What, no TV?

It’s summertime, and our kids have more free time on their hands. They are in camps during the week, but when they are not at camp all they want to do is watch TV.

When I was a kid, I wanted to watch TV 24×7 if my parents would allow it. I can remember one particular summer my mom told me that my sisters and I that our TV time would be limited to three hours a day. Three hours a day, that’s outrageous! There’s so much we’ll be missing! I thought. I can remember discussing this decision with my neighbor friend whose mom was trying something similar with he and his sister. “It’s not fair,” we both agreed. I can’t recall how closely the TV time was held to, but do recall we were prompted to play outside more, and it was okay to be bored.

With my own kids, my husband and I were noticing a trend…if allowed, our sons would watch TV 24×7. The TV seemed to be on any time we were inside the house. It was becoming a problem. While I hated the idea of restricting my kids TV time to three hours (because I could remember how much I hated it as a kid), I knew it was what we were ultimately going to have to do.

My husband and I sat down our kids and talked to them about limiting their TV time. Our conversation was met with “What?” “That’s not fair!” “You’re so mean!” “We’re going to be so bored!” This was expected, but still not easy to hear. “Guys, we’re not doing you any favors by letting you sit around and watch TV all the time, there is too much life to live, and you’re not living it if you sitting on a couch.” My sons may not have liked our message, but they understood it. “What are we going to do to pass the time?” my son asked. “You’ll have to figure that out. You can ride your bike, play out in the backyard, create something with your Lego, there’s all sorts of things you can do, it’s really up to you.”

We started our new schedule, and it was hard for everyone. It took some getting used to. It’s still taking some getting used to, but what I found was when my husband and I were firm with what would be allowed (e.g. if you watch three hours of TV first thing in the morning, that’s it.) we saw that our boys could adjust…it might be done begrudgingly, but they could do it.

I’ve seen them be more creative with their time since we implemented the change. There have been days when the three hours have been exceeded, but it’s been the exception. With summer vacation here, our timing feels right — there is so much to do, explore and see, it would be a shame if it were mostly spent inside.

Have you ever had to limit screen time? What worked for you? What helped your child make the adjustment?

Happy Fourth! I’ll be taking time off with the family and will be back following.

The Fall-t in Our Stars

What is the last book you read that stayed with you after finishing it? It made you think. It made you appreciate what you have. It touched you in some way.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is such a book for me. Yes, it’s of the Young Adult genre, and targeted for the teenage demographic, but each of us has some part of our teenage self still inside us, right?

For me, The Fault in Our Stars is about living life, really living while you are able. Pushing yourself to experience things even when you aren’t sure you’ll like the outcome. Letting no task (or story) go unfinished.

As time falls back this weekend, I’m reminded of life’s timeline. How it can feel very linear and static — predictable. Each season comes and goes. I experience great joy during the Fall: cooler temperatures, changing colors, and warm cider; and also great sadness: missing the warmer days, missing seeing leaves (of any color) on the trees, and missing the sun (there will be many gray days ahead). It almost seems unfair that a season can have both affects on you. But Fall is a great reminder for life. It reminds us that living things die, but great rebirth is just around the corner. That life is temporary.

I am aware of the beauty of Fall all around me. I look forward to enjoying the season as it comes. I can imagine grabbing a cup of warm cider, a nice warm blanket and finding a comfortable chair to reflect on this knowledge. Then perhaps, I may turn my attention to a good book.

Any suggestions?

 

 

Zombie Mom

Do the holidays bring out your inner child? They do for me.

After a week of traveling for work, the house being a mess and having two children who weren’t interested in getting ready, I knew I had to ‘come back to life’ to get us going and out of the house. My youngest was casually heading off to his room after I’d asked him to get ready. Instead of monitoring his progress every few minutes, I took a different tactic.I think seeing some Halloween decorations in the house inspired me. I made a groaning noise and stuck my arms straight out in front of me. I walked towards my boys room and said, “Mommy Zombie wants to eat boys that don’t have their beds made.” I headed towards them. They both squealed with delight. “No, Mom!” they exclaimed, and with smiles on their faces quickly got to making their beds. I then said, “Mommy Zombie wants to eat boys that aren’t dressed yet.” Their faces lit up again at the thought of Zombie Mom coming their way and they quickly worked to get dressed. Our game continued until they were completely ready. Zombie Mom prompted my sons to make their beds, get dressed, brush their hair and teeth and grab all the needed prior to heading out of the house. Why hadn’t I thought of this game before?  I was having fun, and the kids were too!

As we were leaving the house, my oldest son turned to me and said, “Mom, that was very creative of you. It was really fun!” His younger son agreed, “Yea, Mom, that was fun!” I held onto those moments, of  the sound of their giggles and pictures of their smiling faces, long after they were gone.

There aren’t many moments, in my experience, as a parent, when you actually think you got something right. I think I got this particular morning right and hope to recreate it again, using the child that still exist inside me. With the holidays coming up, I should be pretty inspired.

When does your inner child emerge? What creative ways have you inspired your child to action?

 

I Don’t Want to Grow Up

Growing up isn’t easy. We tend to think of the difficulties of growing up as being a childhood challenge, but it afflicts adults as well.

My children recently watched the movie Peter Pan. Peter, Wendy, John and Michael’s adventures in Never Land really captured their attention. Peter Pan’s desire to never grow up really peaked their curiosity. You could almost see the words forming in their minds, is never growing up possible? They asked to watch the movie over and over again for weeks on end.

We recently took a family vacation (see my previous blog on road trip marketing toys). We agreed prior to going on our trip, that we would all travel to visit our family and then our oldest son would stay behind for a few days to have an adventure with his grandparents. Our son was excited. I can only imagine what he thought his adventure might include. While I knew he may fantasize that his adventures would be like Peter Pan’s, he knew there would no sword fighting or swashbuckling. Instead his adventure included learning new things like fishing, kayaking, hiking and enjoying the outdoors in a new environment.

The night before my husband, youngest son and I were due to leave I sat down with my son and talked about what would be happening in the upcoming days. He expressed that while he was excited for his adventure, he was sad too. He was going to miss us. I told him that we were going to miss him too. I explained that this was an opportunity for him to get to know his grandparents better and a chance for them to get to know him better. While they had watched his brother and him when they were younger they hadn’t had alone time with him. I told him that it was going to be an opportunity for all of us to be brave and that we’d all grow up a little bit from this.  My son would gain some maturity and confidence from being on his own, and my husband and I would gain some comfort in knowing that our son was blossoming outside of our immediate care. Our youngest wasn’t sure quite what he was going to gain for this experience. I explained, “You are going to get to grow up a little bit too. You’re going to get to spend some time with Mom and Dad one on one (something he’s never done before) and you’re going to see that you are okay on your own.” He replied, “I don’t want to grow up.” And while he wasn’t mimicking Peter Pan, I understood his sentiment. It’s hard to let something go that you love so much, whether it’s your childhood, your brother or leaving your child with his grandparents.

It was wonderful when our son returned home. It was a celebration. We learned a few things about each other on the trip. He traveled well with his grandparents, he picked up fishing and kayaking very quickly and he thrived being on his own. My husband, younger son and I grew too. We learned that while our nest won’t be empty for another decade or so, we have a taste for what it will be like. And while it will be sad when our boys are out of the house and on their own, it will be a celebration too. Of growing, gaining confidence and understanding that everything will be okay. We might not always look forward to opportunities that force us to grow up, but we were all a little bit better for experiencing them.

How do you help your child grow? How are you growing with them?

Hallelujah!

Are you taking time off during the holidays this year?  If so, how are you planning to relax? Really relax where you aren’t on a schedule, aren’t in charge of something or someone and are able to not have a care in the world about what happened next or when? For me, it’s been seven years since I took a vacation like this, before I had my children.

Vacation is defined as:

  1. A respite or a time of respite from something: intermission
  2. A scheduled period during which activity (as of a court or school) is suspended <a period of exemption from work granted to an employee>
  3. A period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation <had a restful vacation at the beach>
  4. An act or an instance of vacating

I grew up in a family where vacation meant taking a road trip. Our vacations were educational with a lot of adventure and exploration. We would drive from point A to point B, sometimes going eight + hours at a time, sightseeing the next day or two, then get back in the car and drive to the next endpoint and repeat. I learned a lot of these vacations about our country gaining an appreciation for its history, the geography and false advertising. My sisters and I once convinced our parents that we had to stay at a themed hotel that was advertised for hundreds of miles away only to be disappointed when the hotel didn’t quite live up to what we thought it would be – darn billboards!

What I didn’t learn on these vacations was how to relax. I cannot recall a single vacation where we were just laid by the pool or the beach. I cannot recall a single vacation that wasn’t meticulously mapped out or timed. I cannot recall ever feeling bored on vacation.  Basically I don’t have a lot of practice relaxing.

My parents were teachers taking every opportunity to teach us at home and on the road. I really appreciate what they did for my sisters and I, and want to make sure I make the most of every opportunity I have to teach my children through experience too. I also realize that I want to teach my children how to relax and re-energize. I want my boys to know the difference between going to a new place and relaxing (e.g., just because you do one, doesn’t mean you are necessarily doing the other). But first, I have to learn to really relax when I take a vacation myself.

I blogged earlier this year about “Where Did My Vacation Go?” and committed to not repeat that again this year. I’m taking time away from all work, including blogging, through the end of the year. I currently don’t have any to-do list I need to complete while I’m on break. Hallelujah! I want to see what that looks and feels like, and see if I can really relax and re-charge.  I need the experience. I owe it to myself, and more importantly to my kids if I plan to teach them how to do it.

If you have vacation coming up, how do you plan to relax and recharge?

I wish each of you the happiest of holidays and look forward to picking up our conversation in the New Year.

The Scariest Thing of All – Part 2

My fear has changed since having kids.  Keeping my children and family safe is at the top of my list. This recently led to an epiphany for me on how I differ from others in how I deal with stress (or fear or anxiety).

When we went camping a few months ago, a lightning storm unexpectedly arrived. The thunder was loud and lightning was getting closer. As my husband was tending to the tent and campfire he was building with our oldest son my anxiety went through the roof.  I didn’t experience a gradual increase in anxiety.  The thunder boomed, my anxiety shot up and I immediately thought, we need to get inside. Our car was parked nearby and I felt this was much safer than being outside. Our youngest son was upset by the thunder and asked to go into the car. We went into the car and I tried to wait as patiently as I could for my husband and older son to arrive.  It took them several minutes and a lot of nonverbal communication between my husband and I (picture me giving him the “what are you doing?” and “get over here now” looks). My husband wasn’t pleased, but eventually complied and they got into the car.  While I thought it was obvious we needed to get in the car my husband didn’t feel the same. He didn’t appreciate my anxiety because he wasn’t experiencing the same thing I was.

I would love to tell you I came to this realization on my own, but I didn’t. Someone shared some very good insight with me.  People experience stress (which takes many forms including anxiety or fear) in different ways. Some confront stress, take it on and work to get through it. Others avoid it altogether. Simply put, some people handle stress by taking action, others by inaction.

When you and your spouse disagree about something, each of you thinks you’re right, and it’s common to try to coerce your spouse to your way of thinking. Except it doesn’t work and can lead to unwanted compromise and resentment.

I experience fear in real-time.  I trust my gut. I do not have an off button or a way to avoid feeling it. It is front-and-center when it occurs and can get very intense very quickly depending on how fearful I am.  My husband doesn’t experience stress the way I do, and we’re learning how to better communicate what’s really going on which each other when we experience stress, and what we can do to meet each other’s needs.

It’s not easy, but it’s needed. I realize I can no longer expect him to feel what I’m feeling, but need to make it clear to him that I’m experiencing stress (e.g. I am getting very uncomfortable being outside with this lightning and thunder).  If he is unwilling to share my stress, I need to be clear on how he can help me feel better (e.g. can we get in the car for the next 15 minutes until the storm passes?).  It’s little tweaks for us to better communicate and understand each other.  It’s about feelings (talk about scary!) and being confident enough to know when you are experiencing them and when they’re not.

How do you handle stress?  Do you take action or do you avoid dealing with the situation?

By not taking action, do your family members experience stress?

The Scariest Thing of All – Part 1

There is a lot about parenthood that scared me when I first became one.

  • How will I care for the baby – feed, diaper, dress, bathe, soothe?
  • How will I take care of my house – shopping, preparing, cleaning?
  • How will I take care of my husband – be attentive, connect, enjoy?
  • How will I take care of myself? [Notice there are no examples – I didn’t have any example when I first became one, I didn’t know what taking care of myself looked like]

In the beginning, my top priority was to keep my baby alive and healthy. The realization that my husband and I were now responsible for this precious being was terrifying. The fear and anxiety I had were a result of this being something new I didn’t have much practice in, and an understanding of what a massive responsibility I had in raising my child.

What used to give me anxiety before my child before, which quickly waned once my son arrived, was keeping up my house.  Spotless countertops and everything being in its place just didn’t happen. I experienced some discomfort over the situation, but had to modify what I got stressed out about or I would be a mess all the time.

My husband and I have been a good team, but it hasn’t always been the smoothest of sailings. When things aren’t smooth it can feel scary.  What’s going to happen to us?  What’s going to happen to our family if we don’t figure this out? Etc. Occasionally, we’ve needed to regroup, reevaluate and reconnect to get our relationship back on track.  Not always easy to do with busy schedules and little ones to raise, but we make working on our relationship one of our priorities and I’m comforted by our commitment to see things through.

I have blogged much about taking care of your self and spend a good deal of time on this in my book and when I’m speaking to parenting groups. Despite the popular belief that the more you sacrifice the better parent you are, the reality is the better you are at taking care of yourself the better parent and partner you will be. Yes, you may be scared of being seen as selfish, but there is nothing selfish about it and therefore nothing for you to fear.

The scariest thing of all for me now is not being in control. I understand that I can only control my own actions. As much as I want to influence the actions of others I can’t control what they say, how they behave or decisions they make, regardless of the impact on my family and I.  I love life and want my kids to enjoy it as well, so I try not to get myself too concerned with this. If I did, it could be paralyzing.  Instead I try to be more self-aware starting with my own words and deeds. How I speak to my children, spouse, friends, relatives, co-workers, other parents, and people I encounter everyday?  Am I treating them the way I want to be treated? Am I living my life in a way that is healthy for my family and I?  If not, what will I do to make the change that is needed.

Control is powerful, but something each of us own.  It’s nothing to be scared of when it’s ultimately in your hands to change.

To Be Continued…

Season to Grow

Our yard is a bit of a mess. We moved into our home in 2005 and swore we would live here five years max.  Here we are seven years later in the same home. I love our house, but as our boys grow older we know we will eventually need to move to a home that has a bit more space. In the interim, it’s become apparent that we are in need of a change—a bit of sprucing up, perhaps.

In 2005, our yard had many good qualities: beautiful rockrose bushes in the front, large rosemary bushes in the back and an enormous plum tree, which provided wonderful shade and privacy for our yard.  The northwest winters where we live are always a bit unpredictable. Temperatures average in the 30s and 40s, but can occasionally drop into the teens. On multiple occasions over the past several years we’ve had snow on the ground for the good part of a week, something we’re not used to.

The rockrose bushes died off first. It got a plant disease and started a slow death that led to its removal in early 2008. The rosemary bushes that complimented our deck in the back, and some bushes that bordered one side of our property died next in the freeze of 2010.  The plum tree, while pruned once several years ago, has overgrown to a point that it needs an intensive pruning this winter.  Our yard has taken a beating from all the running feet playing baseball and football on it, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

We’ve gotten to a place where we are ready to grow. Grow new plants, revive old ones and see what we can make flourish again.

It’s not much different than us as people. Sometimes we get in a rut or a phase and we let things die off, get away from us, or we simply outgrow it. With the responsibilities that come with parenthood it’s easy for relationships to fade, taking care of ourselves can lose it’s priority, and trying to maintain, let alone enjoy what you have, can feel more exhausting than rewarding.  Yet something happens, a trigger like reconnecting with a friend or awakening where you realize what you’ve let get away from you, and it becomes time for a change, a time for new growth, renewal and success.

I’m looking forward to see what change will bring. In many ways, for my family and me, it’s our season to grow. Add new friendships to our lives, rekindle old ones we have tended to as well as we would have liked, take care of each other and ourselves so we can all flourish.

With each passing season I now ask myself, “how are we growing?” for my husband and I as partners and as a family.

How are you growing?

Can You Read This?

There is no denying it, I’m getting older. We all are, of course, but I think I’ve been in a bit of denial for the past 41 years. I’m aware I’ve been aging, particularly over the past few years, but for the most part there were only minimal signs, a word or name I couldn’t instantly recall, or an attempt to type a word only to look up at my screen and realize I’d written something completely different.  Now it seems the physical signs are everywhere: lines on my face that don’t go away regardless of the amount of product I put on, more and more time and money at the hairdresser’s, having to hold the menu away from my face just a little bit further to read the words. The most recent assault was when I tore the cartilage in my knee when I released the footbrake in my car. Are you serious? I thought after it happened. This kind of stuff only happens to—gulp—old people!

But this is my reality now. With each passing year, I’m aware that a few more lines will creep up on my face, I will continue to spend more and more money at the hairdresser’s, I’ll eventually need reading glasses, and my body will suffer injuries caused by seemingly minor physical activity (egads!).

I’m not happy about any of this, but I can’t say I’m mad either. A little disappointed, maybe.  I somehow convinced myself growing up that when you get “old”, (and mind you, with each passing year what I consider old moves up) you just naturally come to terms with your inevitable decline and are at peace with it. I realized this wasn’t necessarily true when I watched a 2011 documentary on Gloria Steinem called In Her Own Words onHBO. The seventy-seven-year-old Steinem says something to the effect of not being ready to slow down because she enjoys living too much.  Her admitting that made me cry. I feel the exact same way, and I suspect I will in my 50s, 60s, 70s and so on, assuming I’m fortunate to live that long.

For me, life is always an adventure. I love to try new things, meet new people and have new experiences, to learn and grow.

I’m working hard to do whatever I need to do to live a long and healthy life. Mostly this doesn’t mean doing anything extreme, just having some common sense: eating healthy foods, getting regular exercise, and finding ways to relieve my stress any way I can by going to the spa, spending time with my girlfriends, or relaxing with my husband.

Life can be hard, but I’ve really enjoyed the ride so far and want to stick around for as long as I can. It’s not because aging, or even death, scares me. I want to live just for the joy of it.