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May 2009

A Letter of Apology to My Parents, Whom I Love and Adore


On the subject of my lamentable journey through puberty, and how it must have driven you to distraction.



Dear Mom and Dad,


I am writing to formally apologize, for all the moments (weeks? years?) of pain and misery that I might have inadvertently caused you, throughout my formative years.


I apologize, for my “taste” in clothing. I realize now that my shorts were too short, my pants sat too low on my hips and I probably didn’t need to bare my midriff quite so diligently.


And yes, Dad, I was trying to be cool, when I refused to zipper my jacket in the dead of winter. Rest assured, I have outgrown all these practices.


I apologize, for my attempts to convince myself – and our entire town – that I was an only child. I am no longer embarrassed by my younger brothers and sisters.


And I’m not sure if you have noticed, but I have given up the habit of slinking along, twenty paces behind, when we are out as a family. I am willing, nay, happy to be associated with all of you.

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Have you used these 5 Powerful Phrases with your child today?


My son was recently complaining, “Mom, you think you know everything.”


As it happens, I do.


Still, he got me thinking. In our zeal to establish authority, provide guidance and just plain survive parenthood, do we sometimes go a bit overboard?


While we might (think we) know the right answer to every question, sometimes admitting our uncertainty teaches a more important lesson – like how to learn from our mistakes and move on in life.


Or, how to be tolerant of someone whose opinions are different than ours.


How to forgive.


And, how to love yourself, in all your glorious, human imperfection.


When we joyfully reveal our imperfections to our children, we give them permission to stop trying so hard to be perfect themselves. 


How we talk to our children is important.

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Does Homework Really Help?

Warning: This is more of a rant, hopefully from a conscious parenting perspective. Sorry, Mom’s having a cranky day.


I just finished reading Artemis Fowl. Why? Because I have a book project to complete and it is due on Thursday.


Notice that I did not say my son has a book project due on Thursday.


True, his teacher did assign it to him and not to me, but who are we kidding?


My son is brilliant and creative and genuinely wants to do well in school; but asking a ten-year-old boy to read a three-hundred-page book, synthesize the 6-10 major plot points into one-sentence summaries, copy said plot points to little 3 inch by 3 inch papers, draw little 3 inch by 3 inch pictures to illustrate each plot point, and then create a giant graph, displaying these plot points and related illustrations in terms of chronological order and relative level of excitement is just too much.


And to what end?


When we are all done with this exercise, what will he have learned?


I hate homework.


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5 Books That Changed My Life


I fell in love with books as a young girl, when my sisters and I read every Nancy Drew book we could get our hands on. Creative fiction opened up entire worlds to me, both real and imaginary.


As I got older, Jane Austen’s novels introduced me to English country life and I fell in love all over again. C.S. Lewis’ adventures in Narnia and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series kept me coming back for more.


Today, I tend to spend most of my reading time with non-fiction. My pursuit of conscious parenting leads me to the self-help, spirituality and parenting shelves at the bookstore.


With the occasional drive-by trashy novel, just for fun.


I have learned, for the most part, that if a book is not capturing my imagination, or firing my spirit, it is okay to set it aside. Not all books are meant to be finished.


Others books, I return to again and again.

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How to Raise Loving, Cooperative Children


We recently flew across the country with my youngest sister and her nine-months-old baby son.


He didn’t sleep.


At all.


Not a wink.


For five and a half hours.


On an airplane.


Are you squirming yet?


Okay, I’m just teasing you. Everything I said above is absolutely true, but our flights – and the baby – were absolutely wonderful.


He wasn’t silent. In fact, he carried on several conversations, some at a rather amplified volume. But there was no crying, wailing, or gnashing of teeth. Mostly, he smiled his way across the country.


We spent a week on the west coast, uniformly happy but jet-lagged. The baby continued to make everyone he encountered fall in love with him, including his two pre-teen male cousins.


A miracle, you say?

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I Love You, Mom


According to family legend, my relationship with my mother did not start well.


Just after I was born, I developed a bad case of eczema. It was determined that I was allergic to my mother’s breast milk, along with most of the baby formulas on the market back then.


While my mother was undoubtedly battling feelings of helplessness and even despair, I was breaking out in a rash all over my little baby body.


And all my hair fell out.


My mother says that she remembers thinking, “This child and I are never going to get along.”


Fortunately, my hair grew back and my relationship with my mother has improved steadily ever since. Aside from those few years during puberty, when I would burst into tears every time she spoke to me.


Today, we enjoy a warm, loving relationship – at least, we do from my perspective.


My mother is my hero.

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How to Help Your Child Build Great Memories


What Are Your Earliest Memories?


My father insists that he can remember being born. When questioned, he describes the darkness of the birth canal and his emergence into daylight. He was born at home, in 1934.


He assures us that he wondered, in his little baby brain, “Where was I before I came here?”


Some members of our family find this story hard to swallow, but I am willing to believe.


I can date my own earliest memories to about sixteen months old, when my younger sister was born. With her arrival, I had to move out of my room and begin sharing with my older sister, which was not a hardship, so much as a change to my previously comfortable and presumably self-centered world.


There she was, in my bedroom, this little bundle of blankets and baby clothes. She slept a lot, and we had to be very quiet, so as not to wake her.   


At the time, it did not occur to me that we would grow up to be the best of friends and confidantes; I barely registered that she was human.

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How to Bring Order to Your Chaos


It is probably not an exaggeration to say that if a man came into my house and vacuumed all my carpets, he could have his way with me.


I love an orderly household. I crave clear, uncluttered surfaces and color-coded closet shelves.


Truth be told, my conscious parenting efforts – and my absolute commitment to the health and happiness of my children – occasionally get derailed by my pathological need to reduce clutter and clean my house.


I follow my children through the house, instructing them to pick something up or wipe something down every step of the way. I rearrange the throw pillows on the couch fifteen times a day.


And every couple years, I take down the thousands of books crammed into cases all over the house and put them back in nice, logical categories.


The self-help books are all clustered happily together, arranged in height order. The trashy novels are grouped by author. The children’s books live side-by-side-by-subject, or season.


Makes me feel good.

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