The Greatest Gift I got from my Dad

What are your best memories of your father?

A flood of memories come pouring back in each Father’s Day. I can see my dad rooting me on when I played a sport, I can remember him teaching me skills I needed to be independent, I  can recall watching many a college football game together. There are many, many wonderful memories. While my father gave me many gifts, there was one in particular I hold above most others, he gave me the gift of knowing myself. There are moments in time, when he would help show me what I have to offer (to another person, to a sport, to myself or to the world) simply by telling me what he’d observed. It made me feel recognized, valued and appreciated. Too often in life, you can think no one is paying attention. My dad ensured I knew that wasn’t the case. It’s the greatest gift he’s ever given me. I don’t think he realizes the impact those conversations have had. I’m grown now, but still cherish these talks when we have them and I’ll miss them desperately when he’s gone. In my eyes, while not a perfect man, he’s the perfect dad.

As you raise your child, what special memories are you creating that they’ll remember future Father’s Days from now? What’s your most treasured memories from your own dad.

Happy Father’s Day!

Soccer Mom

Did your parent(s) ever embarrass you as a child?

Of course they did, right?  It’s a rite of passage for most parents. While I’ve been open with my boys that mom and dad will likely embarrass them from time to time, it will never be intentionally done. They know they can call us on it, and we (my husband and I) have to own it, and try to make it right (e.g. don’t do it again).  What I didn’t anticipate was where I’d have the most trouble not being a repeat offender — at the soccer field.

I am not one of those parents who yells at the kids or the refs and tries to correct them. Instead I’m guilty of calling a play-by-play with what the kids are doing on the field, like it’s some how going to help the outcome of the game. “Nice pass to Jake.” “Way to block it, Luke.” “Take it away, Caleb. You’ve got this.” But one time I went a little too far. My son was struggling in a game, and instead of doing what the coach was telling him, he got angry and started to talk back, “I’m doing what you told me!” “What am I doing wrong?” I didn’t like the way he was talking to the coach, and instead of letting the coach handle it (like I should have) I said, “Why don’t you channel your anger back into the game, and get more focused?” My son was clearly beside himself with embarrassment grunted and gave me a “zip it” hand gesture (moving his fingers across his mouth). When it was half-time he came over to the sidelines with his teammates, and knowing I was standing nearby, loudly said, “I don’t ever want you to come to a game again!”

He had a point. I would have hated it if my parents had done the same thing to me. I wanted to be supportive and encouraging (that’s what we need at any age), not shame him in front of his peers. That’s the last thing I wanted to do. If I wanted to have this discussion with him, I should have done it in private. I told him as much after the game.  “I was wrong. Not what I said, but where I said it. I should have said it away from everyone being able to hear and I’m sorry.”  He still wasn’t happy, but he got it. I owned my part in what happened, and haven’t made a similar comment (at least in front of his peers) since.

I think I rationalize my broadcasting tendencies (which are now strictly the positive play-by-plays) as wanting to show I’m interested and vested (e.g. my son knows I care about what he’s doing), and that somehow my encouragement will help the team (know that they are supported and care). Not to worry, I’m aware that my ‘cheering’ likely isn’t doing much, if any, good, and am working to be a more subdued parent. Outside of walking away from the game and distracting myself, I haven’t come up with a lot of best practices for how to do this.  Anyone have any suggestions to share?

I know my son realizes I mean well, and that I’m his biggest (along with his dad) fan, but I need to model for him how you support someone without strings attached (e.g. I support you even when you’re struggling…especially when you’re struggling), encourage without having to voice my praise (clapping or a yahoo is fine during the game, any points I want to make can be saved for the car ride home). And maybe that’s it…a desire to share feedback real-time, versus seeing how things play out and providing more constructive input at a later time. It’s not easy. It takes practice. I’ve got some work to do.

Are there any other rowdy parents like me out there (willing to admit it)? Do you have a hard time being quiet and calm while watching your child participate in a competitive activity?

12th Man

Today is Super Bowl Sunday. The New England Patriots will take on the Seattle Seahawks. While there has been a lot in the news about deflated footballs, Marshawn Lynch not being eager to talk to the press, Super Bowl ad teasers and the weather in the host city, the news I most look forward to is on Seattle’s 12th Man: where they are and what they’re up to. They are easy to spot–they have their Seahawk gear on, signs in their windows, decals on their cars or face paint on.

While the 12th Man consists of Seahawk fans, it represents so much more–community, support for a common cause, a connection with others you may not have anything else in common with. It’s incredible to see a team bring people together that cover all classes, backgrounds and neighborhoods. And while they may be easy to spot during the football season, they are just as easy to spot in the off months. The 12th Man is strong–we win and lose together. And it’s not just a Seattle-thing, it permeates throughout the country wherever Seahawks fans reside the 12th Man spirit lives.

I’m grateful my kids get to be part of the 12th Man experience: celebrate together, cry together, and do good together. It’s wonderful, as a parent, when you don’t have to try to explain how we should get along, but can show it in practice with the 12s.

I don’t know who will win the Super Bowl, but do know who the winners are–the 12th Man. Go Seahawks!

Stretch Goal

As a child, did you ever push yourself, or have someone encourage you to try something new? How did you handle doing something you weren’t comfortable doing?

I was encouraged periodically during my childhood this way, and I always experienced the same feelings: fear (what if I’m not good, what if this is a disaster), nervousness (I want to do well but am afraid I may make a fool of myself and people will laugh at me), and curiosity (what if I can do it? How cool would that be?). While my fear and nerves would initially deter me from taking on the new challenge, curiosity almost always won out. I had to figure out if I could indeed accomplish the new task or not. Even if I wasn’t perfect, or great, being able to say I did something new successfully (even in the slightest way) was a real confidence booster for me.

My oldest son recently joined a soccer league. He’s been playing soccer since he was young, but has never played in an official game. He knows how to play soccer, but doesn’t understand all the rules (my husband and I didn’t play soccer growing up ourselves, so we’re not much help here either, unfortunately). My son was reluctant to go to the first team practice. “I don’t want to go, I don’t want to play soccer,” he said. We reminded him that he was committed, we had already paid for him to play when he said he wanted to sign up. We inquired further, “What’s really going on? You love soccer, and have many friends that are on the team. Are you nervous? If so, that’s normal. Most people get nervous when they are trying new things.” You could tell he was thinking about what we were saying. I added, “The coach’s job is to teach you. He’ll help you learn the rules of the game.” My son seemed to find some comfort in this. I finished with “You might even have fun.” He still was nervous about playing, but was becoming curious about whether he might be able to play on the team, and enjoy it.

As he and my husband left the house to walk down to the field I felt for him. I know that nervous feeling, that uncertainty that comes with trying something new. I knew he would be fine, but hated that he had to experience it. No parent wants to see their child suffer. Yet, I knew he’d grow from it, and gain confidence in the simple act of showing up and trying. My husband said about ten minutes into practice our son was all smiles and his worries seemed a distant memory. It was comforting to hear.

How do you experience trying new things? How do you encourage your child to try something new?

Close Friendships From Afar

Having a close friend, or friends, move away can be hard.

When I was five, I had a friend named Mary. She is the first friend I can remember from my childhood. She lived in my neighborhood and I really enjoyed our playtime together. I recall one day being at her house and being told by my mother as she was picking me up to leave that this is the last time I would see Mary. “Mary is moving away,” my mother asked. “Why?” I responded. Mary’s mother chimed in that Mary’s father had gotten a job in another city that would require them to move. This was also the first time I can remember being pretty devastated. I couldn’t understand how adults could possibly separate children that had such a good time together. The job Mary’s father had, couldn’t possibly be as important, I thought.

It was the last time I saw Mary, and like any child my sadness at the situation faded as I realized the world went on and I would make other friends.

We have belonged to a parenting group since my oldest was born. The group has stayed together and met regularly ever since, even after many of us had our second child. We are a tight group, a supportive group and we deeply care about one another. One of the five families recently moved away. It was hard to come to terms with. You realize when people leave how you wished you spent more time with them while they were here.

I’m grateful for the time we had with this family, and even more grateful we have technology like FaceTime and Skype to keep us connected even though our dear friends moved far away. Seeing their faces makes them feel closer, and helps keep our connection strong.

I think about my children and what they think about their friends being so far away. Are they experiencing what I did with Mary? I know they’ll move on, but my hope is that through technology and occasional visits, my husband and I will model how with a little effort you can retain the best of friendships, even when you thousands of miles apart.

I’m reminded of my Girl Scout Days and the song, “Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.” So true.

How have you dealt with relocation — your own, or friends or family? How did you help your children get through it?

Just Ask

Have you ever needed to ask for help and been reluctant to do so? I found myself in that situation this past week. With a busy schedule, and demands piling up, my anxiety seemed to increase with each passing day. How would I get everything done in the upcoming weeks that I need to do? I thought. I ran various scenarios through my mind over and over again and came to the same conclusion. If I was going to do things on my own, I needed to accept that exhaustion and resentment for having to do it all myself would follow.

Someone suggested I ask others to help me out. Of course that sounds logical and rational, I thought, but as a woman I believe I was raised as many others were—not to ask for help. I was taught along the way that women, especially moms, are supposed to bear the “burden” (in whatever form the hardship takes), and asking for help somehow implies weakness or being inept. Or worse, forces us to reveal our imperfection!  Of course that sounds ridiculous. And have you noticed how men seem to have a much easier time asking for help when they need it?

Asking for help is a way for us to connect and care for one another, and is anything but a sign of weakness. It takes courage to ask. Someone could say “no” or they “wish they could but they can’t” and that’s okay. The fact that you were willing to put yourself out there and ask speaks volumes about you recognizing that you are worth it. We miss out on allowing others to show they care about us when we don’t ask. We miss out on an opportunity to grow when we don’t allow ourselves to receive.

A dear friend of mine has been going through some medical difficulties needing to go to doctor’s appointments and have meals brought to her. She didn’t ask for help, but her husband did. I gratefully accepted. It gives me great joy to bring a meal to share and spend time with my special friend.  It makes me feel like I’m doing something meaningful, worthwhile and I thank my friend for that.

It looks like I’ll have the opportunity to reciprocate with my growing pile of ‘to-dos’. I’m going to muster up the courage to ask some friends for help and I suspect those that are able to assist will be happy to do so.

Interesting how something so simple like asking for help can seem so hard.

Are you comfortable asking for help?

Cup of Life

My oldest son raced through the door one day after school, threw his backpack on the floor, and turned to me and said, “Don’t forget to come watch me dance tomorrow at the assembly.” What dance? What assembly? What are you talking about? I thought. He hadn’t mentioned anything about learning a dance or about an assembly until that afternoon. I quickly emailed some of the classroom parents to see what they might know. Sure enough a note quickly came back confirming my son, along with his class, would be doing a dance during the afternoon assembly the following day.

Oh no, I thought, what am I going to do? I’ve got a job. I’ve got commitments. I’ve got meetings! I tried to let my son gently know that I would try my best to be at his assembly the next day, but I had commitments that I had made, and responsibilities I needed to keep. He looked at me as seriously as I’ve ever seen him look and say, “Mom, I know you’ll make it.” I knew the assembly meant a lot to him, and even though I wish I’d had more warning, I knew I’d have to give it my best shot. After a couple of deep breaths, I logged onto my computer and saw that I had a window of time that coincided with when the assembly would be and would be able to attend after all. What a relief!

I arrived at his school and watched as his class came in. He met my eyes and got the biggest smile on his face. He signaled a “thumbs up” and I gave him one in return. It turned out not only was his class performing, but all the classes in his school were performing, it was quite a treat. Each class danced to a different song and style of music. Their routines allowed members of each class to show their individual dance style. My son’s class danced to Ricky Martin’s “Cup of Life.” The song’s chorus concludes with Ale Ale Ale, a with music and cheering at sporting events, like ole. It’s a celebratory phrase commonly associated with music and sporting events. I thought the phrase was perfect for my son and his class’s performance.

It was rewarding to see these kids who danced without inhibition. They all wanted to do a good job, you could see the concentration on their faces, but you could also see the joy, and fun they were having. Each class cheered the other on. It was quite a display of support and encouragement.

As my son’s class danced so energetically to their song, I thought, this is what life is all about—working together, playing together, enjoying each other without worrying about being judged, or made fun of–it truly captured what life, or the cup of life, is and should be.

Ale ale ale

The Super Bowl – A Family Affair

The Harbaugh family is giving new meaning to the Super Bowl being a family affair. Sons John and Jim will face each other as opposing head coaches in the Super Bowl later today. Their parents have shared their joy in their sons making it to this pinnacle event and their awareness that one son will win and the other will lose—a difficult situation for any parent to wrestle with.

What is infectious about their story to me has little to do with the Super Bowl today, but their openness about how much they want each other to succeed, how much they admire and respect each other, and how much they love each other.

I’ll be watching the game this Sunday with my own family. I’m expecting the game to be interesting, the commercials entertaining, and time with my family fulfilling. The Harbaugh’s story is an inspiring one. It’s a story about the love of the game, and a love for each other. What a great example they are setting for us all.

Go Harbaughs!

Marriage: It’s all about Communication

When my brother-in-law got married, a friend of his gave him some solid advice, “Marriage is all about communication,” he told him. My brother-in-law shared this with my husband and me when we got married a few years later. While we were in agreement with the statement, we didn’t really know what to do with it at the time.

What is communication in a marriage?  Is it simply the act of talking and listening?  I’ve come to believe that it’s much more than that. My husband and I recently reflected on this advice that we’d received nearly eight years ago. My husband pointed out that successful communication in a marriage was more than talking and listening, it included understanding—the need for each partner to work to empathize with the other, to try to understand their point of view. Each person also has to work to make themselves understood, to get their point across. Not an easy task.

You may have heard the expression “heart talk” which refers to talking about how you feel rather than talking about what you think.  Here is an example:

Talking with your head:

“You didn’t take out the trash after I asked you to five times!” 

Talking with your heart:

“It makes me feel discounted when you don’t acknowledge and act on what I ask of you.” 

See the difference? Talking from the heart may seem a little uncomfortable to some, after all, we’re talking about feelings, and most of us run for the hills when we have to do that. But communicating this way can be very effective in helping your partner understand where you’re coming from.

My husband and I have also discovered that a key to communicating well is to understand your individual needs.  What are you getting from each other in the relationship that is making it work? What are you not getting from each other? Or, in other words, what’s not working?  Marriage is partly a journey of self-awareness and you have to have the confidence to bridge the subject of open communication with your spouse.

Do you feel comfortable asking for what you need? Try some of these phrases out:

“I need to feel valued”

“I need to feel respected”

“I need to have some autonomy”

“I need proactive communication”

“I need to be unconditionally loved”

“I need to be listened to”

“I need to be supported and encouraged” 

This may seem like a lot of “I needs”, but being clear about what you need and asking for it is the only way you’re likely to get it.  And having need doesn’t make you needy.  Would you say your child was needy if they said any of the following?

“I need food to eat”

“I need a bed to sleep in”

“I need unconditional love”

“I need respect”

“I need to feel valued and important to you”

“I need to be listened to”

“I need you”

Of course you wouldn’t! And it’s no different in a marriage.  How many married people don’t ask for what they need and maybe haven’t even thought about it?  I suspect many. Most of us are just trying to get through each day and our hectic schedules don’t leave much time to reflect.

Good communication is key to a good marriage, but it’s more than simply talking and listening.

Do you talk to your spouse with your heart or your head? Are you asking for what you need?

When I Get Older What Will I Be?


When I was just a little girl

I asked my mother “What will I be?”

“Will I be pretty?”

“Will I be rich?”

Here’s what she said to me

Que Sera Sera

Whatever will be will be

The future’s not ours to see

Que Sera Sera

 I loved the song Que Sera Sera the first time I heard it, and still do today. It was the melody I really enjoyed when I was younger but I didn’t put much thought into the lyrics.

My oldest son asked me a very simple but poignant question the other day on the car ride home that brought this song to mind. “Mom,” he asked, apropos of nothing, “what will I be like when I’m an adult?” I have no idea why this question popped into his mind when it did, we’d just finished talking about some of the fun things we’d each done during the day. But such is the way with children’s minds.

I turned the question back on him: “Well,” I asked him, “what makes you who you are today?” He struggled to answer the question so I offered up some of my own observations. “You are curious and like to learn about new things, right?” “Yes,” he said. “And you like to have adventures, right?” “Yes,” he said again. “And you like to play with your friends and have fun, right?” “Yes,” he agreed once more. “Well, I think you’ll probably have those same qualities when you grow up,” I said. “You may learn things, have adventures and interact with your friends in a different way, but you’ll probably do all the things you do now.” I continued, “You have your whole life to figure out what you want to be, and Mom and Dad will help you along the way.” That seemed to be enough for him. He smiled to himself and looked back out the car window.

I love that my son is starting to discover who he is and what he likes and think about what that all may mean for the future. I love that he feels more knowledgeable and empowered to figure out what makes him happy. I’m aware that he is likely at some point to want to experience things I might not be comfortable with, or would prefer he avoid. He will eventually turn into a teenage boy after all. I’m mentally preparing myself for how I’ll be able to support him during those times but for now we’re just basking in the beginning of our adventure.

After all we never do know what the future brings. Que Sera Sera.