. Parenting is recognizing the separateness of our children and reacting to them as individuals. Really seeing them is what it’s all about. Good parenting is knowing that the whys and buts are not defiant acts but attempts to be heard and seen.
As parents we are individuals too. We are not going to create the perfect world for our children and nor should we. The world is not perfect and we need to provide an environment for our children in which they can practice dealing with imperfections. We all co-inhabit this earth which means working in groups. Individuality is great up to a point, beyond which it can become narcissism. Teaching this to your child is a wonderful lesson. So the next time “because I said so” bellows out, don’t be hard on yourself. You may well be in the midst of a great parenting experience!
Why do so many find it so easy to judge others? Are there any amongst us who are really able to do this? When others do things, see things or feel things differently from the way we do, shouldn’t this be a cue to question our own beliefs and actions rather than theirs? In fact, is this not the only way we can possibly learn, change and grow? I want to leave this earth having seriously questioned myself along the way and I hope that at 100 I will know much more than I do now. Yes, I plan on living to at least that age! (I apologize to my kids, in advance!)
The problem with feeling judgmental about anything or anyone is that it prohibits you from seeing life in a different way.
We are all raised to be a certain way and by acknowledging that our thoughts and actions stem from this, allows a crack in our armor, through which new ideas can be seen and experimented with. Understanding where we came from, allows us to choose where we want to go.
At 51, there is less wondering what life is going to bring because it already has. This is not to say that I no longer contemplate, because I do. But now I contemplate ways that I can make my life happier right now. Misery only relates to the past and future, never the now. I spend a lot of energy extending my “nows. ” I’ll be the first to accept that it’s not easy. If I had to say one thing, (not that anyone’s asking) that I have learnt by 51 that has changed my life, it would be this. I have learnt self-kindness. I have learnt to ask the question, “What would I do if I was my best friend?” It’s amazing what a little question like that can do. Guilt, self-deprecation and self-criticism are not things I consciously choose today. I have spent far too much of my life ruminating on those sentiments. Not that it was wasted. Whatever was, has brought me to what is. And what is, is pretty good.
One reason to teach emotional intelligence in childhood is that children are just such receptive learners. They are not restricted by their physical world. They are happy to believe in that which cannot be seen. Believing and understanding that their thoughts have actual power is not a stretch for a child. I would like to share a delightful reading response that my 9 year old daughter wrote (with her permission of course) about the world renowned magician, Harry Houdini. I am not editing spelling etc for 2 reasons. Firstly, I love the fact that she is encouraged to write and not worry about spelling and grammer. Secondly, it’s adorable!
If I could change the ending of Harry Hodini’s life I would. I would do this because I find that majic is a importend and intertaning thing in the werld. I predect that without majic the werld would be a sad place. Majic is like candy or food for the mind and the eyes. Harry Hodini was a very brave and nice man. He riskted his life to intertain and mack people happy. Some of the tricks he did involved being under water, not brething, being chand up and some times he did all those thigs at the same time. Harry Hodini did a famos trick wich only some people could do because it tock years of pratice. The trick was that eney body could ponch him in the stomick as hard as thay could and he would not get hert as long as hes prepard. One day back stage Harry was preparing for a show and before he went on two students walked in and started asking Hodini some queschins after a will one of them asked about the trick where eney one could punch him in the stumock. Before Harry Hodini could say lets try it and prepare the students started to punch him continuouesly in the stomock. As son as the people back stage could see what was happening thay yeled stop. Even though Harry Hodini felt sick he still knew he had to go on stage, but he dident know that he bursted his apendex. In thouse days it was allways fadill and he dident have an oporation to save his life because he dident know the stodents bersted his apendex. It was only a copill of minets on stage before he colapst on stage because the posin was spreding around his body. A copill days latter Harry Hodini dide. Just because of a copill of punches. Harry Hodini was a vary nice person and he would be 130 today.
We’re at the proof stage of printing and I have to say the book looks amazing. It’s very exciting seeing it in full size and full color. There’s little more to do now but wait. Time to focus on the next writing project.
Changing topics – we have a new canine family member. He’s a 10 week old Havanese and extremely cute. I had forgotten though how much work they could be. He’s under constant surveillance as we watch for accidents and wrongful chewing. We’re waiting for Flash, our crotchety 13 year old shipoo to take a liking to him. So far it’s not happening! Please excuse any grammatical errors in this blog. I’m a tad sleep-deprived.
I’m back! (again) It’s always wonderful to come home. The summer has been great, although hectic.
Through different experiences, I have recently had some illuminating thoughts. The backbone of emotional intelligence and the extent to which one has it, relies on empathy. Being able to understand the way that others see and feel about their life experience. It struck me that the mortal enemy to empathy is expectations. Having expectations of others destroys empathy in a few ways. Firstly, it removes the openness that is necessary to absorb the emotional cues from others. Secondly, with the vast array of possibilities that exist to view the world, there is almost no chance that our expectations will be met completely. This always leads to feelings of resentment and disappointment, in the person holding these expectations. It is very difficult to be the recipient of this kind of disappointment and invariably creates a vicious (in the true sense of the word) cycle of poor communication and feelings of worthlessness. Finally, and sadly for the person with expectations of others, they miss out on the joy that comes from truly accepting others (particularly significant others) and receiving feedback of love and warmth because of that acceptance.
For many reasons, the parent-child relationship is particularly susceptible to problems in this area and as parents, we should seriously question the role that we play.
Well, we’re back from South Africa and I must be getting old. It’s taken me a full week to get over the jet lag (almost!). I have to say that the trip was one of the best family vacations I have ever had. Being with our South African family and celebrating my niece’s Bat Mitzvah was wonderful and then we went on safari. We all had high expectations for this and these were exceeded by a mile! It is beyond my word capability to describe the awesomeness of being able to witness the incredible nature of the bush. The integrity that the animals live by is enough to humble any human. Driving through the bush and focussing completely on spotting movement felt like a total experience of being in the now. It felt to me like no coincidence that I was reading at that time, “The power of now” by Eckhart Tolle. With the coming together of the two experiences, the book exploded in meaning for me. An incredible book.
I am so grateful for having had this experience and sharing it with those I love increases my gratitude a hundred-fold.
Well, I’m off to sunny South Africa, albeit winter. My mathematically inclined youngest son, Dustin, has worked out that we will be in the air (not counting stop-overs) for approximately 46 hours. Plenty of time for writing! And watching a movie or two. We are traveling en masse, which should add to the fun and possibly, the hysteria. Back in 10 days, with lots of great wild-life pics!
When I was a young mother, I noticed that, from an early age, my children were drawn to stories that explored feelings of fear, sadness and anger. I remember clearly, my eldest son, Ilan (now 25) loved a particular book in which a bear accidentally spilled some paint all over the floor. The bear was mortified over what he had done and was scolded for his mistake. Ilan would cry every time we reached this page in the book and was so upset by it, that we had to remove the book from his room, before he could settle down and fall asleep. The very next day he would bring the same book to us and say, “Read, read!” I already had a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology and was familiar with many theories of child development but none of them gave me an adequate explanation.
I pondered over the strangeness of this for many years until I began exploring the concept of emotional intelligence. Through reading and life observations, I have come to understand that all emotions are part of our human experience, which we need to understand in order to become strong, emotionally well-rounded adults. In our desire for our children to be happy we forget that happiness, while the most desirable emotion for most people, is only one part of our emotional spectrum. I believe that children intuitively understand that, which ‘grown-ups’ have almost forgotten: that is, ‘negative’ emotions should be acknowledged, accepted and explored as much as positive ones. I believe we underestimate the importance of raising children to have the ability to recognize, understand and react appropriately to their full array of emotions. This ability has been described as emotional intelligence and gives children and adults the strength to cope with the stresses, that life so reliably delivers.
How does high emotional intelligence make us successful and happy? I believe it comes down to one thing. Being able to connect with others. Making a connection with another person carries with it a myriad of hidden factors. The next time you feel a “connection”, think about everything that could contribute to this feeling. Usually words surface like “understanding” or phrases like “being on the same wave length”. Both of these are true. People who know how to empathize with another and communicate this empathy are in the pound seats when it comes to emotional intelligence.
Jumping and yet not jumping to another topic, I visited Pride this past weekend. Always analytical, I found myself thinking about connections. There were certainly many extreme displays of identity and I wondered if this were any different to how people are at peace rallies or anti-abortion stake-outs. In our western world, we talk the talk, but we really do not accept differences in others. When people are not accepted for who they are and are not given a voice, do they have any choice but to scream, “we’re here and you’d better take notice”. I felt that many of the more flamboyant dressers had an air of defiance to them. Behind defiance there is always pain. And we are to blame.
I believe that all people, without exception want love and acceptance. I think, for the most part, the ability to do this needs to be fostered in childhood. Let’s teach our children to have high emotional intelligence.
I was horrified with my first experience of the Wii-fit. Let me say at the outset that whoever designed this system does not have children or if they do, they don’t understand them at all. The rising incidence of eating disorders in our society should surely make a company as large as Nintendo stop and think, “Is this the best we can do?” Did anyone stop to think how the categories of ‘normal’, ‘overweight’ and ‘obese’ would impact the emotions of our children. My daughter who is perfectly beautiful, did not receive the ‘normal’ categorization and was reduced to tears. I shudder at the thought of the damage that this may have caused. It’s bad enough that we surround our children with public images of unrealistic, airbrushed ‘beauty.’ At least if we are designing something primarily targeted at children, do it responsibly.
I love the character (Gabi) that our illustrator has created for Boom… Boom… Boom… She has a face, that even in repose is full of emotion. Troy is a wonderful artist. The project is forging ahead. I’m waiting for the tedious part to start and so far it hasn’t! Is publishing a book supposed to be this much fun?
I have trouble with the idea of perfection. I’ve found that most of the time it is used to describe an ideal of something. The perfect body; the perfect child; the perfect parent. We all know that these definitions set us up for disappointment. The reason for this is that they don’t exist. I think if we focussed our attention on the process of being all these things we’d all be a lot happier. I like the word ”perfect” if it describes our process of becoming something; moving in a positive direction. Isn’t that the most perfect state to be in and the most that we can ask of ourselves? Opening our minds, focussing on our goals and working on personal development are perfect states to be in. Perfect things or ideas shouldn’t exist because it implies that we’re reached somewhere and shouldn’t we always be learning and growing? I’m committing to use the word “perfect” to say that I’m in a perfect place and that might be anywhere on the learning curve!
I chilled with Eric last night. (Clapton, that is) The experience showed me yet again that life is about connections. Around me were my husband, my son, my son’s girlfriend, my sister, my brother-in-law, my niece and many of my son’s friends. Sharing this evening with these people changed perspective completely. Sitting on the grass alternating with standing for hours felt like feeling the spirit. The temperature of 5 degrees C was an opportunity to cuddle up with loved ones. The gusty wind allowed us to watch seagulls struggling to fly and appearing as if they were hovering. Walking out of the concert with the throngs was a great time for conversation. Without my connections to these people I think I would have described the night as freezing and uncomfortable. The crowds may have annoyed and frustrated me and I probably would not have looked up at the seagulls.
Thank you Eric Clapton for creating music that spanned generations and allowing last night to be a part of my life’s experiences.
My husband and children tell me that I spend way too much time in front of my computer. This is not true!
Did you know however, that “stewardesses” is the longest word you can type with your left hand?”Lollipop” is the longest word able to be typed with your right hand. The sentence “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” uses all the letters of the alphabet. “Typewriter” is the longest word using only one row of the keyboard.
Reality is not all that it’s cracked up to be! Where are those magic fairies when you need them? There I was, happily writing my stories and filing them away in my computer and in my filing cabinet, when someone (who shall remain nameless) said, “Why don’t you self-publish?” “Why not?” I thought, “How hard can it be?” Who knew that inside every silver cloud there lives a man on a mission! (there’s a saying in there somewhere) Just as well I’m quite fond of that man.
Gaurav has gone away for a week and I feel as though I can take a few breaths. He’s a taskmaster! (not that I don’t appreciate it). I’m taking the little spare time that I have to do what I love doing. Write. I’ve had an amazing idea for a book (not a children’s story this time) and have already started along this new road. As a writer, the hardest thing is to feel finished. There always seems to be more to say or to say it in a different way. Life is great!
I love this time of the year. I’ve started running outdoors again. I don’t run with music which baffles some runners but for me the beauty of outdoor running is in the outdoor sounds. Birds, birds, birds.
I’m posting my first article. Click on articles and follow instructions. Hope you enjoy it! We have chosen a wonderful illustrator and are well underway with the process. It’s terribly exciting and vicariously creative!
Turns out that many were not suitable. Wonderful, but too cartoony for our needs. Still left many to sift through. It’s been a journey of self discovery. It’s often easier to know what I don’t want than what I do! The search continues.
Mind-boggling. We posted an ad for an illustrator on craigslist.org. This was another brilliant Gaurav idea. We received 65 portfolios in less than 48 hours. There are so many amazing artists in this city. How are we ever going to choose? With this one, I’m trusting in the universe!
When my kids were little I relished the times when they listened. Keeping ahead with the washing, feeding and schlepping was about all I had time for. Overall, however, listening was less common than the opposite and I often felt as though I was stretched to my limit. With three grown children, I now know two things. 1) I was never close to my limit. 2) I love it now when my children disagree with me. I feel that I must have done something right!
I took my eight-year old to see the movie “Horton Hears A Who!” with Jim Carrey. I felt like a child again and I think I was even more mesmerized than she was! Dr. Seuss was a genius. It was a story to be enjoyed on many levels. I really recommend it. I came out and found myself looking at dust particles and thinking, “Hmmm…. I wonder….”
When undertaking something like self-publishing, everything feels like it’s the most important thing. From finalizing the manuscript to looking for an illustrator, it definitely feels somewhat overwhelming. But I think I love it!
Hi, welcome to my first blog posting. I feel like this is a start of a great adventure. Together with my business manager, Gaurav, I am well on the way towards the creation of my first children’s book. The aim of my stories is to teach emotional intelligence to adults and children. Hopefully, my books and my articles can help achieve this and leave my readers feeling richer for having read them. I am very excited at the prospect of blogging about this and many other topics. I welcome any feedback, questions etc. from those reading this. Thanks for coming!
Hi, I'm Marsha, mother of four, grandmother of one (soon to be three). If anyone could be called an expert on my children it would be me, but I am certainly not an expert on your's. Parenting is a relationship, one that requires us to connect our unique personality with our child’s so that we can create the best possible environment for healthy development. This website offers ways to help parents make the most of this special relationship so that they can raise happy, emotionally intelligent and successful children.