Loving fully in an unfair world

Today, a bird slowly died in front of my children. The impact against our sliding glass doors was deafening. Housebound by a winter storm, the kids and I quickly abandoned our hot chocolate in our rush to discover that a bright crimson cardinal had struck the glass. It now lay helpless in the snow.  

Be honest and don’t construct a cover-up. What’s been seen can’t be unseen: I watched, helpless to intervene or make my kids unsee this tragedy. The suffering we were witnessing elicited, “Mom, let’s help it!” “Should we bring it inside and nurse it?” “What do we do?” “Poor bird.” Our 12-year-old’s large eyes were brimming with tears. Her younger brother couldn’t look away. I wanted as badly as my kids to watch this bird miraculously fly away. But the cardinal grew still and we, silent, mourning the loss of an innocent bird.  

Show sensitivity and respect for their particular attachments: Unlike adults, children fall in love fearlessly, without baggage. Maybe it’s toys as much or more than the people surrounding them they cherish. In the case of my children, it was their stuffed animals—each complete with name and personality.  

As enjoyable as it was for me to witness the creative powers at work in my children’s play, I knew that the depth of attachment would create a storm of trouble if any of these animal kingdom favourites were lost. After all, these were real as flesh and blood friends in my children’s world. On many occasions, we did come close to losing a stuffed friend. At the grocery store, in the airplane, on the sidewalk, silently fallen out of the stroller.   

In every instance, the look of shock and pain in the affected child’s eyes was a small step into the brutal world, where fierce affection is often accompanied by sorrow, a pain equal to the love.  

Read in full on City Parent Toronto Magazine.

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Holiday Parties: Getting Your Kids Involved

Holidays guarantee entertaining, in one form or another. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the chaos of hosting, cutting dramatically into family time during a season which should be above all, family-centric.

I countered this once by asking our son and daughter to be servers at a small dinner party we hosted. To my surprise, they took on the task with creative fanfare, devising a plan to emerge dressed “alike.” Our petite daughter stuffed herself into her younger brother’s khakis and plaid shirt, and with a mustache drawn on her face, appeared side-by-side with her khaki, plaid-shirted and mustached brother to greet guests, take drink orders, hand out water glasses and clear appetizer plates as needed. They called themselves “Bob and Bob” and ended up stealing the show. They enjoyed their popularity, and my husband and I appreciated their helpfulness, since we were stretched with finishing the meal and welcoming our guests.

This positive experience reinforced my commitment to invite the kids into the process of planning and executing a dinner party so they participate in a meaningful way.

Read in full at Washington FAMILY.

 

Stirring Up Peace In The Home, Complete With Love And Mutual Respect

With all the confrontation and strife around us, who doesn’t wish for a more peaceful world? I’ve watched people become embroiled in polarizing issues and hope that they’re paying attention to the sphere of influence where they are in control. As one concerned parent, I’ve decided to look first into the place where I can directly stir-up peace: my own home. Here are some straightforward tips to help encourage other parents in the realm where they hold significant influence.

Resist yelling around the house, no matter the size of your home. Walk into the next room and talk face-to-face with your child.

With her characteristic transparency Lori Borgman, grandmother of eleven, syndicated columnist and author of, “I Was A Better Mother Before I Had Kids” pleads guilty to sometimes raising her voice around the home. But, she says, that though it may be momentarily expedient, in the long run, it’s “a horrible habit to develop”. So, if we mess up from time to time, don’t give in. Work intentionally—like Borgman does—to prevent this oops from morphing into a hardened habit.

“Face-to-face is always better,” Bellaire High School counselor Susan Childs told me. She continued, noting that when one person’s voice is raised, it’s reciprocated and pretty quickly, no matter the topic, the point of conversation is lost. Meredith Bodgas, mother and editor-in-chief of WorkingMother.com agrees that the message is affected by its delivery: “Get down on their level so you’re talking to them, not at them or above them. Not only will they may be more inclined to listen to what you’re saying but you’ll also be less inclined to raise your voice since you’ll be so close to their little face.”

Read in full on Houston Family Magazine.

Caribbean Getaway

Meet the Scotts, a Houston family who visits Turks & Caicos year after year

When Amy and Matt Scott were married in the Turks & Caicos Islands (TCI) in 2011, they were already hooked and knew it was the perfect place for their wedding. Since then, they’ve added daughters Henley, now 5 and Sadie, 4 to their family, but that hasn’t slowed them down. They’ve continued going back to Turks and Caicos, their hands-down favorite beach holiday. Though the Houston family has visited many other famous Caribbean destinations, Matt told me, “We’ve never found anywhere better than Turks & Caicos.”

I met the Scott family on board the Sun Charter’s Sail and Snorkel Tour after everyone had returned to the boat from exploring the breathtaking Pelican Reef, part of the world’s 3rd largest Barrier Reef. It was impossible to miss the vivacious Scott girls, who had briefly snorkeled and were now wrapped in towels, chilling in the sun. With Captain Matt at the helm, our 70-foot gaff-rigged schooner was an easy ride, with staff passing around a pitcher of rum punch. We sailed along Caicos Cay until anchoring to do some first-rate beachcombing for sand-dollars at Ft. George Cay. While the girls made sand-castles, Matt accepted the task of finding sand-dollars for his daughters and returned with about a dozen, causing the girls to erupt with oohs and aahs. 

Read in full at Houston Family Magazine.

engaging kids outside the home

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“Summer is greeting us with her cheerful grin, but parents who couldn’t come up for the air needed to plan for her grand entrance are not doing a happy dance. It looms instead like an epic black hole, begging for definition. Camp registration deadlines came and went a long time ago, but maybe, your kids aren’t keen on camp, anyway. You don’t want summer to be a chore for you or your kids. So, what’s a good parent to do?

There are plenty of life-changing ways to occupy your children over the summer besides sending them to camp and, ample evidence that these experiences are deeply formative. In my case, an older friend needed help weeding her flower garden and asked if my 12-yr-old daughter (who wasn’t a camp-loving girl) wanted to earn some cash. In fact, she did, and though it was a hot, humid undertaking, my daughter was glad she said yes. Weeding side-by-side, the two bonded over their love of fiction and started their own book club, reading “The Wheel On the School”, “Ruby Holler” and “Number the Stars”. My daughter grew from that summer, on her knees beside my dear old friend, picking weeds and talking books.” 

Read in full in Houston Family Magazine.

Keeping our kids safe: what our leaders are doing and what we as parents can do, too

“Many anguished parents across America have come to recognize Andrew Pollack, who lost his daughter, Meadow, in the Parkland, Florida school shooting on February 14. With his face flashing across various news channels, his passionate anger is palpable when he says straight into the camera, No more. “We’ve had 200 school shootings in America and it’s got to stop,” he recently told CNN. His life-long goal going forward, he says, is to make schools safe. “My agenda is to have kids go to school without worrying they’ll be shot.” His posture and message serve to summarize the mood of every parent: Fix it! Enough already.”

Read in full in Houston Family Magazine.

Family Travel Helped Our Kids Make Their Own Memories, Not Simply Step Into Ours

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“We lived in Germany as a young expat couple and a decade later traveled back to show our daughter and her seven-year-old brother our favorite haunts. I thought it promised to be a sweet walk down memory-lane, where our kids would enjoy stepping squarely into the footprints my husband and I had left years ago.

Instead, they insisted on pulling us in new directions, almost as if they, first-timers in Germany, were the tour-guides. A huge dancing mess of little prints resulted, sprinkled wildly around our larger ones. I should have known the kids would insist on making their own footprints, creating original memories driven by them.

They transformed our time in Germany into a nonstop quest to conquer towers.

Any signage with Schloss (castle), Feste (stronghold), or Burg (fortress) sent our car careening in that direction as if driven by the giggling youth in the backseat. Without exception, we would climb to the upmost height of the ruin, up the cramped, damp, spiral stairs to the lookout tower.

These ruins–unlike American historic sites—lacked the warning signs, the guardrails, the attendants and the guides. There were no disclaimers posted, no emergency phones available if help were needed, no brochure map to navigate the castle ruin’s maze. Kids sprinting from dungeon to teetering tower were solely under the protection of their parents.”

Read in full at Houston Family Magazine

Teaching Our Kids to Love Fully in an Unfair World

Today, a bird slowly died in front of my children. The impact against our sliding glass doors was deafening. Housebound by a winter storm, the kids and I quickly abandoned our hot chocolate in our rush to discover that a bright crimson cardinal had struck the glass. It now lay helpless in the snow.

Be honest and don’t construct a cover-up. What’s been seen can’t be unseen: I watched, helpless to intervene or make my kids unsee this tragedy. The suffering we were witnessing elicited, “Mom, let’s help it!” “Should we bring it inside and nurse it?” “What do we do?” “Poor bird.” Our 12-year-old’s large eyes were brimming with tears. Her younger brother couldn’t look away. I wanted as badly as my kids to watch this bird miraculously fly away. But the cardinal grew still and we, silent, mourning the loss of an innocent bird.

Show sensitivity and respect for their particular attachments: Unlike adults, children fall in love fearlessly, without baggage. Maybe it’s toys as much or more than the people surrounding them they cherish. In the case of my children, it was their stuffed animals—each complete with name and personality.

As enjoyable as it was for me to witness the creative powers at work in my children’s play, I knew that the depth of attachment would create a storm of trouble if any of these animal kingdom favorites were lost. After all, these were real as flesh and blood friends in my children’s world. On many occasions, we did come close to losing a stuffed friend. At the grocery, in the airplane, on the sidewalk, silently fallen out of the stroller.

In every instance, the look of shock and pain in the affected child’s eyes was a small step into the brutal world, where fierce affection is often accompanied by sorrow, a pain equal to the love.

Read in full at Houston Family Magazine.