Category Archives: parenthood

The Old Bear Way: Under-Scheduled and Doing Just Fine

In parenthood, sometimes we don’t get what we want. Like babies who sleep through the night, toddlers who hold hands in parking lots, or kids who wear pants.

Sometimes we do get what we want only to figure out we were better off without it. Like when your kid learns to tie his shoes and you’re never on time for anything ever again. Or when your kid is finally potty-trained and wants needs to poop in every bathroom within a 50-mile radius of your home. Or when your kid at long last shows enthusiasm for extra-curricular activities and you go from being under-scheduled and wondering if “YouTube connoisseur” will impress college admissions officers to being over-scheduled and googling, “Do Dutch parents deal with this crap?”

For years, we dabbled. Karate. T-ball. Ice hockey. Art. Basketball. Ninja warrior. Cooking. Chess. Soccer. Nothing stuck. If you’ve ever heard a kid say, “I can’t go to soccer practice because my finger is sunburned,” or, “I don’t like karate because flexibility is terrifying,” you’ve met my kids.

I’m decidedly not a Tiger Mom.

Then, all at once my boys wanted to do all the things. Cross country, soccer, guitar, drums, swimming. Add to the schedule the activities everyone loves to hate, like vison therapy, tutoring, and nutritionist appointments, and we were suddenly as busy as everyone annoyingly says, but for realz.

This fall, we had to be someplace—and in some cases multiple places—every day of the week, including Tuesday mornings before school and Friday evenings. For the love! And there was no rest on the weekends. Swimming lessons and soccer games swallowed Saturdays and early morning cross country track meets stole Sundays and all my hopes for and dreams of a hot cup of coffee.

I recently read an article about Dolphin Parenting. Coined by Shimi Kang, M.D. in a book called “The Dolphin Way: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy, and Motivated Kids—Without Turning into a Tiger,” this viewpoint encourages parents to abandon a perpetually striving, exhausted, and over-scheduled lifestyle for a more balanced, natural approach. Kang suggests our current parenting method has replaced free and spontaneous play and time spent with family with too much structure where the “minivan becomes the kitchen table.”

This speaks to me. Loudly.

Why do we spend as much time in the car after school as our kids spend at school? Why are we so worried about our kids turning into quitters if Irish stepping dancing, platform diving, or Mandarin Immersion isn’t their jam? Also, band practice before school and track practice on Friday nights is preposterous, amirite?

No wonder we’re all tired, anxious, overwhelmed, and drinking “mommy juice” from a straw!

We bit off way more than we could chew this fall, and the endless loop of obligations broke us. We’re out of gas, literally and figuratively. The activities everyone originally wanted to do became a burden about which everyone, including me, asked, “Do I have to go today?” and “When is this going to be over?”

Did I make a mistake saying yes to too much in the first place? Probably, but it was hard to say no when my kids finally wanted to do something besides watch “try not to laugh videos” in the basement.

The silver-lining of our demanding autumn has been that we sifted through the muck and discovered the activities the kids truly enjoy. We also figured out what we value as a family— extra-curricular activities in moderation, lots of free time to play and relax, and pajamas. We are pajama people to infinity and beyond.

My kids want to linger with friends on the playground after school. They want to play Minecraft online with their friends, and they want to make microwave popcorn and watch “The Simpsons.”

I want my kids to do their homework without rushing or melting down. I want them to have time to build Legos and practice the instruments they love, and I want to listen to the details of their stories while I cook dinners they don’t want to eat.

I’m digging the Dolphin Way, but now that the trees are nearly bare, the air is frosty, and it’s dark by five o’clock, I’m taking my parenting strategy to the next level.

In Kevin Henkes’ children’s book, “Old Bear,” Old Bear falls asleep for the winter and dreams of the beauty of every season. He dreams of flowers as big as trees in the spring and blueberry rain falling from the sky in summer. He dreams of yellow, orange, and brown birds and fish in autumn and the sky blazing with stars of all colors in winter. He sleeps and dreams and sleeps, and when he finally wakes up he thinks no time has passed. He pokes his head out of his den and it’s a gorgeous, warm, and colorful spring day and it takes him a minute to realize he’s not dreaming.

That’s right, Tiger moms and the rest of you wild (or Dutch) parenting beasts. I’m putting on my comfy pants and settling in for a long winter’s nap. I’m hibernating with my kids and dreaming and sleeping and dreaming… and slowing down the passage time… and paying attention… and enjoying my kids while they’re still kids… and hoping no one wants to play little league baseball in the spring because that seems like a lot of work.

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Filed under anxiety, parenthood, parenting

Let’s Talk About The Hard Stuff

I’m on Sammiches & Psych Meds today talking about something hard. ADHD.

Choosing to treat my son’s attention issues with medication is one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made, but as with most parenting challenges, it made me a better mom and it strengthened my relationship with my child.

I wish things were different, but I also wouldn’t change a thing.

Click HERE to read the essay.

As always, thanks for your support.

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Replacing Buts (Not Butts)

storm

I’ve started seeing a cognitive behavioral therapist to address my anxiety. I’ve done a lot of traditional therapy over the years, but this is the first time I’ve approached my excessive worry from a behavioral standpoint. I’m only a few sessions in, but and so far it’s been kind of mind-blowing.

I crossed out that “but,” because one of the strategies I’ve learned is to replace “but” with “and” to remove negative bias. For instance, if I say, “Dinner was delicious but the service was slow,” I let the pessimistic part win. I diminish the fact that the food was good. If I say, “Dinner was delicious and the service was slow,” I still feel pretty good about the meal I ate. It’s a small tweak that has an enormous impact on my automatic thought process, which tends to thrust me down a perilous rabbit hole of fear and negativity.

For example: I have a headache. I don’t usually have headaches. This is weird. Something must be wrong. I must have a brain tumor. I’m going to die.

My fellow anxiety suffers, amirite?

I do this dangerous dance often with my health. In my defense, when you try to have a baby but (and?) get cancer in your uterus instead, an onslaught of irrational worry isn’t so farfetched. It happens with my writing, too. Imposter Syndrome is a beast. Another breeding ground of angst is my children, both of whom are anxiety triggers I lovingly live with day in and day out.

As any parent will attest, kids are a constant source of concern, but and when you have anxiety, concern occasionally turns into calamity without warning because anxiety is a shitty friend.

Lately, I’m fixated on school because I have one child, in particular, who is incredibly bright but detests school. Hold up. I have one child, in particular, who is incredibly bright AND detests school. Better.

I’m a successful product of public schools and my kids are enrolled in an excellent public school district, but parenthood has woken me up to how kids with learning challenges, sensory differences, and special needs struggle to fit in the neat and tidy boxes for which most classrooms are equipped and teachers are trained.

Did you catch that? Classrooms are crap! Teachers are crap! My kid is going to slip through the cracks! His spirit will be crushed! He’ll fail out of school!

I’m ridiculous. Let’s try that again.

I’m a successful product of public schools and my kids are enrolled in an excellent public school district, AND parenthood has woken me up to how kids with learning challenges, sensory differences, and special needs struggle to fit in the neat and tidy boxes for which most classrooms are equipped and teachers are trained.

Can you feel the difference? I turned out great and my kids are in an awesome school AND there are challenges. Now, the positive and negative parts of this story have equal value, and I’m empowered to tackle the problems and advocate for solutions. Everything’s going to be okay, but and I have a serious “but” problem.

School is important, BUT there’s too much homework, BUT there’s not enough recess, BUT there’s too much sitting, BUT there’s not enough STEM, BUT the classes are too big, BUT the classrooms are too small, BUT handwriting skills are ignored, BUT no one is teaching the kids how to type… I could go on, but and I won’t.

It’s hard to see anything positive from behind all of my “buts” (not “butts”). Not only am I hyper-aware of my own “but” problem, but also I’m starting to notice other people’s “buts” (not “butts”), including my kids’ “buts” (not “butts,” although their butts are adorable).

“The Amazon Jungle is the biggest jungle in the world.” My nine-year-old school-hater surprised me with this random and unsolicited outburst of knowledge.

“Is it bigger than New York?” My seven-year-old son’s curiosity was unleashed.

“Of course it’s bigger than New York.”

“Is it bigger than Texas?”

“Yup.”

“Is it bigger than Earth?”

“How can it be bigger than Earth when it’s on Earth?” He was smug with 4th grade superiority.

My seven-year-old, who will always be two frustrating years younger than his big brother no matter how hard he tries to catch up, matched his jungle and raised him a cloud. “Did you know clouds are heavy?”

 “How heavy?”

“Heavier than a grown man. More than 105 pounds!”

“Wow, that’s really heavy.” I stifled a giggle.

“If a cloud falls on you, you’ll die.” The older brother added his two (morbid) cents.

“Mommy, do you know how rain is made?”

“How?”

“Water evaporates from the earth into the sky, it forms clouds, and then water falls out of the clouds,” and then, “but that means when it’s raining, God isn’t peeing on us.”

but

There was a mix of satisfaction and disappointment in his voice. He was proud of his newfound knowledge, but and his imagination got truth bombed by science.

I knew just what to say. “Oh, sweetheart, it’s true that God isn’t peeing on us, but and it’s still God playing the drums when you hear thunder.” (For now, anyway.)

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