Popular Parenting Blog for Older Moms Over 35
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October 19, 2010
When I was 20 and studying Buddhism, I decided it was not for me. One of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism states that “Life is Suffering” and this negative kind of thinking just didn’t sit well with my youthful, ignorant, girl-from-Kansas self. Back then I was an optimist. Hopeful. Naïve. When you are 20, have big hair, wear size 8 Jordache jeans, and drive a 1978 Camaro with a killer stereo, there is very little compassion or understanding for suffering in life.
But fast forward only 15 years later, and that same unaware girl had gotten fat, had been married and divorced, hated her career, and drove a four-door Mercury. I was miserable, sad, lonely and afraid. So I turned once again to studying a spiritual way of life to turn my heart back on, and I kept coming back to the phrase, “Life is suffering.”
This is one of my favorite journeys into wisdom. And, no, I won’t tell you the complete lesson. You have to figure it out yourself or it’s no fun for the rest of us who ran around bumping into walls for ten years. But I can tell you this: the recognition of this truth does not bring about sorrow or loss or depression. It brings on freedom.
No matter what choice you make in life, you are going to have to pay a price for it. You cannot escape suffering. This insight is magnified in parenthood. I watch my boys make choices every day in their development that causes them pain and pleasure. I’m learning the lesson all over again. What follows is a very small, simplified example, but when it comes to wisdom, it’s good to start small sometimes:
Lyle and Wyatt both love little girls. They are fascinated by them – drawn to the bright pink clothes, the sparkly hair ties, and the fistfuls of curls on their head. Any girl brave enough to play with my boys will come away sans barrettes, headbands, hats, gloves or anything else that’s shimmering and pink. So on the playground Lyle follows the girls around, hoping for some attention. Sometimes an older girl will take a fancy to him and quickly makes him her baby by swaddling him in her coat and stuffing him into a makeshift crib under the jungle gym. Most of the time the girls scream and squeal and tell Lyle to go away.
Ah. Poor Lyle. He gets his heart broken. But the next day there he is again, trailing after the girls. But maybe this time he has learned something and he chooses not to be so grabby and aggressive. As a result, the girls are not so repulsed by my little boy. They tease him and won’t let him on the slide. But then after some clapping and smiling on Lyle’s part, the girls come to an agreement: Lyle can come inside their “fort,” but only under the slide. He’s glad to do this, but he’s not exactly cooperating with all of it.
Outside of the female fort, Wyatt is teetering back and forth on his feet, pressing his fist in and out of his mouth, and making his “wubbawubba” sound. He wants to follow his brother into the fort, but he is a little more leery. He has also had his heart broken by a girl in the form of a good shove when he tried to play the wubbawubba song on her arm. And as he stands there rocking and making his strange sounds, the girls begin to shriek at him.
“He’s creepy,” they say. “It’s that creepy baby again.”
Then one of them takes a closer look.
“He’s cute,” she says to her comrades. “This one is much cuter than that one.”
She points at Lyle.
“Let’s take this one, too. He can be our slave.”
So the girls bring Wyatt into their fort and after some discussion that turns into arguing, they decide to kick both boys out.
They shove Lyle and Wyatt out into the bright, warm sunshine of the playground and ban them from returning to the home under the slide. My sons cry a little. They try to get back in. They whine. They push, but the girls push harder. Wyatt falls down, gets up, and starts to play his wubbawubba song. He toddles off in search of me, but detours when a falling leaf skirts across the air and lands close by. Lyle sees a soccer ball bounce across the path, and he gives chase. The girls and their rude dismissal are forgotten.
I hope my children can always recover from rejection so bravely. I hope they understand that if they want to play, they are going to get hurt. They are going to get kicked, bit, shoved, pushed and run over any time they try to have fun or do what’s right for them. And someone will always try to make them a slave. Even in fun. And, yes, it’s going to hurt. Sometimes more than others.
The alternative is to choose differently. They could choose to stay inside, to stay safe, to not take risks, to not chase girls, or balls, or dreams, or anything else that makes life so wonderful. But no matter what they choose, they are going to get hurt. They are either going to cry from loneliness or cry from heart break. They are either going to ache with ignorance or ache with experience.
I cannot always choose for them, and if I did, I may not choose wisely. I want to protect them from mean people. I want to spare them the bullies of the playground. And I will do my best to be a fair and just buffer between them and the world. But in the process of watching them choose, if I am a good mother, I will teach them that they are also learning to live. And it’s hard. Yes. It’s hard. But after all — life is suffering. And I mean that in the best possible way.
October 18, 2010
Almost four years ago, when I was eight months-pregnant with Jayda, and still working as the children’s book buyer for Barnes&Noble.com, I was invited to a lunch with the actress Julianne Moore, who was promoting her soon-to-be-published first picture book, Freckleface Strawberry. As I hobbled into the restaurant on a cane (I was suffering from the intense pain of pregnancy-induced sciatica), with my bulging belly in plain view, Ms. Moore graciously greeted me and thanked me profusely for coming to meet her in my state—and then we bonded over lunch, sharing our pregnancy stories and her lovely anecdotes about motherhood.
This down-to-earth celebrity impressed me with her warmth—as well as with the premise of her delightful picture book, and I bought quite a few copies of it to promote on my site. So, when I was recently given the opportunity to take my daughter, Jayda, to see the new off-Broadway musical based on Moore’s Freckleface Strawberry book, I jumped at the chance. Both Jayda and I were rewarded with a thoroughly entertaining afternoon at the theater.
The star of the show is Hayley Podschun, who charmingly portrays Strawberry, a seven-year-old girl who is constantly teased by her schoolmates for having bright red hair and freckles. Hayley accurately captures the gawky self-consciousness of a young girl, and her opening song, “Look at Me,” will capture the heart of anyone who has ever felt different or inadequate as a child. The show follows Strawberry as she attempts to scrub away, bleach, and put make-up over her freckles—and finally resorts to hiding behind a ski mask. Along the way, she bonds with a seemingly-perfect ballerina, who admits to Strawberry that she has no friends, and delivers a message that nobody’s life is perfect—and we all have challenges to overcome. And with the help of her loveable schoolmates—a hunky jock, a loveable ditz, and two nerdy brains—who ultimately show Strawberry that they love her simply for who she is underneath the freckles and red hair, Strawberry learns that everyone is different—and that’s what makes everyone special!
Seventy-minutes long—the perfect length for my easily-distracted kid—and filled with inspiring songs like “I Can Be Anything” and “Be Yourself,” Freckleface Strawberry is both a lively, entertaining musical, and an encouraging boost to any kid’s self-confidence. I’m so happy Jayda and I were able to join Strawberry on her journey of self-discovery, as she learned to love the skin that she’s in, and highly recommend that everyone—with freckles or without!—does, too.
Freckleface Strawberry plays New World Stages/Stage 4 at 340 W. 50th Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues. Ticket prices range $39-$68.50. Tickets are available at Telecharge.com or call (212) 239-6200 or visit the New World Stages box office. For more information, visit http://www.frecklefacethemusical.com./
October 17, 2010
I live with a sadness that I just cannot explain. After years of therapy, energy work and just plain hard work, this seeker has found so much, and yet cannot explain or expunge the sadness.
My newest incantation is shaman work for which I work with and practice fairly regularly. I’m into energy, now. I’ve had more than enough years of talking.
And, yet, on this primal level, I’m just so sad.
We’re trying to work with it. Instead of triggering more sad, I’m just trying to acknowledge it. But, here’s where it just popped up its ugly head: My baby, my youngest son, has just lost his first baby tooth. It is a moment to remember. He was so pleased with himself. I’m so pleased with being a Mommy. And, I’m sad.
I cried when he screamed with pride. I don’t know if sadness becomes endemic to midlife mommyhood. As I often say, the moments are only here and now. For us, this is it. Hopes cannot be pinned to number of years left to live. There are many women who are younger than us who have lost their lives before their time. For us, our time is now.
I think, for me, it’s a sadness in remembering that I did not enjoy my childhood. These moments were often filled with dread and pain. My children teach me everyday that life is meant to be savored; that life is meant to enjoy, and that growing up and older is a blessing, not (as it felt in my case) to be lived as a curse.
Now, back to my son. After screaming for one minute and calling every person he knew to inform them of this news, the moment passed. And, then he began playing with a friend. This is just it: a moment has passed. Now, it’s time to get back to my work.
October 16, 2010
When you put your shoes on, they felt fine. But 10 minutes later you can tell something is off. Your foot is uncomfortable. You keep walking because you have to get somewhere, but two hours later you call a time out because you have a blister. You sit down on the nearest park bench or in a bathroom stall, and take a look. There it is, a tiny little hard thing stuck inside your shoe. Phew. You weren’t crazy after all. There was something in there.
I tell this story because it reminds me of another little hard thing that many of us ignore, at first. It’s those tiny put-downs or jokey insults our partners might say to us or we might unwittingly say to them. In my new book, “Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In” I share tips to deal with all sorts of tiny pebbles that weigh down the lightness of love, from a lack of appreciation, to feelings of neglect to disrespect, all small pebbles that can irritate a relationship in a big way.
Rude comments are just one type of pebble that’s thrown in our face, leaving a small mark. When your partner says to friends, “Well I had to go out with her again, she wouldn’t stop calling me!” you might think it’s funny for a second, and then it feels embarrassing and wrong. But are you crazy or is your mate being mean? Or have you ever said jokingly, “I have two children, my baby and my husband,” that’s another insult that pokes a hole in the warmth of the relationship.
Sometimes the subtle insult is a cover-up for deeper animosity, but other times, it is the only problem the couple faces. Unfortunately, if you let those pebbles grow in force and frequency, they can create other problems like a need for retaliation.
Here’s how to get a few of those pebbles out of your relationship by choosing the right words at the right time:
1) Counter a put-down. When your mate says something that feels like a subtle insult, don’t push it under the rug. Wait until you’re in private and then say, “That hurts my feelings. Please don’t say that again.” Don’t assume your partner has any idea that he insulted you. You have to speak up to get what you want.
2) Criticize with Influence. The best way to give criticism is to say what you do want, not what you don’t want. If you don’t like the way your mate leaves crumbs on the kitchen counter, focus on the positive, not the negative. Say, “It would be great if you could use the dishrag and run it over the counter just once when you finish cleaning up.” That’s much more persuasive then saying, “You always leave crumbs. Can’t you see them there or are you blind?”
3) Disagree without being Disagreeable. In the moment you disagree with your mate, ask a wise question, “Why do you think that?” Listen to the answer and then, feel free to speak your mind. By listening first and talking second, you show respect for your mate’s opinions, no matter what you think of them. The result: your mate is more willing to listen to you.
Just a small change in words can remove those pebbles before you have a blister, and certainly before you have to change your shoe.
Laurie Puhn is a Harvard-educated lawyer/couples mediator, author of the new book, “Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In” (Rodale, Oct. 12, 2010) and advice blogger at http://www.expectingwords.com/.
She is a recognized expert in the field of couples mediation and conflict resolution with a private practice in Manhattan. She also authored the best-selling book, “Instant Persuasion: How to Change Your Words to Change Your Life.” Puhn’s mission is to change the way people communicate with each other so they experience less conflict and greater understanding, appreciation and respect in their relationships.