I Get Around

…. to quote the Beach Boys.

Over the past 2-3 months, I’ve not just been blogging here but have also popped up in a couple of other spots that you might have missed. So I thought I’d do you all a favor and plop them all in one place.

At the end of July, Dr Portia Jackson of the Working Motherhood community was kind enough to invite me onto her show. Working Motherhood features podcast interviews several times a week encouraging us working Moms to share our challenges, points of view and successes. You can listen to my interview here. (Heads-up: it’s about 30 mins long and let me tell you, working Moms, if you have 30 mins to spare, my advice is to grab a nap or get your nails done rather than listen to my drivel.) My main advice? Don’t sweat the small stuff, take it one day at a time and don’t take yourself too seriously.

As some of you might know, I attended BlogHer ’14 also at the end of July which was an incredible experience. I was surrounded by so many amazing bloggers and it inspired me to up my game. Consequently, two of my posts were selected in August as feature blogs posts on BlogHer (which reaches 100 million women each month) which delighted me no end – Taking Off The Training Wheels and Before You Judge: Here’s What You Don’t See.

From time to time, I contribute to my local newspaper the Framingham Patch. In August, Patch asked for readers’ thoughts following an incident when a mom’s son was ousted from his school for something she posted on Facebook. Social Expression and Responsibility tackles the obligation to consider your words before you post. Most recently, I tackled the pressing question of current society: Have We Reached Peak Pumpkin?

Meanwhile, the BreadwinningMom blog invited me to answer some questions about how I “juggle”. Not the beanbag kind, the working-mom kind – you can find it here.

And, as this little blog approaches 35,000 visits, I want to say a huge and heartfelt thank you to every single of you who takes a minute or so out of your busy lives to reach my words. Thank you!

Don’t Look At My Daughter That Way

Being that I’m a mostly-exhausted, 40-something, happily-married working Mom, I don’t often get checked out these days. On the rare occasion it does happen, I’ve realized it’s usually my car they are checking out – not me. If some kind gentleman happens to sends an appreciative glance my way, I’m usually quite grateful and even somewhat relieved that maybe I have not lost my sparkle.

But when I see a grown man checking out my seven year-old daughter, that is a whole other thing.

It happened last night. We’d been out for dinner and I was driving my daughter home. She was in the back seat and had the interior light on so she could look at some toy or book. We slowed down at some traffic lights, waiting for the arrow to turn green so we could turn left. I happened to look over at the car in the lane next to us – a run-of-the-mill white Toyota, I think – and saw that the driver, a man in his late twenties wearing a grey hoodie, was staring at Tessa. Not a “hey who’s in the car next to me” glance, but a creepier, darker gaze. It was only a split second, then the lights changed to green, we turned left and he took off ahead.

My blood froze and I felt like vomiting. I checked and double checked that he hadn’t turned around to follow us. He hadn’t. I can never know if he was just looking or had some kind of other intent or desire in mind.

But it made me realize, with horror, that there are people out there who may look at my beautiful daughter and feel something very, very different from the way I feel when I look at her. Or our friends and family. Or most people we interact with. And I am disgusted and scared.

Of course, I think my daughter is a beauty. But what I realized yesterday is that her look is not traditional little girl “sugar and spice.” She has cheekbones, large oval eyes, long hazel locks. She’s a tomboy, won’t wear dresses or skirts. I’m not going as far as to say her looks are more mature or womanly than her age but I also think they will inevitably – yet obliviously to her – draw attention. And not always the right kind of attention.

How do I prepare her for this? I’m not a helicopter parent and she is an independent creature. Yes she’s a purple belt in karate but there’s no link in her mind behind the kicks and punches she learns at the dojo and their potential to get her out of a threatening situation.

Self-defensive skills aside, how do you teach a kid to have that sixth sense that can tune into malicious intent before it’s too late. Whether it’s a bully at the playground, an older kid with an unrequited crush or a predator?

I’m not sure I have any answers. Do you?

 

 

 

 

A New Way for Parents to Problem-Solve: Are You a Rock, a Cotton Ball or a Rubber Band?

Guest post by Rebecca Bell

I recently attended a fascinating parenting seminar entitled, “You’re not the boss of me! Help your child be a flexible thinker (by being a flexible thinking parent).” The presenter was Donna Shea, who runs the Peter Pan Center in Ayer, which provides social, emotional and behavior coaching for children. She acknowledged that the following collaborative problem-solving framework came from Ross Greene’s book, “The Explosive Child” (a misleading title, in Donna’s opinion, because it implies you need a “problem kid” to benefit from these strategies, which is not the case.)

  • Plan A – adult (meltdown causing) – Rock
  • Plan B – Both (problem solving) – Rubber Band
  • Plan C – child (meltdown prevention) – Cotton ball

Plan A is to be used sparingly, mostly in matters pertaining to safety. Some things are non-negotiable. On these matters you are an unyielding rock. You do not debate these things with small children.

“No, you may not ride your bike without a helmet.”

“You must hold my hand in the parking lot.”

When you really need to use plan A, be firm but not angry – try not to yell. We lose ~30 IQ points when we’re angry, so the goal is to avoid full on screaming meltdown mode. You do not have to attend every argument you are invited to. Pick your battles, but then don’t negotiate. If your kid continues to pester, you can reply, “You already asked and I already answered.” Use Plan A in moderation, but be firm when you do.

One of the big revelations I had during the evening was when the presenter said, “Remember, if your child is complaining but still complying, you won – tune it out.” I know I have a tendency to keep cajoling when my kids are whining while completing a task, because I would rather have them perform it willingly and happily. But sometimes I simply need to settle for begrudging compliance and stop talking!

Plan C involves saying “Yes” to your child whenever you can, when the answer is of little consequence and you can truly not be resentful of the outcome. This may take work on your part!

“Yes, you may wear the tutu and the green striped leggings to the grocery store.”

“Yes, you can spend your allowance on another stuffed animal.”

Saying “Yes’ to kids is fun – do it whenever you can, instead of your default response being, “No.” It can be easy for me to get in a rut of assuming that everything my kids want is unreasonable, when in fact that is not the case.

Plan B involves 3 key steps:

1) Verbally express empathy for your child’s perspective. Repeat/reflect their words back to them.

2) State the position from your perspective. It’s important that this comes second, after you’ve expressed empathy. If you do step 2 first, you’re on Plan A. I know my natural inclination is to assert my parental authority first, and I need to work on being empathetic to my child’s perspective before stating my own piece.

3) Invite your child to a problem-solving party. This can take place immediately if you have time, or at a later time when the problem is not currently happening and everyone is calmer.

Don’t waste time in a prolonged yelling match when you could be using that time to teach negotiation, flexibility and compromise. Recognize that skill teaching is hard work, messy and time-consuming. But once it becomes second nature, it will get quicker and easier. Be a problem-solving detective and look for solutions that make everyone reasonably happy.

Finally, don’t compare your strategies to other parents. The real question is not, “Is this right or wrong?” but, “Is this working for us?” If it’s not, then it might be time to change something.

Useful links:

http://peterpancenter.com/

http://www.amazon.com/The-Explosive-Child-Understanding-Chronically/dp/0061906190#

 

Rebecca is a world traveler, a singer, a Scrabble addict, and a mom to two children. She’s a Brit who now lives outside Boston, MA.

Rebecca Bell

Have We Reached Peak Pumpkin?

Friends: I’m very scared that, if we don’t all chill out, pumpkin will jump the shark.

Because the brands have figured us out. Those clever marketers have skillfully tuned into our collective pumpkin adoration and now Pumpkin Everything is Everywhere.

Not only everywhere, but everywhere TOO SOON.

Read my lips: It is still summer.

Let’s say that again, all together now. IT IS STILL SUMMER!

Now, I’m the first to admit that I may have single-handedly fanned the flames of society’s Pumpkin Obsession. Knowing my proclivity for pumpkin, friends hastily alerted me when Starbucks announced the arrival of its fall staple, the Pumpkin Spice Latte – ON AUGUST 25TH. Dear Starbucks, I have one word for you: SERIOUSLY? (Ironic, thereafter, that FoodBabe revealed that not only does the revered PSL feature no pumpkin whatsoever but its ingredients are potentially carcinogenic.)

(At this point, I’d like also to make it very very clear to my readers that, in my humble opinion, pumpkin should be eaten, not drunk.)

Let’s examine other evidence of peak pumpkin:

  • Pumpkin recipes and crafts all over Pinterest – in August and early September
  • Ben & Jerry’s proclaims its limited batch Pumpkin Cheesecake ice cream is here – a fact that drives me fairly hysterical with excitement but my gut tells me this announcement is about 3-4 weeks earlier than in past years. And I’m pretty sure last year they weren’t even sure they were going to make it. I’m betting that this year, B&J has seriously upped its production schedule and quantities.
  • Everybody sends me everything pumpkin on Facebook
  • There are just too many pumpkin-flavored things – edible and non-edible – in the stores. I agree wholeheartedly with this USA Today article.

If we can all agree to cool our engines a little, maybe we’ll avoid pumpkin saturation/desensitization.

So friends, join me in a pledge to put pumpkin back where it belongs:

In the fall (ie. late Sept-late Nov).

In pie.

Oh OK, in cheesecake and ice cream too.

In my belly.

 

 

 

 

Facebook Has Killed the Birthday Card & That’s Cool With Me

Yesterday I turned 47. (Thud. I know. I’m as shocked by this number as you are.)

And this was the first time ever that I only received one birthday card. Just the one. (Thanks Mum & Dad.)

I also received:

  • 2 phone calls
  • 1 FaceTime call
  • 1 WhatsApp message
  • 4 text messages
  • 1 Facebook Messenger message
  • 2 Instagram messages
  • and more 100 birthday-wishing posts and comments on my Facebook timeline.

(I also got lots of hugs from the hubs and the kids, but I’m focusing on the digital/mobile/social stuff here, as you can tell.)

By some strange and wonderful coincidence, the Huffington Post yesterday published a snarky piece about Facebook birthday notifications and receiving “happy birthday” posts from people you barely know.

Yeah I get it. Facebook makes it really easy to notice someone’s birthday and send them good wishes in three seconds or less. I mean it’s so much easier than buying and mailing a card or making a phone call. Then you’re all “job done” and you can move on to your next status update, text, Instagram, bagel, tweet, shopping, pedicure, Words with Friends play or whatever.

But when you are on the receiving end of more than 100 birthday wishes via Facebook from family and friends – whether these are people you chat with regularly or haven’t heard from in a decade – it’s really wonderful. Heartwarming. Each of these people took roughly three seconds out of their busy days to acknowledge something worth celebrating. (Me!)

So I don’t care if some people say that using Facebook to say happy birthday is a cop out. I appreciated each and every one.

Side note: Facebook has 1.317 billion monthly active users currently.Imagine if each of them took three seconds out of each day to send birthday wishes to someone else via the social network. In fact, I read that, on average, every day there are 1.9 million people celebrating their birthday.  So that’s 1.317 billion Facebook users x 1.9 million birthdays x 3 secs x 30 days in a month = I HAVEN’T A CLUE ….. but it’s got to be a humungous number of good vibes.

Which, in my humble opinion, cannot be a bad thing.

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