What Is The Golden Rule In Parenting?

Reframing The Golden Rule in Parenthood: Treat your children as if they are *you* at the same age.
By parenting them as you wish to have been parented yourself, you are healing your own
(still wounded) inner child while preserving the authenticity of the little one right in front of you. Win-win.
~ Lu Hanessian

The Golden Rule. I remember exactly where I was when my father first told me “do unto others as you would have done unto you”. I remember learning later in life that I should remember to treat my children as I would treat a friend – you would never yell at a friend that they should “sit down now!”, would you? In therapy we are often told that triggers stem from unresolved issues we had as children. When triggered, our brain looks for a “match” for how we are feeling in the moment and we are instantly transported back to feeling like our 4-year old self. A couple of days ago, Katie from Practical Parenting left a comment on my blog and said that when she has a tough time dealing with her children’s behavior she steps away, takes 5 deep breaths and puts a positive image of her child in her mind. Something started clicking for me. Yesterday I read the above quote by Lu Hanessian on Parent2ParentU’s Facebook page and it all came together.

I’ve written before about our daughter, so like me in so many ways, who triggers my anger so often. But why? I love her so deeply, I am constantly impressed by the complex things she already understands, She’s incredibly creative, wonderfully generous and kind, she’s confident and holds firm in her opinions which I tell myself will serve her well later in life and yet, she makes me completely batty sometimes.

Last night she lost it at the dinner table and kept playing with her food and taunting her brother and not listening, not listening, not listening. I kept calm for what felt like ages and suddenly I couldn’t hold it together anymore. In that moment I forgot that she is only 4, I forgot that she was over tired, I forgot that she may have had a day where she was told what to do all day long…more importantly, I seemed to be forgetting the person behind the behavior.

I got past my own tantrum after a minute or two, apologized, explained, helped her calm down. She forgave me as her wise, little self always does. But later I was still thinking about it. I mulled over Lu’s powerful words – if she were me, was that how I would want to be treated? This morning I read in Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting the following paragraph:

“In some sense our children have to feel us holding on to them, no matter what repugnant (to our mind) spells come over them no matter what dark disguises they try on. This mindful holding on comes not out of a desire to control them, or to hold them back, or to cling to them out of our own neediness, but out of a commitment to be appropriately present for them no matter what, to let them know that they are not alone, that we have not lost sight of who they are or what they mean to us.”

These times when I get so frustrated and feel actual anger toward my children are moments when clearly I am not mindful. These are moments when I lose sight of the golden rule, I lose sight of who I am talking to and what they mean to me. I know this because as soon as I “snap out of it” and come to my senses I feel so horrible and so remorseful. Even now, as I think about last night I wonder how I can get so angry.

I am still searching for the answer to this. It’s like a switch that flips. I am able to stay calm, present and understanding for a certain amount of time and then I lose it and I become like a furious five-year old. I know that a strong reaction to behavior in others is often really just a rejection of that same behavior in yourself. Is it possible that my little girl, feisty and strong-willed, has behaviors that I am not comfortable with in myself? Is it possible that when she exhibits her moodiness I shut down because I see that as unloveable in myself? That feels real to me. And that feels so terribly sad.

“And isn’t it true for all of us that when we are feeling lost, sad, and often quite toadlike, it helps enormously to feel that the people closest to us are still our allies, are still able to see and love our essential self?” ~ Everyday Blessings

To not accept this part of my daughter, to not accept it in myself, is to say that it is not OK to be moody, temperamental or crabby. To not be allowed the full range of one’s emotions feels like dying a little inside. And so I continue to work on my practice of remaining mindful, forgiving myself just as I forgive my children. Do unto others as I would have them do unto me.

20 Tips To Keep Your Children Safe

Growing up, many of us probably put ourselves (or were put) into situations where something bad could have happened to us. Hopefully you came out unscathed. Unfortunately, many people were not so lucky. No matter how loving a parent, or how smart you may think you are, there are times when we don’t listen to our instincts. How do we teach our children to protect themselves while still giving them a sense of autonomy and freedom?

A couple of weeks ago I went to hear a presentation by Pattie Fitzgerald of Safely Ever After. Pattie is a mother and widely recognized and respected children’s advocate. She has made it her mission to empower families through her innovative and non-fearful safety programs for parents and children.

A False Sense Of Security

Pattie began by lecture by reminding us that what was going to protect our family is not where we live, but what we know.

  • 90% of childhood sexual abuse occurs by someone the child knows – not by a stranger.
  • Childhood sexual abuse occurs among all socioeconomic and educational levels, and across all racial and cultural groups.
  • More than 80% of sexual abuse happens in a one adult/one child situation. Think carefully before leaving your child alone with one adult, especially with coaches, counselors, etc. Drop in unexpectedly on occasion.
  • Sex offenders look for opportunities to groom a child with manipulative ploys of attention, flattery, gifts etc. A parent’s job is to watch for signs of “grooming” and to stop it before abuse occurs. 89% of offenders gain access through “grooming techniques”.
  • The most vulnerable age is between 9 and 12. This is an age when children become more secretive and parents tend to back off to give the child some autonomy. Children at this age also start a different reasoning process where they think they’ll be blamed for the abuse.

Predator Myths And Realities

  • scared childMyth: Only strangers or registered sex offenders abuse children
  • Myth: It’s never the older brother next door, the babysitter’s son, the older cousin.
  • Myth: Predators are “weird/scary” looking

In reality, when predators are caught, they are often the people about whom people say, “We trusted him. He was a great guy. He was so nice to everyone”. Predators target people who want to fit in. But the possibility of getting caught is the number one deterrent. If your child communicates with you, if you are paying attention, if your child is the type who would say “you shouldn’t touch me like that” – your child is less likely to be victimized.

Fundamentals

  1. Trust your instincts, let your kids trust their instincts
  2. BELIEVE YOUR CHILD. If you discount their “uh oh” feelings you are essentially telling your child “I don’t have your back”.Only 1 – 4% of reported cases are fabricated and there are 39 million reported survivors of abuse in the United States alone.
  3. Build self-confidence
  4. Don’t teach “stranger-danger”. Use the phrase “tricky people”. These are people who try to trick you into breaking the rules. As we already learned, 90% of abusers are not strangers!
  5. It’s not what people look like, it’s what they say or want to do that you need to be wary of
  6. Teach children to recognize “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” people and situations. This is terminology they understand and it covers people you know, don’t know and know just a little.
  7. Know how kids communicate: they may tell parts of what happened or mention it in a roundabout way that they don’t want to be around a certain adult. Pay attention to their cues. Sometimes a child will pretend it happened to someone else to test your reaction.
  8. If your child does disclose, respond in a gentle fashion. Tell them how brave they are that you’re glad they’re telling.
  9. Talk to your kids about their daily activities. Encourage them to share the “ups and downs” of their day.
  10. Be very clear about who is allowed to bathe and dress your child. Just because your nanny is allowed to do it doesn’t mean her husband should, too.
  11. Open, honest communication is the best sexual abuse prevention tip. Start early discussing personal body issues with clear language and continue the dialogue as they grow up.

What Kids Should Know At Every Age (from Safely Ever After)

I am The Boss Of My Body!

Mom and dad are the boss when it comes to staying healthy and clean, but in all other circumstances, your child is the boss. Children as young as age 3 – 5 should know the correct names for body parts, the difference between “safe” and “unsafe” touches and understand the concept of “No-Go-Tell”. For children age 6 – 10 you can tell them that they they have the right to say NO to any uncomfortable touches, no matter who it is, even to an adult or older kid. Also, they need to know it is not their fault if someone tries to touch a private part of their body and they have the right to express or receive physical affection on their terms (By the way, parents, this means you need to stop forcing your kids to hug Grandma Betty if they don’t want to. More on that later). Children ages 11 and older can be told that it is OK to say STOP to anyone’s touches anywhere on their body. And affection between adults and children does not include touching or kissing private parts, undressing together or sharing bodies in a “yucky” or uncomfortable manner.

The “Helping” Rule.

Children age 3 -5 need to know that they should not help anyone who asks them to find a lost pet, give them direction, or carry packages to their home or car without mom/dad/caretaker present. Also, safe grownups don’t ask kids for help when you’re by yourself – they’re supposed to ask OTHER grownups. Children age 6 – 10 must also know that before assisting anyone, check first with the adult in charge of your safety. If you can’t check first, the answer is NO. Children this age also need to understand the difference between helping with chores in the home vs. helping someone out in the world when you’re on your own. Additionally, they should not enter someone’s home to help them unless their parents say it’s OK. Tell your children age 11 and older that they must be wary of people who ask you for help when you’re alone or with your friends in public places. Employ the “check first rule” whenever possible. And remind them not to be tricked by offers of money or gifts in exchange for assistance.

Candy, Gifts, Treats.

Teach your children age 3 – 5 to say no to anyone who wants to give them candy, gifts or treats unless their parent is with them and says it’s OK first. Children age 6 – 10 can be told that it is not OK for someone to offer them a treat in exchange for keeping a secret. By age 11 and older can be told that they should tell their parents about anyone who wants to give them an expensive gift or treat without their knowledge. They should also understand that bribing a child with the promise of a gift or treat is wrong, and may even be illegal. Remind them it’s not their fault and it’s important to tell right away.

Trusting Your Instinct/your inner voice/”the uh-oh feeling”.

Children by age 3 – 5 can be told to listen to their inner voice or that feeling you get in your tummy when something feels wrong or “yucky”. They should know to tell mom or dad about any “uh oh” feelings they have, no matter when it happens. With children age 6 – 10 you can tell them to get away quickly from anyone who makes them feel weird, yucky or uncomfortable. And remind them that they don’t have to be polite to anyone who gives them that “uh oh” feeling. Children age 11 and older should be told to pay attention to their feelings, especially if someone tries to get them to do something they know is wrong or makes them feel badly. Remind them that their own inner alarm is their best safety system.

Secrets.

With children age 3 – 5 tell them that there are no secrets from mom or dad. Remind them that safe grownups don’t tell kids to keep secrets from their parents and that there is a difference between a “secret” and a “surprise”. Tell children age 6 – 10 that they won’t get in trouble for telling their parents about any kind of secret that an adult has told them to keep. Remind them to tell mom and dad right away and not to hold on to “yucky” secrets, especially ones about their body. Tell them that safe adults don’t tell kids to keep secrets from their parents.

Out And About.

For children age 3 – 5 tell them that if they are lost, Freeze and Yell or ask a Mom with Kids for help. Remind them to never go outside to the parking lot to look for their parents and teach them your address and a parent’s cell phone number. Children age 6 – 10 should ask a mom with kids, or the cash register person for help. Remind them not to wander around or leave the area to search for their parents. Tell them not to enter restrooms alone or with someone they don’t know and not to use shortcuts through alleys or play in unfamiliar areas. For kids age 11 and older you can tell them not to be tricked into getting into a car with someone you don’t know because they seem nice or because they offer you something enticing like payment for doing work. Also, if they want to change their plans, go somewhere else, or enter a car even with an adult they know, they have to call and check in first with their parents to let them know. If they can’t check first, the answer is NO.

Check First.

Children age 3 – 5 need to be told that they should always ask mom, dad or caretaker before they go anywhere or take anything even from someone they know, Also, if they’re finished playing in one ares and want to do something else, check first. Age 6 – 10 you must have permission before getting into a car or entering someone’s home. Check first, even f it’s a neighbor or someone that you know. If you don’t have permission first, don’t do it. For kids 9 years old and up – use a family code word. For children age 11 and older teach them to always let their parents know where they’re going and when they’ll be back. Additionally, they should know that if they are changing plans, to let their parents know first.

Tricky People.

For kids age 3 – 5 replace stranger-danger concept with “tricky people”. Remind them that it’s not what someone looks like, it’s what they want you to do. Teach them that “tricky people” may ask kids to do “thumbs down” things. For kids age 6 -10 you can teach them that a tricky person may be someone they know, don’t know, or know just a little. They should learn that they can recognize a tricky person by their behaviors and actions – by what they say and do. For children age 11 and older remind them that they don’t have to be polite to anyone who tries to trick you into doing something feels bad and to be alert for tricks that sound “too good to be true”.

Getting Help.

For children age 3 – 5 teach them that they should always tell mom or dad if they feel scared, uncomfortable or have an “uh oh” feeling about someone. And if they are afraid to tell their parents, they should tell a teacher. Teach children age 6 – 10 to tell their parents about anyone who’s made them feel yucky or touched them in an uncomfortable way. Remind them that if they can’t tell their parents, then tell a teacher and if that doesn’t work, keep telling a grownup until you get help. For children age 11 and older you can tell them to tell a parent, a teacher, a guidance counselor or other trusted adult if they need help. If they’re not comfortable talking to a parent, consider other safe grownups who will help you, like a friend’s mom. Above all, keep telling until you get help.

Give Grandma Betty a Hug!

6004_GrandmaHugsI wanted to emphasize that first point about being the boss of their bodies. We should never force children to be affectionate to everyone. By doing so, we are telling them that they’re not really the boss of their own bodies. There are may reasons a child may not want a kiss or hug from a relative. My grandfather used to lick his lips before he gave kisses. It wasn’t inappropriate, it was just gross! Instead of telling your child what to do, simply ask him or her, “Do you want to give Grandma Betty a hug?” If the child still feels uncomfortable, show them that you have their back. If the person in question is pressuring you, or doesn’t agree with letting children make this decision, try saying, “We’ve been working really hard with the kids teaching them the ‘I’m the boss of my own own body’ rules. Can you help me with this?” This way you are bringing the other adult into the fold, the child doesn’t sense any aggravation between you which could lead him or her to decide not to say no next time.

Safely Ever After

There was so much more information that Pattie gave us including details on boundaries, red flags and common lures, but I feel as though this post has gotten really long. If there is interest, I will do a follow up post with more information, but I highly, highly recommend contacting Pattie at Safely Ever After to have her speak at your school, your group, even your home. As street smart as I am, I came away from Pattie’s lecture realizing how much I really didn’t know and how much I really hadn’t spoken to my children about!

How about you? Do you already speak to your kids about keeping themselves safe? Do you have any tips to share? Was any of this particularly eye opening to you? I love your comment, let me know your thoughts!

“Twintuition” And Other Twin Myths

I recently wrote an essay for The Mother Company, titled “Twindividuals” which I began like this:

“Before I had twins I had a vague concept of what I thought being one was like. In this fantasy, twins were joined at the hip, did everything together and were always each other’s best friend. Oh, and they probably also could feel each other’s pain from miles away, too. In reality, my boy/girl twins, and the twins and triplets I know well, are like any other set of siblings you might meet: sometimes they love each other and other times they can’t stand each other. I don’t think any of them have ESP.”

This idea I once had about what twins are like is actually a misconception that is held by a large part of the population. It is perpetuated by both the media and, through a lack of understanding, by people who don’t have multiples. I am often surprised to find parents of multiples who also buy into what twin expert and author, Dr. Joan Friedman, calls “The Twin Mystique”:

“What’s behind the infatuation with twins as mysterious, inseperable, and magical? There is something inherently captivating about the idea of having a double because it invokes a human longing for an intimate, lifelong companion who thoroughly understands us. With such a companion, we feel we would never be abandoned or alone. People project this longing onto twins and see them as enjoying an idealized relationship.”

twins with their hatsOf course there are twins that have an incredibly close bond and who may know each other more deeply than anyone else. But wouldn’t you know someone well who you spend nearly every waking moment with? The more important question, I think, is to ask if your twins know themselves deeply. And how easy is it to get to know yourself if you are always thought of as half of a set. I would rather they be thought of as unique individuals, completely perfect on their own. Or, as Dana, who writes the beautiful blog Feast After Famine, describes her twins: “Two completely different sorts, traveling different paths, together”.

I watched Nightline’s Beyond Belief show on “Twintuition” last night. It didn’t really make me change my stance on whether twins have some special paranormal bond. I did find it interesting that all of the twins they spoke to were identical twins. It does stand to reason that twins who were once a single embryo that split (thus, sharing DNA) might have a similar thought process and seem to be reading each other’s minds. It does make sense that twins who always dress alike, spend all of their time together and live together well into adulthood (as many of the twins seen on the show did) would be able guess what color or number the other is thinking of. None of that seems particularly psychic to me.

The funny thing is, I really do believe in psychic abilities and I do think some people do have the ability to pick up thoughts and sensations from others. I just don’t buy into the idea that twins have cornered the market on this simply based on the fact that they’re twins.

What do you think? Did you see the show? Did it make you believe twins have special abilities? Do your children exhibit “twintuition”? Leave a comment – I’d love to know your thoughts.

Love Me When I Least Deserve It

I saw this proverb recently and have been thinking about it a lot. I have been trying to keep it in mind when my children are at their worst. It makes sense, doesn’t it? I mean, if you apply it to yourself and think about when you are miserable, grouchy, short tempered…aren’t you really in need of someone to understand you?

Isn’t what you want most that someone will just take you in their arms and hold you? And don’t you think that the simple gesture of showing love toward someone when they, themselves, must feel unloveable is all it might take to make things right?

It’s hard though, isn’t it? My kids were bananas after bath time last night: screaming, running through the house, hitting each other, not listening to a word I was saying. I was beyond frustrated. When they finally fell asleep I sat down to work and saw this proverb again. I sat, staring at it, and remembered something I read earlier in the day. I had begun a new book a few days ago by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn called Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting and underlined a passage yesterday afternoon:

“The more we are able to keep in mind the intrinsic wholeness and beauty of our children, especially when it is difficult for us to see, the more our ability to be mindful deepens. In seeing more clearly, we can respond to them more effectively and with greater generosity of heart, and parent with greater wisdom.”

Once again, I am reminded that mindfulness and attunement is what I need most in parenting. And as I sit here thinking about the evening that didn’t go even close to the way I would have liked it to go, and feeling guilty about my short temper, I think that I need to give my unloveable self some understanding. We are all trying our best. And that goes for our kids as well. As the Kabat-Zinns say:

“[Children] see us up close as no one else does, and constantly hold mirrors up for us to look into. In doing so, they give us over and over again the chance to see ourselves in new ways, and to work at consciously asking what we can learn from any and every situation that comes up with them.”

Today is another chance to do it better.

A Little Brain Science Can Help Us Raise Children Who Thrive

what's going on bookDr. Tina Payne Bryson began her Whole-Brain parenting workshop last Sunday with a mention of Lise Eliot’s book “What’s Going On In There: How The Mind And Brain Develop In The First Five Years“. I haven’t yet read this book (although I do have her later one, “Pink Brain, Blue Brain”), but from what I understand, one of Eliot’s main discussion points is about the critical role that experience (and thus environment) plays in shaping the brain. This review on isi.edu gives a good synopsis:

“A baby is born with (almost) all of its neurons, but very few connections between them. The baby spends [the] first few years (especially the first two) growing these connections, called synapses – many millions A SECOND – and also busily pruning them. Only those synapses that are stimulated by experience or practice will be preserved – the rest will be eliminated. All of our experiences, knowledge and understanding are encoded in the brain by a pattern of synapse strengths….If repeated experience is not provided during the critical period of some portion of the brain’s maturation, it will forever loose its functionality”.

This explanation of the connections and pruning was made explicit by a projection Dr. Bryson showed of the neural connections in the brain at 3 different ages – newborn, age 6 and age 11. An infant has many millions less connections than a child does by age 6, which Dr. Bryson pointed out is obvious if you have ever tried to have a conversation with a 6-year old: everything is connected for them, everything leads to something else. By approximately age 11 for girls and age 12.5 for boys, their brains are in the “pruning stage” where whatever they are not using withers and dies, allowing their brain to become lean, mean and more focused.

Early brain development

What determines what gets cut and what becomes wired into our brains? Our brain is shaped by genes and experiences. Neurons that fire together are wired together. For example, if you have ever had the experience of eating (or drinking) too much of something and getting sick, you are likely no longer able to eat or drink that particular item because of the association your brain has. The same thing happens with experiences.

Parents and teachers are “brain architects”. The times we are imperfect help our children’s brains become structured for forgiveness and repair. In other words, when you have a “rupture” with your child like a fight or a loss of patience, it is so important to go immediately to repairing so that what is wired in your child’s brain is not something like “when I show my big feelings, it is dangerous for me”, but rather, “when I lose control, I am still loveable”.

Left Brain/Right Brain

For the first 3 -5 years of your child’s life, their right hemisphere is dominant. From 5 – 7.5, their left hemisphere takes over. And from 7.5 – 11 or so, the right is once again more dominant, but the shift is less dramatic. When I began studying child development one of the pieces of information that helped me the most was learning about a child’s stages of disequilibrium (most often occurring during the half years). Dr. Bryson pointed out that Dr. T. Berry Brazelton believes that these states of disequilibrium often coincide with micro growth spurts in the brain. Knowing that there is a good reason for your child’s difficult behavior can be very helpful in being more understanding of it.

The left hemisphere specializes in:

  • Logic
  • Linear
  • Language
  • Literal

The right hemisphere specializes in:

  • Autobiographical memory
  • Senses, Emotion
  • Random
  • Non-Verbal
  • Whole Picture Context

So What #1?

I loved that Dr. Bryson would periodically stop and say “So What?” as if to mean, “So, what does this mean to me? What am I supposed to do with this?”. After all of this information about early brain development she laid out the “So What”:

Connect, then redirect

When children are experiencing what Dr. Bryson referred to as an “emotional tsunami” we, as parents, tend to do a lot of talking. Too much talking disregulates the child further. Instead, connect from your right hemisphere to their right hemisphere: pull your child close, use non-verbal communication, use a soothing tone of voice, show empathy, use your facial expressions and empathetic talk to show you “get it”. This helps regulate your child so they can calm down. Once you’ve done this then begin to use your left brain to offer solutions, planning and give logical explanations.

Help them tell their story

When a child gets hurt, either physically or emotionally, they both need and want to know why, but they can’t access this information because they are in such an intense emotional state. They need you to tell the story of the trauma. This is when reflective parenting can be very helpful: “You were really having fun playing with that toy and when sister took it away you got so mad. You were so mad you were screaming and kicking and then you started to cry”. You are connecting to the left brain by putting things in order and assigning words. But you are also connecting to the right brain by giving autobiographical information, showing the whole context and detailing emotional information. This helps wire the brain to see that something happens, you talk about it and then you make sense of it. This method can be very helpful with tantrums.

Why Do Kids Misbehave?

right-brain-left-brainWhat are your biggest struggles with your kids? Do these sound familiar?

  • Impulsive
  • Unpredictable
  • Defiant
  • Selfish
  • Takes foolish risks
  • Never know what will set them off
  • Mood swings
  • Wants to do things his/her own way

I’ve written a lot about my own triggers. Dr. Bryson suggests giving some thought to your children’s triggers for misbehavior:

  • Low blood sugar causes stress hormones to be released
  • The need for stimulation. This can cause discomfort in the brain and a child can appear anxious and have the need to move vigorously. This movement actually releases serotonin which calms the brain.
  • They are communicating a need.
  • Your stress and frustration. Kids will pick up on this so quickly.
  • Growth spurts
  • Experimentation/testing boundaries
  • Releasing/expressing big feelings
  • Brain development

So What #2? Rethink Discipline.

Discipline is not about consequences. The point of discipline is to teach. Every time your child does something wrong it is an opportunity to teach them how to do it right. Every time your child misbehaves:

  • They are communicating: “I need to build skills in this area!”
  • Think about what skills are lagging
  • Think about what the triggers are for the problem that is occurring
  • Think about what needs to be developed
  • Remember that their brain is still developing
  • Use the phrase “you’re showing me you still need practice doing ___”

In working with our children this way, we are helping our children develop the skills we hope them to have: sound decision making, rational problem solving, being able to regulate their emotions, having personal insight and reflection, and being able to face their fears.

My Amygdala Made Me Do it!

Dr. Bryson discussed the “downstairs” or “primitive” brain which is made up of the brain stem and limbic system, and the “upstairs” brain which is made up of the frontal lobe and mid prefrontal cortex which is where more reasoned thinking takes place. This is the part of the brain that does not develop fully until age 23 in girls and age 25 in boys.

When fear and/or anger happens, the downstairs brain hijacks the upstairs brain. Because this area is still developing in our children, it is easily taken over by the more primitive and reactive part of the brain.

Upstairs Tantrums, Downstairs Tantrums

tantrum

There are different types of tantrums, which are controlled by the different parts of our brains. These two types call for different styles of response from us. Here, Dr. Bryson separates the two:

Upstairs:

  • Manipulative and controlling
  • Child can be reasoned with
  • Child can still make choices and is still in control
  • Parent should respond with an emphasis on authority (with warmth)
  • Set boundaries and limits with emotional responsiveness

Downstairs:

  • Loss of control, in distress/miserable
  • Reasoning doesn’t work
  • Stress hormones are raging
  • Can’t make choices
  • Parent should respond with comfort
  • Emphasize warmth with authority

So What #3?

Give your child practice using their “upstairs” brain. Here are some suggestions on how to develop it:

  • Offer choices or negotiate
  • Emphasize empathy (Ask: “how can you make it right” if they have hurt someone else or misbehaved – this gets them thinking from another’s perspective)
  • Emphasize personal insight and reflection
  • Give them practice doing it the right way
  • Allow them to struggle and face natural consequences
  • Allow them to make their argument, listen to them, sometimes make a concession
  • Be present and intentional. Reflecting the situation gives your child language for the future. For example: “It’s
  • OK if you want to be upset. I’m with you while you’re upset. Let me know when you want to be a problem solver”. Later, once they’ve calmed down, you can say “You were pretty mad. Do you really hate mommy? You just didn’t have the words to tell me how you felt, huh? What could you do next time?”

Do Time Outs Work?

There are 2 questions to ask yourself when your child is having a tough time:

  1. What is the lesson I want my child to learn right now?
  2. What is the most effective way to teach that lesson?

When you operate from this frame of mind you are being emotionally responsive, yet setting limits. Time outs don’t work because they are just a punishment. Your child is not getting any practice doing things the right way. Conversation, not time outs, is often the most effective way to teach your children.

The question to ask yourself is what do you want to be wired in your child? For me it is: “When you go through big emotions, I will be with you”. Dr. Bryson suggests that punishing a child with methods like time outs only lead them to see rejection, isolation and that when things are emotionally hard, mom or dad isn’t going to be here for me.

the whole-brain child

The workshop ended with a short session of questions and answers about developing empathy, how to handle breakdowns in public and getting out of power struggles. I left Dr. Bryson’s presentation with a much better sense of what was going on for my children when they’re being “difficult” and I believe this understanding has made me more attuned and more respectful.

I realize there is a ton of information in both this post and the previous one I wrote about Dr. Dan Siegel’s lecture, but I just didn’t want to leave anything out. Dr. Bryson is a witty, inspiring and insightful speaker, I would highly recommend hearing her lecture if you get the chance. And again, her book with Dr. Siegel, The Whole Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, Survive Everyday Parenting Struggles, and Help Your Family Thrive, is due to be out October 4th. Based on early reviews, I think this is going to be a must read!

So, what do you think? Does this information about how the brain develops and works seem like it could be helpful to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts about how you might use it or what questions it brings up for you.

What I Learned From My Father

I’ve written about my dad on this blog from time to time. I have a very complex and rich relationship with him. In many ways we are very, very similar. It is, perhaps, these similarities that give us the ability to understand each other and allow us to find common ground so often. It is also these similarities that cause us to hurt each other deeply and quickly. Even now, knowing each other for more than 40 years, we can wound each other with an offhand remark, an interruption, a stilted phone call.

joel-profile - beardBut there is no one I admire more than my father. No one I would turn to but him when it comes to a question about my writing or a book I read that I want to discuss. He is the first one I go to when it come to a desire to understand or delve deeper into something metaphysical, spiritual or just plain “alternative”.

I often joke that the reason I am so completely un-athletic (to the point of not even knowing how to ride a bike) is because my father was only interested in taking me to museums and art-house films when I was a kid. In some ways, this is true. Those are things he loves. And I wanted to be with him, I wanted him to love me and share with me.

My father delved deeply into hallucinogenic drugs in the late 60’s and early 70’s. This was partly because of the culture of the time and partly an attempt to reach his schizophrenic brother on an even playing field. He struggled with brief, but intense, anxiety attacks which he was able to keep from everyone, including my mother. At one point, while we were living in England, my mother took me back to New York to visit my grandparents and my father entered a meditation retreat. There his attacks intensified. On a subsequent trip to London, where he intended to sell our car and then return to New York, he experienced a terrifying mental breakdown that went on for two weeks, until he was arrested and put in jail with some Irish hippies who had taken him in. By the time my mother and I returned to London, he was back to normal. I was just about the age my children are now when all of this happened. I don’t remember this period, yet when I write about it, it makes me cry. Perhaps because I have no real memories of my own, the jumbled stories and bits of information I’ve put together over the years have colored this time for me. I know he was careful to not take acid when I was around, and even my mother didn’t know he was having these panic attacks, but I wonder if my 4-year old self sensed the trouble and it laid some groundwork for our later struggles to connect.

As a young girl, my father taught me to love books. By that I mean not just the words, but the books themselves. I remember him showing me, with great care, how books were bound, how some paper was more beautiful to the touch than others, how each type of font gave a different feel to the words we read. Every wall in our apartment was lined, floor to ceiling, with books. He read voraciously, always collecting more; from used book stores, from piles of “freebies” left on the curb, and later, from online booksellers. Parting with them (at my mother’s insistence) was like asking him to give away a piece of himself.

joel & gina-laugh077He also taught me to do something that I feel passionate about, and to do it to the very best of my ability, whether or not I get rich doing it. Late into the night I could hear my father type, type, typing as he worked on translating pieces of literature from German to English, writing his own articles, essays, and novels. I watched as he considered every single word he put on paper, knowing that each made a subtle difference to what he was trying to say. I wondered if being the son of a Pultizer prize winning author was a double-edged sword sometimes. And with all these great writers in my family, for many years I channeled my creativity into anything but writing.

As I grew older I think my natural need to push him away, my confusion about how he felt about me and his super sensitivity to feeling dismissed led us to go through a long period of emotional separation. Living away from home during college helped me see my parents in a different light. As a kid, my father’s long hair and hippie style embarrassed me. Meeting other people who had “straight” parents helped me see how cool my dad actually was. Growing older, going through a divorce, therapy and intense soul-searching led me to understand my father and my relationship to him much better. And I can’t take all the credit. My father has spent years figuring himself out as well.

papa jah & kidsThe best thing my father has taught me is to look inside myself, to try to understand why I do things, to not shy away from the uncomfortable or ugly. We still hurt each other now and then, we still have times of not understanding each other; but now we know how to talk about it and how to see both sides. Best of all, now I see my dad as a wonderful grandfather that my kids adore. The silly letters full of fanciful drawings he sends them are met with yelps of joy. Not being able to say his name, Joel, they called him “Papa Jah” which suited my dad perfectly – it sounds like some Indian guru.

Father’s Day is on Sunday. My dad was never one for “Hallmark Holidays”, but it’s a perfect chance for me to tell him that I know I chose him to be my dad for a reason and I know whatever struggles we have had (together and separately) have served to make us better people. And most of all, it’s a chance to tell him thank you for teaching me that being a good parent means sticking with it, even when it’s hard.

I’d love to hear what your fathers have taught you. Leave a message in the comments below so we can celebrate your dads, too. And happy Father’s Day to you all!

Compassionate, Resilient Children Begin In The Mind

I left Sunday’s Skirball Center seminars on compassion, resilience and emotional intelligence with my mind buzzing. Not surprising, because I had spent most of the day talking about the mind. Yes, we discussed brain structure, making sense of our own childhoods, mindfulness and much more…and it was fascinating!

Dr. Dan Siegel was the keynote speaker at the seminar and began by relating a tragic story of a family who had come to him for help after the mother sustained severe brain trauma in a car accident. After a coma, brain surgery and successful plastic surgery the mother looked the same as she had before, but she was no longer able to connect and attune to her family. She was irritable, short tempered, disconnected and seemed as if she no longer cared about even the smallest of details. Not surprisingly, the children were devastated.

In trying to help this family, what Dr. Siegel realized is that the part of the brain that had been destroyed in this woman (the Middle Prefrontal Cortex) was the part of the brain that regulated these 9 functions:

  • Bodily Regulation – such as heart rate, breathing, sweating
  • Attuned Communication – where you’re receptive and regulated
  • Emotional Balance – your emotions have vitality, but they are not too much or too little
  • Fear Extinction – the ability to stay present
  • Flexibility – allowing you to pause before you act
  • Insight – your ability to connect where you’ve been to where you’re going. This allows you to make a mental map of yourself, as opposed to just being on autopilot. You can look to the past, connect to where you are, decide where you need to go.
  • Empathy – feel the feelings of others, make a mental map of others which is making a map of what you think others may be feeling
  • Morality – the ability to understand that we are all interdependent
    Intuition – signals come from heart/gut and influence reasoning.

It was no wonder this mother couldn’t attune or connect to her children anymore. After understanding this, Dr. Siegel began to put together a fascinating discovery:

  • These 9 areas are the very ones we all lose when we “flip our lids” with our children. In other words, we lose the ability to coordinate brain function.
  • It has been scientifically proven that the first 8 of these brain functions are present in a child who has secure attachments.
  • Later, mindfulness meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn, pointed out to Dr. Siegel that when you are in a state of complete mindfulness, all 9 of these functions are integrated.
  • Furthermore, Dr. Siegel came to learn that the major world religions and ancient peoples, such as the Inuit, taught that all 9 are what one needs to live a wise and kind life.

If we want children who are kind, connected, resilient, compassionate and emotionally healthy, it stands to reason that we need to help them grow and integrate this part of the brain. Dr. Siegel began to develop the idea of Mindsight which he defines as “our ability to look within and perceive the mind”. It is an awareness of thoughts, intentions and mental life and he believes that it is every bit as essential to our well-being as any of our other senses. Every disorder is due to not being integrated, Mindsight promotes neural integration.

Flipping Your Lid!

Many people worry that if they had a terrible childhood, they will not be a good parent. But Dr. Siegel pointed out that the best predictor of how you will relate to your child is how you make sense of your own attachment history. When you are flipping your lid, you now see that it is your brain not connecting as it should. So, as one of Dr Siegel’s patients put it, “it may not be my fault, but it is my responsibility”. If you can, keep in mind that when you can’t tolerate an emotion in yourself, you can’t tolerate it in someone else. So if someone evokes that emotion in you, it makes you furious. For example, if you can’t tolerate vulnerability in yourself, and your child acts vulnerable, you will get irrationally angry with your child. But you won’t understand this unless you begin to make sense of your past.

What Do I Do After I Lose it?

The mind is always emerging. If you have a rupture with your child, repair it. Be present, don’t be defensive, explain yourself. As Dr. Siegel said “If you know the truth, you can overcome anything”. In other words, if your child knows why you yelled, slammed a door, gave a too-harsh consequence, they can make sense of the situation in their own brain and let it go.

  1. Tell your child why: I was frustrated, I was stressed because of work, I was reminded of something that happened when I was a child etc. It’s never too late to do this type of repair – no matter how old your children are, connect and take responsibility.
  2. Remember that children thrive on structure so set up a predictable sequence of action for situations that stress you.
  3. Model that you’re monitoring and bring yourself from reactive to receptive.

Healthy Mind Platter For Optimal Brain Matter

healthy mind platterDr. Siegel believes that there are 7 activities we need on a daily basis in order to develop a healthy mind.

Sleep Time

Kids need sleep to solidify learning. Lack of sleep leads to a change in metabolism which can lead to obesity.

Physical Time

Aerobic exercise grows the brain. Remember: the body isn’t just to transport the head around. Girls involved in sports have a lower rate of eating disorders.

Focus Time

Focused attention creates new connections in the brain for both adults and children. We can actually prevent dementia by having a routine of focused attention.

Connecting Time

Children need face to face social time. Among other things, this helps them build the part of the brain that allows them to regulate their emotions. This is also about connecting to nature.

Play Time

Not structured athletics. Pure play. This time helps us learn to be spontaneous, have the courage to try new things, innovate, collaborate.

Down Time

Not playing, just in neutral.

Time in

Dr. Siegel presented a model of The Wheel Of Awareness in which he showed our connection to our 8 senses. The first 5 we are familiar with. The sixth sense allows us to perceive our internal bodily states (a quickly beating heart, butterflies in the stomach etc.). The seventh sense, is Mindsight (as defined above). Our eighth sense is our sense of relationship to other people. “Time in” is a chance each day to connect to all of these senses.

Dr. Siegel has written a new book called Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation which I am reading and really liking so far. He has another book coming out this Fall which he co-authored with Tina Payne Bryson titled, The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, Survive Everyday Parenting Struggles, and Help Your Family Thrive. You can pre-order that one on Amazon now. I can’t wait to check that out!

After Dr. Siegel’s lecture I took a workshop with Ms. Bryson on Whole-Brain parenting which was a terrific follow up to what I had just learned. She really took these theories and broke it down into understandable ways to use it in every day parenting. I plan to put what I learned into a blog post later this week as well.

One of the things I love about Dan Siegel is his ability to take very complex subjects and make them understandable to the layman. I hope I was able to do his fascinating, funny and insightful lecture some justice. If you ever get a chance to hear him speak, I highly, highly recommend it. In fact, if you can, he’s speaking about this same subject on a webinar June 14th at noon (Pacific time). You can register by clicking here. And what about this idea of the 9 brain functions and the Healthy Mind Platter? Do you relate to Dr. Siegel’s statement that you lose connection to all 9 when you “flip your lid”? Do you think your kids incorporate the entire platter every day? I’d love to know your thoughts.

8 Books That Teach Your Kids Emotional Intelligence

The term “Emotional Intelligence” has always resonated with me. It just makes sense to me that teaching my children to recognize, assess and control their own emotions and those of others, would help them grow up to be confident, resilient, self-assured people. There are many methods that help children develop this skill, one way is to share books that teach about understanding your feelings.

I’ve been wanting to write a post for some time about this idea for a number of reasons. The main one being that nothing helps cement an idea better for my children than hearing it read aloud from a picture book. As I began to think about which titles to include, I realized that I had put together a bookshelf of books that taught not just about emotional intelligence, but also other life skills and values that we think are important in our family.

Updated: February 01, 2018

Our Top Eight

 

ahns angerAnh’s Anger

It is about a boy who gets furious when his grandfather interrupts his play time, comes face to face with his own anger and eventually learns how to express and control his feelings. I love this book because it gives kids concrete ideas of what to do when they “meet” their anger (mindful breathing, moving their bodies to dispel the energy etc.), allows you to have conversations with your children about what they think their anger might look like or what they would do when their anger shows up, and provides a great model for parents on how to be calm and compassionate when children are experiencing such strong emotions.


today i feel sillyToday I Feel Silly

And Other Moods That Make My Day. I think the best thing about this book is that it covers a wide range of emotions. Reading it gives you a chance to point out that moods change from day to day (or moment to moment) and gives your child an increased vocabulary because we all know that we feel more than just mad and sad. Sometimes we also feel discouraged, grumpy, lonely and more. Laura Cornell’s watercolor illustrations are also very evocative and a great accompaniment to Jamie Lee Curtis’ rhyming verse.


my mouth is a volcanoMy Mouth Is A Volcano

While not technically about understanding one’s emotions, this is a great book to help your kids pay attention to their thoughts. The boy with the volcanic mouth is Louis and when he thinks of something he wants to say, the words wiggle and jiggle their way out and he ends up interrupting everyone around him. His mother finally teaches a fun method that helps him respect others and wait his turn. I can’t say my kids have perfected this technique, but the book has given them the language to discuss being interrupted, what it means to be patient and how it feels when you are desperate to say what you want to say. Plus, now my daughter says “you’re erupting me!” at least once a day, which is just too cute to correct. I don’t like that time outs are used in this book as a way to correct Louis’ behavior at first, but when we read it together I use that as a way to talk with our children about how we don’t do that in our family and why!


no matter whatNo Matter What

This is a sweet book that explores a child’s anxiety about whether his parent would still love him “no matter what”. The little fox (“small”) is very grumpy at bedtime and questions the parent (“large”): “If I were a grumpy grizzly bear,/would you still love me?/Would you still care?” or “…if I turned into a squishy bug,/would you still love me and give me a hug?” While similar to books like “Mama Do You Love Me” and “Guess How Much I Love You”, this one is still a lovely bedtime addition, especially for little ones, and it gives parents a chance to soothe this common childhood anxiety.


have you filled a bucket todayHave You Filled A Bucket Today?

This is another of my favorites and it has really helped give my kids language to discuss how being kind to someone else makes them feel. The concept of the book is simple: everyone has an invisible bucket that is filled up or emptied depending on how they interact with others. Being kind to someone fills up not only their bucket, but yours as well. After reading this book my children now often ask if they have filled their buckets when I compliment them for being kind and we can then talk about the emotions it brings up to have an empty bucket or a full one.


angry octopusAngry Octopus: A Relaxation Story

This funny story about an octopus that doesn’t know how to control his anger until a “sea child” teaches him to calm his mind and body using progressive muscle relaxation has been a hit with my kids since I bought it a few weeks ago. They love to pretend that they are the octopus and practice tightening and releasing all the muscles in their bodies. I haven’t tried it yet when my kids are angry, but it has worked wonders at bed time when they are over-stimulated and need help relaxing. I include it in the emotional intelligence list because it does such a good job of helping kids tune in and quiet their minds and bodies. With that skill mastered, they would surely learn how to recognize and control their emotions. If you like this book, be sure to check out the author’s site Stress Free Kids she’s got some terrific ideas to help with all aspects of parenting.


the grouchiesThe Grouchies

I downloaded this as a free iPad app, but it is also available as a paperback book. A 5-year old boy wakes up with grey, grouchy clouds which follow him all day through a fight with his sister, being mean to friends at the playground and an emotional meltdown at the end of the day. His parents are calm and understanding throughout and eventually give him the advice: “the grouchies could be strong and make their way sound good. But rude and grumpy actions are never understood.” Mom and Dad give him a handful of suggestions about how to ward off the bad mood next time. In the morning, he wakes again with the grouchies tempting him, but manages to head off with happy smiles using a plan to be kind to everyone. My children both were very interested in everything the boy was experiencing as it was all very relatable. The drawings are crisp, colorful and pleasant to look at. Best of all, for parents, is a terrific couple of pages at the end of the book with tips and advice on how to help our kids through grouchy moods.


feelings showRuby’s Studio: The Feelings Show

Although not a book, I would be remiss to not mention The Mother Company’s terrific DVD, Ruby’s Studio: The Feelings Show. This is a very cool show that helps young children understand, appropriately express, and move through their feelings. The show’s host, Ruby, guides children to learn about their emotions through art projects, music, animations and a puppet show. My kids absolutely adore this video and even had a chance to meet Ruby recently and make a “feelings book” with her which was a highlight for my daughter, especially. There are segments in the show that focus on anger, frustration, sadness and more. This is the first episode of what will hopefully be many more to come.


This is just a short list of some of the books we really like that have helped our kids explore their emotions. I’m always on the lookout for more. Leave a comment below and let me know what you think about these or suggest some others your family likes!

10 Apps You And Your Kids Will Love

When I was in high school I opted to learn how to type as opposed to learning how to use a computer. At the time, computers were big, clunky machines that you needed a working knowledge of HTML and codes to get much out of. “What will I ever need a computer for”, I said. “Now typing, that’s something I will always use”! Ok, ok. I was obviously not one of those people who had much vision about where the world was headed.

It’s strange to think that our children will never know a world without computers. But I suppose many of our parents thought the same thing about us and television. I’m not generally a huge fan of technology for young children and have written before about waiting until after age 3 to introduce television to our kids, but I have let them play with a few iPhone apps and now that I also have an iPad, and the kids are a little older, I’ve broadened my range of what they play with and I have to say, some of the apps out there are pretty terrific.

My Top 10 iPhone and iPad Apps for young children

Peekaboo Barn

$1.99 (although there is a very good “lite” version for free as well). This was the first app I ever tried and it was perfect for my kids when they were younger. Even at age 4, they still really enjoy it. Your kids will love opening the door of the barn with a tap and calling out the names of the animals shown (and later, reading the name as well). I also like it because the illustrations are charming. If your kids like this one, they’ll also love the other versions Peekaboo Wild and Peekaboo Forest which both have more exotic animals than the barn version. All are formatted for both iPhone and iPad.

Doodle Buddy

FREE. This app is so simple, but it entertains my children for ages. simply using your finger, you can draw with chalk or glitter, paint with a paint brush, add stamps with sound effects and drop in textured backgrounds. They’re perfectly happy using it on my iPhone, but the iPad gives you a bigger screen on which to create.

Doodle Kids

FREE. Developed for both the iPhone and iPad. This one I especially love because it was actually invented by a 9-year old boy. Crazy, I know. Each time you move your fingers across the touch-screen you are drawing using randomly sized shapes in a rainbow of colors. Triangles, dots, flowers – each time you place your finger on the screen it changes. Place two fingers and you get a different ombre color as a background on which to draw. Shake the device and the screen clears. What you can create is actually quite beautiful and hypnotizing.

The Velveteen Rabbit

$3.99. iPhone and iPad compatible. My kids and I absolutely love this one. As you may know, we’re huge reading fans in our house and The Velveteen Rabbit is a childhood favorite of mine. It’s unfortunately still a little wordy for my 4-year olds, so I was thrilled to find this app because it made this beautiful story come alive for my kids in a way I hadn’t yet been able to achieve. What’s especially wonderful about this app is that it has three ways to use it: the first is a recording of the terrific Meryl Streep reading while we watch the beautifully rendered animated drawings. The second is simply the illustrated book which you can read aloud to your child as you scroll through the pages. The third, and I thought most inventive, was the ability to record your own voice so that your children can scroll through the book and hear mommy or daddy’s voice. My children were completely captivated, even while watching it on my tiny iPhone screen. I highly recommend this one!

The Adventures of The 7Wonderlicious Girls

$5.99 For iPhone and iPad. This is an app created by a mother whose mission is to empower young girls to think beyond limits, to be self-confident, adventurous and bold, to appreciate the differences in others, to have a passion for learning and so much more. From her website: “Using role models that your daughter can identify herself with is important in early childhood. We selected 7 girls of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds enabling your girl to connect with one or many of our characters. Hopefully they will inspire the next generation of confident women.” The illustrations are sweet and colorful and each page is a stand alone short tale with questions you can ask your children to encourage their thinking process.

Spot The Dot

$3.99 iPad only. This is the newest app I’ve downloaded and it is spectacular. Not surprisingly, since it is created by David A. Carter who is a modern master of pop-up books. This app uses bright colors, geometric shapes and simple hide and seek tasks that gradually get more difficult. Plus, I love that each time you use it the hidden objects are in different places so it doesn’t get boring. My kids love this one and ask for it repeatedly. Your children will learn color identification, build memory skills and exercise their visual tracking and hand eye coordination.

Paper Town Friends

$1.99 for iPhone and iPad. If you liked paper dolls as a kid, you’ll love this charming dress-up app. 6 animal friends all in need of new wardrobes. The best part? Everything looks like it’s made of paper (as you choose an item to wear, each one even has a “paper” sound effect). It’s very simple, but both my son and daughter get a kick out of dressing and re-dressing the figures. You can also save them to your iPhone camera roll if you wish.

MeeGenius!

FREE. Without having to pay anything, downloading this app gets you 12 classic children’s stories. A recording of each book plays while words are highlighted to allow early readers to follow along. MeeGenius also has many more books which can be purchased for between 99¢ and $2.99. The developer claims to allow you to personalize the books so you can read them with the names and places changed, which I know my kids would get a kick out of. Perhaps I am a dope, but I can’t seem to get this trick to work for me. Regardless, I like the app a lot – it’s a great way to carry a bunch of books along with you if you can’t actually carry any!

Splish Splash Inn

99¢ This is a really sweet, simple app that’s perfect for little ones learning to count. Open this app and you will find a bright, happy and somewhat retro underwater hotel where a tap on each numbered door brings forth a corresponding number of sea creatures (one shark, two turtles etc.).

My First Tangrams

$1.99 (there is also a free “lite” version with 4 puzzles if you want to try that out first). iPad only. I expected my daughter to love this app because she has a real knack for puzzles, patterns and spatial relationships. But it turned out that both my kids loved this one and even whisper encouragement to each other as they try to figure out where the pieces of the puzzle go.

As my children are only 4, they do better with apps that are more about creating, reading and figuring things out as opposed to games that need them to compete with each other. These have been some of their favorites so far. What apps do your kids like? I’d love to learn about new ones!

Enjoying Every Moment

I had hoped to have time to craft a brilliant piece of writing to tide you over until after the holiday weekend, but the craziness of my week seemed to have gotten the better of me. I may not have written as much as I had hoped, but I did manage to spend more time than usual with my children and had some special one on one time this week. No matter how down or unappreciated I might feel from time to time, the shrieks of joy that accompany my offer of time alone with mommy instantly brighten my day.

ice creamOur son chose to spend our afternoon eating ice cream, shopping for every imaginable piece of clothing that had a skull and cross bones on it, going to the bookstore to read for a while and riding an old fashioned trolley (on which the conductor sweetly allowed him to twice ring the bell and call “all aboooard!” into the microphone). He was overjoyed. And frankly, so was I.

Our daughter, then decided that this sounded so great that she wanted me to duplicate the day with her. And so we did. She, too, had strawberry ice cream with rainbow sprinkles but the trolley was on a break and we ran out of time before the bookstore (and she chose mermaids over pirates). But we had a great time talking and sharing time together without the distraction of her having to compete for attention.

I adore these two. And I am eternally gratefully for the time I get with them. Even when they drive me batty I know that I am truly lucky. And I know that there will come a time, in the not too distant future, when my son’s eyes won’t sparkle with excitement over time alone with mom and my daughter will no longer lift my hair to tell me the secret “you are the best mommy in the world”. For now, I try to drink it all in and treasure the moments I have here and now. All too soon they will be foggy memories.

So, with this in mind, I decided to take our family away for a last minute weekend trip. The four of us together for the whole weekend without classes and softball games and computers to distract us from each other. I’m sure we’ll have some not so great moments, but I plan to roll with it and just enjoy 3 days with the 3 people I love most in the world.

I wish you all a wonderful holiday weekend. I hope you are spending it with people you love. I’ll be back to writing again after the weekend. If you are able, I would so appreciate your votes over the next few days. My blog is hanging on to the 13th spot in the Top 25 Parents With Multiples blog competition – I can use all the help I can get! Many thanks to those of you who have already voted (you can vote every day until Monday)!