Four Great Parenting Tips That Work For Me

Advice about parenting is everywhere. From the grandmotherly types who tell you your baby is not dressed warmly enough while you are waiting in line at the grocery store, to whichever Tiger or French Mom book is the parenting manual du jour. Or maybe you actively seek out advice via blogs, magazines or from other Mom at groups, schools or the playground. I know my circle of Mom friends have been utterly indispensable, helping me navigate through and survive the poop, teething, tears, bed-wetting, picky eating and tantrums over the years. Sharing our stories, offering a shoulder to cry on and a good belly laugh, ideally over alcoholic beverages, have helped a load too.

Sometimes, just when you think you’ve really nailed this Mom thing, along comes the front cover of TIME magazine asking are you “Mom enough?” Thanks so much TIME for making us even more insecure than we already were. (And by the way, if ever doubt your “Mom-enough-ness,” I recommend you read this great post by blogger Sharon DeVellis over at YummyMummyClub.)

For me, there have been parenting tips that have worked and some that have bombed. There are those that sound great in principle but just don’t fit my kids, our lifestyle or my threshold for yelling. I also find that the hardest part is remembering to actually use these tips, especially in the midst of a meltdown in Target or Friendly’s.

The following are four parenting tips that have worked for me — when I’ve remembered to use them. Some came from friends, some from my own Mom, some from parenting articles and blogs. They may or may not work for you. That’s your call. To each their own.

  • “When … then …”: Example: “when you finish [insert chore/request/food item] then you can [insert reward/positive outcome]. It’s essentially a form of tit for tat. You do for me, I’ll do for you. Works like a treat with my daughter. Especially if I offer to do a silly dance as the reward.
  • Pick your battles: An oldie but a goodie. Knowing when it’s worth digging in with your kid to make a point, or just letting it go for the sake of peace. Case in point when my three-year old once threw a wobbly over the T-shirt I had selected for her one day. I decided to stand my ground. That T-shirt or no T-shirt. She opted for the latter and so I sent her to preschool topless. Was I mean? Maybe. Did she learn who the boss was? Damn right. Does she still challenge me? Every day! Ah well.
  • Get on down: I can often be found yelling down the stairs, issuing commands from another room, negotiating peace treaties. But nothing works better I’ve found than getting down to your kid’s level, making eye contact, talking with and listening to them. It must be so much nicer for them than being shrieked at from a distance. It also helps you appreciate the view from their perspective, quite literally.
  • Collaborative consequences: This is a new one for me, but my seven-year old has bought into it (so far). When a recent infringement was discovered, I asked him what he thought the proper consequence should be. He proposed a thoughtful and reasonable “punishment” which resonated with him. I tweaked it a little and we were good to go.

What parenting tips have saved your sanity and kept everyone happy, nurtured and safe? You’re more than welcome to borrow mine, if you think they could help you and your family. Just keep paying it forward so that the Mom species survives.

Buckle Up!

A few days ago, I witnessed a car fly into the air in front of my eyes, spin over and come crashing down, not even a foot in front of my eyes. Debris was flying all around. The smell of burned rubber was thick and sickly. Time stood still.

I pulled over. Ran to the car, as did several other people. The deafening silence suddenly got louder, like someone somewhere turned the volume up. People appeared. 911 was dialed, Sirens. Firetrucks, police cars.

I gave my statement to a police officer and sat with a woman who had driven into the slow lane to avoid a tire in the middle lane, and had set off a chain reaction of cars swerving and hitting the black SUV, which then flew up and crashed down, before me.

That car had been innocently driving down the highway, going from A to B, minding its own business when, out of nowhere, everything was quite literally turned upside down. I cannot imagine the shock, the terror of the four passengers.

I watched as the firefighters used all kinds of equipment to free the people inside from the mangled remains of their car. I turned away as they were stretchered out.

What I could tell, though, was that they were alive and had been wearing seat belts. Undoubtedly, the seat belts and airbags had saved their lives.

Later that day, I read on a local news site that their injuries were not serious. Given the chaos that had unfolded in front of me, I was amazed but so hugely grateful these strangers were all alright.

You never know what’s going to hit you, folks. Buckle up. Always. Front and back.

Confessions of a Yo-Yo Exerciser

I love exercise.

I could sit and watch it all day.

If I had all day, that is. And given the choice, I’d rather be eating or sleeping than exercising. Admit it, you feel the same.

Fact is, when you are a working Mom, time is a very precious commodity. Between working, commuting, rallying the troops, groceries, laundry, school drop off, school pick up and trying to stop your house from looking like it’s been invaded by little monsters, there’s barely time for anything. And quite frankly, I’d rather be eating, watching TV, reading Christian Grey or sleeping, than torturing my doughy tummy and dimpled thighs.

Before kids, well, that was different. While no-one could have called me an athletic or muscular type, I enjoyed exercising. Dance, step, Pilates, gym, running, weights. I went to the gym at least twice a week for decades. For many years, I even had a personal trainer come to my home. In fact, this was the key to my success. Given that I am a lazy so-and-so, the fact that I’d paid some to show up at an appointed time and put me through my paces was the best formula to make exercise actually happen.

Fast-forward to the last seven years of motherhood and I have turned into a yo-yo exerciser with sporadic bouts of commitment to various forms of exercise. Since having kids, I can no longer afford the luxury of a personal trainer (see ‘The Shocking Cost of Being a Working Parent.’) These days, the best time for me to squeeze in a”workout” is between 5.45-6.30am, i.e. before the kids wake up and the morning mayhem starts. There’s no time to really go anywhere so exercise, when it happens, is in my basement.

My random attempt at getting into an exercise regime have, at best, lasted 2-3 weeks and have usually been thwarted by sleep interruptions, vacations, business travel and injury – as well as defeatism, boredom and the overwhelming desire to go back to sleep after the alarm goes off so damn early. Here’s what I have tried:

  • I’ve walked on my treadmill, listening to my iPod, watching the morning news or, more recently, random movies from the 80s.
  • I’ve pedaled on my mini-elliptical machine. Ditto. But after 10 minutes I really want to quit.
  • I’ve done several videos taught by various annoying, lithe, energetic women. The last time I did one though, one of my kids surprised me and I turned around too quickly and wrenched my back.
  • I bought one of those infomercial kits with a DVD and resistance bands that promised me I’d burn 300 calories and tone my core in just 20 minutes. I did it twice and for some strange reason, could barely move my arms after (while my flabby middle never felt a thing!)
  • While I was out of work/working from home for three months, I had more time and was able to go to  Zumba classes 2-3 times a week. It kicked my butt. I loved it.
  • Most recently, I’ve been walking in the mornings – now that it’s light again – with a girlfriend and this has been a great success, as long as our schedules have meshed, our kids have slept, our husbands haven’t been travelling and it hasn’t been raining. It’s so nice to be chatting away with a friend and not even realizing you are exercising!

So what’s this Mom to do? I fully understand the benefits of exercising and, certainly, in my (ahem) 40s, I appreciate the imperative to exercise. But my excuses are many, my motivation is on-again-off-again, and my successes are hit or miss. The good news is that I eat a healthy diet and that my weight has stayed within the same range for the last four or five years. That’s not to say I could do with shedding five, maybe ten pounds.

I guess I should just get off my arse and do it.

Wish I could outsource it.

Now there’s an idea …..

My Daughter the Superhero

This evening, as I kissed you goodnight, I commented on the jammies you were wearing, jammies your brother had outgrown and you claimed for your own. In a hushed, awed whisper you confided, “I’m Bat Girl.”

You’ve always shunned the dolls and princesses for the action figures, the dragonoid colossus, the superheroes. Who knows if nature or nurture is at play, but I believe it’s the very essence of the superhero that inspires you.

I’m hoping you continue to embrace your inner Optimus Prime. I want you to be bold, to take action, to fight for what’s right, to stand up for those in need, to transform the world around you.

Being a superhero is not child’s play; you, my love, my Bat Girl, have the super power to make a difference and I will always be your number one fan.

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8 Signs Your Home Has Been Invaded By … Kids!

Readers: if any of the scenes below appear familiar, I have some news for you. You might want to sit down. Sitting? OK, well here’s the thing. From the looks of the evidence, your home has a serious infestation. Little people have moved in and they are tearing apart every room in your previously neat and organized home.

Some may try to fight it. But the harsh reality is that this is an epidemic and largely incurable. Attempts at tidying, sanitizing and organizing may temporarily solve the situation but for no longer than approximately 30 minutes – at best. Before the little buggers attack again.

My advice? Don’t fight it. Go with the flow. Take a deep breath and hold it till ….. they leave for college.

Motherhood – the Most Underpaid, Underqualified Uber-Job?

As I was negotiating a peace treaty between one of my kids and my husband the other day, it occurred to me that being a mother is actually an amalgamation of many, many, many jobs. The majority of us Moms have little or no training for any of theses roles other than the on-the-job training we receive every day.
What’s more, we are unpaid for our Mommy uber-job (other than in hugs and kisses which I love, of course, but which do not pay for the mortgage or groceries.) In fact a recent Salary.com study calculated the true worth of us Moms. According to an article in Fiscal Times:
… after all the various duties are added up, stay-at-home moms put in 94.7 hours in a typical workweek, and it would cost $112,962 a year to replace her. For working moms, the extra 57.9 hours a week of work they put in is worth $66,979.
So, it took me about 30 seconds to come up with the following list of all the jobs that Mom does (got any to add?):
  • Nurse
  • Short-order cook
  • Investigator (which one of you spread ketchup all over the bathroom floor?)
  • Mediator
  • Therapist
  • Artist
  • Handyman
  • Teacher
  • Event planner
  • Administrator
  • Secretary
  • Financial advisor
  • Personal shopper
  • Stylist
  • Photographer
  • Hazmat cleanup
  • Decorator
  • Archivist
  • Lobbyist
  • Chauffeur
  • Coach
  • Housekeeper
  • Diplomat
  • Comedienne
  • Forensic investigator (is that chocolate – or poop?)
With all this acquired experience and talent, you’d think the employers would be moving heaven and earth to attract more Moms back to the workforce – and providing us with more flexible working arrangements.
But that, my friends, is another topic for another post, another day.
(I’d like to thank my sister-in-law and a couple of my friends for their inspiration and input to this post. Rock on, Moms!)

A Bucket List of People I’d Like to Meet

I’ve never really met anyone famous. But, thanks to someone I briefly dated decades ago, my aunt and a neighbor, I am actually remarkably well-connected. (In fact, I am less than six degrees from Kevin Bacon – for real, just ask me.) Being connected is not however the same as actually meeting someone you admire or respect in-person. Someone whose voice, words or acts have made an indelible impression on your life.

These are the people whose hands I’d like to shake. Sit down with over a nice cup of tea and have a chat. Say thank you for their talent, vision, writing, actions. Or maybe just have my photo taken with them, for souvenir’s sake. In any case, I’ve kept this list to people who are actually real (i.e. not TV characters who I believe/wish were real, like Jack Bauer, Don Draper and CJ Cregg.) And I’ve excluded my list of hotties (after all, I have a Pinterest board for them!)

Without further ado, here’s my bucket list of people I’d love to meet, in no particular order:

  • Paulo Coelho (@paulocoelho) – a truly inspirational author. His books “The Alchemist” and “By the River Piedra, I Lay Down and Wept” meant the world to me.
  • Beata Klarsfeld - together with her husband Serge, they dedicated their lives to tracking down and bringing Nazis to justice, mostly notably Klaus Barbie. I had the good fortunate to listen to a presentation she gave several years ago and was humbled by her selflessness and determination.
  • Andy Carvin (@acarvin) – the Arab Spring changed history and, in the process, Andy’s role altered the landscape of journalism. He made social media reporting visceral and important, communicating in 140 characters the often-graphic reality of the revolutions in the streets as they unravelled, minute by minute, story by story.
  • Stevie Wonder – the man, the legend. His music is like the best-day-ever. Seeing him play live was one of the best nights of my life.
  • Barack Obama – Say what you will about the economy, liberalism, healthcare, taxes. I was riveted by his inauguration speech back in 2008 and, particularly, the line: “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”
  • Clint & Stacey of “What Not to Wear” – they have given me the rules and I shall abide. I’d love them to come shop with me for a day. Shut the front door.
  • Ellen Degeneres – Few people make me laugh like Ellen can. She’s generous, beautiful, human, real. And have you seen her read from Fifty Shades of Grey? Hilarious.
  • Elie Wiesel – Holocaust survivor, writer, activist. Nobel Peace Prize winner. My respect for him is profound.
  • Francis Cabrel – his music was the soundtrack of my three wonderful years living in France. I was and still am bewitched by his lyrics, melody and soulfulness. Seeing him play live was an honor that I shan’t forget.
  • Bill Bryson – a combination of laugh-out-loud funny, erudite and educational all wrapped into one man’s great writing. I’ve read and re-read his books about his travels through England, Europe, America, Australia over and over again, and never tire of them. Check out some of his best quotes here.

Who’s on your bucket list of people you admire and would like to meet?

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