Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year’s Resolutions for Parents

I will be more patient with my children and not lose my temper when they’re just acting like kids.

I will not overindulge my children, but will teach them to have pride in earning things for themselves.

I will be more grateful for my children.

I will quit worrying!

I will nurture my children’s spiritual health by taking them to my church, synagogue, mosque or other religious organization.

I will try to get my kids outside more and involved in activities other than video games, computers and television.

I will make sure my family has dinner together at least 3 times a week.

I will read more books to my children.

I will encourage my children’s grandparents to spend more time with them.

I will pray for those who desperately want children and have been unable to have them.

I will let my teenagers learn the consequences of their actions on their own instead of always stepping in to prevent them from making mistakes.

I will get my preschoolers potty-trained!

I will remember that my husband needs attention, too.

I will do more to pamper myself, and not feel guilty about it!

I will take better care of myself—lose weight, eat healthier, get check-ups, etc.—so that I have the energy and stamina to keep up with my kids.

I will prepare healthier foods for my family.

I will teach how my children how to care about others through volunteer work.

I will take a vacation without the kids and enjoy it.

I will tell my children I love them every single day.

I will rediscover the joy of life, just like a child.

Friday, December 29, 2006

When Children Have Imaginary Friends

My teenagers will probably be totally embarrassed that I’m telling you this, but they both had imaginary friends when they were younger. My oldest had a best friend that he dubbed "Scooter," while my second son had a whole cast of characters, including "Tinky" and "Tommy." It was quite amusing to have them in the house. Of course, these imaginary friends were easy scapegoats when one of my boys did something wrong ("Tinky broke the lamp"), but they were also great entertainment for the boys. "Mommy," they would ask, "can Scooter stay for dinner? He likes pizza, too." I loved to play along by setting a place for Scooter.

Some parents worry that their kids might be a little mentally unbalanced if they create this fantasy world, but, to the contrary, these children are often very intelligent. These same kids frequently become very creative adults; imaginary friends are just a natural extension of "pretend play." Often, these friends come in the form of children, but they may also be animals or other types of beings.

Experts say that about 65 percent of kids create imaginary friends, most frequently between the ages of 3 and 5. Some continue to play with their friends even when they enter elementary school. And imaginary friends help kids deal with sometimes difficult emotions, such as anger, frustration, or loneliness. They also help children maintain a sense of control, a natural struggle that young children deal with. You’ll notice that this imaginary friend rarely "disagrees" with your child and always follows his lead.

Parents need only be concerned if their child becomes so attached to this make-believe friend that he excludes all others, or if the attachment starts to interfere with his social adjustment. Most of the time, children naturally outgrow their imaginary friends. Sometimes there’s an abrupt break, and your child will announce that "Scotty" moved out of town. But most of the time, they gradually fade away. In the meantime, it’s often fun and informative to listen in on your child’s conversation with his imaginary pal. It provides a window for viewing your child’s creativity and emotions.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

My Best Christmas Gift Ever

My oldest "baby" is seventeen now, but for all his wisdom I’m sure he doesn’t believe he was the best Christmas present I ever received. The eighties were drawing to a close, and I was told to expect my baby around November 30, 1989. This would be a very special Thanksgiving for us, but November passed into December, and still there was no baby. My belly grew rounder and rounder, but my little firstborn seemed content to stay huddled inside. After all, it was unusually cold that year for a Florida winter! Eleven days into December, I received a call from my doctor. "This baby may be trying to greet Jesus on his birthday," he said, "but I think we’d better give him a little nudge." So, the next morning, I waddled into the hospital and delivered my beautiful almost-Christmas baby. An enormous 9 pounds, 13-1/2 ounces, he was perfect in every way . . . just as I always imagined the little baby Jesus had been. Dylan’s arrival just two weeks before Christmas put a little kink in my preparations for that year, but nobody seemed to mind. He was my parents’ very first grandchild, so he was their best Christmas present, too! And every year when December arrives, our family celebrates the best gift that God ever gave our family at Christmastime -- our very own Christmas baby to love.

". . . and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son." -- Luke 2:7

Monday, December 18, 2006

Trust Your Instincts When It Comes to Your Kids’ Medical Care

One year, I decided to take my two oldest sons to a new dentist. We had moved some distance away from their pediatric dentist, so I wanted to try someone closer to our new home. This new dentist was even recommended by our orthodontist’s receptionist. When the dentist finished examining my boys, he told me that they had two cavities each and, therefore, would need a total of four fillings. Immediately, red flags started to go up in my mind. One of my sons had had a small cavity several years before, but other than that, they had great dental health and hadn’t changed their brushing habits. Why would they suddenly have so many cavities? I decided to seek a second opinion with their former dentist. It was definitely worth the drive! The boys had NO cavities! There was no sign of decay. Obviously, the new dentist had seen an opportunity to make some extra income! (I also became suspicious when the receptionist refused to provide a discount for two children.)

Another time, I took one of my sons to a specialist because he’d had a history of sinus infections and snoring. When we got to the office, the room was just packed with people. It was a zoo, with children crawling all over the place. We had to wait an hour-and-a-half to get in, and the staff was incredibly rude. When the doctor finally showed up, he never even touched my son. He shined a light in his throat for two seconds and announced, “Yup, let’s schedule him for surgery.” When I tried to ask him questions, he treated me like I was stupid, and he answered very condescendingly. I also noticed that there were an awful lot of people being scheduled for surgery. This guy had an assembly line going on! Needless to say, I knew this was NOT the guy I wanted to perform an operation on my young son.

I tell these stories not to criticize the medical profession, but rather just to urge you to use caution when you take your children to the dentist or doctor. There are many, many wonderful professionals who will take good care of your family. But, just as in any profession, there are a few rotten eggs. If, at any time, a red flag goes up for you when you’re visiting a particular doctor, heed the voice within. Get a second opinion. Don’t be afraid to trust your judgment. It could make a major difference not only in your finances, but, most importantly, in the quality of your children’s health.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Birthdays and Barf

Where have I been lately? Celebrating birthdays and cleaning up barf. The twins’ third birthday was last Saturday. Austen threw up at the dinner table, and spent the rest of the night doing the same. He and I spent a very uncomfortable night trying to sleep on old blankets and towels on the living room floor! Sunday night was Caleb’s turn, and another night for me on the floor. Monday, my husband came home from work with the same afflictions. On Tuesday, my oldest son celebrated his 17th birthday by barfing all day. My parents made the unfortunate choice of visiting on Sunday, so now they’re suffering, too. Only my second son and I have thus far escaped the wrath of this mighty bug! Will we be next? Stomach flu is miserable. Several days later, my husband and the twins are still sore and achy, sleeping a lot. Times like these force us all to slow down and get some rest—certainly not a bad thing. Lying like a slug on the couch and watching Christmas specials on TV (during those rare waking hours) is actually kind of fun. Okay, not exactly fun, but a nice change of pace from our normal crazy run around the rat race. If you’re home sick right now, or find yourself in that position in the near future, alleviate your suffering by taking the time to appreciate a slower pace of life and a chance to do absolutely nothing but take care of yourself. You deserve it!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Kids Need Your Attention

I’m discovering more and more that my kids are more likely to act up when I’m not giving them my full attention. As soon as I answer the phone or pick up a magazine, they start racing around the house, wrestling with each other, or clinging to my legs. It can be extremely frustrating when I can’t even run to the bathroom or put in a load of laundry without worrying about the scene I’ll find on my return. But then, as soon as I put down the magazine and say, “Let’s read a book together,” they run off to get the book and climb onto the couch next to me. Yes, let’s face it, kids are self-centered and care only about their own needs, not yours. They want you to make them happy. They don’t want you to pursue your own interests; they want to be the center of your existence. This can be demoralizing for parents who feel as if they’ve lost a part of themselves when they had kids. For instance, I used to be a voracious reader, and could spend all day immersed in a good novel. Now, I have a ten-page list of books that I’d love to read “some day.” When a new novel comes out that sounds really good, I feel a pang of regret that I just won’t have time to read it. I might as well use my Barnes & Noble gift certificates for a Caillou or Elmo book. I have a list of movies that I haven’t had a chance to see either! But life is always a series of choices. We simply can’t have—or do—it all. When it comes right down to it, which would I rather do . . . have all the time in the world to read alone in a quiet house, or discover the joy of butterflies with my children in the garden? Some day my kids will be more interested in spending time with their friends than with me. They’ll want to be entertained by their video games or sporting events, not by their mother. Of course, knowing this isn’t going to take away my anger when I have to apologize to a caller for the screaming in the background, or when I have to miss a TV program I’ve been dying to see because I can’t hear it over the children’s noise, but those feelings are fleeting. My overriding emotions are love and gratitude for my children—who want me to be with them—and that makes me feel good.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Do You Know a Family with Twins or Multiples?

If you happen to have multiples, or are close with a family who has twins, triplets (or more!), I have the perfect holiday gift! I’m pleased to announce the publication of my new book, Twice the Love: Stories of Inspiration for Families with Twins, Multiples and Singletons! Published in conjunction with TWINS magazine, this book is a compilation of inspiring stories written by parents and other family members about the joys and challenges of raising multiples. These true tales reflect a variety of topics, such as the special bond between multiples, typical crazy days in the life of a family with twins, challenges encountered in pregnancy or childhood, humorous situations created by multiples, adopting twins, and much more. If you’re the parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or even just a friend of twins or triplets, you’ll love these heart-warming and encouraging stories. Twice the Love also makes a great gift for those who are expecting or raising multiples! To order, please go to www.twinsmagazine.com/twice_the_love.html or www.susanheim.com/twicethelove.php.

CHAPTER TITLES

1. A Day in the Life . . .
2. Reflections on Parenting
3. Family Ties
4. Treasured Moments
5. Trials and Triumphs
6. Becoming a Family
7. A Special Bond
8. Mischievous Multiples

The cartoon artistry of the talented John M. Byrne from London, England, is also featured.

PRAISE FOR TWICE THE LOVE

“Having just had identical twin boys, I can promise you, you need all the help you can get. This book helped me realize we were not alone . . . Enjoy it!”
-- Kenny Rogers
award-winning recording artist

“‘Twice the work, half the sleep’ says one mother of twins in this wonderful and entertaining book. As a mother of eighteen-month-old twin boys, I couldn’t agree more! Susan Heim has compiled the most entertaining stories of the good, the bad and the chaotic from parents of twins. The stories are laugh-out-loud funny, inspiring and right on the money.”
-- Soledad O’Brien
CNN Anchor

“This is a delight. I couldn’t stop smiling.”
-- Adrienne Barbeau
actress/author and mother of twins

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Are You Happy?

Most parents will tell you they’re happy they had children. But let’s face it, when you’re caring for young children all day, there are plenty of moments that make you less than happy—much less. When the kids are fighting, refusing to eat, disobeying your instructions, dawdling, or refusing to take their nap, it’s tough to find joy when you want to tear your hair out. Of course, there are enough good moments to make you realize how fortunate you are. When you hear your little one giggle or mispronounce a word, that precious moment just warms the heart and rekindles your love for your child. But when the day-to-day stresses outweigh those endearing moments, you might need some better strategies for increasing your happiness level:

Everyone’s grumpier with inadequate sleep and nutrition. Try to get some zzzz’s instead of staying up to watch TV, and make sure you’re not skipping meals in your haste to serve the kids.

Try to do more things that give you pleasure. The laundry can wait. Break out the Play-doh with the kids. Find joy in the little things. . . and don't feel guilty about it!

Insert humor into your day. Talk to your kids in silly voices or pretend you’re Julia Child while fixing their breakfast. Laughter puts everyone in a good mood.

Don’t beat yourself up if you’re feeling stressed. Just because you’re having a rough time doesn’t mean you’re not a good parent. In fact, this is entirely normal!

Keep your relationship with your spouse strong. When you have marital problems, it spills over into your life with your children, making you more impatient. Make sure you and your partner find time to reconnect with each other.

Remember how lucky you are. When the kids’ noise is driving you crazy, think about how lonely you’d be if you’d never had kids. Appreciate the gift of parenthood.

Remind yourself that nothing lasts forever. Your kids won’t be throwing food on the floor in a few years, but neither will they be running up to you for kisses. Enjoy the good stuff while you can get it, and don’t sweat the bad stuff.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The "Ooooooooooo" Response

In 2001, I wrote a piece for the book, Human Moments: How to Find Meaning and Love in Your Everyday Life, by New York Times bestselling author Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. (I would highly recommend this book, by the way, and not just because my anonymous story is in it! It's just a wonderful book about how to discover the things that really matter in life, with some beautiful personal stories by Dr. Hallowell and others.) Following is what Dr. Hallowell wrote to introduce the piece, and then my own story:

When you bring your first child home from the hospital, your skill level is low and the challenge is great. Psychologists will tell you this is a recipe for anxiety. However, nature has built into babies and their parents a special protection against this anxiety, which I call the "Ooooooooooo" response. When you hold any baby, but particularly your own baby, you experience a special kind of human moment characterized by a feeling of "Ooooooooooo." Translated into English, "Ooooooooooo" roughly means, "You are so incredibly adorable and cute and lovable and so divinely cuddle-able that I would like to simply rock you in my arms forever, and I just do not have the words to describe the transcendent feeling that you give me." The author of the following short piece gives an excellent example of "Ooooooooooo." -- E.H.

Eleven years ago, I was a new mother. I'd always wanted to have a child but, like most new parents, I was somewhat surprised at how overwhelming it was to keep my baby happy twenty-four hours a day. One particular evening, my little son had been overly fussy, and both of us were worn out from his crying. Finally, exhausted, I lay down on the couch with the baby stretched across my chest. Both baby and I fell fast asleep.

A while later, I awoke to the bright glow of the moon shining through the window. I opened my eyes to find this tiny body still sprawled across me, his little hands tightly clutching the sides of my shirt. His bow-shaped mouth was slightly open and his sweet baby breath caressed my face with each rise and fall of his chest. His skin was translucent, and his dear face was the picture of innocence bathed in the moonlight. Tears came to my eyes, as I realized that this delicate child nestled close to my heart had truly stolen my heart. I felt wondrously blessed to have this precious son.

From that moment on, whenever I grew frustrated with my attempts to keep my child satisfied, I'd transport myself back to that perfect night, to feel again the soft weight of his warm body on mine and his light breath blowing across my face.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Kids Are Always Naughtier for Their Parents

When my teenagers were little, I would pick them up at the babysitter’s house, and she would tell me what little “angels” my boys were. “Are we talking about the same kids here?” I would ask. I couldn’t believe how well they behaved for her! They morphed into little monsters as soon as they stepped through the door at home!

I now have twin preschoolers, and it’s happening all over again! Their preschool teachers just love them! “They are such sweet little boys,” they tell me. I can’t believe it’s the same little boys who destroy my house and try to maim each other every day. They, too, have Jekyll and Hyde personalities. But I know this phenomenon isn’t unique to my kids. Another mother at preschool told me that her little boy has destroyed her house, yet is good as gold at school.

It’s sad, but I almost dread hanging out with my twins in public. When they’re in Sunday school or preschool, and I happen to be visiting or volunteering, they cling to my legs and cry, refusing to participate in the activities. But when I’m not there, their caretakers assure me that they’re just fine (after the initial clinginess as I drop them off).

In a way, it’s sweet that they want me, but it’s also exasperating . . . and, I admit, somewhat embarrassing. After all, we all want our kids to be “perfect,” especially when other parents are watching! I find myself making excuses when my boys act out in public. “Oh, they’re overtired,” I’ll say. Or, “He’s just acting that way because I’m here.” Or even, “He’s not feeling well right now.” It’s natural, I guess, not to want people to think we’ve managed to raise little “mama’s boys” or spoiled brats.

Fortunately, I have the benefit of hindsight since I have two teenagers. I know this kind of behavior won’t last forever, nor is it a sign that they’ll end up clinging to my coattails for the rest of their lives. It’s a normal developmental stage that most children go through. Some day, my twins will be more than happy not to have me around. And, sadly, that stage lasts a lot longer than the other one!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Happy Marriage Is at the Core of a Happy Family

Having children is a wonderful blessing in a marriage, but somehow in the process of becoming a family, married people often lose the feeling of being lovers. We start to think of ourselves more as “mom” and “dad” rather than “husband” and “wife.” Instead of discussing our hopes and dreams for the future, our conversation revolves around whether little Tommy went “poo-poo” today or whether preteen Erica needs a training bra. Our hands are too full of toys to hold hands with each other, and our eyes are too busy watching the kids to gaze longingly into each other’s eyes.

My friend Monica grew up in a family with six children. Her mother gave up her nursing career to devote herself full-time to raising the kids. Not surprisingly, she spent a lot of time running them to and from their various activities. While Monica’s mom was caring for the kids, their father, a police officer, took as much overtime as possible to be able to cover the expenses of such a large family. While the children prospered, their parents’ marriage floundered. Monica’s parents rarely spent time together, and whatever free time they had was devoted to the children. One day Monica’s dad devastated the family when he left Monica’s mother for a woman he had met on his bowling team. He told Monica’s mother they no longer had anything in common except the children.

Experts say that couples with strong marriages make better parents. The peace and love they feel from a successful relationship spills over to the entire family, benefiting everyone. Therefore, couples should not feel guilty about taking time away from the children for a “date” or even a vacation together. Maybe if Monica’s parents had hired a babysitter and bowled together once a week, they would have continued to enjoy some “couple” time together and would not have grown apart.

God intended marriage to be the core of a happy family. Find ways to continue to grow in your love for your spouse. Attend a couples’ retreat weekend. Take a trip together for your anniversary while the grandparents watch the children. Schedule a “date night” once a week. Make your marriage a priority. You won’t be neglecting your children; you’ll be preserving your family.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Don't Give Up on Your Dreams Just Because You're a Parent

We give up a lot of ourselves when we become mothers. Did you have a lot of dreams and interests when you were younger that you put on hold to raise your children? Nowadays, mothers can’t even daydream in the bathroom without one of the kids yelling through the door, “Mommy, Justin hit me!” or “The dog just ate the meat loaf!” For the time being, our identities revolve almost exclusively around being our little ones’ mom.

When I was growing up, I dreamed of traveling to exotic foreign countries. I wanted to visit as many places and cultures as possible. But I also had another dream: to be a mother. I even determined that four kids would be the perfect number. I’m thrilled that I’m now fulfilling this dream—even down to the desired four children!—but there’s also a longing in me to achieve the other desires of my life, such as the urge to travel. I know that—for now—my other dreams must be put on hold as I spend most of my time raising my young children. But I also realize that it’s still important to hang on to my other dreams and not lose that part of myself.

As the kids get older and more independent, mothers can work on smaller steps to achieve their dreams. For instance, I plan to take a foreign language class to prepare for my future travels, and I keep a file with pamphlets and articles about places that I want to visit. I may not have a lot of time yet to pursue all of my life’s dreams, but I’m happy knowing that I don’t have to let go of them while I devote myself to caring for my children.

Write down the dreams you have for your life and rediscover your passion for them. Figure out what small steps you can take to keep your dreams alive. Continue to nurture your God-given dreams as you raise the children you’ve been blessed with. When your children are older, you’ll be ready to continue making your dreams come true!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Need a Last-Minute Halloween Costume?

I must admit that Halloween has never been one of my favorite holidays. I just don’t like the pressure to come up with a great Halloween costume! I don’t know how to sew, and I’m creatively challenged when it comes to costumes. I thought I did pretty well for my twins this year. I bought their dinosaur costumes at 75% off after Halloween last year! Unfortunately, because the costumes are yellow and purple, my husband thinks our little boys look too “girlish.” Since when, I told him, do little girls ask to be dinosaurs? These must be little boy costumes! Anyway, at least I got a good deal, and the twins do look adorable. When you’ve got twins or a lot of children, you need to bargain shop! (So hit the Halloween sales on November 1st!) If you’re still stumped for a last-minute costume, here are a couple of ideas:

My niece Paige is trick-or-treating as a “frumpy housewife”! She’s going to put her hair up in curlers, don an old robe and slippers, and smear cold cream all over her face. Guys can go as a hobo, with an old baggy suit, a drawn-on beard, and a hat.

You may not realize that you probably have a costume in your house already! If your children are on sports teams, their uniforms make great costumes. Have girls wear their ballet costumes or cheerleader uniforms. If they’ve been in a play, dig out the costume to wear again.

Wear last year’s costume (if it still fits). Nobody will remember it’s the same as last year’s, and even if they do, who cares? Why spend the extra money for something you’re only going to wear for a few hours? Better yet, swap last year’s costumes with a friend or neighbor. Then you’ll each have something “new” to wear.

A big box can be made into lots of different costumes. When we were young, my mother transformed my sister into a table by gluing cheap plastic dishes to the top of a box, with my sister’s head poking out of the middle! Then they put flowers in her hair so she looked like the centerpiece! You can also make a robot, a box of crayons, a train…get out the paints and use your imagination!

Most of all, just have fun, and relax the rules a little bit when it comes to letting the kids chow down on a little bit of candy (after you’ve inspected it, of course)! Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Getting Kids to Help Out Around the House

I often wonder if pioneer women had trouble getting their children to do chores. After all, surely children of old had more responsibilities than today’s children. Farm animals had to be cared for; water needed hauling; wood awaited chopping; crops had to be harvested. Today’s children can’t even begin to comprehend the work performed by pioneer children. So if their workload is lighter in today’s times, why do children give us such a hard time about doing it?

I don’t really know the answer, but I do know it’s normal behavior. I remember giving my own parents fits when I stalled and procrastinated about doing my chores. Thursday night was housecleaning night, and I would do anything to get out of it—make other plans, plead illness, express a sudden interest in homework. I swore I’d never put my own children through such an ordeal. But when I grew up, of course, I discovered that housework couldn’t be put aside. It needed participation by all members of the family if it was going to get done.

Sometimes it’s easier to do the chores myself rather than listen to the kids complain or do the job poorly. But I know this isn’t good for them in the long run. I’ve tried chore charts, allowance, special treats—anything to motivate the children to help out. These methods usually help for a short period of time, but then the complaining begins anew.

I have faith that, one day, God will show my children the same thing that He showed me when I grew up and had a house of my own: Housecleaning might not be fun, but it is necessary for every family’s health and well-being.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

It's a Boy . . . Again?

Has your heart ever longed to have a little boy or a little girl, but things didn't quite work out the way you wanted?

When I was little, I wanted to have four children, and figured there would be at least a few girls sprinkled in. I grew up in a feminine household with my mother and just one sister. We had no boys in the family. And my father— no offense, Dad — wasn't a particularly manly man. He knew much more about cooking than kicking. I was lousy at sports and was sure I'd have daughters because I had no idea what to do with sons. I had even saved my beloved Barbie dolls to pass on to future daughters.

When my first son was born, I was surprised yet thrilled. "After all, I still have plenty of time to have a daughter," I told myself. "Surely the next one will be a girl."

When I got pregnant with my second child nearly three years later, the ultrasound technician drew an arrow pointing to a particular body part on my unborn child and typed, "It's a boy!"

Oh, dear.

"Well," I thought, "maybe it's better this way because the two boys will be company for each other. The next one will be a girl."

After a divorce, 10 years of single parenting and a new marriage, my husband and I tried for a baby. We showed up at our first ultrasound appointment eager to check out our new family member-to-be. It seemed to take the doctor an awfully long time to take the baby's measurements.

Finally, the doctor turned the screen toward us and announced, "It's twins!"

I think my husband and I caught a few flies that day because our mouths flew open in shock. Twins?

Some months after we had recovered from the news, I began to look forward to having twins. My brightest thought was that, surely, with two babies, at least one of them would be a girl, right?

Wrong! Amazingly, I gave birth to two more boys. And at 7 lb, 13 oz, and 6 lb, 9 oz, they were ready to join the family football team.

So now I am the mother of four wonderful boys. Despite an overabundance of testosterone in the house, my husband and I have decided that our family is definitely complete, and I wouldn't trade my four boys for the world.

I've now become an expert on video games, Yu-Gi-Oh cards and hockey. Still, under my bed lies a box, getting older and dustier by the minute, with my treasured Barbie dolls tucked safely inside. I'm not giving up hope yet for a girl.

"Surely," I now tell myself, "at least one of my grandchildren will be a girl."

There's still hope that I'll be buying frilly, pink clothes someday. In the meantime, I'll embrace the color blue and know that I've been given the perfect assortment of children to love.

Originally appeared on the ClubMom Web site.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Winning the Popularity Contest

Just as we longed to be popular when we were children, we hope that our own offspring will enjoy their share of popularity. “I’ll love my children whether they’re popular or not,” we tell ourselves, and it’s true, but nevertheless we want life to be easy for them. We don’t want them to know the pain of being rejected by other people.

When a child of mine comes home from school some days and pronounces, “Nobody likes me,” the mother tiger in me rears up, and I want to march over to the school, shake up the kids who teased him and demand, “Why don’t you be nice to my child?” After all, I know that my child is the most wonderful being that God ever created. He is smart and funny and cute and sweet. Why can’t everyone see that I have the most fantastic kid in the world?

But when I look back on my own childhood, I realize that the taunts and the teasing made me a better person. Yes, they were painful to go through. But I gained a “tougher skin” because of it. I learned that I’m never going to please everybody, and that, indeed, I shouldn’t. I realized that I should just be the best “me” that God created, and not worry about whether everyone likes me or not.

And that is the lesson I try to impart to my own children. If they look beyond themselves, they will see that all children are teased and ridiculed by their peers at one time or another. And it hurts so very badly when it happens to them. But I also tell my children that the only person they need to please is God. He made them perfectly, and He doesn’t make mistakes. His opinion of them is much more important than that of the team captain or the head cheerleader. Being popular with God wins the popularity contest.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Mothers of the World

When I watch the evening news or read newspaper articles about the war and poverty in the world, I can’t help but view them through the eyes of a mother. Somewhere out there are mothers just like me who are scared because their sons are fighting a war. Or they’re worried that they won’t have enough food to nourish their children. Or they can’t afford medical treatment for a sick child who is wasting away before their eyes. No matter what language they speak, what color they are or where they live, mothers all over the earth have the same hopes and worries for their children.

Even during times of happiness and prosperity, we all share the same experiences. How many mothers at this very moment are watching proudly as their little one takes his first step? How many children are holding their mother’s hand as they walk down the road to school? How many mothers are combing their daughter’s hair or tying their little boy’s shoes? These loving acts we perform with our children are universal. As human beings, we may not agree with each other’s politics, religion or personal preferences, but we all share that special love that only a mother has for her child.

Even though I have never been to China or India, Somalia or Norway, I still feel connected to the mothers who live there because I already know so much about the way they feel. And somehow I know that if I were to meet any one of them, there would be an immediate knowingan instant acceptance—because our hearts are the same. Our primary wish in life is that our children are safe, healthy and raised in peace.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if only mothers could lead the world? Surely our great capacity to love would ensure that no child ever goes hungry, fights a war, or becomes jobless or homeless. We would see each other not as strangers in foreign lands, but as sisters unified by common goals and a fierce love for our children. Together, united as mothers, we could change the world for the better.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Learn to Trust Your Mother's Intuition

The more people have studied the different methods of bringing up children, the more they have come to the conclusion that what good mothers and fathers instinctively feel like doing for their babies is the best after all.--Dr. Benjamin Spock, 1946


First-time mommies usually have a thousand questions about what is right when caring for their infants. When do they start solid foods? How long should they be sleeping? When will they start crawling? New mothers may read every book and magazine they can find that tells them the "right" time for reaching each milestone. Even experienced mommies might seek the latest advice about raising their new children.

Other mommies are more than eager to give advice, too. "I started my baby on solid foods at 3 months." Or "You have to use diaper cream on their delicate little bottoms," they'll say. Even worse, some moms play the competition game. "My Sarah was walking at 9 months," one says, as she glares at your little one still sitting on the floor at 11 months. "My Justin was speaking in complete sentences when he was 1 year old," another proclaims, while your little one is still babbling "da-da" and "boo-boo." It's enough to make any mother feel insecure.

But you've been given a wonderful gift called mother's instinct — the ability to know what's best for your child — if you know when to heed the call. When my oldest son was a baby, the pediatrician told me that the latest research said that under no circumstances were babies supposed to start cereal until they were 6 months old. My son was born at a hefty 9 lb., 13 oz., and was already the size of most 6-month-olds at 3 months. He wasn't sleeping, and he was begging for food between feedings. Although I trusted my doctor and knew he had my child's best interests at heart, I realized that nobody knew my son better than I did.

Finally, I put my guilty feelings aside and started gradually giving him some rice cereal. The change was miraculous. My son was much happier because I listened to my instincts and gave him what he needed. I've learned to have faith in my own abilities as a mother and not let others make me feel unworthy or incapable. Yes, I still listen to advice from others — including my doctor and friends — but then I apply it to my particular child and listen to my heart. A mother's instinct is a powerful tool.

Originally appeared on the ClubMom Web site.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

My Fear of Driving

My son is almost seventeen, and he still doesn't have his driver's license. He's had his learner's permit for over a year. He's passed his driver's ed course, but still I haven't taken him to get the license. Part of the reason is insurance costs. I know that having a 16-year-old driver on our policy will send our rates sky-high. But that's not the full reason why he still doesn't have his license. It's FEAR. Not his...mine. Is a 16-year-old really mature enough to handle the complex situations that arise when driving? Heck, many 50-year-olds I see on the road don't appear to have the common sense to navigate traffic. I've also heard that traffic accidents are the number-one cause of death among teens. I believe it. I have a whole head full of news stories where teens have died due to reckless driving and stupidity. And so I want to put off the inevitable as long as I can. Yes, it's a hassle to still be driving him everywhere he wants to go, especially since I have three younger children to run around. But for me, it's worth the peace of mind. I'll probably let him get his driver's license for his 17th birthday, but there will be restrictions. No driving on the freeway at first. No more than one passenger in the car. No fiddling with the radio. Call me paranoid, but I prefer to think of myself as a mother who loves her son dearly.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Kids Are So Noisy!

If you're sensitive to loud noises, you should never have kids. My husband and I were remarking tonight, for about the thousandth time, how it's never quiet in our house except when the kids are sleeping! Our almost-three-year-old twins, especially, just make constant noise! Whining, crying, screeching, yelling, pounding...it never ends! It does get tough at times. Sometimes we long for a little silence. I can't remember the last time I sat and quietly read a book. What a pleasure that would be! I've been thinking about doing some radio shows to talk about the books I've written, but I honestly can't figure out how I could do it without listeners hearing the kids in the background! Sure, I could closet myself in the garage, but then I couldn't hear if the kids start fighting or get hurt. And, as most parents know, as soon as the phone rings, kids instantly up the volume on their demands, as if they're jealous of the attention we're giving to someone else. I know that someday these rooms will fall silent, and I'll probably miss the sounds of a full house. It will feel lonely around here without the echoes of children's voices. But those days are a long way off yet, so in the meantime I'll keep taking my long showers in peace and savoring bedtimes!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Teaching Teens to Serve Others

My 16-year-old son, Dylan, tells everyone that one of the most amazing experiences of his life was the trip he took to Costa Rica in the summer of 2005. Most people would assume that this was a vacation—that he was, perhaps, surfing the waves! But Dylan spent almost the entire ten days of the trip building houses for local residents. It was hard, dirty work. The conditions were primitive (no hot showers or air conditioning!), and the days were long. I never thought that my typical teen—who balks at having to mow the lawn—would be willing to climb up on a hot roof every day, but he loved every minute of it! The feeling of camaraderie with his fellow workers, and the eternal and loving gratitude of the people he was helping, made this an unforgettable experience.

Encouraging teens to do volunteer work is one of the most important things you can do for them as a parent. And the amazing thing is, once they get a taste of it, teenagers love to volunteer! In 2004, 55 percent of American teenagers volunteered—almost twice the rate of adults, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service. And students who do volunteer work actually do better in school than those who don’t volunteer. Albert Schweitzer once said, “The only ones among you who will be truly happy will be those who have sought and found how to serve.” In fact, volunteering provides many benefits for teens, including increased self-esteem, a feeling of being valued, the opportunity to meet new people, the acquisition of valuable new skills, and a lifetime of wonderful memories and experiences.

Volunteer opportunities for adolescents aren’t difficult to find. Some organizations may have age restrictions if the job involves a certain amount of risk, but opportunities abound for all ages! One of the best places to start is with your local church, synagogue, mosque or other place of worship. My kids have also found volunteer opportunities through the Parks and Recreation Department, hospitals, nature centers, libraries, children’s museums, community and teen centers, and just through word of mouth. My 13-year-old had a great time as a volunteer at a boat show, which raised funds for charity. Don’t be afraid to ask around. Most people jump at the chance to put a volunteer to work!

When teenagers learn to serve others, they become empowered. They grow up knowing that they can make a difference in the world. Just imagine what this kind of attitude can accomplish when our adolescents are soon the leaders of society! Making the world a better place starts by showing our kids how they can be part of impacting the future through volunteering.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Do You Have a Favorite Child?

Parents are often devastated to find that one child just seems less lovable to them than the others. They may see one child as “the difficult one” and another as more easygoing. Sometimes children go through phases and don’t necessarily have the same temperament throughout their childhood. One child may behave monstrously at age four, but turn into a much more lovable character at the age of six. That’s why it’s important not to label our kids and assume they’re destined to have the same personality forever. One child may be your (unspoken) favorite right now, but it could be a different story in the teen years. As a parent, try not to be too hard on yourself when you don’t always find yourself liking a child. Often, parents’ feelings of frustration in these situations are directed more at themselves because they don’t like how they respond to the difficult child. They may hate themselves for losing their temper or not being as patient with this child as with the others. This makes it hard to accept this child as he or she is and to appreciate the good qualities. So, think of the difficult child as a gift who will help you become a better, more patient parent. He or she is a challenge who can actually help you grow as a person and learn to cultivate your own good qualities, such as forgiveness and patience. Also, remind yourself that there’s a difference between not loving a person and not loving his or her behavior. You may not like how your child acts sometimes, but if you search your heart, you may find that you do indeed love this little person—in spite of his or her frustrating actions. Sometimes, children act up because they need more personal attention. Try to spend more time alone with the difficult child so he or she isn’t competing for your attention with your other children. Get to know this child as an individual and find out what his or her interests are. Seek out something special about this child that you can admire. When your child is sassy, you might tell yourself, “I was a shy kid, so I really admire how well my child knows his own needs and isn’t afraid to express his opinions.” Think about how these difficult traits might actually be a benefit later in life. The child who is very assertive or has lots of energy may actually find these qualities to be an asset as an adult. Oftentimes, we may relate better to the child who is more like us. One child may remind you of yourself at her age, while another reminds you of your difficult father-in-law. When you’re doing things together, you may naturally gravitate to the child whose interests and temperament are more closely aligned with your own. On the other hand, you might find yourself being less tolerant of this same child’s misbehavior because you notice those personality traits in your child that you dislike in yourself. Nobody likes to have a little mirror walking around, reminding them of their own personality flaws! It’s important to remember that your children didn’t pick their genes and personality, and shouldn’t be punished for them. Again, look for the qualities you do admire and can relate to in all your children. If you still find it tough to have equal affection for all your children, it might be helpful to read some parenting books geared toward helping you raise a difficult child. They could have some great tips for helping you to better understand why your child behaves the way he or she does. With understanding comes acceptance and love. Be sure to let your children know that you admire and love them all as individuals. It’s never right to openly express your favoritism, even though it is natural to feel that way inside. All children are a blessing in that they have a lot to teach you about parenting, life and other people.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Protecting Tiny Teeth

Today, I took my almost-three twins to the dentist for the first time. Besides getting swarmed by fire ants in the parking lot, it turned out to be a very pleasant experience for both of them! Don't you love pediatric dentists who make it fun for the kids? How I wish they'd been around when I was young! My kids had so much fun that Caleb was begging me all day to take him back. We were there because one of Austen's front teeth was beginning to turn gray. Did you know that it's possible to "bruise" your teeth? The dentist said he most likely bumped his tooth on something, and it broke little blood vessels that are inside the tooth, causing it to "bruise from within." Fortunately, the tooth isn't loose or broken, and Austen is in no pain. The dentist said it would most likely heal on its own and return to its normal color, but to watch it because it is more prone to developing an abscess, which could necessitate removal of the tooth. Hopefully, it won't come to that, but it was reassuring to find out that this gray tooth was most likely a temporary thing. Anyway, today's note is just a reminder to make sure that you're taking care of your kids' precious teeth! Have them brush twice a day with a little bit of toothpaste, and schedule them for their first dental exam at the age of three. (My boys will be heading back for theirs in January.) Most of all, make sure you select a pediatric dentist who will make it a positive experience for your child. Your child will pick up on your own "vibes" about going to the dentist, so be sure to have a smile in your voice when you talk about going to the dentist.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Be on the Lookout for Hair Tourniquets

I clearly remember the day I thought that one of my boys would lose a toe! The twins were about six weeks old, and my mother-in-law was visiting from Alaska. She was bathing Caleb in the sink when she noticed that one of his toes was turning blue! Upon closer examination, we realized that a piece of hair had become wound around two of his toes so tightly that it was cutting off the circulation. In fact, the strand was embedded so deeply that we could only see the cut lines in his toes and the hair stretched between the two toes. Holding Caleb carefully so that he wouldn’t wiggle, we managed to slice the hair between his toes with a small knife and slowly unwind it. It was difficult to know if we had retrieved all the hair, but fortunately the blood started coming back into the toes and the blue color disappeared.

I was so grateful to my mother-in-law for noticing the problem because it could have resulted in the loss of one or two toes! Even though I had already successfully steered two other children through infancy, I had never heard of this phenomenon or been warned of the possibility. Experts call this a “hair tourniquet,” and it can be a real threat to infants. Hair can get wrapped around fingers and toes—and even penises! (In fact, I read an article where a baby girl lost her clitoris due to “hair tourniquet syndrome.”) Even pet hair or loose threads from a blanket or piece of clothing can become entangled. Because human hair is so thin and tends to contract when it dries, you may not even notice a problem until the appendage starts to show signs of distress.

So be extra vigilant. (Who doesn’t love to check out those adorable little fingers and toes anyway?) If your babies wear mittens or gloves, check their fingers for signs of wrapped-around threads once they’re removed. Check toes after removing booties or slippers. If a child is inconsolable and you can’t figure out why, he could be in pain from a hair tourniquet. If you find a problem, you’ll need a sharp tool like a small knife to cut the hair if you don’t see a loose end. Get some help to hold your child still while you remove the hair so no one gets hurt. If you’re unable to disentangle the hair or thread, contact your physician immediately. He may recommend soaking the limb in a hair-dissolving solution (like Nair) or have you bring the baby into the office or emergency room. (If you can’t reach a doctor, head to the hospital or urgent care center right away.) It’s important not to delay removing the hair because serious infection or loss of the limb can occur. I have long hair, so there’s always lots of my “shedding” around the house, but even if your hair is shorter, women tend to lose a lot of hair soon after giving birth due to hormonal changes, which can make the possibility of hair tourniquets more likely. So frequently examine those little fingers, toes and private parts!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Embracing Single Motherhood

I was a single mother with two sons for about nine years. Unfortunately, during that time, I spent most of my days pining for a relationship (and going through plenty of bad ones), hating to do everything by myself, resenting my limited financial means, and feeling lonely. But now that I'm remarried and have two more children, I find myself telling my single-mother friends all the things I liked about being a single mother. I could paint my bedroom rose, and nobody would complain. I could make fish sticks or frozen pizza for dinner, and everybody liked it. I could sit up in bed with a cup of hot cocoa and watch TV Land reruns, not crime shows or sports. My kids and I could spend Friday nights cozily on the couch, munching on popcorn in the dark as we enjoyed a good comedy. I could take a nap on a Sunday afternoon and not feel guilty about it. I could clean the house whenever I liked. I could do what I wanted with my money. I could raise my kids the way that I thought was best. I'm not saying I wish I hadn't remarried or that being a single mother is wonderful. Being married certainly has its advantages, and being single with kids poses many challenges. But I do want to say to those single moms who are wasting these years wishing for something else, take time to appreciate the freedoms that you now have, the independence to "do your own thing" without criticism or regret. Have confidence in yourself and your abilities to handle things on your own. Embrace this time in your life as an opportunity to get to know what's important to you before jumping into another relationship. Hopefully, I'll never find myself becoming a single parent again, but if I do, I know this time that I'll savor the good things and not wish the days away. I'll be more comfortable in my own skin and not yearn for someone else to "complete" me. I'll be the best "me" that I can be and live in the moment.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Why Moms of Toddlers Need a Good (Padded) Bra

Moms are usually advised to get a good bra when they're nursing to protect against leakage, provide support and prevent sagging, but many women don't realize how important it is to get a decent bra when their kids enter the toddler years! The reason has nothing to do with nursing, but everything to do with PROTECTION! Think "padding," moms, and the more the better! I can't begin to count the number of times my toddler twins' pointy little elbows and knees have sent me into spasms of agony when they've stabbed my very tender pre-menstrual breasts. And I'm sure my toddlers aren't the first to play the game, "Bruise the Mommy." In fact, if it wouldn't make me a social outcast outside the soccer field, I'd invest in a good set of leg, arm, chin and mouth guards, too. (As I write this, I am recovering from the fat lip I received when Caleb's hard head connected with my mouth.) These days, my shorts and dresses are reserved for in-house use only after bony toddler limbs have made a network of bruises up and down my legs. Of course, I love it when they want to crawl on my lap for a big hug, but at what age will they learn the art of climbing gently? So, mommies of toddlers, invest in the best padded bra you can find! The bonus is, you'll have the best "silhouette" of your life!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

They're Never Too Young for Books

I was shocked the other day when a friend told me that whenever she went over to the house of a certain mother of two young children that she had NEVER seen a children's book in the house! Books are so much a part of our lives that I just couldn't imagine a house without books. Some parents may argue that babies or toddlers are too young for books, but that's just not true! Sure, they don't have the attention span to sit down and listen to the book being read cover to cover, but even young children love to explore the pictures and listen to the cadence of your voice. A couple of weeks ago, the children in my twins' preschool class were learning about Noah's Ark. The teachers told me they were amazed that my boys knew every single animal in the ark! Yesterday, they found a snail on the playground, and my twins were the only ones who could identify it as a snail. How do they know so much about animals? From books! They love to discover new animals in the books we read, and they want to look at them over and over again. They're only two-and-a-half, and they already know all their colors, can count past ten, and can match pictures with ease. They've learned all of this just by looking at books. When their teacher was telling me about how "smart" my boys are, she said, "You can tell they really spend a lot of time with their mommy." That really warmed my heart! Indeed, parents are children's first and primary teacher. Even if they attend school, it is our responsibility to help them discover the world and broaden their minds through books. If you're out and about today, buy your children some books! It's always a good investment.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The End of Childbearing

For today's blog, I'd like to reprint an article of mine that just appeared in the Mom Writer's Literary Magazine (www.momwriterslitmag.com). I think it reflects the feelings of a lot of women when they come to the end of their childbearing days...

I just read an e-mail from a new friend. She's adopting a baby girl from China! Seconds later, I opened a note from another friend. A picture of her co-worker's adopted daughter from China was attached. I couldn't take my eyes off that little girl's face.

A woman at church just adopted a girl from Guatemala. A business associate adopted a daughter from India. Enough already! I feel like I'm being haunted.

I always wanted to be a mother. In my youthful dreams, I saw myself holding the hand of a little girl. Imagine my surprise when I was blessed with four sons whom I love dearly.

But I'm over forty now, and for various reasons, I've decided I'm done with childbearing. I know this decision is for the best, but my heart grieves. I loved being pregnant, and the thought that I'll never bear a child again saddens me. But I also love being a parent -- and perhaps I'm not ready to relinquish that dream quite yet. Yes, I am a mother -- but not to a daughter.

So, I have to ask myself, are these adoption announcements some sort of sign? Or are they just a reflection of the pining I feel to hold a baby girl in my arms? Am I subconsciously seeking news of my heart's desire?

I haven't convinced my husband to adopt yet. Where would we put her? He's right. We don't have room in our house, but there's ample room in our hearts. We'd manage somehow.

Thus, I continue to ponder -- and to grow older. Soon, the decision will be taken out of my hands. I'll be forty-two soon. My husband is forty-four. Do we really want to be raising children into our seventies? Parenting youngsters while running around grandkids? Forfeiting years of freedom for ourselves? Maybe not.

And would my teenage boys think their mom is crazy? Or, worse, that I wasn't pleased with them -- that I wanted a girl instead?

Who really wants five kids, anyway?

I do. I think. So, as if all the adoption announcements weren't enough to convince me, I'll continue to look for a sign -- a stronger sign. A voice to tell me that the time is right. That I'm not crazy. That a beautiful little girl is just waiting for her new mommy to make up her mind.

And I long to tell my daughter, "Hey, Mommy's coming!" I'm just taking the long way. And praying I don't get lost.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Leaving the Kids Behind

I'm writing this at the airport as I head out of town on a short business trip. It's not easy to have a career and be a mother. It's always a heart-tugger to leave the kids. And as my career advances, I imagine there will be more days like this. I was hoping to be able to sneak away while the twins were at preschool, but Caleb came down with a cold and couldn't attend, so the kids had to accompany us to the airport. I can still hear Caleb's wailing as I stepped out of the car. I'm sure he drove my husband crazy in the car with his cries! Perhaps Austen joined in and the car was filled with their noise! Unfortunately, I got to the airport too early, so I have two hours to sit and worry about them. Will they be okay without me for almost two days? Will my husband have enough patience with them? Will they be safe? Hopefully, the older boys will help out. It's strange how mothers have the power to really hold a family together. When dads leave, it's no big deal. But when Mom goes, everyone's unhappy. Nobody knows what's going on. It's wonderful to be so important to someone, but heartbreaking, too. I feel as if I'm in the middle of a tug-of-war, being called home by my children, while being pulled out into the big world by my ambitions. Each only gets a part of me. I just hope it's enough for everyone.

Monday, September 18, 2006

When Little Ones Are Sick

One of the twins just came down with his first preschool-related illness. The twins are almost three now and have been so healthy just being home with me, but now that they've started school, aka the germ factory, I knew they'd start coming home with lots of "bugs"! Austen had this scary "barking" cough on Friday, and it escalated into a full-blown cold with fever this weekend. (I'm sure that his twin brother will be next!) The question that's been mystifying parents for ages is: Why do kids always get sick on the weekends? Not only does it ruin any fun plans, but it often requires us to pay a visit to the urgent care center because the doctor's office is closed. When your child is screaming from the pain of an ear infection on a Friday night, he needs relief NOW, not on Monday morning. It's hard to watch them suffer. It's most frustrating because they can't describe their pain, so you're contantly trying to guess whether it's the ears, the throat, a headache, etc. And they look so pitiful when they just lay around on the couch and moan, definitely not their normal pace of life. With four kids, I've had many nights of rocking a sick child to sleep, scrubbing puke out of the carpet, and averaging about 2 hours of sleep. But it's heart-warming that they want only us when they're feeling bad. The trust they place in us to make them "all better" is really a gift. Just by sponging a sweaty brow and bringing a cool drink, we become heroes to our children...at least until they're back to their old selves again!

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Special Bond of Twins

I always wondered if my twins would have that special bond that some twins seem to have--that emotional connection that goes beyond most sibling relationships. Because my twins are fraternal (not identical), I had my doubts that they would share this bond. After all, they're just like any other siblings except they happened to share a womb and be born on the same day. They don't share the same genes as identical twins do. And, indeed, they are very different. Both have blond hair and blue eyes, but the physical resemblance ends there. Their features are entirely different. And their personalities are very unique, as well. For the first few years, I didn't see any evidence of a twin bond. But now that they're almost three, I'm seeing signs of its development! Suddenly, Caleb doesn't seem to sleep well with his brother across the room. For the past five nights, we have found him sleeping with his brother in his little toddler bed, the two of them entwined together. So last night we moved their beds side-by-side. Amazingly, they went right to sleep and slept beautifully. Apparently, they just needed to be closer together. I don't have any doubts that they will still be their own individuals, and will continue to have their differences, as well. But I'm also thrilled to see signs of this special bond developing. Wouldn't it be great if all siblings could share this special relationship? What a wonderful gift to grow up with your best friend by your side!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

My Inferiority Gene

Being a parent allows us a much greater understanding into our relationship with our own parents. For instance, I've always had a problem with lack of confidence and low self-esteem. For years, I blamed my parents. They weren't supportive enough when I was younger. They favored my sister over me. They didn't approve of me. Anything I did wasn't good enough. This is what I told myself. But even though there are always things that could have been done differently, I'm starting to see my parents in a new light now that I'm raising my own teenagers. Because I've always felt that my feelings of inferiority held me back in life, I vowed when I became a parent that I'd be perfectly supportive and never make my children feel less than confident. But I found out, number one, that it's impossible to do. There will always be times when we don't approve of our children's actions, and it's our responsibility to speak up! We just can't support everything--and we shouldn't! And second, I've found that even when I lay the "love" on thick, my sons insist I don't know what I'm talking about. "Mom," they say, "I'm not as smart as you think I am." They just don't see in themselves what I see in them. Perhaps it's a genetic flaw--some sort of inferiority gene that we're born with. Perhaps it's the influence of their peers. Who knows? But it's caused me to revisit some of my attitudes toward my parents. Could it be that I just refused to see when they supported and encouraged me? Might I possibly have closed my ears because I just didn't respect their opinion at the time? As a teenager, I almost certainly gave more weight to the opinions of my schoolmates, which were discouraging to me. I was the class valedictorian at a very small, cliquey Catholic high school. I yearned to be accepted, but causing test-score curves to disappear didn't exactly make me popular. And I was too shy to make any impact with my personality. The more I think about it, the more I realize that my poor self-esteem was of my own making. I let other people's opinions (or my perception of their opinions) make me feel inferior. So, to Mom and Dad, I'm sorry. I know you did your best. Now I realize that you were proud of me. And to my sons, I'm not going to stop being your biggest cheerleaders. But at the same time, I know you have to find your own way to feeling good about yourself. I just hope you figure it out sooner than I did.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Husbands, This One's for You!

Men, if you want to know why you're not "getting it" from your wives, read on! (I know this blog is supposed to be about parenting, but it's all related. A satisfying marriage makes for a happy family.) First, if she tells you she's tired, it's the truth! It's not an excuse. She's taking care of the kids all day, perhaps working another job, too. As soon as her head hits that pillow at night, the thought of sleep is just too enticing. Aaaah! But, the other big reason you're not getting sex is because she has to LIKE you first! She has to have some "warm fuzzies" for you. Sex is not just a physical release for her. She has to feeeel the love! The good news for you is that this is SO easy to accomplish. This isn't anything new, and yet so few men seem to "get it" (pun intended). Guys, hold her hand when you're watching TV. Put your hand on her back when you're following her through the door. Give her a kiss for no reason. Touch her on the arm. Don't just grope her when you want some action. Show an interest in her. Quit nagging and criticizing. Listen to the words that come out of your mouth. Do you ever compliment her or tell her you appreciate her? Have you told her that you like her new haircut? Have you shown an interest in what she did that day? When was the last time you called her just to say "I love you"? Pick up a little gift for her just to show that you know what she likes. It might be as simple as her favorite fast-food French fries! Now, some of you might be saying this is asking too much. Or this is putting too much of the burden on men. But I bet you used to do all of these things before you were married! Why stop now? If you're going to argue that she never does these things, either, I can tell you how to get her to do them: Take the initiative! Touching leads to more touching. Thoughtfulness leads to more thoughtfulness. Just try it. Make it your mission to pay her a compliment every day. Think of something nice to say to her. Show an interest in her beyond "What'd you make for dinner?" Do this for a week and see how her mood has changed. I guarantee you she will respond. She'll feel romantic toward you, and that's going to show up in the bedroom. Trust me.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Bad Moods All Around

At one point this afternoon, I looked at my 13-year-old son and asked, "Are you in a bad mood, too?" When he said no, I replied, "Okay, you can stay." I've got two teenagers and two toddlers. The bad moods are a daily occurrence! Or should I say "hourly"?? At the time I asked that question of my son, I had just returned from picking up my 16-year-old, who apparently had a very unsatisfying weekend with his youth group at Disney, because he proceeded to complain about his horrible life all the way home. Then, my two-year-old twins woke up from their naps acting extremely grouchy, so the sight of my 13-year-old entering the room was cause to put up my guard. "Will you become moody when you turn 16?" I asked him. "I hope not!" he said. Hopefully, I'll get lucky with one good-natured kid through the teen years, but based on the moodiness level I know I exhibited in my own teen years, I doubt I'll be that fortunate. In the meantime, I'm really looking forward to when the twins turn about 5, my oldest teenager exits the teen years, and hopefully harmony will reign for a while! But then it will be time for my husband's midlife crisis and my menopause . . . yikes!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Letting Go Without Worry

I've come to the conclusion that all the reading I do is driving me crazy. Have you ever read those articles where two people get into an argument, then one of them dies in a horrific accident, and the survivor feels tremendous guilt over it? Or a husband dies and the wife struggles to remember if she told him she loved him in their last phone call? It's the 5-year anniversary of 9/11, so there are lots of articles like that in various magazines and newspapers. Those kinds of stories just haunt me. And make me incredibly paranoid. My 16-year-old son left for a trip to Orlando this evening. Even though he's going with his church youth group to a Christian concert at Disney, I still worry about him. He was unusually sweet to me in the car tonight. Was that to give me a nice "last memory"? What if they're hit by a drunk driver, or there's an accident on one of the rides? Do all parents worry as much as I do? Even though I know these tragedies are remote and I can't clip my son's wings forever, I can't help being paranoid. With love, comes pain. With parenting, comes worry. And when he comes home, there's relief...until the next time.

My First Post

I never thought I'd enter the world of "blogging," but here I am! I finally got tired of losing all of these thoughts swirling around in my head, with no one to share them with, so I've decided to let them "out" into the world (whether it's ready or not!). Since parenting -- and writing books about parenting -- are such huge parts of my life, I'm going to try to focus my thoughts on that subject, but you never know when I'll slip in another "issue" just to get it off my chest! This first post will be short as I make sure I've got this blogging thing all figured out -- and I think one of my twins is trying to knock down his bedroom door to get up from his nap -- but look for future posts from me. I've already got some great topics in mind!