Monday, December 12, 2011

Holiday magic

The following article is for adults only!  Names have been changed to protect the innocent. 

Can you think of a more exciting time for a child than this time of year?  The anticipation, the decorations, the snow, the events all help set the stage for the  holiday season. It tends to be a blur for the parents from Thanksgiving to the New Year. Does it get worse with age, or better? I am not sure. But what I do know is each year the magic of the holiday season is magnified by the togetherness of friends and family.

This past Thanksgiving, my college aged children and their friends were discussing what age they found out *Bob wasn’t real. The conversation was   entertaining. My son claims he was led on until 5th grade; my daughter’s best friend found out in kindergarten after demanding the truth. She was sworn to secrecy so her older sister didn’t find out. Some kids are always skeptics others true believers. My husband and I worked hard at keeping the legend alive.  We went to great lengths with bell ringing in the early morning hours and footprints and hoof prints in the snow. Of course there were letters written and cookies eaten. I know some families have special wrapping paper; in other families Bob’s gifts are left unwrapped. And some parents have even admitted to me that they have dodged the question when asked “Is there a Bob?” Their reply “well, what do you think ?”

 Family traditions play into the caper, the timing for opening presents, filling stockings and even house calls from Bob. We shared stories this week in the office of the visit to Bob with our children, their letters to Bob and from Bob and the magical time we as parents enjoyed as we snuck around the house hiding packages and talking in code on the telephone.  Why do we go to great lengths to keep Bob’s presence alive? I think we hold out for as long as we can because we know that mystery and magic is not just a Disney commodity. My friend Pam said when your kids find out the truth there is something lost; the innocence of childhood. My friend Lori thinks we do it because it takes us back to our childhood. I think they are both right. When our children find out about Bob, we lose our innocence and we tuck away a bit of our childhood  - - that is until we have grandchildren.

Wishing you and your family the magic of the holiday season,

Monday, December 5, 2011

“It takes a Village,”

Long before Hillary Clinton coined the phrase “It takes a Village,” the sentiment was widely prescribed as a traditional African proverb. The sentiment suggests that proverb or not, "It takes a whole village to raise a child." Parents, neighbors, grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends, pastors and teachers all have a hand in raising a child. I put forth the notion that all of us have a hand in raising a village.

I grew up in Detroit, Michigan. In my neighborhood the houses were side-by-side along a city block. Our block was a "village" when I was growing up – our activities were governed by a few unwritten laws: everyone had to be home when the street light came on, no riding your bike in the street and if you were guilty you better fess up the sooner the better, because your parents were bound to find out. We were safe. We knew our neighbors and we watched out for one another. Times were different back in the 50’s but the goal to have a safe and happy childhood was as universal then as it is now.

How do we adopt this philosophy which helps our children thrive? It takes a community to create a village. We all need to take a hand in creating our village. Many people in the Copper Country have reached out and taken this task to heart. Programs that offer services to children and their families are part of building a community, creating a village. KFRC has been blessed by the generosity of many community partners that understand this notion as well as businesses and churches that are committed to creating a thriving environment for children. 

 As we embrace the principle that it takes a community to create a village  we will become more committed to improving the quality of life for all children in the Keweenaw. Each of us has a role in this, each of us can affect change and each of us, everyone can lay claim as members of our fine village.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Parenting and the Rhythm of Life

I once remarked quite exasperatedly, “If Andrew were a first born he would have been an only child.” I was talking about my second child and I was exhausted. This was after four sleepless years that began with his premature birth and was marked by chronic ear infections, a tonsillectomy, late night hospital visits and a very, very inquisitive baby. I didn’t understand Andrew. Our rhythms together felt out of sync. This child’s needs were different from my daughter’s and I had to relearn ways to meet them. She was what we called the “easy baby”, flexible and slept through the night!  I felt a special connection to her temperament and I knew that no matter how far away she went when she grew up we would always remain close. On the other hand, even though my love and devotion to Andrew were as strong, I felt in my heart it would be his wife that one day would be buying my mother’s day cards.

Those early years of parenting Andrew were like dancing with a brand new partner. Stepping on each other’s toes our dance together was often awkward. The music seemed to change just as I learned the rhythm. I was out of step and having difficulty keeping up.  I know there are a lot of mother’s out there that are nodding their head when I carefully allude to the fact that boys are different than girls. And I know that basing parenting decisions on stereotypes is not a good idea. But, I could not escape what became inevitable in raising a son. Having a daughter as a first-born brought into our home an array of toys, dolls and art supplies. There were no toy guns, no interest in video games and certainly no discussions of bodily functions at the dinner table. Yet as if preprogrammed to behave this way, the first Lego figure my son built was a “shooter”, the carrot sticks were weapons and burping the ABC’s in first grade was of great pride to him. I scowled, scolded, I redirected. I avoided at all cost those items I felt were associated to the downfall of childhood. Despite all this, wooden sticks were carved into bows and arrow, pots and pan were shields and helmets and forts and battlefields sprung up in our yard. They became enriching experiences, lessons on love and war, on using a pocket knife safely, on protecting the animals and making worlds of fantasy that played out into happy endings.

I have learned a lot over the years. I have learned that parenting is about growing together, about leading and by also following a lead, about relaxing and pausing before reacting.  But most of all its about being there to watch your child learn to dance alone.

At nine years old Andrew has a bunny, plays baseball, reads Harry Potter and likes video games. He thinks I am too overprotective when I park on the left hand side of a one way street and make him get out my door and can’t understand why he isn’t allowed to watch scary movies. But he holds my hand instinctively when we cross the street, calls my name when he is hurt, and sleeps in my room when he is scared. This past Mother’s Day he made me a card that was addressed to the Best Mom I Ever Had.

12 years ago I wrote this piece for my journal. Nothing has changed and everything has changed. Through the rhythm of life we grow, we love and we discover endless possibilities.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Avoiding power struggles

Sidestep power struggles with creative distraction
and  problem solving.

Power is often a motive for misbehavior. It is natural for young children  to react in an unpleasant manner when they are being asked to do something they would rather not. As parents we can easily get frustrated with their attitude, and lose focus on what we want to  happen. One clue that you are getting sucked in to a power struggle is your own response. If you are feeling angry,  if your temper is flaring or if you are focused on the child rather than the behavior you could be setting up power struggle. This win-lose game start to lose focus and the opportunity for a teachable moment quickly dissolves and leaves everyone frustrated, unhappy and miserable. A few suggestions:

·         Do the unexpected. By taking advantage of surprising or distracting the child a parent can draw attention away from the power ploy.

·         Encourage cooperation with problem solving. It is an "I got an idea" moment. Ask a child to come up with an idea or an alternative solution. By encouraging this the child becomes active in the problem solving.

·         Take the ego out of the conflict.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Have Fun!

Have Fun

Unstructured play time is where necessary growth takes place and adequate downtime for play helps build social skills and creativity in children.  


Power of Praise

Children are likely to repeat behaviors that get their parents’ attention. Praise them when they do something positive and watch their eyes light up!

Summer Safety

Summer Safety Reminders

Children ages two to 12 need to drink four to eight glasses of water every day for proper hydration. Summer heat and exercise increase that need.

Protect children from excessive exposure to sun - especially from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Use a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.