Archive for May, 2009

Two Dog Night

May 31, 2009

silly EmmaI first saw her running wild and alone down the middle of the street—a damsel in distress?  A femme fatale?  At that point I didn’t even know that her name was Emma, and I wouldn’t know it until the next morning… all I knew was that our paths were destined to cross…

I see clients on Saturdays, and then rush to Shawn’s 4:30 yoga class at Black Dog.  At 6pm, when I emerge sweaty and rejuvenated, my weekend truly begins.  Last Saturday, as I was driving home from yoga, I passed her going the other way—an English bulldog running full bore down the middle of Moorpark Avenue.  Although in the past I was never really a dog person, ever sincAgnese rescuing Agnes (our boxer-bulldog) a couple of years ago, things apparently had changed.

And so I looped a U-turn and caught up to a cluster of three other cars that had pulled over.  They had snagged the dog, which had no leash, collar or tags.  The first thing I noticed was that the dog had an exceptionally long tongue (the better to kiss you with, my dear?).  While no one wanted the dog to be hurt, no one really wanted to stop their Saturday evening to deal with this either.  Psychologists call this “diffusion of responsibility,” where in a group no single person feels personally tasked with stepping up, and in the end sometimes no one at all steps up.

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The “Grand” Mother and THE GREAT MOTHER

May 30, 2009

grandmaEllie died two years ago today.  It was two days after her eighty-third birthday as we gathered around her hospital bed and the doctors unhooked the machines.  In the six weeks since the valve-replacement that had simply been too much for her, we had watched her go from an old woman back to a child-like state of ethereal grace.  Her skin grew smooth again and her energy grew clearer and clearer until she was done with this world, merely waiting for the last permission to leave… from Andy, her daughter and my wife.grandma words

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When Kids Pull Away

May 29, 2009

Kids pulling awayMany parents have asked me to talk about kids pulling away as they enter adolescence.  One of the key issues for us parents is the sense of loss we encounter as our kids grow.  And one of the best things we can do about this is to let it happen.  But then what do we do with our broken hearts?  Our kids lash out, reject and hurt our feelings as they establish their separate identities, but they also regress and need our unconditional love and comfort even though they were just recently cruel toward us.  A child growing up is like a lover who we are madly attached to telling us that they love us but they’re not in love with us.  Ouch.

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When we have Bad Dreams about our Children

May 28, 2009

The aquariumA reader writes:  I once had a dream that I was running after my boy – he was about two at the time – and he was running away from me down the path of the childhood place I grew up in on summer vacations in the country (not always happy times).

I saw my boy jump into the water, and – horrified – I jumped after him swimming to catch up to him – in deepening horror, I swam deeper and deeper, my eyes open against the darkness of the deep – unable to see him – I desperately felt for him all around – and woke up frightened and relieved to find my boy sleeping in my arms.

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Some Of The Best “Parents” Have No Children

May 27, 2009

karen teaching kids

A woman I know was driving to work one morning when she pulled along side a taxi where she saw a small child, very cute, riding alone in the back seat looking out the window at her.  At first she was puzzled about who would let their three or four-year-old ride alone in a taxi, when she realized that the driver must be the child’s father.  At the next light she rolled down her window and got the driver’s attention.  “Is that your child?” she asked.  The driver proudly said that he was, and then the woman suggested that the child should be wearing a seatbelt.  The driver was swept by fatherly concern and reached back and got his kid buckled in safely.  And then he buckled his own seat belt.

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Growing Up One Thumb at a Time: Kids and Texting

May 26, 2009

firemen and ideasOur kids, and ourselves, are sending an awful lot of texts these days (see piece in today’s New York Times: 
Texting May Be Taking a Toll ).  

Parents, teachers and experts are concerned about the effect this may be having, or will later have, on our children.  Kids want to fit in and be part of the group, and in a way texting is a great leveler because the kid texting her only friend a hundred times looks a lot like the kid texting her hundred friends one time each—they are both hunched over a little device, squinting (sorry, that would me) and working their thumbs like monkeys hoping to earn bananas.  

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Joy to the World… and one more thing about the Drugs

May 25, 2009

popsicle kidsHappy Memorial Day! 

Let’s take a breath and set our intentions to have a happy summer and really enjoy and appreciate our kids, all our kids, this very summer. 

Although in this blog we may talk about “problems,” there is a big problem in our parenting zeitgeist at the moment where kids have too often become labels and the sacred essence of their beauty gets lost in a shuffle of ADD-OCD-LD-OT jargon. 

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What, and When, to tell Kids about our Pasts

May 24, 2009

ducklingA reader wrote that her ten-year-old has already asked if she’d ever done drugs; she said that she’d managed to “dodge the bullet,” but didn’t want to lie either, wanting him to be mature enough to hear that particular part of her life story.  She asks, “What do do?”


This made me think of a morning five years ago when my kids were eight and ten.  While we didn’t get into my own past in that particular conversation on the way up to school, we ended up talking all about drugs and alcohol and why they could be dangerous.  My older son wanted to know which drugs were the worst and most addictive, and we worked our way up to the scary idea that some people inject drugs into their bodies with needles and that these drugs could be very addictive.  When asked what that drug was called, I found myself using the word “heroin” with my little elementary schoolers and wondering if I’d just gone too far and given too much information for their question, when my younger son said, “Heroin is the most addictive?  I thought it was Miller Light.”

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In The Age of the Child, the Parent is a Hero for Our Time

May 23, 2009

1999While doing for others is a defining characteristic of the hero, it is a quality expected of parents. The essence of leadership is service, but if our children are failing to follow, we must ask ourselves if we are failing to lead.  Every era has its particular sort of hero, such as prophet, king or revolutionary—those who stand for what is prized, or needed, in a given epoch.  It is my conviction that the biggest need we have, in our families and in our larger world, is for a more compassionate understanding of how we all share this planet and need to take better care of it and each other—starting with our children.  The heroes who are fit to lead, inspire and encourage our world are those women and men who are ready, willing and able to take loving care of it—in short, to parent it.

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Cultivating Creativity

May 22, 2009


If you want to facilitate creativity in your child, focus more on being interested in what they create rather than on praising it.

In a study on creativity in children, kids were asked to do artwork and then professional artists blindly judged the work.  The top rated works were then rewarded with prizes.  A few months later the teachers asked the kids to do artwork again, and a new panel of judges evaluated the results.  What the researchers discovered was that the kids who had been singled out and rewarded for their creativity in round one, now made work judged conventional, rather than creative, in round two.

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