November 1, 2010
In the 3 ½ years since Jayda’s birth, I’ve dated a bit, but my daughter has never suspected a thing. In the past, I’ve been critical of some of my single mom friends who introduced a man whom they were dating to their young child early in the relationship, and I’ve always believed that you shouldn’t involve your kid in your romantic life—until the relationship becomes very serious. Children of single moms need to have stable, trustworthy men whom they can count on in their lives, and just because a woman is hot for a guy doesn’t mean he should instantly be declared a role model for her child. I’d hate for my daughter to get to know one of my dates—and really like him—and then have him disappear. I’d also hate for my daughter to become jealous of a guy I’m dating and worry that she’s going to stop being the focus of my attention; of course that would never happen, but why plant even a seed of doubt in her mind if the relationship isn’t going to last? It’s funny, but for someone who hasn’t had a serious relationship in years, I sure have strong ideas about them, and a definite agenda when Jayda is involved. However, as I’ve discovered way too many times since I became a mother, things don’t always turn out the way you plan them.
The first time I met Library Guy, the man I’m currently dating, I was with Jayda, and now, several times a week, Jayda plays with his sons. So much for holding off on an introduction! However, it is still true that Jayda has no idea I’m dating Library Guy. The dynamic between us when the kids are around is much different than the one we share on Friday nights when we’re alone. Jayda refers to Library Guy and his kids as “our friends” when they show up at the playground we’re at, or appear at the library when I’ve texted Library Guy that we’ll be there, and always runs over and happily greets them. I simply wave to my guy, and eventually we ease closer to each other, but we never show any open displays of affection. Sometimes, when the kids are engaged, he’ll slyly grab my hand or rub my back, but our physical connection ends there. To the kids, our play dates are like any other play dates, and for some reason, they’ve never questioned the fact that we get together once or twice a week now—which is more than they see their really good friends outside of school.
Somehow, Library Guy and his kids have seamlessly integrated themselves into our lives. His boys often run over to me and tell me stories when they see me, and Jayda shyly flirts with Library Guy whenever she has a chance. So far, it’s been easy and comfortable, and sometimes I almost forget that no one’s supposed to know we’re dating. A few times, people have mistaken one of Library Guy’s sons for mine—and referred to Jayda as his daughter—so clearly there’s an apparent connection between us. But the kids have no idea. The other day, Library Guy shocked me by kissing me when our children were running down a hill in front of us; they didn’t see us…but they could have. And maybe one day they will. It got me wondering about when and how I should tell Jayda what’s going on. The ink on Library Guy’s divorce papers is barely dry, so it’s too soon to let his kids in on our secret—and I’m not ready to talk to about our relationship with Jayda either. But I can’t help contemplating it…and wondering what Jayda will think or say. I also wonder what will happen if our relationship starts to fizzle soon—and if Jayda will be disturbed about not seeing Library Guy and his boys for play dates anymore. Right now, I love that our kids play well together—and when Jayda greets Library Guy enthusiastically, it makes me smile. So isn’t she already getting attached to him and his family in some capacity? Is she counting on them to be around for awhile? I guess no matter how hard we try to shield our children from getting hurt, we can’t protect them from everything. They have to live their lives; and so do we. And being a good mom simply means acting as responsibly as you can, and doing the best you can do. As hard as it is for me to admit, I can’t plan everything, and I can’t predict anything. I can just keep hoping that everything will work out the way it’s supposed to…and that my daughter and I will live happily ever after—with a guy, or without.
October 31, 2010
Since I received a huge response to my blog last week on “What is a Good Mommy?” I felt compelled to continue with the search for this answer.
According to the blog Zen Habits, here are “12 Awesome Tips:”
Obviously, a great mom loves her kids, takes care of their basic physical and emotional needs, and spends quality time with them. But what are the subtler, less obvious ways to become a great mom?
1. Stay true to yourself. You don’t have to give up your own passions and interests once you become a mom. It’s important that you find time for what YOU love to do. Reading, writing, exercising – make these a priority and find a way to incorporate those into your routine. Easier said than done, I know, but you should at least aim to keep doing what you love, even if you don’t get to do it as often as before. If you take care of your own needs, you will be happier and will function better as a mom.
2. Don’t be a martyr. The kids didn’t ask for it, they don’t need it, and they certainly don’t need to pay the price that comes with being mothered by a martyr. Need some time alone? Let the kids watch TV for an hour and go read a book. Feel like you haven’t had adult interaction in ages? Leave them with Dad for the evening and make plans to have dinner with a friend. Getting to the point where you are utterly exhausted is not good for you or for your kids.
3. Don’t try to be perfect. This is true for life in general, and is a major personal goal of mine, regardless of motherhood. Striving for perfection is always a bad idea, because life is messy and unpredictable and full of surprises. Trying to create perfection, or to maintain complete control, is simply impossible and should never be your goal. Once you become a mom, life is messier and crazier than ever before, so it’s more important than ever to let go of that perfectionism. You need to accept that the house will sometimes be untidy, that once in a while dinner will be takeout, and that the kids will sometimes have to entertain themselves while you recharge and regroup.
4. Ditch the guilt. Guilt seems to be one of the most common side effects of motherhood. A friend once told me that she feels guilt every single day. I too am often guilty of feeling guilty. But I am working on it: guilt is unhelpful and a terrible waste of time and energy. Once you make a decision, whether a major one like staying at home vs. going back to work, or a small one like allowing the kids to play a computer game while you have some time for yourself, try to avoid second-guessing yourself. You are doing the best that you can. No one is perfect, and you are not expected to be a perfect mom or to never make mistakes. As long as you love them and provide their basic needs, your kids will turn out fine. Really.
5. Be Patient. Raising kids is hard work. Kids are noisy, messy and incredibly demanding. Yes, you will lose your patience once in a while. I do. But for the most part, try to take a deep breath and see them for the small, helpless people that they are. I am not a patient person by nature, but motherhood has taught me to be more patient than I ever thought I could possibly be.
6. Listen to your children. REALLY listen. This is a tough one for me, but I keep trying. We tend to assume that we know more than our kids do, which is true to some extent of course, so we don’t really bother to listen. In addition, we often act as problem-solvers, dishing immediate advice, when all they need is for us to listen to them. A couple of months ago, my 8 years old told me about problems she was having with friends at school. I immediately offered a solution, and it was obvious she was disappointed. She wasn’t looking for a solution. She simply wanted me to listen.
7. Be their mom, not their friend. Set limits. In a way, it was easy for previous generations. Parents were parents. Kids were kids. Families were patriarchal. Everyone listened and obeyed to the father. Now, families are democratic. We negotiate, talk things over, and listen to each other. We make important decisions together. This is great, but kids still need us to be their parents and set clear limits. We should listen to them and respect them – but we are not their peers. When I was a pre-teen, I used to snap at my mom, “I’m not going to be your friend anymore!” She would look at me calmly and respond, “Well, you are NOT my friend. You are my daughter”. It used to drive me crazy, but she was right. Our job is to be our kids’ mothers – not their friends.
8. Teach them simplicity. You will do them a big – a HUGE – favor, if you teach them at a young age to avoid associating happiness with the accumulation of material possessions. The younger they are, the more likely they are to listen to you, so start early. My kids are 6 and 8, and I often feel that now is the time to instill my values in them, before they are teens (or pre-teens) and peer pressure takes over. When it’s time to declutter, I allow my daughters to be part of the process, and we talk about how we don’t need all that STUFF. We never go shopping as a fun outing. They know that shopping is a necessary evil, something that you do when you really NEED something. Instead of buying books, we borrow books at the library. We reuse as much as we can. Together, we take pride in living in a clean, airy, uncluttered home.
9. Don’t push them too hard. I was raised as an overachiever, and I can testify from my own experience that overachieving does NOT lead to happiness. I do want my kids to be successful. I want them to reach their full potential and to be financially secure. But I am trying not to push them too hard and to maintain a relatively relaxed approach to success at school and to after-school enrichment activities.
10. Teach them self-esteem. I am borrowing this one from Leo’s list, because it is so important. In fact, I agree with Leo that high self-esteem is the single most important gift that a parent can give their kids. A person with a high self-esteem values herself and will not get into, or stay in, an abusive relationship. A person with high self-esteem is more likely to be happy and to reach her full potential. How do you teach your kids self-esteem? Exactly the way Leo said: by showing them that you value them, by spending time with them, and by talking with them and listening to them.
11. Teach them to be self-reliant. Another one that I struggle with every day. It’s very tempting to help your children in a way that robs them of the opportunity to help themselves. At every developmental stage your child reaches, she can do things by herself. If you do them for her, you are not really helping her, but rather holding her back. Gently teach her independence and let her do what she can do, and what is appropriate for her to do, by herself. The sense of accomplishment that comes with being independent is immensely important for a child. I once read in Penelope Leach’s book something that left a huge impression on me: good parents work themselves out of the picture – slowly. As much as I like to feel needed, I try to let my kids be as independent and self-sufficient as they possibly can. Ever so slowly, I am working myself out of the picture.
12. Laugh and have fun! When you’re a mom, it’s easy to become so absorbed in the logistics of taking care of your kids – what Leo refers to as the “mom stuff” – that you forget to relax and have fun. But kids are fun. They give you a wonderful opportunity to be a child all over again, and to do things that you never thought you would do as an adult (jumping in puddles is so much fun!) and see the world through their innocent, curious eyes. Haven’t noticed interesting insects and colorful butterflies in several years? You are going to start noticing them again once you have kids.
Gagazine presents eight tips for being a Great Mom:
1. Always have time for family meals
According to a recent study, regular family meals can help develop good eating habits in children. To add to that, it also gives parents and kids the opportunity to communicate. With proper guidance, kids are less likely to engage in risky behaviors like drug and alcohol use.
2. Be creative
Even if you anticipate the needs of your children, there are just instances when you can overlook certain things. If you failed to purchase some school materials, or if you got the wrong costume, don’t give up just yet. With a little creativity, you can make equally good substitutes out of ordinary things at home.
3. Try to be always available
Give your kids the impression that you are always willing to help them out with anything at all. Whether its school related like homework or assignments to personal problems, let them know that you are always ready to lend an ear or to extend a helping hand.
4. Learn as you go
Parenting is a skill that is mastered through time. Learn from your mistakes, and try to respond positively to a negative situation. Even if you had a bad day, take it as a learning experience that can help you become a better mom to your kids.
5. Spoil your kids with love
You can never go wrong if you shower your kids with love through hugs, kisses, and “I love you’s.” But you have to make sure that you don’t give your kids material things in place of love. While we want the best for our kids, it will not do them any good if they have too much materially.
6. Take care of yourself, too
Squeeze in time for rest and relaxation, and don’t feel guilty if you have to do things for yourself. If you are too stressed out, it can affect the way you relate to your kids. If you are already too irritable, perhaps it is already a sign that you need to pamper yourself.
7. Trust your instincts
If you have this nagging feeling that something is not right for your kids, perhaps it is best to rethink a decision. Moms have quite a reputation for their instincts, and you need to use this for your child’s best interests.
8. Learn when to seek for help
Although we want to do everything for our kids, there are just times when we need to seek the help of others to save our own sanity. Moms who ask help from their partners or other family members are not ineffective parents. They are rather strong women capable of recognizing their limitations.
Trying to answer this question, Babyzone.com offers parents a humorous quiz for parents, with questions like this:
- When it comes to parenting, I feel:
Totally enraptured: I was born to do this
Like I’ve done my homework, and it’ll all work out fine
Thankful therapy isn’t so stigmatized anymore
- Choosing a sleep method was…
Simple. We read a bunch of guides, and kept trying until one worked
Like this: I put the baby in the crib. Then she slept
Wait, what’s sleep again? We’ve not nailed that one yet
- How important is keeping your house clean and organized?
Very. My family benefits from a totally kempt home
Some—finding the baby’s bathtub is helpful for giving him one
Are you joking again?
- How much exposure does your baby have to the arts?
We go to museums and concerts fairly regularly
We own play dough
And, here’s their conclusion:
You sure are a great mom!
The truth is, whether you choose co-sleep, use disposable diapers, stay at home, only buy specific toys for baby … or any one of a million other decisions, there have long been children who turned out A-OK on account (and in spite!) of similar ones made for them. Parenting is a subjective series of actions and reactions, and it looks like you’re being proactive about your child’s health, development, and overall happiness……..
And while it may feel impossible to resist the temptation to compare yourself to other mothers, you need to take stock in the smart decisions you make every day on behalf of your family. Read more about why competitive parenting just isn’t worth it.
Here’s my truth: Today, my son said “You are a great mommy,” again. In that moment, the sun, the stars and the moon shone so brightly above that my heart nearly burst with love and joy. If I’m like you, with (moments of) a lack of self-confidence and the feeling that I can always do better; with childhood wounds that cement the feeling that all is ‘not ok,’ it’s so hard, sometimes, to believe that especially in my children’s eyes, I am ok. And, I’m not just “ok,” but I am also, according to them, a “good” to “great” Mommy just the way I am.
It doesn’t get any better than that. I absolutely love being a Mommy.
October 30, 2010
For more than 10 years I promised myself I would write something exclusively for our son Michael and daughter Caroline. It would be a family history, deeply personal, straight from me to my kids.
After all, I’d already cranked out just about everything for everyone else. I’d done essays, articles, memos, speeches, newsletters, brochures and two unpublished novels. I’d contributed to newspapers, magazines, websites, book publishers, corporations, clients and private citizens alike.
Surely I could manage to handle a writing assignment for my own children.
But I just never got around to it. Somehow or other, I never found the time, only plenty of excuses. I had a full-time job. I had a part-time job. I needed to watch TV every night and play basketball on weekends. You’ve heard the song.
But then I resolved to do it. And on January 1, 2008, I started to keep a booklike journal, one for each child. Every week I took an hour or so to capture a special memory – how my son as a toddler slept on the carpet next to our bed, how my daughter mourned the loss of a goldfish.
I also shared anecdotes about my own life, mainly about my parents and grandparents. I recorded my first date with my now-wife, how it felt to land my first job, my occasional successes and frequent failures.
Letters to my kids, these were – equal parts celebration and confession, more fact than opinion, heavy on encouragement but light on advice.
That Christmas, I presented the handwritten journals as gifts. The next year I completed a second set, also handed over on Christmas. The two volumes contained more than 100 entries, amounting to almost 70,000 words, equivalent to about half a book.
Later, the kids — now 27 and 21 years of age — read the journals and gave me pretty good reviews. Certainly they expressed appreciation for my efforts.
I now take this private initiative public, with my blog letterstomykids.org, for a reason. It is to urge other parents to do the same.
Keeping a journal is simple. Telling stories to your kids out loud is all well and good, too. But conversation is just air. Often little remains. Documenting your memories, on the other hand – either with a journal, a video or an audiotape — lends the enterprise permanence.
Here are my top 10 tips for your historic new pasttime:
1. Decide To Do It. No, really. Decide wholeheartedly. You’re either in or you’re out.
2. Plan It All Out. Do at least an outline. Even Shakespeare needed a blueprint.
3. Vote For Reality. Kids can smell spin from a mile away. So opt for the truth about your family, however much it hurts.
4. Single Out The Highlights. Draw only from the richest memories at your command. Forgo trivia.
5. Stick To A Schedule. A little regularity never hurt anyone. Once a week is realistic.
6. Keep It Spontaneous. First thought, best thought, poet Allen Ginsberg said. The Bill of Rights protects this impulse.
7. Briefer Is Better. It’s the soul of wit, no?
8. Tell a story. Each entry will ideally have a beginning, a middle and an end. Maybe even a lesson.
9. Make every word count. Every sentence, too. Your readers will be keeping score, after all.
10. Anyone can write. We all have stories to tell and we’re all storytellers at heart. Period.
In the process, you’ll leave behind a keepsake even more precious than your wedding ring, an heirloom as valuable in its own right as your house, a tangible, heartfelt legacy for the next generation better than any insurance policy.
So invest in your past. As you summon memories to share, you’ll be in for a surprise. You’ll discover new truths about yourself. You’ll understand more about your life. Most rewarding, you’ll find out once and for all just how deeply you love your kids.
They’ll find out, too.
Bob Brody is an executive and essayist in New York City who blogs at http://www.letterstomykids.org/. His pieces have appeared in many publications, including The New York Times, Smithsonian and Reader’s Digest. By day, he’s a senior vice president/media specialist at Powell Tate, a division of the public relations firm Weber Shandwick.
October 29, 2010
After a successful run at The David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts (formerly the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center), Ken Davenport is presenting the New York City premiere of Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating, & Marriage (http://www.missabigailsguide.com/). The open-ended engagement is playing Off-Bway at the Downstairs Cabaret Theater at Sofia’s (221 West 46th Street, next to the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in NYC). Eve Plumb, TV’s famed Jan Brady, is making her New York theatrical debut in the lead role of Miss Abigail.
Written by Ken Davenport (Altar Boyz, My First Time, The Awesome 80s Prom) and Sarah Saltzberg (25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating, & Marriage is based on Abigail Grotke’s popular book—the comedy’s namesake—that promises “classic advice for contemporary dilemmas.” Davenport directs as Miss Abigail takes you back to a simpler time, before booty calls and speed-dating, back when the divorce rate wasn’t 50 percent and “Fidelity” was more than an investment firm.
It’s the story of Miss Abigail, the most sought-after relationship expert to the stars—think Dr. Ruth meets Emily Post—and her sexy sidekick Paco, as they travel the globe teaching Miss Abigail’s tongue ‘n cheek (and sometime cheeky) “how-tos” on dating, mating and marriage.
During this nearly 90-minute comedy (no intermission), you’ll learn a thing or two . . . like how to have a perfect kiss (it’s all about lip position) . . . what you should and should not talk about on a date (don’t mention your troll doll collection) . . . and how to let a man think he wears the pants.
It makes for a fun afternoon or night out with girlfriends, and it’s suitable for couples as well. There’s audience particpation, and a riotous short film on the subject of sex education.
Manuel Herrea, who plays Paco, provides sex appeal and considerable comic relief.
And, Ms. Plumb is in fine form….it was fun to see her morph into a dating expert…..from her days of Jan Brady. She’s come a long way and has aged well!
With the code FUNNYDATE, you may purchase $45 tickets (regular price: $75) to Miss Abigail’s Guide To Dating, Mating, & Marriage. Check out more about the show at: http://missabigailsguide.com/
Eve Plumb & Manuel Herrera