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There's this picture I have of my grandfather. I never knew him. My mom barely did; he died when she was a kid. He's at the beach in the photo, on a boardwalk. He has a wide-brimmed hat, a tweed jacket, a well-tied cravat, pinstriped pants, spats, a little pocket square in his coat pocket. He's one dapper and swanky gentleman, to be sure.
He's got my nose. His eyes are shaded. It looks like his chin might be dimpled.
This photograph is the only physical tie I have to him. It's my bond with him, this photo, folded and tattered and torn. I wish I could have known him. Norman was his name. I feel like I do know him sometimes, just by looking at this old photo on my desk.
My daughter's lucky. I remind her of that sometimes. She's got most all of her grandparents still, and a couple great-grandparents to boot. I hope she can spend as much time with them as she can, soak up as much familial history as she can, laugh with them. Play. Hear stories from them. Tell them her own. I never really got to tell my own to my grandparents.
My mom's dad died when she was a kid. My dad's dad died when I was a baby. Certainly we visited my widowed grandmother's plenty. Flora was my mom's mom. She lived in Northern California. Nellie was my dad's mom, she lived near Portland.
But, truth be told, I was a kid, and I didn't really care too much about who they were. They were old ladies. What did they have to teach me? And, truth be told, they both sort of frightened me and, because of that fact, I didn't like them that much. Of course, I never gave them much of an opportunity, I'm afraid. That'll be my fault for the rest of my days.
Memory of Nellie: Her creepy basement. There was this one room down there filled with musty books and a bed that I swear was slept in by a haunting specter. My siblings can vouch for its creepiness.
Editor's Note: Science has shown that the early patterns we set can help or hinder our parenting for years beyond. Many new parents want the tools and support to help create a relationship of trust and attachment with their babies, and to learn to mindfully manage the stress and pressure that often comes with the world's toughest yet most rewarding job. As part of the launch of our new BabyMap portal, I spoke with facilitators from Listening Mothers (LM), an eight-week program of the Community of Mindful Parents that helps new parents reduce stress and increase well-being. We've assembled a Q & A that peeks into what this approach is all about, plus some tips that parents can use with children of any age.
Meet our virtual panel:
Rama Ronen, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist trained in Cognitive Behavioral Psychotherapy. She works at the Entelechy Wellness Center with expectant, new, and experienced mothers. "Mindfulness" is integrated throughout her practice.
"Wow, is it challenging to be a mom these days? Absolutely! As a mom of three and from listening to other moms I find it at time overwhelming to trust what is “right” and what is wrong. I would like to encourage all of us to become more familiar with that critical voice and practice being kind to one’s self and remember that we are doing the best that we can."
Gigi Wickwire is a mom to a new baby, a LM facilitator since 2011, a registered nurse with a master’s in clinical social work and a former doula.
“Being in baby time — going slower than the culture what might want us to go — is so complementary to a mindfulness practice. It’s made the word of different in my relationship with my son. There is something pretty exquisite when we pause and listen with our inner listening.”
Yaffa Maritz is a co-founder of Listening Mothers and clinical director of both Listening Mothers and Reflective Parenting, and she is founder and director of the Community of Mindful Parents. Maritz was born and trained in Israel as a clinical psychologist. She is also a licensed mental health counselor trained in infant mental health.
"We know from research that mother's touch enhances attachment between mother and her baby. It can signify security and can generate positive emotions. We especially encourage mothers to experiment with what we call "reflective touch," which follows the guidelines of our program and is a way of conveying a respectful, empathic, sensitive ways of relating."
Why are we so stressed today as parents?
In our competitive society today we all feel somehow less than adequate, and mothers instinctively want to be the best mothers they can be so that their child will thrive. But they are feeling great pressure both from the inside themselves and from the outside to perform in a certain “perfect” way. Because of that pressure, they end up with a barrage of self-doubt and self-judgment.
In our groups we help mothers develop skills to become more mindful so they can notice those judgmental and highly critical thoughts when they come and go and then understand that they, as mothers, are bigger and better than those crippling thoughts.
Many parents seem to resist leaving their children at home with babysitters. They take the kids along, even on weekend nights that were once reserved for date nights. What’s going on with parents who take their kids absolutely everywhere?
Editor's Note:Teenworthy is a column written by teens for parents and teens. Today's guest writer is an 8th grader fighting cancer and raising money to help other people with the same illness, Ewing sarcoma. Read her story here and then use the column to start conversations with your own friends or kids. If you have a burning question for a teen or know of any teens who want to write for Teenworthy, let us know.
My name is Kat. Up until March of this year, I was your typical 8th grader. I love horseback riding (eventing), skiing, and spending time with friends and family. Recently, I had just got back from a ski trip to Whistler/Blackcomb and was sitting in my class when a guest, an American who provided aid in Rwanda during the genocide, came to speak to us. When the fighting started he was told by the U.S. to leave, but the man told us he said no. He stayed in Rwanda for the whole duration of the genocide helping orphan kids while gunshots rang out. I remember sitting in the audience and saying to myself,I want to make a difference like this someday.
Little did I know how soon that day would come.
On March 5, 2013 I went from skiing down the peaks of Whistler and jumping over three-foot jumps on my horse Scooter to being a teenage girl who might have a rare and serious form of cancer. I went to the doctor to have a large bump on my thigh checked out. I was told what I thought might be a bad bruise had a 95 percent chance of being cancer.
In those first weeks I had to do things I never thought I’d even be able to do. I stayed perfectly still for half an hour while I went through a tube barely bigger then my body with a camera that sounded like gunshots. I got my first IV, and I had pictures taken of my body while a panel rested three inches away from my nose. I had two surgeries (leg and lung) to perform biopsies. And at the time these didn't seem like big deals, but looking back I don't know where I found the strength to do those things.
I've realized through the small part I've gone through so far that you find strength in so many things: friends, family, and of course my horse, Scooter.
After all of the tests and a very stressful couple of weeks, I was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer — Ewing sarcoma — which has about 250 diagnosed childhood cases a year in the U.S.
In the beginning I had no trouble telling people that I had cancer. Actually, I'm pretty sure when I told most people I had a smile on my face. But with every doctor visit, phone call and day that went on, it became harder because more and more information sank in. I began to realize how hard it was going to be and how much my life was going to change.
How many times would you say you apologize in any given week? If you’re like many working moms, the answer is waaaaay too many, and you might be unaware you’re doing it.
When I interviewed working moms around the country for my book I Love Mondays: And Other Confessions from Devoted Working Moms, women listed all sorts of scenarios that left them saying sorry: Not having time to chaperone their child’s class field trip; being unwilling to attend a meeting so they could go to their child’s recital; being unable to track down their child’s last annual physical for the camp nurse. On it goes … and many working moms apologize by default, hoping it will ease the stress.
But here’s the rub: When we apologize repeatedly for things we didn’t do, we send a message to others that we’re to be blamed. Worse, we’re modeling for our kids that we should apologize even when we did nothing wrong. So, here are a few quick ways to reign them in.
Track your sorries
The first step is realizing how much you are actually doing it. If you’re not sure but suspect that you might be on overload, follow the advice of clinical psychologist Janet L. Wolfe, Ph.D. and log your apologies.
For one week, write down each time an “I’m sorry” pops out of your mouth, what led to it and how you were feeling at the time.
Next, try to find out what your patterns are: Do you apologize when you’re nervous? Overtired? Feeling guilty for upsetting someone? Megan, a 38-year-old divorce attorney and mom to a 7-year-old, says, “I realized after paying careful attention that I apologize if I’m rushing and feel like I have to fix things quickly — not because I did something wrong.”
Once you know your trigger, you can slow yourself down in those situations and pay attention to what whether you’re just throwing an apology out of habit or because it’s warranted.
Show compassion without apologizing
OK, you caught yourself on the brink of apologizing but this is your chance to change things. What do you do in the moment where you’re triggered? Suggests parenting expert and therapist Carl Pickhardt, Ph.D., “When you realize you’re on the verge of saying “I’m sorry,” stop and take a deep breath (inhale until that breath reaches your heart before you exhale).