Tuesday, June 23, 2009

One New Thing

Summer is a special time. It can be a time of flow, during which children and adults experience less structure, more creativity in activities and the time to do something new. In fact, one step in creating a highly connected, cooperative summer with your family is to commit to doing one new thing together.

Remember the Billy Crystal film City Slickers in which a group of guys does something different every year? They ran with the bulls in Pamplona, did some skydiving and went on a cattle drive with Jack Palance. City Slickers was our in-flight film on a trip to France in 1995, and it inspired me to learn to ride horses. Having always loved horses, I had been too afraid of them to ride. The message we got as children was that horseback riding meant certain death. The film inspired me to learn something new and get over my fear. Riding evolved into owning a horse, meeting many terrific people involved with horses and even competing in a few hunter-jumper shows. I did break my hand, AND I’m still here to talk about how much fun it was! It was also something that my husband and I did together and we later introduced our daughter to riding.

Commit to doing something new as a family this summer. Talk about it with your children in a family meeting and decide by consensus what experience you wish to have. From staying at a dude ranch, climbing, or learning to scuba dive or ice skate, your family will create amazing memories as well as build a connected family team. Everyone will feel capable as they learn something new and someone may even discover a new hobby or passion. A decade from now you will be saying, "Do you remember the summer when we did _____?" You fill in the blank!

Explore nineteen other suggestions in Twenty Steps to a Summer that Rocks! Cooperate, Coordinate and Connect while Creating an Amazing Summer, available at our bookstore.

Inspire a family by sharing the experience that you most remember from your childhood summers. Add your comments!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Speak the Most Powerful Love Language

With many moms and dads travelling for work, we are seeing more of what I term “frequent flyer families.” Time zone changes, length of time spent working away from home and one parent single-handedly assuming the responsibilities at home are all challenging. Parents may also be experiencing what Jeff Kleinman calls “shift parenting” where both parents are at home but each parent works a different shift on the job. One parent may assume morning tasks at home and the other assume the “homework shift.” Keeping connected as a couple can be difficult in both circumstances.

Here is where knowing our own love language as well as the love languages of our spouse and children can make a huge difference. Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell wrote
The Five Love Languages of Children to assist parents in discovering their child’s primary and secondary love languages. Speaking all five languages is terrific and really focusing in on your child’s primary and secondary love languages speaks volumes.

My primary love language is gifts. From the first time my dad opened his suitcase and pulled out a doll that he had brought me from one of his international Air Force missions, I felt totally loved.

Knowing your own primary love language allows you to let others know how they can best let you know that you are loved. Knowing your child’s and spouse’s love languages allows you to help them fill what Chapman and Campbell call the “emotional love tank.”

If you are a “frequent flyer family,” you will know to put love letters in your spouse’s suitcase if his primary love language is words of affirmation or to let him know that you fixed that leaky faucet if it is acts of service.

If it is physical affection, you will know to plan a little “shift overlap” time for a backrub or for simply being together watching a sunrise or sunset if his language is time.

Discover your love language and share it with your family. Find out each family member’s primary love language and speak it often. Running on a full “emotional love tank” is awesome

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Aren't We All on the Same Side?

“The Other Side of Adoption” appeared in the June 7th Akron Beacon Journal. It is about Celeste Billhartz, who was adopted as an infant and is now collecting stories from “women who didn’t have any say in surrendering their newborns.” Travelling a path blazed by Ann Fessler, author of the 2007 book The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades before Roe v. Wade, Celeste is in the process of creating a coffee table book and a theatrical production from the stories and poems of the mothers she interviewed.

Celeste is shining a light on the adoption process to end coercion. She is placing an honoring spotlight on birthmothers. On her website, The Mother’s Project, she is also asking that we end adoption. She urges ”women-of-conscience to not adopt”. She even accuses those who adopt – termed “adopters” – of participating in abuse and “behaving like greedy, selfish pigs.” The light feels quite a bit dimmer.

Instead, let’s shine a light for strong adoption laws that honor birthparents and adopting parents. Let’s shine a light on our past by permitting access to original birth certificates. People who were adopted, and I am one of them, deserve to know their biological history.

Let’s recognize the truth of adoption. As one reader posted “While I do feel for the women who were coerced and tricked into signing adoption papers, I ask them to remember that their story is not every woman’s story. I know first hand that adoption can be a very positive choice for a birth mother.” Choice is the keyword. The truth is in choice.

Viewing the adoption process as an immoral system driven by infertile white women bent on spending thousands of dollars to buy babies does nothing to end coercion. More important than the fact that this is not true, blame does nothing to empower birthmothers. In fact it has the opposite effect – it is self-victimizing. It turns off the light to the magnificence of who birthmothers really are – who all mothers really are.

Let’s turn on the light. We are all in this together. We are all on the same side.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Exhausted Parent Part Deux

It was such a pleasure meeting Jeff and Beth Kleinman at a workshop for MomsMiami.com on Saturday. Not only were they totally enjoyable to talk with, but after the workshop, Jeff posted a blog on the very real topic, “the exhausted parent.”

We need energy to parent consciously, and it is vital that parents take care of themselves. When we do, we model taking care of ourselves for our children and we have the energy to parent responsively rather than reactively. When we are exhausted, we may become what Jeff termed “the explosive parent,” a humorous twist on the book
The Explosive Child. Our knee-jerk reactions, especially when we are tired, stressed, or sick, are usually the things we look at in retrospect and wish we had done differently.

What can we do when we are out of steam and just don’t want to do one more thing?

· Recognize when you are tired. Let your body be your barometer. If we deny our exhaustion and continue to press on, we resent what we are doing. Our resentment shows up in how we talk to our children.

· Find time to do what recharges you. Listen to calming music on the way home from work. Meditate. Walk. Read. Ask for time alone at home for fifteen minutes. Take twenty minutes each day just for you.

· Request support. Our family is our first team, and sometimes leaders – parents, presidents and CEO’s – get tired. As a leader, it is great to ask your family for support not only because you will receive some welcome assistance but also because your children learn how to contribute to their team.

· Give your children more responsibilities around the house. Young children are very capable of washing dishes, assisting with cooking, folding clothes and much more. As an extra bonus, they will begin to recognize just how capable they are! As an even extra bonus, you will begin to recognize that you do NOT have to do it ALL.

· Reconnect with your spouse or partner. I feel the most stressed when my husband travels. If you feel like you are a member of a tag team who only exchanges information like ships passing in the night, take time out to reconnect. Have a weekly date night (or day!).
Refreshing Relationships is an amazing weekend course to rekindle the love and connect at a very deep level.

· Monitor your self-talk. It is difficult to be cheery when your inner conversation is discouraging and stressful. If you notice that you are thinking what Dr. Becky Bailey calls “not enough” thoughts – not enough time, not enough energy, not enough money, not enough support – shift your thoughts to ones that are more encouraging.

· Acknowledge your gratitude. Write down or at least think about the things for which you feel appreciation and gratitude. This is terrific to do at the beginning and ending of your day.

Taking care of you is not selfish. It actually is your job. A job well done in this case is one that both you and your family will appreciate!