One Mom’s Diagnosis

I am sick of being sick. I caught yet another one of my children’s illnesses this past week. Being sick as an adult is way less enjoyable than being sick as a kid. My mom used to pull out all the stops when my sisters or I were sick as children. She’d check our temperature, give us medicine, sometimes a Coke or Ginger Ale—a treat for us at the time—for an upset stomach, rub our backs, tuck us in and even roll in the small TV on the portable TV stand from her and my father’s bedroom. If only we could bottle the love and care our parents show us when we’re sick. Wouldn’t that be powerful medicine? Being sick wasn’t fun, but being taken care of and cared for helped get me through it.

I struggled with the decision to put my children in daycare when they were young, but knew that going back to work was something that I wanted and needed to do. One of the ‘upsides’ of putting my children in daycare I was told was that they would be exposed to all the germs out there. You’ll see, other parents told me they’ll have tons of colds for the first year or two, and then it’s smooth sailing. When the kids who stayed home go to school, they’ll be the ones getting sick and your kids will be fine. Needless to say, that’s not how it’s worked in our house.

My kids did catch colds almost instantaneously when they started in daycare and seemed to be sick non-stop until they were about two years old, when at last the constant illnesses did seem to wane. I thought we’re in the clear, excellent! It felt like what had been prophesized for me by those knowing parents was coming true – the kids would be sick often when they were young, but not sick later.

It didn’t hold for long. Soon I started to experience another trend. I would get sick when the kids did or get sick even when they did not. I have always been relatively healthy, rarely getting sick, but since my kids have been in daycare and now elementary school, I feel like I get sick as much as I did as a child. I have had countless colds and stomach viruses. I even caught both strep throat, which I remembered as a child’s illness, and a 24-hour stomach bug that was running rampant through the daycare that somehow missed my children altogether but got to me.  How could that be?

Of course, any of us can get sick at any time. Germs are everywhere and our best defense, as we tell our children, is to wash our hands frequently and cover our coughs and sneezes. This rash of illnesses also made me wonder if I was somehow contributing to the germs that were taking hold in my body. Was I as healthy and strong as it had been as a younger adult? Had I somehow allowed my body to become more susceptible to germs? Was I taking care of myself? Was I getting all the vitamins and minerals I talk to my kids about?

It got me thinking about my overall health. I exercise regularly and do eat my vegetables, but also know that between my own activities and my children’s, I run myself ragged.  I’m still working on how to get myself to that ideal healthy-all-the-time state; assuming it’s even possible. Sadly, my mom isn’t here to take care of me, rub my back, care for me when I’m under the weather and reassure me that everything is going to be okay. But I realize that I need to show myself the same kind of love and care my mother used to give me: not just when I’m sick, but all the time.  It might not come in bottled form, but it’s tangible—allowing time to rest and reflect, being more selective in the activities my family commits to and being more purposeful in taking care of myself—that’s the best defense I’ve come across for taking care of myself daily, more powerful than any medicine I’m aware of.

How do you defend yourself against getting sick?  How can you better take care of yourself?

3-2-1 Lift Off

When I was growing up in Florida, hearing the news of a space shuttle launch and being able to see and experience one, even from afar, was always pretty special. Such great care and attention to detail went into every launch. If there were anything amiss, any detail that could put the crew or mission in jeopardy, the launch would be delayed or aborted altogether.

This past weekend I orchestrated a launch of my own, for my book  Ten Simple Tools for No Regrets Parenting. This launch brought its own intense preparation and attention to detail.  I hosted the party at Trophy Cupcakes in Wallingford where friends and readers gathered to mingle, talk parenting and eat cupcakes. Following the event I had a chance to reflect on all that went into both the book becoming a reality.

I went all the way back to the beginning of my own parenting journey. As a new mom, I found a lot of good information in many different forms of media including articles, blogs, websites, and books. But for all the wonderful snippets of information I was finding, it was extremely frustrating not to be able to have it handy when I needed it and I realized what I really wanted was to have the information in a consolidated, easy-to-read format.

What I found in sorting through the many books that crowd the parenting market,  was that most are slanted towards developmental milestones or focusing on specific issues (behavioral, eating, etc.).  I wanted information on strategies for how to parent and raise my children in a way I’d feel good about.

I reflected on what I had experienced in my own childhood and thought about the things I wanted to pass on to my children and the things I didn’t. I knew I didn’t have the tools to ensure I wouldn’t pass on the negative things to my children unless I understood where they stemmed from, what beliefs I held about myself and how to deal with them in a healthy way. This required me to seek professional help including that of a therapist, nutritionist and life coach. I wanted to share with other parents what I had learned by going through this process.

Much of the advice I had found available in books and articles also seemed very one-sided. There seemed to be the implication that if I didn’t subscribe to the advice being shared, than I was obviously not a good parent. I didn’t see what good it would do to put more material out in the market that would make parents second-guess themselves. I think there are a million different ways to have a successful parenting journey. What parents really need is to be aware that it’s a journey and have some inner self-reflection about what their part in that is and to be proactive about it. I wanted to provide parents with tools that would allow them to feel like they are more in control of what their parenting journey will be and what it will and won’t include.

As a result, my book was born. Much like a space shuttle launch, it took time and great care to create it. While there weren’t any obvious dangers around the launch, it was important to me that the book was thought-through, corroborated by other parents, complete and ready to take off.  I don’t know if I was prepared for what I felt at the launch party yesterday, I didn’t really know what to expect going into it. But what I saw and experienced felt pretty special.

What’s Your Recipe for Success?

My sons love to make cookies. They’re not so into the measuring and stirring of ingredients, but they love rolling out the dough and decorating the cookies before they go into the oven. And of course the best part is eating the cookies when they’re still warm from the oven.

I recently attended a leadership conference where the theme was Recipe for Success. It created a great Iron-Chef-type atmosphere amongst the attendees as we tried to break down what it takes to be successful. One exercise encouraged us to define our key ingredients for success. This led me to ask myself what my key ingredients were for success as a parent.

Some ingredients came to mind easily:

  • Knowing my role
  • Using that role to teach
  • Making sure my children know themselves and understand their feelings
  • Practicing patience and being calm
  • Rewarding desired behaviors
  • Encouraging my children without doing everything for them

Other ingredients came after more thought:

  • Taking care of myself
  • Tending to my relationship with my husband
  • Making time for friends

One vital ingredient came to mind only after a good night’s sleep:

  • Celebrate the successes: your child’s, your own and your family’s

Putting my parenting goals in recipe format made me think of baking cookies with the kids and reminded me to celebrate the time we spend together and appreciate the result of our work.

Sometimes in life it’s easy to focus on the recipe and not enjoy the process. I’d encourage all parents to savor the process of raising children. Figure out what ingredients are working in your parenting recipe and substitute or take out any that aren’t. Add new ingredients as needed and most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy yourself along the way. Don’t forget to celebrate your successes.

What are the key ingredients in your recipe for success?

May I Have Your Attention, Please

We’ve had an unseasonably warm few days where I live.  The sun has been shining with temperatures reaching into the high 50s/low 60s; exceptionally nice for early February in Seattle. We couldn’t resist the urge to get the family outside to take advantage of the weather, so we headed to a neighborhood park.

Both of our kids love going to the park; our youngest son always seems to want to spend his time there picking up and dropping small rocks that line the playground floor. I often have to remind him to keep the rocks away from people and off the slide–he loves hearing the sound the rocks make as they crash down it.

Naturally, the park was full of families with children and pets this weekend, a wonderful thing to see. But there was something else in abundance at the park that wasn’t such a welcome sight: Smartphones. One Mom was talking on the phone while pushing her son in the swing, another was texting while standing near her child and yet another parent was sitting on a bench engrossed in whatever app he had running. The parents were there with their children, but not really present.

Smartphones and tablets and all the other impressive technological devices at our disposal these days make connecting with each other easier than ever. But are these connections occurring in a meaningful and authentic way?

There is a push in our society to be busy, or at least appear to be busy at all times—as if we weren’t busy enough without having to fake it.  The question is why?  Is it to impress other people around us? Do we feel like we aren’t good or important enough if we don’t seem to always be occupied? What messages are we sending other people with this constant flurry of meaningless electronic activity?  More importantly, what messages are we sending to our own children?

There will be those who claim that they’re so busy that this constant multi-tasking is the only way to get everything done; besides if their child is otherwise occupied it’s not a big deal and it’s no one’s business what they are doing with or how they spend their time.

I would argue that it does matter to our children how we spend our time. Children pay attention to these things, whether they verbalize it to us or not. By being engrossed in our electronic devices, are we unknowingly telling our children that they aren’t worth our dedicated, uninterrupted time?  That whatever we’re doing on our phone is more important than they are?And by constantly tuning out of what’s going on around us, are we really demonstrating how to make authentic and fulfilling connections with other human beings?

I walked over to a parent who was engrossed in their phone and whose child was playing with mine. I asked the parent how old their child was and it took a minute for the parent to realize I was talking to them. Once we made the connection, I went back to see what my son was up to. Sure enough, he was just about to put a handful of rocks down the slide. I called his name so he could hear me and said, “You’re not going to put those rocks down the slide are you?” He turned around to look for me. He’d seen me talking to the parent a moment earlier, and I suspect he thought I was still engaged with this and not paying attention to what he was up to. He had the biggest smile on his face. Not because he had gotten caught, but because he realized I had been paying attention.

What’s your policy on electronics when it comes to your kids?