My nine-year-old is covered with mosquito bites, bruises and scratches. From the time she arrives home from school until I call her for dinner, she’s AWOL — running through woods, building forts out of sticks, catching toads … .
To hear some parents tell it, the fact that I haven’t a clue exactly where my nine-year-old is for an hour or more at a time is evidence of poor parenting, if not outright criminal neglect. And with a recent arrest in the cold case of six-year-old Etan Patz (the first missing child to have his face on a milk carton), this sentiment increasingly runs high.
We all need it, we all have it, we all draw from it, we all seek it, and without it there is nothing left: hope.
The ability to persevere comes from inside — it is a part of you. When life throws you a curveball, when your path becomes a grinding mountain instead of a downhill glide, when there seems there is no way out, you must draw from your inner well of hope.
Whether to fulfill our goals or to fight to survive, we all draw from our same inner supply of hope. It is the first thing we should teach our children. Hope is a necessary component of survival and as sweet as hoping for a shiny red bicycle for Christmas.
The first title I imagined for the parenting book I would someday write was Please Don’t Let the Light in Your Child’s Eyes Grow Dim. I had run into a 12-year-old girl whom I’d known at the age of four, when she was one of the brightest, most vibrant kids I had ever met. When I saw her at 12, I hardly recognized her. She was slumped into herself, subdued, and her light was … dim.
As I began writing, I was determined to articulate what I had come to understand about how to help children manifest their gifts and head into adulthood with joy and passion.
“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.”~Lao Tzu
Although all mothers know this, no one can truly warn you before it happens: Your body is never the same after you have a baby as it was before you got pregnant.
Sure, we see images of movie stars who bounce back from having babies more toned and fit than they were before pregnancy, but the reality for most women is much less seamless. Having a baby affects you inside and out: You stretch and move differently, and your anatomy changes — permanently — from that growing being inside your body. That pair of skinny jeans, your high school dress and your once stretch-mark-free body often become just a distant memory. This change can make women feel imperfect or less attractive than they remember themselves to be.
When I walked into the room for my first “official yoga class” (read: not with a DVD at home, which had been my practice for years) I felt weak. I was mom to a two-year-old and a four-year-old and I was out of shape. My stomach was flabby from cesarean sections, my leg muscles shaky and my self-image less than ideal. Feeling neither powerful nor like a rock star, I just hoped that yoga would help me get back the body I once had.
It wasn’t until the day that I held Plank Pose in yoga class that I finally got it: I still had an amazing body.
I hope my kids learn to cook. And love to it as much as I do.
I truly believe that one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is an appreciation for food. And by food, I mean real food — food that doesn’t come out of a can or microwaveable container. This hope is not just for my children; I hope more and more kids everywhere grow up with a renewed understanding of where food comes from and a respect for the plants and animals they eat.
Instead of citing studies about the rise of childhood obesity and rambling on about why teaching our kids to cook will make the world a better place, I’ve written a hopeful little story (with respectful credit due to Laura Joffe Numeroff and Felicia Bond, authors of many beloved children’s books, including, of course, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie). I hope you like it.
My son is a dreamer. An absent-minded sort of kid who responds to every question with silence. Who’s always looking intently off in the distance or up at the ceiling. Then, when the question is repeated, he’ll look as if he’s just noticed you’re there and say, “Wha?”
It’s a trait that, not surprisingly, drives some of his teachers mad.
In the spring of 2007, after the birth of my second beautiful daughter, I relapsed from the eating disorder and severe depression I suffered with in college.
After six months of draining the lives of so many family and friends, I decided to receive intensive therapy once and for all. I was losing my husband, alienating friends and family members and spending days and weeks inside the house. I had two little girls to take care of and I could barely take care of myself.
Gaiam parenting blogger Susan Stiffelman appeared on The Today Show yesterday to chat with hosts Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford about her book, Parenting Without Power Struggles. Watch the video of Susan explaining how to defuse a temper tantrum on the Today show website (or by clicking the image above) and learn more about the book (and sign up for Susan’s free parenting e-newsletter) on her website, ParentingWithoutPowerStuggles.com.
It’s often said that we’re living with our best teacher, and nowhere is that more true than with our children. No one has the ability to push our buttons the way our kids do. And no one offers us the opportunity to practice the things we preach — about love, forgiveness and staying centered — like our kids do.
Every parent wants to stay cool, calm and collected. We don’t want to threaten to send them to bed without their supper when they’ve sassed back, or tell them they’re grounded for a month when — yet again — they refuse to honor their curfew. But taking a deep breath or counting to ten can seem almost impossible in the presence of kids who seem to know exactly how to push our biggest buttons.
How I became the chubby kid
As a child, I was given free reign to eat whatever I wanted. This meant daily bowls of crushed oreos in milk, after-school snacks of burgers and fries as a “treat” for answering phones at the family business and, in the evening, half a pint of Haagen-Dazs for dessert. Every day I satisfied my “junk-food tooth” on top of my favorite past-times: reading, watching TV or playing with Barbies. Consequently I was that kid. The chubby one.
At the time, I didn’t have a lot of critical self-consciousness about it … I can’t remember inner voices telling me “you’re fat” or “if you eat that you’ll get fatter” (although I did always wear a T-shirt over my bathing suit). I say “inner voices” because there actually were some external voices saying these exact things to me, directly and out loud: my parents and grandparents. They saw my bulging belly, thick thighs and chipmunk cheeks and thought it went beyond cutesy “baby fat.”