Monday, August 26, 2013

Wanted: New Disney Teen Idols with MORALS!

I need to rant for a moment.  Where has good taste gone?  Does NO ONE in the entertainment industry have it any more.  Did they all sell their souls to the devil in the almighty quest for shock value rather than real values.  When did it become so laughable to have morals that we now take it for granted that former child stars who continue to seek fame and fortune end up to be drugged out, oversexed, classless trashies ala Britney, Lindsey, Amanda, and now Miley?

All four of these young women had scores of girls who grew up idolizing them.  They all are pretty, and talented, and had such potential to shape a generation of young girls by being role models, instead of models of bad behavior.  When I think about what they could have done to promote women's causes and be inspiring voices to combat important women's' issues like anorexia, date rape, or sexual harassment.  Who guides these young stars?  Clearly the type of parents who push their children into the business must be sorely misguided about the long term benefits, other than financial.

As the mother of three daughters, I am urging those in the entertainment industry to feel some shame and reflect on the fact that their business shapes our ideas.  Please raise the bar on entertainment, and kindly lose the stripper pole when it comes to television that is aimed at our younger generation.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Parents: Let your light shine!

Once, I visited a friend's cottage that had an annoying electrical problem.  When you turned certain light switches on in the house, other lights would dim.  Something wasn't working quite right, and I found it annoying and dysfunctional.

On another trip, I stayed in a lovely hotel that had the tradition of lighting the foyer each evening with a hallway of large lanterns.  As the candle lighting concierge made his way through the lobby, it was transformed into a scene of exceptional beauty.

These two scenes parallel the parenting decisions many of us make.  Let me explain.  In the first example, the room that you needed light in was bright enough, but the only way it got the light was from taking the power from the other rooms.  Some parents give all of their time and energy to their kids, and forget that it is dysfunctional to sacrifice all of your inner glow on behalf of your children.

Yet it is easy to fall into this trap.  If your goal is to be a great and wonderful and loving parent above all else and you lose yourself in the process, ironically you are failing.  Why?  Because your children won't respect you and won't even know who you really are, because you are focusing all  your attention on them.  You should be the example of what you want them to grow up to become.  And if you constantly sacrifice your needs on behalf of your children, you are teaching them that you are not worthy of having attention and focus placed on you.  If you lose your inner glow because you are giving it all to your children, you are like the cottage.  And the cottage was not functioning properly and was somewhat annoying.

The goal should be to find and maintain your inner glow as you pass it along to your children.  Your children should know what your passions are.  They should understand that you have interests that are outside of their existence, that you have accomplished things in your life that they were not even a part of, and that you deserve time each week to take care of some of your needs and wants.  If it is all about them, all the time, you are short changing yourself.

So how do you get your glow back?  It is very hard to do with young children underfoot but be creative.  Hire a sitter for a few hours each week or swap your kids with a friend, or call grandma or grandpa and make arrangements for you to have some time.  Start a journal that has personal goals in it.  Spend some time reflecting on what makes you happy and how you can get more of these things into your life.  Make a vision board or collage or pinterest board of your short term and long term dreams and ambitions.  Just by doing some self reflection, you will be lighting the spark that will help you begin to glow again and spread that glow to others around you, including your children.  You deserve this!  Now go and get it, by making some changes.  It can start today.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Launching from the Nest

My only son is just about ready to launch.  The countdown has begun, t-minus 15 hours and counting.  My living room is filled with boxes and bags reminding me of Christmases past, and don't get me started...everything reminds me of the past.  His hockey duffel lies on the floor and I flash back to years spent cheering him on in cold, dank hockey rinks, or freezing in the bleachers during his football seasons.  I wash his laundry to help him get ready (yes, he knows how to do his own laundry) and think of the school uniforms, and baseball uniforms, and practice jerseys and the memories of all the uniforms that have covered him and protected him and molded him into the young man he has become.

He is a helpful and kind soul.  Always ready to lend a hand and eager to please...except when his little sister asks him to walk the dogs.  He is loving and thinks nothing of giving me huge, warm bear hugs.  I will miss those.  But I am so proud of the person he is, and am eager to share him with the world.  I am eager for him to taste independence that comes with being a college freshman.  I am excited for him to meet new friends, and find new experiences that light him up.  Yes, I know I will miss his deep, booming voice calling out from the garage door, and the texts that always let me know where he his and what his plans are.  Hopefully, at least some of the texts will continue. 

Our family is shrinking again.  I've been down this road before.  Now we are three and the spotlight will shine a little more intensely on our youngest daughter.  She made a joke that now at dinner we will have to listen to her.  I only hope she is ready for this...but she has no choice.  And neither do I.  So, good luck my son, not "good bye" but "see you later" and I hope you know how much I love you!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Establishing Independence in Children

 As a mother of four, I at times felt overwhelmed by my to do list.  The errands that needed to be run, the cleaning that needed to be done.  The registration documents, medical forms, calendars and schedules that needed to be read, understood and filled out.  Add a job into the mix, and a boss with requests and due dates, and oh, by the way, a husband who I wanted to maintain a relationship with.  And did I mention, I needed a haircut from time to time?  You get my drift.  We parents are busy people!  So what do you do when juggling everything feels impossible.  My advice is simple...look down.

Look down?  What does that mean?  It means that the answer is simple.  Look down at your children.  The two legged, two handed, little people that inhabit your life are fully capable of helping you tow the line.  And in this instance, you will be doing them a favor by asking...but not in the moment (in the long run)!  The secret is to remember to do this.  Most parents get so caught up in the business and superhuman model of running the show, that they forget to ask their children to step up and do things that they are fully capable of doing.  And if you are stressed out, chances are you are taking it out on your family, and they all will be a lot happier seeing your stress decline when you feel as if you have your bases covered.  So share tasks with every member of your family.  Look for age appropriate ways that each of your children can contribute to your household.

Little ones can help set the table, care for a pet, or clear shoes from the hallway.

Older kids can make beds, learn to do laundry, empty dishwashers, sweep floors, and even clean toilets.

Teens can cook or shop or fold laundry, virtually anything that you take the time to teach them to do.

If we, as parents don't expect any of this from our children, the result is that our children cannot do anything for themselves.  Yesterday, I sent my 16 year old daughter to high school registration.  She recently received her driver's license and will be a junior in high school this year. I allowed her to drive herself to the school and complete the registration process on her own.  When she came home, she reported to me that most of the teens were accompanied by their parents to complete this task.  I kept thinking that in light of the fact that in two short years she will be navigating a college campus, she should be able to navigate her way through high school registration as preparation for what is to come.

For some reason, our generation has such a difficult time letting our children fend for themselves.  We hover over them and manage their every move and then wonder why they are clueless when they reach their late teens and twenties.  So I urge you.  Slow down and think about what your children do to contribute to your household.  What chores do they perform on a regular basis?  How do you push them to develop new skills, like speaking on the phone to order a pizza or walking into a store and making a purchase?  Good parenting is loving our kids enough to put them to work and teaching them to survive when we are not around.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Going Green with Kids

In our daily lexicon, "going green" has taken on the meaning of living a ecofriendly life, being conscious of our carbon footprint, and caring about things like sustainable and organic food sources.  In the midst of all this ecobabble, we seem to have lost the simple idea that in order to care about our precious planet, we need to introduce the younger inhabitants of it to its' wonders.  As we get more preoccupied with protecting the earth, we have forgotten about simply enjoying it with our children so that they develop a deep love and protective spirit regarding it.

If you believe the statistics, our younger generation is much more comfortable with a joy stick than a real stick, and that frankly is unacceptable.  Please examine your children's lives.  How much time are they devoting to electronic entertainment versus outdoor experiences?  And some of the responsibility falls on you.  Parents need to plan nature experiences and running around a weed free, manicured soccer field is not one of them.  So what is a parent to do?  Make it a priority to get outside.  Here a few ideas that might help you achieve this goal:

1.  Look Locally:  Take advantage of local parks and forest preserves.  Acquaint yourself with what is available in your area.

2.  Simple Works: Don't think that you need to take all day to make a big deal out of interacting with nature.  Take your child for a short walk after dinner, or on the weekends go somewhere nearby for a short hike.  Just get out and do it.

3.  Investigate Bike Paths:  Maybe take a ride to a destination for an ice cream cone, or pack a lunch and ride to a stopping point for a picnic, and then ride home.

4.  Fresh Air Everyday:  The Europeans make this a priority.  It is very customary to see babies being walked in buggies during cold winter months.  These people understand that warm weather isn't the only time that we should be outdoors.  As long as you are properly dressed, fresh air is healthy all year long.  And your children will benefit from it.

5.  Walk To School:  If you have the opportunity to have your children walk to school, see it for the blessing that it is and take advantage of it.  By walking to and from school, your child learns about the seasons, can reflect on his/her day, and benefits from the exercise.  All this in addition to it being the ecofriendly way to go!

The benefits of teaching your children to enjoy and appreciate nature are endless.  Nature has a calming effect on kids.  It helps them clear their heads and focus on something other than themselves.  It develops their senses and observational abilities.  And it grooms them to be the stewards that our planet will need in the future.  Please commit to getting your children better acquainted with this magical, beautiful, wonderful, amazing place that we all call home, Planet Earth.