Posts Tagged 'daily life'

Kindness counts

"be kind" in chalk

Sunday marked the beginning of “Random Acts of Kindness” week. Knowing it was coming up, I decided to run a two-week experiment in our household; I’ve heard it takes two weeks to make something a habit.

Our family dinners always include a report of the day by each family member. My husband and I ask our kids to share a banana split (something good about their day) and a banana peel (something hard). A few weeks ago, my husband decided to also ask the kids, “What was something kind you did for someone today?” In theory, this was a great idea! Unfortunately, we sometimes got side tracked by our banana splits/banana peels and forgot to follow up with the kindness question.

For the past two weeks, my husband and I recommitted ourselves to asking our kids every evening at dinner, “How were you kind today?”

Here are some highlights:

  • By the third night, the kids were reporting their kind act without being prompted by the adults.
  • The gestures progressed into more authentic acts of kindness as the two weeks progressed. For example, “I held the door open for my teacher” became “I asked John to sit with me at lunch because he looked unsure about where to sit.”
  • One act of kindness became several acts of kindness throughout the day.
  • By participating ourselves, we modeled a variety of kind acts and that encouraged our kids to show kindness in different ways (to a friend, to a stranger, to themselves, to a pet, etc.).
  • The kind acts began — and I use that term lightly 🙂 — to filter into the kids’ relationships with each other.

In our house, kindness counts. It’s a family value and now it’s become something we all practice daily.

– Andree Palmgren is a licensed professional counselor with a private practice in Westport, CT. She is also a mom to a 15, 13, 10 and 5-year-old.

Two-step bus stop

girl painting ceramics

My life changed on a late day in November 2007 and again on an early day in May 2011 when my daughters were born. I went from a carefree, newly married guy to an overprotective father when each of them cried in the delivery room. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying this as a bad thing but more as an important piece to a nearly deadly incident involving my youngest daughter.

There was talk around the house that we were going to make our triumphant return the local daddy/daughter dance put on by our local parks and rec department. Sadly, for us, the tickets sold out in a heartbeat so we needed to make alternate plans.

Do the three of us go out to dinner? Movie and a trip to the ice cream shop?

After careful consideration, we decided to do separate daddy/daughter dates, which  led to much more discussion on what to do. After much thought, and back-and-fourth, my youngest picked going to paint pottery and hit one of her favorite restaurants, Noodles and Company.

Date night came; we dressed nicely but not too nice just in case we got paint on ourselves. We hopped in the truck and headed to the next town over. I missed the turn for the parking structure, but we found some street parking. We needed to walk about five blocks though, but no big deal because we were having fun chatting.

We came to the corner of a four-lane road and a side street. I explained the difference the between the red icon that was lit up and the white “walk” icon that eventually showed itself. We took a couple of steps off the curb and I had to pull my daughter away from an oncoming bus. We were within inches of this being a totally different blog article.

The sleepy-eyed driver “didn’t see” us nor the other woman coming the other direction; she had to use some fancy footwork to avoid becoming part of one of those bike racks every bus seems to have nowadays.

What really happened? The driver wasn’t paying attention and jumped the light because, as only I can guess, he had something more important to do or place to be. He didn’t make it on his scheduled route for a few minutes because the protective dad came out of me and I had a few choice words for him.

I said a few things I wish I hadn’t, not because he didn’t deserve them—which he did tenfold—but because my screaming scared my daughter more that the actual near miss did. That put a damper on part of the evening, but we had a talk about why I reacted the way I did and she seemed to understand and even asked for a hug.

Any parent, aunt or uncle, or grandma and grandpa changes with the first cry of their child, niece or nephew, or grandchild. It’s up to us to control that protective behavior so that we don’t do more damage than what we’re trying to protect them from.

After the hug, we painted some pottery and chatted about stuff we’d never talk about with her sister around; it was quite the bonding moment. And if you were wondering, she got her favorite dinner from her favorite restaurant.

– Jim Pesta is a past Parenting Program participant and father of two girls.

Respect is learned AND earned

mom and son looking at each other

Beans. That’s what started this blog post. Beans.

My daughter and I were at the vegetable market and she was helping me pick green beans. As we were putting them into a bag, another woman just stepped in front of my child and proceeded with her shopping. No “excuse me,” or offer to share the space. Just a complete disregard for my daughter.

A short time after that, I was home with both kids and things were getting heated. In my frustration, my tone changed and it wasn’t for the better. It was almost as if I had an out-of-body experience and could hear myself talking to my kids. I very distinctly remember thinking, “You know, if someone talked to you like this, you’d be [insert bad word for very upset].”

I calmed down and worked on the way I was speaking.

And just the other day, I was in my kids’ class helping out. I saw one kid tell another to shut up as he lightly hit another across the face.

All of these instances are infuriating to me. That someone—anyone—thinks so little of a child that common courtesy is forgotten. That I wouldn’t treat another human being, no matter what their age, with the same respect that I would expect. That learned behaviors readily spill out into the classroom.

As adults, why do we think children don’t deserve common, decent behavior? Sure, kids can be frustrating and maddening, but to not treat them as an equal on the human scale is, well, I can’t find the words.

No, kids can’t vote. They have no “rights” and no defenders. Except us. The grown-ups. But that’s no reason to be a bully and it certainly doesn’t give us, the responsible ones, carte blanche to treat them however we want.

If the past six years of mothering have taught me anything, it’s that kids learn by example. They’re parrots and sponges. It’s up to us to teach them about respect and how it should be for everyone until proven otherwise. That treating another person with decency is really the only decent thing to do. And if we just can’t bring ourselves to do that, we just need to walk away and try another time.

The world teaches its lessons via the School of Hard Knocks. Let’s agree to give our kids a leg up and work on promoting more kindness and understanding. Discipline that teaches, not just punishes. Courtesy that extends to everyone. Not just adults.

– Rebecca Calappi is a freelance writer, adoptive mom to twins and past Parenting Program participant. Surprisingly, she’s mostly sane.

A season of change

house for sale

In most homes with school-age children, fall is a season of change. But in our family, these past few months have provided a little too much change.

This past summer, we left Michigan to return to our home state of Connecticut. It was our second big move in three years and although it felt good to be coming home, the move was (and still is for that matter) particularly hard on my two teenagers. In fairness, there was a lot of newness: new town, new house, new school, new job, new sports team, new friends. I also felt overwhelmed by all the changes, but as the captain of this ship, I had to be mindful about my reaction.

Here are a few tips I have learned after five moves with kids.

  • Convey the expectation that your kids can adjust, adapt, and yes, be just as happy. If I’m consistent with this expectation, then my message is that I have faith in their ability to be successful in the transition.
  • Don’t sit too long with the negative emotions around the change. When I ask them about their day and the response is negative, I will shift the conversation to something positive, even if the one positive is something totally superficial like the school lunch was good.
  • Stay in the here and now; try not to let your child focus too much on the past. Memories are fun to share and laugh about, but then we turn our attention to the present and work to create new memories in our new space.
  • Let your children have some ownership in decorating their new bedrooms. I gave my two older kids a reasonable budget and they had fun decorating their rooms in a way that didn’t constantly remind them of their old bedrooms.
  • Be patient and consistent. I have found in all our moves, older children take longer to adjust. I stay mindful about my own language when it comes to the changes we are experiencing as a family. I set the tone for the kids so I try to keep it positive and optimistic when they are within listening distance.

We aren’t out of the woods yet. None of my kids are saying they love it back here in Connecticut. But I’m confident that the winter months will bring a sense of familiarity and comfort that the fall did not. And although I’m proud of my kids for being adaptable, I think we’re going to sit tight for a while.

– Andree Palmgren is a licensed professional counselor with a private practice in Westport, Conn. A Parenting Program volunteer, she is also a mom to a 15, 13, 9 and 5 year old.

Celebrating National Kindness Day

woman holding basket of lilacs

What is kindness? One definition is doing something for someone without expecting anything in return.

Some kindnesses are big and memorable, like creating Halloween costumes for our tiny NICU patients. That thoughtful gesture made the day for so many of our families. (Thank you, Ingrid Peeples!)

Some kindnesses are smaller, but still can bring joy to those around you. In fact, it’s the little things we can do daily that make the most impact. Here are some simple ways to show kindness today and every day.

  • Pay it forward by extending someone’s parking meter or pay for coffee for the person behind you. (Stephanie Babcock)
  • Put a little note in your child’s lunch.
    • When I include a joke, my son likes to share it with his friends. (Becky Bibbs)
  • Give a handwritten note.
    • Giving encouragement or thanks to my family and co-workers in a handwritten note in the age of electronics really makes a personal connection. (Nicole Capozello)
  • When young children are learning about kindness, always show appreciation and respect towards people animals and nature. (Lucy Hill)
  • Give a stranger a compliment.
    • I love doing that because I can see how it makes them feel. (Lori Polakowski)
  • Leave a surprise on the doorstep of someone.
    • I like to leave a pot of flowers or a goodie basket with fresh jam, bread and favorite tea or coffee. (Deanna Robb)
  • Reach out to friends you haven’t spoken to in a while.
    • I don’t know about you, but throughout the day my mind will go to certain people, or I may have a memory that is sparked that makes me thing of someone. A simple text to say, “Hi, I was just thinking of you. I hope you have a great day” or “Oh my gosh, I just heard the Spice Girls on the radio and it reminded me so much of all the fun at our old apartment. Hope you are well!” Little random notes like this can make people feel really good and can brighten a gloomy day. (Kelly Ryan)
  • Leave an extra hefty tip above and beyond the typical 20 percent for great service, or to server who seems to need the pick-me-up.
  • Leave a penny by the Sandy horse ride at Meijer so a kid who may not have a penny can take a ride.
  • Give a smile to someone.
  • Allow someone to change lanes in front of you.
  • Give a friendly wave to the driver behind you when changing lanes.
  • Take a meal to a family member, friend or someone in need. Whether it’s a new baby, a loss in the family or just some overwhelming stress, providing a warm meal can be a kindness.
  • Volunteer in your community.
  • Hold the door for someone behind you.
  • Offer to help someone without them having to ask you.
  • Remember to say please and thank you.
  • Share lots of hugs in your family.
  • Remind (and demonstrate to) children to stand up to someone who is bullying another.
  • Listen, demonstrate presence, and show openness and empathy to those around you.
  • Try and live each day with intention and positivity.
  • Donate to your favorite charity.

And one final thought from Betsy Clancy:

  • “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
    • My mom was always saying this, but more importantly, she lived it. (In honor of my mom, Betty Farley 1920–2016. “Love you, miss you …”)

So I brush her hair

brushing red hair

All of a sudden I find myself the mom of a tween. It happened in the blink of an eye. It seems like yesterday that princess dresses, tutus, and American Girl dolls were her focus; now I have a confident, responsible, independent 12-year-old girl who knows what she likes and doesn’t like. She practices with makeup, has her own sense of style, manages all of her school stuff on her own, and even does some cooking.

Sometimes I wonder if she even needs me anymore. As a mom, it’s sort of a weird place to be. I mean, I know she needs me and will for a long time, but it’s just different. We have a good relationship and are doing our best to navigate her transition to a young woman together, and I’m learning as I go.

About six months ago, I found myself really missing my girl — missing her needing me to take care of her the way she did when she was younger and not so self-sufficient. I know, I know, that may be a little irrational, but I had a moment. In my logical mind I know that this is a natural progression, but my mama-heart took over. She had just showered and was getting ready for bed, dressed in her bath robe with wet hair, and I looked up from reading and asked, “Would you like me to brush your hair?” She said yes and so I did. It felt good to do that for her, and it was nice to have some quiet time just the two of us to talk about whatever.

A few days later she asked me herself if I would do it, and since that time it’s something that has happened many times, and I love it. To think something I once took for granted — all the years of chasing her with a brush to get her wild, red hair tamed — now has become such a precious gift.

So if you, like me, have found yourself parenting a girl on the verge of becoming a young lady and you’re missing the “old days,” may I suggest that you brush her hair? It may be just the thing you are looking for to fill the void.

– Kelly Ryan, MSW, Parenting Program, Postpartum Adjustment Coordinator

“Leave me alone!” Life with a threenager

little girl pouting

My daughter, C, turned three over the summer. “Whew, we survived the terrible twos. It’s finally going to get easier,” I thought to myself. However, as C approached her third birthday, people starting throwing around this term at me: “threenager.”

“A what?” I asked.

“A threenager. You know, a 3-year-old teenager.”

“Uh, no. I’m not following.”

“It’s the like the terrible twos, but worse.”

“Worse?!” My heart sank.

I then started Googling “threenager.” Yep, it’s a thing. Apparently the terrible twos are just the start of toddler tantrumhood. Things really start to get interesting when our little one hit the 3-year mark.

In honor of this fun phase, here are a few of the threenagerisms I’ve encountered so far.

  1. Ms. Independent. While I applaud my little one for trying new things, I could do without the “I can do it myself!” snarls. (Then five seconds later, “Mama, Mama, help me, help me! HELP ME NOW!”)
  2. Highly illogical behavior. OK, tiny one, I kind of see your point when I ask you to put on your shoes and you reply, “No, they’re Crocs.” But when you yell at me because the french fries you’re eating are touching your teeth, I can’t help you.
  3. “Leave me alone!” At least once a day she blasts this exclamation to her father or me. It’s even more fun when she screams this in public accompanied by “Stop! Get away from me!” The looks, oh, the looks.
  4. Mom/Dad/anyone other than herself is always wrong. The other morning I praised C for sleeping in her own bed all night. She threw herself on the floor and screamed “No, I didn’t!” (See No. 2.)
  5. Constantly changing obsessions. TV. Underwear. Toys. Snacks. It doesn’t matter what it is, whatever she’s into, it’s intense and irregular. What she loves one day/hour/minute, disgusts her the next. Cue up Netflix to the show she’s watched for a week straight without consulting her first? Disaster. Attempt to put on the Paw Patrol pajamas she requested before bath time? Meltdown. I can’t keep up! (See No. 4.)

Fortunately, C hasn’t mastered the eye roll yet, but she’s well on her way to being seriously annoyed by the mere existence of her parents. I keep telling myself the threenager phase is good training for actual teenage angst.

Anne Hein is a past participant of the Beaumont Parenting Program, as well as a mom of a strong-willed toddler.


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