Our first-born child started kindergarten today, and it stirred up more emotion that I had anticipated. As we walked into his classroom his hand felt small in mine, I realized that before too long, my hand might feel small in his. I felt joy and hope and nostalgia and fear and love all at once — simultaneously wanting to set him free with pride and hold him tight to protect him as he entered a new school and a new phase. I wanted to know he’ll always need me…but not need me too much. Read more
Posts tagged ‘parenting’
A beautiful essay that was written a few years ago has been making rounds on the Internet again lately. If you haven’t read it, it’s worth taking a few minutes right now: How to Talk to Little Girls. As someone who was once a little girl myself and is now an adoring mother of my own little girl, this essay strikes a very personal chord. The big message is this — the topics we bring up, the questions we ask, and the little things we notice about every little girl we interact with contribute to the way she sees the world around her…and her place in it. Our words and actions send signals about what matters — a danger zone when the loudest words relate to being cute/beautiful/ruffled/princess-y. Whether we mean it or not, by calling out a little girl’s haircut instead of the book she’s carrying, we’re telling her that the way she looks is more important than what she’s able to learn and do. Read more
I wrote a post last month about laughter — and specifically, how kids laugh hundreds of time every day, but somehow grow into 40-yr-olds who can count their daily giggles on one hand. My kids teach me this simple lesson — laugh more — every single day. Actually, I think that kids are full of wisdom — innate, untouched, beautifully naive, human wisdom — that can help us be better, more real, and more well grown-ups. Here are a few of my favorite bits of wisdom from the wee ones:
Believe that people are good until they do something that makes you feel otherwise. And then be open to believing they are good again.
Seek happiness for the people you love.
It’s OK to ask “why” 5+ times in a row.
Running is faster than walking.
If you’re scared, tell someone.
It feels amazing to learn new stuff.
Sleep…or you’ll be cranky.
Huge, long, wraparound hugs feel amazing.
All art is beautiful.
How about you? What life lessons have you learned from a child, and why do you think we lose sight of the basics as we get older?
“When people say that time goes by too quickly, I generally respond that time goes by at just the right pace. But today, when I think back on the day you were born, that five-year chunk of time seems to have passed very quickly….you’re growing up in an interesting time, as there are lots of social changes afoot (legalization of gay marriage was a huge social issue in the past year) and technology continues to evolve at rocket speed….I was just looking for the email address I reserved for you when you were born and wondered to myself whether email will even exist when you’re old enough to use it….This year has been filled with tragedies in Newtown and Boston and around the world, and every time one occurs, I have to shift my mind away from the fear that it will happen closer to home and find strength in my confidence that you are going to contribute to making this a more peaceful and happy world….I love you with every bit of my soul.”
These are a few excerpts from the birthday letter I wrote to my son last night. Every year on my children’s birthdays, I pour myself a glass of wine and take some time to pen a letter re-capping the past year in their lives, my life, our family, our corner of the world, and the broader world and society we’re part of. My plan is to hold all of these letters and turn them over to the kids when they’re ready to fly the coop…giving them a glimpse into what happened in our lives and in the world as they grew up.
I generally don’t make cakes (I’m a crummy baker) or cool Pinterest-ready gifts on kids’ birthdays, but I do try to “make memories.” Knowing I lacked the discipline to keep up with a traditional baby book, when I had children, I decided these letters would be the way I’d try to connect the dots for myself and our kids. I do this because as time goes on, the events of our days and lives start to bleed together. And an annual milestone like a birthday offers time and space and reason to extract the events and ideas and emotions that stand out over days and months and years and lifetimes and keep them in the forefront of our minds. In the case of the letter I wrote last night, it’s also a great way to help my children (someday) understand who I am…not just as their mom, but as a person. I freely write about my own hopes and fears, my own passions and projects, and my own frustrations and celebrations — to remind myself and teach them about the constant juggling and tradeoffs involved in life….and to remind them that each of us is our own unique person on this planet.
Not everyone likes typing letters like I do, and that’s fine. There are tons of amazing forms of self-expression — songs, videos, drawings, handmade cards, etc. For example, every year on our anniversary, Sean and I pull out a nondescript book that sits on our bookshelf and together jot down a few notes of trips we took, job highlights and challenges, friends we made, things that happened in the world, etc. This weekend’s New York Times featured drawings authors made of their children at specific ages, accompanied by a brief 1-sentence summary of the parent’s greatest fear.
The practice of making memories will look and feel different for anyone who does it, but the point is that taking time to make memories — both for yourself and for your loved ones — can be a powerful way to anchor our past, direct our futures, and knit our common experiences together in really special ways.
What do you think? Do you do anything special to mark the time between birthdays, anniversaries, or even just calendar years? What do you do, why do you do it, and who do you share it with?
“Girls don’t do those long races…just boys do,” my 4-yr-old son informed me knowingly as we drove out to watch my husband’s 50-mile trail (running) race this past weekend. I asked him why he thought that, and he replied, “if girls did them, you’d be running today too, mom!”
Flattered that he thought I might be an aspiring ultra-marathoner (which in case you’re wondering, I’m not) and relived that he’s not sexist, I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. “Your dad’s insane…I’m not” didn’t feel quite right. “I don’t want to be arthritic when I’m 45” is probably a bit over his head, I thought. And “believe me, I’d much rather be on a trail than sitting in this car” sounded spiteful. So I settled on the truth. “Daddy loves these races, but I love other things. We both spend our time doing things we love…just because we choose different things doesn’t mean they’re only for boys or only for girls.” And on we went to the race, where we all cheered for every single “boy” and every single “girl” who came through the aid station.
My son’s question was important, both because of what he asked and what he didn’t ask. I’ve never heard him say anything like “why is daddy spending the whole day running? Why isn’t he with me?” He’s never upset when I head out for a bike ride or a yoga class…in fact, I often find my kids with yoga mats outstretched — practicing their own downward dogs — when I get home from yoga. Just as parents want their kids to be happy and free, I think kids…even little ones…want their parents to be the same. And even more, they are watching our every move. If we think running is cool, so do they. If we eat asparagus, the odds go up that they’ll give it a try too. If we play board games, they might opt for UNO over iPad.
This brings me to the next chapter of this blog. I’m going to start focusing content more narrowly on parents, and what they can do to hack their health and design the lives they want to lead amidst the emotional and structural challenges of raising kids. This is not turning into a parenting blog. It’s not turning into a family blog. It is a blog for the GROWN-UPS. There are a ton of amazing resources out there focused on taking care of your kids and families (and I’m not trying to undermine the importance of that in any way)…but this one is about taking care of YOU. It’s about staying connected with who you are at the core and what you care about most and what you’re working on in your life. It’s about the constant shifting of priorities that mark these years. It’s about the focus that brings peace, and the experiences that connect us.
I firmly believe that we can only help our kids become the best version of themselves if we are the best versions of ourselves. And when we’re doing those things, our kids will be there to cheer us on…just as we are for them. As I’ve said before, the kids will be alright.
P.S. If you’re not a parent, it’s my hope that you’ll still find lots of interesting ideas on this blog. Again, it’s a blog for the grown-ups, so if your “baby” is a company or a hobby or a sport or a book or a band, I encourage you to stay tuned!
A few months ago, someone saw me running my kids to school in the stroller and said,”I can’t believe you’re still exercising. I gave that up once I had kids.” I wanted to say, “Oh really, did you stop breathing too?”
This person unfortunately seems to be not an outlier, but the norm. According to a 2010 Gallup study, among Americans aged 18-50, those with children at home are less likely to report frequent exercise than their childless peers. And parents who have a child younger than four report lower levels of frequent exercise (24.5%) than their fellow parents with older kids (25.7%). Not surprisingly, parents are also slightly more likely than those without children to be overweight or obese.
Here’s the thing: without a doubt, becoming a parent (or starting anything else that requires a ton of time and energy) puts constraints on when and for how long you can work out. It’s damn hard to fit it in some days. But my (admittedly harsh) point-of-view is that people who don’t exercise when they have kids (but still claim they want to) haven’t stopped because of the kids themselves; they’ve quit because they have consciously or unconsciously decided that workouts are no longer a priority in their life. I should note here that there’s a whole separate group of people who never made exercise a priority pre-kids, and therefore face the challenge of starting a new habit in a very busy phase of life (this post is targeted more to group #1).
My message here is for the parents out there who aren’t exercising, but WANT to be. It IS possible. And worth it…after all, shouldn’t taking care of ourselves be at the top of the list once we have kids — maybe even higher than it was before? Being good to our bodies gives us the energy to play with our sweet little rugrats and improves our odds of living to see them grow up. Choosing a workout over morning TV sets a good example, making cycling or swimming or yoga seem cooler than Dora the Explorer. And moreover, exercise is a way to get time on your own or with loved ones to rejuvenate and release stress and re-connect.
So if you have kids, are thinking about having them, or have a loved one who has them — and you’d like to keep exercise in your life — here are a few simple ideas to keep in mind.
- Find something you love to do. Similar to the way Sheryl Sandberg argues that it’s important for people to find a career they’d want to return to after having kids, I think it’s important for people to find a workout (or ideally lots of kinds of exercise) they love before having kids. After all, it’s a lot easier to continue a habit than it is to try to create a new one…especially in the whole new world of parenting.
- Create ways to exercise as a family. Workouts don’t have to mean time away from kids. Two ways we integrate our kids into our exercise time are 1) running with stroller + bike, and 2) going to the track to run intervals while our kids play in the grassy area in the middle.
- Do a Saturday morning handoff. Sometimes I’ll go to yoga early in the morning while my husband hangs out with the kids. He’ll then bring the kids to the studio, I climb into the driver’s seat and he heads into the yoga studio for his class. This is a popular one for parents who have the luxury of a partner with whom to share parenting duties.
- Try a pre-dawn workout. Yes, it’s painful, but it’s possible. And it’s a surefire way to get a workout in while the munchkins are still deep in sleep.
- Integrate exercise into your everyday. Exercise doesn’t have to leave you a sweaty mess. Sometimes the most effective way to work it in is to try smaller increments during the day. Walk to the park instead of driving…bike to work…dance after breakfast…stretch before bed. Make exercise a lifestyle rather than an event.
I love my family more than anything in the world, but I also know what I need to do to be a great mom and partner. And for me, getting a regular workout is and always has been a non-negotiable. And my kids are more than alright.
How about you? If you have kids — or a thriving hobby or anything else that takes a disproportionate amount of time — how do you fit in workouts? Do you like to work out with your family, or is it your precious solo/grown-up time? And if you’re not fitting it in, but want to, what small changes can you make to make room?
Eight years ago, The New York Times ran Ayelet Waldman’s essay “Truly, Madly, Guiltily” in its beloved “Modern Love” column. And all hell broke loose. Waldman ignited the media and enraged mothers across the country with the statement that would bring her fame: “I love my husband more than I love my children.” Read more