Category Archives: Think

I’m a mom who pushes her kids to succeed

Like many other little girls, I spent a brief moment of my childhood enveloped in the world of tutus and ballet shoes. I recall the early days of joyfully jumping over fake puddles and not worrying about technique or having any real skill. Then, I started taking classes with a serious instructor, a strict disciplinary with a thick Russian accent and no time for foolishness.
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That wasn’t me. I had no desire to train hard and suffer through endless criticism. I also wasn’t all that good, which may be why when I said I wanted to quit, my parents didn’t put up a fight. And, when the teacher questioned my decision, and wondered why my mom wasn’t forcing me to continue, my mom just shrugged it off.

I went on to attempt many activities from gymnastics to ice skating to piano. Some lasted a few years, others barely a few weeks. My skills in each varies from decent to not terrible, but no matter how well I did, I was never pushed to continue if I wanted to stop.

I am so appreciative of my parents for not pressuring me to keep doing something I didn’t love. I had to prove nothing to no one. I could just be a kid.

I always thought I would model this example as a parent. I would let my children try many things, and be ok if they want to stop. I wouldn’t be a “tiger mom” pushing my kids to succeed at all costs.

Yet, I find myself close to doing exactly that. Continue reading

Nature vs. Nurture: Nature (slightly) wins

I took an advanced placement course in developmental psychology, during my senior year of high school. Although, at the time, I was a long way from having children of my own, I was fascinated with how the human psyche is shaped over time. We studied various views on personality and behavior, including the long-standing debate of nature versus nurture.

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Reading the works of the likes of John Locke, I was convinced that our behavior and character was almost exclusively shaped by our environment and that we are truly “blank slates” when we first enter the world. This view made me regard every future child I encountered with a certain level of judgement for their parents. If their kid was awful, it had to be because of something they were doing wrong.

Then, I had my own kids. Two boys, being raised in similar circumstances, but who could not be more different. And, this difference was apparent from the moment my second son was born. Continue reading

“This Is Us” and the lens of loss

This post contains minor spoilers.

Right before the infamous slow cooker ignites and starts a chain of events leading up to the demise of Jack Pearson, we see the family patriarch loading the dishwasher, cleaning the kitchen table and sweeping the floor. All while his wife and two of his three children rest upstairs. There is nothing inherently special about any of these mundane tasks, except, for the audience, it is one more reminder of just how great a husband and father Jack had become.

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And just as the end of the epic Pearson romance is marked by Jack’s unending devotion, so too is the beginning. As we all saw in the season premiere, a hopeless romantic manages to charm the beautiful Rebecca with just $9 in his pocket.

For many viewers, Jack Pearson is just a little too perfect. He sweeps in with grand gestures and always seems to have the right words for every moment. He is an embodiment of an ideal we find impossible to attain. No matter how great the men of our lives are, they are no Jack.

We can never compare Jack to our own partners for two reasons. One, he’s a fictional character, and Hollywood has a long history of creating impossible standards. Two, he is dead. Continue reading

I don’t regret putting my five-year-old in first grade

I was an anxious newly minted mom of a school-age child, one year ago, and like most parents preparing their kid for kindergarten, I worried about my son making new friends, handling the school work and whether he would eat the lunches I made. Having never sent my child to daycare or preschool, I was thrusting him into a whole new world. And, all of this was happening when he was only four years old.

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My eldest was born in November 2012, which fell about a month behind the New York State cut-off for entering kindergarten in 2017. I knew he would likely be the youngest child in his class, and how many parents in my place would have held him back. I had every intention of sending my son to school, but the voices of concern both in my head, and from without, filled me with a lot of doubt. I wondered if I was making the right choice, especially since conventional wisdom is to red-shirt children. Continue reading

How I get my kids to bed early

My eldest was in camp for most of the day, for the first half of the summer, meaning he continued his early bedtime/early wake-up routine he was used to during the school year. When his month at camp ended, we took a more laid-back approach to bedtime, and let him stay up a bit later than normal.

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Summer is coming to an end, and soon will my relatively lax rules regarding bedtime. My son will be starting first grade in a few short weeks, and the demands and rigors of school require a healthy sleep routine.

People have asked me how well my kids sleep since they were born. The answer has never been great, and we have a lot to work on as a family. My eldest is an especially restless sleeper, while my youngest sometimes gets random bursts of energy in the middle of the night. One thing we are fairly decent at, however is getting our kids to bed early. Continue reading

How to encourage free play in an over-scheduled world

Throughout the year, I read many parenting pieces, several of which lament the over-scheduled, too-structured lives of our children. They wax poetic about the good ole days of playing outside until it got dark, inventing wacky games and the general ease of a childhood long gone. In the same pieces, those same writers lament about all of the activities they have to schlep to, the numerous play dates they’d rather not do and how they are exhausted from what they have presumed they must be in today’s parenting climate.

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But, there is hope.

In my short time as a mom, I have seen more push back against the over-scheduled, helicopter-style parenting of the past decade or so. The free-range movement is gaining popularity, and more parents are embracing the idea of “less is more.” We are tired of being tired, and we want our kids to have the less structured childhood we remember so fondly.

If we want our kids to have a “freer” childhood, we have to make it possible. Continue reading

I (kind of) want to skip the Tooth Fairy

Every toothless picture posted. Every report of another child coming to school with a missing tooth. Every debate about how much is too much for loose teeth. Every news of a wiggly canine or incisor hanging by a thin piece of gum. All of it reminds me my days of full sets of baby teeth are numbered.

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My oldest is five, and as parents do with each passing day, I eagerly anticipate the next milestone of his fleeting childhood. First words, first steps, first day of school — all have come and gone. Now, I await the next one, a pivotal moment on his journey to adulthood, the loss of his first tooth.

I am nervous about how the experience will feel for my son. I wonder if it will feel weird and if he will be scared. I could delve deeply into that topic, but I don’t feel like entertaining those thoughts right now. Admittedly, I am concerned about one aspect of the whole loose tooth thing: the Tooth Fairy.

Continue reading

Stop judging how we feed our kids

If you were blessed to bring a child into this world, you are undoubtedly familiar with pressure (societal, familial, cultural, Facebook-al?) To nourish your offspring in the most optimum way possible.

For new mothers, this is overwhelmingly breastfeeding. Before a child reaches a certain age, I, speaking as a person who only breastfed, can see how formula-shaming is especially strong in the earliest days of motherhood. We have shifted toward a more breastfeeding-friendly society — to a point — where mothers who can’t, or simply do not wish to breastfeed are pressured or shamed into rejecting formula.

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Already disparaged by many of the very people whose job it is to help them settle in to their daunting new role, formula-using new mothers are then subjected to a slew of criticism from sanctimonious know-it-alls.

Of course, even if a new mother wants to breastfeed, and gives birth in a place that encourages her to do so, she will eventually have to leave the hospital, birthing center or her home and confront a society which may agree and even pressure her into nursing, but has no desire to see her feed her child in public. As if the only acceptable way to breastfeed is in the hospital after delivery or in one’s home.

And, if a breastfeeding mother should decide to continue feeding her child in that manner beyond one year or more, she is no longer a loving women providing valuable nutrients to her child, but rather a freakish, selfish abuser.

The debate over how we nourish our babies is awful and unending, but at least the shaming stops when the breastmilk dries up or the formula runs out, right?

Wrong. Continue reading

Why I’m saying “no” to a swing-set

My family was attending a birthday party for one of my son’s classmates, when my husband commented on the kids playing on the backyard swing-set, suggesting maybe we needed one for our own yard. In a lot of ways, he had a point. We have a large yard, we don’t live that close to a playground and our two boys are often quite literally climbing up the walls. A structured, safe, outdoor play space makes a lot of sense.

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And yet, I remain hesitant to purchase a, or even accept a donated, swing-set. When I picture owning one, nothing about it feels right to me. I look out my kitchen window, imagining my kids swinging and sliding, and instead of conjuring up happy thoughts, all I see is bad news. Here’s why:

Continue reading

If my kids ask, I answer

My oldest was around three years old when he started asking me about where babies come from. I attribute this to the typical preschooler curiosity and the fact that he had a new baby brother. He was inundated with baby stuff — he even witnessed the birth of his sibling — so, naturally he had lots of questions.

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Kids wondering about how babies are born sparks a range of reaction in adults, from humor to outright fear. Before I had children of my own, I thought the way they handled the subject in the movie, Knocked Up, was hilarious and brilliant. When their eldest daughter, reacting to the news of her aunt’s unexpected pregnancy, asks where babies come from, her mom responds by asking her daughter to share what she thinks on the subject. The girl responds with a graphic account of a stork drilling a whole in the mommy’s head and digging around a fallen butt for the baby.

At the time, I admired the idea of letting children figure things out for themselves. Once, I had my own kids, however, I realized I much preferred to be honest. If they felt comfortable enough to come to me with questions, I wanted to respect them enough to give them truthful answers.  Continue reading