Category Archives: mindful parenting

The Gift of A New Year

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Both of my parents are Jewish and were brought up with Jewish customs and culture. But they were atheists for most of my childhood, and we seldom celebrated Jewish holidays. We lit the menorah some years, and when we lived near my mother’s parents, we went to their house for the holidays. But that was about it.

I will admit that I really knew very little about Judaism growing up. I don’t think I even knew that Rosh Hashanah (the holiday currently being celebrated) is the Jewish New Year. I only learned that a few years ago!

My mother-in-law does all the major Jewish holidays at her house, but in a very loose way. We gather, eat Jewish food, and make merry. We’ve tried to do some kind of Seder during Passover, but it’s totally thrown together ourselves, with my two children acting out the parts of Moses (my younger son is baby Moses; my older son is Moses all grown up).

The point of all this is that this year, for the first time, I have been embracing this time of year as a new year, a kind of beginning. And it’s been wonderful to think of it that way. We all need new beginnings sometimes, and why not have more than one occasion to start over? The fact that the weather is cooling off, fruit is growing ripe and falling off trees, and a new school year is underway—this all seems fitting as well. In fact, I almost always think of the school year as a time to reframe my life,  especially since my husband is a teacher and my son is in elementary school.

So, to that end, here are some of the things I want to focus on this year (on the Jewish calendar we are entering 5776!):

  1. I want (no, I need!) to carve out more time for self-care. I have a tendency to want to do, do, do—for my kids, for my work—until I run myself ragged. It’s not good for anyone. So I want to remember to take things slow. My goal is to meditate five minutes a day (a little goes a long way), and give myself the gift of a solo run twice a week, even if that means doing it at 5pm when my husband gets home and it’s right smack in the middle of the dinner/homework rush. I’ll still walk/jog with my toddler in the jogging stroller and throw on the TV so I can do some yoga, but I want to find times to do things on my own, in my body, without kids, even if all I get is 30 minutes a few times a week.
  2. I want to spend more real time with my kids each day. Life is ridiculous sometimes. It feels like some days there is literally no time, even for my kids, who I spend every waking second with. We are either on our way somewhere, in the middle of one of our many meals, or transitioning to something else. Each evening, I spend one-on-one time with the kids when I put them to bed. I want to strive for more than just that. But on the days when that’s the best I can do, I want to be as present with them as I can. Listening, cuddling, inhaling their essence. Yes, please.
  3. I want to read. I read a lot. But it’s all online! This summer I read a few books and it was divine. It was so much more silent, delicious. I could focus on the words, the feel of the book in my hands. It’s tougher to find reading time during the school year because by the time the kids are asleep, I am too tired to do anything but check Facebook or watch TV. But reading actual books is so enriching, so I’m going to find time. My goal is to read one book each month (Book of the Month style!). I think that’s a reasonable goal, especially since I usually choose a slim book of poems.
  4. I want to make more time for my friends. A lot of my friends have moved away in recent years, but I have a few dear ones who live nearby. And yet, it’s so hard to make plans. We each have full lives and opposing schedules. But I’m going to do it. Now that my little one is older, I need to get out more. For real.
  5. I want to find ways to make work to fit into my life, not take over my life. With a little one still at home with me all day, it’s hard to find time for my writing and lactation business. But I do them because they are my passion (and I need to pay the bills!). It’s a constant balancing act to fit it all in, but I have gotten better at doing so. And yet, I know that as the school year advances, it’s going to be harder to do it all and stay sane. So I need to remember that it’s OK to say no to things. It’s OK to put my children and myself first. And that the weight of the world doesn’t rest on my shoulders.

That’s it, I think! L’Shana Tova to all who celebrate.

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Mindful Mothering: Doing My Best, One Breath at a Time

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I’ll be honest. Most days I’m just trudging through this life as a mother. I’m on autopilot; serving meals, packing backpacks, wiping noses, waiting for naptimes, lifting tired bodies in and out of beds, counting the hours until I have to wake and do it all again.

I’m not as present with my children as I want to be. I can’t always feign interest in my younger son’s cars and trucks, or my older son’s rants about Minecraft. I spend way too much time on my phone when I really should be soaking in their (mostly) sweet, precious selves.

I am well aware how fleeting these years are. My older son is eight and when I look at his long legs and his toothless smile, I want to cry. I remember so vividly when he was as small and round-faced as my 2-year-old is. At the end of our long days together, I sometimes ask myself: Where have all the years gone?

But as much as I want to be as present as possible, I know that motherhood is a balancing act. Sometimes I just need to decompress on the couch with my phone, connecting to other adults. Sometimes I seriously need to get the dishes into the dishwasher, and can’t focus on the precise way my toddler is sliding his garbage truck across the kitchen floor.

Happy to have this piece over at The Huffington Post. Click here to read the full article.

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Our Week of Doing Nothing

This past week was the mid-winter break and we were all home. There were a couple days of snow, temperatures below freezing, and for two days the car was in the shop. We got out to the movies once, and to an indoor play gym, but for most of it, we were stuck at home.

There was probably a bit more TV watching than there should have been.

My sweet TV zombie

My sweet TV zombie

We did a couple of science experiments, all of which involved cornstarch and dish soap.

This was called "Even Better Bubble Dough"

And some brownie-making. And brownie-batter-licking.

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But if you asked what we did all week, I would have said, “ummmm, nothing.”

Can I tell you how much I loved it? This week of nothing was one of my favorite “vacations.” On my Facebook feed were pictures of families in tropical places, enjoying the sun and the outdoors, and although I was definitely envious, I really liked being homebound with my family.

A couple of times I noticed myself feeling critical. I wondered if I should have taken advantage of this rare time of us all together, with few obligations and plans. Should we have taken the kids to a museum in the city, a Broadway show? Should we have done more art projects, played more board games, baked a few more batches of brownies? Should I have tried to exercise more? Should I have written more? What could I do to give this precious time together more meaning?

Then I let those thoughts go. And I let the days go. But I sunk myself into them. The baby playing cars on the floor (he’s currently obsessed), the big boy rereading every book in the house (he’s a certified bookworm). All of us laughing and tickling each other on the bed. My husband and I staying up “late,” catching up on Girls and The Mindy Project.

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Seriously, what more is there than this? Being together with the people I love most. That’s all there is in this world, really.

But there is this pressure in our culture right now to do with your kids. To have something to show for your time together. Should we blame Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest? Should we blame the media? The Mommy Wars? Each other? I don’t know. But the pressure is there.

I feel it when my son tells me he doesn’t want to continue with Little League. Or basketball. Or piano lessons. When he says he’d like to come home after school each day and just do nothing, and I wonder if I should make him “do something.” I feel the need to say, “Well, that’s fine, but it would be good for you to have something outside of school. A passion. Something to try.”

Does he really need to add anything to his schedule of school and home? Does this boy, this 8-year-old child—whose passions range from reading to book-writing to video-game-creating to hula-hooping—does he really need to do anything else but be himself?

Let him—let us—have as much goddamn nothing as we want. Let us be ourselves. Let us seek out the other stuff when we want it, when we’re ready. I think we could all use whole lot less doing, and a whole lot more being.

And faith. Faith that life is full enough on its own. And that we have no one to impress. Despite how it feels, no one is watching us as much as we are watching ourselves. No one can tell us what we need or how we should fill our days. Only we can. We have that power. Let’s use it for happiness. For enjoying the most ordinary of our days. Life is shorter than we realize. It makes no sense to live it any other way than with authenticity and in the simple presence of the ones we love.

So, I give you permission to do nothing. As a parent. As a family. As a person. Just be there, with yourself, with each other, and the rest will come together on its own.

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