Why I Had to Stop Posting Photos of My Kids on Facebook

This was no small task. Quite honestly, not posting pictures of my kids on social media has cramped my style a bit and has forced me to exercise  a fair amount of restraint in this arena. To understand how and why I arrived at this Facebook turning point, read this post on Kveller, “Why I Will No Longer Post Photos of My Kids on Facebook.”  Please leave your comments (which I always love and appreciate) on the Kveller site. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this one! Thanks for checking it out!Kveller article-No Longer Posting Photos of my Kids on Facebook

Friday Faves: Reflections on Leading a Passover Seder at My Kids’ Episcopalian School

My Friday Faves is a follow-up to a recent article I wrote for Kveller freedom seder plateabout leading a Passover mini-seder for the 3rd and 4th graders at my children’s Episcopalian school. I am thrilled to report that it was an awesome experience. The Jewish kids in the group formed a fabulous “choir.” They belted out the four questions and led the rest of the students in Dayenu. The choir wasn’t needed to lead “Let My People Go” because all the kids already knew this song from singing it during chapel, and they sang it loud and proud. My heart jumped as I asked the kids questions like who was the baby that was found in a basket floating down the Nile River and almost every hand darted up as the kids had to hold themselves back from yelling out the answer, “Moses!” They knew the reason that Jews eat Matzah during Passover and why G-d brought the 10 plagues to Pharoh’s Egypt. They understood how much the Jews wanted and their freedom from their Egyptian oppressors, and they also understood how there are many people who still yearn to be free today.

On each of the 25 tables set up in the cafeteria, there was a “freedom seder plate” that my 6th and 3rd grader s helped me decorate. The plate was basically a white paper plate with a six empty circles surrounding a middle circle labeled “freedom.” The kids at the mini-seder were instructed to come up with symbols that remind them of freedom today.  The adult at the table wrote six of their answers in the empty circles. I had the chance to go around to each table, and one spokeskid at each table shared their top choice with the whole group. Once again, my heart danced as I heard such thoughtful responses like: school, food, the American flag, books and shelter; and I had a good chuckle as one 9-year-old revealed that their table’s favorite symbol of freedom was, “Raising the minimum wage to $8/hour.”

But my personal, stand-out favorite was  “Love.” The freedom to love freely is certainly a freedom not to be taken for granted and I love that these children realized this.

I felt so grateful to be able to spend the morning with 125 open-minded, bright 3rd and 4th graders who took in the story of Passover and transferred its meaning into their lives today.

 

How Spilled Beads Marked My New Approach To Anger

Multi-colored Glass Beads

Source: flickr

“The angry man should make himself like a deaf person who does not hear, and like a mute person who does not talk. If he must speak, it should be in a low voice and with words of reconciliation. Even if his heart is burning like fire, and his rage flames within him, he is capable of controlling his words.” (by Rabbi Eliezer Papo from his essay entitled “Anger”)

This passage, which hit me like a ton of bricks, was part of my assigned reading for a Mussar study group I recently joined (“The goal of Mussar practice is to release the light of holiness that lives within the soul.” – The Mussar Institute). It forced me to reflect on how I often jump to anger when parenting my children, causing me to act from a position of reactivity=weakness, rather than  from a position of proactivity=strength.

As I try to incorporate the Mussar principles into my life and find a more peaceful way to parent, I am committing myself to reducing the amount of time I spend feeling and/or acting angry.

When my teenager talks disrespectfully to me, my former reactive response looked something like this:

a)    Quickly becoming angry, raising my voice, and telling him how disappointed I am in his behavior,

b)    taking his behavior personally,

c)    feeling like I have done something catastrophically wrong in parenting him,

d)    feeling like I must CHANGE him immediately or he is going to disrespect his teachers and coaches, and will  grow up to be a disrespectful adult.

(Note: b, c and d all exacerbate the anger.)

It has taken me only 19 years of parenting to realize that I rarely, if ever, feel good about myself when I slip into the pattern above. Even when I achieved my desired outcome, I felt a certain amount of shame whenever I acted in anger.

As I work to take a much more proactive, positive approach when  facing a potentially upsetting scenario with my children, spouse or anyone I encounter, I need to embrace this idea: Anger is a choice. Perhaps I won’t always be able to control the angry feelings that arise within, however,  I can make the choice to not let them control me. I can choose to move away from anger, and toward something more productive.

In reference to the above-mentioned issue with my son, my new “working toward” pattern includes:

a)    an understanding that his behavior is not about me—something could be bothering him (he had a bad day at school, at baseball practice, he lost in fantasy football or is nervous about his upcoming chemistry test).

b)    trusting myself that I have indeed taught him the difference between respectful and disrespectful behavior, and that even with that knowledge, he is going to slip up sometimes.

c)    accepting and loving him for who he is and knowing that he is a good person who is acting negatively at that moment.

d)    talking to him calmly and telling him that I know he probably does not intend to talk to me disrespectfully but his tone sounds that way, and that I would like him to realize how it is unnecessary and inappropriate for him to speak disrespectfully to his mother, and there will be consequences for doing so.

The ultimate test for me is when my peaceful, anger-free approach toward him does not curb his level of disrespect but triggers more. This would be a good time to borrow from the Rabbi and “make myself like a deaf person who does not hear,” or literally walk away in an effort to thwart any rising anger that would cause me to be reactive.

It’s also important to realize that diffusing one’s own anger is the best way for a parent to teach children how to diffuse theirs.

The Beads Spilling Test 

Last week, my 9-year-old daughter was frantically getting ready for school, as she had come downstairs later than our agreed upon time. She hastily put her coat on and in the process knocked over a huge bucket of beads, turning our mudroom floor into a sea of sparkly beads.

All three of my kids stopped in their tracks and six eyes were upon me.

Old pattern:

a)    Yell at Jo, causing her to burst into tears,

b)    make her pick up every last bead and cause all three of my kids to be late for school,

c)    feel terrible for the whole day.

My new reality, which actually surprised me almost as much as it surprised the kids:

a)    I took a deep breath and said, “You guys need to go. You are going to be late. Jo, I know this was an accident. Please come down stairs earlier next time so you don’t have to be in such a hurry. Have a good day, guys!”

b)   I turned away from them and began to pick up the beads.

My kids continued to stare at me for a while longer, checking to see if there would be a delayed outburst. Jo’s eyes turned from panic-stricken to relieved.  “Bye mom,” they called as they walked out of the house to pile in my son’s car. “Love you!”

I literally smiled as I picked up the rest of the beads and said to myself, “This was definitely the better choice. Remember this.”

Friday Faves! What is a Disposable Camera Anyway?! A Funny Story!


Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 11.10.07 AM

I will not divulge which one of my kids this story pertains to save her from embarrassment. And for the sake of this story, I am going to refer to this child as my daughter, even though it could have been one of my sons. For those of you who know my kids, you can certainly try to guess which one had this experience.

My 8-year-old came home from her first year of sleep-away camp beaming with excitement and exploding with funny stories. Her two weeks in Wisconsin were filled with lots of new adventures and dozens of new friends. Not only was she excited to tell us all about her experiences, she couldn’t wait to show us all the pictures she took from the three disposable cameras we sent her with.

“Okay, honey, why don’t you give me the cameras so I can get the pictures developed and you can show us the photos of your new friends and all the fun stuff you did at camp,” I told her. She stared at me with a puzzled and borderline panicked look on her face. “What do you mean, give you the cameras,” she asked softly, her voice beginning to quiver. “Well, honey, I have to take the cameras to Target where they develop the film that is in the cameras, and that is how we get the pictures you took at camp,” I explained to her.

Now the tears began to flow. “But you said they were DISPOSABLE cameras…so…I…threw them…away.”

Oh, my literal child…she did recover…eventually.

Friday Faves! A Funny Message about Selfishness from Shel Silverstein

A_Light_in_the_Attic_cover

This Friday Faves is a bit off topic but I couldn’t pass it up. My daughter’s third grade teacher has asked her students to  record the number of minutes they read per day and to read books of varying genres (biographies, poetry, fairy tails, myths, etc.) My daughter has developed a real fondness for poetry. Last night we were reading from Shel Silverstein’s book of poetry “A Light in the Attic” and we came across a poem that caused both of us to burst out laughing, and we laughed harder each time we read the poem out loud to each other.

My husband and I talk to our kids a lot about how to be a giving and generous person and what it means to be selfish. Shel Silverstein puts a hysterical spin on a child’s perspective of selfishness:

 “Prayer of the Selfish Child”

Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep,

And if I die before I wake,

I pray the Lord my toys to break.

So none of the other kids can use them…

Amen

Feel free to let me know if you think this poem is as funny as my daughter and I think it is.

Friday Faves! Remember When…

Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 4.24.16 PMThis week’s Friday Faves does borrow from my one of my favorite authors, Anna Quindlen AGAIN, but also includes some of my own commentary from Book #1.

All mothers have or will have their “remember when” stories. Anna Quindlen writes:

“Every part of raising children is humbling, too. Believe me, mistakes were made. They have all been enshrined in the Remember-When-Mom-Did-Hall-of-Fame. The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language, mine, not theirs. The times the baby fell off the bed. The times I arrived late for preschool pickup. The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer camp. The day when the youngest came barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on her geography test, and I responded, “What did you get wrong?” (She insisted I included that.) The time I ordered food at the McDonald’s drive-through speaker and then drove away without picking it up from the window. (They all insisted I included that.)”

I, too, have an infinite number of remember when stories, and create more and more every day. I remember my oldest son’s first day of a new preschool and I was in the hospital, in labor with my third child. I remember pleading with my husband, “Please go! You have to be there to take him on his first day, not the babysitter!” He left, and returned an hour later to find me in tears, with just enough time to throw on some scrubs and hold my hand as I was being wheeled into the OR for an emergency C-section because my unborn son was fighting to breathe as the umbilical cord was acting as a noose around his neck.

I remember the tantrums and the melt-downs (both theirs and mine), the potty training, the power struggles, and the feeling of being completely exhausted, physically, emotionally and mentally…and then just as I was ready to turn in my motherhood badge,  one of them would do something really, really cute or funny, and I would remember why I love being a mother (most of the time).

I remember being so excited to take my oldest daughter on a surprise trip to NYC for her 10th birthday, and it wasn’t until I printed out the boarding passes the night before that I realized that my youngest son would celebrate his Golden Birthday (4 years old on the 4th) with his grandparents while his brother, sister, mom and dad were celebrating his older sister’s birthday in New York (their birthdays are a day apart).

Or when my son told me that he really did not want to have a family picture taken as a Hanukah gift for my parents and when I told him to go put on his “picture outfit” he came out of his room holding a black sharpie that he had used to color all over his arms, neck and face. (In retrospect, I should have gone ahead and had our pictures taken.)

Or how I got a call from the principal of my son’s school and she told me that the bus driver had reported to her that my 10-year-old son had used some bad language on the bus. She told me that when she called him into his office and asked him what he said that upset the bus driver, he paused, looked at her and said, “I said fuc*.” I don’t know what embarrassed me more, the fact that my son dropped the f-bomb, or that the straight-laced, school principal actually said the f-word. She proceeded to tell me that she appreciated his honesty, and that he wasn’t in trouble because he told her the truth and promised he wouldn’t use bad language again.

I remember when we thought we lost our 6-year-old daughter in a busy mall in Israel, only to find out, after enlisting Israeli security and experiencing several full-blown panic attacks by parents and grandparents alike, that her big brother, without mentioning it to anyone, had taken her to the Nike store that he just had to see at the far end of the mall.

I remember when my fourth child was born and being so terrified that I was not capable of caring for four children at such different ages and stages.

I  still don’t know that I am.

Please feel free to share your “remember when” stories below! I love to hear from you, and it makes me feel less self conscious about sharing my many parenting blunders!

Escape the Cold by Filling Out Summer Camp Forms!

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As a Minnesotan, December is the month when our landscape turns into a nasty frozen tundra, and it is difficult to savor the memories of the past summer or to believe that we will EVER be relieved of our constant state of FROZEN. But, of course, even though we sometimes have to wait until May, the thaw does come.  My most notable December reminder of the warm hope of summer is delivered by envelopes and emails containing none other than…summer camp forms.

As much as I dread filling them out, I am filled with gratitude and appreciation for all that summer camp means to our family. All four of our kids were/are AVID summer campers (and our oldest is now an AVID summer camp counselor). To say that they love camp is an understatement. They deeply CRAVE it. My husband and I have always understood the value of summer camp, and the value of sending kids away, in general, to allow them to forge new experiences on their own, and to grow and develop their sense of self, separate from mom and dad. I knew that summer camp and the relationships developed there, helped my daughter escape the stresses of school and some tough years she had socially; and that my son was able to feel whole again after he experienced several months of being bullied at school. My older son’s love for camp prompted him to attend a high school program in Israel last summer with several of his camp friends. And my youngest daughter, who was hesitant to go away to camp last summer, as a more quiet and somewhat shy 9-year-old, came back after her two weeks away, with a renewed confidence and a less fearful outlook on life.

It would take me pages upon pages to reflect on the countless ways that my kids’ (and my husband and my) lives have been profoundly impacted by their/our overnight summer camp experiences. I thought it would be even more beneficial for you to read some of my daughter’s impressions on how summer camp was pivotal in shaping her into the young woman she is today. She gave me her permission to share a portion of an essay she wrote for a college English class on the importance of allowing and encouraging kids to spend some time away from home during their formative years (referred to as mobility).

“In reflecting upon one’s childhood, it is difficult, if not impossible, to uncover a specific defining moment in which one transitions from a child to an adult. If adulthood is defined by reaching a certain age, then perhaps one could say that it is the moment when one turns eighteen. Yet, adulthood seems to be a much more complex concept than something that is marked by the celebration of one birthday. Although I am confident that I am not done developing, and at nineteen years old I still have much to learn, I can identify one specific experience that played a key role in my evolution from youth to a higher level of maturity.

When I hopped on that coach bus headed for Eagle River, Wisconsin, at eight years old, I had no idea what was in store for me. I was eager to make new friends, be independent, and connect to my faith, but I had no idea that this journey I was making on my own would be so crucial in my development. Over my 11 summers away from home at Camp Interlaken as a camper, then counselor, I learned so many things that a summer at home with my family just could not teach me. I learned how amazing it feels to truly be yourself; to be in a position of leadership, to make a camper’s day, to shower in the presence of unknown scary insects (not so amazing, but certainly eye opening), and all of these experiences helped me to become a less sheltered, and more grown up version of myself.

Had I not taken the leap, and stayed in the comfort of my home that fateful first summer, so many aspects of my personality that I feel proud of today, would never have been developed.

What is the value of sending kids away? There were always some moms who sneered at my mother when she told them she sent me to camp for a month at ten years old, questioning her true love and devotion to me. I, however, believe in the wisdom of the age-old statement, “if you love something, set it free.” While it is difficult to send children away, out of fear of something happening to them, or fear of missing them too much, it is so important for children to have experiences on their own because of the fundamental development that results.

It was the second night of camp, and Sarah was still crying. She was having a tough time adjusting: she missed her parents, she hated the food, the small beds and just wanted to go home. As the days passed, Sarah slowly came out of her shell, and quickly became one of my best friends. Had Sarah not stuck it out, it is doubtful that she would have developed the amazing self confidence that encouraged her to pursue her cross country career, which led her to be recruited to run here at this college!

Mobility can do amazing things, especially in our formative years. When we, as children, adolescents, teens, and even young adults, are away from home, and are surrounded by people who hold no preconceived ideas about who we are, we can be whomever we want. We can be fearless, outspoken, mean, rebellious, genuine, greedy, smart, kind—it is up to us. Sometimes these newfound personalities will stick, and sometimes not, but being away affords us the opportunity to try them out, and create our own hybrid of personalities that we want to define us.”

I think that about covers it…So, if you are considering sleep-away camp for your child, but are maybe a little hesitant, I would encourage you to go ahead and start filling out the forms. I highly doubt you or your child will regret it.

If you have stories to share about how you and/or your child/ren have been impacted by overnight camp, I would love to hear them!

I MADE IT TO HELL AND BACK WITH MY TEENAGE DAUGHTER! Via Scary Mommy!

scarymommy.com

scarymommy.com

Beautiful baby girls start out so sweet and loving, and so ridiculously adorable. But, fast forward a decade and suddenly… they’re not.

Please head over to Scary Mommy to read the full post.

“Who Do You Think You Are?!” Sibling Rivalry and the Use of the Shame Stick

Flickr/David Goehring

Flickr/David Goehring

“Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.”  —Brene’ Brown

“Who do you think you are?!” I said it. No, I said it REALLY LOUDLY to my son the other night when he made fun of his brother who was already upset about something. I promised myself I would not poke my kids with the shame stick (my made up reference to the destructive words that, when used, can cause a person to question their own self-worth). And yet, I spoke out of anger and frustration, and said things that I wished I wouldn’t have, because I wanted his behavior to change, to stop, and this was certainly not the first time I had asked him.

I realized, after I calmed down, that there were two main thoughts that screamed in my own head before they came out of my mouth. When I saw behavior in my son that I didn’t like, I immediately thought, “What is wrong with him that he would act like that? He should know better!” And then, I turned it inward, “What is wrong with me that I have a son who acts so insensitively to his brother? I must be doing something very wrong.”

Using that damn shame stick on both of us­—a double whammy!

Since we all know that this kind of thinking will get us absolutely nowhere, it’s time to back track and look at what is real and what is completely blown out of proportion. First of all, siblings pick on siblings… can’t think of anything more normal (my sister has the goods on me for sure!). Cajoling amongst siblings certainly does not mean there is a “character flaw” in any of them. In fact, most of the time, my kids are good to one another, and I know that they all care about each other tremendously. And then to take it a step further and throw myself under the bus for how my son acts…that’s a bit of a stretch. Last week, I looked over and saw that my older son had his arm around my daughter and was helping his little sister with her homework, without me asking. Do I take credit for that? No.

I have given my kids messages their whole lives about how important it is to be respectful to one another. I have always called out any one of my kids who is mistreating one of their siblings. They understand that it is not okay to make fun of one another or put each other down for kicks. Yet, they still do it, and probably will continue to do so for the remainder of the time that they live in my house, and maybe throughout their lives. And I will continue to point out that it is not okay.

Sibling rivalry and tension is not new. Me, losing my cool with my kids every so often, is not new either, unfortunately. What is relatively new is my awareness of how sometimes, when I have been extremely upset about one of my kid’s behaviors, I have poked them with the shame stick.

This needs to go.

“Who do you think you are” needs to be changed to, “I know who you are. I know you are a good person who cares about and loves his siblings. When you pick on one of them, it seems like you are being insensitive and unkind. This isn’t consistent with how I know you feel about them.”

At first, however, I probably will need to yell this messages. Otherwise, my kids will for sure think that I have been brainwashed by Dr. Phil.

For more on shame and parenting, check out Brene’ Brown’s “The Whole Hearted Parenting Manifesto” in the Huffington Post.

Friday Faves!

photoFor the past three years, as most of you know, I have been working on a book about motherhood. The book has taken many different twists and turns. It started out as a book that was more of a “what to expect” book, which would guide moms through the motherhood journey from their child’s birth to leaving the nest. I felt that this would be helpful to moms at every stage of motherhood, whereas a mom of a toddler could be able to peek at what age 16 looks like. Well, the publishers and agents I queried did not agree. “The subject matter is too broad,” they said. “Moms want to read about whatever they are dealing with RIGHT NOW, such as, ‘My infant won’t sleep so I want to read about infants, not teenagers.’ ” Okay, fair enough.

After I moped around in my rejection haze for too long, I decided to change my focus a bit. One issue that is universal to moms no matter what stage they are in with their children is self-care. This is also an issue that nearly every mother struggles with, so, my new and improved book angle, which is in its final editing and polishing stage, covers how moms take care of themselves personally, relationally and professionally while raising their children. I am really excited about the project and hope that all the mothers who read it will find that it provides them with the tools to live more authentically and happily as they journey through motherhood. Personally, the research I have done for this book has taught me so much and has helped me find strength during times when I felt that my life had begun to spin out of control.

But here’s the catch. As I made the transition from Book #1 to Book #2, I had to leave a heaping amount of extremely valuable material on the cutting room floor… which leads me to my  Friday Faves. I have decided that every Friday, I am going to share some of my favorite quotes or stories from the 400 moms I surveyed and interviewed over the years for Book #1. Some of you readers will see yourselves in these quotes and stories. But your identity is safe with me!

The following story is this week’s Friday Fave:

A friend of mine, who we will call Ruth, explained to me how frustrated she was with her 10-year-old daughter who refused to pick up her clothes in her room after being asked to do so over and over again. One day Ruth walked into her daughter’s room and was furious when she saw her daughter’s clothes still covering the floor of her room. Ruth proceeded to take off all her clothes and drop them on the floor and said, “See, this is what it is like! This is my house and you are not picking up your clothes in my house, so I am going to leave my clothes on the floor of your room!”

And she stormed out of the room.

If you haven’t done something like this yet, you most likely will have moments when you will or will want to! Dramatic, yes, but surely Ruth’s daughter now thinks twice before she drops her clothes on the floor of her room. She may still do it, but she certainly will think about it differently. And at some point, she will have a great story to tell her own daughter when she won’t pick up her clothes in her room. “You’ll never believe what Grandma Ruth did when she was upset with me for not picking up the clothes my room.”

We moms have to give our kids some good stories to tell our own kids, don’t we?!

If you have any good, funny or memorable stories you’d like to share (and you can certainly request to remain anonymous), please email me at unscriptedmom@gmail.com. I would love to post them on my Friday Faves!

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