The Turkey

What are you most thankful for this holiday season? Health, safety, love and friendship or something else?

It seems that each year, throughout the year, I’m reminded by my children what they are thankful for (which in turns reminds me what I am thankful for) in unexpected ways.

My youngest son came home last year with an art project in hand. It was a Thanksgiving turkey made out of a paper bowl used for the body, a toilet paper roll decorated as the neck and head, construction paper (cut in the shape of his traced hand) for the turkey’s feet, and pieces of colored paper for the tail. It was easy, at a glance, to think the tail was filled simply with colorful feathers. Upon closer inspection, you could see that my son had written all the things he was thankful for on each tail feather. His tail feathers read:

  • Cats
  • Food
  • School
  • Hats
  • Water
  • TV
  • Games
  • People
  • Giving
  • Math

The simplicity and honesty of this list is what caught my attention. It really simplified what my son was thankful for, and reminded me once again what I am thankful for. My son inspired me to create my own list this year. There are big and important things I am thankful for daily: the health of my children and family, the roof over my head, my friends and family, my job, my readers, the city I live in and much more. My son inspired me to create a more simplistic and honest list above and beyond this.

In addition to the above, I am thankful for:

  • Ellen DeGeneres – Ellen, I know everyone loves you and I’m right there with them. I really, really needed your show the Wednesday following the election and you came through even though I could tell you were experiencing the same feelings so many of us were. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
  • Mountains – Seeing a mountain when the sun rising or setting with its white-capped majesty is something special. Living where I do, I get to see this virtually every day. I do not take it for granted.
  • Date Nights and Babysitters – Oh, I love the nights where my husband and I get to reconnect as a couple. Thank you to the wonderful babysitters we’ve found that let us know our kids are in good hands while we’re away.
  • Other Parents and Support Communities – I’ll never be able to properly express my thanks for supportive parents, and supportive communities such as PEPS (Program for Early Parenthood Support).
  • People who fight/advocate for what’s right – there are so many good causes. I am inspired and motivated to engage by those willing to fight for others. Thank you!
  • Teachers, coaches and caregivers – You give so much to my children and family. You sacrifice your time to share your passion and genuinely care about my children’s success. I’ll never be able to properly express how grateful I am for each of you.
  • A Good Tea Room – The Royal Tea Room in Tampa, FL will always be my favorite, but give me a good tea room in any city and I’m one happy and thankful person. The food is divine, and the company I’m sharing the tea with even better.
  • And many more (these may seem frivolous, but I’m thankful for them none-the-less): College Game Day (thanks for sharing your love of college football with the fans), Melissa McCarthy (I can watch Spy an unlimited amount of times and laugh — you are a gift to all of us), Bravo TV (thank you for being there when I just need to check-out and not think about anything), Oprah and O Magazine (you are still connecting with fans even though we don’t ‘see’ you on TV everyday), Sun (sunny, warm days our something I crave. Nothing beats then!) and Cats (just like my son, I love these furry creatures. They have provided me much love and comfort as pets over the years — thank you!).

I will be taking next week off to celebrate the holiday with my family. How will you be celebrating with yours?

What are you thankful for this year (frivolous or not)? Who or what reminds you of the simple things you are thankful for?

 

 

 

 

Kids Choice – Dealing With Loss

When have you had to console your child when they experience loss and there is no way to soften the impact? It’s heart wrenching, right?

I had one of those moments on Tuesday night. While I was shocked as the results were coming in (and trying to handle my confusion and intense disappointment as discretely as I could), I wasn’t expecting my kids reaction. When I went to tuck them in, my youngest asked me if Hillary won. I told him “it doesn’t look like it.” He got fear in his eyes. He started to cry in a way I’ve never seen. What he said next jarred me. He didn’t say, “Why?” or “How could this happen?” That would have been expected. Instead he said, “Oh my gosh. We’re going to go to war! The country is going to be so bad.” War? I thought. Where did that come from? He’s really scared to think we are going to war. And how in the world did he grasp my own fears? That our country is taking a huge step backwards for women and minorities, the sick, the poor and mentally ill and all other marginalized groups. My older son joined in the conversation, he was equally distressed. “Why can’t kids vote? We never would have let someone like him be President.” My son made a good point.

Children have a wonderful inability to filter themselves when they are young. And they have an even greater ability to filter through BS. Politically correct is, well, not in their vocabulary. While there are certainly situations where you can grimace as a parent for what your child said out loud, there is something very straightforward about their views. They see things for what they truly are and convey them in black and white terms: you are nice, you are not nice; you are good, you are bad; etc. This ability came through Tuesday night. “I hate that I’m not allowed to vote until I’m 18. That’s ridiculous. If you asked the kids, none of us would ever vote for someone who was so mean, hateful and a bully!” my oldest said. While there was a big part of me that wanted to join in and bash the results and those who voted for the other side, I could tell what my kids most needed was for someone to tell them that everything is going to be okay, even though as their parent, and a woman, I’m not sure I believe it.

“It’s going to be okay. We’ll get through this,” I said. My youngest son didn’t buy it. He looked me in the eyes with that same terror pleading me to tell him I was kidding, or somehow the election results were going to turn out differently.  I didn’t know what else to do but to hug him. We were both experiencing a huge unexpected loss. We both felt the impact, and while they say time heals all wounds, this seems like a wound that will be opened for the next four years at a minimum.

I am grateful for educators at my kids school that brought the kids together to talk through the results and let the students voice their opinions to help them deal with their feelings. I am grateful for where I live and how people here are willing to stand up and say #notmypresident. And that many business leaders and local government officials have publicly said that won’t tolerate discrimination and hate, and are trying to give grieving adults the same message I gave my boys — we’ll get through this somehow. We just have to stick together.

Sometimes you can’t make sense of things, and sometimes you have to figure out how to make the best of a situation. I love the quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” There feels like a lot of darkness right now and I, as a parent, need to figure out how to light a candle. I can’t let an election determine how my neighbors, or my kids classmates and their families are treated, we all are more alike than different and we all have to figure out how to come together and work together. No more division, no more fear.

How do you console your child when you are in an inconsolable situation, regardless if its the loss of a loved one or the results of an election?  How are you helping your child when you are experiencing your own grief?

 

Parenthood – Cracking the Code

What’s the best parenting advice you’ve ever received?

A good friend recently had a baby and was asking for advice and my take on her baby’s progress. The baby, who had once been a good sleeper, was now sleeping in short stints which concerned her.  As we talked about the situation she shared how much she craves learning parenting tricks-of-the-trade, in hopes of shortening the length of time she continues to feel anxiety as a new parent, and fearing she is somehow unknowingly doing wrong by her child simply because she doesn’t know everything.

“No one knows everything,” I told her, “No matter how long you parent. Much like you’re child is learning, so are you. But let’s think about what insights I can share that might help.” I don’t know if I came up with anything profound. I think I shared what most parents do…what worked for them.  “The bouncy ball was a miracle worker for me and getting my son to sleep.” “Rubbing the baby’s back helped calm him down.” “Swaddling stopped him from startling himself.” It was frivolous insight. It was my experience and what had worked for me. I decided instead to turn the conversation back to what seemed more truthful and valuable. “Parenting is hard and scary, and what you are feeling is normal. I wish there were shortcuts, but everyone’s parenting experience is different. You will get through this phase with your child and their sleeping pattern, and then something new will come up and you’ll figure that out as well. If you make your decisions based on what you think is best for you and your family, you are probably doing just fine.” I knew she was hoping I was going to give her some silver bullets around how to get through parenting, but in my time as one, I’ve never seen two parenting experiences that were the same.

I admire my friend’s desire to be the best parent she can as fast as she can be, and look forward to watching her son grow, and her as a parent. As much as she thinks she may be learning from me (and others), I will be learning from her too. It’s reinvigorates me as a parent to see a new parent starting from scratch. I’m reminded of my own anxiety from way back then and how far I’ve come. I am grateful to those who helped share their advice and insights along the way that helped me be a better parent and look forward to continuing to gain knowledge from others who are further along in their journeys than I.

What advice has helped you as a parent? What advice have you shared with others that helped them?