I hope you enjoy my musings about life and things that catch my eye and stay in my head. I write because i have to and because it lets me get rid of things that get caught inside. Let me know what you think...
Hey all: i am including responses to questions i get daily from parents re: behavior, development and diagnosis. I hope to add links and suggest books to help with these questions.... let me know if YOU have a question you would like an answer to. Parenting is a hard job.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Our youth must not be wasted

Graduating from college in 1981 is very different from 2012. I was debt free and job free and felt quite happy just looking for a job. My plans had changed the summer before I graduated as I had decided not to go to law school. Interning at the public defender service my last semester had changed my mind drastically. No worries, it was just a new twist in a life waiting before me. Finding a job, any job was key and when I found one as a residential counselor for troubled youth in the state next to mine, I was set. I never once thought this job was the next step in my career, it was a first job with a salary and benefits but it was not something I was interested in doing for the long haul. I had no idea what that job would be, but I had always felt that I was a lucky one, working to help those who weren’t so lucky seemed a good fit.

Well I was young, that was a tough job that needed skills and I stayed for less than a year. What I took away both personally and professionally was invaluable though: a real interest in working with children, and my husband ( we got married a year later).

My daughter was graduated from college in 2008, right at the beginning of the economic crisis. She had career plans when she graduated and there were expectations. She was in debt, heavy debt and she needed a job. She did not want to accept any job; she was on a road to a career, but she did. Those first jobs were invaluable too, but for her they slowed down her forward motion which she feels is detrimental to the overall career plan. We have had many conversations about how life doesn’t come with a map and that forward may seem sideways or even backward at the time….. you just need to keep moving. That, she says is not her reality; that was mine and now we are in a very different age.

( She loves to remind me how old I am) Now it is about getting to the next level, moving up in the position and making a mark, right away. It is graduate school and volunteer work and it is making the right connections. The stress on these young graduates is enormous and the serendipitous life that we had the privilege of experiencing is being left behind.

I went on to follow my dream, once I knew what it was, and go back to school and have a personal life as well. I pursued what made me happy, but I balanced it with what my family needed. I am driven, she did get that from me, but I did not map out life I walked the path that was in front of me. We have so many choices but if we are not open to those possibilities we feel trapped. I worry too about my son who is about to graduate this year, what are his options; he too is in heavy debt and the driving force for him is a job, to begin his career. It is not that I don’t want that for him, I do, but I want his life to be much more. Stress is part of life, but it should not be the driving force in life.

We do live in a different time; a more determined time. Careers are made earlier and families are started later. Youth is only offered once; it is a constant in all this and we must never forget its importance on society. We need the optimism, the vitality of our youth, it is what makes aging bearable.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Helicopter Parenting

I was listening to NPR yesterday and heard a story about “helicopter parents”, who they are, what they do and if it is good parenting or just too much. Apparently this term has been created as parents more and more “hover” over their older teens and twenty somethings; helping them get jobs, find apartments and manage their lives in general.

Parenting is a lifetime commitment, but at some point in this relationship, your child is ready to be their own person, with your as their backup. It is up to us as parents to allow them that and offer them advice, a loving ear even some financial support, but not living their lives! By actually finding them a job or writing their pumped up resume or cover letters you are keeping them out of the game and on the bench. What parent really wants that!

I know how hard getting job is right now and how hard it is to survive on your own as a new grad, but we need to remember the feeling of satisfaction everyone feels when they succeed with the first job or apartment. The feeling of relief coupled with elation and trepidation as you realize you have a real job with responsibilities and perhaps some perks. It is your success and it is a feeling like no other. We should not rob our children of that wonderful experience. Likewise the disappointments are necessary as well, they help us know what we really want ,and help us become an adult.

I understand the reason for the hovering, but that is not what we wanted for them when they were toddling around. We didn’t want to help them walk; we expected and worked at giving them the space to walk on their own. This is NO different. It is just that this type of fall that hurts more and we as parents want to guard against that. A skinned knee is so much easier to accept and fix than skinned egos or broken hearts. But we as parents gave them the tools they need to heal and go on. Trust in your 20 years of parenting and allow for a new type of relationship to form with your children.

I am amazed at this part of parenting. After reading all those books and listening to all the sage advice, I do not remember learning about what happens after the hands on parenting is over. I am proud of the adults my children are although I do not always support their decisions; I support them and their right to have differing opinions and experiences from me.

NPR explored this subject from the point of view of parents and possible employers but I am not sure it interviewed the children, ( although I had an appt and did not finish listening). The Kids who have hovering parents probably don’t often feel very good about themselves and how they are functioning, and may not want or have asked for this type of parenting. I have always found that children want to be independent and strive for it, and look to us to give it to them.

Helicopter parents have good intentions and a loving heart, but they are forgetting what we all want for our children: to be independent, happy, and successful adults. So Park the aircraft and sit back and watch as your child takes off on his own!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Tummy Time

I see a lot of babies. I am an early childhood specialist and have worked in Early Intervention for many years. Babies are my thing. Parents too; they come with the package. Living in the world of babies, I am often struck by the number of little ones I see that are IN something: a seat, saucers, playpen, chair, car seat or in their parent’s arms. While this may not seem strange to most, it is to me. Babies need tummy time to develop typically! I often think; when is that baby on the floor? These little ones need to kick their legs, move their necks side to side and reach out with their arms. Following these wonderful developments they should be attempting to roll and grab and to bang things together. How do they roll in a seat? When do they kick in the saucer? Babies love to see the world around them and if that world is up above, well then they like to be up there to see, but why is their world always up with the grownups? Babies are small bundles of growth waiting to happen. Getting down on the floor with them should be natural. Parents are their babies first and best toy! Their face, voice and smell are his motivators for movement, excitement, and attachment; nothing else can compare.

Why then don’t parents go down on the floor more with their babies? Maybe the world is so busy up there with their computers, smart phones and TVs that they just don’t notice that they are not down there. When I, as the professional, go down there with the baby to play and interact, most parents follow me; and often they don’t feel the need to get up right away. Mommy (or daddy) and Baby fall into a rhythm of play that is reciprocal and loving .

Delays in development can happen when babies do not have the time and space to move, interact face to face and explore. Some babies develop a stiff neck , ( Torticollis), from sitting and looking only to one side, or staying on their back and turning to their preferred side. Others hear the world from above and don’t see how words are formed, which makes it difficult for them to play with sounds and say words. Face to face reciprocal play with sounds and actions are necessary for typical development. There is no TV show or DVD, no matter how child friendly, which can take the place of a human , expressive face with a mouth and lips that move. Sing to your baby, while he is looking at you, and tell him nursery rhymes.

Not all delays happen due to a lack of stimulation, but all typical development needs this type of interaction. Babies deserve our undivided attention and when they get it they will give us theirs. It is those moments that create an amazing connection that will help your child as they continue grow, develop and negotiate the world around them.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Competing with the Cell Phone

When my children were growing up, I noticed that if the phone rang while they were playing nearby, it would signal a time for tantrums or whining or a non preferred behavior. I felt like they were conditioned by that ring to do the opposite of what I wanted them to do! I did get smart after attending a parenting class however, and had “ phone fun” ready to use( a bag of special activities) and knew to keep my calls, while they were around, short. Their negative behavior was communication: I want your attention to be focused on me Mommy!

Today parents have their cell phones ringing ( or singing, humming or clanging) all the time. They do not realize that the phone is getting more face time then their child. It has become common place to see a parent walking or shopping with their child while talking on their cell phone. Recently by my pool at my apartment I observed a mother and three children. Mom was not dressed to go into the pool, she was staying out while the three children of varying age and ability were going for a swim. While on the phone she gave them orders regarding the pool rules, but then continued to talk on the cell the entire time they were playing in the water. I was amazed how often she barked an order while continuing to keep the phone to her ear. Slowly she stopped commenting to the children altogether, and I watched as the children forgot the directions she had clearly and loudly made to them. Thank goodness the kids remained safe. She was still on that phone as they walked away from the pool.

It is not my intention to change the way we connect to our friends and family; it is my intention to have parents think ahead and realize that kids test our convictions and need our attention. When our attention is directed elsewhere, they will test us. It is what they do. Cell phones keep us connected to others who are not with us, but what about the ones who are? It is not just kids who feel put off by the constant use of this technology. When I teach a class or talk to a parent I truly hope that they value my words enough to not take the call, or better yet turn off the phone for the duration of our interaction. Respect is a word that comes to mind. If there is a reason to answer it, telling me in advance would be ideal. Interactions are best with eye contact and full attention from both participants. Less confusion and misunderstandings will result.

A cell phone is a great way to stay close when you are far away, but remembering those who are standing right next to you matters most. Put down the cell, or turn if off, and get down on the level of your child. Be a thinking parent and let your kids know that they are important; don’t have them compete with your cell phone for your attention.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

You Can't Go Back

For parents, Independence is a double edged sword. Many parents wait anxiously for their child to meet their first milestones: rolling, crawling, sitting and, walking! Yet once their child meets those milestones so much more begins to happen. Their need to know drives them forward to explore. These newly mobile children can find their way into dangerous or inconvenient places, which creates a need to change the living space or may just be hard for the parent to contain. Times change and parents may not be ready even if their child is. Some parents make the changes both to their home and to their way of thinking quickly and easily accepting the inevitable, while others try in vain to go back in time.

When an 18 month old is carried throughout the day, ( with his pacifier) by his parent or kept penned in one way or another, he begins to get confused. He likes moving around and exploring, but he equally likes the comfort and familiarity that he finds himself in, when in his mother’s arms. It feels safe. Then there are the others: the childcare teacher, dad and grandma, who don’t carry him and have expectations that he comes with them independently. The child who has an internal driving force to explore and an external comfort zone stopping him, makes for a child who is out of sorts, confused. Behavior is communication and this child has no other way to express himself. The child who is being “babied”, carried, given a bottle long after he can drink from a cup, and has no expectations asked of him, is going to act out to communicate his confusion. We should expect it, but often we get upset with the child.

Independence is what we really want for our children, but allowing the process to happen is difficult. Parents need to be prepared for each new and wonderful milestone and adjust for the time and patience needed for the skill development. Walking is a skill that needs practice and it is a way a child can become confident and accepting of new environments. Allowing him to walk into a room with you just behind, gives him the knowledge that you know he can do it. Letting a child drink and possibly spill from an uncovered cup while seated, knowing you only put in a little juice, gives her the chance to practice and be ok with some mistakes. We all make them. Getting dressed is another way your child is becoming independent and asserting his or her own personality. Let them show it as often as possible. No one has a perfect schedule and no parent is perfect, but if we remember that independence is what we are all really after, then taking the time now will pay off later. Fostering independence while offering a consistent and secure environment is a great foundation to build upon as they grow into older children. We can never go back and time, nor should we want to.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

From NH to California Nothing New

Sometimes change isn’t as bad as I think. I have just moved over 3000 miles, from the east coast to the west, to an apartment complex that has over 1000 people living in it, after living in an old farm house with 2 ½ acres of land. My new job is situated in a newly renovated, gorgeous building, believe me when I say my last was not, and I have a state of the art play room for parents to bring their children for group activities that I create . My last job had me traveling to their homes all over the county. Things could not be more different, but there is one constant in all that change: the kids and their families. I don’t know why I am amazed by this, but I am. I should understand by now that families no matter the nationality, language or socioeconomic situation, want to do what is best for their children. It is a given, although I have been challenged on this statement before. The problem is that the parents don’t always succeed in doing what is best. However, when parents encounter someone who makes their child smile or finds a way to help him/her be part of a group having fun, they are willing to listen and take a chance. I love the feeling that I get from that child as she smiles and lets me in, helping her parent to do the same. It is addictive!

I have always felt that I had a vocation not simply a job. I wake up every morning wanting to touch the life of a child. I get chills when I see a child who was unable to participate for some reason become a member of the group, or when a child who did not talk, says that word to me or his parent; that is a moment that has no description.
I am lucky to be able to do what I love from coast to coast. With this job I will have to work harder to build trust because they are coming to me and I am not going into their home. I don’t mind hard work when the payoff is the success of the parent or a competent child. I don’t just have a job, I have something inside that I must get out; I am lucky because I also get paid to do it!

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I used to write daily, that was when I was young. I wrote quickly and in fragments about a variety of seemingly important moments that I needed to comment on and never forget. Each day was very important, each moment a step toward becoming an adult. As the years passed and those moments became days in a busy life of a mother, I wrote less but when I wrote I took the time to describe the details of a day that depicted an episode or event in a growing family. Writing can be therapeutic, but most often for me it is satisfying; telling a story of a piece of life that is either, memorable, historic or painful; but usually it is over and I can put it down on paper and let it go. When I re-read the memory returns but the emotion is often subdued.
Now, I don’t often write. I find that my emotions are too overwhelming and my thoughts are often incoherent. I can no longer write quickly as I did in my youth, and the busy moments of a growing family are gone. My life right now is in a state of flux. Writing now for me is more deliberate and purposeful. It is a reflection.
I did not write when the kids were home last weekend. I have not been able to re-think those moments, as they are as wonderful as they are painful. It is the last time I will be with both of my children in this house, their childhood home, hear them banging down the stairs as they come down in the morning, argue over the TV ( yes they still do that), or walk down the trail with me. Max’s need to find anything to hit with his bat: apples, golfballs and an occasional baseball makes me smile but brings tears to my eyes. His need to hack away at the tree limbs with an ax rather than use the saw he has, used to make me angry and worried, now it is who he is. Tally’s willingness to talk to me for hours at the kitchen table, now with a glass of wine, and her sharp wit than can cut me without her knowing. Our dinners together sitting at the kitchen table and then at local restaurants revealed their sadness at this moment as well.
I am preparing for a new adventure and saying good bye to a life lived. There are no perfect words for that, no quick notations to remind me. It is good to let go, it is time. I am excited about what comes next. I think I will be able to write about that….