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My Baby's Smile

by Nancy Mueller

I remember the first time my baby smiled at me; it filled me up in a way that words cannot describe.

As my baby got older, my most important goal was to make her life happy. I soon realized that there were many things I would have to learn to be the best mom I could be.

I had to learn about nutrition, fevers, happy tears, sad tears, fears, wants, needs, when to give in, when to stay firm, but never how to love; that came easy.

The job of “mom” can be rewarding, challenging, exhausting, frustrating, surprising, and even insightful; but it’s that smile on your child’s face that makes it all worthwhile.

I heard a story about a famous research scientist who had made several very important medical breakthroughs. When interviewed by a local newspaper, he was asked why he thought he was able to succeed so much more that the average person, to be so much more creative than the average person? In other words, what set him so far apart from others?

He responded that, in his opinion, it all came from a lesson his mother taught him when he was 2 years old. He’d been trying to take a bottle of milk out of the refrigerator, when he lost his grip and spilled the entire contents on the kitchen floor. His mother, instead of scolding him, said, “What a wonderful mess you’ve made! I’ve rarely seen such a huge puddle of milk. Well, the damage is already done. Would you like to get down and play in the milk before we clean it up?”

Indeed he did. And, after a few minutes, his mother continued, “You know, whenever you make a mess like this, eventually you will have to clean it up. So, how would you like to do that? We could use a towel, sponge or mop. Which do you prefer?

After they were finished cleaning up the milk, she said, “What we have here is a failed experiment in how to carry a big bottle of milk with two tiny hands. Let’s go out in the backyard, fill the bottle with water and see if you can discover a way to carry it without dropping it.” And they did!

Nancy Mueller

What a wonderful lesson! The scientist then remarked it was at that moment he knew he didn’t have to be afraid to make mistakes. Instead, he learned that mistakes were just opportunities for learning something new – which, after all, is what scientific experiments are all about. I am so happy I read that story while my daughters were growing up because it reminded me that no amount of spilled milk or failed experiments were worth taking a chance of damaging a child’s self-esteem.

Teaching our child a high sense of self-esteem is a gift that will take them through their lifetime AND keep that beautiful smile on their face.

My daughter is now a mother herself, and from the first time my grandson smiled at me…

by Shaila Saint

With summer almost upon us, how many of us are figuring out the countless ways to keep our kiddos happy over the next few months? Whether planning happy family vacations, happy camp experiences, or making sure they’ll enjoy every minute of their visit to “The Happiest Place on Earth”, we parents sure go to great lengths to keep our kids happy, don’t we?

A web search I did on “raising happy children” came up with 39,300,000 results, so it must be important. In fact, a favorite exercise in my classes is to have parents visualize their children at age 18 and list the top adjectives they hope will describe them as adults. In the 12 years I’ve been doing this, “happy” has always been one of the top words on the list. And why not? I think most of us want our children to be happy, both now and in the future. But does striving to keep our children happy truly translate into creating happy adults?

Maybe not. I recently read a very thought provoking article entitled, “How to Land your Kid in Therapy. Why the obsession with our kids’ happiness may be dooming them to unhappy adulthoods” ( http://www.theatlantic. com/magazine/ archive/2011/07/howto- land-your-kid-in-therapy/8555/). The article explores the possible consequences of protecting our children from unhappiness, and how it may affect and diminish their happiness as adults. The author, Lori Gottlieb, is a pychotherapist and mother, who reports that she and her colleagues are seeing more and more patients in their 20‘s and 30‘s who seem to come from loving and stable families, yet suffer from depression, anxiety, and a general sense of emptiness.

“Many parents will do anything to avoid having their kids experience even mild discomfort, anxiety, or disappointment…with the result that when, as adults, they experience the normal frustrations of life, they think something must be terribly wrong,” explains Paul Bohn, a psychiatrist at UCLA. The article discusses how these protections are preventing our children from developing, what Dan Kindlon, a child psychologist, calls “psychological immunity.” Just like our body’s immune system needs to be exposed to pathogens to know how to respond to an attack…”kids need exposure to discomfort, failure, and struggle….and yet parents often have this instantaneous reaction to unpleasantness, which is ‘I can fix this.”

I can definitely recount many of my “fix-it” moments as a parent, yet one stands out for the lesson it taught me. When driving Conor, about 8 yearsold, to his soccer game, he began complaining that he didn’t get as much playing time as other boys on the team. Just as I was about to respond in my most empathetic way (and was strategizing the conversation I was going to have with the coach to “fix” things) I heard my husband tell him, “You don’t play that much because you’re not as good.” The silence from the back seat was almost as intense as the sinking feeling in my stomach. “Poor Conor,” I thought. “How is that hurtful comment going to make him feel? Angry? Hurt? Or maybe even (gulp)…UNHAPPY?” But I held my tongue, knowing deep down that my husband was right. It may have been upsetting, but it was a fact. And yes, that was a tough season for him (and me) as I watched him struggle through not playing much, getting frustrated, and often wanting to quit. But he survived. In fact, I think he more than survived. That season gave him a little perspective and humility, and definitely helped us both develop more confidence to face a struggle and come out standing (not to mention motivating him to practice his soccer skills)! As author Wendy Mogel implored, “Please let them be devastated at age 6…many times on the soccer field …and not have their first devastation be in college!”

Yet I think about the countless ways we parents and the institutions we’re associated with, strive to “fix” things for our children and keep them happy. These include the infant contraptions with non-stop stimulation, the contrived and controlled playdates that have replaced spontaneous neighborhood play, the over the top birthday parties starting in preschool, the loss of school P.E. games that seem too violent, and the trophies given to everyone, so no one ever feels hurt or left out. “Nowadays, it’s not enough to be happy—if you can be even happier,” Gottlieb notes as she observes this phenomenon as being truly unique to our generation. “The American Dream and the pursuit of happiness have morphed from a quest for general contentment to the idea that you must be happy at all times and in every way.”

I recently asked my dad, a very positive and happy person who has definitely seen his share of struggles, how he viewed happiness in terms of raising his children. He and my mom’s goals as parents, he said simply, were to raise responsible and successful individuals. He talked about the importance of not giving us everything we wanted all the time, and never giving us the feeling of being entitled. Happiness was never the goal he said, but hopefully a nice outcome from building up our own inner satisfaction. He actually likened it to sleep. If we set the foundations to get rest, internally and externally, than sleep will hopefully be the outcome. The same could be said for happiness. His viewpoint was reinforced in the article. “Happiness as a byproduct of living your life is a great thing,” said Barry Schwartz, a professor of social theory. “But happiness as a goal is a recipe for disaster.”

So as summer settles upon us, let’s take some of this to heart, when listening to the less than “happy” feelings from our dear offsprings– be it their struggle with boredom from ALL that free time on their hands, the summer camp they hate to attend, or losing out to their siblings for prime car seat territory during the long family road trip. Maybe by allowing them to experience these small struggles now, we are building up their psychological immunity to face and conquer the bigger and inevitable challenges that lay down the road. And feel the happier for it!

Shaila Saint

Mindful & Empowered Parenting

Shaila is the co-founder of Canopy, an organization whose mission is to be a comprehensive resource umbrella under which families can access a variety of supportive and meaningful opportunities to connect, reflect and refuel.

This includes mindful parent education and yoga classes, consultations, as well as live and virtual workshops, and local retreats and mixers, that focus on creating safe and non-judgmental environments for parents to connect with others, reflect upon interesting and relevant topics, and refuel with yummy treats and a little pampering and relaxation.

Read more about Shaila and her mission here.

As a husband and a father with three kids, including a special needs son, Hogan Hilling has been the voice and blazed a pathway for at-home dads. During a period when being an at-home dad was not a socially accepted lifestyle, Hogan was able to break the detrimental stereotypes and bring awareness to the differences between how men and women communicate within the household.

Hogan is an author of two companion books, the first of its kind, that address issues and perspectives from both sides of the equation – the mom and the dad. He shares experiences and tips to help both sides understand and communicate effectively with each other creating more of a team achieving a common goal.

Hogan spoke with us about his upbringing and how it was a turning point to his commitment of being a great father and a voice for other at-home dads.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was raised by a single working mom. I grew up without a father and my mom never really talked about him. When I was 29 years old, I had the chance to be reunited with him. He talked about the divorce with my mom and why it happened. I had the chance to hear his side of the story. I had no resentment toward him. I was just happy to meet him, because so many kids don’t get to meet their own dad. So, when I met him I decided to have a different attitude. As he was sobbing and apologizing to me, I realized at that point that he actually missed me more than I missed him. It was a huge healing process for me, because I made a pact with myself that I would never feel the way my father felt. I was not married at the time, so I told myself that I would never do this to my kids and I would never do this to myself.

I address this in my books. It’s not about healing the relationship, because you can’t control what the other person is going to do. I had to walk away knowing that I did everything I could to stay connected with my father, not be judgmental and take the relationship for what it’s worth from the time that it started. It was a real revelation for me. From this, I teach dads in similar situations that you must heal yourself in order to move on and be a father for your kids. If you haven’t done that, it will be much more difficult to really take on the responsibility of that role.

Tell us about your books.

Pacifi(Her) – What She’s Thinking When She’s Pregnant is for the dads to help them understand what their wives are going through. The other book is Rattled – What He’s Thinking When Your Pregnant is for the moms to help them understand what men go through during her pregnancy. Very little has been addressed regarding the issues that dads go through, because the focus is always on the mom and the baby and we have overlooked what dad goes through.

I believe I’m the first author to write companion books for both mom and dad that delve into how they both feel during pregnancy. I want to stress the word on “feel.” A lot of what’s going on in the parenting world and has been for generations is that there seems to be a right or wrong attitude, which creates conflict. What I explain in both books for both moms and dads is to really focus on the reason behind what they’re feeling in order to really address the issue because of how we communicate sometimes, especially men. Stupid things come out of our mouths. Sometimes we say what we don’t mean. We have a hard time communicating the feelings, because we’ve been taught not to or haven’t been taught how.

What I tell the dads is that your wife is really emotional right now. Her body is changing physically and emotionally. He needs to not take what she says personally. I share ways he can communicate better to say things in a way where he won’t offend his wife.

I don’t sugar coat the issues I address in the books. I really get down to the nuts and bolts of why both sides feel the way they do based on my own experience with my wife and also because I was a stay–at–home dad. I got a lot of information at the playgroups from the moms. They actually helped me understand my wife a little bit better.

What really motivated me to write the books was when I was doing the dad workshops. People were always telling me that guys wouldn’t show up and they wouldn’t talk. That’s just an example of how our society perceives dads. We live in a culture where we’re constantly preaching to dads. So, what I found out during the workshops is that the guys were sharing intimate details with me that they never shared with their wives. Our culture teaches boys to be submissive with their feelings. So, by the time they become husbands and fathers, they fall into that pattern thinking they’re not supposed to say anything because either mom knows it all or I’m supposed let mom be “super mom”. When I delved deeper into the reasoning behind this, there was a four letter word that always came up – Fear. They were afraid of losing their masculinity, but more importantly, they were afraid to share how they really felt because of the backlash they would get from their wives. They would get criticism, be told to suck it up, hear “how could you feel that way”or “you don’t love me anymore”. So, they shut down.

I teach moms that those are the words they shouldn’t be saying. I ask them when they want to talk to their husbands, don’t they just want a supportive arm around them and hear, “I’m sorry you feel that way. What can I do to help?” Husbands want the same thing.

 

Listen in on the Laundry Story – Can you relate?
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A lot more men are staying home and are seen at the grocery stores and at the park with their kids while the moms are working or building businesses. So, the roles are flipping and are acc epted more. Don’t you think?

I totally agree. The roles are flipping. Women and men need to be commended here. In the 90’s, there were plenty of at-home-dads. They were just afraid to come out of the pantry and be recognized. The media didn’t know how to handle them and didn’t know how to talk about them.

Then the movie, Mr. Mom came out. And there was always a reference about us as “Mr. Mom” as though we were a replacement for moms. We’re fathers. We’re not replacing moms. At that time, the feminine movement was making this whole thing about wanting to see the man’s feminine side. Well, I got news for you ladies. We don’t have one. We are sensitive in a masculine way. Don’t let us lose our masculinity. I’ve never heard a man say, “I would like my wife to show her masculine side.”

It’s my masculinity that will make me the best dad I can be. Now, men are more courageous about being at the park and saying that they’re not “Mr. Mom” and not “a babysitter.” They are expressing that they really enjoy what they do. A lot of men couldn’t wear that badge of honor of being an at-home and involved dad.

In the early 90’s, I started one of the first Dad’s Club at El Camino Elementary School in California. We had many at-home dads come into the PTA. And all of a sudden, the working dads started noticing that more fathers are getting involved. I always said that at-home dads were going to be a wake-up call to not only fatherhood, but also to parenthood. And that’s exactly what has happened. People are starting to really recognize that men are competent as dads.

Tell us more about The National At-Home Dads Network.

It was founded by Dr. Robert Frank and a few other dads who organized this network voluntarily. We hold annual conferences and have been for the last 16 years. We are the second longest running dad’s event in the country. What’s different about us is that we do not lecture to the dads. Most of what we do is an open discussion forum. We actually let the guys talk. There’s no steadfast curriculum to how we do this, which dispels that whole myth that men need to go through some 10-step rehabilitation-type program to be a good dad. They’re just like moms. Put the guys in a room together and let them talk. They’ll figure it out.

As seen on The Oprah Show.
A moving poem that Hogan wrote for his special needs son.

Hogan Hilling

What top advice would you give to a new at-home dad?

Leave your ego behind. Be proud and comfortable with the decision you’ve made. And that’s likewise with working dads. If you want to spend more time with the family, then maybe change professions or find a company that is more family friendly. Many guys feel they don’t have choices.

Develop a thick skin. You can get upset with how people are talking with or about you. Or, as a good friend told me, “If you want to have a fatherfriendly environment, you have to be a friendly father.” You have to change your mindset.

When I first decided to be an at-home dad and I went into the playgrounds and schools, the media was saying that we need to see more dads at the playgrounds and get involved in schools. So, when I showed up, I was rejected. Moms didn’t embrace me and I was mad at the moms. Then I realized these women have been indoctrinated to treat me as a stranger. It’s not their responsibility to make me feel comfortable about being there. It’s my responsibility.

I’m 6-foot-6 and intimidating. I don’t have a natural smile. So, I had to work on smiling more and bringing extra toys. I didn’t talk about sports with moms. I would ask where they got the nice outfit their son was wearing, because I may want to get one for my son. Or I would complement a daughter’s eyes and mention that she got them from her mother. Things that men aren’t comfortable talking about.

Another tip is to be patient with your wife. There are many issues that working moms need to deal with. I tell dads to be sympathetic with their wives and try to understand what she’s going through when she has a large workload and doesn’t seem to be doing anything at home.

Many dads ask me what they can do to help their wives feel more comfortable coming home. I ask them what the first thing their wives see when they come into the house. I tell them to make sure the first place she enters is clean. The rest of the house can be a bit messy. As she comes home, she needs transition time and when she’s happy when she enters the house, she’ll tend to overlook the other stuff.

 

Not Right or Wrong – Just Dressing Up the Kids – Can you relate?
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As a dad, what do you do to maintain balance in your life?

I make sure that I have me-time. And I say the same thing to my wife. She needs her own “me-time”. You can’t balance your life unless you have energy. However, both sides feel that guilt when they want to take “me-time.” That’s just ridiculous. It goes back to that oxygen mask in airplanes. Put your own oxygen mask on first before you apply your kid’s mask.

How often do you relax during the day? Is your time spent relaxing productive and valuable?

Take a moment to think about the above questions.

In this article, we will break down each question and pinpoint why they are important to you. We will give you some suggestions on how to live more in the moment and break nasty habits of rushing through life.

How often do you relax during the day?

Let’s face reality; parenting in today’s world is busy. Doctors recommend 5 minutes each hour to quiet the mind and relax muscle tension, but most parents are lucky to get 5 minutes in a 24 hour time period. In order for you to be more productive and for your mind to be at its top performance, you must allow yourself to take time out, at least once every hour. It is vital to your health and well-being. It regenerates your energy level and allows you to think more clearly. A good example to explain this better is by examining the safety instructions adults receive when flying on an airplane with small children. The flight attendant instructs the adult to first, place the oxygen mask over themselves to allow proper breathing before assisting a child with their oxygen mask. The adult must take care of their needs before they can successfully take care of a child. Yes, placing an oxygen mask during a flight complication is an extreme scenario, but it shows how, taking proper care of yourself will ultimately give you the strength to be a better parent.

I know some of you are still thinking, “Who has time to relax?” and this may be the hardest challenge most will encounter while building a healthier schedule. Actually, most of us are programmed to believe relaxing during the day is lazy and unproductive. I am not insinuating we shut down like Spain for a siesta, but a few minutes each hour will replenish your mind and body.

The best way to start reprogramming your schedule is to remind yourself to do it. There are all kinds of great products to help you. There are; bracelets that vibrate, special apps for phones, and even email services. But, the simplest way to begin today is by choosing a color. Each time you see this color take a deep breath. When you exhale, close your eyes and visualize all the tension leaving your body. Try focusing only on your breath and how good it feels to relax your muscle tension. An easy way to help clear your mind from distractions is to imagine the color swirling around you. Start the swirling color around your head, melting the tension while passing each area of your body until you have circled around and out your toes. Remember, most people carry higher levels of tension in their brow, jaw, shoulders, hands, and feet. Give these areas a little extra attention when relaxing. You will be Amazed at how far your mind can truly relax your muscle tension. This technique can be done just about anywhere. If driving, please wait to be completely stopped at a traffic light before closing your eyes.

Is your time spent relaxing productive and valuable?

Unfortunately, most adults have lost the ability to just sit with themselves and observe their surroundings. As children we do this very easily, but as we grow older we start to lose this wonderful “living in the moment” quality. It can become difficult to pay attention to our environment because we are so focused on our inner mind struggles. Mostly consisting of; worrying, dwelling, or even worse, we focus on things we have no ability to change, but still continue to waste our thoughts on.

This is an easy fix, simply redirect your thoughts as soon as you notice the negative thought pattern, but like all habits it will take a while to undo. Here is a scenario on how it works; pretend you are watching your child play a lacrosse game. Instead of focusing on the game, you notice your mind thinking about the bills that need to be paid at home. You are worrying about something you cannot control at this moment. You are wasting your valuable thoughts on something you have no control of at this time. To be more productive, enjoy the experience of your surroundings. Value your precious time and be proud of the fact, you are living in the moment. This is a huge accomplishment for most. At first you may need to redirect your thoughts more often, but don’t be discouraged. Focus more on the accomplishment of recognition instead of how often you are doing it.

Next time your child acts up and needs to be discipline, instead of placing the child in time out, try sending yourself for a time out. Tell the child that because of their behavior mommy/daddy needs a time out. Make sure the child is safe and take a few minutes to reenergize you.

There are two benefits from this scenario. First, you will get a moment of quiet time. Second, your child will learn, from your example, time outs are not bad. Instead, time outs are a valuable tool in keeping stress levels low.

Kelly Evers

Relaxation & Stress Release
Kelly’s mission is to bring attention to appropriate stress management to maintain one’s health. She is the person behind the website, Stress Release Reminders.
Read more about Kelly here

Hold on to your pencil boxes, because the Back to School season has arrived! One of the annual activities at our house this time of year involves taking stock and stocking up. Whether it’s classroom supplies, school uniforms, or physical exams, the fall always seems to be the time to take an inventory of what we have, what we need, and what we can discard (we’ve currently got three working piles growing in our living room).

So in the spirit of taking stock, I’ve decided to put together another set of piles for the new school year. I’m calling them my family vision piles, based on the term coined by parent educators, Janis Keyser and Laura Davis. A family vision, they explain, is seeing the big picture of where you are going as a family, what values you most want to teach and model, and determining what is most important. Basically, by establishing a vision, you set-up the long-term intentions and goals for your family for the year. Here’s what my piles look like so far:

Discard Pile: Like the stained uniform shirts, and ripped 3 ring binders, what do I want to discard this year when it comes to our family?

1. The sound and quality of my voice during times of stress. This carping, droning, (dare I say nagging?) voice, usually heard in the morning rush or frenzied afternoons of homework and practices, tends to repeat itself in 5-10 second intervals, with phrases such as, “Come on!” “Hurry up!” or “Don’t forget..!” In addition to being both annoying and agitating to everyone involved, this voice and it’s shrill requests, become increasingly futile as time goes on.

2. The myth of being a perfect supermom. I’m also going to try and discard my unrealistic expectations that I can control everything and do it all. And in case I needed further motivation, two recent articles, aptly entitled, Why Women Still Can’t Have it All and Why Supermoms are Sad, confirmed that moms who expect that a work/life balance can be achieved easily (or at all), are more unhappy that those who accept that they can’t do everything, and tradeoffs will have to be made.

3. The blame and guilt I put on myself, my family, and the world in general, when life gets stressful. Like the supermom myth above, I will work to discard these negative feelings that seem to crop up whenever I am most stressed, and to replace them with compassion and forgiveness, remembering that we all are generally doing the best we can.

Add Pile: Next, what do I want to add to our family, along with the new lunch boxes and football cleats this year?

1. More interactive communication. I will make a conscious effort to add more interactive conversations with my boys and husband each week, with sentences beginning with, “What do you think of…?” “How was your…?” and “What are you feelings about…?” (as opposed to that nagging voice I hope to discard above). My goal is to stay as connected with them as possible, even when life gets hectic.

2. A weekly electronics-free time zone. This idea came to me one desperate summer afternoon in the midst of a computer game/ tv show/ web surfing binge our entire family was on. As I noticed our levels of agitation increasing with each successive sound and click coming from the machines. I desperately ordered a complete shutdown of devices for an “electronics-free” hour. And wow! After the initial caffeine-like withdrawal symptoms, a peace and calm descended upon our household that I hadn’t seen in a long time. Books were cracked open, lego towers were built, and actual conversations were initiated!

3. More time and flexibility during rush periods. Finally, in place of that supermom mindset, I will work to add more time to prepare and organize during rush hours, as well as giving myself flexibility and permission to let go when all doesn’t go smoothly (remembering that when my sons forget their water bottles or we arrive a few minutes late to practice, the world and my competence has not suddenly come to an end)!

Keep Pile: And finally, like the tried and true backpack my 11 year-old is using for his third consecutive year, what are the things I want to keep and continue in our family?

Those elements and activities that reflect our shared values of laughing together, slowing down when we can, nurturing ourselves and each other, and connecting in general.

Some, but not all, of the items in this pile will include:

  • Family mealtimes at least 2-3 times every week (hopefully more)
  • Unstructured family time, with no other commitment except hanging out
  • Family movie nights with popcorn, whenever time permits
  • Maintaining a sense of humor
  • Continuing those activities we enjoy on our own, and together, that help us stay refueled and healthy
  • Remembering an attitude of gratitude
  • Breathing in, breathing out
  • Letting go
  • Did I mention a sense of humor?

So that’s where I’m starting. Although I’m sure there will be plenty of bumps and setbacks along the way, I’m hoping that keeping my family vision in mind, will enable me to make the best decisions possible in the midst of the action-packed and frenzied moments ahead. Here’s to a happy, reflective, and intentional school year for us all!

Shaila Saint

Mindful & Empowered Parenting
Intentional Parenting
Shaila is the founder of Mindful Parent, which provides a comfortable environment for parents to interact with each other. Read more about Shaila and her mission here.

Summer is birthday season for my boys. Conor, the Leo, begins his third year of teenager–hood this summer, while Kiki, the Cancer, enters his second year in the world of double digits. Despite the unbelievable speed of these developments, many things about their birthdays have remained constant throughout the years: the candles blown out on Krispy Kremes instead of cakes, the birthday morning treasure hunt for presents, and their tireless requests to hear stories about the day they came into the world.

Another constant is how their birthdays always have the power of leading me to reflect upon where I am as a parent, where my children are, and how we are connecting together. Beginning with those earliest days and months of their lives when they were so dependent on me for most of their needs, and shifting with each successive year, I am continually amazed by this “connection” dance of dependence, independence, and detachment.

So what is healthy connection?

On one hand, the more connected I feel to my boys, the more I am able to feel empathetic to their perspective, and what they face in the world. When I am in tune, it’s so much easier to see my eleven–year–old’s testiness and impatience in relation to the amount of homework, fatigue, or other pressures he faces at various times in his life. To see that it’s not that different from when he was young and missed his morning nap, or accompanied me on too many errands and inevitably a meltdown ensued. In each circumstance, he is conveying his need for space, refueling, or rest.
Feeling connected also helps me understand that my teenager’s constant testing of what he can and cannot do on his own, [which] is his way of researching the push and pull of independence and security. It reminds me of when he was first able to walk away from me at the park as a toddler. He loved going far away but often looked back, sometimes to make sure I was where he left me, other times to see if I would come and set a limit on the path he chose. And even though he doesn’t always like my limits, when I feel connected, I see that at each stage in his life he has the same need for Mom, his “safe harbor” to be there for him, as he explores the world.

Yet, the other side of connectedness is not being so connected that we follow our children to every emotional place they go, and everything they experience becomes our experience. This is especially true, as we all know, when it comes to their struggles, heartaches and fears. Practically, this means not letting our egos allow us to take all the credit or blame for their choices, behaviors or achievements, no matter how tempting. When my boys experience success or challenge, be it athletically, academically or socially, it’s so difficult not to feel and experience the same joy or pain they do. Yet, when I am connected, I know that in order to determine the appropriate action or response to these situations, I must remain a little detached–to see these moments as ultimately their journey (not mine), where once again I remain their safe harbor, if and when they need me.

This detachment also includes knowing what information we need to know about our children and respecting there are things we never need to know. Especially now with the tweens and teens upon me, I see this happening more and more. How much of my boys’ experiences, interactions and feelings do they need to share with me? How much did I want to share with my parents when I was their age? As the Kabat-Zinns observe in their book, Everyday Blessings, The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting, “The quality and warmth of our connections with our children will be proportional to how much we continue to do our own inner work, and keep a sense of appropriate boundaries… according the same freedom and respect to our children as they transition every year from total dependency… to independent and interdependent adults.”

So in closing this summertime, birthday reflection, I would like to share a poem I revisit often, given to me as a new mother by my parents, that speaks so beautifully to this ever shifting, constantly challenging, yet powerful journey of connection:

On Children by Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Shaila Saint

Mindful & Empowered Parenting
Intentional Parenting
Shaila is the founder of Mindful Parent, which provides a comfortable environment for parents to interact with each other.
Read more about Shaila and her mission here