December 24, 2014
Some things you never forget
My mother, Martha Scolnick Larris, died on Christmas Eve. Tonight I’ll light the yahrzeit lamp to mark the anniversary of her passing. The same lamp she used to honor her parents’ memory. I guess some day my children will light it for me. Lovely Jewish tradition.
1994. It’s been twenty years. My relationship with my mother was often contentious and frustrating and hurtful. As much for her as it was for me, I’m sure. Takes two to tango. But we also had fun together. And there was much about her that I loved and admired including her love of books, her impressive vocabulary and quick wit, her instant rapport with every child she encountered, her self-reliance and her sense of fairness. She was a whiz at canasta and bridge and absolutely unbeatable in Scrabble. Also, my mom had a dynamite smile which you can see in this photo at the right.
I think of her often while I’m in the kitchen. I still have her coffee pot and her ice cream scoop. I still make her meatloaf, her sweet potato and marshmallow casserole, her banana chocolate chip cake. But it’s in the garden, when I marvel at my gladiolus or smell the lilacs that she comes to me most. The fact that I have a garden which gives me so much pleasure is a direct result of being my mom’s daughter. Let me tell you, that woman knew her flowers. And because of her, so do I. And so does my daughter.
This iris grows in my garden because my mom had them in hers.
Maybe it seems a small thing to know a freesia from a forsythia, a hydrangea from a hyacinth. And who really cares if those iris bulbs I got from my neighbor seem bluer this year than ever? I care. I can’t help it. This special awareness of plants provides me… no compels me to pay attention and celebrate color, light, form and fragrance. If I saw them all as “just flowers” I’d be missing most of the show and I certainly wouldn’t be taking photos of them every chance I get. Appreciating beauty at that level ain’t small potatoes. So thank you, Mom.
I know all moms are not always a positive influence on their children. People, including our parents, come into our lives for a reason. But even in a less than wonderful childhood there are positive lessons. Take a moment and think about those lessons. They are gifts you’ve received. Now think about the legacy you’re giving to your children. Hopeful it’s a life-affirming one.
Your comments, as always, are welcome.
December 20, 2014
T’is the season for parties. When it’s a family affair, all the kids are included. But as you get older, you may want to organize your own get-togethers, and that means only “special friends” get invited. If you’ve been left off a party invitation list you might have felt left-out. But what if you were invited to a party and one of your besties wasn’t? Awkward situation!
This question comes from a girl who found herself in that situation. Her question and my answer are included in my latest book, The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship: 50 Ways to Fix a Friendship Without the DRAMA. Read on…
“I got invited, but my friend didn’t! Awkward!”
Q: “Friend A invited everyone to her party except Friend B. Now Friend B is mad at me for wanting to go. But I need to go so I can be popular. Is it worth it?”
Answer: If understand that you want to go to the party, but if everyone was invited except Friend B, you can understand why she is upset. Maybe you can also understand why she is angry that you want to go without her.
When you say, “I need to go to the party so I can be popular,” I wonder if the Popularity Game means more to you than Friend B. People who ditch friends to be with more “popular” people often find themselves without any real friends.
Should you go to the party? Good question! If you do, then Friend B will probably be unhappy with you. She might get over it, but there is also a chance that your going to the party could really damage the friendship. You are the only one who can decide if it’s “worth the risk. To help you figure it out, think about this: If Friend B go invited and you didn’t, how would you feel about her going with you? If it wouldn’t feel right for her to go, then it’s probably not right for you.
If you’re curious about the 49 other questions and answers in The Girls Q&A Book on Friendship, check out this free excerpt. If you’ve got a friendship challenge you need help with right now, email me or post it to the comments below.
50 Ways to Fix a Friendship without the DRAMA
December 17, 2013
Excerpted from my book, Teaching Kids to Be Good People.
A no-tech solution to connection addiction
While we’re all moving in ten directions at once, online and off, the notion of evenings and weekends where parents and kids spend unplugged time together is laughably retro. But life is neither virtual nor infinite. We’ve got to create an antidote to 21st century craziness otherwise our kids will grow up without us really knowing them and without them knowing us.
Listening (the old- fashioned way) with open eyes, mind, and heart is the best way we connect with our kids, and teach them how to connect with others. That’s what we want from them and for them. They need it now while they’re still learning about healthy relationships from us, so they can use it later when they’re creating intimate relationships of their own.
How do we teach them that the people we care about aren’t just on Facebook and Twitter, they’re right here in the real world and they deserve our attention?
Fuel for Thought—Think about a relationship you have where the other person is often “distracted.” What’s it like being with him/her? Contrast that with someone who is normally “there” with you. Now think about the level of “there-ness” you give to your family. Set a goal for the next week: Do a better job being with your family when you’re actually with them. Do not allow distractions to get in the way. Observe what happens.
Conversations That Count—Talk with your partner and child(ten) about digital distractions, including phones, games, TV shows, and computers. Ask them to rate the family (on a 1–10 scale) regarding the presence of distractions while people are talking to each other.
(Scoring scale: 1 = When we talk to each other, we’re not doing anything else; 10 = When we talk to each other there’s always a “distraction” present.)
Your 21st century child may not even have noticed or considered these “distractions” as anything other than “normal.” Ask what s/he thinks family life (vis-à-vis “distractions”) might look like when s/he’s grown up with their own family.
Teach—Create an Unplugging Challenge. Start small and doable. For example, “On Saturday from 4:00–5:00 p.m. we’re unplugging for an hour to do something fun, together, as a family.” Be ready for pushback from tweens/teens. Remind them it’s only for one hour. “Surely you guys can last 60 minutes w/o FB?!” “Yeah, of course we can, but we don’t want to!!!” The more resistance, the more likely your kids have a connection addiction. But don’t cave. Be upbeat. Take suggestions for a non-tech activity the family can do together for that short time. Play a board game, card game, make popcorn, build something, cook something, bake something, create something, take a walk, go for a bike ride, have an impromptu meal outside, read aloud from a mystery book, look at old family photos and tell stories. Etc. etc. Be together. Focus on each other. Have fun. Repeat often. Appreciate being a family. It’s the best gift there is during any season.
December 13, 2013
We’re here to help, not judge
Man, it’s been beyond chilly in California. (Mid-westerners, no snide chuckles, please. I don’t care what your definition of winter is, 23 degrees is cold.) But still, I’m into this. I love watching the dogs romping in the 5 pm sunset over at the park. I love making soup and lighting candles in my living room now packed with plants wintering inside. I love how business meetings get pushed off til January and that most people are down-shifting to a family-oriented gear. With our first grandchild on the way, I’m thinking more about the chain of love, life and the power we have, generation to generation… to teach kids to be kind, compassionate and open-minded. To help you do that, here’s an excerpt from my parenting book, Teaching Kids to Be Good People.
We assume we know so much more about other folks than we actually do. Teaching kids to be good people includes helping them understand how biases get in the way of knowing who people really are, what they need, and how we can help them (because that’s what we’re here for.)
From the We’re on This Speck Together file comes some food for thought from Carl Sagan: “For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.” Think back to middle or high school. What did your peers assume about you that wasn’t true? How do imagine those assumptions affected people’s relationships with you? Think about a former classmate who had a certain “reputation” which led you to have certain assumptions about him/her. How did your assumptions color your behavior toward that person?
• Talk with your child(ren) about the concept of the “judge” within us who rates other people mostly in terms of what we like/admire about them and what we don’t. Discuss how unfair it can feel to be judged, especially when the “judges” don’t really know us.
• Make a pledge to monitor your “judgmental” thoughts more carefully between now and New Year’s Day. Try to catch those critical thoughts before they become words. Each time we let The Judge put someone down, we stack another brick in the wall of misunderstanding. With less judging, we get to know each other better. Let’s teach kids to build bridges, not walls.
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