Woke up this morning to a lovely surprise. I am a featured blogger on the Huffington Post and they’ve highlighted it on their front page! Woo Hoo! Hope y’all are having a great day too. Here’s wishing you get an equally lovely surprise. If you have time, please stop by the Huffington Post and if you are so inclined, leave me a comment. I will be forever grateful.
If you’ve enjoyed reading the musings of me and my three grown daughters, I hope you’ll come along to our new site and subscribe there.
We’ll be talking about life, love, happiness, music and more. It’s going to be fun, lighthearted and yet, we hope, helpful!
Come say hi!
Raising Amazing Daughters
Recently the P.D. Eastman children’s book, “Flap Your Wings” has been rolling through my brain repeatedly. I keep hearing “Flap your wings, Junior!” It was what I used to say to my kids when they were trying something new. It became part of our family lore, a metaphor for going out into the world to attempt something you were unsure about.
The Junior in the book was an alligator who was raised by loving parents who happened to be birds. If you haven’t read, do so as soon as you can. You’re in for a delight. One message of the book was that if you try something, even something for which you may not be equipped, you might fail, but in doing so you might discover that you’re good at something else entirely. Or, at the very least, the failure won’t kill you and you might learn something valuable. Junior the alligator had parents who wanted to teach him what they knew best — how to fly. Alas, Junior had no wings. So despite the best parenting intentions and the enthusiastic wild cheering on the sidelines (Flap your wings, Junior!), Junior fell from the nest and the sky, failing to fly. Failing miserably but landing, as fate would have it, into a pool of water where, amazingly, in failing to fly he (and his loving, adoring parents) discovered that he was a swell swimmer. “Maybe Junior wasn’t a bird after all,” his mom said, after witnessing his failure to succeed at what they taught him. “No,” said his dad, “but look at him swim.”
So it is with us parents. We flap our wings wildly all of our children’s lives, trying to teach them what we know best. They leave the nest (Seriously, you parents of young children may not think it possible but they will grow up and leave, I swear.) and then we yell, “Flap your wings.” And, if we’ve raised them right, they do. We watch. They soar, they fall, they soar again, they fall again. We watch, we cheer. We celebrate when they soar, we crash when they fall, but through it all, if we’ve taught them what we know, if we’ve shared our lives with them, we have given them the tools they need to lead fulfilling and happy lives.
I believe in this method of parenting. I believe strongly in the bonds that develop from integrating our children into the lives we crafted before our children were born. I even wrote a book about it! But the book ends when the kids are ready to leave the nest and flap.
I didn’t write about what the parents do next, so here comes that bit of advice.
Our children have to find their own safe place to swim or to fly. As loving parents, we taught them to fly but they may be destined to swim and we just have to accept it. Our kids don’t always turn out the way we hoped, prayed, imagined, or wanted them to. That’s not their issue, it’s ours. As parents we must strive to accept the children who fly but we must also embrace the ones who swim.
I’m working on that daily. I flap my wings and cheer my daughters on. Sometimes I can’t help myself, I still encourage them to fly, because it’s so engrained in my view of the world. Then, fortunately for me (and them I suppose), I remember that my view of the world is just that — mine. I rein myself back in and continue to cheer them on as they swim away.
Note: If you’d like to read a lovely review of my parenting book, please visit Dominque Goh’s blog here.
If you enjoy reading this blog or my hubs on HubPages, you’re going to love checking out my new Kindle book, Raising Amazing Kids (…While Having a Life of Your Own). Perhaps you’re thinking, “Debby, I don’t need a parenting book because I know everything there is to know about being a parent.” Or maybe it’s “I don’t need a parenting book because my kids are grown or my kids are already perfect.” (And, if they are, you should definitely write a blog of your own.)
Well, no problem! This book makes an excellent Valentine’s Day gift for someone you know who isn’t as smart as you are about parenting. In fact, wouldn’t you love to give this as a gift to perhaps a friend or someone in your family who just has no clue about how to raise their children? We all know them. We all judge them, right? (Or maybe that’s just me.) Now we can all help them by giving them this fun and easy-to-read book that explains how anyone can be a good parent — even that person without a clue.
Maybe you have an adult child who is about to become a parent. This book will ease anxious minds by explaining how becoming a parent doesn’t have to mean the end of spontaneity. You can be a great parent and maintain the integrity (and hopefully the fun) of the life you had before you had kids.
If you do check out the book, please write a review. I’d love to hear your thoughts. (Well, only if they’re good.)
My last post about how much I love my birthday and why I urge everyone to make a big deal about themselves on their birthdays (and to do the same for their kids), resulted in a reader response with an offer to write a guest post about fun birthday party ideas for girls. What I like about her post is that the party suggestions are essentially “homegrown.” No need for big expense in order to throw a great children’s birthday party. That’s my idea of a good time because anything that makes parenting a bit easier and more affordable is a winner. So, without further ado, here is Melissa C’s guest post. Enjoy!
Creative Ideas for Young Girls Birthday Parties
With boys party planning can be as simple as picking a video game theme like Super Mario party and running with it. Girls can be a little more complex when it comes to planning their special event. Even if they don’t want a princess themed party, the idea is to feel like a princess on their birthday no matter what. Here are a few ideas for making your little girl’s day unique and fun for everyone.
1. Spa-Slumber Party
This is good for girls 9 and older. Make face-masks, towels, nail polish, lotions and cucumber slices. Enlist another mom or two and share your healthy beauty knowledge with the young ladies. Show them how much fun pampering themselves and being super girly can be.
2. Tea Party
Have a bunch of absurdly large sun hats available or have the girls borrow one from their mom’s closets and throw your little ladies a tea party. Mini-sandwiches, cookies, tea-cups and saucers. Have a lot of costume jewelry and scarves handy for extra flair during dress up.
3. Make a Movie
Of course girls will want to be girls and play at the party, but if you’re a little bit of creative writer, you could stage a movie. Make sure you have enough parts for each of the girls to play and they will get about equal screen time. At the end of filming you can let them eat pizza and fiddle around with getting the film up on the TV for everyone to watch. This will be a great thing to have for repeat viewing for the rest of your daughter’s life.
The only important thing about throwing your daughter a birthday party is that she has fun with her friends and feels special. Have fun and minimize stress by asking for help from other moms.
If you want to learn more about helping your child learn manners by hosting a birthday party, check out this hub.
I admit this readily — I unabashedly love my birthday. So, every December 6, I celebrate ME! I have always loved my birthday and once my daughters were born, I passed this legacy on to the next generation of mini-MEs. Why so brazen a birthday attitude, you ask? Here’s the thing. 364 days each year you are no one special. You may think you are hot stuff, but let’s face it, however great you are, there are dozens more a whole lot like you in a whole lot of ways. But, you get one day each year when you are special and you get to celebrate. You could choose any day to whoop it up but why not use the one that was chosen for you? Your birthday should be all about you. Hell, I even endorse a birthday month if you are so inclined.
I have birthday traditions that I’ve developed with ME in mind. Just before my big day I usually get my hair cut so that I’m sure to look my best on MY day. On my actual day, I run five miles just to make sure I still can. (Then I really have reason to celebrate. This year I’m 59 and you better believe that running five miles is something worth celebrating.) Once I have that out of the way, I spend the day doing lovely things for me, or lovely things I’m going to like doing. This year started off great because my sweet husband and daughters launched my celebration two days early, giving me a head start on being fabulously special. The presents were cool (a journal and jewelry made from recycled things) and the cupcakes made by Shira were adorable. (See photo) They have titles of Joni Mitchell songs on them which made them entertaining and meaningful as well as delicious. And, on my big day, I plan to walk on the beach in my favorite place on Earth, the Outer Banks of NC. What could be better than that?
Why am I telling you all of this? The point here is simple. Take your day and do the same. Treat your birthday as the first day of the next year of your life (because it is actually) and then begin anew to celebrate you and your life and make it into what you most want it to be. Encourage your kids to do the same. Make a big deal about who they are on their birthdays. Let them know that a birthday is a great time to take stock of yourself, enhance the things you like, and change what needs tweaking.
Some people eschew their birthday. They don’t want to get older or they’re not comfortable with people making a big fuss about them. I say Bah Humbug to birthday naysayers. First, getting older surely beats the alternative, and secondly, to paraphrase my mother, if you don’t make a big fuss over yourself on your birthday who will? Full disclosure — what she used to say was about elementary school class elections for president — “If you don’t vote for yourself (because one year I told her I didn’t, even though I wanted to win) who would?” The idea is the same, think highly enough of yourself to give yourself one great day dedicated to the wonderfulness of you. If you don’t why would anyone else?
And, also, eat some cake.
Happy Birthday to Me!
I just read an article about parenting teenagers and how parents and kids drift apart during those years. It’s natural to some extent as teens need to ready themselves to leave the nest, and parents need to ready themselves to let go. But, then I watched a home video of our family on an extended camping trip with our kids when they were 5, 3, and 1. That got me to thinking. We spend so much time with our kids when they are little. We know their every wish and whim and they know ours, as well as our rules and expectations for them. We know this about each other because we take the time to share ourselves with our children and we pay attention when they share with us. As they get older, less of that happens, and the result is that many parents and kids feel estranged from each other during the teen years, just when it’s more important than ever that they stay close. How can we parents stay connected with our kids as they get older and our lives get busier? I think the key remains in our rules, actually. How about forming some rules around availability? Since family time is so scarce in everyone’s crazy schedules, how about if parents look for ways to work “new rules” into their lives as kids get older? While the rules for young kids revolve mostly around safety, these rules would ensure family connections whenever possible. Maybe these new rules won’t make you your child’s new best friend but you’re not supposed to be that, anyway.
How many nights do you eat dinner together as a family? How about a rule that sets a minimum for that and makes attendance mandatory? We were so lucky that our work schedules enabled us to eat dinner together 6 nights each week as the girls were growing up. It made us closer as a family, I’m sure of it.
No other time to chat? How about no cell phones, or headphone use in the car so that when you’re together on wheels, you talk?
What would you add to this list? As teachers, what would you advise the parents of your students about how to stay connected so that the teen years don’t destroy the relationships?
Bedroom TVs: Growing up, none of us ever had a TV in our bedroom, and though it may seem kind of silly, it forced us to watch TV downstairs where our parents were. As a result, we ended up watching together more often than not and developed mutual loves of all kinds of shows. It led to spending more time together and gave us something to talk about during a time in a lot kid lives where they think their parents just don’t get them at all. I think I was more comfortable talking with my mother about Ally McBeal than my hopeless crush on Kyle, but at least we were talking. So, since lots of kids have computers in their rooms, you may just have to make a rule about where they can watch programming.
Regarding the headphones in the car, good luck with that. I think I would’ve been a much happier teenager if I hadn’t had to listen to Buffalo Springfield.
Mom Writes: As I recall, it was Leonard Cohen’s music in the car that would make you guys say, “Open a window, please, I’m jumping out.” The other thing I remember about music in the car is that when we’d put on the radio stations we liked and you guys didn’t you’d use the snow scraper to reach from the back seat to the front to change the station. In the front we’d hear one of you whisper “Get the stick.” That being said, I think listening to each other’s music is a bonding tool, so get over it!
Do things together as a family. Yeah, your teenager will moan about doing it but those are the types of experiences that you remember most later. I remember we went to Italy my senior year in high school and, as spoiled as it sounds, I didn’t want to go. I didn’t understand how beneficial that type of travel is. When we went it was a life-changing experience for me. I realized there were so many other places, cultures, and things to learn about. I think those trips we took were really important because we were constantly working together and spending time together as a family. In the summer we worked in our family business. Because we all worked together we were on the same schedule and spent a lot of time together. Our business was in a resort area so we spent a lot of our downtime together too. Working together put stress on our family at times but it brought us closer together, too. I think when kids get older, parents see their kids changing into adults so it’s hard to feel like you can still do those family things. Your kids have commitments or activities that may differ from what you’d choose so it can be hard. But I think family trips are really important and they end up being the memories that stay with your family forever. So, ignore your sullen teenager, pack up the car, put on your life-changing music that they can’t appreciate, and go do something.
Start a family blog, so you can email your children every day and harass them to write on it about current events and advice. Totally kidding. I think traveling together is really important. We did a lot of it when we were little, and even when we were older and I think it made our family really close – too close some times. We learned a lot about each other and we learned about the world together. Traveling in places you’ve never been before makes you bond with the people you do know and in our case it was each other. We learned to deal with each other’s music on 8-hour car rides, and compromise on what to listen to, some times…I think all the time we spent with each other traveling was a big part of why we are all close and still enjoy traveling with each other. And so what if we have the most miserable video of Alexis when she was dragged on a family vacation? It’s good for a laugh, and look how happy she is now.
Having family dinners without the TV on is a good idea too. I know a lot of families watch TV during dinner, and that might be the only time they’re altogether. If you’re able to get everyone together for dinner, you should probably try talking to each other. It was good for us when we were little because we always had dinner together – even when we were in high school, we almost always had dinner together first, and made plans with our friends afterwards, because we had been having dinner together for so long. It was a good time to learn about what everybody was up to and we saw how much work went into making dinner, and we learned about putting our dishes in the sink – all important skills. You have to do stuff together, even if people pretend they don’t want to. It’s harder to drift apart when you are always hanging together.
Ah, But I Was So Much Older Then, I’m Younger Than That Now…
That’s the chorus of Bob Dylan’s “My Back Pages.” It’s one of my favorite Dylan pieces, as I get lost in the lyrics. It’s a phenomenal poem, but it’s that refrain, “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now,” that is on my mind as Dylan turns 70. In 1971, on my college dorm room wall, I hung a Peanuts comic about Dylan as he turned 30 that year. Linus tells Charlie Brown that Dylan is turning 30 and he replies, “That’s the most depressing thing I’ve ever heard.” It didn’t depress me. I figured if Dylan was that old (YIKES 30!) and was still so cool and gifted, there was hope for all of us. Listening to Dylan lyrics transported me to a world where I felt older, more sophisticated, and connected with a world larger than myself. I still listen to the lyrics, but now they make me feel younger, more sophisticated, and connected with a world larger than myself.
Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now. I am in some ways, younger than that now because I work at it. As Dylan turns 70, I am thinking about what the number means; what age means. When I was 19 in 1971, I feared old age. I was afraid it would stop me from being the person I wanted to be — vital and engaged. With age came the wisdom to know that’s becoming less vital is not a given. If I continue to fight aging, I don’t have to fear it. I’m not talking about keeping a youthful appearance, although I try to do that too, within reason. (I keep my hair long but I’ve given up mini skirts, alas.) I’m talking about keeping a youthful exuberance. I started running in my 20s to stay vital. I gave it up in my 40s and came back to it in my 50s. It’s part of my anti-aging plan. I try to keep up with technology. I made myself get a Smartphone so that the world wouldn’t move on too fast leaving me in its wake. I eat healthfully because I believe that food fights pain and deterioration of the body. I listen to the music of today’s artists so that I can have some sense of current popular culture. And I do things that occupy my time and keep my brain alive like writing this blog and reading great books. Plus, I try to volunteer my time to causes that I feel passionate about so that passion continues to fuel my heart and soul, despite my age.
All of these things help me be younger now than I was then, in my back pages. The mind is a powerful anti-aging tool. But it takes work. I think that parents set the stage for their children in this realm. If we want our children to age gracefully without fear then we have to show them the way. I’ve tried never to tell my daughters that I couldn’t do something because I was too old. I try not to use age as an excuse. It was a plan I began way back in my 20s. So, I ask you, what do you do to stay young? How will you be younger in the future than you are now? What will keep you vital? And are you afraid of growing older? Why and what can you do to allay that fear?
I got carded at a PG-13 movie when I was 23 years old, so obviously it’s working. I hate getting older. I lie about how old I am, and act like I’m 12 so no one will know how old I am. I think being around kids at work helps me stay young, because we’re expected to be excited about little things and be creative – which is good for keeping you young. I go running and try to eat healthy, although I don’t think I do that to stay young as much as I do it to stay healthy and to fit into my nice jeans. I don’t know how you get youngish people to not be afraid of getting old. I think there are a lot of things that people expect from you when you are older, and it’s a lot of pressure. What if you don’t have the perfect job, amount of money, social life, or living situation by a certain time? I guess times are changing (Note the Dylan pun) and those milestones don’t have to happen at a specific time any more, but a lot of young people still go by them, and that can be intimidating. Perhaps we need to remind young people that everything happens for everyone at different times, and it doesn’t matter how old you are (or in my case, how young).
Other ways to stay or feel young: laughing, letting yourself have a good time, trying new things, and if that doesn’t work, just go to a bar where everyone is older than you.
As far as I’m concerned, I turned 21 eight times, and each time was better than the time before, so I guess I am getting younger than I used to be.
I’d rather live in the present than worry about being older. Yes, I try to eat healthy most of the time and am desperately trying to find an exercise routine that I have the motivation to keep up with, but I have more important things to think about than getting older. My feeling about it is, if you live a life that makes you happy, then it doesn’t matter how old you are. There are certain things that I know will make me happy in the present, and those are the things I try to focus on.
My friendships are very important to me. I grew into adulthood before I learned how to really maintain friends, and I’ve also learned how to distinguish the good ones from the ones that aren’t worth my time. Spending time with people that I have a good time with definitely makes me feel younger. Trying new things absolutely helps keep you young. Whether it’s retrying a food I thought I hated (turns out mushrooms aren’t so bad), or going to a new place, (Hello, New Orleans!), new experiences keep life interesting.
I haven’t gotten carded at quite as many PG 13 movies as Tamra has, but there have been many casual Fridays where I was mistaken for an 8th grader at work, so maybe I’ve got some idea of how to keep myself young.
Are you sure he wasn’t being sarcastic?
Because I think he might have been. Perhaps he even meant that it takes being older to appreciate being younger. I know there are times where I yearn for the days when having my favorite dessert made my day and my biggest worry was if the boy I liked “like liked me.” So I think maybe we should consider that Dylan had an ironic tone.
As far as staying young I think the thing about it is that because you’re young, everything is new. You are filled with so much anticipation because you’re just learning about the world and how it relates to you. Now that I’m in the thirties I think about growing old a lot and it scares me. I exercise and moisturize for maintenance, yes wrinkles and cellulite offend me and I am trying to combat the inevitable. I think the thing about being young and not knowing anything is that you’re excited for what might await you and as you get older it seems like most surprises are stressful.
I try to do new things and I try to be open to people. This is not easy, we all like things we are comfortable with. I’ve tried new activities, new friends and even new responsibilities at work just to keep the anticipation going and to get things to be excited about. I think it’s easy to fall into a rut so I try to be conscious of that. I think the way to stay young is to do things that make you happy, which usually means doing a little self discovery.
Check in with me at age 31 and see if my thoughts have changed. I’ll be the only one at Happy Hour getting carded.
Let’s face it, it might be harder to excel in school than ever before. Case in point, the father of my amazing daughters recently came across his elementary school report card. Under comments, his teacher wrote that she was “looking forward to the day when Ned would remember to bring a hankie to school.” Really? I suspect that most teachers today would give up several paychecks in order to have “hankie-less-ness” be a student’s worst problem.
Your kid is competing with those kids of “tiger” moms, and the kids who have been headed to Harvard since being en utero, and on top of that, school budgets are being decimated, class size is growing, and resources are shrinking. What’s a parent to do?
First, relax. Your kid will be fine. Just the fact that you care is a huge boost to her success. But, to help you along a bit, here are three simple things you can do every day that will matter. You can do all three each day and the whole thing will take less than five minutes.
1. Let her see you reading something– a book, a magazine, a website, anything that can be read is okay. The point is, she needs to see you read. It doesn’t have to be for a long time, but the impact of Mom’s daily reading cannot be overstated.
2. Look at her homework. I’m not saying you must check it (although that’s okay) and I’m certainly not saying you should do it (because you should definitely not do your child’s homework), I’m just saying look at it. She’ll know you care about it and that will matter to her.
3. Ask your daughter to tell you one thing she learned or observed that day. Tell her one thing you learned or observed. This doesn’t have to be a brilliant insight. Maybe you saw an ant carrying a huge crumb across your kitchen floor. Maybe you learned that the term “in utero” is Latin and that’s why spell check doesn’t recognize it. (Okay, those are two things I learned today and that’s without leaving the home.) The point of this is simple. Your daughter learns from you that absorbing knowledge is ongoing, it’s fun, and it’s lifelong.
What do you all think about the best and most practical ways parents can help their kids do better in school? These don’t have to be daily things, just important things.
Alexis Writes: 1. I think parents should make sure they talk to their children. Your kids have a voice and they need to feel heard. Learning is no longer just spitting a concept back verbatim, it’s understanding how what you’ve learned applies to you. Ask your kids why they like Sponge Bob or what is so cool about Justin Bieber? They really need to be able to think for themselves. Part of that is understanding why you think the way you do.
2. Give your child the gift of independence. Let them pack their book bag, help pick out their clothes, even contribute to making their own lunch. Allowing children to take ownership of themselves is important. Why should you have to do all the work all the time? The earlier they feel comfortable taking responsibility, the more likely they will want to do be responsible for what they learn. It will build their confidence. They will blossom.
3. Encourage your daughter to write at home. Writing is the hardest area to teach because it is usually only addressed in school. Parents are always reading to their kids but often their kids are not writing at home. Encourage your child to keep a journal, it’s great exercise for their brain. It doesn’t have to be something you read or correct (in fact, please don’t correct it) but just provide an opportunity for your girls to put their thoughts down in writing. Don’t read it, that’s not cool. Unless there’s a serious issue, let your daughter have some privacy. She deserves a place in writing where everything is accepted.
Tamra Writes: 1. Read to your daughter. Kids love to be read to. They work hard all day, and it is nice for them to be able to sit back and listen to a story. If you pick a good chapter book, you can read a chapter a night and keep them on the edge of their seats to hear more later. They might even want to read to you. Not only will it help with their reading, but it’s a nice way to bond.
2. Teach them some manners and patience. There is nothing I like better in my class than a polite and patient child. I think being nice is just as important (if not more so) than being able to spell all your spelling words. A little manners go a long way.
3. Give them an opportunity to problem solve for themselves. Don’t solve all their problems for them. Help them solve their problems, don’t just do it without them being a part of the solution. Too often children aren’t sure how to solve their own problems (even if it’s something as small as knowing what to do when a pencil breaks). It is never too early to start learning to solve problems. Forgot to bring their homework home?? Hmm…how can we fix this? Call a friend, do some practice math problems, write all the spelling words you remember, read a story and write what it was about. I think we forget to teach children to be resourceful. Aren’t children supposed to be some of the most imaginative people out there? Let them use that imagination for good.
Shira writes: 1. Listen to music. Music is one of the greatest educational tools there is, and most of the work has already been done for you. Simply putting on music in the car or at dinner can teach your kids about politics, to love themselves for who they are, and can help them develop creativity.
2. Ask them about their day. Kids want to know that people care about what is going on in their lives. Make sure they know that they are important. The kids in my class are constantly trying to share little anecdotes about their lives with me (usually at the most inappropriate time, like in the middle of math class). They just want to know that the adults in their lives care about what they have to say.
3. Communicate with the teacher. Make sure the people at school know that you are involved and care about how your child is doing. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying you should become a helicopter parent. But as a teacher, I know how frustrating it is to try to reach a parent about their child’s grades or behavior and get no response at all. Not only does it not help me, but it’s really bad for the child. If kids know that their parents and their teacher talk to each other, there’s a chance they will be motivated to try harder in school.