Tag Archives: parenting

Writers on Wednesday: Andromeda Romano-Lax talks about ‘cold’ parenting styles, John B. Watson’s Behaviorism, the little known Mrs. Watson, how the fun to any research is digging into the archives, sipping bourbon, eating crab cakes, & more in BEHAVE

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By Leslie Lindsay 

An astonishingly disturbing and well-written account of the little-known Rosalie Rayner Watson, the “second” Mrs. John B. Watson, father of Behaviorism, BEHAVE should be on the top of everyone’s to-read list, if not for the writing, the contribution gleaned from behaviorism. Behave Cover

While that may be a very broad statement, I do mean it. Though I may be a bit biased having a background and strong interest in child psychology/psychiatry. BEHAVE (Soho Press, February 2016) is a fictional biography of Rosalie, a promising Vassar graduate with a keen scientific mind. Yet her story is harrowing in that it’s not as straightforward as one may think. To me, BEHAVE was about the 1920s, science, progress, motherhood, marriage, child psychology, and love.

But there are parts that involve behavioral experiments with infants that may leave parents/those who love kids a little squeamish.

I am so excited to welcome Andromeda Romano-Lax to the blog to chat with us about this deeply moving historical-biographical fiction that shaped the early views of ‘not spoiling’ one’s child(ren), several early parenting books, and so much more.

Leslie Lindsay: Welcome, Andromeda! So glad you could join us today. Some people read the last line first, but not me. I often read the first few pages of a book, then quickly flip to the ‘about the author’ and ‘acknowledgements’ section at the back of the book. In your first round of thanks, you mention a psychology textbook editor whom you met at dinner party. She mentioned the case of little Albert B. (the primary test subject in BEHAVE) and that got your gears turning for this book—can you talk about that, please?

Andromeda Romano-Lax: Yes, getting heated up about something can be productive—at least for a writer.

I was sharing my vexation with a textbook editor named Christine about ethics in both creative nonfiction (one of my fields) and psychology (hers).  As an example of questionable behavior, she talked about the experimental practices of “Father of Behaviorism” John Watson.1369713473

John Watson was vaguely familiar to me from old college psych classes. I remembered something about a baby, rats, and conditioning, but I didn’t realize that John Watson had a female assistant—Rosalie Rayner—who helped with those disturbing experiments, which frequently involved exposing babies to uncomfortable or frightening situations.

After the party I drove home and immediately started Googling. By midnight I knew I wanted to write about Rosalie Rayner, the forgotten scientist, scandalous lover, and professionally-sidetracked wife of Watson. I have never felt so sure about a storyline so quickly. I wanted to know the story from Rosalie’s perspective. I felt compelled to understand how a woman scientist could be so easily forgotten when her husband remained famous for decades. I wanted to be with Rosalie, in that lab and later, at home with her first baby, during those early days of confused exhaustion, when she finally had to learn how to parent a real child instead of experiment on a mere subject. I wanted to ask her a hundred questions!

L.L.: It’s funny how those little seeds of a new project can creep into consciousness. But the ‘creeping’ is the easy part! How did you tease out the myriad information I’m sure you uncovered during your research in order to shape it into the story that became BEHAVE?

Andromeda Romano-Lax: I started with the Internet and accessible published works for background on John Watson, but when it came to Rosalie, the record was thin. That’s when the fun really starts: when you head to the archives. I visited the Library of Congress, Rayner’s home and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Vassar College in NY, and the Center for the History of Psychology in Akron, Ohio, for starters. In addition to library-style research, I relished spending time in those places that shaped Rosalie, visiting old neighborhoods, strolling the Vassar campus, eating Baltimore crab cakes and sipping bourbon in a historic bar. (It isn’t all hard work.)17FISHER-facebookJumbo

I loved learning about the era—especially women’s roles in the teens and 20s. It felt like a gift to start connecting the experience of women then with the experience of women in, say, the ‘60s-‘80s—and women now. History repeats itself. So much became clear to me about the lives of 20th century women by following one woman’s life story in detail. And isn’t that why we read historical fiction?

L.L.: John and Rosalie have a tumultuous love affair, marry, and then have children. This part of the story became quite fascinating to me. It’s almost as if they had their own two ‘test subjects’ in Billy and Jimmy. Still, I can’t really say that’s much different than parenting today. Wouldn’t you say that on some level, we’re ‘experimenting’ with our own kids?

Andromeda Romano-Lax: That’s a great takeaway—for good or for bad, we are all experimenting on our children, and the pendulum keeps swinging between styles that are more or less pro-attachment, or more less based on children’s perceived independence or dependence, for example. I do believe parents should take guidance from their intuition as well as what they read or hear from “experts.” But on top of this, I think some historical and cultural perspective goes a long, long way. What did people think 20, 50, 100 years ago? How do people raise babies in other countries? What can we learn by critically examining the evidence for the latest trends and comparing today’s ideas with ideas from other eras and other cultures?LittleAlbertJohnWatson

 

L.L.: Many of the experiments with little Albert B. made me feel a bit…well, squeamish and then mad at Rosalie and John for doing such a thing to an innocent baby…making him fear bunnies and even Santa Claus. Did you have a similar reaction?

Andromeda Romano-Lax: Yes, but perhaps less so than many readers. I understood that psychology was in its infancy and today’s experimental ethics didn’t yet exist. In judging the past we have to put ourselves in that time period, with all its limitations. Watson had extremely good intentions. He thought he was saving future children from pain and emotional anguish. And most of the infants Watson studied were brought into the lab briefly and were not hurt. (Albert was the possible exception because he was brought into the lab on multiple occasions.) DMtz1

Now, what did bother me was knowing that Watson didn’t bother to decondition Little Albert—in other words, to reverse the emotional damage caused. Watson was very flippant about that fact. And what bothered even more was how Watson took such a poorly designed experiment on a single, possibly abnormal baby and then used it as the foundation for some very bad parenting advice which was sold to hundreds of thousands of moms and dads, persuading them to withhold the most basic kinds of affection from their babies.

The experiments are mildly disturbing. The later application via Watson’s and Rayner’s parenting guide is horrifying. The takeaway is not to hate Watson but to evaluate “expert” findings and read parenting guides of the future a little more critically.

L.L.: And their parenting books! Did you have the opportunity to read them? What can you tell us about these guides for raising children? Are they still in publication?

Andromeda Romano-Lax: The Watsons’ 1928 parenting book (Psychological Care of Infant and Child) is out of print. It contains bad advice—like don’t kiss or cuddle your children—and sensible advice, like help your children establish stable routines. It was actually more 97069505_-com-psychological-care-of-infant-and-child-john-b-progressive than other guides of the early 20th century, especially in its recommendation that physical punishment is not necessary. But its main message, the disturbing message, was don’t form attachments to your children—which is as different from my own parenting practices as possible. If John Watson had seen me nursing, reading to, sleeping with, and endlessly snuggling with my two babies he would have pegged me as a child abuser!

As a researcher, my aim was to read about parenting guides as a larger genre, in order to understand where this book fit in the progression from anti-attachment (Watsons) to pro-attachment (Dr. Spock) style parenting. For general readers interested in this topic, I’d
recommend Ann Hulbert’s Raising America: Experts, Parents, and a Century of Advice About Children.

 

L.L.: I found it absolutely fascinating when John resigned from his post at Johns Hopkins and then became an ad man. This was before the days of “Mad Men,” but still many aspects of psychology play into consumerism. Can you talk about that, please?

Andromeda Romano-Lax: Long before “Mad Men,” the top advertising pioneers recognized that emotional reactions and interest in sex, for example, could be useful in selling products. As psychology blossomed into a more respected science, behaviorists were recruited. John switched from the academic to the advertising world at just the right time, contributing his own interests, including a fascination with the power of fear. We have him and others to thank for making us worry that we aren’t pretty enough, or don’t smell right, or on the verge of making our children sick or miserable if we don’t buy the next new product.

L.L.: And Rosalie…it appears as if I’m not the only one who didn’t know much about her. But I’m so glad you brought her story into the open! It was the roaring 1920s and she had a degree from Vassar, promising future in psychology, and then she met John. Part of me wanted to scream, ‘no…don’t do it!’ and another part of me wanted to see her and John get together. Did any of your research indicate what she may have done if it weren’t for John Watson?

Andromeda Romano-Lax: First, you’re not the in the minority for being unaware of Rosalie. Second, in terms of guessing what other life she might have led, the research can’t lc3v77r5ixt9b7tell us because she got involved with Watson so early. My hunch is that she would have loved to enter the glamorous world of advertising, which (as I hadn’t realized but soon discovered) already included women pioneers, even before the ‘20s. Rosalie was social, fun-loving, interested in city life, the arts and fashion as well as psychology. She would have done a great job selling the excitement of the 1920s to other women.

 

 

 

L.L.: What’s captured your interest these days, anything keeping you up at night?

Andromeda Romano-Lax: Most recently, my fiction research takes me into the world of AI, where the robots are not only coming, they’re already here. In the nonfiction world (I write both fact and fiction) I am absolutely obsessed with language acquisition and have spent most of the last two years intensely studying Spanish while living in Mexico.

I won’t mention politics, which keeps everyone up, except to say that while I was writing about John Watson, many people asked me how someone with such inflexible views and a provocative manner could have been such a famous public speaker and celebrity—or why any woman would put up with him. Trump, anyone?

L.L.:  What should I have asked, but may have forgotten?

Andromeda Romano-Lax: No one has asked me yet what kind of reader I was imagining for this book.

In a general way, I think this book is suited to those with an interest in science or the 1920s. But additionally, I was hoping that some readers who puzzle over the cold parenting styles of their parents, grandparents or great-parents would read this novel and say, “A-ha. Finally, I understand.” I also hoped that any readers who are parents now will feel more empowered to make their own decisions about how to raise their children.

L.L.: Andromeda, it was a pleasure connecting! Thank you for this amazing contribution to literary historical fiction.

Andromeda Romano-Lax:  Thank you Leslie!

For more information, or to follow on social media, please see: 

Twitter: @romanolax

NYTimes Book Review of BEHAVE

AndromedaMID1About the Author: Born in 1970 in Chicago, Andromeda Romano-Lax worked as a freelance journalist and travel writer before turning to fiction. Her first novel, The Spanish Bow, was translated into eleven languages and was chosen as a New York Times Editors’ Choice, BookSense pick, and one of Library Journal’s Best Books of the Year. Her second novel, The Detour, was internationally published in 2012. Her third novel, Behave, was published by Soho Press in 2016 and was chosen as an Indie Next pick and named by Amazon “One of the Best Books of the Year So Far.”  Among her nonfiction works are a dozen travel and natural history guidebooks to the public lands of Alaska, as well as a travel narrative, Searching for Steinbeck’s Sea of Cortez: A Makeshift Expedition Along Baja’s Desert Coast, which was an Audubon Editor’s Choice and will soon be released in a new ebook edition.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, through this various social media outlets. Hope to “see” you there!

[Special thanks to Soho Publishing and A. Romano-Lax. Cover and author image courtesy of A. Romano-Lax. Image of John B. Watson retrieved from, image of John & Rosalie together from, baby experiment image retrieved from, vintage ad from , all retrieved on 9.2.16] 

 

BookS on MondaY: The Happiest Country for 40+ years and the values we can adopt for raising kids from THE DANISH WAY OF PARENTING

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By Leslie Lindsay 

Denmark, home of Hans Christian Anderson and Lego toys, has been voted the happiest country in the world for 40 consecutive years, most recently in the 2016 World Happiness Report. What is the secret to this consistent success? Can happiness become the new Danish export? Photo-Nov-28-2-21-23-PM-1024x735-1024x735

That’s what THE DANISH WAY OF PARENTING (TarcherPerigee/RandomHouse, August 2016)  And I have to say, the concept became intriguing to me. When I learned the U.S. ranked 17th in “the most happy,” just under Mexico, I wanted to know why and what did the Danes have on us? Here’s a breakdown of the book, which spells out  P-A-R-E-N-T and is how each chapter is organized:

P – Play: Why free play creates happier, better adjusted, more resilient adults.

A – Authenticity: Why honesty creates a stronger sense of self and how praise can be used to form a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset.

R – Reframing: How shifting our perception can improve relationships and well-being.

E – Empathy: How fostering an empathic household can help your children be more tolerant and less judgmental of others.

N – No Ultimatums: Why avoiding power struggles and using a more democratic parenting approach fosters trust.

T – Togetherness and Hygge (Coziness): Why a strong social network is one of the biggest factors in our overall happiness and by creating hygge we can give this powerful

THE DANISH WAY OF PARENTING is simply written, yet jam-packed with supporting evidence as to what and how we can parent better. And there’s always room for growth, right? The authors, one raised in the U.S. and married to a Dane and now living in Rome, and the other, a family and child counselor in Copenhagen tell us exactly how the Danish Way is different. Hint: the one major difference has to do with something called hygge, meaning togetherness. Read on to find out what this encompasses. And then consider trying it as early as tonight. 

Leslie Lindsay: The premise of THE DANISH WAY OF PARENTING is that Denmark is the happiest country in the world in large part due to their upbringing. It seems there may be multiple variables at play (such as parental leave policies),  but what are some things parents in the United States can implement immediately that can have a positive impact?

Jessica: Two major things we could do here at home everyday is to try to teach more empathy and learn how to “hygge” (pronounced hooga) which is cozying around together with those you care about in a drama-free environment. Danes value hygge time highly and it’s something we can easily incorporate here if others agree to try, too. In Denmark, empathy is a crucial part of education and it starts being actively taught in pre-school. It is just as important as teaching Math or English. Seeing that social connectedness has been proven to be one of the number one predictors of happiness, I think that teaching more empathy as a skill at home and incorporating hygge, we could make a big difference in in our overall wellbeing.  shutterstock_415695742-600x381

L.L.: We’ve heard the “Tiger Mother” philosophy and the French parenting angle, so what distinguishes the Danish Way from these other cultural parenting perspectives or styles?
Jessica:
In Tiger parenting and French parenting, what the parent says goes without question, period. It is very authoritarian. This is a generalization of course but it’s pretty common in these cultures. Tiger parenting is all about blind obedience. In French parenting, children are expected to have “allegiance” to parents, which is again authoritarian. It is literally all work and no play and Danish parenting is just the opposite.

Danish parenting is about respecting the child’s integrity, listening to their needs and encouraging learning through play, trusting them to trust in themselves and having empathy for others. In Denmark, children are encouraged to question rules they don’t understand so that they feel they are fair and exist for a reason. They focus more on democracy and avoiding problems by respecting children’s integrity and believing in their goodness. I firmly believe this is why Danes, overall, have a good self-esteem and are happier. When you grow up believing your feelings and thoughts matter and the world can be just, you feel good about yourself. The philosophy of Danish parenting is teach respect, be respectful and you will be respected.

L.L.: What are a few striking differences in the way Americans parent on a day to day basis versus how Europeans parent?

Iben: Americans in general strive to make their children better than others. This is subtly dividing not connecting. It doesn’t come from a bad place, it is just how you are raised. You all want to be more special and more individual. Because it makes you feel like better parents, better human beings. And being the best is prized. You are by nature competitive because you are raised to know that the “better kids” get rewards, praise, trophies, love and their pictures on the walls etc. In a dog-eat-dog world you do everything to try to make your kid the best. You were told for a long time that nature was built on survival of the fittest. So “I” have to survive against all the others. Denmark is built on a totally different foundation. We are collectivist and raised on teamwork, democracy and togetherness. We are programmed not to stand out, but always emphasizing the “we” and that which is created jointly.

L.L.: Jessica, as an American expat who married into a Danish family, can you describe the more Danish concepts of ‘reframing‘ and ‘hygge‘ and why they were surprising to you at first?

shutterstock_231997051-600x400Jessica: “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing,” my husband would say if he had to go out in freezing rain. He had such a knack for finding the silver lining in things and reframing them. He was also often making me aware of when I used extreme language such as “I hate that” or “I am terrible at that” and he would correct me to get a more exact. He was very focused on the importance of language and not being hyperbolic. But when I realized he was also doing this with our daughter’s language around her general experiences of the world, I understood that reframing was a kind of Danish skill that gets passed on through the generations. Her fears became curiosity or her negativity became more tempered all through that language altering. This ability to reframe has a profound effect on long-term happiness because how you choose to see the world greatly affects how you feel about it.

In terms of ‘hygge,’ this was something I saw from day one with my husband’s family but it took me a lot of years to finally get how powerful it is and the breakdown of its psychological components. I describe the crux of hygge as a sacred mental space you enter into with those you love and care for which is free from competition, bragging, complaining or too much negativity. It’s a limited time when you are just there to connect with others and be in a nice environment and cozy around. Many people talk about mindfulness these days, but Hygge_oath_2.jpghygge’ is a sort of “we-fulness.” The purpose is simply to be together stress free, and that feeling of safe social connectedness makes you happy. It was hard for me at first because I wasn’t used to so much “we”-time that was controversy-free, but now I love relaxing into those peaceful moments and I see how much kids absolutely thrive in this we space.

L.L.: What inspired you to write this book?

Jessica: The day I was inspired to write the book was when I was reading the newspaper and Denmark had just been voted (again) as the happiest people in the world. At the very same moment I could hear my husband altering our daughter’s language around her fear of spiders as they talked about one. I reflected on how that was going to change her future. [My daughter] would be more curious, less scared and more open. It was so Danish what he was doing (reframing) and I suddenly felt incredibly lucky to have this influence in my children’s life because I never would have known about these Danish ways otherwise. And then it hit me. The light bulb went off. There is a Danish way of parenting! And it must be one of the reasons why they grow up to be the happiest people in the world! And so the book idea was born.

Iben:  I am Danish and have been brought up on the basis of Danish culture and norms, I am deeply aware that a Danish (or Scandinavian) upbringing differs from that of many other cultures. I believe very much in the importance of learning throughout life, and I am passionate about what I do. When Jessica asked if we should collaborate about writing a book, one could say it was a perfect match. I hope the book will offer a change in perspective or a paradigm shift for someone, which at the end can change children´s life to the better.

For more information, or to connect with the authors via social media, please see:

IbenAbout the Authors: Iben Dissing Sandahl is a certified coach, author and a licensed narrative psychotherapist, MPF, with her own private practice just outside of Copenhagen. She specializes in counseling families and children. Originally trained as a teacher, she worked for 10 years in the Danish school system before earning her degree in narrative psychotherapy. She is a frequent guest expert in magazines, newspapers, and Danish national radio. She is a wife and mother of two girls, Ida and Julie.

Jessica Joelle Alexander is an American author, columnist and cultural trainer. She Jessicagraduated with a BS in a psychology and went on to teach communication and writing skills in Scandinavia and central Europe. Married to a Dane for 13 years, she lives in Rome with her husband and two children, Sophia and Sebastian.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay at: 

[Special thanks to K. Platte at Tarcher Perigee/Peguin RandomHouse. Cover and author images courtesy of Tarcher Perigee and used with permission. All other images retrieved from the DANISH WAY website on 8.31.16]

The Teacher is Talking: Mum’s the Word–Interview with Author Jessie Clemence

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By Leslie Lindsay

Apraxia Monday:  He Talks Funny Author Jeanne Buesser & Give-a-Way

As as teenager, I subscribed to YM magazine (I think it stood for Young & Modern).  The publication had a section entitled, “Say Anything: Your Most Mortifying Moments.”  Gone are the the days of YM, (and thankfully, so are my teenage years), but those mortifying moments live on, even as a mother.  Especially as a mother.  Today, I present “Cringe-Worthy Moments” by Jessie Clemence, author of There’s a Green Plastic Monkey in My Purse: And Other Ways Motherhood Changes Us. 

I am thrilled to have Jessie spell it all out for us–mortifying moments and all here in her guest post.  Stay tuned to learn more about the give-a-way: a complimentary copy of her book–perfect for gifting this Mother’s Day.  

Before I had my own children, I had an idea of how parenting would go. I operated under the assumption that I would parent my children to the best of my ability and that would be enough. I believed that my efforts would ensure me happy and obedient children, all the time.

I was wrong.

It turns out that you can parent a child with all your might. You can train. You can teach. You can make up good-behavior charts and bribe reward a child with all manner of stickers and special treats, but these things might not make a difference at crucial times in their life. No parent has ever been able to predict and control every choice a kid makes. That’s the thing about kids—they come with minds of their own. And this often becomes obvious in front of other people, and we mothers are embarrassed beyond words, possibly even stunned silent.

For example, our daughter recently startled a room full of relatives at the family reunion when she yelled, “Pray, Larry!” at her grandfather. You see, my father-in-law is a dear man of God, but he often takes a bit of time to gather his thoughts before beginning the prayer. My mother-in-law has been known to nudge him with a whispered, “Pray, Larry!” to get him moving. My own husband has taken up this prayer-hesitation as he ages, so I’ve started mimicking his mom at the dinner table. “Pray, Larry!” I hiss at Eric.

I think I’m terribly funny, and if he’s honest, so does my husband. He snorts and starts praying. But we forgot to tell Audrey that sometimes little family jokes are just that—little and with only the four of us. So when she was hungry at the family reunion and Grandpa wasn’t on her schedule, she just did what comes naturally—she ordered him to pray. And the whole room thought it was hysterical, except for maybe me. And Grandpa, who apparently doesn’t appreciate being called by his first name by a grandchild. He did get right to the prayer, so I guess the child made her point.

In another example, I think of the time that Caleb threw up on me, all over me, at story time at the library. We were sitting quietly when I suddenly realized he was burning up, then he was throwing up. There was no time to prevent the disaster. My first instinct was to start cleaning the mess, but there was no way I could do that and care for my sick child at the same time. The dear librarians came to my rescue and started mopping up the mess. They cleaned the carpet and the chair and sent me home. My daughter was heartbroken to leave story time early, so they let her stay and then walked her home when it was over.

I could go on and on about the chances God has given me to get over myself as I parent. In fact, I wrote an entire book called There’s a Green Plastic Monkey in My Purse, and it’s all about the ways God has let me grow closer to Him through parenting. Each parenting challenge is another chance to move past my initial reaction to seek the good of my children, and to move past pride and self-absorption. These things are poison to our walks with God, and He lets the difficulties of parenting teach us this over and over. plasticmonkey_160x240and ridiculousness. I love to connect with people through writing about how God’s Word applies to all parts of our lives. We talk about parenting and marriage, the food I burn for dinner, how much I hate skinny jeans, and anything else that comes to mind. Subject matter runs the gamut, I tell you.

I have also written a book titled There’s a Green Plastic Monkey in My Purse. It’s 200 pages about how God helped me get over myself and turn to Him in my inadequacies as a mother. It’s about how He’s never

Colossians 3:12-15 says: Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. (NLT)

Those cringe-worthy moments in motherhood give me a chance to do just these things. They let me learn how to clothe myself with tenderheartedness towards a child even when I’m embarrassed. They give me a chance to react with kindness when a child blurts out something at the wrong time. They let me learn forgiveness over and over again, just like Christ forgives me over and over again. My life is not about me. I live to glorify God, and He teaches me how to do it as I parent. I pray that He lets you learn these same blessed things through your own experiences as a parent!  Apraxia Monday:  He Talks Funny Author Jeanne Buesser & Give-a-Way

***It’s Give-A-Way Time!! ***Here’s how it works:  Tell us  your most embarrassing moment as a MOM by leaving a comment in the comment section of this blog.  (Sorry, but Facebook comments will not be entered to win).  A lucky winner will be drawn at random on Friday, May 3rd at 3pm CST.  If you’re the winner–great!  We’ll contact you via email.  Please remember to check your junk folder!  You’ll have 24 hours to claim your prize (respond to the email with your mailing address).  Your complimentary copy of Jessie’s book will be mailed to you from PRbytheBook, based in Texas.  Thanks–and good-luck!

Bio:Jessie Clemence is a mother of two fun and occasionally sassy children who keep life interesting. She is married to Eric and their family lives in southwest Michigan. To find Jessie online, visit her blog at www.jessieclemence.com. You can keep up with their daily adventures there.  [all images retrieves from www.jessieclemence.com 4.05.13]

In My Brain Today: The End of an Era

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By Leslie Lindsay

It is with mixed pride and sadness that I celebrate today.  You see, my darling precocious–and youngest daughter is completing her pre-K education.  It all culminates this afternoon with a popsicle social complete with friends and teachers who have played an important role in her life for the last 3 years.  (Jeez…that’s most of her life!)

Now, you would think that I would be so over it, but alas I am not.  I have been through the preschool “graduation” once with my 7-year old.  Been there, done that, right?  Well, I don’t think a mother ever tires of seeing her children grow and develop.  I know I will continue to observe such milestones, yet this is still hard.

Others have told me, “Oh, it’s just because she is your youngest that you are feeling this way.”  Well, yes and no…true, she is my youngest and in many ways, her moving out of preschool is an end of an era, but it really has very little to do with the fact that she is my youngest.  It has to do with her. 

You see, Kelly is a sweet, thoughtful, bright, and very mild-mannered child.  She is a joy to be around.  Sometimes, I wonder who is mothering whom?!  (Of course, she is never in a role that would sacrifice her childhood).  But I am going to miss her when she goes on to kindergarten.  I am going to miss the handprint art and the stick figure drawings with the too-big heads and the wobbly handwriting.    I am going to sort of-kind of miss the tiny little voice that says, “Why, momma?”  and I am going to miss her interrupting me as I work away on my laptop, “Momma, I just wanted to come and tell you I love you.”

Yet, on the otherhand, I will have more time.  Time to write.  Time to read.  Time to hang out with my hound.  Time to reclaim my goals, my activities.  My dreams.  Not that raising two beautiful daughters was not a part of my dreams, it was…but I know there is more to life than boogars and toilet bowl scrubbing.

And that’s what is in my brain today, Thurday May 24th 2012. 

New Year, New You: Finding your center

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By Leslie Lindsay

Putting a little zen in your life can help you become a better parent, right?  (And now why am I not at yoga now??!).  Well, let’s see here…today, being the ominous Friday-the-thirteenth, I have detected a bad vibe.  Or, as one person told me today, “anger in my heart.”  Excuse me?!

I won’t bore you with the details.  (They really aren’t as juicy as I am making them sound).  I think it had to do with a tired, overworked, underappreciated clerk at at local bookstore.  Maybe she was having some bad luck today, and took it out on me?  I don’t really know.  But I do know she was rude and I called her on it by saying, “Um, you are really being unkind to me.”  (wanted to say, “What did I ever do to you b*****?!” but held my tongue).

So, I began reflecting on this “bad vibe” business.  Perhaps it has something to do with not feeling centered/grounded/balanced?  And maybe it was the clerk who  mistreated me who was feeling unbalanced today.

This grounded feeling is relevant to us in all areas of life.  For example, as parents, when we feel grouned, we parent better.  Simple as that.

 Just last evening, I said to my hubby, “I don’t feel like we have really connected with the kids lately…we aren’t doing anything all that enriching.”  He nodded and shrugged as if to say, “You’re right, but I am exhausted.”

So I thought a moment and decided that the whole family would work on coloring a poster-sized piece of art work my 6 1/2 year old drew with pencil but ran out of time to color.  We laid, belly-down on her bedroom floor markers in hand and enjoyed a good 20 minute coloring session.  It was almost therapeutic.

That was just one area of my life–and we all know there are many other areas of life that need balancing, yes?   When our lives are too full, we live on autopilot; just getting through the day–completing tasks and checking them off–and not really living the day.

Here are some ideas from Chicago Parent magazine, November 2010 issue that may help:

1.  Find Silence.  Life is noisy, our homes are too.  Everything from the dog to the cell phone is demanding our attention.  Don’t know what you need?  Maybe it’s because you can’t hear yourself think.  Make yourself a priortity by sitting in silence for some time during the day. I do this first thing in the morning, before even getting out of bed.

2.  Be thoughtful about how you start and end your day.  After lying in bed and gathering my thoughts (gumption?) for the day, I am often greeted by two very busy girls who have gotten into every craft our home owns.  The dog wants to be fed–now–and I am still fumbling around trying to find my faculties. Maybe I need to wake up even earlier?!

3.  Realize what drains you and what gives you energy.  Make a list.  What do you really hate?  How can you make those things better?  You don’t have to do everything perfectly and you don’t have to like everything you do, but something things just have to be done.  Now, make a list of what you love–writing works for me, maybe it’s exercise, reading, watching a movie…yes, it’s okay to do things things, too!  In fact, it’s required.

The best thing you can do for family is to take care of yourself by finding your center.  Inhale all of the good energy and exhale all of the negative.

Now, where’s that yoga mat?!